Fittest loser
Article posted: 10/13/2012 4:30 AM

It may be difficult to buy the eyesore next door

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By Edith Lank

Q. A house next door to us has been empty for a few years, and the only real maintenance is cutting the grass. A company did pump the basement several times the first two winters that the utilities were off. I can only imagine the mold in there!

The underside is open in spots, and animals crawl underneath and make themselves cozy. One of our dogs has been sprayed twice this year by a skunk. The town spread mothballs to discourage wildlife but with limited results. It would be nice to know if we had some recourse to recover the costs of maintaining it. We've done a lot -- trimming bushes, weeds, etc. -- to keep it from looking like complete trash and ruining our yard.

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Also, depending on the cost and headaches, I would love to buy this property, knock everything but the garage down and combine the two yards. I have looked all over the Internet to find information, to no avail. The tax records still list the previous owner, but there are stickers on the door, and the newest one has an email for propertymaintenance@jpmchase.com. Besides trying to get information through that email, which I suspect would garner, "This is the wrong department," what would be the next best step?

My wife and I are at our wit's ends with the joys of living next door to a vacant property!

A. Hire a real estate broker who has experience dealing with bank-owned property to act as your agent, investigate the situation and try to negotiate a purchase.

You could have a problem placing a mortgage with the house in that condition and your plan to remove it. If you could offer all cash, that would probably help.

Q. This is a comment on a letter in your column. The couple were disagreeing about refinancing, and he wanted to keep the higher interest rate because he likes the income tax deduction. I would have added the following: Get a 10-year mortgage if they can. They only have 11 years left on the current one anyhow, and at the lower rate they'll be paying less for a shorter time.

As you said in the column, why pay an extra dollar just to get 25 cents off your income tax? With the money they save every month, they can contribute to charity and get the deduction that way.

A. Excellent suggestion.

Q. This may seem a bit dumb, but with so many laws out there that nobody tells you about, I thought I'd ask anyway.

The mobile home I live in has been owned by my family for more than 50 years. I was just wondering if after so long I have any rights as far as the land my home sits on. You can't help but wonder, even a little, if 50-plus years of paying rent gives you any sort of "voice." I know -- dream on!

A. Good try, but no cigars. You may be thinking of the legal concept of adverse possession, which allows you to ask a court for ownership if you've been using land for a certain number of years (it varies by state) without any permission or protest from an owner.

But simply paying rent, no matter how long, doesn't give you any special rights; sorry.

Q. I am a house flipper. My next purchase is probably going to be a rundown house on my sister's street. I thought she and her husband would be thrilled, but now it seems he is extremely upset because he claims my buying the house cheap will drive down the value of his house.

I have tried endlessly to explain that when I fix it up and sell it, that will drive the sales figures up. Otherwise someone else will buy, repair it just to live in, and only their low purchase price remains on record.

This is about to cause a huge rift in my otherwise close little family. Are there some statistics I could throw at him, instead of a chair? He is telling me, "Stay out of my neighborhood." YIKES!

A. I should stay out of a family argument, but you are right. By returning a rundown house to full market value and then selling it, you'll boost sales records on the street. Leaving it to depreciate or to an inexpensive sale to an owner/occupant could hurt the value of your brother-in-law's house.

Rather than cause a big rift in the family, though, in your shoes I'd give up the project and look for some other property to rescue.

• 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.

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