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Editor’s note: Robert Bruss is temporarily away. The following column from Bruss’ “Best of” collection first appeared Sunday, May 7, 2006.

DEAR BOB: As a real estate broker for 17 years, I especially enjoyed that recent letter from a home seller who was unhappy about her four-month listing with a “bad agent.” You gave an excellent answer, explaining what constitutes “due diligence” and suggesting the seller meet with the brokerage’s manager to perhaps transfer the listing to another agent. However, my question is, who judges due diligence by a real estate agent? Some home sellers will never be satisfied, especially in the current slowing market in most areas, no matter how hard the listing agent works. –Evan R.

DEAR EVAN: Great question. Unless the listing dispute winds up in court for a judge or jury to decide if there was lack of due diligence by the listing agent, it is up to the home seller to decide if he or she is satisfied with the listing agent’s performance.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Having been a real estate broker for 39 years, I recall only a few home sellers who were unhappy with my listing agent services. The most frequent complaint was, “You don’t advertise my house enough.” The reason was the house was usually overpriced, based on comparable nearby recent sales prices.

However, there is another side to the story. As a typical listing agent, I often took overpriced listings where the seller insisted listing at a price I knew was too high. I always said, “Let’s give it a good try for 30 days, but if we don’t receive any purchase offers then let’s agree to reduce the asking price.” That method usually worked.

Nobody can say for sure what is due diligence. But any agent who takes a listing, puts it into the local multiple listing service (MLS) and does nothing else to get that listing sold is showing lack of due diligence. Unfortunately, such agent conduct occasionally occurs, especially when the listing agent expects a buyer’s agent to see the MLS listing and produce a buyer without further effort by the listing agent.

CAN HOMEOWNER TRANSFER TITLE WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY?

DEAR BOB: I want to deed my house to my sister but keep the mortgage with my current lender. Can I do the deed transfer, record it, and keep the current lender, without an attorney? My sister will continue paying off the mortgage instead of getting a new mortgage, which will cost more money. –Lien N.

DEAR LIEN: Yes, you can transfer title to your sister by executing a quitclaim deed and recording it with the county recorder of deeds. However, your sister won’t have the benefit of an owner’s title insurance policy to be certain she receives marketable title.

Your name will always be on that mortgage until your sister refinances, pays it off, or sells the property. She is buying “subject to” your mortgage and should be aware the lender might enforce the due-on-sale clause and call the balance due in full.

If that happens, she can usually either pay an assumption fee, typically 1 percent of the mortgage balance, or refinance with another lender. However, that is highly unlikely if she makes the monthly payments on time.

She should notify the insurance agent to add her name to the homeowner’s insurance policy as an additional insured, just in case the house burns down or there is a liability claim. For more details, she should consult a local real estate attorney.

NO WAY TO GET HOUSE TITLE BACK AFTER GIVING IT AWAY

DEAR BOB: A friend lives in a home where her son holds title. But he is delinquent on the mortgage payments and foreclosure is pending. What recourse does the mother have? She quitclaimed the title to her son when she was disabled. Now the son won’t give the title back. –Art D.

DEAR ART: Unfortunately, your friend’s situation happens far too often. Her obvious big mistake was deeding the title to her son while she was disabled.

A far better alternative, if she thought she was going to soon die, would be to create a revocable living trust, naming her son to receive title after she died. The primary advantage is to avoid probate costs and delays, with a secondary advantage of management of her assets if she is unable to do so.

At this point, there is nothing the mom can do to force the ungrateful son to deed the title back so she can cure the foreclosure default. She should consult a local real estate attorney.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Pros and Cons of Fast and Slow House Flipping for Big Profits,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, Calif., 94010, or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet delivery at www.BobBruss.com. Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

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