The Paperwork You Need to Buy and Sell Land in Delaware

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The Paperwork You Need to Buy and Sell Land in Delaware

Bart Waldon

Purchasing or selling raw, undeveloped land in Delaware requires completing specific legal paperwork to properly transfer ownership and record the transaction. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, of Delaware's total land acreage, 72 percent is rural farmland or forests. With over 800,000 acres of rural Delaware land for sale or in ownership transfers in any given year, it is important to understand what documents you need when buying or selling undeveloped lots in the state. 

This includes sales agreements, deeds, surveys, title insurance, disclosures, and more depending on specifics. Properly filing the right papers legally solidifies the land deal to avoid future disputes. A real estate attorney can provide further guidance on land acquisition protocols unique to Delaware and help customize all necessary documentation on both ends of a transaction. However, being familiar with some basics around the core paperwork for buying and selling Delaware land is useful as well.

Getting Started with Land Transactions in Delaware

Delaware uses a standard set of procedures and paperwork familiar to those experienced with real estate. But for first-time land buyers and sellers, the documentation can feel overwhelming at first glance.

To help you enter a deal well-informed, let’s look at some of the terms and entities you’ll encounter:

  • Recorder of Deeds: County office responsible for keeping public records of real estate transactions. You record executed paperwork here.
  • Title Search: Research done to determine land ownership history and find any issues like liens.
  • Deed: Legal document used to transfer ownership of real property.
  • Title Insurance: Insurance policy protecting buyer/lender if issues emerge with legal land ownership.

In Delaware, land and home sales are handled by real estate attorneys or title companies instead of agents. These professionals facilitate the due diligence, paperwork, and closing details on the buyer or seller's behalf.

While you can opt to manage the paperwork solo, new investors often prefer attorney representation to ensure everything is done right. Expect to pay around $500+ for basic assistance.

With the help of legal counsel, buying or selling vacant land in Delaware doesn’t need to overwhelm. Now let’s dive into the core documents required.

Selling Land: Key Documents and Disclosures

If you own land in Delaware to unload, here are go-to forms to execute a smooth sale:


This crucial document officially transfers the property’s legal ownership from you to the buyer. In Delaware, sellers can choose either a warranty deed or a special warranty deed.

  • Warranty Deed: As a seller, you guarantee having clear land title without any defects. Highest protection for buyer.
  • Special Warranty Deed: Guarantees title only during the period you specifically owned the property. Lower liability for seller issues.

Work with your attorney to file the executed deed with the recorder office in the respective county. This legally records the ownership change in the public land records.

Seller’s Disclosure 

Delaware requires the seller to provide a disclosure form detailing what they know about the property’s condition. This protects you from liability down the road.

Disclose defects, necessary repairs, zoning details, upcoming assessments, and related items the buyer should know about. Keep thorough records on any notifications given to avoid problems.

Settlement Statement 

Also called the HUD-1, the settlement statement outlines all financial details in the transaction. This lists the agreed sale price, earnest money deposit, broker fees, taxes, assessments and other costs for closing.

Both buyer and seller sign this form at closing once all details and dollar amounts reconcile. It provides necessary proof the transaction completed fully and fairly.

1099-S Form
You must file IRS Form 1099-S to report the gross proceeds from your Delaware land sale if certain conditions apply:

  • The property qualifies as real estate under tax law.
  • Profit exceeded your initial purchase basis by more than $500.

Work closely with your CPA or accountant to ensure 1099-S gets handled correctly based on capital gains, deductions and profit details. Fines can apply for non-compliance.

Following state law and disclosing all you know about the land will keep you protected as a seller. Now let’s look at what buyers need for a seamless deal.

Buying Land: Vital Forms to Complete 

Below are key documents you’ll work with on the buyer’s side for your Delaware land purchase:

Purchase and Sale Agreement 

This contract stipulates buyer and seller expectations for the deal. Within the agreement, define legal property descriptions, price, deposit amount, closing and possession dates, inspection terms, included fixtures, default clauses and more essential items.

Work closely with your real estate attorney to determine fair terms before signing. Never enter any purchase blindly or pressure could arise later.

Mortgage Deed / Deed of Trust 

If financing your purchase, you’ll sign one of these to use the land as collateral for repayment assurance. The bank files the mortgage deed document.

Deed of Trust states the land's legal title gets transferred to the chosen trustee until the loan gets paid off. This protects the bank if you default.

Settlement Charges Document 

Before closing, the title company or closing attorney will provide an estimated closing disclosure form itemizing all fees and closing costs for you to review. Costs may include:

  • Title searches, insurance and courier fees
  • Deed preparation charges
  • Attorney fees
  • Recording / filing costs
  • Transfer taxes
  • Escrow account deposits

Study the estimate closely and resolve any discrepancies immediately to avoid closing delays over disputes. You must receive the final disclosure form with exact costs at least three business days before settling.

Post-Closing Possession Agreement 

If the purchase agreement entitles the seller to retain residence on the land for a defined period post-closing, execute a temporary occupancy contract. This protects both parties by documenting occupation length, utilities payments and related expectations.

Buying land, whether raw or developed, makes a great investment if done prudently. Just be sure all documentation gets handled thoroughly by professionals.

Mind Critical Terms on Land Deals 

Beyond familiarizing yourself with required forms, you need to learn specialized real estate and land terminology to transact smoothly in Delaware. Below are some key words and phrases you’ll encounter:


Legal right granted to use part of landowner’s property or restrict its use. For example, a utility easement lets companies access the area for equipment.


Claims against the property that transfer with ownership, like mortgages, judgments, liens, easements, property tax debt.


When the buyer deposits money with a third party to give to the seller at closing once conditions met. Protects buyer investment.


Legal transfer of property ownership from seller to buyer through signed documents.

Covenant rules governing use of land, mentioned in property deeds. For example, construction guidelines. Breaking might allow lawsuits.

Closing Disclosure 

Final detailed financial accounting from transaction given to buyer one business day before closing.

Municipality city or town government that oversees local building development, taxes, services and regulations.

Plat Map 

Graphical depiction of land layout and boundaries based on formal survey

Title Search

Research done into public records to determine a property's past ownership, use and status. Ensures seller has right to sell.

Zoning Classification 

Municipality-defined development parameters for land parcels, like housing density limits.

Get fully comfortable with this terminology before negotiating any land deal terms to protect your rights and investment as a buyer or seller.

Which Counties Have Special Guidance?

While Delaware adheres to mostly uniform state laws and paperwork on real estate deals, individual counties have slight procedural variations.

For example, New Castle County requires using specific property transfer tax forms not mandated statewide when recording warranty deeds. Before closing, always check with your attorney on any county-level specifics that apply.

The three counties also each have their own Recorder of Deeds office to handle submitted documents:

  • New Castle County Recorder of Deeds
  • Kent County Recorder of Deeds
  • Sussex County Recorder of Deeds

Verify you meet all local rules through the relevant channels before finalizing any land sale or purchase. While state law provides helpful baseline guidelines, don’t overlook additional county conditions.

Lean on Legal Experts to Buy / Sell Right

Trying to navigate the paperwork solo on your first Delaware land deal quickly overwhelms. Protect yourself by utilizing experienced real estate attorneys or title professionals.

Reliable representatives stand ready to handle every aspect from title checks, sales agreements and deed preparation through closing. They also ensure you meet laws and disclosure requirements each step so problems don’t derail great deals.

For buying land in Delaware, work with professionals who understand area tract values well. An accurate purchase offer saves you money and prevents overpaying. Check for experience with nearby land transactions.

On selling, you want an attorney skilled at maximizing prices through proper listing marketing and negotiations. Find someone eager to advertise your land across multiple platforms to serious buyers only. Beware rushed decisions simply to close faster at lower prices.

You also need confidence your advisors will represent your best interests from beginning to end. Ask contacts for referrals and research all candidates thoroughly through reviews and credentials review before choosing who to trust.

For tailored guidance on your specific property goals in Delaware, reach out to discuss a custom action plan for success backed by years of real-world experience.

Final Thoughts

Now you can dive into a Delaware land purchase or sale armed with knowledge on what paperwork gets required. From deeds and disclosures to purchase agreements and mortgages, having the right documents expertly handled is essential.

We covered the core forms vital to record land transfers legally per First State real estate laws. Our overview also prepared you with key industry terminology to understand before signing any binding contracts.

Just remember to align with specialized legal counsel ready to spearhead required documentation while defending your best deal interests. Taking this prudent step avoids headaches from trying to manage everything yourself.

So, explore available land opportunities across New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County leveraging these new insights. And connect at any time to discuss deals in progress or learn more tips for smooth buying and selling in Delaware's straightforward real estate investment environment. Here's to finding your perfect plot!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What types of deeds can be used to transfer land ownership in Delaware?

The two main deeds used are the general warranty deed and special warranty deed. The general warranty deed offers the buyer the most protection as the seller guarantees clear title with no defects. The special warranty deed only guarantees title for the period the seller owned the land.

What disclosures must a land seller provide in Delaware?

Sellers must provide a seller's disclosure form that outlines any issues, defects, necessary repairs or other problems with the land that the buyer should be aware of prior to purchasing. This protects the seller from future liability.

What taxes apply when selling land in Delaware?

The seller may need to pay capital gains tax if the land profited over $500 more than the original purchase basis. The seller also pays the property transfer tax based on a percentage of the total sale value, and local deed recording fees.

What major fees arise when buying land in Delaware?

Buyers pay title search, title insurance, attorney and recording fees at closing. Transfer taxes, prep fees for documents like the deed, property assessments and escrow deposits may apply as well. The title company or attorney provides an estimated closing cost disclosure form itemizing fees.

Can I write my own purchase contract and deed when buying Delaware land?

It's not advisable for those lacking legal expertise. Real estate attorneys and title companies handle these documents to ensure proper protections under state laws. They also record the deed post-closing to officially transfer ownership.

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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