House Calls: How to Sell
Dear Edith: My wife and I are approaching our 80s and thinking about selling our cottage. It is on the water at the Eastern end of Lake Ontario. In 1992, we bought and cleared the lot. We had a shell put up. Over the years, we made improvements to the shell. At this point, all of our children have moved away.
Here are our questions:
--Do we contact a Realtor where the cottage is located, or one who's close to where we live?
--Do we rely on the Realtor to be fair and honest and on our side, or do we acquire a lawyer? And if so, what kind of lawyer?
--What percent do Realtors charge, and how long do contracts run?
--Since we are leaving most of the items with the cottage, should we be aware of any other concerns? -- A. and J. S.
Answer: My husband was a real estate broker, and so was my brother-in-law. But when it came time to sell our mother's lakeside home, my sister and I put the property in the hands of a real estate broker out there. You'll find, I think, that a broker closer to your cottage is the best person to know buyers interested in a local lakeside property.
You can assume that active brokers are as fair and honest as lawyers. If they weren't, I don't think they'd last too long in business. Realtors -- who choose to join a private organization -- are bound by a code of ethics in addition to their license.
In New York, the custom is that closings, or the final transfer of title, are handled by lawyers, so you'll want an attorney in any event. Again, I'd suggest contacting one who practices in the county where your cottage is located. It needn't be a specialist. You could always ask a bank out there what law firm handles its real estate matters.
Real estate commissions are determined by agreement between seller and broker. There are no legal regulations. You'll probably find, though, that most local brokerages charge about the same. As for length of contract, that can vary depending on what suits you.