A few weeks ago, a reader wrote in about his mature hedge, which enclosed a corner lot. Since he is getting on in years, he was considering replacing it with a stretch of low-maintenance plastic white fencing. He asked how doing so might affect the sale price.
Quite a few people sent advice, and not one of them wanted that hedge taken down. Some called it "irreplaceable." Now he has written in again.
About the Hedge
Hi, Edith: I appreciated all those thoughts on the hedge replacement. We will try and go with this natural property border.
Today I'm commenting on your other reader who wanted to leave his rental properties to his children. He was worried that they might not take to being landlords and would have to sell the units.
Please suggest that his children engage a Realtor to handle the rentals — find occupants, collect rent, etc. A Realtor would gladly provide those services, and the properties would generate a steady income for his children!
We have not personally hired a property manager. But I got the idea when my parents were renting their upstairs apartment in a big converted home. We found a nearby broker who would have been very handy, only taking a small percentage of the rent for his fee. My stepmother insisted on doing it all herself, so we were never sure she got the maximum rent possible, and she had to deal with the tenants and their problems, pets, etc. — G. N. R.
Answer: Professional property management is particularly valuable when the landlord doesn't live near the rental(s). But for just an upstairs apartment in one's own home, frankly, I'm not sure it would pay for itself.
Loan Is a Lien
Dear Edith: We're having trouble making our monthly payments right now. We can manage the mortgage, but if we were to put off payments on our equity loan, could they put a lien on our house? — R. D.
Answer: Your equity loan already is a lien. It's pretty much a second mortgage. You've already put up your home as security for that loan. It could be foreclosed, just as a first mortgage would be, so it's better to make those payments if you can.
Dear Edith: My father and I owned a house as joint tenants with right of survivorship. He died a few months ago and didn't leave a will. It's my understanding I will inherit his share of the house, but I don't have the deed. How do I prove the house should become mine? Do I have to see a lawyer? — L. R. M.
Answer: When someone dies, it's always wise to check with a lawyer, even if it's just to find out that nothing needs doing.
But if that deed says you are joint tenants, you automatically became the full owner when your father died.
If you want a copy of the deed, it's a simple matter to order one from your county's public records office. Get in touch with the clerk's office.
Ms. Lank: Every year, the mortgage bank notifies me that I have a small balance left in my escrow account. What happens to that balance? Why doesn't the bank send it to me? — T.
Answer: Yes, that's your own money. The lender likes to know that your property taxes are kept up to date and your homeowners insurance premiums are paid promptly. It collects extra funds along with your monthly mortgage payments and holds the money in your escrow account. As the bills come due, it pays them for you.
Whatever is left in that escrow account remains there to be put toward next year's bills.
When your mortgage is eventually paid off, you'll take over making your own tax and insurance payments. The bank will no longer need that escrow account, and whatever money remains in there will be returned to you.
Dear Edith: When my son divorced recently, he signed over the house to his ex-wife. He is buying another house, and the mortgage company says he's still responsible for the mortgage on the first house. This seems wrong. Could you explain? — S.
Answer: The lender doesn't care who owns the house. Your son once signed a document agreeing to be personally responsible for that loan, and he still is.
The same situation applies to people who agree to co-sign for someone else's loan. Only the lender can release them from the promise to be responsible for the debt — the whole debt, by the way.
Contact Edith Lank at www.askedith.com, at [email protected] or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.