Dear Edith: My wife and I are approaching our 80s and thinking about selling our cottage. It is on the water at the Eastern end of Lake Ontario. In 1992, we bought and cleared the lot. We had a shell put up. Over the years, we made improvements to the shell. At this point, all of our children have moved away.
Here are our questions:
—Do we contact a Realtor where the cottage is located, or one who's close to where we live?
—Do we rely on the Realtor to be fair and honest and on our side, or do we acquire a lawyer? And if so, what kind of lawyer?
—What percent do Realtors charge, and how long do contracts run?
—Since we are leaving most of the items with the cottage, should we be aware of any other concerns? — A. and J. S.
Answer: My husband was a real estate broker, and so was my brother-in-law. But when it came time to sell our mother's lakeside home, my sister and I put the property in the hands of a real estate broker out there. You'll find, I think, that a broker closer to your cottage is the best person to know buyers interested in a local lakeside property.
You can assume that active brokers are as fair and honest as lawyers. If they weren't, I don't think they'd last too long in business. Realtors — who choose to join a private organization — are bound by a code of ethics in addition to their license.
In New York, the custom is that closings, or the final transfer of title, are handled by lawyers, so you'll want an attorney in any event. Again, I'd suggest contacting one who practices in the county where your cottage is located. It needn't be a specialist. You could always ask a bank out there what law firm handles its real estate matters.
Real estate commissions are determined by agreement between seller and broker. There are no legal regulations. You'll probably find, though, that most local brokerages charge about the same. As for length of contract, that can vary depending on what suits you.
A furnished house is often more difficult to sell than an empty one, but perhaps it could be different with a vacation cottage. Your agent can give you advice. If your eventual buyers need to apply for a mortgage loan, understand that banks won't take personal property into account when they judge how much it's safe to lend on the real estate.
Read any ads you can find to see what will be in competition with your property and which brokers are active in the area. Don't hesitate to call at least three firms. Ask them to send someone over to look at the place and advise you. It won't cost anything; you'll learn a lot; and you won't be obligated until you sign something.
Brokers or salespersons who come over should have done some homework — looking up your property taxes, researching recent sales in the area and analyzing competing properties. They will brag about their sales records, but they'll also have useful advice on any needed fix-up, a possible sale price and the like.
Don't hesitate to pick their brain. With any luck, you'll find one who feels just right for the way you like to do business. Then it's time to sign a listing contract. But first, if that firm area does not belong to a multiple listing system, an important question is "Will you cooperate with other real estate firms if they want to bring over their buyers?" You'd like to hear a yes.
Good luck to you!
Dear Ms. Lank: I am presently incarcerated. My release date is coming up. I filed bankruptcy in January two years ago. What are my chances of obtaining an FHA mortgage for a log home? The charge for which I am doing this time is third-degree grand larceny (writing bad checks). My last 18 months will be done on street parole.
How do you feel about registered mortgage brokers? Are they worth looking into? I am not a veteran, and I have never worked for the U.S. government. How do I go about this? A reply before my release date will be greatly appreciated and considered wisely. — X. X.
Answer: I do answer all letters, and I certainly wished X.X. good luck with his new life. Buyers with problems sometimes do well consulting mortgage brokers, but for this one, I didn't hold out a lot of hope.
Contact Edith Lank at www.askedith.com, at [email protected] or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.
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