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Real Estate Matters: Grieving siblings at odds over selling inherited home

Q: My boyfriend’s mother died several months back. He wants to either buy his sister out or sell the property, but his sister has refused his verbal requests to buy her out and things have gotten quite strained between them. It is their home and they both live there and now own the home jointly.

It would seem to me that it would be best for ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Money lessons for the new year

Here's a guess: There aren't many of us who'd care to redo 2020. COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, changed everything, killing more than 365,000 Americans (as of this writing in early January) and taking the economy on an even wilder ride than the Great Recession, just a decade ago.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank, more than half of ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Married couple toys with the idea of selling their home — to themselves, essentially

Q: My wife and I own our home jointly. The home has appreciated substantially in the 25 years we have owned it to the point that when we sell, we will net more than $500,000 in profit. That means, we’ll likely owe some tax.

Consequently, we are thinking that we would jointly sell our house to my wife exclusively and only to her. That way we, ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Friends purchasing a duplex seek advice on whether property is considered a primary residence or an investment

Q: My partner and I plan to purchase a duplex with friends. We would live on one side, and our friends (who already own their forever home) would rent out the other side. Eventually we plan to purchase a home for ourselves and rent out both sides of the duplex.

If all four of us are on the financing and title, is the property considered a ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Can you add a third person to your title?

Q: There are two of us on the title of a home. We own the home as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Is it legal for just one of us to add a third person to the title of the home?

A: The short answer is yes, you can add a third person to the title of the home, but you might end up with an unexpected result.

Right now, you and your co-...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Resident concerned association board wants to remove trees behind her unit

Q: The association board of my building wants to take down basic pine trees behind my unit. The trees are healthy and provide no danger to the building. These trees provide privacy, shade and comfort to my unit. It is one of the main reasons I purchased the unit. Do I have any recourse?

A: We can understand your frustration. Have you talked to ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: A home that has had substantial improvements without permits can be a huge headache for a subsequent buyer

Q: I saw your recent column about buying a home that might not have all of the required permits for work done. You left out one calamity that can happen if you don’t ensure a proper permit was obtained.

You, the new homeowner, can be responsible for work done without a permit including tearing down the work. It happened to us 15 years after ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Understanding cost basis: A numbers game

Q: I have a question about selling your home and trying to determine the cost basis for tax purposes. Is the profit the difference between the sale price of the house today against your current mortgage balance? Or is it the difference between the sale price today against the original purchase price.

A: Let’s make one thing really clear: Your...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Veteran with no debt considers purchasing a home

Q: I’m 66 years old, with $5,100 dollars in monthly income from the government. I have no living dependents. I currently pay $1,600 a month in rent and am a veteran. At this point in my life, should I buy a condo or single level house or continue to rent? I have $20,000 in savings and no debt or credit card balances.

A: Thanks for your ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Reader offers insight on buying a home that was remodeled without using permits

In October, we answered a question from a reader about buying a house that was updated without the necessary permits. (In some areas of the country, it’s difficult and time consuming to pull a permit, and so homeowners may not do so even though it is required by local ordinance.) We recommended buyers use a qualified professional home ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Mother considers amending trust after a move and daughter’s marriage

Q: I live in Florida and have a living trust, which was amended in 2006. My daughter is my only heir and has now married. I have moved and purchased two homes that I now use as rentals. Can I just amend my trust to update it? Would the document be an “Amendment?”

A: The good news is you may not need to amend your living trust. But you will ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Widower has trouble getting name on title to home

Q: My husband died in 2013. After his death I learned that the title to our home we purchased when we got married was in his name only. The mortgage was in both our names.

I’ve been trying for nearly seven years to get the title in my name. The mortgage company isn’t helping, and I’ve paid an attorney thousands to help, but I don’t seem...Read more

Real Estate Matters: French homeowner in US ponders tax implications of selling home and moving back to France

Q: We’re a French family moving back to France next year. I read that a married homeowner who has lived in his principal residence for two out of the last five years is entitled to exclude from federal income taxes up to $500,000 in profits.

We bought the house less than two years ago. What happens in this case? On a separate note, we were ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: First-time homebuyer in Texas has difficulty finding an attorney

Q: I have a goal of becoming a first-time homebuyer soon. I picked up Ilyce’s “100 Questions Every First-Time Homebuyer Should Ask” book and found it very enlightening. So, let me begin by saying thank you!

I live in Texas and I am having difficulty finding a real estate attorney. I asked my co-workers, friends and even some real estate ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Senior couple prefers real estate transactions without using an agent

Reader comment: My husband and I sold a vacant lot in Texas this past year without any agents being involved. We have followed the market closely. We agreed on a price, filled out the documents and closed in an attorney’s office for a total cost of $250. We also purchased our present home in 2007 without a real estate agent.

It’s possible ...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Homeowner seeks guidance on logistics of association board

Q: I wanted to comment on your recent column relating to the use of a homeowners association (HOA) pool during (the pandemic). Halfway through your answer you wrote, “You and your fellow residents voted in the board and they represent you.”

That seems like a reasonable statement, since in theory that’s how it’s supposed to work; but not...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Couple close to retirement considers refinance

Q: We borrowed $355,900 in 2007 for a 30-year fixed mortgage at 6.25% and still owe $230,000. My wife is retired, and I plan on retiring in May 2023. Normally, we wouldn't even bother with refinancing this close to selling the house; but the rates now are so low that we’re thinking refinancing might make sense. Any thoughts on whether it would...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Title company suggests buyer purchase enhanced coverage. Should she?

Q: Have you ever heard of “enhanced title”? A friend of mine is buying a home and the title company handling her purchase is offering that to her. I think she should take a pass. What do you think?

A: We’ve written about title insurance many times over the years, and in general, we like it — with some caveats, of course.

When you buy a...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Reader seeks advice on approaching neighbors with interest in purchasing their home

Q: I live in a suburb of Chicago and have two neighbors across the street who I have met a couple of times at block parties. Both are a bit older than I am. My guess is that at some point in the next five to 10 years these neighbors will move out and sell their home. They have the kind of property that a developer would likely buy, tear down and...Read more

Real Estate Matters: Woman’s claim to deceased ex’s home signifies the importance of estate planning

Q: My friend prepared his will and specified that his house would go to his girlfriend. She had contributed money to the upkeep while they were together.

At the time, they both owned the home. Subsequently, they decided to break up. When they split up, she agreed to quitclaim her interest to my friend in exchange for the amount she contributed ...Read more



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