DEAR BOB: In early January I plan to put my house on the market for sale. I have already signed the 90-day listing with the Realtor. She wants to hold a Sunday open house every other week; sometimes she will attend and other times her licensed assistant will attend. During the process of interviewing several Realtors to get my listing, most said open houses rarely sell homes. What is your opinion? Should I agree to open houses every other week until my home sells? –Janice C.
DEAR JANICE: Yes. Congratulations on waiting to put your home on the market for sale until early January, after the holiday season. After the year-end home sales lull, sales volume picks up in January and February when more buyers come into the market.
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As for weekend open houses, most experienced realty agents will tell you they rarely sell the house being held open. But listing agents love open houses because most of the visitors are curious neighbors, a few of whom will want to list their homes for sale with the listing agent if the home sells within a month or two.
Another reason listing agents love open houses is their newspaper and Internet ads attract prospective buyers who might not like the house but the listing agent then can sell them another house.
I forget who said, “Any publicity is good publicity.” But it applies to your weekend open houses. Sure, it’s a pain to get your house into tip-top shape and leave home for a few hours. On the other hand, personally, I’ve bought at least a half-dozen investment rental houses I spotted at Sunday afternoon open houses.
Of course, be sure to remove your valuables, and clean out your medicine cabinet because open house “Lookie-Lous” are notorious snoopers.
WHY LIFE ESTATES ARE NOT RECOMMENDED
DEAR BOB: My brother (an excellent high school teacher who doesn’t earn much income) and his wife rent a condo from me at a below-market rent. In my will, I leave the condo to him (but not his nasty wife). Is there anything I can do to prevent his wife from inheriting the condo after my brother dies? –Jess R.
DEAR JESS: You could specify in your will that your brother shall inherit the condo for his lifetime only. Then you would need to specify who is to be the remainderman to receive clear title after your brother dies, such as another individual or a charity.
However, I don’t recommend life estates. Too many problems can arise. For example, a life estate effectively ties your brother to the condo. If he moves out, depending on the wording in your will, his life estate could terminate. Or, he could rent the condo to tenants. For further details, please consult an estate-planning attorney.
CAN CO-INHERITOR FORCE OTHER CO-INHERITOR INTO A BUY-OUT?
DEAR BOB: My sister and I inherited a small apartment building from our father. I would like to sell it because I have no interest in managing what you call “tenants and toilets.” But my sister thinks we should hold on for five years or longer because prices are rising. Is there any way I can either force my sister to agree to a sale or to buy me out? –Jessica W.
DEAR JESSICA: You can’t force your sister to buy you out. But you can “encourage” her.
Presuming you have attempted a reasonable discussion with your sister, and she absolutely refuses to do anything, your next recourse is to sue her in a partition lawsuit to force the sale of the property. You will need to hire a local real estate attorney where the property is located. Filing the partition lawsuit will show your sister you mean business.
The judge of a partition lawsuit will usually order the property sold with the sales proceeds divided between the co-owners.
If you inform your sister you plan to file a partition lawsuit, perhaps that will be enough for her to agree to buy you out. For full details, please consult a local real estate attorney.
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 www.bobbruss.com. Questions for this column are welcome at either address.
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