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House Calls: Pricing to Sell

Edith Lank on

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 you can be upfront about it. Explain that you're going to try for-sale-by-owner, and ask if they're willing to confer with you on that understanding.

Even an oral opinion will require an hour's preparation time on the Realtor's part, and more time traveling to your home and inspecting it. Some brokers won't want to donate their time and expertise. Others, though, will welcome the chance to see your home and make a friend, just on the off chance.

Although most agents can make excellent recommendations, particularly in neighborhoods they're familiar with, watch out for the few who will suggest almost any price just to secure your listing. A few others may name a low price for a quick and easy sale. Your best bet is to interview at least three and compare their opinions.

A professional appraisal is particularly valuable when you're dealing with unusual property, in which case it's hard to find similar recent sales. It can also be useful while you're negotiating with buyers. Although it's simply an estimate, albeit an informed, skilled one, the buyer may accept it as an impartial, almost scientific proof of value -- as the courts indeed do.

If you do hire a professional appraiser, make it clear you need only a simple written report. You don't want to pay for a 30-page dissertation with floor plans and photographs of the neighborhood.

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Loss Not Deductible

Dear Edith: You have written so much about timeshares, which I have enjoyed reading, but I've never heard you answer this question about them.

We purchased our timeshare in 1997 for $22,000 and have used it many times, but we decided to sell it this past year. We were able to sell it back to the developer for $5,600.

The developer sent us a 1099 for $5,600. Could we show a $16,400 loss under a real estate sale on our taxes for 2017? -- D. and M. G.


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