Home & Leisure

House Calls: Earnest Money

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Ms. Lank: We are looking to buy our first home, and we have a good agent, but I thought I would double-check with you. She says we will be expected to give her a substantial check when we make an offer on a house. She says that's standard practice, but both of us are nervous about it. Is this the way it's really done? What if our offer isn't ...Read more

House Calls: Questions About Selling

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: I'm facing the sale of my home. I've been living here for 38 years. I am curious about a few things:

--After choosing an agent to sell the house, should you share any weaknesses in the house, i.e. a couple of drafty windows, although all are replacements?

--I purchased the house plans from the architect for $700. Does that figure ...Read more

House Calls: Sometimes There Are No Answers

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Gentle readers: Here are some questions received from readers over the years that I couldn't bear to part with. Enjoy!

Dear Sir: Is it legal for a house to be listed with two different Realtors, and as such, for the owners to sign agreements with two different buyers, each depositing an earnest money on the property?

If not legal, what can we ...Read more

House Calls: IRS and Short Sales

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Ms. Lank: I wrote in a long time ago with a question about not wanting to pay income tax on my forgiven debt when I sold my house in a short sale years ago.

Just to update you, after an IRS hearing, which was surprisingly pleasant and took place over the telephone, I turned in an amended tax return with the proper form filled out. The canceled ...Read more

House Calls: First-Time Buyers

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Hello, Edith: Is there a way for us to access your recent article on financing for first-time homeowners? We enjoy your column and thank you for any information you can provide. -- S. and J.

Answer: More than 20 years ago, I wrote a book called "The Home Buyer's Kit." It went through several editions but is out of print now.

Recently, though, ...Read more

House Calls: Tenant Has Right to Sublease

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Ms. Lank: My husband and I are currently in an apartment but have been looking for a house for months now. Our lease is up on June 30.

A few days ago, our landlord sent a letter stating that we need to let him know whether or not we are going to resign for next year. He gave us three days to make the decision.

Not wanting to lose our apartment...Read more

House Calls: Discount Commissions

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Ms. Lank: I am going to take your advice and interview some agents about selling my house. How likely is it that they will negotiate how much they will charge in commission? Are the rates set by law, or can I bargain? -- L. W.

Answer: In any given area, real estate commissions cluster around one particular rate. Those rates are not set by law, ...Read more

House Calls: Closing Value

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Hi, Edith: I read an article in which a writer suggested a method of estimating the value of one's home by analyzing "closing values." You responded by saying in part that there's nothing more accurate than recent "comparable" sales.

My question to you is this: What was the writer's definition of "closing values"? I took that to mean selling ...Read more

House Calls: Nothing Down

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: We have a pretty good credit rating but not much cash. My father-in-law says there are ways to buy real estate with little or no money down. Is that just in the past, or is it still possible? -- B.

Answer: Yes, there are still ways to buy your own home with almost no cash, especially for first-timers. Your good credit rating is a ...Read more

House Calls: Closing Customs

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: My friends are buying a property in a different state. Both parties are finally ready for closing. It is scheduled for next week, the day after final walk-through.

They are paying cash. They were planning to bring a cashier's check to the closing, after the walk-through proves satisfactory. There is a branch of their bank in the new...Read more

House Calls: Good Schools Wanted

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Ms. Lank: Our family is moving out of state, and we will buy a new home in a new city. We have a Realtor, but she is not much help when we try to pick a neighborhood. I read advice that says to rent first to see if we really want to live there permanently, but we know we will. The biggest problem is the location of the good schools. The agent ...Read more

House Calls: Buying First Investment

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Ms. Lank: My husband has a chance to buy the house next door to us. They would give us a mortgage, and we would rent it out. He was wondering whether you have any guidelines for how we could know whether it would pay to do it. Any info or advice you have would be helpful. -- B. L.

Answer: You folks are following my standard advice: As real ...Read more

House Calls: Pricing to Sell

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: When we get ready to sell our home, should we pay for a professional appraiser or just rely on Realtors' suggestions? Can we call brokers if we're really going to sell on our own? -- P. I.

Answer: It's clearly unfair to mislead agents by asking for a free market analysis on the pretense that you're ready to list the property, but ...Read more


Social Connections


Heathcliff Arctic Circle Hi and Lois Meaning of Lila Fort Knox Ask Shagg