Home & Leisure



Let’s discuss the ins and outs of co-ops

Q: We are wondering if you could provide us with some enlightenment about the ins and outs of buying a co-op. We would also like to know about how we can get more information about the co-op, specifically the bylaws, financial health and board minutes without actually putting a contract on it.

Our daughter is ready to move out on her own and ...Read more

Condo reserves a growing issue (Part 2)

A few weeks ago, we wrote about condo and co-op reserves and the new Florida State law. This new law, passed in the wake of the Surfside collapse in 2021, mandates condo and co-op buildings at least 30 years old do milestone structural inspections by Dec. 31, 2024. They must do additional milestone structural inspections every 10 years ...Read more

New homeowner experiences significant, costly repairs despite previous home inspection

Q: When we bought our house six years ago, we got an inspection with a 55-page illustrated report pointing out lots of typical problems (rusty rail, reversed wiring, cracked cement, etc.). We didn’t find many serious problems that were missed until after we moved in.

Because the inspector was “unable to walk on all steeper parts of the roof...Read more

Understanding tax sales and assessed home values

Q: My former stepdad purchased a property in 2018 at a tax sale. Since my mother had already passed, I assumed he bought it in his own name. I’ve recently been informed that he purchased the property in my name.

Its fair market value is around $600, but somehow the tax assessor’s office believes it’s worth $50,000. It has been uninhabited...Read more

Reader skeptical of companies offering assistance to sell timeshare

Q: I frequently read your column/advice in my local paper. I’ve read your advice about getting rid of timeshares. I tried one of your recommendations about calling the timeshare and asking how to get rid of it. You would have thought I was a two-headed monster! No one had information about how to get rid of it nor advice on who I should ...Read more

Are you still eligible for exclusion of capital gains if spouse isn’t on title?

Q: I am selling my primary residence in Chicago that I’ve owned for about 30 years. I owned another property in another state and we are downsizing to live there in our retirement years.

My wife and I have been married for 15 years and her name is not on the deed to the home in Chicago. I thought that you were allowed a $250,000 exemption on ...Read more

How opening and closing credit cards impact your credit score, interest rates

Q: I am widowed, retired, I love to travel, and I am grateful I have the wherewithal to do so. I am looking at getting an airline credit card to take advantage of their 75,000 point offer that my daughter says is worth around $750.

I already have way more credit than I’ll ever use. I have two credit cards that I generally use. One is from a ...Read more

Condo owner says HOA board refuses to address reported encounters with neighbor

Q: I hear Ilyce on the radio often and figured maybe the guru of all things having to do with money and real estate might help me. I am a condo owner in Illinois and have lived in my place for over 20 years.

I had a chance encounter in my condo building with a mentally unstable owner on several occasions. One time the neighbor hit me on the ...Read more

Realtor discourages friend from installing solar panels before listing home for sale

Q: We’re thinking of moving to a senior living development in a few years, so we’ll be selling our house. We’ve received quotes for solar and think it’s the thing to do, regardless of whether we’d use it long enough to pay off the initial investment.

I thought installing solar would increase the value and attractiveness of the house. ...Read more

Condo reserves a growing issue (Part 1)

It’s expensive to own any type of home. You’ve got the mortgage, homeowners insurance, property taxes, maintenance and upkeep. You may also, if you buy in a subdivision, have some sort of homeowners association fee to pay.

In an era where affordability is an issue, with home prices and mortgage interest rates at record highs, condominiums ...Read more

Stepdaughter navigates title issues with lender after stepmother’s passing

Q: Early last year, my stepmom and I had a meeting with her loan company to figure out what the easiest way to pass her home to me when she died. I know nothing about this stuff, so I put my trust in the loan servicer.

The lender suggested that I assume the loan and added me as a co-borrower. She said that once my stepmom died, all I’d have ...Read more

HOA board members troubled by fellow member’s poor behavior

Q: We have a new HOA board member who is very troublesome and off the wall with regard to rules and regulations. I am a board member along with one other person. The actions and language of the new board member with vendors and the other owners are offensive.

We are currently documenting everything he does. Do you have any recommendations for ...Read more

Board member rebuffs condo owner after failed lawsuit

Q: I know you’ve answered a lot of questions about HOAs in the past. But I haven’t seen you address my particular situation: Would a lawsuit against our condo association, whether I won or lost, typically prohibit all future correspondence directly with the homeowner association board of directors?

I live in Virginia. I sued my HOA in small...Read more

As society moves to a more digital world, some real estate documents still require a ‘wet’ copy

Q: Just read your story where the writer said their mother wants to put her house into a living trust. Excellent article! I’d like to add one thing that I’m sure that you know, but many people likely don’t know.

I don’t know about other states, but in Illinois, when the trustee dies and the beneficiary becomes the successor trustee, the...Read more

Marina owner's trees block homeowner’s waterfront view

Q: Fifty years ago I purchased a lot in a community in Maryland. I paid a higher price for this lot due to its better view. Several years after buying the lot, I built my house on it.

My lot is adjacent to a marina. The marina has gone through various owners and today’s owner has allowed the Leyland cypress trees to grow 30 plus feet tall, ...Read more

Trendy, modern open floor plans are not for everyone

Q: I know this isn’t your usual type of question, but when on earth are people going to stop tearing down supporting walls in their houses in the quest for open floor plans? This trend turns a house into public space, robbing anybody of any privacy. Worse, it shrinks kitchens by taking away a whole wall of cupboard space, makes it impossible ...Read more

Tenant frustrated HOA failed to fix drainage issue in unit

Q: My homeowners association (HOA) agreed to fix a leaky air conditioning drainage line that ran between floors. It causes flooding in my unit every summer. They set up a repair date but eventually canceled the work. Like clockwork, my place flooded again while I was out of town.

Turns out they didn’t do the work because of fear of asbestos. ...Read more

Readers weigh in on debt, HOA boards and communal outdoor lighting

COMMENT: I read your interesting article recently about the homeowner being in a rough spot after moving to Sonoma County, California, and taking on debt. I assume the $30,000 debt the reader took on was all credit card debt.

One idea I had, that you did not mention, is for that person to see if she was eligible for a transfer of that debt to a...Read more

Spouse confused about home ownership documentation after husband’s death

Q: After my husband’s death, my daughter went to pick up the deed to our house. There was a quitclaim deed that our old mortgage lender put in place with my signature on it. Also, I can’t find the transfer on death (TOD) instrument either. All records and insurance on the house are gone. Where should I start looking?

A: Oh, boy, do we have ...Read more

Oral agreements are not binding when it comes to real estate

Q: My father passed away, and my stepmom said that I could have the house. My father and my stepmom were married when he died, but she left him over seven years ago.

The home was in both of their names with rights of survivorship. She hasn’t paid any expenses for the home for as long as I can remember. I now live in the home, and while my dad...Read more



Poorly Drawn Lines Al Goodwyn Christopher Weyant Andy Capp Cul de Sac Bill Day