DEAR MR. MELTZER: My wife and I are heartsick because we followed your advice. We found a beautiful house and engaged an expert real estate lawyer to represent us in drawing up the agreement of sale.
Our lawyer insisted that the agreement state that this sale would not go through until we sold our present house and got a mortgage commitment on the house we were buying.
The seller refused to sign this agreement because he had lost two previous buyers - one who was unable to sell his own house by the settlement date, and the other who couldn't get a mortgage at the rate he wanted. He got tired of waiting.
I told our lawyer that our houses in our neighborhood were selling without difficulty and that I had excellent credit. I had already been told by my bank that they saw no reason not to give me a new mortgage.
Nevertheless, he insisted and as a result we didn't get the house. Someone else bought it. We now know that if we had gone there ourselves, we would have had the house we wanted. We feel that hiring the lawyer to represent us was a wrong move in this case. Don't you agree we made a bad move?
ANSWER: There are times when a lawyer can keep a transaction from being completed. But in almost every one of these case, the transaction could have been disastrous if the lawyer's advice had not been taken.
In your case I am convinced that your lawyer did you a favor. First, even though houses might be selling well in your area, there is no guarantee that your house would have been sold and settlement made before the new house had to be settled.
Second, the fact that your credit is good is in itself not insufficient. The house must pass the test of being acceptable to the lender before a mortgage is approved. You have no assurance this will take place.
A good lawyer protects his client against those things which are known to have happened many times in the past. This experience has been valuable, and chances are you'll find another dream house in the future. But the loss you would sustain in a bad transaction could stay with you for a lifetime.
DEAR MR. MELTZER: We are a group of four doctors, expert in our field of medicine. We run a small medical center in a medium-sized city. We consider ourselves professionals in our field, but know absolutely nothing about real estate. So we were pleased when an expert in real estate approached us to purchase a small office building in a large nearby city.
He showed us how we would get close to 20 per cent back on our investment every year, and since the value of real estate would keep going up, we would make a substantial capital gain when we eventually sold the building.
This happened two years ago. At the end of the first year, we each got back $10,000, which was 20 per cent of what we had invested. We were delighted. Last year we got nothing, and when we contacted the man who set up the original purchase, we learned that he had moved and no one knew his whereabouts.
Here comes the bad part: We now learn we don't own the building at all.He sold us this building, but pocketed all the money, and never took title to it. The present owners never heard of him or us. We are out $40,000 each. The amazing thing is that each of us has a copy in our possession of official looking documents which state we are the owners of the building.
ANSWER: You are the victims of another version of the "Ponzi Scheme." I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the man who sold you the building has done the same thing with many others, and has been using the new money to pay back interest to the original investors.
You are lucky to have gotten any money back. Your big mistake was not having competent, expert counsel to guarantee that you were actually taking title to this property. I am sure that none of you would attempt to perform an operation without knowing exactly what you might find after you began. The same thing should hold true in a real estate transaction.
Learn what to look for, and look for expert help before you venture into it.
DEAR MR. MELTZER: Help us! We are about to be evicted from our own house by our granchildren.
My wife and I had lived in an apartment for nearly 40 years, but six years ago we decided to move after we found a lovely little home. Because of our advanced years and limited income, we were unable to secure a mortgage. Our granddaughter's new husband, who is a veteran of the Vietnam War, agreed to let us use his name to purchase the house with a GI loan, so we could buy it with no money down.
Of course, the house was put in the name of our granddaughter and her husband. The worse has come! They had a fight and are divorcing. As part of the settlement, my granddaughter's husband wants the house sold and one half of the proceeds given to him. My granddaughter wants the divorce badly, and is willing to give him anything. She says she will give us her half of the money.
We don't want to lose our house. We put everything we own into it. We are now in our 70s and have looked forward to a peaceful existence. What can we do?
ANSWER: I think your problem could have been solved by shopping for the mortgage. In my opinion, this was your first mistake, because I have seen many people on fixed incomes in their 60s and 70s, with good credit and a good downpayment, obtain mortgages.
My advice to you is to retain an lawyer. He can show evidence that every penny that went into the house from the time it was purchased came from you and your wife. He will then request that the courts declared that you and your wife are the rightful owners of the property, and that your grandchildren were acting only as straw parties when the house was purchased.
Have heart. It has been my experience that courts look favorably on people who are trying to keep the roof over their heads, and who are good, honest, law abiding citizens. I feel reasonably certain that if you get yourselves an attorney to represent you, you will end up being the rightful owners of the property by record, as well as by deed.