Nancy Judge | Newburyport Real Estate, Newbury Real Estate, Topsfield Real Estate

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With a mortgage, a buyer is applying for financing to purchase the property in its entirety. They're relying on their credit and assets for approval before assuming responsibility of the full property. In a land contract, you're cutting out the need for a formal lender and relying on the seller to approve or deny your application.

The seeming simplicity of the transaction may make some people discount the importance of negotiation. However, there are a few things to keep in mind so both the buyer and seller are comfortable with the terms of the agreement. 

Talk to the Seller 

With a land contract, you may be more beholden to the seller than you would be to a lender in a traditional mortgage. If the seller thinks of you as a tenant rather than an owner of the place, you'll need to discuss their exact involvement over the course of the contract.

Because the seller won't receive the full value of the property upon sale, their financial insecurity is entirely understandable. They may want to check up with you over the phone, in-person, or through a third-party. If you're uncomfortable with the level of oversight, you may need to speak up or find a different property. 

Make sure you understand your obligations during this time. Some buyers are treated as a renter of the property — until it comes time to make significant and costly repairs. If you're responsible for all upkeep, you may be able to negotiate more freedom in exchange for the additional expense. 

Think Through the Finances 

One of the starkest differences between a traditionally financed home and a land contract is the speed of repayments. Even if you do find a seller willing to extend the contract, it can still be a major strain on your finances. As you factor in your current assets and credit score, you should also consider the future.

If the final payment is large enough, it may still require a substantial loan. If your credit hasn't improved enough by the time the contract nears the end, it could be a significant blow to your savings. And if you can't meet the terms of the contract, the seller will get to keep the money you've already paid them (as well as the property). 

Negotiating a land contract means thinking through the repercussions of each clause. While the terms may seem looser than a standard mortgage, there may be strings attached that aren't as obvious at first glance. Ensure that you understand your financial and practical responsibilities before signing on the dotted line. 

This Condo in Middleton, MA recently sold for $489,900. This Townhouse style home was sold by Nancy Judge - KELLER WILLIAMS REALTY.

16 Bellingham Court, Middleton, MA 01949


Sale Price

Full/Half Baths
Only available Fuller Pond "Parker" corner unit with serene backyard views of scenic Fuller Pond. Bright unit with sunroom, currently being used as an office and walkout finished basement. 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath with hardwood floors on first level and stairs. Most rooms freshly painted in today's Ben Moore "Metropolitan" for a neutral palette. Get ready to enjoy movies or sporting events in the lower level "man cave" with custom built in bar. 2 YEAR YOUNG Nest thermostat, gas furnace unit, AC and hot water tank. Situated on 94 acres of mature, professionally landscaped grounds and conveniently located to the Clubhouse with indoor (recently redone) and outdoor pools, sauna, library, tennis courts, fitness center and vegetable garden! Come see what Fuller Pond Village living is all about!

Photo by ErikaWittlieb via Pixabay

Storage is one of the biggest challenges when deciding how to decorate or plan a new home.  It's tempting to throw everything into bins and stack them someplace in your garage, their contents forgotten ever after!  If you do, though, there is a good chance you will waste money by purchasing things you already own -- and you may continue to add things until even thinking of tackling that stack of stuff you "might need someday" makes you break out into a cold sweat.

1. Sort your items.

Make a throw away, give away, and store pile for things you use infrequently or seasonally.  If you struggle to throw things away, seek a second opinion: bring a friend and promise them whatever they want in return for helping you out, whether that's leaf-raking, a batch of cookies or return the favor when they need a little help.  You can send your nicer giveaway items to a consignment shop if you wish, or head straight to a donation drop site, such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

2. Decide how much storage space you need.

After you're finished sorting, decide how much space you'll need for your storage.  Some options include a section of your garage, attic, one bedroom, a mudroom or under-the-stairs storage space.  Then, group your storage items by theme (seasonal clothing) or task (items for painting rooms).  Consider how many groups of items you have and how you will store that many groups.  Will you need more space for one type of item than another?  A little pre-planning goes a long way.

3. Make everything do double-duty to save on space.

Benches with flip-lids for storage are an excellent option.  Keep in mind that the seats should be comfortable without the addition of throws, pillows or pads -- you want it to be easy to get to your things, and that means no tugging throws or pillows on the floor to access your storage.  

A clever solution for a garage or larger storage space is to purchase two (or four) cube storage organizers.  Arrange these a few feet apart, place a tabletop between them and screw it in place: now you have under-table storage and a workspace!  A standing workspace would work especially well in a garage area.  Alternately, you can have a cube storage organizer on all four sides for maximum storage, if you place your table in the center of the room.

4. Make sure everything is within easy reach.

Use drawers, bins and stacked boxes: don't pile items and don't store things behind other items.  Everything should be removable, so that you can pull out a box, use that type of item, and put the box away.  Plastic boxes with snap-on lids are a good idea for garage storage, where there may be mice or dampness.

Another idea is to build shelving with depth and fill these with wicker baskets for storage. 

5. Place items together by the task they accomplish.

For example, if you or your family enjoy painting but do not paint every day, fill one basket with brushes, paint, a plastic cup for water, paper and everything else you'd need for the task, rather than having one drawer or basket with art supplies you'd have to hunt through or different boxes for paint versus paper.

Perhaps you need a measuring tape for construction tasks as well as for sewing.  Measuring tapes are inexpensive!  Keep a measuring tape in both boxes rather than making yourself hunt for one any time you need to accomplish a task that requires it.  

Only create such boxes or baskets for specialized tasks you perform at least a few times a year.

6. Choose your decor wisely.

There's nothing wrong with clean lines and elegant colors, but if you have a mudroom make sure that your floor is tile or vinyl so it can be wiped clean easily.  If you do choose carpet for a storage room, choose dark tans or grays rather than anything paler: otherwise you may spend your life cleaning it!  If you have white walls, keep a magic eraser nearby so you can wipe off scuffs as you find them.  Finishes on cabinetry should be shiny rather than matte, so that they are easy to wipe.  Avoid cloth and rustic, unfinished surfaces: they may look homey, but they are very hard to keep clean.

When faced with an organizational project, remember: a place for everything, and everything in its place!  

Photo by Steve Buissinne via


Most are familiar with the key components of a mortgage: how much you're borrowing, what your interest rate is, how many years you'll be paying your mortgage back. There are many, however, who do not understand some of the finer details, including what prepayment penalties are and how they may affect you when you're buying or selling a home. 

What are Prepayment Penalties?

In the simplest terms, a prepayment penalty may apply if you pay off your mortgage early. Prepaying can mean either making additional payments that bring down your balance quicker, refinancing your mortgage, or selling the home and therefore paying off the balance of the loan. The reason banks apply these penalties is to recoup some of their lost revenue when years of interest are not collected due to an early payoff. 

Not all mortgages come with penalties and those that do often specify when and how the penalties will apply. For example, many borrowers will not be penalized if the prepayment results from selling the home, but will apply from refinancing or from making additional payments. Others have a limit to how much can be paid early via additional payments during any given year. It's also common for prepayment penalties to only apply during the first several years.

Avoiding the Harshest Penalties

For first-time mortgage applicants, it pays to take the time to find your lender before you choose a home. That way, you'll have plenty of time to read all the documentation, ask questions, and consult an attorney to ensure you're getting terms you can agree to in good faith. Keep in mind, however, that mortgage contracts are not final until you've selected a home and have documents drawn up specifically for that purchase. You may want to have an attorney present during the closing to make sure all the final paperwork matches your expectations.

For sellers, it's best to understand whether prepayment penalties will apply long before contemplating the sale of your home. However, if you missed the opportunity to do your due diligence when signing the mortgage documents, it's not too late. Start by talking with your lender to understand which, if any, penalties you may be subject to. If the penalties are steep enough, now may not be the best time to sell or you may want to keep these expenses in mind when pricing your home. Others may be able to port their mortgage to a new home, or transfer it to a new property to avoid penalties. 

Getting Help

No matter which side of the deal you are on, a qualified real estate agent can help you navigate the process to make sure you're getting the most from the arrangement while also working around tricky situations. To learn more or to get started, feel free to send in your inquiries, so we can get started on your homebuying or home selling journey today.

Photo by Edgardo Lagmay on Unsplash

Nothing dates a bathroom like an old toilet. Not only have toilets advanced significantly in the past 10-15 years. Older toilets often develop hard water stains and porcelain scratches that show their age.

Fortunately, replacing a toilet is one of the most straightforward home improvement projects you can do. And it's relatively inexpensive for a DIY toilet replacement. Here's how it's done.

What You'll Need

  • A new toilet. *Pro tip* Read reviews and find one with the feature you like. Toilets are similar sizes, but you should measure from the wall to the bolt to ensure the bolts are in the right place for your new toilet.
  • Rubber work gloves
  • Putty knife
  • Sponge
  • Hacksaw 
  • Wrenches
  • Towel
  • Nuts/Bolts
  • Closet flange
  • Washers
  • Wax ring
  • Garbage bag
  • Some of these items will come with a toilet. So see what's in the box before you buy separately.

    Remove the Old Toilet

    Before you do, turn off the water supply on the wall behind the toilet. Flush the toilet to empty the remaining water. Then while wearing gloves, use your sponge and towel to sop up any liquid left behind in the bowl and the tank behind the bowl.

    If the toilet's tank can separate from the bowl, remove it first for a lighter lift. You only need the hack saw if the bolts are rusted solid. Otherwise, you just need a wrench. 

    Put the dirty toilet in a big plastic bag and take it outside for now.

    Remove Old Wax

    Stick an old hand towel gently into the mouth of the hole left behind to block sewer gasses floating into your house. *Pro tip* Don't use a washcloth. You may lose it. If it falls down your drain, you may need a plumber to get it out.

    Next, use your putty knife to carve out the old wax around the hole in the floor. It's soft, so this is easy on the hands, but it may take a little while to dig it all out.

    Remove the old closet bolts and the flange if needed. They're cheap to replace.

    Install the New Flange, Bolts & Wax Ring

    Lay down your new flange and place your bolts pointing up. These will secure the base of your toilet. Tightening down washers over the bolts holds the bolts in place, so it will be easier to slide your toilet over the top.

    Next, soften the wax ring with warm water. And then fit it around the drain on the underside of the toilet. Don't forget to remove the towel from the pipe before going further.

    Lower Your Toilet into Place

    Carefully lower the bowl of the toilet over the bolts. Press down firmly to strengthen the wax seal. Then fasten the bolts on the bowl and tank. Hook up the water, tighten, and watch as the tank fills ready to shut it off the hose leaks. Tighten it.

    And you've just replaced your toilet. Don't forget to follow our blog for more helpful home tips.