Buyers, not sellers’ or agents’ estimate, determine value of home

Q: A family house needs to be sold as is. Three real estate agents were contacted. Two said the property should be listed at $220,000 to $230,000, with an expected sales price closer to $200,000. The third suggested listing at $170,000.

The family member with authority chose the third agent. There doesn’t seem to be much interest. Is it possible for a price to be too low? Because of the large size and favorable location, might buyers think with such a low price that there must be something terribly wrong with it? If so, how long should we wait, after the current agent’s contract expires, to relist at a higher price? — e-mail

A: Trust me — if it won’t sell at $170,000, relisting at $230,000 will just be a waste of time. Your family member with authority is on the right track.

The price is not too low, quite the contrary. If the property has been on the market for at least a few months, buyers simply don’t think it’s worth what’s being asked. Other agents’ estimates don’t matter, and I’m afraid that what you hope to get doesn’t count. Buyers determine value.

By the way, as is means the buyer agrees to accept any known problems. That doesn’t relieve sellers of liability for any undisclosed defects they knew about.

Granddaughter won’t sign

Q: Two years ago, my doctor recommended that I move somewhere warmer. I signed over my house to my two grandchildren and went to Florida. But it doesn’t agree with me and I want to come back home. The boy readily agreed to sign back my house, but the girl wants $50,000. I don’t have the money. Can you help me? — D.

A: All I can do is tell you to consult a lawyer. I fear, though, that you’ll be told you can’t take back a gift.

Things looking ugly

Q: I inherited half-interest in 10 acres in another state from my father. I want to sell, but my cousins, a married couple, who own the other half do not. They also refuse to negotiate purchasing my half. They say I cannot sell my half without them. If I don’t want to pay for upkeep and property taxes of the property indefinitely, they say I should give my half to them or another family member. Things are looking a bit ugly. What are my options? — e-mail

A: You have the right to sell your half, but it might be difficult to find a buyer who wants to be partners with your cousins. You also have the right to go to court and ask for partition. With acreage involved, that might mean physical separation of your share from theirs, so you’d each own five acres. If that’s not practical, the court will order a public auction of the property and division of the proceeds. It would involve legal expenses, and a cash auction doesn’t usually yield full value.

Who owns home?

A: My lady friend and I were both widowed, and after awhile, we decided to sell our houses and build a new one, each as co-owner. She recently passed away. Her children are anxious to sell the house and get their half, so I would have to find another place to live, which I am not in a hurry to do. Can I delay this process? Can you tell me what rights I have as a half-owner? — B.V.

A: Depending on how the deed was written when you and your lady bought the house, you may be a co-owner with her children now or you might even own the whole house yourself.

If the deed said the place was owned by you and the other person as joint tenants or as joint tenants with right of survivorship, then when she died, you automatically became sole owner.

If the deed didn’t contain that wording, then you simply remain half-owner. The others have the legal right to force a sale, and the only delay would involve a court procedure. That’s not a pleasant route to go.

Perhaps you could get a mortgage loan for half the value of the property and use the money to buy them out.

A single session with a lawyer should tell you where you stand. Take along all the your documents for an efficient interview.

Seller Holding Mortgage

Q: I have a 30-year-old home that I want to sell to a couple, but I will hold the mortgage. Can the buyers get the $8,000 credit that the government issues, or is that only with official bank mortgages? — e-mail

A: Assuming your buyers are otherwise qualified for the first-time homebuyers tax credit, it won’t matter how they’re financing their purchase. They could receive up to $8,000 off their income tax bill, even if they were paying all cash.

Husband got the house

Q: My husband I divorced 18 months ago after 30 years of marriage. My husband got the house. However, he never refinanced and my name is still on the mortgage. Since he failed to refinance, do I have any claim on the house if he remarries and sells the house? — B.T.

A: You are still personally responsible for the entire mortgage debt, but that doesn’t give you any claim to ownership or any share in the proceeds if the house is sold.

If he sells, the mortgage will be paid off and you’ll be free of that liability.

An attorney can tell you if you have any other options.

Edith Lank will respond personally to any questions sent to her at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester, NY 14620 (please include a stamped return envelope), or readers may e-mail her at

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