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Homeowner needs to sell house, but owes more than it is worth

Q: I am current and in good standing with my mortgage payments, but my job situation has been compromised.

I owe $180,000 on a townhome; similar ones are going for between $140,000 and $150,000. If I have not gone into default or foreclosure, how can I sell my house for less than what I owe?

Am I stuck with the balance of debt? Can I get help with Realtor fees and closing costs? I have tried re-financing and loan modifications but to no avail. — Donna

A: I wish I had some good solutions for you, but all I can offer is sympathy. There are new plans coming out all the time, though, so it may be worth contacting your lender again.

Q: My wife and I are in our 60s. We own two homes in New Jersey. One is an old farmhouse with some land. The other is a newer townhouse — our retirement place. We want to sell the old place, but it needs everything. Should we repair it, or let it go as is? We owe $110,000 on it. — E. D.

A: No way I can judge from here, don’t know how much work it needs, don’t know how much the land is worth, don’t know what the market is like out there. In your shoes I’d call brokers from nearby towns and ask them to take a look and give you advice. Won’t cost you anything to pick their brains and they can give you much better advice than I can.

Q: What is the best way to get expired listings.? In other words, what techniques or materials would one use to ensure they will not only wow the home owners, but get a listing out of it? — E-mail

A: Years ago when I was selling, I would contact every expired listing in the areas that interested me. I’d wait a week or two, so the unhappy sellers had time to recover from their disappointments. But what to say, what to do, how to approach them — that’s up to you. Your supervising broker should be giving you guidance, and that’s the person to ask.

Q: My husband and I are thinking about buying my mother’s house from her. I am looking for advise regarding the process of doing so and legal/tax ramifications of this purchase.

My mother currently has $40,000 remaining of her mortgage. She is looking to sell the house as she can no longer keep up the property herself. She is looking to move to an apartment and is not looking to profit on this sale. She would just asking for the $40,000 left on her mortgage.

The house is currently valued at $270,000. We plan on living there for a minimum of three years, but then would probably move. Somehow we would need an additional loan to cover the cost of renovations to the property. — Ann

A: If your credit is good, take out a mortgage loan. You should have no trouble borrowing enough to pay off your mother’s mortgage and make the renovations you plan. Talk with a real estate lawyer about the necessary paperwork.

Q: Do you have to have a well in order to legally sell a single-family dwelling? — E-mail

A: I assume there’s no public water available on that property? In that case I think you could sell the property for cash, but a buyer would probably have trouble getting a mortgage loan without water.

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 ehlank@aol.com.

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