Home & Leisure



If your neighbor puts up a fence, who is responsible for cleaning it?

Q: My next-door neighbor put up a white vinyl fence between our homes. Not a problem for me, originally. But the fence is now turning green and black from dirt and mold.

I don’t care what his side of the fence looks like, but I do care about my side. It’s unsightly and I don’t want to see it every time I go out in my garden. So, here’s ...Read more

Couple seeks clarification on tax implications if they sell their second home

Q: In 2020 my husband and I paid cash for a condo that my college son has lived in while going to school. He is about to graduate and get married. We are now contemplating selling the home.

We make over $100,000 a year. We plan to use the profit from the sale of the home to purchase another property. Are we allowed to do so without paying long ...Read more

Why aren’t more homeowners selling to ‘as is’ companies?

Q: I recently came across one of your columns on using a company to sell your home on an “as is” basis. You pay no real estate commissions; you get a fast closing and easy terms. Why don’t more people use them? Does the math work out?

A: Well, every seller has the option to go to one of those companies. But, you’ll likely get a much ...Read more

HOA board president asks resident to research regulations regarding ‘no smoking’ measure

Q: Your newspaper article about home smoking policies from last summer prompted me to try to get my homeowners association (HOA) to pass “no smoking” measures in my small development. The board president has asked me to do research regarding which regulatory government I need to contact to push this forward in our organization.

Where do you...Read more

Can you minimize taxes on sale of rental property?

Q: How do I minimize taxes for my parents? They have a rental property and own it without a mortgage. They want to sell it to me.

Here’s the problem: They want the money as a lump sum instead of monthly payments. They also don’t want to undertake a 1031 exchange for another rental property. They will likely use the money to buy a new home ...Read more

Tenant concerned about conservator taking over ownership of aunt’s home

Q: A conservator has taken over my aunt’s house that I have lived in for almost 30 years. I had power of attorney for 20 years, but my name has never been on the deed to the home. The home has a $10,000 mortgage on it. If I pay the rest of the mortgage, would that give me any ownership rights to the home? I am in my aunt’s will to inherit ...Read more

Homeowner concerned about HOA’s possible lack of compliance with disclosure laws

Q: I live in a townhouse development with a homeowners association (HOA). I have, in the past, requested financial information dating back four years and was told that there would be a cost to retrieve the records and the rate to be charged was $100 per hour.

As a retired financial executive, I know that everything requested should be readily ...Read more

What’s the best way for kids to inherit their parents’ home?

Q: Friends of mine put their two children on the title of their house some time ago. The home has no mortgage. The father is now deceased and the mother is now 85 years old.

When the mother dies, the children will become owners of the house. However, I think that they will also inherit their parents’ basis in the house. There will be no step-...Read more

Trust owner concerned about succession

Q: My house is held in a trust. My nephew is the successor trustee. He not only is the successor trustee, but he and his sister are each 45% beneficiaries. Another nephew is the final 10% beneficiary.

Only my home is in the trust. What is the risk if my successor trustee dies before I can appoint another successor trustee and reallocate the ...Read more

Who’s financially responsible for water damage inside condo unit caused by contractor’s actions out in breezeway?

Q: We own a condo in Atlanta as a secondary residence. About a year ago we discovered a portion of our floor was saturated with water. We discovered, and the property manager confirmed, that the leak was caused by a crack in the concrete breezeway floor and the water was the result of pressure washing completed by a homeowner association-...Read more

Reader shares concern about paying more bills online after reading article about increasing hacks

Q: Your recent article that discusses the increasing hacks and perils of online transactions recommended moving as many of your bills online. This sounds like bad advice, given the whole point of the article.

Could you please elaborate on how doing more online transactions such as bills would be safer? I pay my mortgage by check each month and ...Read more

Married couple with separate trusts unsure which trust should contain their home

Q: On the advice of an attorney, many years ago my wife and I each created a revocable trust. We never funded the trusts because all our major assets, including stocks, bonds and cash, are in a brokerage account that is designated with a “Transfer-On-Death” provision. These will go to our son and daughter.

Our concern is with our house that...Read more

Land owner curious about tax implications of forming LLC to avoid probate

Q: I inherited a parcel of land upon my father’s death. His wishes were for the property to remain in the family for my children. In order to prevent any tedious probate in the event of my death, I formed a limited liability company (LLC) with me and each of the children as members. Are there any tax consequences I should be concerned about?

...Read more

Personal finance resolutions for 2024

Are we in a Silent Depression or a booming economy?

At the beginning of the pandemic, in 2020, Americans experienced the economic effects on what we all hope is a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic: Employment fell by a combined 22.4 million in March and April of that year, or 15%. “By contrast, in the previous four employment downturns since 1981, ...Read more

Homebuyer resolutions for 2024

It has been a tough few years for homebuyers. Since the start of the pandemic, mortgage interest rates rose from a low of about 2.5% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to a high of around 8%, before falling back in the last few weeks of the year to a bit less than 7%.

At the same time, home prices rose dramatically. At the start of the pandemic,...Read more

Homeowner’s credit score drops after mortgage sold to new servicer

Q: My mortgage got sold again to a new loan servicing company. And, again my credit score went down. My score went down when they closed my oldest loan. My credit score is around 780 and fluctuates between that number and 800. I’ve used about 2% of my credit on about $5,000 available.

With the change to the new loan servicer, my credit score ...Read more

Timeshare owner feels niece, nephew took advantage of their kindness

Q: My parents purchased a timeshare with a floating week in a nearby town many years ago. One of the nicer aspects of the timeshare was that if your name was on the deed, you and your guests could use the facilities year round at the resort.

My parents often took my young niece and nephew to the resort during the summers. But there came a point...Read more

Home seller resolutions for 2024

The last few years have been an unprecedented gift for home sellers. With few homes listed for sale, home prices have risen dramatically post-pandemic. Buyers have been lining up around the block, even as interest rates soared to over 8%.

Now that interest rates are declining (they dipped below 7% in mid-December), it looks as though 2024 will ...Read more

Homeowner bound by village inspection frustrated by process required to sell home

Q: We live in a village that requires us to purchase transfer stamps in order to sell our home. But for us to get the stamp, we must pass a village inspection. This inspection is to verify that our home meets current building code.

The list of items they inspect is about 50 pages long. The cost to us of complying with their requirements will be...Read more

Homeowner’s mortgage company uses escrow balance for final mortgage payment

Q: Our local paper published your letter from the folks who had to send a certified check for their final mortgage payment after 30 years of monthly payments. We experienced an unexpected final payment on our mortgage as well.

We had paid our next-to-last payment to the mortgage company. Shortly before our final payment was due, we logged into ...Read more



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