Selling Land

Table Manners

Table Manners

“Do you remember when the neighbors stored all of those used cars on our property, and we had to get a court order to have them removed?” One of my seller clients asked his brother this question as we were at the closing table a few weeks ago. The buyers just sat there listening, and I wasn’t quite sure what was about to happen. Fortunately all went well, and the buyers and sellers left happy. We dodged a bullet.

Closing is the event we have all been anticipating. When it comes to rural land sales, this may be one of the happiest days of the buyer’s life. It is the culmination of years, or even a lifetime of hard work, that results in them being able to purchase the property they’ve been dreaming of owning. For the seller, there may be mixed emotions. If this property has been in the family for a long time, often generations, there can be real seller’s remorse and deep sentiment tied to this transaction. I often see tears from my seller clients because of their emotional ties to a property. This range of emotions can be great, or problematic, depending on how people act at the closing table.

Here are a few tips for making your closing go smoothly.

Review all closing documents BEFORE you get to the closing. There will likely be a deed, settlement statement (HUD 1), title policy binder, and possibly some affidavits involved with the closing. These should be reviewed by the agent(s) and parties for accuracy and completeness before everyone gets the table. There are few things that upset people like them getting to the closing table, and the handling of the funds be incorrect.

Buyers need to make proper arrangements with the funds. In most cases, funds should arrive before the closing time. The buyer (lender or qualified intermediary) should make sure that they know the exact amount due at the closing, and should make those available via wire or through certified funds made payable to the correct party. Verify the name of the trust account prior to having these checks drawn. Most closing agents will not take a personal check, and most prefer not to handle cash. If there is earnest money involved, the brokerage holding the funds needs to make arrangements with the closing agent before the closing with regards to how the earnest money will be handled.

Keep conversation cordial, but professional. Buying and selling rural land is a business transaction. For most people it is one of the largest financial transactions in their lives. This is not the time for a seller to tell the buyer, “There are more rattlesnakes on this property than anywhere else in the state.” That doesn’t help your case. It’s also not particularly helpful for the buyer to let the seller know that “we won” the negotiating. There is no need to tell the seller which trees you intend to cut down, or other major changes you plan to make. I have seen lots of these things happen, and it puts stress on the deal.

“Everything you say can and will be used against you, and nothing will be used for you.”

Bring a current photo ID. The attorney or notary will need this to verify your identity and put on file with the closing documents.

Ask for copies of everything you sign. Most closing attorneys or title companies do this automatically, but some do not. Ask for a hard copy of every document that is pertinent to your deal, and store it for safe keeping.

Here are a few suggestions for brokers and agents regarding the closing:

Confirm with the parties on the day before and the day of that they: know when and where the closing is located, what they need to bring (keys, remote entry, or certified funds), and that they will be there on time.

If your buyer and seller are oil and water, then do not mix them. Separate closings are much more common these days. There is usually no real need for the parties to be in the room together if there is the potential for a problem. Just have the title company schedule two different sit downs.

Bring some cash or your checkbook. If there is a discrepancy that arises at the closing table, it is usually over a small amount of money. If it is trivial, and it helps get the deal across the goal line, I will offer to write a check or pull out some cash. The vast majority of the time this isn’t necessary, but in the end you do what you need to do to save the deal.

Be the professional at the table. It is usually better to sit quietly and speak when necessary than to try to be the life of the party. See the quote above about what will be used against you.

Celebrate when it is over. I love closing deals. Not only does it mean you made some money, it is also a “win”. In the real estate business you need some “wins” because there are plenty of days when you don’t. Every agent needs a little ritual or routine after a closing.

My hope is this article is helpful to you prepare for and execute a successful closing. If you have more tips or questions, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

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About the author

Jonathan Goode

Jonathan is passionate about helping people buy and sell land. He is an associate broker with Southeastern Land Group, LLC (SELG) and is the Responsible Broker for the company in Mississippi. Jonathan is an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC), working with Southeastern Land Group (AlaLandCo) since 2008, serving Alabama and Mississippi. He is a member of the Alabama and Mississippi chapters of the Realtor’s Land Institute (RLI), and is currently serving as Vice President of the Alabama Chapter. Jonathan specializes in marketing rural properties online, and is a contributor for, writing articles focused on helping people buying and selling rural land.

1 Comment

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  • Just because ‘your’ clients ‘dodged a bullet’ doesn’t mean release from any & all future lawsuits should the buyers find out information about the land in the future that they tie back to the closing table talk. I am surprised the buyer’s agent didn’t click to the potential for environmental issues caused by the cars. At the very least someone should have referred this to an attorney for further discussion. Also did the parties involved not sign a TREC 28-2, Environmental Assessment, Threatened or Endangered Species, and Wetlands Addendum, if this transaction had taken place in Texas? I don’t know the forms used in MS or AL, but if there are similar forms why wasn’t this mentioned in the article? If that was the case it should have been mentioned in the article. Also, what happened to the fiduciary duty to treat all parties fairly? I would think this whole scenario should have been addressed very differently.

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