Dear Edith: Please give me an idea of how to coordinate the sale of my present home with the move-in date for my new home. We have a tentative date of August 2019 for the new house’s completion.
— M. H.
Answer: Real estate brokers can help dovetail the two transactions. If you don’t already know which firm you’ll use to market your present home, your builder may have names they can suggest.
In some circumstances, a developer will not start construction until you have an accepted offer on your present house.
It’s a simple matter to put provisions in both the sale and purchase contracts to make sure you won’t be caught with nowhere to live or stuck with two monthly payments. Your attorney and the broker can explain how it’s usually accomplished.
Lawyer not required
Dear Edith: I am waiting for approval from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in regard to buying a home out West — a new house to be built. The mortgage company, broker and the VA all say a lawyer is not necessary to complete the sale. Is this true?
— O. Q.
Answer: No law says you must employ a lawyer when buying real estate. That’s true everywhere.
Beyond that, local custom varies from state to state. In some places, people don’t use attorneys for residential real estate. In those locations, legal safeguards for buyers are built into the process somewhere. You’re safe following community practice.
And yet, if I were buying anywhere, I’d retain my own attorney no matter what they told me about local customs.
Sons are co-owners
Dear Edith: When my wife died, I transferred my home into three names — myself and my two sons. I plan to sell the house at a profit of about $150,000 over what I paid for it. Will I be allowed the home sellers’ income tax exemption? I am 73 years old.
— I. B.
Answer: If your sons are co-owners of your house, the home sellers’ income tax exemption will probably cover only your third of the profit on your tax return.
Assuming they don’t live with you, your sons will owe tax on the other two-thirds. Consult an accountant immediately, but I doubt there’s much you can do at this point.
Wants uneventful closing
Dear Edith: My wife and I plan to pay off the existing balance owed on our home. It is a land contract. What steps should we take to ensure the transfer of ownership is legal and uneventful?
— A. Q.
Answer: Legal and uneventful — a good description of the closing everyone always hopes for.
To take care of the complexities involved in settling your land contract, by all means, put the matter in the hands of an attorney — and one who specializes in residential real estate. If you don’t know how to locate such a lawyer, ask a couple of real estate brokers for suggestions. They know who specializes.
Without the deed
Dear Edith: I find myself in a quandary. My mother died two years ago. She and I were joint tenants with right of survivorship.
I never had the deed brought up-to-date, and I am unable to locate the deed.
Is it possible to obtain a copy of it? How do I go about doing this?
— M. S.
Answer: If you had right of survivorship, you became full owner automatically when your mother died. You didn’t have to do anything about it.
You don’t need the deed to prove your ownership. That document should be in the public records of the county where the property is located. If you do want a copy, get in touch with the county clerk’s office.
Dear Edith: Do you have a publication that provides details about what happens to a person when their house goes into foreclosure?
Answer: No, but I know that if you’re facing foreclosure, you should have a lawyer’s guidance through the whole mess.
If you can, sell the house on the open market — quickly — rather than go through foreclosure.
If the house is priced low enough for a quick sale, sometimes your real estate broker can get the lender to hold off for a few months.
Even if you lose money on the sale, you are better off than incurring the legal expenses and credit problems that follow foreclosure.