Q. We have been waiting since September after placing an offer on a short sale. What should we do? Should be continue to wait? Can we send a letter to the bank stating that if they don't provide us with an answer by the end of March we will resign our offer and go lower?
A. Short sales (for less than is owed on the mortgage, subject to approval by the current lender) are notoriously frustrating and long-drawn-out. Judging from my mail, you're definitely not the only ones who've found it so.
As for voiding your offer -- I haven't read it, and I don't know if it contains a time limit. Show it to a lawyer who specializes in real estate, to learn what options are open to you.
Threatening to lower your offer might not get you anywhere. Banks don't react to negotiation the way an individual seller might.
Q. I want to share my thoughts on the letter from the woman who could not understand why her daughter and granddaughter didn't use a close friend as their agent. My first thought was "So just ask them why." If a mother can't have a simple conversation with her offspring, there are other issues here.
Aside from that, I can offer a reason. We have a neighbor, a roofing contractor. We are not close friends, but we hang out in each other's yards on occasion and have a comfortable relationship.
When we started shopping for roofing contractors, my wife and I decided we would not include my neighbor. I am very picky, probably to the point where I could be considered a nuisance. We did not want to end up arguing with -- or even suing -- our neighbor.
We opted for a contractor with which we had no emotional ties. We told my neighbor exactly why. He said he understood, and we are still friendly neighbors.
A. There was something else about that original letter that I thought but didn't say. Mother was angry because "there was so much money involved" in the commission. What she ignored was that listing property and negotiating a sale is not like simply winning the lottery and picking up a check. It's only the first step in a long and sometimes arduous journey to a successful closing. Close Friend didn't get the business, but on the other hand she didn't have to do the work. She could invest her time and energy elsewhere.
Q. As a real estate agent who derives most of my business from friends and referrals, I felt compelled to comment on the letter from a reader who was not satisfied with the performance of his/her agent-friend. Knowing that my friend-clients will talk to others in our circle spurs me to work even harder for them. My business wouldn't exist without referrals, and one bad experience in my social network could ruin my professional reputation.
In 11 years selling real estate, I'm happy to say I've lost no friends. In fact, many who were merely acquaintances have become my friends, and where friendship had already existed, those bonds have only deepened with our working relationship.
A. As it happens, the Lank family met our best friends when my husband sold them a house 35 years ago. Haven't been able to get rid of them since.
Q. Is there any way to back out of a signed contract to sell our second home on the lake? We have had a change of heart and do not want to part with it.
A. The whole point of a contract is that it's binding. Your best bet is to consult a lawyer who specializes in real estate. If there's any way to void the agreement, he or she is the one to find it. If all else fails, perhaps you can offer to buy your way out.
Q. A reader asked you about obtaining a loan for financing vacant land near her daughter and possibly a construction loan. When we were in the same situation, a local mortgage broker sent us to a local banker who was happy to help us. When our house was completed, we changed to a traditional mortgage and paid off the land, construction and bridge loans, and we still bank with that banker 16 years later.
A. Thanks for writing about your experience. But mortgaging vacant land with no construction yet planned can be difficult. And lending practices have tightened in 16 years. You'll notice, though, that in my answer I did suggest those folks contact mortgage brokers in the daughter's area, to see if something was available.
• 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.