DEAR BOB: My wife and I want to buy our first home, as she is expecting in about six months. However, the area where we want to buy is in a “buyer’s market” with lots of homes for sale. We notice many “price reduced” hangers on the for-sale signs, so we are in no hurry to buy. The block where we almost bought a house last weekend has three houses listed for sale out of 20 houses on the block. How can we avoid paying too much? –Ned W.

DEAR NED: Before you make a written purchase offer, ask your buyer’s agent to prepare a written comparative market analysis, or CMA. This is the same form that listing agents prepare for their sellers at the time a home is listed for sale.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

A CMA shows recent sales (not asking) prices of nearby comparable homes, current asking prices of similar neighborhood homes, and the asking prices of recently expired comparable listings.

Then you and your buyer’s agent can make value adjustments for the pros and cons of each house, compared to the house you want to buy, so you can arrive at an intelligent purchase offer price.

In a buyer’s market, it is better to make a purchase offer on the low side than to offer too much. You can always come up in your offer price, but you can never come down.

Be sure your purchase offer contains contingency clauses for (a) a satisfactory lender’s appraisal of the house and (b) your approval of a professional home inspector’s report.

After the seller accepts your purchase offer, be certain you accompany your inspector to discuss any home defects he discovers, which could result in a price renegotiation.

DOES HOME BUYER HAVE RECOURSE FOR NON-PERMIT WORK?

DEAR BOB: We recently bought our first home. In the process of remodeling, we discovered the seller took out several building permits but never obtained final permit inspections. Shouldn’t the seller have disclosed this to us? If we have to tear out some of his unpermitted work to get the building inspector’s approval, do we have any recourse against the seller? –Stephanie T.

DEAR STEPHANIE: As part of the home-sale disclosure procedure, sellers are required to disclose any work they know of that was done without required building permits. This includes work for which a final inspection was not obtained.

If you incur extensive costs to obtain building inspection approval for the non-permit work that was undisclosed, you might want to take your seller to court. Please consult a local real estate attorney for details.

OWNER’S TITLE INSURANCE ALSO PROTECTS HEIRS

DEAR BOB: About a year ago, I inherited my mother’s house, which I now rent to tenants. A neighbor is claiming a driveway easement over part of the rear of the large lot. As far as I can determine, the lot doesn’t have any easements except for public utilities such as power, water and sewer. The neighbor says she used this easement for many years while my mother was alive. This is news to me. Do I have any recourse to stop the neighbor’s use of that driveway? –Nathan R.

DEAR NATHAN: If your mother obtained an owner’s title insurance policy at the time of her purchase, that owner’s title policy also insures you as the heir. Check with the title insurer to see if there was any evidence of a driveway easement in either your mother’s deed or the deed of the adjoining property.

If use of the driveway easement was with your late mother’s permission, then the neighbor has no legal right to continue using it if you revoke that permissive use. However, if use of the driveway easement was nonpermissive but “open, notorious, hostile and continuous” for the number of years required by state law, then the neighbor might have established a prescriptive easement. For details, please consult a local real estate attorney.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Five Easy Ways to Buy Your Home and Investment Property for Nothing Down,” 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 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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