House Calls: No Broker Involved
Ms. Lank: I have a family member who would like to buy my senior parents' home in a closed sale (without a real estate agent) to avoid commissions. What are the pros and cons of such an arrangement? I'm a little weary of not including an experienced professional. Thank you. -- W.
Answer: Both parties can take appropriate precautions, and there's no reason why they can't settle the matter without employing real estate agents. While brokers are skilled in bringing the parties to agreement, their main job is to help find the desired house and the desired buyers -- both of which you already have.
The big agreement, of course, will be on purchase price. Agents arrive at a suggested figure by analyzing recent nearby sales, which your relatives can do on the internet. Understand that an oral agreement is not binding, but it can be used as basis for a written purchase and sale document.
You live in a state where it's customary to use lawyers for real estate closings. If your folks live there -- or even if they don't -- your family member can obtain a blank offer form from his or her attorney, and advice, before signing and presenting the offer. Your parents should have their own lawyer's opinion on the document before accepting it -- which would be done, again, in writing.
Dear Edith: My wife and I hope to buy an older home, maybe even more than a century old. Is there anything special we should watch out for? We'll appreciate anything you can tell us. -- F. D.
Answer: Many homes built around 1900 didn't have any electric service. If the home hasn't been updated since the service was later installed, it can be inadequate for much beyond the light bulbs, refrigerator and flatiron it was originally designed for.
The proliferation of appliances these days call for lots of available service and plenty of outlets. You'll want 220-volt outlets for electric stoves, some clothes dryers and air conditioning.
Small rooms should have at least one outlet on each wall. On longer walls, look for an outlet at least every 12 feet so that any six-foot cord can be plugged in without using an extension cord. Be alert for any tangle of extension cords, which can signal inadequate outlets.
If you find circuit breakers in the fuse box, you'll know the service was updated at some point.