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posted: 4/11/2014 12:01 AM

Items homeowners should never buy at a yard sale

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Spring has sprung, but savvy shoppers won't purchase many household items available at the mushrooming number of yard sales that bloom this time of year.

Q. We need a new mattress for our bed. Good ones from the local retailers with a "lifetime guarantee" can cost $800 or more, but we can find slightly used ones for $100 or less at local yard sales. If we buy one of those mattresses at a yard sale to save money, will the manufacturer's guarantee protect us like it did the original buyer?

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A. Probably not. Most guarantees offered by retailers extend only to the original purchaser and cannot be transferred to a future buyer. Ditto for most lifetime warranties on roofs, siding, exterior coating and the like.

You probably don't want to purchase a used mattress, anyway. A record number of U.S. homes in the past two years have been infested with hard-to-eradicate bedbugs, so there's a good chance you'd "import" the nasty critters when you dragged the mattress into your bedroom.

Beyond that, do you really want to sleep on a stranger's old bacteria, mold or perhaps even bodily fluids? Like my teenage daughter would say, "that's g-r-o-s-s!"

Smart yard-sale shoppers also avoid upholstered furniture for the same reasons. Other bad home-related "investments" you might think about purchasing from a neighbor's front lawn or garage include blenders and other kitchen electronics with blades or other mechanisms that wear out over time; televisions, because high-tech new ones can be bought almost as cheaply and include a manufacturer's guarantee; and worn pots or other cookware, whose nonstick coating can flake over the years and leach chemicals into your food.

Q. We bought our first home last summer, and filed our federal income-tax return about three months ago to get a refund based on all of our new real estate deductions. The refund check from the IRS hasn't arrived yet. How long are we supposed to wait?

A. The Internal Revenue Service recently said 90 percent of refunds are issued within 21 days, so you should have received a check several weeks ago.

The fastest and easiest way to check the status of your refund is to visit the agency's website, www.irs.gov, and click the "Where's My Refund?" link on the right-hand side of its home page. You'll get an answer after entering your Social Security or Tax ID number, your filing status and the exact whole dollar amount of the refund you are owed.

People who don't have access to the Internet can get an update on the status of their refund by calling the IRS toll free at (800) 829-4477.

Q. Last spring, I received a check for $850 through the National Mortgage Settlement fund because Bank of America made mistakes when it foreclosed on my home a few years ago. Now I hear that BofA has settled another mortgage case by agreeing to pay $9.3 billion to the feds. Will I get a share of that money, too?

A. No. About $6.3 billion of the cash will go directly to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to settle alleged violations of federal and state securities laws committed when BofA and some of its affiliates sold millions of home loans to Fannie and Freddie between 2005 and 2007. The remainder will be used to repurchase mortgages that were bought by the two agencies but have since turned sour.

In exchange, federal regulators are dropping all pending lawsuits against the bank. It's a good deal for all of the parties involved, but borrowers won't see a nickel of the money.

Real estate trivia: Chicago's Wrigley Field, home of the beloved (some would say "hapless") Cubs, will turn 100 years old on April 23. The oldest major-league baseball stadium in the U.S., it was built on the site of a Lutheran seminary that moved because its residents grew weary of the sound from the local elevated train that still runs today.

• For the booklet "Straight Talk About Living Trusts," send $4 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to David Myers/Trust, P.O. Box 4405, Culver City, CA 90231-4405.

© 2014, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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