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House Calls: House Doll-Up

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Ms. Lank: We need advice about fixing up the house for sale without spending much money. We are limited. What really matters? -- A.

Answer: Some brokers feel the condition of a house can make a difference of as much as 10 percent in the eventual sale price, or at the least determine how long it's likely to stay on the market.

You aren't going ...Read more

House Calls: Getting a Mortgage

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Ms. Lank: We found the house we want to buy without using an agent, but we aren't sure how to get a mortgage. Any advice is welcome. -- P. I.

Answer: If you have an account with a local bank, that's the place to start. It'll refer you to the mortgage department.

You don't "get" a mortgage, by the way. Quite the opposite: You actually give it. ...Read more

House Calls: Signing Purchase Contract

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: This is the first time we've bought a house, and our agent says when we find the right one, she'll draw up the contract and we'll sign it right there. My father always advised I should never sign a contract until a lawyer has looked it over for me. What is your advice about this? -- G. C. F.

Answer: For first-time buyers, signing a ...Read more

House Calls: Office or Bedroom

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: I'm enclosing two pictures. The first photo is the closet in our entryway. The second photo shows how the back of the closet is a wall shared with a 12-by-15-foot room that we use as a home office.

We're thinking about putting a door on the backside of the closet so it could be accessed from the office. We're thinking that this ...Read more

House Calls: Investment Property

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Ms. Lank: My wife is all fired up about the real estate people we see on TV. Do you have an opinion about investing in the courses they offer? They offer a free session at a motel here. Any advice about investing in real estate will be welcome. -- W. V.

Answer: Real estate has been called not only the best way to build an estate but even the ...Read more

House Calls: Price to Offer

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Ms. Lank: We need advice fast. We've found the house we want. What can we do to feel out the seller before we sign anything? Is it usual to start low and bargain back and forth? Does an offer have to be written? --

Answer: First off, there's no point in discussing price. In the sale of real estate, oral offers, and even oral ...Read more

House Calls: Worried About Zillow

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: I have a question about appraisals and home values.

Our house is appraised for tax purposes at a lower value than the house next door, which has greater square footage. The houses were built on same-sized lots about 20 years ago. But our neighbor's house is dated inside, while ours has an updated kitchen and interior and updated ...Read more

House Calls: Finding the Bargains

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: We are just starting out, and we can afford to buy a home if we can find a bargain. But we don't want to make a mistake and end up with problems. We'd appreciate any advice. -- R. J.

Answer: Yes, perfectly good bargain houses are out there. Let's start with housekeeping: As you park across the street, the agent says: "Now, I want to...Read more

House Calls: Judgment Problem

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Edith: Five siblings have a contract to sell their father's house that they inherited. One has a judgment against him. The broker says the house can't close without that judgment being paid off. None of the others want to pay the judgment, because it is more than that sibling's one-fifth share of the sale proceeds.

Is there any way to get ...Read more

House Calls: Consult a CPA

Consumer / Edith Lank /

I try to hold the "see a lawyer" response down to once a week, but this week's response to keep down could probably be "consult a CPA."

Trust Beneficiary

Dear Mrs. Lank: My mother-in-law sold her house in 2016. The house was built in 1955 for $60,000. The house sold for $169,000. There were approximately $75,000 worth of improvements ...Read more

House Calls: Becoming Owner

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: To settle a bet, I'd like to know: When exactly does homeownership transfer? Is it when the new deed is entered in the public records office? --

Answer: Way back when few people could read or write, the seller of land would pick up a clod of earth and hand it to the buyer, who would seize it and become owner of that ...Read more

House Calls: Once a Duplex

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Ms. Lank: I own a house in the city in an area that is older but still has mainly single-family dwellings. Years ago, the house was a duplex, but walls were removed to make it a single-family unit. The address still shows the two numbers as if it were still a duplex.

I want to restore it to a duplex. I would like to stay in it but would need ...Read more

House Calls: Readers Offer Corrections

Consumer / Edith Lank /

It's my own fault. I'm breaking the rule I made maybe 40 years ago that says to stay away from items about real estate closings. The settlement procedures in which sellers finally turn over ownership to buyers vary widely from one area to another.

A real estate lawyer in Honolulu once told me that when he gets a phone call asking whether he'd ...Read more

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