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posted: 2/15/2014 1:01 AM

Mortgage worries burden couple facing heath issue

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Q. My husband and I have a mortgage with a VA guaranteed loan. He is very ill. As his caregiver, I have not worked in more than a year so I would not qualify to borrow anything. If he dies, will I have to refinance the loan? I would be able to make the payments.

A. You have enough to worry about now, but you can relax about that one. Lenders do not call a loan in when property is inherited. That's true of all mortgages, not only of VAs.

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Q. No question, but I thought you might be interested in my mom's experience in getting rid of her timeshare. My parents had bought it years ago and used it until advancing age made it more difficult. They had tried a company that charged in advance to sell it (bad idea) and offered it repeatedly to each of their children, none of whom wanted it. I finally suggested she contact the company, explain that advancing age made it impossible for her to use it anymore and ask them to take it back. It turns out, they had just such an option in place. They charged her $250 to transfer it back to them, and she was rid of it.

A. Yes, asking if the management will take the timeshare back is usually my first suggestion. Nice to hear it worked for your folks.

Q. My husband and I are in our 80s and want to sell our house to downsize. We are disagreeing on how to sell, using an agent versus doing it on our own. I think sell on our own is extremely difficult in today's market. It will put us on Internet lists that might be scams. We will receive endless calls from people we do not know, etc., etc. We will also miss the best selling months in our area if we do not list with an agent in March. Please send me your list of pros and cons for selling on your own. I know you have written about it numerous times. We need help ASAP.

A. Spring starts early in real estate. Late February may be a better time to start than waiting until March. Then -- as it is your husband who wants to do this -- you could simply stay out of it. If you don't want to talk to strangers, turn the phone calls over to him, and let him show the property.

I don't know why he'd like to sell as a For Sale By Owner. Perhaps he wants the challenge of learning a new skill, and he has the free time to devote to the project. He'll need to study the current mortgage market, federal and state fair housing regulations, contract law, law of agency (he may be dealing with buyers' agents), required disclosures and the like. He might look in the library for the textbook used for real estate license courses. He can skip around for the topics he needs.

He may hope to save money by paying no commission, but of course that assumes he'll sell for the same amount he would through a brokerage firm, and with no advertising expense or extra legal costs. So his first challenge is to set the right asking price. If it's too high, no one will come to see the property; if it's too low, your home will sell quickly but probably not for real market value. He'll need to do research on what buyers have paid recently for nearby properties. Sometimes local agents are willing to share their expertise even though he tells them that he's going to try selling on his own.

After that, getting full fair market value depends on reaching the widest market possible. "For sale by owner" is a grabber phrase in an ad, but he'll have to learn how to use the Internet as well as newspapers and a lawn sign.

It's important, before getting the property tied up in a binding written contract, to investigate whether would-be buyers can really go through with the deal. He should calculate how much income it will take to afford your house and learn to ask questions about prospects' earnings, assets, debts and credit ratings. He'd be safest holding out for someone who already has written approval from a mortgage lender.

Then when it comes to negotiating a contract, he'll have to remember that nothing about the sale of real estate is binding unless it's in writing. He may want to depend extra-heavily on your lawyer at that point.

• 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.

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