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Question: About five years ago I contacted a neighbor whose tree was obstructing our view. Though I offered to pay for its removal, she declined my offer, and I respectfully let it go. She was elderly, and when she died I respectfully contacted her daughter and again asked that the tree be cut down. The daughter said that she would sell the house and it would be up to the new owners. The house has been on the market for quite awhile now, and there are more trees of considerable size that really should be removed. Other neighbors who also have obstructed views have contacted me and asked me to please find a solution. We all know that our property values are being adversely affected by this problem. What can we do?

Answer: Was the offending tree in place when you bought the property? If so, you knew it was there.

Your neighbor may feel that the value of her property would plunge and her privacy would be reduced if she removed the trees, thus her reluctance to trim and chop.

At least the daughter has offered a possible resolution to the problem: Welcome the new buyers with gusto and an axe ... perhaps they will be more open to your trimming suggestions.

Question: I'm a first-time home buyer going through the typical routine of looking at open houses to find a broker to represent me. I've met several and two invited me to have them show me properties on the weekends, to which I agreed. During the past three weekends I have looked at houses (two weekends with one agent, one with the other).

Due to the current market conditions and news of the softening market, I'm not in a rush and feel confident that the longer I wait, the better the inventory, the stronger my negotiating power, and the lower the prices. And honestly, out of the nine units I've seen with these two brokers, none impresses me head over heels. Some were nice though.

We were looking forward to dealing with one of the agents, but unfortunately both agents appear more interested in making a sale instead of giving us good feedback, and that disturbed me as I feel they're pressuring us into making an offer.

As a buyer, I'm looking for some good feedback and suggestions (not opinions) from an agent's experience and all I usually get is silence aside from the "that's a perfect place and location."

Yes, I know in the end it's my decision, caveat emptor, but it would be nice if "your" agent is on "your side." Is there a better way of finding a broker who also provides good advice or just face the fact I'll be going though a lengthy trial and error process with brokers?

Answer: Your situation will not work. I don't know how anyone can separate "feedback" from "opinions." Apparently neither broker has a buyer brokerage agreement with you (otherwise you would not need to be looking for a broker), thus they may not, in fact, be your agents. This might explain their reticence to comment.

Before you look for a broker why not first identify the particular neighborhoods that you find most attractive and the type of home you want in terms of cost, style, bedrooms, baths, features, etc. Make a point of checking online listings each day to get more familiar with local properties. Once your search has narrowed, then get a local broker to represent you.

Question: I recently had a closing. After going over the HUD statement I discovered that the title company had only calculated the ad valorem taxes and not the non-ad valorem assessments, an error of more than $300.

They get paid to do this, I should not have to do it. What should I do?

Answer: People make mistakes. It's not a big deal. Call the closing agent, tell them what you found and offer to send a check. They'll review the HUD-1 to see if you're right and, if so, they'll get it straight. If there is interest or a penalty for a late tax payment that should be their responsibility.

Question: If there was a missed fee after the HUD-1 was signed, am I still liable?

Answer: Yes. Same as above. People make mistakes. Among the 9,000 documents you signed at closing was a statement which said if there were closing errors you would help the settlement agent get them straight.

If a fee was calculated incorrectly that does not mean the money is no longer owed, it simply means the account needs to be adjusted. It's like the clerk at a store who gives too much change: You return the overage because that's fair.

Question: We're concerned about a maximum loan origination fee being charged to our client.

This senior is being charged 2 percent of $365,000 for a loan origination fee. I understand that this loan origination fee may be negotiable. However, we were under the impression that the maximum that could be charged for loan origination fee is $2,000.00 or 2 percent of the loan, whichever is smaller.

Answer: Is this a HUD reverse mortgage (called in HUDese a "home equity conversion mortgage" or "HEMC") or a reverse mortgage originated by a private lender outside HUD?

With regard to the HUD program, the department says:

"Two mortgage insurance premiums are collected to pay for HECM: an up front premium (2 percent of the home's value), which can be financed by the lender, and a monthly premium (which equals 0.5 percent per year of the mortgage balance). The lender's loan origination charge can vary, but only up to $1,800 in such charges may be financed by HECM. Borrowers may be charged appraisal and inspection fees set by HUD; these charges can also be financed."

Read literally, this language does not limit the loan origination fee to $1,800. It says instead that HUD will only finance the first $1,800. Anything above $1,800 would be the responsibility of the borrower. Also, it does not limit the loan origination fee to 2 percent of the loan amount -- instead it talks about 2 percent of the "home's value." Thus if your borrowers get a $365,000 loan and their home is worth $500,000, the fee could be $10,000.

For details, please contact HUD at 888-466-3487.

Question: I was supposed to close on a duplex, but the lender called me four days before closing to inform me that the loan wasn't final. She said my income isn't high enough and the underwriter is still working on this. Can I back down on this loan? This is an 80/20 loan.

Answer: Yes -- but how will you get another loan in four days?

Did your income change between the time you applied for your mortgage and four days before closing? Did the loan officer review your finances, pull your credit report and give you a letter saying that you qualified for the loan?

Lenders have a right to decline loans, but why wait until the cusp of closing? The borrower surely will not be able to get a replacement loan on short notice.

If the loan does not go through, what happens to your deposit on the property? Did the broker recommend the lender? Please contact a local real estate attorney or legal clinic before going further.

Question: Our home has been on the market now for six weeks. We had to reduce the price by $10,000. We knew we would probably have to do that. We then got a lot of lookers, but no bids.

We found a home, made a purchase offer contingent on the sale of our current home by a certain date and they gave us an extension on our contingency.

I do not want to be desperate here and go too low on the price of our home, but do you have any suggestions on enticing buyers? We had thought of a home warranty, paying for a year's worth of taxes (approximately $4,200), etc.

Answer: A good home warranty can be attractive and offering to pay for a year's worth of property taxes is a clever idea. However, the same money used for property taxes might be used in another way: Keep the sale price steady and offer a "seller contribution" to pay the first x dollars of the buyer's closing costs. The expense to you might be the same, but it may be easier to market the property if the contribution is expressed in terms of "closing costs," something that is often a barrier to buyers.

Question: Can a licensed real estate agent in Texas pay a referral fee to a non-licensed person in the state of Texas?

Answer: No.

In general terms and in all jurisdictions, only brokers can pay fees -- not salespeople or associated brokers. Also, brokers can only pay fees to other brokers.

As to Texas, "referring a prospective buyer, seller, landlord, or tenant to another person in connection with a proposed real estate transaction," says the Texas Real Estate Commission, "is an act requiring the person making the referral to be licensed if the referral is made with the expectation of receiving valuable consideration. For the purposes of this section, the term "valuable consideration" includes but is not limited to money, gifts of merchandise having a retail value greater than $50, rent bonuses and discounts."

For specifics, speak with your broker or manager.

Question: I'm a first-time home buyer. The house was vacant for about six months before I bought it. Our first bad rain storm brought in an algae smell coming from the running water, lingering for days and the bathroom had a sort of moldy smell.

I am reacting to the mold (spores). I am very worried and scared, what do I do?

Answer: Every house has some mold. As the Environmental Protection Agency explains: "It is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust."

There are two issues to consider. First, to reduce the mold problem you must eliminate the water or dampness which allows it to continue. Is there a leak somewhere? It must be found and resolved.

Second, have an attorney or legal clinic review the seller disclosure statements. If this is an ongoing problem that was not disclosed you may have a claim against the former owner.

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Anonymous's Avatar
Anonymous replied the topic: #11419
very helpful article. good advice.
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