DEAR BOB: In a recent article you said, “Now you know why I never recommend negative-amortization adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs).” Does that mean you changed your advice? I recall your many articles recommended the COFI (cost of funds index) ARMs, which have negative amortization. –Tom C.

DEAR TOM: ARMs that use the COFI do not always have negative amortization where the borrower’s monthly payment increases slower than the interest index increases. The result can be the unpaid interest is added to the mortgage balance, thus creating negative amortization.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

I have never recommended negative amortization ARMs. Personally, I have had several COFI adjustable-rate mortgages that didn’t have negative amortization.

The key question to ask is how often the ARM monthly payment and the index change. If the index rate can change faster than the borrower’s monthly payment changes, then negative amortization results, thus increasing the mortgage balance by the unpaid interest amount.

I have not changed my viewpoint. I do not recommend negative amortization ARMs, which can be a very bad deal, especially when the home buyer made a low- or zero-cash down payment.

CAN THREE OWNERS EACH QUALIFY FOR $250,000 HOME-SALE TAX BREAK?

DEAR BOB: I read in your column that two principal residence co-owners (who are not spouses) can each qualify for up to $250,000 of tax-free sales profits under Internal Revenue Code 121. Can three owners of one house qualify? Would $250,000 be available to each co-owner, or is $500,000 the maximum exemption per home sale? Is there any limit to the number of co-owners who can qualify for this tax exemption? –John S.

DEAR JOHN: There is no limit in Internal Revenue Code 121 to the number of $250,000 principal residence sale exemptions if each co-owner qualifies.

However, when the co-owners are not husband and wife, then all their names must be on the title at least 24 of the 60 months before the sale and the property must be the principal residence of each owner for the required 24 of the last 60 months before sale.

An example would be three sisters who own and occupy their principal residence for the required minimum time before selling, thus qualifying for up to $750,000 tax-free sales profits. For further details, please consult your tax adviser.

DON’T GET A REVERSE MORTGAGE UNLESS YOU EXPECT TO LIVE IN THE HOME AT LEAST FIVE YEARS

DEAR BOB: I am way over 65 and live in my condo that is worth around $300,000. The life expectancy of males in my family is only 50 years. I am considering a senior citizen reverse mortgage, or I might sell my condo and invest the sales proceeds. Which option do you feel is best for me? –Wally D.

DEAR WALLY: If you are in reasonably good health for your age, and expect to remain in your home for at least five years, I suggest you seriously consider the benefits of a reverse mortgage.

The reason you should plan to stay in your home at least five years is to amortize the reverse mortgage up-front loan fees. To illustrate, if you are in poor health with a life expectancy of two years, a reverse mortgage would not be a smart decision.

More details are in my special report, “The Whole Truth About Reverse Mortgages for Senior Citizen Homeowners,” 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 www.BobBruss.com. 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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