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posted: 8/30/2014 12:01 AM

'For sale' sign in the yard is not a requirement

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Q. Our daughter is getting married late in September and we'll be empty nesters. We'd like to sell our big house soon and get into some senior housing before winter. The problem is, we will be having lots of relatives here. It would cause lots of talk and spoil the look of our home to have a Realtor's sign on the front lawn. Should we wait? Any advice would be welcome.

A. An old-fashioned for-sale sign often brings more prospective buyers than all the flashy modern means of communication put together. But I've heard lots of reasons for not wanting that sign, things like "it will upset the kids" or "the people at the office don't know I'm leaving town yet."

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At any rate, the agent who lists your property may not place a sign without your permission. You can certainly list your home for sale right now, specifying that you don't want any yard sign until October.

With company coming, you could also state that you require at least 24 hours advance notice and will show the house by appointment only. All that will cut down on your pool of buyers, but it'd be better than losing the summer season altogether. You say you have a large house, and buyers with children like to move with the school year. And who knows -- perhaps a bit of difficulty in viewing the place will make some buyers more eager.

Q. If one finishes a basement so it is a living space, does it count as total square footage being sold in the house? Or must there be an egress/ingress from a window or two doors?

A. Building codes and definitions vary from one area to another. An outside door, or a window from which someone could exit in case of fire, is usually required for a below-grade room to be listed or advertised as a bedroom, and sometimes before the space can be counted as a room at all.

There would be code requirements for a minimum ceiling height, length and width as well. Then if your room did meet code, you would list it separately from the above-grade square footage, as "plus square feet of finished basement."

Q. What can we do if our house has a lean?

A. Prop it up with a two-by-four and call in a contractor.

But perhaps you're talking about a lien, a financial claim against the property. If you want to borrow against the property, or sell it, you'll have to get it removed, probably by paying off that debt.

Q. I purchased my house seven years ago. At the closing, I did not receive a survey. Now I come to find out there is a stormwater drainage system with an easement going down my driveway to the backyard. Once the drainage reaches the next sewer cover in my backyard, it opens up wide and increases from 15 feet to 30 feet. I am unable to build on this area, which takes away a lot of my property. I also pay the same taxes to the penny of my next-door neighbor, but much of my property is unusable to me. I was looking to build a carport or garage.

This was not disclosed to me in addition to the survey not ordered. The sewer department came out to my property a few weeks ago and brought a map with lines representing stormwater, sewer, etc. They stated they would have to fix the drainage system on my street.

Who should have ordered the survey? Is it required that a survey should have been ordered? Shouldn't this sewer drainage system have been disclosed to me? I would not have bought the house had I known about the drainage running through the property. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

A. "I would not have bought" is usually an excellent statement in a lawsuit, but "seven years ago" isn't. On the other hand, you're looking for help right after you found out about the situation, so that's a plus.

I'm not going to be much use to you, though. Local settlement procedures and standards do vary. I don't know who drew up your purchase offer, and I haven't seen it, nor do I know who handled your closing.

You could take the question to a lawyer who specializes in real estate. Be prepared to answer the question, "What are you looking to accomplish at this point?" But if your goal is to get the tax assessment lowered, contact a professional real estate appraiser who can advise you about possible loss of value and assist in protesting your assessment.

• 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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