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Real Estate Matters: Landlord/homeowner turns out to be a scammer

Q: I rented a house from a person who turned out not to be the owner of the home. I contacted the authorities and the scammer disappeared. We were told by the police to try to find the true owner of the home. We even hired a private investigator but had no luck.

Now the home is being sold at auction due to delinquent taxes owed. Is there any ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: You can take several paths when estate planning. Which will you choose?

Q: My wife passed away this past year and our home is titled in her trust, with me as trustee and my children as beneficiaries upon my passing. If I sell the house, is my cost basis the value on her date of death?

If so, and there is a gain when sold, am I entitled to the $250,000 gain exclusion? If I stay in the house and my children inherit ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Tax burden from potential duplex sale seems high to seller

Q: My father-in-law is selling a duplex he rented out for about 10 years. The sale price is going to be around $300,000. His accountant says that he should plan on paying about $100,000 in taxes, because he has depreciated the property and all the deductions (for things like repairs and new appliances) will be added back in for taxes.

Does this...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Parents should carefully consider options when leaving home to an heir

Q: I just read your column giving suggestions to an elderly mother who wanted to make sure her daughter received her home at death without probate. I'm a retired attorney, and I don't know how many times I was asked the same question by clients over the years.

There's one thing that you didn't mention that often was the deal killer for the ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Association allegedly charges various owners different fines for the same violation. What gives?

Q: Can a condo association charge different fines for exactly the same infraction? Some of us broke the same rule in our association. We took matters into our own hands in making repairs to the common elements that are next to our units.

We had noted the problems with the association, but they did not take any action so we made the repairs. Yes...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Accurate information is essential to assess property taxes

Q: I recently watched one of Ilyce's video on YouTube on contesting real estate taxes. It really got me thinking, and I'm doing more research on my property taxes.

Do you have or know where I can get some type of form that I can fill out to get more information about my property? I'd like to find something that may show side by side my house in...Read more

Estate planning is important, especially for tax planning purposes

Q: I have a question about a recent answer you gave to a reader. The question relates to a daughter that acquired her share of the home from her mom while her mom was alive. In your answer you mentioned that the home was purchased originally for $50,000 and later sold for $250,000.

You stated that the daughter would pay federal income taxes on ...Read more

Can condo associations create different rules for different homeowners?

Q: Can a condo prohibit smoking in the building except for owners? At the time, the rule was changed on the grounds that those owners cannot have the right to smoke taken away; even if the smoke disturbs neighbors who smell smoke from next door balcony.

A: We've answered similar questions in the past about pets, leasing restrictions and even ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Are pocket listings a disservice to the seller?

Q: I'm annoyed with some of the things I see going on in the real estate market, including pocket listings.

Sellers should avoid brokerages that list properties internally before they are exposed to the market. The brokerage will brag that they sold the home before it hit the market as a good thing when it is not. It is good for the brokerage ...Read more

Purchased property looks picture-perfect but turns out to be a money pit

Q: This past July, I went to an open house. This house was done to the nines (or so it appeared). I put in an offer that weekend for the full list price and an escalation clause to ensure that I was in the running. My offer was selected, and we proceeded with the home inspection and termite inspection.

It was difficult finding inspectors where ...Read more

Know before you go: How to prepare for home buying with an agent

Q: My wife and I are considering purchasing our first home using our savings. We don't need to obtain a loan, but we do have a couple questions if we go this route.

If we don't get a loan, should we still be going to a lender anyway to get a preapproval letter so that our real estate agent knows we can buy what we say we can? If we're paying ...Read more

2020 could be another seller's market

As 2020 gets going, it's worth looking back at another year in which home sellers did well in some markets, but often at the expense of home buyers.

First, in much of the country, home prices rose again in 2019. According to the November Zillow Real Estate Market Report, home values grew an average of 3.8 percent, and the median home value in ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Stepson finds himself in a sticky situation upon inheriting stepmom's home

Q: My husband's stepmother added him to the title to her home prior to her death. She added him as a joint tenant with rights of survivorship. We understand the property transferred automatically to him at her death.

We have a big issue, however. We didn't know she had a mortgage on the home and the mortgage exceeds the value of the property. ...Read more

Personal finance resolutions for 2020

How are your personal finances doing? How much have they changed over the past 10 years?

Overall, average income hasn't increased much over the past decade, while home values in many parts of the country have soared. Consumers are carrying the most credit card debt ever, and student loan debt has been growing dramatically, especially for ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Reader comments on commissions, brokers and agents

Over the past few weeks, we've had several responses to columns that have run, especially the one that explained in greater detail how real estate agent and broker commissions work.

Steve Murray, president of REAL Trends, a Castle Rock, Colo.-based company that has provided news, analysis and information on the residential brokerage industry ...Read more

New Year's resolutions for home buyers

Rarely has a decade produced the kind of wild swings in residential real estate prices as we've seen over the past 10 years.

Ten years ago, the U.S. was still in the throes of the Great Recession, in practice, if not in fact, and real estate suffered more than most industries. Nearly 9 million Americans lost their jobs and at least 10 million ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Who pays for condo damage done by contractors hired by the association?

Q: Last year my condo association had a company replace the roof in many of our buildings. I live on the top floor of my building. When the new roof was installed, it created a leak that came down and damaged my kitchen ceiling.

My association is stating that they are only responsible for the repair up to priming, and not painting. I painted my...Read more

Selling vacant lots has various tax implications

Q: My wife and I sold two adjacent properties via quitclaim deeds this year. We originally bought the properties in 1994 for $20,000 ($10,000 each) as an investment. We thought we'd build rentals on the land, but this never happened, and we sold the vacant lots for $7,000 ($3,500 each).

The properties were free and clear with no liens, etc. We ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Townhome owner concerned over restructuring of association bylaws

Q: I live in a townhouse community. Our association's board of directors is redoing our declaration and bylaws without approval of the owners. They say they are just bringing the language up to date, so they don't need the owners' and mortgage holders' approval.

They also are redoing a list of responsibilities, saying a new board may do so. How...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Leaving your home to a family member? Consider these options.

Q: I am a 77-year old widowed woman. I have a house with a mortgage that I purchased a little over a year ago.

At the closing I asked if I could put my daughter on the deed with me, but the mortgage company wouldn't allow it. I don't want her to have to go through probate because this is my only asset. Is there a way I can leave the house to ...Read more


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