Hello, Edith: My sister purchased a home nearly 25 years ago, and her partner has lived with her the entire time, sharing expenses. It recently occurred to her that she should put her partner's name on the deed, as she isn't getting any younger. She saw an attorney who told her that it was not possible since she and her partner are not related and only related people can co-own a home. That makes no sense to me. I think she should see another attorney. What is your advice? — D. C.
Answer: It's hard to believe any lawyer would say co-ownership by unrelated persons is impossible. Your sister must have misunderstood. Lots of unrelated persons own real estate together.
Married couples do have special ownership arrangements, which vary somewhat from one state to another. In most cases, the survivor would inherit automatically if a spouse were to die. Your sister and her partner could choose how the deed would be worded and make the same arrangement — with the survivor inheriting automatically — if they wish.
Before starting with another lawyer, I'd suggest your sister discuss this again with the original attorney. There has definitely been some misunderstanding.
What Are Points?
Hello, Ms. Lank: I live in a condo and am not looking to buy a house at the moment. Nevertheless, I keep wondering what "points" are. When I moved from one place to another about six years ago, "points" were included in the transaction. I objected to paying commission on "points" and wondered why the "true price" wasn't the basis of the negotiation. I got my way but wondered whether I was taking money out of the pocket of my agent, who I like very much.
I look forward to enlightenment. — D. J.
Answer: There are several different uses of the word "point." With real estate, it usually means 1 percent of a mortgage loan being placed. Unlike regular interest, it's paid to the lender only once — typically at the time the mortgage is placed. It's a relatively small amount, and it doesn't cost you anywhere as much as an additional 1 percent of interest would over the years.
Particularly at a time when rates are changing frequently, points may be charged to cover minor adjustments in the cost of your loan.
You were quite right in refusing to pay commission on that extra charge. It was part of your financing arrangement and did not represent any service from your agent.
Vacant Vacation Land
Dear Edith: In the late '60s, my husband and I bought a half-acre of land in another state, one of those "come have a free dinner and listen to a land sales pitch" situations.
After 30 years, the land has not experienced the wonderful things they promised. We have paid taxes, assessments, etc.
I am 80 years old; my husband has been dead for nine years; and I no longer want the land. They tell me it is not saleable, so I am willing to get rid of it any way I can. I have kept the taxes up but am several hundred dollars behind on assessment fees.
Can I just stop paying taxes and let the state take it? The association says it won't take the land back and it will get a lawyer to force payment and I will have to pay the assessment plus interest plus their lawyer fees. Is there any way out of this? — K. F. D
Answer: I've always advised beginning real estate investors to steer clear of vacant land. It produces no income and requires yearly expenses, and even seasoned investors sometimes make mistakes in predicting future development.
If you just stop paying the taxes, sooner or later the land will be taken by the local authorities, and that should be the end of that.
I've never come right out and said this in print before, but I'm in my 90s now and what can they do to me? As the land is in another state, and taking your age into account, I'd say just forget about the rest of it. I can't see the association really going to court over a few hundred dollars. Even if it were to get a judgment, it'd be in another state, and it probably wouldn't pay the association to do anything more with it.
If I were you, I wouldn't worry about this at all. Just stop paying the taxes.
Contact Edith Lank at www.askedith.com, at [email protected] or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.