Home & Leisure

House Calls: Office or Bedroom

Edith Lank on

Answer: I'm not saying, "Oh, no!"

I'm saying, "Never enter into a land contract without consulting a lawyer."

A land contract (also known as a contract for deed) is a type of layaway installment plan for buying real estate. Typically, it is used by a buyer who does not have enough money for a down payment to qualify for a bank loan. The buyer takes possession and treats the place as his own, making monthly payments to the seller and, usually, taking care of taxes, insurance and repairs. Ownership does not transfer until a specified time. That could be when the buyer is finally qualified for a mortgage loan. Sometimes it is not until the final payment is made.

In some situations the arrangement is useful. But a land contract requires extra-careful consultation with an attorney before anything is signed. A lawyer would have known about that mortgage and advised wording in the contract to protect the money your friends have already invested in the building.

Property Taxes

Dear Ms. Lank: My husband says when we buy a house, the property taxes will stay the same. I believe they will change to be based on what we paid for the house. Which is right? -- B. L.,

Answer: It depends. In some areas, property taxes remain the same when ownership of a house is transferred, so you can be sure the tax bill the seller received this year is the same as the one you'll receive next year, except for any community-wide increases. Elsewhere, the assessment (valuation of the property for tax purposes) automatically changes to reflect your purchase price. The next bill would be based on that figure.

If you've started house hunting, find out which applies in that area. And for each house you look at, be sure you're informed of the true tax figure before you sign an offer to buy. Depending on the area, the sellers might have a tax abatement for senior citizens, those with low income, veterans or religious organizations. On the other hand, some localities add on to property taxes items like sidewalk snowplowing, unpaid water bills, grass cutting on neglected properties.


Eventually, you'll settle up with the seller of your house and reimburse the seller for property taxes already paid for the coming months. Or, in a state where taxes are paid in arrears, the seller will owe you for a portion of the bill you'll later receive.

Husband Signing

Ms. Lank: I own my house myself and am selling it, and I'm told my husband will have to sign any contract to sell it. This doesn't sound right, and it might make trouble. Is it true? -- J. N.,

Answer: Depends where you live. In some states, even a non-owning spouse must sign if the property is a family homestead.


Contact Edith Lank at, at or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

Copyright 2018 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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