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Real Estate Matters: Homeowner seeks guidance when applying for senior real estate tax freeze
Q: I am going to be applying for the senior real estate tax freeze on my house this year. I do own my house, but I don’t have any paperwork of any kind that says I am the owner. How do I prove that I do own my house? Also, when I moved into this house 20 years ago, I put the title to the home into a land trust so that when I die, the home ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Condo owners in complex confused after two different management companies demand fees, assessments
Q: I live in a condominium complex in suburban Chicago. There’s a problem with the managing company for the property.
Recently, the board of directors of our association hired a new management company while the association was still under contract with our old management company. They’re using an attorney to try to get rid of the old ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Homeowner considers removing wife from living trust, adding her to title
Q: I am 76 and my wife is 58. I own our home outright, and she will inherit the house when I die through a living trust. Is it to her advantage to maintain the situation the way it is from a capital gains perspective, or should I add her to the deed now? I am thinking of the step-up in valuation of the house when she inherits it to minimize her ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Buyer interested in property listed as ‘contingent’ for more than six months
Q: I’m interested in a property that is under contract but is also under a contingency. I find it odd that this house has been contingent for over six months! I want to submit a backup offer. How can I find out if their deal is rocky or just slow to go through?
A: The residential real estate market continues to befuddle most buyers these days...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Landlord seeks compensation for tenant’s early lease termination
Q: I own and have rented a townhouse in one of the northwest suburbs of Chicago since 1990. I used to get my renters through newspaper ads, then Craigslist. More recently, I hired a local Realtor to list the unit in the multiple listing service (MLS). The Realtor found a new tenant much faster than I would have, and provided a credit check ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Homebuyers frustrated with inadequate attorney representation
Q: Our real estate attorney misread an estimate to remediate the underground storage tanks on the property we purchased. The sellers had started to remove and remediate some old underground oil storage tanks. The seller’s attorney and our attorney ended up recommending that we take a credit for the remediation estimate rather than have the ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Advice for non-married couples considering home ownership
Q: My daughter is looking to purchase a home soon with her boyfriend. They are not yet married, and I would like to give her some advice on how to title the home before they get married so she is protected just in case they decide to part ways instead of getting married.
Should they hire attorneys to set up a contract between them? How should ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Townhome owners believe seller did not disclose sewer problem
Q: We recently purchased a townhouse in Columbia, Maryland. The day after we moved in, the sewer backed up into the utility room. We had the sewer pipe snaked out by a qualified plumber, who found tree root intrusion in the pipe about 10 feet off the back of the house. We subsequently had the faulty portion of the pipe replaced.
All told, we ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Homeowners have trouble finding a contractor to build addition
Q: My husband and I have found it impossible to find a contractor to build a small family room and deck off the back of our Chicago home over the last four years.
While it is a modest project, there are structural issues and some unusual elements, including relocating basement steps while avoiding a grease trap. Most of the builders who have ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Your basic real estate questions, answered
Q: If I pay off my home mortgage what happens to the equity that I’ve built up in the home?
A: Home equity is the difference between what you owe a lender and what the home is worth.
Let’s say you have a home that’s worth $300,000 and you have a mortgage on the home for $200,000. The mortgage is your “debt.” Subtract the mortgage ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Illinois homeowner considers Small Estate Affidavit to avoid probate as part of estate plan
Q: Can I use the Illinois “Small Estate Affidavit” procedure to avoid probate even though my total estate’s value is over $100,000? While my total estate is greater than $100,000, my financial assets have “Pay On Death” beneficiaries and my home has “Transfer On Death” beneficiaries. My remaining assets transferring through my will...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Homeowner concerned about unpermitted improvements negatively impacting potential sale
Q: My wife and I own a single-family house in Chicago. Over the past 40 years we’ve had remodeling work done, especially in the basement, installing a bathroom, but without a permit. Now we’re thinking of selling but are worried the unpermitted work will cause any legal problems during the sale. What should we do about it?
A: You and your ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Readers respond to columns discussing inherited properties
This week, we’re publishing comments and observations about two recent columns involving inheritances. In the first, two siblings wanted to distribute their parent’s assets differently than the way the parents stated in their will. Basically, they wanted to switch inheritances.
There were two homes, and instead of selling them both and ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Advice for a first-time homebuyer in 2023
Q: My daughter is thinking of buying her first home. Can you give her some pointers on what to look out for when looking at homes?
A: Thanks for your question. It’s terrific that in this day of elevated interest rates, first-time homebuyers are eager to get out there and claim their share of the American dream. In Ilyce’s book, “100 ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Siblings seek to swap interest in inherited properties
Q: My brother and I inherited two houses upon my father’s death. We each share half interest in each property. Over time it has evolved that he spends most of his time at one property and I end up at the other.
We’re concerned that when it is time to sell either property it may be complicated by the half ownership on the title, particularly...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Reader responds to our take on condo owner’s insurance denial
Q: I read your column regarding a condominium owner that was denied homeowner’s insurance coverage for sewer water damage he sustained. I don’t believe your answer adequately responds to the issue at hand. It may be relevant in Illinois, but there are substantial differences in other states, and specifically in Florida.
What the owner in ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: There are steps you can take to successfully reject inherited assets
Q: I am one of four siblings whose mother passed away last year. She had a will. In it, she left an equal share of her house and all other financial assets to her children, all four of us.
For a variety of reasons, I’m not interested in receiving my one-quarter share in the house. I’d prefer to allow my share to pass to my youngest brother...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Siblings seek guidance on ownership of vacation home inherited from father
Q: I read your column regularly and always find it very interesting and informative.
I have a rather complicated question: My brother and I inherited my father’s vacation home when he passed away. It was part of his trust. All of the assets of the trust have been distributed except this house. I want to sell it, and my brother wants to buy me...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Readers respond to column concerning divorce, death and joint tenancy
We’ve received several comments and observations about a column we recently wrote about divorce, death and joint tenancy. A grandchild wrote about how her grandparents had a difficult marriage and divorce. But even after the divorce, they kept the property in both names. Whoever died first lost the house. But there were some questions about ...Read more
Real Estate Matters: Condo owner denied insurance coverage for unit damage caused by sewer pipe burst in building
Q: I live in a highrise condo building. Recently, a sewer pipe burst outside my condo between units. The water caused a substantial amount of water damage to my kitchen and the floors in my unit.
The condominium association has been in the process of repairing the pipe and fixing the walls but they won’t repair my kitchen or my floors. I put ...Read more