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Let the Realtors settle commission disputes

Q: My husband and I decided to downsize this year. We talked to a friend who is a real estate agent, and she said we could work with her when we want to sell. We did not sign a contract.

About two weeks ago, we looked at a house that seemed to be what we are looking for.

We told the selling real estate agent that we already had an agent to help us sell our home. He said that he’d be happy to work with us on the buying end. We did not sign a contract with him either.

We started getting concerned that we shouldn’t have two different agents. Don’t we have a responsibility to work with our friend for selling our house and buying a new one? — S. B.

A: You have every right to work with your friend if you are confident that she can help you on both ends.

If you are still interested in the home you visited, she can contact the listing agent and straighten things out between them. It is helpful that you mentioned her when you viewed the house.

Next time you hear of a property that interests you, ask her to arrange the showing. That way you’ll get her expertise and advice on both ends. Signing a contract isn’t the only way agency is established in real estate matters. Implied agency can be formed by accepting someone’s services, although this is rare. Brokers have their own practices for settling disputes about the division of a commission. Let the agents settle it; it shouldn’t worry you.

Do-It-Yourself Transfer of Title

Q: I’m selling a house to my tenant. The house is paid for and I have the deed. The buyer is paying cash. Do I need a lawyer for the sale? — C. P.

A: In theory, you could transfer the title on your own. But your buyer will probably want documented proof that you own the place, that you have the right to sell it and that there are no claims against it. The deed you have is not sufficient to prove all of this.

You also won’t use that old deed when you sell. Instead, you’ll give the buyer a new one. People get confused if they think of this like signing over a car title, but it doesn’t work that way with real estate.

The new deed must be in proper form to be filed and accepted in your county’s public records office, including a legal description of the property and an acknowledged signature.

In addition to the legal aspects of the sale, some financial items are usually adjusted at the closing, such as real estate taxes. Will the buyer reimburse you for taxes you’ve already paid, or will you owe the buyer for any taxes that still aren’t paid?

Some reports of your sale may need to be filed with government agencies. All in all, life will be much easier if you just follow your community’s customary closing procedures.

Worth Refinancing?

Q: I bought my house five years ago. My mortgage is 5 percent for 30 years. Should I consider refinancing? — L.

A: It will cost you to get a new mortgage. It’s worth doing if you expect to remain in the house long enough for your monthly savings to repay the expense. After that, it’s all gravy.

Do some investigating. Start with your present lender, and call a few others. Ask for an estimate of closing costs on a new mortgage for 25 years (the time left on your present loan).

Find out what your new monthly payment would be. Then, calculate how long it would take you to recoup that outlay through lower payments. If you expect to remain in the house longer than that, by all means go for it.

Paying for Fuel

Q: I am trying to buy a foreclosed home that is owned by a mortgage company out of state. The home had to be heated in order to do a home inspection and appraisal. The selling Realtor accidentally let the fuel tank go empty and the water froze and leaked. Who is responsible?

I found out that the fuel delivery was put in my name without my permission. I contacted my real estate lawyer, but I haven’t heard back. The Realtor says they will try to get someone to look at the problem, but they don’t seem to care much about the property. What should I do? — R.

A: It’s hard to say without knowing how far along you are in the purchase and what documents you have signed. All I can offer is sympathy.

I’d certainly advise contacting a lawyer, but it sounds like you’ve done that already. Maybe it’s time to talk with a different one.

Edith Lank will respond personally to any question sent to www.askedith.com or to 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

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