Dear Edith: Before getting a real estate agent, we are going to try putting the house up for sale ourselves in the spring. It would help if you could give us some guidelines about how much to ask. Thanks in advance. — G. S. O.
Answer: Let's start with factors to ignore:
—Your original cost. Suppose you received the house as a gift. Must you then give it away?
—Your investment in improvements. You put in that purple kitchen because you enjoyed it, but you're not likely to find a buyer who thinks that makes it worth $25,000 more. Certain viewers may even calculate the cost of tearing it out and replacing it with something in aquamarine.
—Reproduction cost. That figure is usually used for property insurance, but it's of little value except for a newly built house.
—Assessed value. No matter how often tax assessments are reviewed to keep them in line with market value, they're seldom a dependable guide.
—Your needs. Your problems are not the buyer's concern.
—Emotion. You cannot charge for sentiment, for the fact that your daughter took her first steps on the patio and your son had a clubhouse behind the garage. Emotions can lead to serious mistakes — in the case of divorce, for example. If one party is impatient to leave town and the other isn't getting the proceeds anyhow, a buyer may walk off with a bargain.
So what counts?
Mostly competition. Start visiting nearby brokers' open houses to see what else is available and how these comps compare with your property. Search the internet, and study the market. If you were a buyer, would your asking price attract you before you had even seen your home?
If you might use an agent eventually, it's perfectly all right to ask for free advice beforehand. Just be up front about it.
Ms. Lank: I just read in your column about a reader's similar troubles with timeshares. My parents purchased one in Orlando 30 years ago during a visit but live up north. They rarely used it.
My father was ripped off twice giving a caller money to sell the timeshare. He also stopped paying the yearly maintenance fees but got letters threatening to sue, and penalty fees were tacked on.
My mother has since died of Alzheimer's, and soon after, my father was diagnosed with cancer and STILL had this monkey on his back.
I was visiting last week when the timeshare company called to see if he was going to use his reserved week. I took the call, since his hearing is all but gone. I was transferred to another department. The company has started a buyback program for if you meet certain criteria, one of which is being paid up, which he finally did after getting scared.
We hope all this will no longer be hanging over his head. He is 89 years old and doesn't deserve it. People need to be very aware before stepping into timeshare purchases. — askedith.com
Answer: Thanks for sharing. This column doesn't hear from those who are enjoying their timeshare ownership. For owners looking to get rid of the obligation, the one sure piece of advice is never to pay anyone in advance to "market" the timeshare.
Useful information is available on the Timeshare Users Group website, Tug2.net.
Dear Edith: My question has to do with the legal ramifications regarding my neighbor's property line and mine. The lines are marked by a small cut in the curb that was made during construction in the mid-'80s. That was a long time before either of us came to own our homes.
My neighbor has landscape and a wall that is a clear foot and a half past his property line into mine. This prevents me from moving a vehicle into my backyard. My neighbor does not dispute my claim.
How might this best be settled? Who would pay? What type of legal counsel would I need? — B.
Answer: In some older neighborhoods, adding up the supposed frontage of all the house lots yields a figure higher than the length of the city block. Surveyors' advice, I was told years ago, is "you might as well just get along with your neighbors."
I don't know if a survey was involved when you bought your home, and I don't know if it makes any difference that the situation has been accepted for such a long time.
If you do want to take action, consult a lawyer. If you don't have your own attorney, call a local firm and ask who handles its real estate matters.
Contact Edith Lank at www.askedith.com, at [email protected] or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.