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A contract for deed is used when the seller of a property will provide the buyer with financing for the purchase of the property.

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What is a Contract for Deed? 

A contract for deed, also called a land contract or contract for sale, is a financing option for buyers who do not qualify for a mortgage loan to purchase property. In a contract for deed, the seller finances the purchase of the property much like a mortgage company would in a more traditional situation.

The seller provides financing for the real property for the buyer. The seller holds the legal title and the buyer receives an equitable title. When the buyer pays the total agreed sale price, they receive the deed to the property from the seller.

Contract for Deed vs. a Mortgage

Both agreements offer the possibility of home ownership and the potential to earn equity in your property. Each also offers similar tax benefits and deductions. The primary difference between a contract and a mortgage is that that the buyer does not receive the property deed or title until they pay off the entire balance.

Depending on state law, the seller may have the ability to have contract terms that allow them to foreclose if the buyer defaults and does not make their installment payments (often referred to as monthly payments).

Contract for Deed vs Renting

Renters do not own where they live. This means that they avoid home repair costs and can choose to move when their rental agreement ends. However, renters do not gain equity in their home; homeowners do. Renters, however, avoid the risk of an underwater mortgage in the event of a housing collapse, like what happened in 2008.

Ultimate Guide to Contract for Deeds

By FormSwift Editorial Team
June 14, 2018

Introduction

A contract for deed is a contract for land. In general, these are very risky financial agreements, especially when you compare it to a conventional mortgage. Homeowners and home buyers may benefit from using a contract for deed, but that depends on several factors. Contract for deed sales can be a good option for those who wish to buy a home but cannot obtain a mortgage because of a credit score or other issue. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about these purchase agreements--what they are, what’s included, their pros and cons, how they differ from traditional agreements, how they work for farmers, etc. With this information, you can better assess whether they can meet your needs.

Wrap Around Contract for Deeds

Because buyers in contract for deed agreements often cannot obtain a mortgage, wrap around contract for deeds are common. In a wrap around arrangement, the seller already has and keeps a mortgage on the property. The buyer makes payments to the seller, who then uses the money to pay the mortgage and pockets any difference.

Sellers may also earn additional income through overrides. In an override, the interest on the wrap around exceeds the vendor’s mortgage interest. The seller earns the difference in interest.

What’s Included in a Contract for Deed?

A contract for deed should include the following:

  1. Purchase price
  2. Down payment
  3. Interest rate
  4. Number of monthly installments
  5. Responsibilities of the buyer and seller
  6. Legal remedies for the seller if the buyer does not make payments

Pros and Cons of Contract for Deeds

Since they are most common in scenarios where a buyer cannot obtain a traditional mortgage, contracts for deeds can be risky. However, there are benefits for both parties. They include:

Seller

  1. Earns regular income at a better interest amount than in other investments, like deposit certificates.
  2. Eliminates monthly expenses of owning the property.
  3. The income can help pay down other debt.
  4. Fast closing time and may have lower closing costs.
  5. Attractive way to sell a property that is non-conforming or has a code violation so it cannot be sold on the standard real estate market.
  6. Can minimize the costs of trying to find the perfect buyer in the standard real estate market.
  7. Can distinguish the property from others, which might help it sell more quickly.

Buyer

  1. Do not have to qualify for financing, as with a traditional mortgage from a bank, lender, or credit union.
  2. A seller may, however, request a credit report.
  3. Flexible terms: you can negotiate a low down payment, the length of the contract, interest, payment frequency, etc.
  4. Faster and less expensive closing process.

Historical Context and Concerns

As with virtually all of the history of housing in America, the history of contracts for deeds is one riddled with racial inequality and discrimination. From the 1930s through the 1960s, black home buyers were not eligible for federal mortgage insurance. So, they were unable to qualify for a traditional home loan. This created a black market for unscrupulous real estate investors who would sell property to black families with a contract for deed amortized over 20-40 years. These contracts came with exorbitant interest, and often contained language for “land contract failure” if a single payment was late. Rather than provide a pathway to home ownership, this further impoverished black families.

More recently, investigations into the effects of contracts for deed sales found they largely prey upon low-income communities. Families are often sold properties that are poorly maintained, not up to code, and come with high interest rates. Sellers in these arrangements often abuse eviction clauses leaving evicted families without all of the money they have put into the property.

Why Are They Making a Comeback?

Contracts for deeds are becoming more common because, roughly a decade removed from the 2008 financial crisis, many people still cannot obtain a traditional home loan.

Conclusion

Contracts for deeds are often not an attractive option for a buyer or seller. However, in certain scenarios they may be the best option for those looking to buy or sell a home. We hope this guide helps you navigate the contract for deed market in an informed manner that will help you avoid the minefield these contracts often entail.  

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