Home & Leisure



Real Estate Matters: Some open permits are easier to close out than others

Q: I saw your recent article about making sure that renovations were done with permits and was reminded of our situation a few years ago.

My buyer was a real estate agent, and she checked with the county and found that I had not closed or finalized two building permits for a small addition I built. There was also some sort of open item for a ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Longtime homeowner unable to find her original deed

Q: My mother bought her home in 1968 but doesn’t remember where the title or deed is. She has the release of mortgage paperwork. Is this the same thing as her title? What documents do we need to put the property into her living trust?

A: Fifty years is a long time to live in the same home, and we wouldn’t necessarily expect our readers to ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Can a would-be tenant break a lease and recoup the deposit?

Q: Because of COVID-19, I signed a lease prior to seeing my apartment. I was advised it was under renovations. After I signed it, I was shown the apartment and it was uninhabitable. I did not move in, and I don’t have the keys.

The apartment manager states she will not give me my deposit back because I signed the lease. I need help. What can ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Heir considers using online tools to determine valuation of inherited property

Q: My dad purchased an investment property in 2006 for $150,000. He put my name as joint owner with him. His intent was for me to become the sole owner of the property after his death. He died late last year. Prior to his death, he managed the property and did everything that had to do with the property. He took all the tax benefits and tax ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Appraising a home is more art than science

Q: We live in a west coast Florida beach town. We applied for a cash out refinance in June 2021, so that we could consolidate our finances and pay off our mortgage on a long-held home in the north.

We were shocked, as was the lender, when the appraisal came in much lower than expected ($575,000). The problem seems to be that there are no ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Readers weigh in

This column features thoughts, comments and suggestions from our readers.

Comment: I saw your response to the question about selling your home to an LLC. To make it work, the taxpayer should sell it to an S-Corp. They should sell it for fair market value, and I would recommend an appraisal. It is legitimate to have property owned by a ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Homeowner who opted for reverse mortgage with almost no cash depleted equity is seeking advice

Q: I guess it may be too late, but figured I’d ask. We did a reverse mortgage. We got almost no cash out of it, but it is eating up whatever equity remains with our loan that has an effective interest rate of almost 5%. Is there anything we can do? Thank you.

A: Reverse mortgages have been around for more than 20 years. The concept is ...Read more

Advice for those with no friends, family to help with end-of-life decisions

Q: I was wondering if you can help me. I thought you may know of a business firm, not an attorney or health care provider, that can act as my “end-of-life-agent”. I want to be prepared as I have no family to ask or friends young enough that I would trust. My attorney says that he can draw up trust documents, but he can’t be my “end-of-...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Readers weigh in on sellers’ timeshare woes

We wrote an article this past summer about the difficulty some sellers have when it comes to selling their timeshare properties. Since then, we received several comments and questions that we want to share with you.

Our first email was from a reader who sent us a song entitled “I Can’t Get Out Of My Timeshare.” Thanks for sharing that —...Read more

Answering reader questions concerning older homeowners

We have heard from a number of readers regarding the mention of elder abuse in a recent column, and one reader suggested reporting the abuser to the IRS.

Q: I read your recent article (that referenced) possible elder abuse. Why didn’t you suggest reporting the abusive sibling to the IRS when they have manipulated a parent out of large sums of...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Should older couple transfer properties from living trust to an LLC?

Q: My wife’s youngest daughter is concerned about how we have set up our estate. We own three properties in Southern California and use two as rentals to supplement our retirement. All three properties are held in our living trust.

The trust states that each of our 6 children (aged 35 to 52 years old) have the right of first refusal to buy ...Read more

Potential buyer considers purchase without the help of an agent

Q: In what circumstances would you recommend purchasing a property without a buyer’s agent? I don’t see the clear value in the age of Redfin/Zillow, and from my experience I’m not sure any real estate person is going to be as hard-working and diligent as I’d be in [doing the research]. Plus having many thousands of dollars in extra ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Property owner questions tax implications on sale of home and additional landscaped lot

Q: We have two combined lots that we bought in 1984 for a total cost of about $50,000. A 100-year old cottage sits on one lot and the other lot is a landscaped garden with no structures. Over the past 37 years, we have spent quite a bit of money on landscaping, fencing, a new roof, a new garage and a complete gut job to the main floor and attic ...Read more

Neighbor dispute leads to practical and legal questions about road usage

Q: I live in South Carolina and share a private road with my neighbor. The neighbor owns the first several hundred feet, and then I own a bit more, and then he owns a tad more on the tail end. My neighbor just informed me that they plan on putting a fence up. That fence would block my entry to my property. Can I legally block them from putting ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Can a new developer force existing owners to sell their condo units?

Q: I am fortunate enough to be a snowbird. We own a condo in Jacksonville, Florida. Our condo is in a development that was purchased by an investor/developer in the late 1980s. The developer improved the existing units, added several new buildings, sold some of the units and rented out the rest. We think the developer still controls a bit over ...Read more

Homeowner paying ex-husband ‘rent’ seeks advice on financing the home the couple once shared

Q: I divorced my husband two years ago. He signed a quitclaim deed giving me the house. There is a loan on the home, but my name was never on the loan.

I have been sending my ex-husband payments for the loan, which he claims as rent. What do I do about taxes and insurance, and how do I know whether or not he is actually paying the lender? The ...Read more

Homeowner considers selling property to personal LLC to minimize future taxes on sale profits

Q: Two year ago, I relocated for my company and rented out my primary residence. My initial plan was for this to be temporary and to eventually move back into the property. However, my move is turning into a long-term assignment and I am planning on keeping the property as a rental.

My question is regarding the cost basis of the home. My home ...Read more

Resident believes condo unit number is incorrect on title document

Q: I recently found out that the master deed plan referenced on my title document shows the wrong unit number for my condo. I have tried approaching my neighbor to work on a title transfer swap, but they are unwilling to do a title swap. How can I fix my title document? My condo association lawyer is also unwilling to take on the fix.

A: Well, ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: How are condo associations handling increases in utility costs due to electric cars?

Q: We have 12 units in our condo building, and each unit has its own garage. The association pays for the electricity for all of the garage units. What happens if someone purchases an electric car? Would that unit pay more because they’re using more electricity?

A: This is a great question. We, too, have wondered what condominium associations...Read more

Here’s why you should keep your kids off the title to your home

Q: My mother put me on the deed to a house she purchased five years ago. Recently, she has decided that she wants to sell the house to buy a smaller house in a nearby town. The house has been her primary residence for the last five years, but not mine. I live three hours away.

What are the tax implications for me from the sale of the house? She...Read more



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