How to get legal help buying land when low income
September 6, 2015 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Are there free/low cost legal services that help low-income folks purchase land?

I have found several lots in Louisiana within my budget that I would love to buy and donate to a non-profit at which I worked. However, I know nothing about real estate law, and buying land. Are there free/low cost legal services that help low-income folks purchase land?
posted by Kombucha3452 to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not to question your premise, but why not just give the money to the non profit so they can buy the land directly?

Almost all low income assistance for real estate comes in the form of down payment assistance/mortgage guarantees, and generally has long term occupancy strings attached.
posted by rockindata at 12:14 PM on September 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: My mistake, I didn't phrase the question correctly. I'm looking for legal help in buying the land, not money for the land itself.
posted by Kombucha3452 at 12:17 PM on September 6, 2015

I think Rock is asking whether the non-profit can really use the land. You may have ideas about how they would or should use it that differs from the ideas of the non-profit itself. If their ideas are not the same as yours, likely the first thing they would do is turn around and sell the land to get the cash instead.
posted by yclipse at 12:23 PM on September 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

In your case, I agree with yclipse that the first step is talk to the nonprofit to make sure that the donation makes sense for them. If they turn around and sell it, then you are all worse off since it costs you money to buy the land (fees and taxes in addition to the cost of the land itself) and it costs them money to sell it (brokers fees plus other costs).

Assuming everyone agrees that the nonprofit would like the land, it makes sense to me that you might still want to give the money and let them buy the land rather than doing it yourself. Being a nonprofit, they might be able to negotiate a cheaper price especially since they can offer the seller a tax write-off for the difference between the market price and the actual price (I think - not an expert) Plus they may have lawyers and real estate brokers in their network that will donate or offer discounts on their services to help out the nonprofit. This means more of your money can go to actual purchase and/or you won't need to donate as much to fund it. If you are concerned that they would take the money and put it in the general fund instead of buying land, you can make a directed donation where they agree to only use the money for the agreed upon purpose. (Nonprofits do this all the time) If they won't agree, then you want to know why - part of that initial conversation.

Sounds like there is a great idea here - working the nonprofit more closely to make it happen may help everyone
posted by metahawk at 12:48 PM on September 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do you mean you are looking for legal help as in covering the costs of conveyancing, i.e. the closing costs? Or is there some other legal aspect that you need assistance with?

I would recommend looking for a lawyer (or any other professional that is applicable in your jurisdiction) who is willing to donate their time specifically for this project. Perhaps someone at the non-profit knows someone or there is a lawyer who might be able to ask around involved with the non-profit? I think if you are making a relatively big contribution, you should be able to find someone who will help out a little.

Does your non-profit commonly accept donations of land? Do you know any others in the area that do? Those are the people you should reach out to.

I don't think your personal low income is going to factor into this a whole lot - after all, you can afford the land, presumably the legal costs are small in comparison.
posted by ssg at 12:50 PM on September 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you can afford to buy the land outright and give it away, I seriously doubt you would qualify for free legal services designed to assist people who can't afford legal help.

Do you have any friends who are lawyers? Ask them if they know any real estate lawyers who would represent a buyer. If you don't know any lawyers, call your local Bar Association. Most keep lists of lawyers who practice in particular areas, so you can get a list from them and then start calling people to set up appointments with an eye toward hiring one.

But the bottom line is that legal services for the poor are generally limited to the very, very poor. Because free legal help is hard to come by, so most legal aid agencies don't have the resources to help people who can afford lawyers. And if you can afford the land, you can afford a lawyer.
posted by decathecting at 4:13 PM on September 6, 2015

Also, if you specify where in Louisiana and what kind of land (commercial, farm, residential, etc.), someone here might be able to recommend a good lawyer.
posted by decathecting at 4:14 PM on September 6, 2015

I have found several lots in Louisiana within my budget that I would love to buy and donate to a non-profit at which I worked.

I think looking for legal help based on your supposedly low income for purposes of donating land to a non-profit is a non-starter. Most programs aimed at helping low income people buy any kind of real estate is typically aimed at helping them purchase a family home to live in themselves. But you might be able to find a lawyer willing to work pro bono for the purpose of helping you gift land to a non-profit.

The non-profit you want to gift it to might know a lawyer who might help. You can also just look up names of local lawyers or lawyers willing to work pro bono on certain things. Sometimes, various organizations keep lists of lawyers willing to work pro bono on specific types of issues, but you can also find them via personal contact. Call and ask around.

But also make sure the non-profit would want the land. Non-profits sometimes get gifts that are worse than useless to them, that are actually an albatross around their neck.
posted by Michele in California at 4:20 PM on September 6, 2015

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