Seller with cold feet can get into hot water after backing out of deal

Q: I have decided I don’t want to sell my house. The problem is that I go to settlement tomorrow afternoon. What will happen? — Via e-mail

A: Whatever happens, it won’t be pretty.

First thing: Don’t even bother reading the rest of the e-mail I’m sending you. Get thee to a lawyer this instant. Take along all your documents.

If there’s any loophole that would give you an out, your attorney will find it. More likely, the lawyer will explain all the bad things that can happen.

Have your buyers moved out of their present home? Have they sold it? How much did they spend on their mortgage application? Did they already register their kids in the new school? Have they sent out change-of-address cards? How set are they on your specific house and no other? Would they be willing to negotiate a cash settlement with you?

Your real estate broker, by the way, has done what he or she was hired for.

Having produced a ready, willing and able buyer and negotiated an agreement, the agent is probably entitled to full commission whether or not you sell.

On the other hand, perhaps what you should do first is stop, take a deep breath and count to 10.

Remember why you wanted to move in the first place, and how good it felt when you received that purchase offer.

Are you really sure you want to back out?

Down payment requirements vary for each type of mortgage

Q: What is the minimum a person can put down for a new house? — J.

A: A qualified veteran can place a Veterans Affairs-guaranteed mortgage with no down payment.

A Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage requires about 3 percent of purchase price.

Other loans, known as conventional mortgages, are considered safe for the lender if there’s a 20 percent down payment.

Private mortgage insurance and other plans sometimes cut that down to 10 percent.

These days, though, obtaining credit is more difficult and many times borrowers need at least 15 percent down.

With any of these mortgages, the borrower will also have other closing costs.

Buyers should avoid offending sellers with extremely low offers

Q: Is it possible to make too low of an introductory offer when trying to purchase a house? Can offending the seller make negotiating difficult? — D.

A: Yes. And yes. But, of course, every situation is different and every seller is different.

There are even some buyers who don’t mind offending sellers.

They go around making ridiculously low offers until they happen to hit one seller who is ready to jump at anything.

Of course this won’t work if there’s a specific house you really want.

In that case, my advice is: Make your first offer close to what you’d really pay if you had to.

Set it high enough to tempt the seller to accept it then and there, just to get the thing settled.

Benefits few for new agents

Q: As a new sales agent looking for a broker, what can I expect that a real estate office would offer in terms of benefits? What about commission arrangements, other forms of salary? I want to hook up with an office that sells only commercial real estate. — Via e-mail

A: As you realize, you aren’t allowed to start out on your own, but must begin under the sponsorship of an experienced broker.

Most real estate offices take on associates as independent contractors, not as employees.

From an IRS point of view, you’ll be in business for yourself. You won’t be offered health insurance, paid vacation, salary or draw. While your managing broker must give you close personal guidance, you can’t be required to work any particular number of hours or even to attend sales meetings.

You’ll make your own quarterly tax withholding payments. You’ll pay both employer and employee shares of Social Security contributions, not quite double what an employee pays.

Your compensation will depend on how much you bring into the office.

Only your broker is allowed to charge the public for the firm’s services.

Commissions you’ve earned are then shared; for a beginner who requires close supervision, a 50-50 split is typical.

Many offices work on a sliding scale, with more generous arrangements as you become experienced.

By all means, interview with commercial brokers. You may find, though, that it’s easier to gain your first experience in residential work.

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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