Question (AL): If your house doesn't sell and it's near the time to close on another home, would you recommend contacting the We Buy Houses companies?

These companies state that they will pay at least fair market value for your home and can close in as little as 3 days. Are these companies reputable? Do they do appraisals on these homes to ensure the seller is possibly getting above fair market value?

It appears to be a good idea when you are stuck with a house that won't sell and you're trying to avoid paying for two mortgages. Hopefully, we can at least get paid for some of the equity we have in the home. Please advise!

Answer: To determine if a particular company is reputable and operates within guidelines that the average consumer expects, we suggest you enter that company's name in the local Better Business Bureau database and seek a report on it (or them). You might also want to enter that company's complete name in your favorite Internet Search Engine (such as Google, DogPile, Yahoo, etc.) to see what the Internet Community may say about the company.

However, it stands to reason that the companies that buy houses are not going to pay fair market value for them because they would not be able to re-sell them for a profit. Such companies are in business to make a profit and the more squeezed or otherwise pressured a homeowner is into making a decision the better such a company likes it because the homeowner is desperate to make the deal. Such homeowners are usually more desperate than you appear to be as they are trying to avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy.

Question (CA): I have recently purchased a house. After COE, I asked the listing agent to remove data about the property (such as photos, virtual tours, specific details, etc.) from his website to protect the privacy of my family. The agent's response was basically saying "No, I have the right to do so." As the new owner of the property, do I have any say in this? I'm very concerned as I felt that my privacy was totally violated. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Answer: The Listing Agent's rights to continue displaying the attributes of your home are essentially governed by the rules of the MLS to which that agent (or his Broker) subscribes. Such rules are contractual and can extend beyond Close of Escrow ("COE").

We suggest that you conduct a consumer inquiry as to the Rules of that specific MLS regarding your question. However, even MLS Rules must comply with California and federal laws regarding personal, private, confidential information, so an update as to what information regarding your home falls within that category at both the state and federal levels could very well also answer your question.

Question (MD): As a mortgage originator, is it legal in the state of Maryland to compensate your family members for referrals? These are family members who are not in the business of real estate, title, or appraisal.

Answer: As a Maryland mortgage originator, you are required to comply with not only Maryland Statutes (click here) but also, primarily, federal RESPA statutes (Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act). It is an alleged violation of RESPA to pay or receive a referral fee (defined as "anything of value") to or from anyone (family member or not) in a "federally related mortgage loan'' in which the person being paid the referral fee did not legally perform a defined service (click here) to the consumer.

The bottom line here is: Hire a Maryland-licensed attorney familiar with the fairly recently enacted Maryland Statutes as well as RESPA to advise you.

Question (NJ): We live in New Jersey and are thinking about Texas when we retire in a few years. In New Jersey, when a person reaches retirement age, we are able to freeze our property tax. Is this a practice in Texas?

Answer: There is a State requirement that Texas appraisal districts provide an over-65 (usually considered to be "retirement age") exemption provided the taxpayer has notified the appraisal district in which his or her property is located. John H. Carney & Associates, a Texas licensed law firm in Dallas, states the following on its website:

Fulfill your responsibilities:

  • You must apply timely for general, over-65, disabled or any local-option homestead exemptions with the appraisal district where your property is located. If your property is located in a taxing unit that overlaps into two or more counties, you must apply to each county appraisal district.
  • You must apply for other exemptions, agricultural appraisal and other forms of tax relief before the deadlines set by law.
  • You must report, or render, taxable business personal property to your appraisal district. In doing so, you may give your opinion of the property's value.
  • You must ensure that your property is listed correctly on local tax records, with your correct name, current address and property description.
  • You must pay your taxes on time. You may not withhold payment or attempt to pay taxes into a special account to protest your assigned value, tax rates or the budget of a taxing unit.

For a more comprehensive answer we recommend you access the State of Texas publication entitled "Taxpayers Rights, Remedies and Responsibilities".

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