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posted: 4/13/2013 5:30 AM

Was it ethical for estate to accept a lower offer?

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Q. We put in an $180,900 purchase offer on a house with an asking price of $175,900. We included the contingency of a home inspection. We knew there was another offer that did not require an inspection. Later we were shocked to see the property transfer listed in the newspaper at $165,000. We wonder if our offer was really ever presented to the seller, and why we didn't get a counter-offer with the option of removing our home inspection.

The home was part of an estate and we do not know the name of the executor. The agents involved said the other offer was "a little" less than ours but they accepted it because it didn't involve a home inspection. I don't know many people that consider $15,900 as "a little" sum of money.

A. You were not dealing with "people" in this case. You can't expect the executor or heirs of an estate to see things the way an individual home seller would. They often have no personal knowledge of problems with the house's condition and prefer to keep it that way. With heirs anxious to wind things up promptly, they might not want to risk losing the other "clean" deal just to negotiate with you.

I'll bet it happened just as the agents said. You say "they" accepted the other offer, so I assume there were several heirs to split that $15,900 loss.

In a book I wrote years ago about home buying, my first advice under "Where to find the bargains" is to look for an estate sale. Following that, I suggested vacant houses being sold because of corporate transfers or divorce, and messy homes owned by rotten housekeepers. (Back then, complications like foreclosures, short sales and bank-owned property weren't even on the list.)

Q. Recently, I purchased my first home. The contract stated all window treatments and rods would stay. The sellers took 12 panels of quality drapes. At first their agent said they were packed away and would return once unpacked. Now my agent states the matter is closed and there was nothing more they could do. Nobody will provide the seller's new address, nor will the post office provide a forwarding address. I want to go to small claims court to recoup $1,500 to replace the drapes but have no address for seller. Why shouldn't the real estate agency be held accountable? It's agent represented the seller and wrote the contract.

A. Problems like that can often be avoided if the buyer makes a last-minute walk-through inspection of the property just before the closing.

You can always take the seller (not the real estate company) to small claims court, bringing in a written estimate from a decorator, and see what the judge says. Use the sellers' old address and depend on the post office to forward the notification. If you get a judgment, it can be filed against them in any county in the state. Or you can hand a judgment over to a collection agency, which has ways of tracking people. Or you can contact the police accusing the sellers of theft.

I don't have a lot of faith in any of these, but you can always try. Let me know if anything works.

Q. My husband died July 1. Our house was in both our names; we had a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship. Should I have his name removed from the deed before selling?

A. Even if your husband's estate is a simple one, you should have had at least one session with a lawyer to take care of the necessary paperwork. I can tell you, though, that as a joint tenant with the right of survivorship, you are now the complete owner of your home, automatically. You don't need to take any particular action in that regard.

Q. A relative bought land and added a mobile home and utilities. She put her son's name as joint owner. He has no interest in the property. He paid nothing for it. She is thinking of selling. Can she buy his share for $1 or does she have to buy it for the market value, which she doesn't know yet? I know she will need a lawyer for the transaction.

A. If you're asking whether the son can demand half the proceeds: If the deed she signed made him an equal co-owner, then he is half owner, and I don't think she can take back a gift.

If, on the other hand, he just wants to sign off, that's no problem. But if much of a profit is involved, there might be income tax complications, and I'd suggest consulting a tax attorney or CPA before doing anything.

• 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

2012, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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