The Land Contract
In California, Realtors use a standard Vacant Land Purchase Agreement. You may wish to refer to this form in conjunction with the notes below. Rather than go through every clause of the contract, I'll just mention the ones that require a little extra attention.
Special note: I am NOT an attorney - these notes are designed to introduce the contract to you, not to give a full explanation. If you don't understand the full meaning of any part of the contract, you may wish to consult a real estate attorney - some useful addresses are given in a separate section of this website.
4. ALLOCATION OF COSTS:
There are several items here that are more often paid for by the seller, namely:
A(1) Septic inspection. It is quite rare that you will buy a vacant lot with an existing septic system on it. If there is one, the seller usually pays for it to be inspected and certified prior to close of escrow.
A(2) Costs of testing soil for suitability for sewage disposal. If the lot is in a septic area, this means a perc test. Note that it doesn't mean that the seller warrants that a septic system will be approved by the Department of Environmental Health, it just means that the seller (or buyer if both sides agree) will pay for a perc test.
A(3) Are there wells on the property? If so, and especially if there is no mains water supply, the buyer will want to make sure that the wells are producing enough water.
A(4) Property corners. The buyer wants to make sure that the property corners are marked before close of escrow, and will usually ask the seller to take care of this.
6. SELLER DOCUMENTATION AND ADDITIONAL DISCLOSURES
This section explicity spells out that if the seller has any knowledge of the items listed here, he or she has to disclose it during the Buyer's Investigation period. It includes knowledge of any endangered species on the lot, whether the lot is landlocked, if there are any deed restrictions and so on.
12. BUYER'S INVESTIGATION OF PROPERTY AND MATTERS AFFECTING PROPERTY
This is the section that spells out the things that the buyer should investigate during the Buyer's Investigation period. It gives a useful check list of things to beware of.
18. TIME PERIODS, REMOVAL OF CONTINGENCIES, CANCELLATION RIGHTS
The buyer has a certain time to complete all his or her investigations. The default is 17 days, but this is the same time period as the contract for buying a house. Buyers typically need 30, 45 or even 60 days to do their 'due diligence' when buying land. The seller has a set period, the default being 10 days, to provide the buyer with all information pertaining to the lot. Both buyer and seller time periods start running the day that escrow is opened.
At the end of the agreed Buyer's Investigation period, the seller may ask for the buyer to 'remove his or her contingencies'. After the buyer has actively removed their contingencies, the seller may keep the buyer's deposit if the buyer backs out of the deal through no fault of the seller.
This website has been written and developed by Rob Ransom, PhD. Rob has extensive experience working with buyers and sellers of vacant land in San Diego County, CA. Although Rob currently has a California real estate license he is retired from selling real estate.
If you have comments or suggestions regarding this web site, email Rob at the address below.
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