DEAR BOB: In early October we listed our home for sale. Following your frequent advice, we interviewed three successful local realty agents, checked their references, and signed a 90-day listing with the agent we thought was best. We based the asking price on our agent’s comparative market analysis (CMA) form, as well as the CMAs the two other agents prepared. All the CMAs were within $12,000. At first, there was lots of activity, with a broker’s tour open house, Multiple Listing Service and newspaper advertising. But only four agents showed our house. Just one was from another brokerage. When we didn’t get any feedback from our listing agent, I phoned her only to learn she left on a two-week cruise without even telling us. When she got back, she said another agent in her office was “covering” for her. Then she asked for a $25,000 price reduction. As our listing expires soon, do you think we should extend our listing for another 90 days with the same agent? –Vernon R.

DEAR VERNON: As you probably know from reading my articles, November, December and January are the slowest home sales months in most communities.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Buyer demand for homes is seasonal. But well-marketed homes do sell, even in the “off-season.”

However, I am shocked your listing agent left on a two-week cruise without even informing you she was planning her cruise at the time she obtained your listing. That information might have influenced which listing agent you selected.

The home sales market is changing and slowing down in many communities. Part of this change is seasonal. An unknown factor is the effect of slowly rising mortgage interest rates.

Unless your current listing agent has some redeeming factor, from your description it appears she has not done a superb job to get you to renew her listing.

If I were in your situation, I would (1) be thankful I only signed a 90-day listing with a listing agent who wasn’t truthful; (2) take my house off the market for at least two weeks when the listing expires; and (3) re-interview those other two agents, and possibly interview several more successful agents.

Ask each agent, “In your opinion, why hasn’t my home sold?” You may be surprised at the answers. Perhaps the market has shifted and your home is overpriced.

More surprising to many home sellers is they learn their listing agent is disliked by other local agents or is known as a “difficult agent.”


DEAR BOB: Despite my best efforts to get my dad to prepare a will after he learned he had terminal cancer, he failed to do so. According to the attorney, all his assets went to his widow. There are four adult children. My elder brother, an attorney, then convinced our mother to add his name to her house title as a joint-tenant with right of survivorship. She is now “declining” and getting senile. When she dies, will our brother get the house (worth around $450,000) and we others get nothing? Mom has told us her will leaves everything to her four children equally –Jess C.

DEAR JESS: A written will has no effect on real estate held in joint-tenancy with right of survivorship. You and your siblings won’t receive any interest in that house.

If you can prove your attorney brother used “unreasonable influence” on your mother to transfer the title to her home into joint-tenancy with him, it might be possible to convince a court to “undo” that title transfer. However, you would need extremely strong evidence.

Perhaps your mother doesn’t realize her will leaving her assets equally to all four children will have no effect on the joint-tenancy house title she holds with your brother.

If she is capable of understanding, perhaps you and your siblings might want to have that conversation with her. For more details, please consult a local estate-planning attorney.


DEAR BOB: The home sales market in our town slowed down in the last few months. Our home was listed in late July. Finally, in September a purchase offer materialized. It provided for a 10 percent cash down payment, an 80 percent first mortgage, and we agreed to carry back a 10 percent second mortgage for five years. The sale closed on September 30. The buyer’s first payment on the second mortgage to us was due on Nov. 1, with a 15-day grace period. We have not received that payment. As we moved out of town, I can’t go over and knock on the door. What should we do? –Suzanna R.

DEAR SUZANNA: You have been very patient and need to contact your home buyers immediately. Perhaps they don’t have your new address, or another valid reason.

Tell them you need the payment immediately, preferably sent by overnight delivery. Don’t accept excuses.

Even the “big boy” major mortgage lenders have learned quick action impresses new borrowers with the urgency of making mortgage payments on time.

Unless you receive your payment within a few days after demand, it’s time to begin foreclosure. Depending on the location of the property, contact the title company or a local real estate attorney to file and record the appropriate documents to start foreclosure.  

Usually, starting foreclosure is all it takes to get your past and future mortgage payments paid on time. But your home buyer is off to a bad start, so take action quickly.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Foreclosure and Distress Property Profit Secrets,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet PDF delivery at Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center


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