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posted: 12/1/2012 4:30 AM

Sellers obligated to leave home in 'broom-clean' condition

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Q. I have sold my house and we are currently in the process of moving out. Are there any rules or regulations about what can be left behind that you just can't get rid of, i.e. old rusted paint cans?

When we bought this house 25 years ago, there was an aboveground pool that had about two feet of decayed leaves and sludge in it that we had to deal with. Plus, it had been a rental property, and we had a lot of cleaning to do inside before we could move in. As new owners, there were things left behind we had to deal with also. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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A. The usual assumption is that property will be left in "broom-clean" condition. Sometimes that phrase is specified in a sales contract. It implies no trash, which would include old paint cans.

Just about every locality has some method available for disposing of hazardous waste. Try the website www.local.com for information about a facility in your area. Otherwise, your buyers may ask for a last-minute walk-through, object to the trash and hold up the closing. It sounds as if you could have used a walk-through yourselves, years ago.

Q. My friend and I are buying a house together, splitting it 50/50, but we are using only her credit. Can my name be added to the deed at closing? Or should we wait until a later date? Does my name need to be on the deed to show ownership?

A. Yes, your name needs to be on the deed.

The lender will allow both of you to be named there as owners, even if only your friend qualifies to carry the loan. At the closing a mortgage is signed by the new owners pledging the property as security for the loan. You'll both sign that. Then your friend will also sign the note, her personal promise to repay the loan. If you are not liable for the debt, you need not sign the note.

Q. I got married last year and moved. I've been trying to sell my house but no takers. If I have to lease it out, which I can't stand the thought of, what would be the safest way to go: Owner finance? Lease-to-own? Help!

A. It's asking for trouble to be an amateur landlord, and I wouldn't advise it. Nor is lease-to-own or owner financing a good idea if you're not skilled in real estate. You could attract people who can't meet bank standards for a normal purchase and end up in trouble.

Bite the bullet and drop your asking price until you find the right level.

Q. My bank says I can't refinance because my house isn't worth enough. They said it's because of all the foreclosures. How did my property devalue that much in three years because of someone else's problems?

A. Other people's problems affect the value of your property because no one will pay more for your place if they can buy something similar for less. Keep in touch with your bank though. New programs to help frustrated homeowners are coming out all the time.

Q. We own a small wedge of land that borders our neighbor's. He wants to buy it but we're not ready to sell. Meanwhile, my husband has allowed him to plant trees and bushes there. I am worried that he will have some claim to the land, that maybe my husband has given away his claim to ownership. And he's using land that we pay taxes on.

A. Actually, the trees and bushes planted on your land belong to you. As long as your husband has given permission, he isn't risking your ownership. You could make that clearer if you had it in writing -- if the neighbor signed something stating that he realizes the land is yours and that you've OK'd his using it. If paying the taxes bothers you, perhaps you could charge him rent.

Q. I cannot understand why my daughter and granddaughter both bought homes and did not use a very close friend of the family -- and grandmother to their niece -- as their Realtor. I know they are not obligated to do so, but as it's so much money involved, I can't see why they would not want her to reap the benefit. I know she feels betrayed.

A. They must have had their reasons for using some other broker. I can understand how you feel and how your friend feels. I hope you can relax and not let it spoil peace in your family.

• 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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