It’s difficult to gage market value

Q: In today’s market, is an initial offer of 10 to 20 percent below list price considered reasonable and acceptable? — K.

A: There’s no way I can judge what a particular seller would consider reasonable.

Some homeowners are desperate for a quick sale and list below real market value. Others are emotionally attached to a house and don’t care if they sell this year or next. Some hate bargaining and set a rock-bottom price to start with. A few stubbornly hold out for some unrealistic true value.

In today’s market, as always, value is determined by the buying public. Only one thing I can say for sure: If a place has been widely exposed on the market for a reasonable length of time and hasn’t sold, buyers have voted it’s not worth whatever is being asked.

Early payoff possible?

Q: Is it possible to pay off a 30-year mortgage in five to seven years? — K.L.

A: Sure. Just send in extra money clearly marked “to be applied entirely to reducing the principal.” If you could scrape together enough cash, you could pay off your mortgage next week.

In some states and with certain mortgages, you might owe a prepayment penalty during the early years of a loan. If your mortgage carried such a provision, it would be stated in the mortgage document.

Timeshare report

Q: Twenty years ago we bought two timeshares and have enjoyed them. Now we are getting older and would just as soon sell. I did just what you said not to do and paid some money up front but the company didn’t sell them.

However, in response to an offer from a company promising to buy one, we went to see what they offered. The deal was they would take our timeshare if we paid them slightly more than $3,000. And of course, the timeshare had to be completely free of debt.

Needless to say, it was a learning experience. What do you think? — J.H.

A: I think it was a learning experience. After they buy timeshares, they probably just let them go in a tax foreclosure sale.

Worth renovations?

Q: I plan to move closer to my children within the next few years. My kitchen and one bath need to be renovated and some carpet needs replacing.

Will I recuperate my investment when I sell or will I be better off just selling my house in the present state? –E.W.

A: Local real estate agents can judge better than I can. Call several nearby brokerages and ask for free advice. You can be frank about not being ready to put your house on the market yet. I’ll bet you’ll find agents ready to give you the benefit of their expertise, and perhaps even come over to look at your place and make suggestions.

These days many buyers value hardwood floors more than new carpeting. If you think your floors are good, discuss that with the agents, too.

Term for refinancing?

Q: What is the term for refinancing through your current mortgage company? — W.

A: I don’t know of any particular term. There has always been a “streamline” procedure for refinancing an Federal Housing Administration or Veteran’s Administration loan with simple paperwork and low cost, but that needn’t be done through one’s current lender.

These days the new stimulus guidelines are beginning to work, with refinances more readily available. One’s present mortgage company is always the place to start looking for information.

People at the door

Q: About one year ago, I purchased my first home and got a wonderful deal because it was a Housing and Urban Development foreclosure. I absolutely 100 percent own the home. However, yesterday I came home and to my surprise there were people with a key trying to get in.

They said they found my house online and a real estate agent has it listed. I have contacted both him and his broker and they will not inform me where their information came from. Needless to say I am upset and do not know what to do. I need advice. — G.

A: Brokers are allowed to advertise houses that the government obtained through foreclosure of FHA mortgages and certain agents have keys to HUD houses. That agent or that company must have put the ad up before you bought the property, and failed to remove the information after the sale. They owe you an apology for their negligence and your distress.

You can lodge a complaint with the local Association of Realtors, which has a procedure for investigating members’ actions. You could also complain to the state agency that administers licenses. And you could report the matter to the HUD office you’ve been dealing with.

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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