DEAR BOB: How can I determine the market value of my house at the time my husband died in 1987? I am thinking of selling it and need the stepped-up basis, as I was the surviving joint tenant. Now I am 81 and would like to do the search myself and have the time to do it so I can save money –Ines A.

DEAR INES: I understand your desire to save a few dollars but determining your home’s “stepped-up basis” is not a job for an amateur. You need a documented professional appraisal by an appraiser who specializes in determining past market values.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

The professional appraiser will research 1987 sales prices of comparable homes like yours in your vicinity. He or she has access to this past information, which is not easily available to the public.

Your cost, perhaps $1,000 or so, will be a worthwhile expenditure after you consider your substantial sales profit and the capital gain tax that documentation will save you.

The best place to find a local appraiser who specializes in determining past market values is to go to the Internet Web site of the Appraisal Institute in Chicago. It is If you don’t have a computer, your local public library branch reference department will be glad to assist you at no charge.


DEAR BOB: I gave my daughter money for the down payment on a house, as her credit was bad. So the loan was made in my name, and my name is on the title with hers. Now we do not talk, but she is not paying her mortgage payments. The lender is calling me. I am a senior citizen with low monthly income and no savings so I can’t help her. I tried to call her but she didn’t return my call. Will I have to pay anything? What can I do? –Mary R.

DEAR MARY: The best thing you can do is urge your daughter to agree to sell the house so you both can salvage the equity and she can pay off the mortgage and repay you the money you gave her for the down payment.

As the old saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

If your daughter refuses to talk to you, the situation does not sound good. When the mortgage lender forecloses and if the house does not sell for the mortgage balance, the lender might come after you and your daughter for a deficiency judgment.

However, I suggest you let the lender know now you are a senior citizen struggling to get by and you don’t have assets to pay any deficiency. Ask for the lender’s help now. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.


DEAR BOB: In a recent article, you mentioned a senior citizen reverse mortgage can be used to buy a home. That sounds like a good deal. How can I learn more? –Rosemary VanD.

DEAR ROSEMARY: The only reverse mortgage lender with a program for senior citizen home buyers is Fannie Mae. You must be at least 62 and will need a substantial cash down payment, perhaps from the sale of your previous home. To find local Fannie Mae reverse mortgage lenders, go to

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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