Q. Did you know there will be a 3.8 percent tax on homes sold in the year 2013 to finance the Obamacare program?
A: No, there won't.
You'd have to make more than half a million dollars profit on the sale of your home before any extra tax would be due. Even then, it wouldn't be a tax on your sale price. A tax is due only on any capital gain above $500,000. (For single taxpayers, the tax will start after the profit reaches $250,000.)
What's more, you still wouldn't be taxed unless your other income was more than $250,000 for a couple or $200,000 for a single taxpayer.
(Editor's note: Congress and the Obama administration's deficit reduction commission have some mandated deadlines fast approaching. Under the proposed Simpson-Bowles version of fiscal reform, virtually all real-estate write-offs, including the capital gains exclusion, would disappear in a vastly simplified federal tax code. A variety of plans will be debated in Washington after the election and into 2013).
Q. We recently placed an offer on a home and our offer was not accepted. We later discovered our offer and the one that was accepted were nearly identical in terms, except that the buyers' agent for the accepted offer had agreed to waive his entire commission as a term of the offer. We are unsure if the agent had a client or if it was a purchase for himself. Needless to say, we were quite unhappy with this outcome and were curious if this is an acceptable practice or if the agent violated any ethical or professional codes.
A. As you say, we don't know who that agent was working for. If he was buying for himself, he shouldn't have agreed to accept any commission (conflict of interest.) Or, if he was working for the buyers, they might have agreed to pay his commission in order to sweeten their offer. Without knowing more of the circumstances, all I can say is that there's no ethical requirement that he charge for his services at all.
At any rate, unless they violate fair housing laws, sellers are free to accept or reject any offer they choose. They are under no obligation, for example, to accept the highest offer if a competing one has terms they prefer.
Q. I have a question on refinancing. I have a current mortgage. Because interest rates are going down, can I refinance with same mortgage company?
A. Certainly. Your present lender is the best place to start inquiring when you're ready to refinance. They won't want to lose you as a borrower if you have a good payment record, so you may get your best offer from them.
Q. I thought I did a short sale on my house, but the mortgage is still in my name. The man I did the deal with says I should be grateful that he is making the payments and leave him alone. The deed has been switched to his company but the mortgage is still in my name. He took advantage of me. Is what he did legal?
A. I've heard this story from other readers lately. I can't tell exactly what's going on so I can't say if it's illegal. I can tell you that before you signed over your house, you should have consulted your mortgage lender, a real estate attorney, your local Better Business Bureau and the state regulators who supervise real estate brokers and bankers. Talk to some or all of those now and tell me what you find out.
I've tried to understand what the scam might be. I can imagine this person taking title to your house, you move out, he rents out the place, continues to make the mortgage payments and keeps the difference. Maybe he doesn't spend anything on repairs and lets property tax payments slide. Then at some point he stops making any payments, just continues to collect rent every month and waits till the bank gets around to foreclosing on your mortgage. It won't hurt his credit record, just yours, because you're the one still personally responsible for the loan. And if he ends up losing the house, what's the difference? He probably owns lots of others that haven't reach that stage yet.
Q. How do I buy your book "The Homesellers Kit" mentioned by a reader last July?
A. The book is out of print and I don't even have a copy myself. It ran many editions, but by now even the last edition must have some outdated advice. Just a few years ago, for instance, you could confidently expect your house purchase to zoom up in value! Most of the information, though, should still be good. I'll bet if you search under "Lank" in Amazon.com, you'll find inexpensive used copies for sale.
• 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.