How is a Land Contract Different than an Mortgage?

by Jacqui Zuzgo 09/12/2021

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

A land contract and a mortgage have a number of similarities. For example, you can use either option to purchase a home Both loans must be repaid on a monthly basis.

Understanding the Differences 

A land contract is a legal agreement between a buyer and a seller. Rather than a traditional mortgage scenario with a bank, the seller becomes the lender. The buyer and seller agree on a price for the home then negotiate terms and a payment schedule. 

In many cases, these repayment terms follow a schedule of monthly payments much like a mortgage. However, a balloon payment for the remaining balance is often due within three to five years. At that time, you would then obtain a traditional mortgage to fund the remainder that's due. 

Land Contract Risks

While it can seem like a land contract would be an ideal way to secure a home, it does involve risks you need to know about. A land contract can be a way for you to close on a home if you aren't able to qualify for a mortgage that covers the full cost right away. The three to five years that a typical land contract lasts can give you time to improve your credit and increase your financial soundness. 

Before you agree to a land contract, though, be aware that the property is not yours until you make the final (balloon) payment. This means that if you make any improvements to the property during that time, you could potentially be out of your investment. You are also not building up any equity in the home during the time that the land contract is in effect. 

At any point during the land contract, your position as the buyer could be compromised. For example, the seller is the legal owner of the property until the contract has been fully paid. If they experience financial problems and lose the property, you would have no claim to it and would forfeit your payments. 

As the buyer, you are obligated to meet your payment agreement. If you don't do so at any time during a land contract, the deal ends. The property stays with the seller and you are out the money you've invested. 

Advantages of a Mortgage

With a mortgage, you must pay property taxes and honor your obligations to the lender. As long as you do so -- and avoid liens -- you have legal recognition as the property owner. 

A land contract can seem like an attractive alternative if you don't think you qualify for a traditional mortgage. Before agreeing to one, though, be sure you understand the pitfalls that could be involved. 

About the Author
Author

Jacqui Zuzgo

I have been a REALTOR® in Massachusetts since 1984 and hold both a salesman and broker license. I am currently affiliated with Five College REALTORS® located at 190 University Drive, Amherst, MA. Over my career, I have consistently been a Top Producer in the Pioneer Valley and have gained a reputation for being a strong-minded, no-nonsense negotiator in the industry. I also frequently rank highly on Boston’s Top 20 for sales in Western Massachusetts. Some of my best qualities include my listening and communication skills. I have time and again proven to work well under pressure with exceptional attention to detail. My commitment to my clients and professionalism is obvious in every transaction.

Representing both buyers and sellers in Hampshire and Franklin Counties, as well as assisting in relocations throughout the United States and globally has helped me embrace the need for quality performance and develop an acute and sincere sensitivity to people's needs. Honing in on what matters most is almost a sixth sense. Communication and awareness of the situation at hand produce a final result that has undoubtedly led to the large referral business I maintain.

Education has been a theme throughout my 30 years of experience. Well versed in technology and holding key designations have proven to be assets to my performance and dedication to the Real Estate field. My never-ending enthusiasm, availability, knowledge and drive make for a seamless transaction every client, every time.

I am a native of the Pioneer Valley. I am committed to sharing all the area has to offer in making your transition, whether long distance or short, a satisfying experience.

Education:

  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst - Bachelor of Science 1983
  • Top Individual Seller for Residential Sales in the Pioneer Valley since 2006.
  • #1#1 Realtor in the entire Franklin/Hampshire Counties for Millions Sold since 1999.
  • Highest producer in sales since 2004 in Franklin/Hampshire Counties.
  • ABR®– Accredited Buyer's Representative
  • CRS – Certified Residential Specialist (only 3% of REALTORS® hold a CRS)
  • e-PRO – Digital Marketing, Certified e-PRO Realtor®
  • GRI – Graduate, Realtors® Institute
  • SRES– Seniors Real Estate Specialist®

Biographical Highlights:

Life long, active member of the community, born & raised in the Pioneer Valley. Graduate of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, BS 1983.

Current Committee Involvement:

Member of the local Chamber of Commerce - Post Board of Director's member Volunteer for the Road to Recovery.

Greenfield Community College Foundation Board Member 

Greenfield Savings Bank Corporator

MLS Professional Standards Committee Member

Have a question for Jacqui? Jacqui's email: [email protected]