Q. We want to buy a house near the border of one state and another, and we don't know where we'll end up. One agent we like is an expert on one state but is not licensed in the other. Does that mean I'm free to have another agent looking for me there? Should I tell him about the other agent, or would that make them not want to work with me? Should I have him refer me to an agent in the other state for that part of my search?
Even if there's an agent licensed in both states who doesn't mind driving all over the place to show me homes in each state, I'd prefer to have two agents who are each experts on their locale and experienced local negotiators.
A. Asking your present agent for a referral to someone in the adjoining state is an excellent idea. It's possible the agent you like has run into this before and has the name of a next-state broker -- or brokers -- he's worked with in the past. You may be pleased to learn that agents pay each other referral fees, which are a matter between the two brokerages and need be no concern of yours.
Q. I read an article somewhere that if you pay your mortgage off early, you have to claim the interest you save on your federal taxes. Did I read the article right or not?
A. If you pay your whole mortgage off early, there are no income tax consequences.
Q. Generally, how many mortgage payments does a person have to miss before the bank will foreclose on the property? And when it gets sold at an auction sale, the bank will only bid what they are owed, so what happens if the property brings more than owed? Who gets that money?
A. The property owner is entitled to any money that might be left after a foreclosure sale has paid off the mortgage, back interest, legal costs and sometimes back taxes.
But how soon after the first missed payment is a foreclosure started? The answer could be all over the place. It will vary according to state laws, bank policy, the lender's previous relationship with the borrower, new federal guidelines, the borrower's particular problem and the provisions of the mortgage document.
Banks do not want to own real estate. It's not their business, and they lose money on foreclosures. The best way for you to head off foreclosure is to discuss any potential problem with the lender early on. They're often ready to work with borrowers as long as there's a possibility of straightening things out. Keep in touch with your lender.
Q. I own a parcel of land that measures about half an acre. I just signed a one-year lease for $1,000 a month with a hotel to let them park cars there.
Question No. 1: Do you think that rental figure is right?
Question 2: Someday I plan to build a professional building there. How do I get financing for this project, which I think will cost $1 million?
A. Answer No. 1: Ask a local real estate appraiser.
Answer No. 2: When your plans are ready, talk with mortgage brokers and lending institutions.
Q. The house next door to us is a real mess. They have rabbits, and they never clean up. The house and yard are not fit for human beings. It's bad enough to cause rats, flies and mosquitoes. We had a real estate agent in to sell our home and were told that the neighbors are killing our value on our home. We have written to the Board of Health and got nowhere. We have had the police down and got nowhere. We hope you can help us before the hot weather sets in.
A. If it's any consolation, I can give you a fancy name for your problem. You are suffering from what the appraisers classify as economic obsolescence -- loss of value due to conditions beyond your property line. The appraisers go on to say it is usually incurable, which means you often can't do anything about it.
If I were you, though, I'd keep after your town or city hall by letter, with email and telephone calls and in person. In addition, contact your local representative -- council member, alderman, whatever it is in your locale -- and ask for help.
• 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.