Remove fixtures, shelves before showing residence

Q: We are selling our home. We have shelves on our wall in our children’s rooms. Can we take them with us or are we required to keep them with the house? — J.P.

A: If you’ve already signed a sales agreement with buyers who saw the shelves up there, they stay. In general, something that is permanently attached becomes a fixture and goes with the real estate.

But if you’re just putting your house on the market, you can always state in the listing contract that the seller reserves the right to remove the rose bushes, the dining room chandelier, whatever. (For some reason, it’s almost always the dining room chandelier.)

A much better idea is to replace the light fixture or take down the shelves before ever showing the property. What they don’t see, they won’t want.

Would-be absentee landlords

want to taste ‘RV lifestyle’

Q: My wife and I are thinking about a RV lifestyle. How would we turn our primary residence into rental real estate? — L.

A: You investigate how much similar property in the neighborhood is renting for; talk with your lawyer about what form of lease agreement to use; and with your accountant about setting up bookkeeping. You put an ad in the paper, and read up in the library about how to judge a good tenant.

But if you’re going to take off and leave town, you’d better have someone close by who’s willing to take on the job of "landlording."

When the water heater goes in the middle of the night, who’s going to take the phone call, arrange for delivery of a new one, make sure the house is open, get a plumber in right away and dispose of the old heater? Who’s going to keep after the tenants if they’re late with the rent? Get that lawn mowed if it’s neglected? Deal with the neighbors about loud parties?

"RV-ing" is supposed to be carefree. Better think twice about becoming absentee landlords.

Exclusion from capital

gains: two years or five?

Q: My father-in-law heard that the ownership and use provisions regarding the sale of a primary home have recently changed, that you now must live in a home as your principal residence for five years (rather than two) in order to be able to exclude any capital gain on the sale. Is this true? — S., Batavia

A: Two years’ ownership and occupancy are enough for the home sellers’ tax exclusion, if they’re during the five years before the sale.

Five years’ ownership is mandated only for an investor who’s converted Section 1031 tax-deferred property into a principal residence. For most homeowners, the requirement is still two years.

Buying after bankruptcy

involves four-year wait

Q: What is the length of time you are eligible to buy a house after bankruptcy? — V.

A: What you’re asking, I assume, is when might it be possible to get a new mortgage loan.

Although the bankruptcy stays on your credit record for up to 10 years, most lenders will consider a mortgage when four years have passed from the discharge, not the filing. If the bankruptcy was due to one big problem and the borrower’s credit record had been good up to that point, some mortgage programs require only two years.

Policy about IRS, foreclosures

has been changed in recent years

Q: Is it true that some mortgage companies submit a 1099 to IRS for the difference between what is owed on a home and what the mortgage company actually clears on a forced sale? If that is true, then the IRS would view this as income and it would make that money taxable.

I would like to see your answer in the newspaper. I hope it would better inform borrowers and make them aware of one more problem they can face with foreclosure. — B.W.

A: Actually, that’s one more problem they don’t have to face, right now.

It’s true that in the past, the unfortunate owners who lost their property to foreclosure could be hit with tax bills from the IRS because forgiven debt was considered income. But in an attempt to ease the present crisis, the policy has been changed.

For foreclosures and short sales closed in 2007, 2008 and 2009, the forgiven debt on foreclosures and short sales will not be subject to federal income tax.


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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