Steer clear of misleading agents when going it alone

Q: When we get ready to sell our home, should we pay for a professional appraiser or just rely on Realtors’ suggestions? Can we call brokers if we’re really going to sell on our own? — P. I.

A: It’s clearly unfair to mislead agents by asking for a free market analysis on the pretense that you’re ready to list the property, but you can be upfront about it. Explain that you’re going to try for-sale-by-owner and ask if they’re willing to confer with you on that understanding.

Even an oral opinion will require an hour’s preparation time on the Realtor’s part and more time traveling to your home and inspecting it. Some brokers won’t want to donate their time and expertise. Others, though, will welcome the chance to see your home and make a friend, just on the off chance.

Although most agents can make excellent recommendations, particularly in neighborhoods they’re familiar with, watch out for the few who will suggest almost any price just to secure your listing. A few others might name a low price for a quick and easy sale. Your best bet is to interview at least three and compare their opinions.

A professional appraisal is particularly valuable when you’re dealing with unusual property, in which case it’s hard to find similar recent sales. It can be useful while you’re negotiating with buyers. Although it’s simply an estimate, albeit an informed, skilled one, the buyer might accept it as an impartial, almost scientific proof of value — as the courts indeed do.

If you do hire a professional appraiser, make it clear you need only a simple written report. You don’t want to pay for a 30-page dissertation with floor plans and photographs of the neighborhood.

Loss not deductible

Q: You have written so much about timeshares, which I have enjoyed reading, but I’ve never heard you answer this question about them.

We purchased our timeshare in 1997 for $22,000 and have used it many times, but we decided to sell it this past year. We were able to sell it back to the developer for $5,600.

The developer sent us a 1099 for $5,600. Could we show a $16,400 loss under a real estate sale on our taxes for 2017? — D. and M. G.

A: Losses on real estate sales are not automatically deductible and have complicated regulations that don’t apply here anyhow.

For starters, that timeshare was classified as personal property, not business property. If you had bought a car for $22,000 in 1997 and sold it last year for $5,600, that wouldn’t give you a deductible capital loss. And that’s pretty much the way the IRS considers the sale of the timeshare, though you received a 1099 for it.

Nice try, but no cigar.

Homeowner at showings

Q: Regarding a recent letter on whether a homeowner should remain in the home when it’s being shown: We looked at a house, an interesting midcentury house on a cul-de-sac in the perfect neighborhood. But the owner was sitting in a chair in the great room watching TV the whole time.

The effect? We could not stop and imagine changes, furniture, lifestyle … anything! And that was the most important room in the house.

We felt we could whisper in the basement, but, otherwise, we used our eyes to communicate, and hardly even walked into bedrooms, baths or secondary places. It was a house that really needed work, but we simply could not talk about it.

We got out fast and whispered in the driveway. It kinda broke our hearts — we really wanted to like that house. Eventually, it did sell … but not to us.

The whole thing about it being hard on the owner — it was hard on the Realtors and interested buyers. Even during open houses, it is easier to look at a house with other prospects and their agents wandering around than it is when the owner is silently holding court.

How could it have been avoided? If the seller finds it hard to get out (because of age, health, transport), does someone take her to church? When is her next doctor’s appointment?

Her agent could have put multiple overlapping viewings together. Some folks might have grouched about it, but it would have been better than what we experienced. The owner could have been taken to lunch and to the hairdresser and returned to multiple offers. It was an opportunity missed.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent. — D. P.

A: Thanks for sharing the experience.

Contact Edith Lank at askedith.com, at edithlank@aol.com or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

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