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posted: 1/5/2013 5:30 AM

Guaranteed sale within an hour

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Q. In April, I put my house on the market with an asking price of $199,900. In June, I reduced the price to $179,000. As of today, I have had no offers. Currently, the house is vacant and I am paying for the insurance, pool maintenance, sewer, garbage and taxes. And heating is coming up. Do you have any advice on how I could attract potential offers?

A. I'll guarantee you multiple offers within an hour if you reduce your asking price to $2. I'll even guarantee it at $200. And we can keep going until we find the price, somewhere between $200 and $179,000, that buyers judge is right for your property.

Or if you prefer to do it from the other end, you can drop your price $10,000 every other week till you attract offers.

Q. In one of your responses, you advised the reader to contact "a CPA, enrolled agent or tax attorney" for more details. This is good advice.

I would like to make you aware of something, however. Congress and the IRS recently decided that all compensated tax preparers should show evidence of competency. The certification called the "Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP)" has been instituted. As of Dec. 31, 2013, anyone wishing to prepare tax returns for compensation must be an attorney, a CPA, an EA or an RTRP.

The new designation is earned by passing a three-hour exam and completing 15 hours of continuing education annually.

A. Nice to hear there will be some standards. I understand that preparers with that designation will limit themselves to individual returns and will not tackle trusts, estates and the like. And the requirement won't apply to volunteers who offer free help, such as AARP.

Q. Is it true that there is a new 3 percent tax (to fund Obamacare) when selling your house along with all the other fees?

A. No, it's not true. There is no federal real estate sales tax and none is planned. And the home sellers' tax break -- tax-free profit of up to $500,000 for married couples, half that for single taxpayers -- is scheduled to remain.

Here's what gave rise to the misunderstanding: Beginning Jan. 1, a new 3.8 percent surtax on some -- not all -- kinds of unearned income will be earmarked for the Medicare Trust Fund. It will apply to some -- not all -- couples whose income is more than $250,000, or single taxpayers earning more than $200,000.

Q. We have a relative who was bequeathed a life estate. She has lived in this home 29 years without paying rent or mortgage. She is required to pay taxes, insurance and maintenance. If this is done, she owns the home until her death or she moves. She is in her mid-sixties so this could be a while.

The home is not currently insured because the insurance company required the roof be replaced. She says she cannot afford to replace the 29-year-old roof. The lack of insurance is a great concern. This is not the first time she has had difficulty, but we've helped her through those times. What is our recourse?

A. Whoever left the home under those conditions intended to provide for her while protecting someone else (child of a previous marriage?) who will eventually own the property.

Your relative is really in the same boat as any homeowner who failed to save for the replacement of an old roof. The only difference is that she has a legal obligation to maintain the property and keep it insured. For financial advice, she can consult a nonprofit credit-counseling agency. You can find a local one at nfcc.org.

Or, I suppose, you could pay for her roof.

Q. I just got my maintenance bill from my time share and I got to wondering, is there any way to get rid of these things? What if you just ignore it? Would you get sued? As I understand it, even your heirs will end up with this albatross. Is that true?

A. If there's a mortgage on your time share, your estate would be liable for the debt, but that's it. Heirs may always disavow -- refuse to accept -- an inheritance.

Assuming there's no mortgage: Try giving the property back to the management or developer. Advertise it in local newspapers and Craigslist ads for free. As a last resort, ask your lawyer about any bad consequences likely to accrue if you simply abandon it.

• 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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