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Seller concessions may help spark interest in a home
By Edith Lank | Columnist
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Published: 9/25/2010 11:05 PM

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Q. Is it better if I drop the listing price or offer buyer assistance? Either way, this is assuming I get the same amount of money at settlement.

A. I always advise dropping your price until it attracts offers. But the first job is to get prospects to come to your house. For that, offering "buyer assistance" (the appraisal term is "seller concessions") might work, as well. To be effective, it should be mentioned in the ads. For first-time buyers, stating that "seller may help with costs" would be more easily understood.

We just sold a house, and after numerous delays on the buyer's end for getting a mortgage, we finally closed. Without going into frustrating detail, I have a question. Who regulates the underwriters for residential real estate loans? It seems there are outrageous requirements from underwriters, and I just want to know if they're adhering to government rules. Or do they just make it up as they go along?

A. They're not making it up. Lenders are in business to lend money. They don't like being any harder on borrowers than they need to be.

In the past, some underwriters (the lenders' decision-makers) would cut corners on borrowers' qualifications, so they could make more loans. They'd then sell the mortgages to investors and wash their hands of them. That left a lot of homebuyers in over their heads, which accounts for much of the real estate mess some areas have had in the past few years.

Now - belatedly - the government is making requirements much stricter. Banks may now share some future losses on bad loans, even ones they've sold off. And they must enforce new borrower standards in the first place.

My siblings and I are selling a house that belongs to eight of us. One sibling does not want to give her Social Security number to the title company. The title company says this is a must. Is this correct?

A. Evidently, title companies handle closings in that area. The settlement agent is required to report the sale to the IRS, and that's why they need your sister's Social Security number.

In 1977, my husband and I bought our first home. It was owner-financed. When our marriage ended, my name was never taken off the mortgage. The couple that financed the home did submit in writing (and notarized) that I was no longer liable for payment.

Years later, I applied for a loan and discovered that the mortgage still appears on my credit report, even though my ex paid it years ago. The couple that financed that mortgage has since passed away, and my ex never received a "statement of satisfaction" or anything stating the mortgage was paid in full.

This mortgage debt appears on his credit report, as well. He is not one to keep any records, so I can be sure he never saved any receipts from any of the payments. What can we do to resolve this?

A. The law provides a fairly straightforward method for getting the records straightened out on that old paid-up mortgage. You or your ex can consult a lawyer who specializes in real estate. A simple court proceeding should take care of it.

My husband and I are planning to sell. Our home is 27 years old. It is a 1,500-square-foot ranch with a fully finished basement, 6-foot walls; new siding, roof, appliances, washer, dryer, furnace and air conditioning, and hot water heater. In other words, all the major mechanical things have been done.

We have a half acre, which is all flat and usable yard. The flooring is in good shape. We will give all the rooms a good coat of paint, and we have a Dumpster coming to declutter.

My husband wants to update all the doors and trim to oak before we market the house. Some of the interior bedroom doors have marks or a couple small holes in them. I feel this would be a big waste of our time and money. I also feel that whoever buys this house will want to do all the cosmetics themselves. Thoughts?

A. You've told me a lot about your house, but I have no idea of its price range or how it compares with its neighbors, what the doors look like, how much it would cost to do what your husband wants, and what buyers expect in your area.

Local real estate brokers will know all that. It won't cost anything to invite a few over and see what they advise. In the process, you may meet an agent with whom you'd feel comfortable listing the property in the future, but you'll be under no obligation to do so.

• 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 ehlank@aol.com.

2010, Creators Syndicate Inc.