Jobs Homes Autos For Sale

Agent can't force potential buyers to walk through your door
By Edith Lank | Columnist
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Published: 6/19/2010 11:30 PM

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Q. We have had our house on the market for four months listed with a name-brand broker, but we have had fewer than 20 viewings, a dozen of which were at one open house. Our house is beautifully staged and accurately priced. How can we get our broker to bring more potential buyers through the door?

A. This is the best selling time of the year, when families plan to move with the school year. You may see more action in the next few weeks. But when you say your place is accurately priced, remember that the technical definition of market value boils down to "what someone will pay." If you were really listed at market value, by definition someone would have bought your property by now. Your broker may be at fault if he or she is not suggesting you drop your asking price. No agent can drag buyers in by the hair to view an overpriced listing.

My house was estimated at a higher than realistic dollar amount. How can I dispute the difference and pay the appropriate amount of taxes?

A. Local procedures vary, but your tax assessor's office can tell you how and when to protest your assessment figure. Property tax records are open to anyone's inspection. First check the figures on file for your property, looking for mistakes in square footage, lot size and the like. Then look up your neighbors' assessments. You want to show that nearby houses like yours have lower assessments, thus claiming yours is unfair. Also, try to gather figures showing that similar properties in your neighborhood have recently sold for less than your assessment figure. You may want to hire a local real estate broker to work with you in gathering data and preparing your argument.

My husband and I married a few years ago. He already owned (paid off) a home and I moved into this home with him. We have no intension of moving or selling. How can we get my name added to the deed on this home?

A. The process is simple, involving the signing and recording of a new deed. Any attorney can handle the paperwork for you.

Your advice column is quite timely as we are beginning to think about downsizing. We own a six-bedroom home, and with Pa at 84 and Ma at 77, it is appropriate to seriously start the process. Our problem is in coordinating sale and purchase to avoid owning two properties at the same time or needing to move out without having bought the replacement. Where do we start?

A. Your situation is common. About half of all homebuyers already own houses they will be selling. Real estate brokers, attorneys and other closing agents are used to dovetailing the sale and purchase so that things work out. Most times they do. Start by inviting over several different brokers who seem active in your neighborhood. You won't have any obligation and you'll receive valuable advice and information. At the same time, you can begin house hunting by visiting open houses in areas that interest you. Again, you won't have any obligation.

Then put your house on the market with an agent you feel confidence in. Your agent or agents - if you use a different one for your purchase - can help ensure that the contracts you sign aim for the same closing date. You can also make your offer on the next house contingent on the sale of your present one, though some sellers won't accept such offers. If nothing works out right, sometimes you can remain in your present home after closing for a short time on a rental basis. Or you can move into your next one early as a tenant.

My daughter needed to sell her home. When her neighbors learned the house would be for sale, they said they would like to buy it and an agreement was reached. But at the finalizing of the transaction, the neighbor's realty agent, with whom they had a contract to find them a new home, claimed a fee on the transaction. Since he had no part in the deal and was not even aware of it, is this proper?

A. If that was a written and signed "contract to find them a new home," the answer may lie there. The neighbors could have promised to pay their agent if they purchased property within a given period of time from a seller who wasn't paying commissions.

• Edith Lank will respond to questions sent to her at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester, N.Y. 14620 (please include a stamped return envelope), or readers may e-mail her at