Real Estate Mailbag

By Robert J. Bruss
Saturday, March 18, 2006

Q: DEAR BOB: I have decided to sell my home so I can afford to move to a nice nearby assisted-living residence. My two-bedroom home, built in 1938, has become a bit run-down. However, it is in a good neighborhood where most homes have been remodeled or rebuilt. My real estate agent suggests I spend about $50,000 to renovate the kitchen and bathrooms before listing my house for sale. My son says I should just have the house painted inside and outside. He and his pals have offered to do the painting in a weekend or two. I can afford the $50,000 renovation, but then I read your article about selling "as is" and wonder if that's the way to go. -- Anne C.

A: DEAR ANNE: Listen to your smart son. There is no sense spending $50,000 to renovate an older house just before sale. Your buyers will either like your charming older house the way it is and be thankful for a reasonable price in a desirable neighborhood, or they will want to remodel to their taste after purchase.

Save your $50,000 and the inconvenience of renovation, which might not even return the $50,000 in the form of a higher sales price.

Let your son and his pals paint your house inside and outside. Also, check the landscaping to be sure it is attractive. Perhaps plant some spring flowers to make the front yard especially inviting.

When you sell your home "as is," that means the seller must disclose all known defects (such as a leaking roof) but won't pay for any repairs. However, if an obvious defect, such as a dripping faucet, can be repaired at minimal expense, get it fixed.

In addition to the real estate agent you already consulted, after the house is painted and ready to sell, I suggest you interview at least two more agents.

You need to compare their evaluations, especially their comparative market analyses. These forms will show you recent sales prices of comparable nearby homes, asking prices of neighborhood homes listed for sale (your competition) and the asking prices of recently expired similar home listings. Then you can correctly set your asking price.

DEAR BOB: I read your recent item about the Iraq war veteran in a wheelchair who wanted to rent an apartment, but it had four steps and he needed an access ramp. You correctly informed the landlord that he does not have to pay for the ramp but that the Americans With Disabilities Act requires allowing the tenant to install the ramp at his own expense. However, you and your readers might not be aware of the Home Improvement and Structural Alterations program available to veterans through most Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. Information is available in VHA Handbook 1173.14 and on the Internet at the Web site If the veteran is eligible for VA medical care, he should qualify for financial assistance with the ramp.

-- Ivan R.

DEAR IVAN: Thanks to you and dozens of others readers who sent suggestions. Fortunately, the landlord and the veteran's mother reached an agreement.

The four steps have been removed, and there is a ramp with a nice railing to the public sidewalk so the veteran can take the nearby bus to a local college.

But there's more. I received a nice e-mail from a resident of the apartment building who reports that one of the residents, an older woman, is teaching the "quite charming" veteran how to cook and that a "young female resident" takes him shopping on Saturdays in her sport-utility vehicle. I'm just reporting the facts. Is this reality TV material?

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