Land Contract

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What Is A Land Contract?

A land contract, also called a land contract agreement or purchase and sale agreement, is a legally-binding document used in the purchase of land, whether vacant or occupied by existing buildings or homes. It is a type of seller financing. Unlike a mortgage, the purchaser makes payments to the seller until the balance is paid in full.

If you need help drafting a land contract, it is best to speak with real estate lawyers. They can provide legal advice and guidance throughout the process.

Learn more about land contracts by checking out this article .

How Land Contracts Work

Under a land contract agreement, the buyer typically agrees to make a down payment and a promise to make periodic, routine payments on the balance’s remainder with interest. Depending upon the agreement, the monthly payment, term length, and interest rate can vary widely.

It is essential for buyers to keep in mind that they do not legally hold the property title until the balance is paid in full. They hold a deed of trust or equitable title to live on site or develop the property through a ground lease in the interim.

These are the steps involved with buying a property with land contracts:

  • Step #1: The property owner agrees to sell and finance a property to a buyer.
  • Step #2: The property owner works with real estate lawyers to draft a land contract.
  • Step #3: The parties may collectively negotiate the terms and conditions of the land contract.
  • Step #3: The property owner keeps the property titles and provides the buyer with a deed of trust.
  • Step #4: The buyer continues to make payments according to the terms and conditions of the land contract.
  • Step #5: The property owner and buyer clear the title from any applicable mortgages.
  • Step #6: The property owner titles the deed over to the buyer when the balance is paid in full.
  • Step #7: Both parties should retain documentation of the transaction for at least 7 years following it.

Some U.S. states use land contracts more often than others do. Both parties are encouraged to carefully consider the terms and conditions of the deal with property lawyers. Doing so may help you avoid future disputes and misunderstandings, primarily when you use a land contract agreement.

Here is an article about how a land contract works .

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Typical Terms in a Land Contract

While the typical terms in a land contract can be reasonably standardized, it is critical that you have real estate lawyers complete a contract review before signing it. This strategy helps you avoid legal mistakes and common pitfalls. Doing so can also help you save money in the long run by avoiding disputes.

These are the typical terms in a land contract:

  • Name and address of all parties
  • A description of the property
  • Acknowledgement of the person who owns the property
  • Describe easements on the property
  • Include land contract limitations
  • Reference any liens on the property
  • Provide the property’s terms of use
  • Determine the terms of payment
  • Assign an interest rate with a land contract calculator
  • Ascribe how to handle late payments
  • Identify a contract start and end date
  • Assign party responsibilities and obligations
  • Clarify the terms of the insurance
  • Set the terms for transferring the property ownership
  • Include warranties and guarantees
  • Assert your right to acceleration
  • Insert state-specific clauses and terms
  • Provide a blank signature and dateline

After legally drafting your document, you can then arrange for a final signing with the buyer. Once signed, take a scan or photograph of the document, and disseminate copies to all relevant parties. You can also make hard photocopies that you can reference later in case disputes arise in the future.

Check out this article later for more information about the terms of a land contract .

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Advantages of A Land Contract

Since a land contract is an alternative form of financing, there are advantages and disadvantages of using them. A traditional lender is not involved, which means that the buyer and seller should consider the terms carefully.

The advantages of a land contract include:

  • Advantage #1: There is no involvement of a traditional lender
  • Advantage #2: The seller gets to flexibly establish the terms and conditions of the sale
  • Advantage #3: The buyer can close immediately and counter with terms and conditions to the seller
  • Advantage #4: There are no lender requirements, which means that the closing costs are less under a land contract
  • Advantage #5: There are tax and income benefits for both the buyer and seller

As you can see, there are distinct advantages of land contracts. However, there are disadvantages that buyers and sellers should also consider. These risks may outweigh the reward depending upon your situation.

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Disadvantages of a Land Contract

The most significant disadvantage of a land contract is the amount of risk both parties take on. Therefore, it is critical for buyers to carefully select sellers and vice versa. Any concerns should be taken up with property lawyers in your state.

The disadvantages of a land contract include:

  • Disadvantage #1: The title does not automatically pass to the purchaser in a land contract
  • Disadvantage #2: The seller could be held legally responsible for inspection issues with local or state authorities
  • Disadvantage #3: Forfeiture of a land contract by the purchaser is a fairly common occurrence
  • Disadvantage #4: It can take several months for the seller to resume control of the property in case of buyer forfeiture
  • Disadvantage #5: An existing mortgage supersedes a land contract, which can create problems for the buyer

If you are considering or contemplating buying or selling land through a land contract, real estate lawyers can help you draft a land contract agreement that sets clear guidelines and terms. They can also answer legal questions throughout the entire process.


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Getting Help With A Land Contract

Whether you are facing a complicated or straightforward land contract deal, it is a wise choice to hire property lawyers to draft the agreement. Problems can arise at any given point. You will want to have an experienced legal professional on your side to help prevent them.

These are the ways that property lawyers can help you with getting a land contract:

  • Offering professional contract reviews for fairness and compliance
  • Providing legal advice when dealing with complicated land contract issues
  • Assisting sellers when dealing with liens and title searches
  • Handling a proper and lawful closing for both sides
  • Contract negotiation for the conditions and terms of the land contract
  • Preparing a closing statement for both parties

Property lawyers offer valuable advice and assistance when purchasing land or property through a land contract. They can also handle pressing questions related to costs or disputes.

If you choose to forgo your opportunity to work with property lawyers, it could result in future legal mistakes with negative ramifications. Avoid this critical mistake by hiring legal representation early on in the process.

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Danielle Giovannone is the principal of Danielle D. Giovannone Law Office. In her experience, Danielle has found that many business do not require in-house legal counsel, but still need outside counsel that knows their business just as well as in-house counsel. This need inspired Danielle to start her firm. Before starting her firm, Danielle served as Contracts Counsel at Siena College and as an attorney at the New York City Department of Education, Office of the General Counsel. At the NYCDOE, she served as lead counsel negotiating and drafting large-scale commercial agreements, including contracts with major technology firms on behalf of the school district. Prior to the NYCDOE, Danielle worked as an associate at a small corporate and securities law firm, where she gained hands-on experience right out of law school. Danielle has provided legal and policy advice on intellectual property and data privacy matters, as well as corporate law, formation and compliance, employer liability, insurance, regulatory matters, general municipal matters and non-profit issues. Danielle holds a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and a B.S. from Cornell University. She is active in her Capital District community providing pro bono services to the Legal Project, and has served as Co-Chair to the Niskayuna Co-op Nursery School and Vice President of Services to the Craig Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization. Danielle is a member of the New York State Bar Association.

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