Back to the Seller

When a seller finds that a qualified inspector has determined the roof needs repair or the water heater has outlived its expected life span, he may agree to make repairs or replacements or to knock down the price so that you can cover the cost of having the work done yourself. Suppose something catastrophic is discovered Perhaps the floors are heaving or the foundation is settling, causing cracks in the interior walls. At this point price is no longer the object you want out. Assuming the deal...

Long Term Look at Homeowners Experience

One assessment of how homeowners have fared with ten-year warranties comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Prior to 1980, builders who wanted to sell new homes eligible for financing insured by the FHA (the Federal Housing Administration is an agency within HUD that provides mortgage insurance for residential mortgages and sets standards for construction and underwriting) HOW TO MAKE AN EXTENDED WARRANTY WORK FOR YOU Find out before you make a purchase offer or...

Tax Free Vacation Home

Although this dynamite tax break is designed only for your principal residence, there's a way to legally squeeze tax-free profit out of a vacation home. After you sell your main home and cash in on up to 500,000 of tax-free profit, move into your vacation place and make it your home for at least two years. As soon as you meet the two-years-out-of-five residency requirement, the profit including appreciation during the time it was your vacation home qualifies for tax-free treatment. If you rent...

Abstract Plus a Lawyers Opinion

Title is usually in the form of an abstract, which is a historical summary of everything found in a search of public records that affects ownership of the property. It includes not only the chain of ownership, but any recorded easements, mortgages, wills, tax liens, judgments, pending lawsuits, marriages and anything else that affects the title. When a property is sold, a lawyer examines the abstract, and gives a written opinion as to the title including who the owner of record is and her...

Acquisition Debt

You can deduct all the interest you pay on up to 1 million of acquisition debt money you borrow to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence or a second home. For the interest to be deductible, the loan must be secured by the house. Although 1 million is an enormous amount of mortgage debt, the amount on which you can deduct mortgage interest is likely to be far less. Your personal ceiling is set by the size of the original loans that you used to buy or build your main home...

Adjust Your Withholding

What good is the tax subsidy if you're worrying about coming up with the cash needed each month to make the mortgage payment Fortunately, you don't have to wait until you file a tax return to cash in on the savings. As soon as you purchase your first home or buy a new house that carries higher deductible expenses, you can direct your employer to begin withholding less from your paychecks. If you are self-employed, it's likely you will be able to scale back your quarterly estimated tax payments...

Adjustable Rate Mortgages

ARMs may be called variable-rate loans, adjustable-rate loans or adjustable-mortgage loans. Whatever the name, they all carry an interest rate that can change periodically during the term of the loan, as well as these four features INITIAL INTEREST RATES. Starting rates are generally one to four percentage points below those on conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. ADJUSTMENT INTERVALS. The adjustment schedule is set out in the mortgage contract. Changes in the rate to be charged on an ARM...

Allocation of Expenses

To figure your vacation-home deductions, you have to allocate expenses to personal or rental use. There are two ways to do this the IRS method and another approach that has been approved in court cases and the one that's best for you depends on your circumstances. According to the IRS, you begin by adding up the total number of days the house was used for personal and rental purposes. Then figure the percentage of time it was used for rental. That's the percentage of total expenses you can...

Alternatives to Selling

There are as many reasons for selling a home as there are for buying one. Some people sell because they are relocating and believe they must sell their current house to get the cash they need for a new home. Others sell because they need more space for a growing family or less space because the children have grown and left. Still others, due to retirement, ill health or a reduction in income, sell because they need the money that's tied up in their home for living expenses. Whatever the reason,...

Anticipate Agents

As soon as you start advertising or hold your first open house, you'll get calls from agents asking for a listing. They will often tell you that your home is priced way too low, and if they help you sell it, they'll get you enough to more than cover the commission and net you more than you'll get selling by yourself. They might be right but then, their judgment isn't exactly objective. If you've proceeded on your course with care and have priced your house according to comparable values in the...

Assessing Your Resources

Once you have determined that you're serious about buying a home but before you start looking at houses gather the information you will need to present to lenders. Review your financial situation to determine what you can pay down and how large a monthly load you can carry. When you've completed that task, contact a lender to get your figures plugged into mortgage formulas that yield an affordable price range. This kind of preparation called prequalifying will give you a financial comfort zone...

Be Ready to Negotiate

Some interested buyers will want to sleep on their first impressions and return to your house one or more times, ideally getting more comfortable with it each time they come. But the highly prepared buyer who knows just what he wants and thinks he has found it in your property may want to get right into a negotiation, especially if the market is tight and he's afraid your house will go fast. It isn't unheard of for a visitor to an open house to take one of your prepared contract forms, go home...

Biweekly Fixed Rate Mortgage

The biweekly payment schedule of this kind of loan speeds up amortization, reduces total interest costs and shortens the loan term usually from 30 years to between 18 and 22 years. You make 26 biweekly payments which amounts to 13 annual payments instead of 12 monthly payments. Conversion to a 30-year fixed-rate loan is usually permitted. Payments are deducted automatically from your savings or checking accounts. DISADVANTAGES. Private companies and lenders usually charge for this...

Bone Up on Mortgage Financing

Offers usually are made contingent on the buyer's ability to get financing. It is in your interest to be helpful to buyers who find the prospect of getting a mortgage more intimidating than finding a home. Remember, Be prepared to answer questions about VA and FHA loans if your home is likely to attract veterans and first-time buyers. One reference is All About Mortgages Insider Tips for Financing and Refinancing Your Home, by Julie Good-Garton (Dearborn Publishing). Read the Sunday paper and...

Budgetary Discipline

Accumulating the down payment on a home is often the goal that leads to a family's first real savings program. Later on, paying the mortgage is a strong inducement to creating and sticking with a budget. Depending on your personality and level of discretionary income, this form of enforced savings (and consequent equity buildup) can be an important factor in boosting family net worth. Stripped to its essentials, equity is the difference between what you would get if you sold your home and what...

Buy Down the Mortgage Rate

A buy-down, in which you pay to reduce the buyer's interest rate, can be a powerful selling tool. It isn't complicated, and it lets you avoid the risks of lending directly. Sellers who buy down the purchaser's rate by one percentage point for the full term of the mortgage get roughly 2 more for their homes than do homeowners who don't offer buy-downs. The amount you pay to buy down the interest rate for the life of your purchaser's mortgage loan depends on the size of the loan. The lower the...

Buying a House With Others

While the vast majority of houses are owned either solely by individuals or jointly by married couples, single people living as couples or in groups may want the advantages of homeownership, too. Many lenders are still cool to such arrangements, but willing ones can be found. The two most usual ways of buying property jointly with relatives or unrelated friends are tenancy-in-common and partnership. A good real estate lawyer can explain these arrangements to you (see also the discussion in...

Buying a Vacation Home

A simple log cabin in the Ozark mountains. A weathered cottage on Cape Cod. A ski condo in Aspen. A secluded home tucked into a cove on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. A resort time-share in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. The words vacation property may be used by the owners of each, although the financial, legal and tax consequences of ownership can be as different as the environments. There are many reasons to buy a second home some personal, some financial. You could enjoy a vacation...

Buying Selling a Home

Your all-in-one guide for success from America's leading personal finance authority KIPLINGER'S PERSONAL FINANCE MAGAZINE Published by The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. 1729 H Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20006 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Buying & selling a home your all-in-one guide for success from America's leading personal finance authority by the editors of Kiplinger's personal finance magazine. 7th ed. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 0-938721-92-5 (pbk.) 1....

Buying With Partners

Friends often get together to buy a vacation home, either as tenants-in-common or in a legally constituted partnership. Owning as tenants-in-common, friendly as it sounds, can cause headaches. Head off problems by anticipating and addressing them in a written partnership agreement. Use your real estate lawyer to draw up the agreement, but ask a lawyer in the vacation locale to check relevant regulations. Make sure the contract addresses the following How ownership will be divided, which in turn...

Choosing a Neighborhood

You've probably heard the old clich that the three major determinants of housing value are 1) location, 2) location and 3) location. Like many clich s, it's basically true. If you can't afford what you want where you want it, sacrifice something inside the house rather than sacrificing the location. You can add a second bathroom or install hardwood floors to bring a house up to your standards, but you can't improve the neighborhood single-handedly. Better to take one that needs work in a good...

Comparing Points and Rates

A point, which is 1 of the mortgage amount, is prepaid interest you pay it up front. Paying more points lowers the note rate by some fraction of a percentage point, so you have to decide between a higher rate and fewer points or a lower rate and more points. The longer you'll be in the home, the better off you'll be paying more points to get the lower rate. A three-step calculation can help you choose the best combination of rates and points. 1. Estimate the number of years you'll keep the...

Condition of Home and Inspection

It is fair that the purchaser should have the opportunity to have your home inspected for soundness of construction and state of repair. Keep the process fair by insisting that the person or firm to be used is named in the contract by professional designation, and be sure to set a time limit for the removal of the contingency five or so working days. Include all mandatory and voluntary disclosure statements about the condition of the property and known defects in the body of the contract. If...

Condition of House at Settlement

Specify what must be in demonstrable working order at the time of settlement, as verified during a walk-through of the premises a day or so before settlement. Include electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems, such as furnaces, air-conditioners and toilets, as well as all appliances. This is no guarantee that these things will continue working after you purchase the house just that they were functioning properly when you took title. If you are settling during the winter, it may be impossible...

Condition of Property and Whats for Sale

The listing agreement should describe the general condition of the property. It should show what is being sold as is and what, if anything, will be repaired, removed, substituted or altered prior to settlement. The agreement should list every fixture that will be sold with the house, and those that will not. Make the agent aware of problems or defects in the property. If the listing agreement doesn't adequately spell out the current condition of the structure, the appliances and the electrical,...

Condominium Ownership

The term condominium refers to a legal form of ownership, not a particular type of property. Under such a plan, the owners of individual dwelling units in a housing development also own undivided proportional interests in such common facilities as the grounds, hallways, elevators and recreation areas. Condos give owners virtually the same financial advantages as single-family houses. The federal income-tax breaks are identical Mortgage interest and property taxes on your home are deductible....

Consider Becoming a Lender

Helping the buyer at closing is attractive because you don't take on the risks of becoming a lender. But if your buyer can't qualify for an institutional mortgage (because she's self-employed, for example, or already owns a number of investment properties), offering financing is your next choice. Becoming a lender is riskier to you, so read chapters 9 and 20 for tips and traps. You should require If you agree to pay some of your buyer's points, do not overlook the full value of your concession...

Considering the Contract

Money, people and the law are primary elements in any real estate sales contract. A valid real estate contract must be in writing and must have been freely offered by the buyer and accepted by the seller. All parties to the contract must be legally competent to do business (for example, of legal age and mental competence). Money or other valuable consideration must be exchanged for title to the property. Assuming you are using a specific-performance contract the most common form of contract...

Cooperative Apartments

The stockholder in 202-F may sound like someone with a seat on a securities exchange, but if you live in a cooperative apartment, that's how you might describe your neighbor. Unlike condominium ownership, which gives you title to a particular unit and an undivided interest in the common areas, buying a co-op entitles you to a share in a corporation. Stock ownership or certificate f you are serious about condo ownership, plan on participating in a certain amount of organizational activity just...

Credit Life Insurance Something You Can Do Without

Your lender may try to talk you into buying credit life insurance that would pay off the mortgage in the event of your death. Even if your lender doesn't offer it, you may be deluged with mortgage life insurance solicitations after you buy your home. Mortgage life insurance is usually decreasing-term insurance, in which the premium stays the same but the amount of coverage declines each year, in step with the declining balance owed on your mortgage. It is often promoted as valuable protection...

Cutting Costs

Prices for equivalent homeowners policies can vary by hundreds of dollars from company to company. As you shop, take the following steps to ensure that you are getting the most for your money Get price quotations from at least three companies. Ask about plans that bundle options together at reduced prices. Find out whether you'd get a price break if the insurer provided both your home and auto coverage. For each policy, compare these items The amount you wish to insure the house for and the...

Deductibility of Closing Costs

F your settlement costs include reimbursing the seller for interest or taxes he or she paid in advance for a period you will actually own the house, you may deduct those amounts as though you paid the bills directly. Such adjustments ought to be spelled out on your settlement sheet. If the seller made such payments and you do not reimburse him at settlement, the prepayments are considered built into the price you are paying for the house. In that case, you still write off the prepaid interest...

Deductibility of Mortgage Interest

The opportunity to trade nondeductible rent payments for mostly deductible mortgage payments is a powerful lure enticing you from your rental abode into a home of your own. Whether you are looking for a first home or planning to move up, the number-crunching necessary to determine how much house you can afford demands two calculations one for actual monthly outlays, the other for the true, after-tax cost. In the early years of a home mortgage, nearly all of This table reflects the deductible...

Deductibility of Mortgage Points

A point is a fee equal to 1 of the loan amount that the mortgage lender charges up front. If the charge is for use of the borrowed money as it is when the number of points charged affects the interest rate on the mortgage rather than for loan-processing costs, the point is considered prepaid interest. As long as the home you build or buy is your principal residence, these points are fully deductible in the year paid. Assume, for example, that to get a 100,000 mortgage you have to pay the lender...

Deductibility of Points

Points you pay to get the new mortgage are not fully deductible in the year paid, except to the extent that the funds are used for home improvements. Here's an example A homeowner with a 100,000 mortgage refinances at 120,000 and uses 20,000 to add a sunroom. Assume that two points (2 of 120,000, or 2,400) were charged. Because one-sixth of the money went for a home improvement, one-sixth of the points, or 400, may be deducted in the year paid. The rest must be deducted evenly over the life of...

Deed and Title Condition

Your offer should state the type of deed and condition of title you'll accept from the seller. If customary in your area, the contract could obligate the seller to pay for the lender's title-insurance policy and possibly to provide you with an owner's policy for the amount of the sale price. (And even if it doesn't, consider the policy cost a negotiating point.) Your contract should also make clear what actions the seller must take to deliver a good title by settlement, and what recourse you...

Define Your Needs Pick a Neighborhood

Ow that you know how much home you can afford, it's time to do some hard thinking about what kind of home you want and need. This chapter and the next dealing with kinds of housing will help you narrow the choices. Buying a piece of real estate is a science. Buying a home is an art. The science is getting the legal and financial parts right. The art is finding a property that you'll be happy living in. Only you know what you like. Your best preparation for home buying is to clarify your needs,...

Discount Agents and Counselors

Some real estate brokers offer bare-bones service, charging flat fees or lower commissions in exchange for specific services that can run the gamut from the most basic renting a sign to service barely distinguishable from full-service brokerages. Most offer something in between. For example, Garand Realty, a full-service real estate company located in Fairfax, Va., offers clients the option of a flat-fee listing for 295. For this fee, an agent will come to your home to complete the MLS listing...

Discount ARMs Require Caution

As the name implies, discount ARMs are offered at initial rates below the sum of index rate plus margin. The discounted rate lasts until the end of the first adjustment period set out in the mortgage contract. Discount ARMs may carry large initial loan fees and possibly extra points, both of which serve to increase overall loan costs. Discount ARMs are called buy-downs when the lender is paid a lump sum at settlement in exchange for a lower rate to the buyer. (The payment may be designated as...

Do Your Homework

Get out heating, cooling and water bills, and figure annual totals and monthly averages. Pull together appliance receipts, service records and information on when major systems, such as the furnace, were installed. Col- Walk through every room of your home and make a list of everything that needs to be done. Use this checklist to identify areas of your home that need work before you put it on the market. Check underside of roof for leaks, stains or dampness....

Drainage

Slope and the ability of the soil to absorb water combine to determine where and how fast water drains from the lot. Low areas that hold water can mean trouble inside and outside the house. Muddy spots are a nuisance, particularly just outside the back door. They may be only a symptom, however, of the real problem inside. A wet basement goes beyond the nuisance level. Drying it out permanently will likely be expensive. It may even be impossible. Get a feel for a house's drainage problems by...

Early Warning Signs

Full-blown blight is usually easy to spot. What you need to be alert to are the earliest signs of neglect or decay. A neighborhood that appears slightly down-at-the-heels may not reveal any other signs of decline .yet. Perhaps nothing is broken, littered or really shabby. You still should try to find out why the level of maintenance has slipped. Is the ratio of owners to renters shifting Are such municipal services as sidewalk and road repairs being postponed or reduced Be alert for early signs...

Environmental Tests

You may want to include a clause requiring that the property be tested for radon, lead paint, asbestos, or ureaformaldehyde insulation. Borrowers using FHA mortgages to buy homes built before 1978 are required to read and sign a lead-based-paint disclosure notice before they sign a sales contract. (HUD lenders are not to process loan requests until they have evidence that buyers have signed this document. Lacking proof, they will return the contract for reexecution presumably after the buyer...

Equity Sharing

In a shared-equity arrangement, the home buyer and an investor frequently a parent, relative or friend buy a house or condo apartment together. It's one way for first-time buyers who otherwise couldn't afford to buy, or who wouldn't qualify for a mortgage, to do so. For example, rather than making a loan or gift to help a child into homeownership, parents become part owners and rent their share of the place to the child. As investors, the parents share in the appreciation of the house. As...

Escrow Problems

Mortgage transfers are often accompanied by an increase in your monthly payments. And although terms of the loan don't change, there's a good chance that the amount required for deposit into your escrow account will. It's difficult to know whether you're being asked to pay too much into your escrow account. Because insurance and tax bills come due at different times of the year, lenders are allowed to keep a cushion in the account. That means the amount you pay into escrow each month will be...

Establish Your Priorities

Price is always important, but it may not be the primary factor. Rank the elements of a deal according to your own wants and needs price, financing, date of possession, extras. Put your priorities down on paper and keep them to yourself. They will be an important tool in evaluating any counteroffer you receive from the seller. Consider how you might accommodate the seller at the right price. For example, suppose the owner doesn't want to repaint before moving. What price reduction or added...

Examine the

Give some thought to whether you will enjoy living on a lot before you fall in love with the house there. Your answer will depend, to some degree, on how you feel about the following Do you spend a lot of time outdoors How much privacy do you want Will you maintain the grounds yourself, or will you hire someone for such routine chores as mowing the lawn and trimming hedges Do you want to be involved with landscaping, or would you prefer an established yard with mature trees and shrubs Then,...

Exclusive or Exclusive Agency

You don't pay a commission if you find your own buyer without help from the agent. If you sign an agreement like this, in effect, you're competing with your own listing agent if you get direct queries about your property, handle them yourself. If you have a good prospect who expressed an interest in your home before you listed it with an agent, use this kind of agreement and add a clause that says you may sell the house to this named party and any other whom you find yourself without paying a...

Exclusive Right to Sell

The listing agent is entitled to a commission no matter who sells the property, including you. If another agent produces the buyer, you still owe only the one commission, which will be split between the listing broker and the broker who found the buyer. This type of agreement usually assures you the most service. The agent is guaranteed a commission if he produces a sale, and you have an agent to hold responsible for making all reasonable or diligent efforts...

Expiration Date

Knowing the average and median length of time it takes for homes to sell in your neighborhood should influence your choice of a listing expiration You can extend a listing beyond its original life, but don't inadvertently sign an agreement containing an automatic extension. date. A period of three to six months is common. Generally, the shorter the better, but it isn't reasonable to insist on a three-month listing when homes like yours are taking six to nine months to sell. A relatively short...

FHA Loans

You can borrow 25,000 or less for specific improvements to your home (sorry, no swimming pool) with an FHA Title I loan. FHA-insured Title I loans are fixed-rate and can be obtained through contractors or from banks or other lenders. (Lenders inspect finished projects when you borrow more than 7,500. On all loans, you'll be asked to certify that the completed work qualifies as a home improvement.) Loan terms run from six months to as long as 20 years. If you borrow less than 7,500, the loan...

Figuring the Cost

In the worksheet (opposite), first add up the cost of points and other fees, which can average 2 to 5 of the mortgage amount. To figure how long it would take to pay this back, calculate your new monthly payment, using the table on pages 152 and 153. Subtract that amount from your current principal and interest payment to get your monthly pretax savings. Then, because the interest is tax-deductible, subtract 27 of the savings or 15 or 30 , depending on your top tax rate to get your approximate...

Financial Readiness

Be prepared to write a check for the earnest money this usually accompanies your offer as evidence of your intentions, good faith, and ability to close the deal. If necessary, cash in certificates of deposit and stocks and move the money to your checking or money-market account. Consider establishing a home-equity line of credit on your current home well before you begin looking for your next home (see the discussions of home-equity loans in Chapters 3 and 14). In a hot market, one thing that...

Financial Risks

The value of your home is not guaranteed to go up, and it could go down. The leverage that is so alluring when real estate values are on the rise can act to magnify losses as well as gains. For example, suppose you invest 20,000 in a home valued at 100,000 in a booming economy. Then recession hits your community, you lose your job and you're forced to sell for 80,000 the 20,000 loss wipes out 100 of your investment, and you'll probably have to dig into your pocket to cover commissions and other...

Financing a Coop

Unlike the collateral (property) that secures a traditional mortgage, collateral for a share loan includes stock in a corporation. The NCB, through its affiliate, NCB Savings Bank, is one of the largest single share-loan originators. Once a co-op becomes a participating project by meeting NCB Fannie Mae standards, you can apply for a share loan from NCB Savings Bank. The NCB usually works through a local lender or processing agent. Check with the cooperative's office to find out where to call...

Financing the Purchase

You should be able to finance your home with a mortgage if the unit is permanently set up on land you own (or on land you are buying along with the unit, in what is known as a single real estate transaction). Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy qualified manufactured-home loans originated by banks, savings and loans, and mortgage bankers. Manufactured houses are eligible for government- backed FHA and VA loans. In California, you may be able to title your manufactured home as real estate even if you...

Finding an Appraiser

Pick a licensed appraiser who specializes in residential properties in your area. Ask local mortgage lenders for names of appraisers they use on a regular basis. Check the status of their licenses, work experience, training, credentials and education. Appraiser organizations, in which appraisers claim membership, should be able to tell you whether an individual is a member in good standing and has the credentials claimed. They may also be willing to give you names of other licensed members...

Finding the Best Agent

Ask the head of the firm you select to give you the names of the agents in the office who have the most experience in your neighborhood and price range. An agent who does a lot of business with sellers in the area may work at developing a list of interested buyers or may maintain close contact with agents who have such clients. Select one who knows the community's price history and who has weathered bad years as well as profited during good A prospective agent's listing presentation Information...

Fine Tuning Your Choice

Once you understand how different loans work, try these tips for getting the mortgage that is the best possible one for you Use reports and other loan sources to identify the best loan prospects. Discuss details with promising lenders over the phone or in person before making a final selection. Make sure advertised loans and rates are available. Use the annual percentage rate (APR) to compare loans. The APR is the cost of your mortgage loan expressed as a yearly rate. It reflects the effect of...

Fixed or Adjustable Rate

After all exotic mortgages are laid aside, the choice for most home buyers comes to this Should you get a fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage The standard fixed-rate, fully amortizing home mortgage with its preset, life-of-the-mortgage, monthly payments covering principal repayment and interest came into being during the Great Depression and fueled the enormous expansion of homeownership in the decades following World War II. Its beauty was and is the peace of mind homeowners get from pre- With...

Flood Insurance

The most important risk excluded from most homeowners policies is damage caused by flooding from rivers, dams and other natural sources. If you buy a home in an area the government has designated flood prone, you may be able to purchase flood coverage through the federal government's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Under the 1994 National Flood Insurance Reform Act, homeowners who receive federal disaster assistance must purchase flood insurance and maintain it for as long as they own...

Forging an Agreement

F you're selling through an agent, contracts will be presented to you through that agent, and you will counter all offers through the same agent. Everything in the offering contract is negotiable. Decide what you don't want to give in on and what doesn't matter that much to you. Changes can be inked in over or next to language on the contract, or a new contract can be drawn up from scratch. A draft contract can go back and forth between buyer and seller any number of times, but you'll both want...

Form a Legal Partnership

The best strategy for unrelated individuals to buy a home may be in a limited partnership, in which the partnership, not the individuals, takes the title. If a partner dies, the heirs would acquire the interest in the partnership other partners could be among the heirs if the deceased willed it so. A partnership also avoids problems if one person goes into bankruptcy or has other legal difficulties that could cloud the title, because the partnership is separate from any legal entanglements of...

Get a Good Title

If you build a new house and it burns to the ground, you'll still own the land, even if you failed to cover the house with insurance. But if you buy a home with a faulty title perhaps due to fraud, forgery, conflict between long-ago heirs, unpaid liens from contractors, or just a title-search error you could lose everything. Is it likely According to industry experts, despite the best efforts of observant escrow-closing officers and title searchers-examiners, title scams are a continuing...

Get Contract and Buyer Qualification Forms

Preprinted contract forms, which vary from state to state, can be obtained from office-supply stores, stationers, discount brokers, real estate boards or lawyers. Alternatively, you can ask the attorney who will represent you to draw up a contract to meet your requirements and protect your interests while conforming to state and local laws particularly with regard to disclosures about your property's physical and structural condition. Some real estate lawyers may help clients negotiate a deal...

Get Creative

In lousy markets, sellers must come up with innovative strategies custom-made for the deal. SUBSTITUTE THE DOWN PAYMENT. Consider taking a note or equity in place of a cash down payment. You may have a buyer who has a note carried back on the sale of another property. He or she may be willing to assign this note to you in lieu of all or part of a down payment. A couple may have considerable equity in a property they want to keep and may be willing to write a note secured by a deed of trust or...

Get the Place in Shape

Walk through every room of your home and make a list of everything that needs to be done. During your inspection, jot down problems and note what can be done to make each room attractive. Taking down dark curtains and opening a room to sunlight may change its character completely. So can repainting. You can't anticipate what will catch the attention of a prospective buyer. Plaster walls and a new furnace may hardly elicit a comment but the cracked toilet-tank top, that's another story. A buyer...

Get Your Earnest Money Ready

Some people are short on liquid assets but have substantial equity in their homes. This could pose a problem when they have to write a check for earnest money to submit to a seller along with their purchase contract. Earnest money shows that you're a serious, qualified purchaser. (If the contract is not accepted or the deal later hits a snag through no fault of yours, you'll get the earnest money back, with interest if you specified in your offering contract that the money be held in an...

Get Your Home Inspected

Having your property inspected before you list it can pay off because you have time to decide what to do about a problem before a buyer finds it. Ask the inspector for repair recommendations on these big-ticket items roof structure, shingles, foundation, basement or crawl space, heating and air-conditioning systems, and electrical and plumbing systems. Should you fix the problem or cut the price Find out what it would cost to do the repair. Compare that with the price cut a buyer might ask....

Getting to Know Them

If you've never lived in a condo, you may be astonished to discover just how much power is held by the board of directors. As mentioned, the board has the power to put a lien on your unit if you don't pay your monthly fee or are late with the money for a special assessment. It may have license to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a repair or improvement without the prior approval of other owners. Elected by condo owners, the board is much like a miniature government with ultimate authority...

Go for Equity

Another way to look at the problem is to ask yourself what you want from your home in addition to its shelter value. Choose a mortgage that helps move you closer to those objectives. Suppose that ten years from now you will need a home-equity loan to finance college educations for your children. From your perspective, tax benefits Are you buying a home for more than just shelter Choose a mortgage that helps you move closer to those objectives. from mortgage-interest payments are less of a...

Guaranteed Sale

N a twist on a once-popular option offered by real estate firms to help eager move-up buyers, some builders promise to buy homes that owners leave behind when they move into one of the builder's new homes. Basically, it works like this A builder enters into a guaranteed purchase, or buy-sell agreement, with the buyer of one of its new or soon-to-be-built homes. In exchange for the buyer's noncontingent sales contract to buy one of the builder's homes, the builder agrees to buy the old home at a...

Hashing Out Disputes

When homeowner and builder reach a stalemate over disputed warranted items within the first two years, either may request the plan administrator to arrange for an impartial third party to mediate, at no cost to the buyer. Referees for such disputes are not affiliated with the plan administrator or the builder. If a mutually acceptable solution cannot be reached, the neutral party decides on the issue, based on the warranty documents. The builder is bound by the decision once it is accepted by a...

Help From the FHA or VA

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operate two little-known structural-defect correction programs for buyers who fail to get help from builders or warranty issuers and their insurers. To qualify, you must have bought your new home (resales don't qualify) with either an FHA or VA mortgage, fulfill certain strict requirements, and apply for help within four years. (The FHA's so-called 518(a) program oper- ates under Section 518(a) of the National...

Hire Your Own Representative

This is a good time to get expert help, if you haven't already done so. A buyer's broker or a real estate lawyer you pay will represent your interests, deciphering the contract form, suggesting contingency clauses and negotiating with the seller or seller's agent. Get names of experienced lawyers from friends, associates, bankers, title-insurance officers and the local bar association. When interviewing, ask for an advance estimate of the fee. Find out what role he or she usually plays, and...

HO What

The term homeowners insurance is to some extent a misnomer Standard policies cover much of what you own, give you personal liability protection, and protect you from credit card losses and even medical bills. There are several types of homeowners policies that differ in the number of perils they cover and the degree of protection they offer. The most popular type is HO-3, often called special form. But the best policies are usually called deluxe or executive policies. In insurance lingo,...

Home Sweet Tax Shelter

Your home probably the biggest investment of your life can be the best tax shelter you'll ever enjoy. Uncle Sam is standing by to serve as a generous partner in your investment, ready to subsidize your mortgage payments while you're paying for your house and virtually willing to turn a blind eye to the profit you make when you sell it. Given the favored status of homeownership in America, it is no surprise that deductions for mortgage interest and local property taxes have survived as others...

Home Equity Debt

In addition to deducting interest on acquisition debt, homeowners can deduct interest on up to 100,000 of home-equity debt. The interest on such borrowing is fully deductible whether you tap your equity via refinancing, a second mortgage or a home-equity line of credit as long as the loan is secured by your principal residence or second home. The interest is deductible almost without regard to how the borrowed money is spent, but there are a few exceptions. If the money is used to invest in...

Home Equity Options

Home-equity loans and lines of credit have become the preferred choice of most borrowers. Banks are offering a wide array of enticing options to make it easier for homeowners to get at their equity to pay for such things as reducing nondeductible credit card debt, college tuition, a new car or home improvements. There are deals that allow you to set up mini fixed-rate loans under a line of credit or fixed-rate loans that can be adjusted when rates drop, and lines of credit that can protect you...

Homeowners Insurance

If your mortgage servicer fails to pay an insurance premium, you should get a warning from your insurer before the policy is canceled. Some companies send just one notice to the homeowner and mortgage servicer. If you have an intractable problem with your mortgage servicer, it's time to contact the owner of your loan. In any correspondence, be sure to include the mortgage company's name, your loan number, name, address, and home and work phone numbers. If Fannie Mae bought the loan, call...

How Agents Work

There are two basic roles in the real estate business broker and agent (or sales associate). A broker is licensed by Many states and the District of Columbia require agents to disclose the legal and financial arrangements they make with the sellers, for whom they work, to buyers they help Even so, unwary buyers continue telling agents too much about their strategies and intentions all of which agents are duty-bound to tell sellers. the state to conduct a real estate business and to negotiate...

How Is the Neighborhood Organized

Once you find a home you like, give the land it sits on more than a perfunctory once-over. Step back and notice the overall pattern of blocks and streets in the neighborhood. Most subdivi- sions are laid out in blocks and lots. A section of land is blocked off and divided into lots. Use a map to determine the layout of the community that has piqued your interest. According to the Urban Land Institute, suburban developments after World War II continued using the grid pattern of streets the...

How Much Coverage Do You Need

Once you've pinned down the type of policy that suits your needs, the next step is to figure out how much coverage you want on the house and its contents. The basic building block of any policy is the amount of coverage on the house. This should be based on the replacement value that is, what it would cost to rebuild the structure. Because you are unlikely to experience a total loss on your home, you may be tempted not to insure for the full value. But insuring for less than full value is false...

How Much Down How Much Borrowed

N deciding how much cash to put down, remember that getting settled in a new home always ends up costing more than you anticipate. Hold back some cash for furnishing and unexpected outlays. Add an extra cushion of cash if you're buying an older home that could surprise you with a plumbing or roofing expenses. Should you borrow as much as you can Small down payments and big mortgages give you the power of leverage (see Chapter 1) as well as available cash for other investments. And when...

How Much Is the House Worth

F you know the neighborhood, have studied sale prices of comparable homes and have an adequate sense of your seller's motivations, you may be com- When might paying for an appraisal be wise When a property is unusual in a way that makes finding good comparable properties difficult. fortable making an offer. But if you aren't and if time permits consider an appraisal. When might paying for an appraisal be wise When a property is unusual in a way that makes finding good comparable properties...

How the FHAs Program Works

To qualify for the FHA program, a problem must meet HUD definitions and you must meet all of the following criteria The home must be covered by an individual FHA-insured mortgage. The property, including a condo unit, must have been approved for mortgage insurance before construction started and must have passed a final HUD inspection. (This clause eliminates many owners whose homes were inspected only during construction.) You must request assistance no later than four years after the date on...

How the Process Works

You should also request a title insurance interim binder to be issued before closing. An interim binder is a preliminary commitment to insure and is based on a search and examination of the public records. It gives a description of the property and shows such things as the owner, title defects, liens or encumbrances of record. Following examination of the title evidence, the company will normally insure the title. If problems are discovered, the company may still agree to insure the title if...

How the VAs Program Works

You must have bought a new home with a VA mortgage, and the Certificate of Reasonable Value (CRV) must have been predicated upon completion of proposed construction (see Item 14 on the original CRV). This means the builder sought VA approval before or during construction and the home was checked by a VA compliance inspector during the construction phase. (If the house is enrolled in a ten-year warranty plan and a VA inspector made the final inspection, the home may be eligible, but condo units...

How This Book Will Help

This book is really two books in one Part One, for buyers and Part Two, for sellers. Whichever you are buyer, seller, or both at once carefully read the part addressed to the other party. You will gain insight into the concerns and strategies of all the major players in a transaction, and the knowledge will help you get a better deal for yourself. Recognizing that the vast majority of real estate transactions are handled by brokers and agents who receive a commission on the sale, Buying and...

How to Pick an Agent

If location, location, location are the watchwords for picking a property, experience, experience, experience are the watchwords for picking an agent. Too many buyers don't pick their agent they acquire one at an open house or by responding to an ad. Many select one who is a friend, relative or neighbor. You could be lucky such an agent might turn out to be skilled, experienced and resourceful. On the other hand, you could end up with an amateur. Obtain the names of brokers and agents active in...

How to Take Title

Before you can take title to your new home, you will have to decide what form of ownership is desirable. If you're single, you'll probably buy the house in your name alone. Husbands and wives generally own their property through joint ownership, in one of two forms, either joint tenancy with the right of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety. Under either form of joint tenancy, when one spouse dies, the other becomes sole owner of the property. This happens automatically, bypassing probate,...

If the House Is Still on the Drawing Board

Buying a not-yet-built house isn't like buying an existing one it's harder. You reap advantages similar to those you get buying a new house ditto the disadvantages. But, depending on market conditions and the builder, you may be able to tailor plans so you help design your dream house. BUY BASED ON REPUTATION. The key point to remember You're not buying a piece of land and a house you're buying a builder. More to the point, you're buying a builder's reputation. Make the usual checks with the...

If You Encounter Discrimination

Members of racial and ethnic minority groups often encounter overt or subtle discrimination when they go looking for a home to buy. A black family may be steered away from a neighborhood being told you probably can't afford to buy there. A seller may refuse to sell her home to an Hispanic family because she believes her neighbor would be angry. A Jewish home buyer may be told that an owner just took the house off the market, when in fact it's still available. A borrower may be turned down...

Implied Warranties Versus Extended Warranties

If your builder won't fix the problem, you have no alternative but to sue. Many states and local jurisdictions hold builders and developers to an implied warranty on the habitability of their homes. (Implied warranties are derived from common law as developed by case law.) In general that means a builder that is authorized to construct homes in a jurisdiction should for a specified time at least a year or two replace or repair anything that threatens a home's soundness and the safe functioning...

Improvements and Repairs

Monthly payments are just the beginning of the costs of owning a home. You can count on spending plenty over the years maintaining, repairing and improving your property. Here, too, Uncle Sam gets involved. For tax purposes, work around the house is divided between projects considered repairs and those con- assessments for benefits that tend to increase the value of your property sidewalks, for example should be added to the basis of your property. stituting capital improvements that enhance...

Independent Mortgage Companies

Independent mortgage companies such as Countrywide Funding, to name the largest make just more than three-fourths of all home mortgages, including most VA-guaranteed and FHA-insured loans. Mortgage bankers work closely with the secondary market by selling their loans to agencies buying standardized, or conforming home mortgages. You will be expected to meet secondary-market standards covering credit-worthiness, down-payment size and appraisals. Once your application is approved, you will get a...

Insurance on Your Life

F your new home represents a higher financial burden than you've ever carried before, and you have a spouse or children to protect in the event of your death or disability, this is a good time to review your insurance needs. Have an accountant, trusts-and-estates lawyer, financial planner or trusted insurance professional review your situation on disability and life insurance. Depending on your age, your best bet may be conventional term life insurance whose proceeds, if invested wisely, would...

Interviewing the Agents

To save time, you may wish to hold an informal open house for agents, during which several will come to tour your home at the same time. Select two or three to give you a full listing presentation (see the box on the preceding page for what the presentation should include). After all the presentations, select the one agent you want to do business with first. Your decision should be based on everything from professionalism and knowledge to personality. After your interviews, you may find...

Keep Selling

When you sense your prospect is getting close to the contract-writing stage, keep selling. Now is not the time suddenly to begin acting the role of pleasant host or hostess, assuming the buyer will take it upon herself to do the rest. Avoid these common mistakes Appearing too eager. If the buyer feels you are overly eager, or too anxious to make a deal, you may lose a sale. He may become suspicious, or he may pressure you into making major concessions. Appearing too tough. A good deal can slip...

Keep Yourself Informed

Keep abreast of progress on both sides. If your buyer is having trouble getting a loan on the terms specified in the contract, you should know it if she is turned down, it could jeopardize the whole deal, and you could end up putting the house back on the market. A day or so before closing, make sure all the necessary papers and documents have been gathered and are in the hands of the right players. The settle- Federal Housing Administration (FHA) rules permit mortgage lenders to charge sellers...