Q. Our son has recently gone into real estate. He had no job at the time. We paid for his course and license and to join the real estate association. Now we are informed he has to pay dues because of multiple listing service fees. He spends much time on the floor, as they call it, and does not receive anything for his time, while the others are out showing property. One party working in the same office closed a sale on a home, and our son didn't receive anything. We don't want to sound bitter or negative, but here are our questions. Is it legal for them to charge him so much for multiple listing service? Why doesn't he draw a salary while on floor duty, answering phones, etc.? When and how will he begin to bring in money, and how does he receive his share of sales?
A. Give your son six months -- that's the traditional length of time for getting started in real estate. He is not being taken advantage of, and the arrangements are typical of many real estate offices. He is not an employee, which is why he does not receive a salary for floor time. He is an independent contractor, and his income will depend on the business he does himself, not on other agents' work.
He should be receiving training and direction. Floor time is just one of the ways to start. Sooner or later, a homeowner will call in while he is on duty, and say "I want your company to list my home for sale." If he can impress the seller with his knowledge and enthusiasm, he should end up with a listing. Even so, he may not see any commission for several months, until the house is sold and the transaction closed. Brokers usually caution a new salesperson that the first check may not come through for six months. If your son is not earning by that time, withdraw your support, because he is probably not right for real estate.
Q. I'm a recent widow with a large paid-up home. Would you advise me to sell, buy some fixed-income investments with the money and go into an apartment or even a senior-living facility?
A. Wait at least a year. Take my word for it -- you'll be thinking more clearly then. You'll be in a better position to judge whether you want to stay put or would prefer apartment living, and also on your whole financial picture.
Q. We hit it off with a Realtor we met at an open house, and now she sends us daily multiple listings. We haven't been to any showings with her yet, but already we can tell she's not listening to what we keep asking for. We want to go with another agent from her same company, but can we do that? I have a feeling that within the same agency, they don't want to step on each other's toes, so we'll be stuck with the same agent unless we decide not to go with that agency at all.
A. Take the problem to the managing broker in that office. He or she will know how to handle the situation.
Don't be too hard on that first agent, though. You may be getting suggestions out of your price range because one can never tell what a seller will really accept. Or you may not see everything you want in the listings that are being sent to you. But remember -- even when money is no object, just about every house purchase is, in the end, a compromise. It's possible your exact dream house doesn't exist.
Agents have a saying that "Buyers are liars." That sounds unpleasant, but it simply means that buyers might, for instance, fall in love with a fireplace and suddenly find they can get along without an extra garage after all. They don't always know what they really want until they see it.
Q. I'm interested in a house that was foreclosed on two years ago. It's in a nice neighborhood, and I would like to know whom to contact for information about making an offer on the property. I went to the tax office and found out who paid the tax last year, but that company has been bought out by a larger company. Even though I know the name of the company, I can't make contact with them. Any suggestions on how to talk with a representative that holds the papers?
A. Sounds as if you've gone as far as you can without professional help. First look for an experienced broker who agrees to take on the challenge. If that doesn't turn up anything, ask a lawyer's office to investigate.
• 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 askedith.com.
© 2012, Creators Syndicate Inc.