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Real Estate Matters: Non-resident looks to purchase home in US for her daughters

Q: I am not a U.S. citizen, but my daughter is married to a U.S. citizen and will have her green card shortly. Another one of my daughters is not a U.S. citizen and is a student studying in the U.S. I am planning to buy a house for them. I’d like to have both of my daughters own the home equally. Can I buy a house for them or can I give them a...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Seller receives high water bill despite requesting meter reading, shut-off at closing

Q: We sold our house in Ohio in March and moved to the West Coast. We informed our water department that we needed a meter reading and shut-off as of our closing date. The water department took our information and told us that our date was set for the changeover and meter reading. The new owner purportedly did change everything to his name as of...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Homeowner wishes to change title from ‘tenants in common’ to ‘joint tenants with rights of survivorship’

Q: My wife and I purchased a home over 40 years ago. The original deed is titled as John Smith and Sally Smith. This defaults to tenants in common in Georgia. Sally is my wife of over 50 years. We are now considering changing the title to John Smith and Sally Smith, joint tenants with right of survivorship.

Would this trigger any adverse ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: A rate reduction or lower monthly payment alone may not be a sufficient reason to refinance

Q: We took out a mortgage in 2011. It’s a 30-year loan with an interest rate of 5.125%. Our expected payoff date is 2041, but we’ve been paying biweekly. We expect to pay it off in 2035.

At this point, we would like to refinance. This is what we have on the table: a 20-year loan with an interest rate of 3.25%, which will lower our payment ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Where there’s smoke, there’s a conversation about association rules

We continue to receive questions and comments about our recent columns on smoking, as well as the rules that condominiums and other associations are putting into place about smoking cannabis. So, we thought we’d share a few of them. Our thoughts will follow.

Q: Last April our condominium amended our association documents to prohibit smoking ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: What are the tax ramifications of selling a vacation home turned investment property?

Q: I read your article on avoiding capital gains tax on second homes in our Sunday paper. I have a question that is along those same lines, except it’s a little more complicated.

My wife and I bought a condominium in Florida in 1985 as an investment rental property. We rented it out for about 10 years, taking the allowable depreciation each ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: An expanded conversation about like-kind exchanges

A few weeks, ago, we wrote about like-kind exchanges (also known as an Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 exchange) and the temporary relief being granted to some buyers and sellers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those of you who missed the column, a like-kind exchange is where an owner of an investment piece of property decides to sell it, ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Homeowner seeks advice about revocable and irrevocable trusts

Q: I am divorced and have two grown daughters. I am placing my house in a trust. My attorney is recommending an irrevocable trust. Which do you prefer, revocable or irrevocable and why?

A: What we prefer has nothing to do with whether you should have a revocable or irrevocable trust. Those two trusts are totally different and serve totally ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Property owner requests improvement for something in excess of HOA covenants

Q: I am on the board of directors of my homeowners association (HOA). The dues to our HOA are voluntary. We can’t assess liens against any property in our community; we can only sue a property owner for violations of our covenants.

Our HOA document speaks to architectural control covenants, and homeowners can make improvements to their homes ...Read more

Should you contact listing agents with questions if you’re simply browsing?

Q: I am interested in selling a house in Cincinnati and moving to Maryland near D.C. I’d like to do this in the near future but not immediately.

A while ago, I looked at condos online just to get an idea of the possible costs. Sometimes I didn’t see everything I wanted to know in the listing, like the homeowners association fee, whether the...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Buyer worried about seller seeing preapproval letter

Q: Does a real estate agent need to get copies of our preapproval letter from our lender before taking us to search for homes? My concern is that I make if an offer on a house, the agent would provide a copy of a preapproval letter from my lender that would give the seller the exact amount that I could pay for the home.

In particular, if my ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: When your home is in a living trust, what exactly is insured?

Q: My insurance agent said the insurance company wants my policies (fire, wind and umbrella) titled in the name of my living trust. While doing some research to try to understand why this is necessary, I found advice (not to mention definitions) to be all over the board.

I'm also confused about whether an accident at my home would be covered if...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Breaking up is hard to do, especially when an LLC is involved

Q: I have an ex-partner who talked me into putting my house into a limited liability company (LLC) with her as the managing member. She has total say and control over the LLC, but we are 50/50 owners in the company. The purpose of the LLC was for investment.

She was going to run a business of renting the property through the company and handle ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: A reader suggests a life estate over living trust. Here's our take.

Q: Not really a question as much as a comment. As a Realtor for 34 years I'm not a fan of trusts, so I'm disappointed in your recent response to a question about selling a property inside a trust.

A home held in a trust is not that easy to sell or for heirs to cash the check after a closing or settlement. A life estate deed is by far the ...Read more

Real Estate Memos: Despite financial hardships in the wake of COVID-19, there are signs of hope in the real estate market

We have had weeks of dreadful news about the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while there have been slight improvements here or there, it's all pretty dark.

Recently, new claims for unemployment were more than 3.8 million. This only sounds good because the past six weeks' worth of claims have been significantly higher: ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Investor seeks guidance on 1031 exchange amid the coronavirus pandemic

Q: We completed our 1031 exchange in September 2019. Our renter has fallen on hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic and cannot afford the rent. Similarly, we are in a rental that is twice the amount of our mortgage. I know there is a relief for the 45- and 180-day time limits when there has been a presidential declared disaster. Surely the COVID...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Association seeks guidelines on pool usage amid COVID-19 pandemic as summer approaches

Q: Our 100-unit condominium has a small, private locked outdoor pool that usually opens from Memorial Day to Labor Day. With COVID-19, what do we do this year? Should we open the pool and use it at our own risk? Should it be open to residents only? Should guests be allowed to use the pool?

We need some guidance, as many residents have already ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Interpretation of condo board rule goes up in smoke

Q: I live in a condo with four smokers living below me. They continually blow smoke out the windows and it rises and enters my unit. Our revised rules and regulations state that no smoke is allowed to migrate to another unit. What can I do when the president of the board advises me that it is my problem and I have to keep my windows shut?

A: ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: A 'new normal' is coming in the wake of COVID-19

To say COVID-19 has impacted the market is an understatement. The National Multifamily Housing Council recently reported that as many as one-third of apartment renters failed to make their April rental payment to their landlords. A slew of national tenants and retailers announced that they would not pay rent to their landlords, and many others ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: When it comes to investing in a home, be true to your nature

Q: I am 83, have no mortgage, pay my credit cards in full each month and have no car payment. When I first started out in 1961, I bought a '52 Chevy for $195 and drove it for years. When I got my first house with a mortgage, the early payments were mostly interest and little principal. So, with each payment, I added the principal amount of the ...Read more


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