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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

House Calls: What to Ignore

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: Before getting a real estate agent, we are going to try putting the house up for sale ourselves in the spring. It would help if you could give us some guidelines about how much to ask. Thanks in advance. -- G. S. O.

Answer: Let's start with factors to ignore:

--Your original cost. Suppose you received the house as a gift. Must you ...Read more

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


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