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House Calls: Different Opinion

Edith Lank on

It would be a simple matter for a lawyer's office to look up the relevant documents in the public records office and reassure you that I'm right. Remember that it's always OK to ask ahead of time what the service is likely to cost.

There Was a Murder

Dear Edith: We have lived in this house for 10 years and only just found out someone was murdered in the little back bedroom about 15 years ago.

Do we have any case against the agent who sold us this house? Should the agent have known, and did we have a right to know before we bought it? --

Answer: I don't know where you're writing from, and the answer may depend on what state you're in.

Is knowledge of a past murder a material factor in the condition of the house, enough to influence the average buyer's decision to buy or how much to pay? Does the house have what is known as a "stigma"?

In some states, legislation addresses the issue. In other places, common law and court decisions determine the matter. In New York, for example, neither the seller nor the broker is required to disclose information about a suicide, murder, death or felony that occurred on a property. In California, such stigmas must be disclosed if they occurred within the past three years (why it's three years I don't know.) Other states will differ.

So, as so often, the answer is it all depends on where you live.

Buying From In-Laws

Dear Edith: My husband and I are buying my in-laws' house for about $40,000 less than its market value. Do my in-laws have to pay tax on the difference? I know there is a gift limit per year without tax liability of $14,000 per person or $28,000 per couple. Could they give me $28,000 and my husband $28,000 in the same year without tax penalty? Please answer as soon as possible. We are moving in less than a month. -- N. L.

Answer: Yes, your in-laws could give the two of you up to $56,000 in a year with no federal gift tax due.

And no law dictates how much they must get for their house, by the way.


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

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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