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posted: 10/1/2011 12:01 AM

On homes and real estate: A natural for a reverse mortgage

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Q. I don't have a close relative and I'm now reaching age 90. I don't want to enter a nursing home. I own my home with a large equity.

I have most of my cash used up, due to being wheelchair-bound with arthritis. I'm unable to walk and care for myself. I'm going to need some additional funds in a couple of months.

What would be best? Should I take a reverse loan, a regular loan or a line of credit at the bank that holds my mortgage? I have no liens against the property.

A. I doubt you could qualify for a regular mortgage or a line of credit, because you wouldn't have enough income to make monthly payments. A reverse mortgage, though, is exactly right for someone in your situation. You'll collect the equity in your home without having to sell and move. Your income won't matter, nor would your credit rating, because you won't be making payments.

You can receive a lump sum or a monthly check, with no repayment due as long as you live there. When you die or move out, the whole debt, including interest, must be repaid, usually by the sale of the house. As you have no close heirs, that shouldn't matter.

I'm enclosing a printout of agencies in your area that are government-approved to counsel you about reverse mortgages. (I found it at If you have trouble getting around, it may even be possible to do the whole thing on the phone and through the mail. Depending on the value of your home, someone your age can usually draw a substantial amount.

Let me know what happens; I'm interested.

Q. The house I'm supposed to purchase was appraised for the mortgage company lower than expected. The appraisal states the square footage as 1,232 square feet. It was listed for sale as 1,424 square feet. The discrepancy is due to a four-seasons room, which is heated and carpeted and has windows and a sliding-glass door. The room is 216 square feet. The appraiser did not include this.

Is the listing accurate? Or is the appraisal correct? Should I check with the town or county clerk's office to see at what dimensions the home is taxed?

I'm not sure who's at fault for this. Neither party's real estate agent was present for the appraisal. Is this the norm? Should I have had an opportunity to attend the appraisal?

A. Heated full-height space should count when square footage is being calculated.

If that extra room wasn't in the original construction, it may not be reflected in the tax office records. Perhaps the appraiser was relying on them. At any rate, you have the right to request a reappraisal, and both real estate agents should be paying attention to the problem.

Q. When my uncle passed away in 1996, he left me a vacant lot only 35.5-feet wide. The city does not consider it big enough to build on without a special permit. My husband and I have gone over and cut grass, trimmed trees and hauled away baby beds, hideabeds, lumber and other refuse that people have dumped there.

I put a for-sale sign on the lot, I've contacted the owners of lots on either side, and I've advertised on Craigslist. No luck.

Through hearsay, I was told that if I didn't pay taxes for three years, the city would take it. But do I still have to maintain it meanwhile? I hear that if I don't cut the grass and weeds, the city will clean it up and charge me a lot.

Also, am I liable if someone gets hurt there? Additionally, it has two huge walnut trees -- would anyone want it for the trees?

A. What a headache! If you'd known what was involved, you could have refused to accept the bequest.

Yes, the lot will eventually be taken for back taxes if you stop paying them. Yes, I believe you are responsible for upkeep. Yes, I think you have liability, unless you can get some kind of insurance to protect yourself.

When you contacted the neighbors, did you offer the lot for free? What about giving it to the city now? The neighborhood's alderman, councilperson or whomever they have in your town can tell you whom to contact at city hall.

To find out if it's worth harvesting those walnut trees, and if it would be permitted, consult companies listed in the yellow pages under "tree services."

• Edith Lank will respond to questions sent to her at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester, N.Y. 14620 (include a stamped return envelope), or readers may email her through

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