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posted: 5/23/2014 12:01 AM

Listing 'as is' limits mortgage possibilities

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Q. When a house is listed "as is, seller guarantees nothing" what does that really mean? Does it legally release the seller from all liability? Also, is it a good way to get a quick sale?

My house, well and septic system are all in good condition and good working order. I wish to be spared the time and expense of testing, surveys and nitpicking that a lender might require. I fully realize the financial consequences of doing this.

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A. Selling "as is" means the buyer agrees to accept any problems they know about. It does not absolve you from liability for problems of which you are aware but don't disclose.

Is it a good way to get a quick sale? Yes and no. As you realize, you'd have to list the property at a bargain price, which usually does lead to prompt offers. But if you don't want the bother of meeting a lending institution's requirements, you'll have to find an all-cash buyer. That cuts down considerably on the pool of potential purchasers.

Remember that if you plan to use a real estate broker, part of the agent's service will be arranging any required inspections, tests and general nitpicking. That would ease the stress somewhat.

Q. My husband, son, daughter-in-law and I are looking into buying a duplex together. We get along well and feel this venture will be a win-win situation. Any tips or advice that you can share that could help us ward off potential problems of which we might not be aware?

What, if anything, can be done to ensure that all four of our names appear on the statements, bills, deed and anything else related to the duplex?

A. Mostly you're going to get my standard pass-the-buck advice -- talk with your attorney. In this area, it's customary to handle the closing with a lawyer, who will have advice about your ownership and see that all the paperwork is proper. The way you are named on the deed is important for determining what would happen to the share of any co-owner who died.

When unrelated people buy together to live-in, I recommend a written partnership agreement, setting out in advance what should happen if certain situations arise. You may not need that in a good family relationship, and your plan may work out beautifully. But it could be worth discussing with your kids and the attorney what should happen if one of you got a divorce, had a judgment placed against the property, needed to rent out your half, wanted to build a deck, had trouble meeting the bills -- possibilities like that.

Q. We have possibly two buyers for our home on our own. If either comes through, what help do we need to close? Can we just use a lawyer or should we consult with a real estate agent, as we are not familiar with all that is required when selling by owner.

A. Some sellers are experienced enough to handle the process on their own, but you're wise to look for help when you're not up to something this important.

It is often possible to find an agent who will start marketing your home with a written agreement that no commission will be due if your property is sold within a month to Buyer A or Buyer B. That way you don't lose marketing time, and your price will be tested on the open market. It also prompts A and B to make up their minds one way or another.

If you don't want to go that route, then look for a real estate broker who is willing to work by the hour, for a flat fee or with a reduced commission, because, yes, you do need a number of services.

First, especially if your property is not being listed, you need an informed estimate of the probable market value of your home. Next, it's vital to get help in investigating whether would-be buyers are financially qualified to go through with the purchase. And then you could use advice in evaluating any written offer before you sign an acceptance. It's customary, in this area, to make the contract subject to the approval of your attorney, and that's the point where a lawyer is usually brought in. Meanwhile, an agent often makes suggestions for financing, arranges for required inspections and helps clear up complications that may arise on the way to final settlement.

• 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.

© 2014, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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