Home & Leisure



Real Estate Matters: The best way to look for a house in another state

Q: Can you give me any advice on how to make it easier to look for a house when you live in a different state? I live almost four hours from the location I want to live in and by the time I make the drive, the houses already have pending offers. I thought I might just drive there and wait a day for an interesting listing, but I do not want to ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: As a buyer, have your own inspector do a professional home inspection

Q: I’ve always been told that when buying a house, I should ask to see any building permits to make sure major changes made to the house were built to code. However, I am constantly being told by home sellers that they did work to the home themselves over time, so they didn’t need permits, even if I know this not to be true.

This is a ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Reader’s experience with a pocket listing and discrimination sheds light on the problematic practice

READER COMMENT: I’ve been following your discussion of pocket listings with interest. I had an unfortunate experience with a broker who used a pocket listing to try to sell my father’s home. He blatantly used the pocket listing to discriminate and market the property only to members of the religious community dominating the area.

A house of...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Property owner suspects closing attorney made an error on the title

Q: Earlier this year, I sold my house through a real estate company. I then moved next door to a rental home I own. A few months later, I checked online to view the title to my property and noticed that the closing attorney used the legal description for both properties.

I only sold the newer home that I moved out of. The closing law firm did ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Is it better to transfer a title now or go through probate in the future?

Q: I enjoyed reading your recent article on the differences between using a will and a quitclaim deed in order to pass property to heirs or family members.

I’m writing to ask about my 91-year-old mother who still lives in her home. She has her will set up and has appointed me and my sister as her power of attorney during her lifetime and the ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Are mortgage payments still deductible on your federal income tax return?

Q: Is mortgage interest still deductible on our federal income taxes? Is there something new that I am not aware of? Is there some reason to not have a mortgage that is different from what we’ve always believed?

Here’s why I’m asking: All of a sudden, it seems like we can’t deduct the interest in our tax preparation software. So, we do ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Condo owner considers refinancing but struggles to find a lender

Q: Is it possible for you to refer me to a mortgage lender? I’m a single woman who would like to refinance the condominium I’ve lived in for the past 15 years. I have excellent credit. My monthly income seems to be a little shy of what lenders are looking for, by about $200 per month. My mortgage payment history is excellent.

A: Thank you ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Great home marketing starts with knowing who your buyer is

Q: I own a large farm that I have been trying to sell. I have had cattle, we do hay and have a hunting lease. But a buyer would not be able to make enough money to pay for this farm by operating it. I had it listed with two different agents who basically did nothing and made no suggestions. I no longer have it listed for sale.

What can I do to ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Homebuyer seeks advice on providing power of attorney while traveling abroad

Q: I recently signed a contract for the purchase of a home. I am traveling abroad soon and have given a financial power of attorney to a family member. I also gave them a durable power of attorney. Now I hear the title company in our purchase of the home may need a specific power of attorney for our purchase. Is it possible to provide a power of...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Homeowner in trouble after mortgage was sold to a different lender

Q: We have lived in our house for 15 years. About four years ago our mortgage was sold to a different loan servicing company. We called the new company several times over the course of a year and they said they have no record of our loan. We had no way to make our loan payments and now the real estate taxes have not been paid. We recently got ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Buying a property without an agent could cost you

Q: What do you think about buying a property without a buyer’s agent? What tips would you share for home buyers who do not want to use an agent?

A: Every year, a relatively small number of homes (roughly 11% in 2018, according to the National Association of Realtors) are bought and sold without the use of a real estate agent. Some buyers ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Resident seeks guidance on convincing board to open pool

Q: How do I get our homeowners association board to open up our building’s three pools, all of which have been closed since March due to the pandemic? The board members say they are concerned that if someone gets COVID-19, they will be sued and will have to pay a huge sum to settle the dispute.

There are about a dozen of us that are avid ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Ex-wife living abroad may have ties to home of deceased former partner

Q: My stepfather bought a house in Miami in 1999 and he included my mom on the title of the property at that time. It's not clear to me exactly how they held title, but I would say it was probably joint tenancy, because percentages of ownership are not mentioned in the deed.

They divorced in 2007, and we have only recently found out that he ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: We’re addressing another concern about pocket listings

Reader comment: You recently answered a question about a home seller paying the commission to an agent for a “pocket listing.” You bypass the larger issue and the reason that so-called pocket listings are against the National Association of Realtor (NAR) rules. “Pocket listings” are against Fair Housing rules. You should put an addendum ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: First-time homebuyer considers hiring attorney for closing

Q: I’m a little embarrassed to ask this question, but do I need to hire an attorney for closing? I’m a first-time homebuyer purchasing a new construction home and I hope to close at the beginning of next month.

I have not received the actual closing date yet. The attorney that is holding my earnest money sent me an email stating they will ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Reader insight on the couple near retirement refinancing their home

We recently received a long comment on one of our questions regarding a homeowner who was deciding whether to refinance their home before retiring. Our correspondent is a mortgage industry veteran of many years and we thought you’d benefit from his perspective.

(And, we’ll just add that hearing from our readers, whether directly through ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Should condo association postpone board vote due to COVID-19?

Q: I live in a condominium building with around 100 units. We have seven board members and we are supposed to vote on some new board members this fall. Residents will not attend open board meetings this fall due to COVID-19. Going door-to-door with proxies is not going to be equitable. Can we legally go against our bylaws and postpone the ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Will vs. quitclaim deed - Which one wins out in the end?

Q: My friend filled out a will before she married her last husband. She owned a house, and when she married she did a quitclaim deed with her husband. Does the will still stand or does the husband get the house? She died a year ago and he wants to sell the house to use the money.

A: We get this question often and people tend to get confused ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: US citizen wishes to sell overseas property and reinvest funds in California property

Q: I own a piece of real estate overseas and I’ve owned it for quite some time, even before I became a U.S. citizen. I would like to sell the property, bring back the money to the U.S. and invest in a home in California.

What would I need to do to bring the money here and invest it? How can I bring money to the U.S. so I don’t have a ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Homeowner seeks advice for dealing with failed septic system

Q: We found out a couple of months ago that the leach field of our septic system has failed. The field is on our neighbor’s property. It was our neighbor who turned us in to the local code enforcer.

A little history: We bought the house from a contractor who was selling the house. He denied knowing anything about the septic system. We found ...Read more



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