How to Buy Land for Cash in Illinois

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How to Buy Land for Cash in Illinois

Bart Waldon

With over 27 million acres dedicated to Illinois farmland and rural uses per latest USDA census data, significant opportunities exist acquiring property directly from motivated sellers in private transactions without relying on financing if purchasers prepare properly. And recent land market reports confirm sales velocity and associated valuations growing over 7% statewide just in the past year with particular strength among Central Illinois counties seeing 20% spikes. This reality traces rising exports demanding grain production increases while concurrently investor appetite swells, seeking inflation hedging hard assets. However, succeeding on a cash basis still requires understanding key steps aligned with prudent land acquisition regardless target geography sought or acreage size contemplated. 

This guide examines processes discerning buyers follow that set the stage for smooth land deals completed without traditional lending delays when leveraging cash on hand. Topics covered range from sourcing off-market opportunities and building seller relationships to defining objection limits and negotiating tactfully to reach satisfying purchase terms with owners ready to exit at the right place and price.

Find Land for Sale in Illinois

The first step is identifying available land for sale that matches your investment goals. Here are some tips for finding good land parcels in Illinois:

  • Search online listings on sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Lands of America specifically for vacant land. You can filter by location, size, price and other attributes.
  • Drive or walk around areas you are interested in investing and look for 'For Sale by Owner' signs on vacant parcels. Some sellers, especially individuals, may not list land online.
  • Check public records at the county assessor's office for recent sales of vacant land. You may be able to contact those new owners to see if they're interested in selling.
  • Network with local real estate agents that specialize in land sales and let them know you are looking for land parcels to purchase with cash. They can keep an eye out for deals.
  • Consider buying distressed properties with abandoned or condemned structures on them, demolish the buildings, and resell as vacant land.

When evaluating potential land for sale, look at the zoning, deed restrictions, utility access, roads and other factors that affect usability and resale value. Rural recreational and farmland can often be had for cheaper prices.

Dig into the Smaller Details

Once you've identified a promising property for sale, it's time to dig into the details and make sure there are no surprises. Here are some things to research:

  • Pull the title and look at the deed history to see if there are any strange easements, liens or other encumbrances on the land.
  • Order a land survey to confirm the boundaries and total acreage.
  • Research zoning and land use regulations through the county planning office to understand what you can and can't do with the parcel if purchased.
  • Evaluate access to utilities like electric, water, sewer, gas, etc. Availability will impact value and what you can do with the land.
  • Check federal flood zone maps to see if the property is in a high-risk flood area. That can affect insurability and financing.
  • Research local market conditions and comparable land sales to estimate a fair price for the parcel.
  • Inspect the property in person to look for any red flags like illegal dumping, trespassers, drainage issues etc.

Taking time upfront to understand the property will help avoid costly surprises down the road.

Get Your Financing in Order

Since you are looking to buy land with cash in Illinois, you need to get your financing squared away. Here are some tips:

  • Talk to your bank or lenders about a vacant land loan or commercial lot loan. Generally you'll need 20-25% down.
  • Consider using a portion of your savings, home equity, stocks/bonds or taking a 401K/IRA distribution to fund the purchase in cash.
  • Partner with other individual investors to pool your money together to buy larger parcels.
  • Use seller financing by having the seller carry back part of the purchase price on a land contract over several years.
  • Work with a company like Land Boss that purchases land for cash from sellers. They buy at discounted prices, but it provides a fast and easy sale.

Having the cash ready makes it easier to close quickly when you find a good deal on a parcel of land. Make sure you have all the funds lined up before making an offer.

Make an Offer to the Seller in Writing

Once you fully understand the property and have your financing ready, it's time to make an offer. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure to get the offer in writing in the form of a purchase agreement. Verbal offers often don't hold up.
  • Start lower than the asking price, especially if the land has been for sale for some time. There is usually room to negotiate with motivated sellers.
  • Outline the purchase price, amount of down payment, contingencies, closing date and other terms. The more detail the better.
  • Make the offer attractive by minimizing contingencies, providing a large earnest deposit, and offering a quick closing date. Cash offers are most appealing.
  • Submit your written offer to the seller and be prepared to negotiate. Expect some back and forth before settling on a final sale price and terms.

A solid cash offer at a fair price has a good chance of being accepted by the seller and kicks off the process of finalizing the sale.

Deliver the Deposit

Once you have an accepted offer, you'll need to put down an earnest money deposit, typically 5-10% of the purchase price. Here are some tips on delivering the deposit:

  • The deposit shows you are serious as a buyer and enters you into a contractual agreement for the land sale.
  • Deposit funds are often wire transferred or hand delivered in the form of a cashier's check. Work with the seller on the preferred method.
  • The title company or real estate attorney handling the closing will hold the deposit in escrow until closing.
  • If the deal falls through due to you, the seller keeps the deposit. If it fails due to the seller, you get the deposit back.
  • Make sure to get a receipt from the seller and notification from the title company upon receiving the funds so you have records.

Putting down a solid deposit makes the deal a contractual obligation on both sides and gets you closer to closing.

Get Environmental Tests Done

Before closing, it's smart to get environmental testing done on the land to protect yourself from liability for any contamination. Here are some tips:

  • Work with an environmental engineer to conduct Phase I and possibly Phase II testing to identify any hazardous materials or dumping on the site.
  • This is particularly important for former industrial, commercial or farm land where chemicals may have been used.
  • If contamination is found, see if the issues can be remediated or if the purchase price should be lowered to account for the costs.
  • Buy an environmental liability policy to protect yourself from cleanup costs related to any pre-existing contamination.

While environmental testing costs money upfront, it reduces the risk of you unknowingly buying contaminated land and having to pay for remediation later.

Look into a Survey

It's smart to have a land survey conducted before closing to confirm the boundaries and total acreage of the parcel you are purchasing. Here are some things to know:

  • Research surveyors and get quotes. Look for ones familiar with land surveys and registered with the state.
  • The surveyor will research records, visually inspect the site, place boundary markers if needed and provide a survey drawing.
  • Make sure the survey matches the boundary descriptions in the deed, title and your purchase agreement.
  • Getting a survey done now prevents disputes down the road with adjacent land owners over the boundaries and measurements.

A survey provides confirmation and documentation about what land you are actually buying according to the legal descriptions. It's worth the cost for peace of mind.

Check over the Title

The title and deed to the property should be reviewed closely before closing as well. Here are some things to look for:

  • Read the preliminary title opinion from the title company and look for any easements, liens, judgments or other issues that may affect your ownership rights.
  • Check that the legal description in the title matches the survey, deed and your purchase agreement description.
  • Ensure the seller has clear, marketable title before transferring it to you, and that no other parties can claim ownership.
  • Research and resolve any discrepancies in the chain of title before closing.

Reviewing the title with a real estate attorney provides protection by identifying any problems with the title early so they can be addressed.

The Final Walkthrough

Right before closing, you'll want to do one final walkthrough of the property to make sure nothing has changed. Here are a few tips:

  • Do a visual inspection to ensure no new dumping, vandalism or other damage has occurred since you last viewed it.
  • Check for any new easements or encroachments along the boundaries that could affect the usability.
  • Make sure any fixtures included in the sale like gates, barns, sheds, etc. are still intact.
  • Bring your survey to confirm monuments and markers are as expected.
  • Raise any new issues found with the seller promptly so they can be resolved before closing.

The final walkthrough protects you from closing on property that has changed condition or value since you made the initial offer. It's a key step.

Get Ready to Pay

Closing time has arrived! Here are some final steps to prepare for payment:

  • Verify all title and environmental issues raised have been resolved to your satisfaction. If repairs were required, confirm they were done.
  • Have a cashier's check, wire transfer or other funds ready to pay at closing per the purchase agreement. Bring proper identification.
  • Double check that all fees, taxes, liens and other financial obligations related to the transaction have been accounted for in preparation for payment.
  • Set up insurance coverage like liability, property damage etc. to take effect at closing.
  • Review the closing disclosure and statements to understand the final costs. Watch for any hidden fees.
  • Bring the necessary parties together at closing - you, seller, attorneys, title agent, etc. to sign paperwork and transfer funds.

With payment ready, all that's left is to finalize the transaction and get the keys to your new vacant land!

The Process for Buying Land with Cash Comes to a Close

If you've made it this far, congratulations! You purchased vacant land, in full and with cash, like a pro. With preparation, research and diligence along the way, you've ensured a smooth process and avoided major pitfalls. Now the exciting work of putting your land to use can begin. Whether it's residential development, farming, recreation or holding for later sale, enjoy your new investment!

In summary:

  • Research available properties thoroughly and understand regulations before buying
  • Verify paperwork and get professional surveys and testing done
  • Make a strong cash offer with few contingencies to stand out
  • Use title companies and real estate attorneys to protect your interests
  • Inspect everything closely before paying at closing

Buying land for cash does take some effort, but pays off with a valuable asset to enhance your real estate portfolio. With this guide, you can feel confident tackling a land purchase from start to finish. Here's to successful real estate investing!

Final Words

Purchasing land for cash in Illinois can seem daunting, but following the step-by-step process outlined above will set you up for success. Do your homework early on zoning, regulations, market factors and risks. Work with professionals like surveyors, attorneys and title companies to protect your interests. Make a competitive cash offer, conduct thorough due diligence, and don't be afraid to negotiate a fair deal. Pay close attention to details throughout the process, and don't hand over your cash until you've inspected everything right before closing. With patience and diligence, you can secure great land assets with cash that align with your real estate investment goals. Illinois has much to offer land buyers who come prepared. Now go claim your piece of the Prairie State!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What percentage down payment is typical for vacant land purchases in IL?

In most cases you'll need around 20-25% as a down payment when financing vacant land in Illinois. However, paying with full cash is ideal if you have the means to do so. Less financing involved makes for an easier process.

What kind of inspections should I do before closing on land in Illinois?

Don’t skip inspections! Have a survey done to confirm the boundaries and measurements. Get environmental testing done to identify any pre-existing contamination onsite. Do a final walkthrough right before closing to check for damage. Inspect everything thoroughly.

How can I estimate the value of a vacant parcel in IL to make an offer?

Look at recent comparable land sales in the county to estimate value per acre. Adjust up or down based on location, zoning, access and other factors of the particular parcel. Don’t assume the listing price is fair market value. Do your own research.

What legal professionals should I engage when buying land in IL?

Work with a real estate attorney to review the purchase contract and represent you at closing. Also utilize a title company to research the title and provide title insurance. Their expertise protects you.

What are signs of a shady land deal I should watch out for in Illinois?

Be wary of sellers who refuse inspections, won’t provide documentation, pressure you to close quickly, or require unusual terms. Use professionals to vet the deal. Trust your gut if something seems off. Move on if red flags appear.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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