Home & Leisure



Realtor discourages friend from installing solar panels before listing home for sale

Q: We’re thinking of moving to a senior living development in a few years, so we’ll be selling our house. We’ve received quotes for solar and think it’s the thing to do, regardless of whether we’d use it long enough to pay off the initial investment.

I thought installing solar would increase the value and attractiveness of the house. ...Read more

Condo reserves a growing issue (Part 1)

It’s expensive to own any type of home. You’ve got the mortgage, homeowners insurance, property taxes, maintenance and upkeep. You may also, if you buy in a subdivision, have some sort of homeowners association fee to pay.

In an era where affordability is an issue, with home prices and mortgage interest rates at record highs, condominiums ...Read more

Stepdaughter navigates title issues with lender after stepmother’s passing

Q: Early last year, my stepmom and I had a meeting with her loan company to figure out what the easiest way to pass her home to me when she died. I know nothing about this stuff, so I put my trust in the loan servicer.

The lender suggested that I assume the loan and added me as a co-borrower. She said that once my stepmom died, all I’d have ...Read more

HOA board members troubled by fellow member’s poor behavior

Q: We have a new HOA board member who is very troublesome and off the wall with regard to rules and regulations. I am a board member along with one other person. The actions and language of the new board member with vendors and the other owners are offensive.

We are currently documenting everything he does. Do you have any recommendations for ...Read more

Board member rebuffs condo owner after failed lawsuit

Q: I know you’ve answered a lot of questions about HOAs in the past. But I haven’t seen you address my particular situation: Would a lawsuit against our condo association, whether I won or lost, typically prohibit all future correspondence directly with the homeowner association board of directors?

I live in Virginia. I sued my HOA in small...Read more

As society moves to a more digital world, some real estate documents still require a ‘wet’ copy

Q: Just read your story where the writer said their mother wants to put her house into a living trust. Excellent article! I’d like to add one thing that I’m sure that you know, but many people likely don’t know.

I don’t know about other states, but in Illinois, when the trustee dies and the beneficiary becomes the successor trustee, the...Read more

Marina owner's trees block homeowner’s waterfront view

Q: Fifty years ago I purchased a lot in a community in Maryland. I paid a higher price for this lot due to its better view. Several years after buying the lot, I built my house on it.

My lot is adjacent to a marina. The marina has gone through various owners and today’s owner has allowed the Leyland cypress trees to grow 30 plus feet tall, ...Read more

Trendy, modern open floor plans are not for everyone

Q: I know this isn’t your usual type of question, but when on earth are people going to stop tearing down supporting walls in their houses in the quest for open floor plans? This trend turns a house into public space, robbing anybody of any privacy. Worse, it shrinks kitchens by taking away a whole wall of cupboard space, makes it impossible ...Read more

Tenant frustrated HOA failed to fix drainage issue in unit

Q: My homeowners association (HOA) agreed to fix a leaky air conditioning drainage line that ran between floors. It causes flooding in my unit every summer. They set up a repair date but eventually canceled the work. Like clockwork, my place flooded again while I was out of town.

Turns out they didn’t do the work because of fear of asbestos. ...Read more

Readers weigh in on debt, HOA boards and communal outdoor lighting

COMMENT: I read your interesting article recently about the homeowner being in a rough spot after moving to Sonoma County, California, and taking on debt. I assume the $30,000 debt the reader took on was all credit card debt.

One idea I had, that you did not mention, is for that person to see if she was eligible for a transfer of that debt to a...Read more

Spouse confused about home ownership documentation after husband’s death

Q: After my husband’s death, my daughter went to pick up the deed to our house. There was a quitclaim deed that our old mortgage lender put in place with my signature on it. Also, I can’t find the transfer on death (TOD) instrument either. All records and insurance on the house are gone. Where should I start looking?

A: Oh, boy, do we have ...Read more

Oral agreements are not binding when it comes to real estate

Q: My father passed away, and my stepmom said that I could have the house. My father and my stepmom were married when he died, but she left him over seven years ago.

The home was in both of their names with rights of survivorship. She hasn’t paid any expenses for the home for as long as I can remember. I now live in the home, and while my dad...Read more

Homeowner receives conflicting advice from multiple attorneys regarding estate plan

Q: My mom has a condo in Delaware, but she and I both live in Maryland in our own separate homes. The home my mom lives in is in my sister’s name. Mom’s will says the house she lives in now is to go to my sister after her death. The condo in Delaware is only in my mom’s name. Her will leaves that home to me.

We’ve talked to various ...Read more

Condo board considers installing EV chargers for unit owners

Q: I am on the board of directors of a homeowners association (HOA) in Evanston, Illinois. The board is gathering information about installing electrical vehicle (EV) chargers on our HOA property.

The board is particularly interested in the concept that was described in your article from last year. You said there is an option for an outside ...Read more

Unit owner concerned about language added to HOA’s rules

Q: The homeowners association (HOA) of our complex added language to the association’s rules and regulations that I believe is alarming and invalid. I read your column every week and wanted to get your take.

Our HOA has around 70 units. A section of the new rules was adopted without discussion and without consultation with the unit owners. ...Read more

Why do property owners let homes and storefronts sit empty?

Q: I’m curious. There are several abandoned homes in my area. They are/were beautiful, but year after year, they sit empty. Similarly, there are a number of empty storefronts in my area, all with substantially high, competitive rates.

Why leave these spaces empty? Why not lower the rates on the rents, rather than letting these properties sit,...Read more

Trustee considers next steps for beneficiaries after sale of Mom’s home

Q: My mom’s home is in a trust. She passed away toward the end of last year. She lived in the home for over 20 years. Her trust lists her six grandchildren as the beneficiaries of the trust.

We’ve found a buyer for the home who is paying cash. As a trustee, am I required to open a separate bank account for the proceeds to be placed in that ...Read more

What you should know about the $418 million NAR settlement on home-sale commission

Is massive change coming to the real estate industry? It’s unlikely. Will sellers drop their listing price because they’re no longer responsible for paying the buyer’s side of the commission? Almost certainly not. Will it be cheaper for buyers to purchase a home? We doubt that, and it might even become more expensive.

Now that we have all...Read more

Exes consider selling paid-off home to their children

Q: My ex and I are thinking of selling our paid-off home to our two children. Then, both of us would purchase our own places. We would give them a much better deal than they could get on the open market. What are the pros and cons of doing this? Thanks in advance.

A: We wish you had included some additional information in your email. For ...Read more

Reader suggests including guardianship language into power of attorney

Comment: You stated to a reader recently that it was unclear why the niece no longer had power of attorney (POA) over the aunt’s house — and a conservator stepped in.

As an advocate against guardianship abuse, a POA can be removed through the courts like a discarded traffic citation. Many family members are blindsided by the process — ...Read more



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