DEAR BOB: Love your weekly articles, as I have learned so much from them about real estate. But I have a title problem with my home. My wife died almost two years ago. Since then, I have been trying to clear the title to our home into my name alone. But the local recorder of deeds refuses to accept my evidence of her passing, including a certified copy of her death certificate and an affidavit of my survivorship. I am told only the Probate Court can clear my title. Is this true? –Clarence B.

DEAR CLARENCE: The exact legal answer depends on how you and your late wife held title to your home.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

If you both held title as joint tenants with right of survivorship, as an attorney my experience has been all that is required to clear the title after a joint tenant passes on is a certified copy of the death certificate and an affidavit of survivorship by the remaining joint tenant.

Perhaps you and your late wife held title by another method, such as tenants-in-common. If that is the situation, then title must usually be transferred by the local Probate Court according to the terms of the deceased’s will. If no will was left, then the state law of intestate succession applies. For full details, please consult a local real estate or probate attorney.


DEAR BOB: What is the appropriate level of real estate sales commission for an expensive home, say, over $1 million? As you know, money managers and stockbrokers reduce their commissions for large accounts and transactions. It seems that a 6 percent sales commission of $60,000 on a $1 million home sale is excessive in regard to the listing agent’s sales effort and expenses. Will Realtors negotiate commissions for expensive homes? –Gary A.

DEAR GARY: All real estate sales commissions are negotiable between the seller and the listing agent. Realtors frequently negotiate reduced sales commissions for expensive homes.

For example, in the county where I live, the top sales agent advertises a 3.68 percent sales commission for expensive homes.

But the big drawback for home sellers of negotiating a reduced sales commission is other multiple listing service (MLS) member buyer’s agents won’t show homes with low sales commissions if comparable homes are listed with higher sales commissions.

In today’s very competitive home sales market, a greatly reduced commission rate can hurt a home’s chances of selling.

To illustrate, I just returned from a trip to the Midwest where, in many communities, the home sales market is a bit slow. One agent told me he gets “action” on his listings by getting his sellers to agree to a 7 percent sales commission although the local “going rate” is 6 percent. As a result, buyer’s agents show his listings first.


DEAR BOB: About 12 years ago, my mother died without a will. Among her assets was a land parcel now worth around $100,000. I have been paying the property taxes, but I am getting tired of doing so. My brother and I were the only children. He died two years ago. How can I sell this land? –Georgia H.

DEAR GEORGIA: You can’t sell it until you clear the title of your late brother’s name. Because your mother died without a will, the land passed according to the state law of intestate succession.

That means the title can only be distributed by the local Probate Court. Please consult a local probate attorney in the county where the land is located.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “How to Obtain the Best Appraisal of Your House or Condo,” 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 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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