Editor’s note: Robert Bruss passed away on Sept. 26, 2007. This was one of the last real estate columns he wrote. Inman News is publishing Bob’s last work as a final salute to the nation’s most well-known real estate writer.

DEAR BOB: I am in the process of buying a new house in a development where the base price on the same model as mine has dropped. Am I entitled to have my contract with the builder redone so I can buy at the new lower base price? The house I am buying has not yet been completed. –Makeise F.

DEAR MAKEISE: You are not automatically entitled to any price reduction, but you can beg and plead with the home builder. Smart home builders will reduce their sales price rather than lose a serious buyer like you.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

If the builder won’t reduce your base price to be competitive, talk with a local real estate attorney about canceling your purchase contract and getting your deposit refunded.

CAN CONDO OWNER FORCE UPSTAIRS NEIGHBOR TO PAY FOR REPAIRS?

DEAR BOB: I own and live on the ground floor of a three-story condominium complex. The unit above me has caused major water damage to my unit because of the owner’s and tenant’s negligence. This has happened three times in the past eight years. After each incident, the owner has either refused to pay to fix my unit, or he has argued about the costs of repair. Do I have any legal recourse to force him to prevent further water damage to my unit? –Cherie M.

DEAR CHERIE: I’m not sure what the upstairs owner can do other than to be more careful in the future.

If you have a condominium owner’s insurance policy, as you should have, submit your most recent claim to your insurance company. Most policies require submitting claims within 60 days after the insured becomes aware of insured damage.

If you don’t have an insurance policy, you can take the upstairs neighbor to the local small claims court to resolve your dispute. However, if the repair bills exceed the jurisdiction limit of the small claims court then you can sue the neighbor in the appropriate trial court. For details, please consult a local real estate attorney.

STRAIGHTEN OUT TITLE PROBLEM BEFORE SOMEBODY DIES

DEAR BOB: Some years ago, before our marriage, my wife entered into a verbal agreement with her stepfather. He purchased her home for about 60 percent of market value and agreed to pay the mortgage. He rents the house and keeps the rental income. My wife pays the property taxes and insurance. He tells her the house will become hers after the death of her parents, but he doesn’t have a will. The house is titled in his name, his wife’s name and my wife’s name. If something happens to him, would his wife become a two-thirds owner of the house? We don’t know exactly how the house is titled, but we are apprehensive. –Mark G.

DEAR MARK: If title to a property is held by the three co-owners as joint tenants with right of survivorship, then the last surviving joint tenant will eventually own the entire property.

However, if title is held by the three owners as tenants in common, then each co-owner owns a share of the property, which can be passed on by his or her will. If a co-owner dies without a will, then the local probate court will distribute the deceased co-owner’s share according to the state law of intestate succession.

You should get a copy of the recorded deed to the house so your wife can be certain how the title is held. This would be a good time for the three co-owners to get together to discuss the consequences of the way title is held. For full details, please consult a local real estate attorney.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “17 No-Down-Payment Formulas for a Buyer’s Market,” 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
).

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