Homebuying programs may define first-time owner differently

Q: Is there such a thing as becoming a first-time buyer after owning real estate in the past? Would someone qualify after a certain amount of time has passed? And if your name is listed on a deed but not on a mortgage, does it count as owning real estate?

–L

A: If your name is on a current deed, you presently own real estate and probably wouldn’t count as a first-time buyer. Mortgage liability wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

Different first-time buyer programs have their own definitions. With some, you may qualify if you haven’t owned a house for a certain number of years.

Refinance paperwork

Q: For a lower interest rate, I refinanced my home last July with the same bank that held my original mortgage. I never received anything saying the original mortgage was paid off. Should I have received something from the bank? And if so, what are my next steps to get it?

–R.K.

A: The bank wouldn’t have made your new loan, unless they were sure the old one had been marked paid off (satisfied, discharged) in the county’s public records. A document to that effect is probably filed there, and if so, you’re just fine. It wouldn’t matter whether or not you actually had the paper in your possession. All that really counts is that it shows up in the public records. If you’d feel better having your own copy, you can order one at the records office.

You can investigate for yourself in person or on the Internet in most countries.

Offsetting gains

Q: We have a two-family rental house, which was brought in 1985. If we sell the rental, could we pay off our current house we live in, so we can offset or reduce the capital gains tax on the sale?

–J.

A: No.

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 contact her at www.askedith.com or edithlank@aol.com.

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