DEAR BOB: Last month my wife and I closed the purchase of our first home. We think we got a real bargain on it. Except for the fixtures and appliances. The realtor assured us the stove, refrigerator, and washer, as well as the light fixtures, were included in the sales price. After we closed the purchased and got the keys, we found the seller had removed all these items. Our lawyer says his fee and court coasts would probably equal the value of the appliances and fixtures. What do yo recommend? Scott M., Virginia.
DEAR SCOTT: Obviously, this problem never would have occurred if the appliances and fixtures had been listed in the purchase agreement as being included. Check the listing to see if they were included there. Contracts for sale of real property must be written. But personal property sales need not be written to be inforceable. If the appliances were built-in, then they are probably real property under local law and are automatically included in the sale.
A practical solution is to comfront your real estate agent, since his representations were that the appliances and fixtures were included. While the agent can't control the seller, he can usually pressure him to work out a fair settlement. Many agents, in similar situations, have paid for replacements out of their own pocket to protect their sales license. If your agent won't settle this matter quickly for you, talk to his broker.
Should the result not satisfy you, then you shoudl inform the state estate commissioner as to the agent's representations. Such action often brings a surprisingly swift settlement by the agent or his broker.
DEAR BOB: I am a realtor and consider myself quite knowledgeable about single family homes. But condominiums are another world to me. In five years I plan to semi-retire, spending half my time here and the other half in Arizona. At that time I plan to sell my house and move into a condominium. One is for sale now on excellent terms in the complex I like. I know you feel condominiums are not terrific investments except as persoal residences. But don't you think I should buy mine now before prices go higher? I would rent it to tenants for five years until I retire.If I buy, how should I allocate the depreciation between land and building? Craig H., Virginia.
DEAR CRAIG: Condominiums bought for rental to tenants are usually not outstanding investments. That's because (1) the price per unit is usually too high, (2) the attainable rent often barely covers expenses, and (3) inflationary increase in value is almost always slower than for single family homes, commercial property, and apartments. But since you are buying for eventual personal use, you might be smart to buy now before prices go up higher.
Allocating the purchase price between the non-depreciable land value and the depreciable building is not easy. Even the IRS can't say exactly how it shoud be done. Part of your cost is for your undivided share of the non-depreciable land value, part is for your undivided share of the common areas, such as hallways and pool area, and the rest is for your apartment. In the absence of any better method, use the tax assessor's building-to-land ratio. In a high rise condo, a 5 per cent land to 95 per cent building ratio might be attainable.
DEAR BOB: I will be receiving $40,000 as an inheritance. If you were investing that sum, in real estate, what kind of property would you buy? Trudy J., Virginia.
DEAR TRUDY: You could buy prime property, such as a single family home, and sit back to wait for inflation to increase its value. But inflation will also reduce the purchasing power of your profit when you sell that home.
So you should invest in real estate where than the inflation rate, now about 7 per cent a year. That's why I prefer buying rundown, but well-located, income property such as apartments. They can be upgraded and the rents, net income, and value increased. As the net income increases, the value increases too.
It's not unusal for property investors to double their invested dollars in a year or less by improving property and then selling or trading it at a profit. You'll be doing your community some good too by improving the quality of its housing supply.
Readers desiring a copy of the report "How to Maximize Your Profit When Selling Your Residence," including 1976 tax law changes, may send 10 cents in coin and a STAMPED self-addressed envelope to Robert J. Bruss, P.O. Box 6710, San Francisco, Calif. 94101.