DEAR BOB: I am a real estate agent with six years experience. There is one neighborhood of our town that has very nice houses, but a high crime rate, and it is in a bad school district. Recently one of my buyers made an offer on a home there that I didn't think the family should buy. Their children are seven months, three and four. The family didn't ask me about the schools or crime rate, so I kept my mouth shut. They bought the house. Did I have any legal duty to tell them of the drawbacks. Bethesda agent.
DEAR BETHESDA AGENT: Realty agents have a legal duty to inform their buyers of any major drawbacks about a contemplated property purchase. Agents must refrain from any misrepresentations, of course.
As for school quality, that is a matter of opinion. You have no duty to express your opinion on the school's quality. But if the crime rate of a neighborhood is unusually high, you should inform your clients, because that is a fact, not just an opinion, that may effect their purchase decision.
Long ago I learned to stop trying to think for my clients. They've bought many properties I wouldn't touch. And they've turned down many properties I would have bought. The client is the boss. Point out any specific disadvantages and let the client handle the other aspects of their purchase.
DEAR BOB: What do you mean by "home equity?" Jean L., Falls Church.
DEAR JEAN: Your home equity is the difference between your home's fair market value and the amount you owe on its debt. For example, if your home would sell for $60,000 and you owe $20,000 on its first mortgage, plus $5,000 on its second mortgage, your equity is $60,000 minus $25,000, or $35,000.
DEAR BOB: We decided to remodel our home instead of buying a new house. How can we hire good workmen as I hear there are many remodling con artist? Ace S., Gaithersburg.
DEAR ACE: Always get at least three bids for construction work. Ask each bidder for at least three client references and phone each to ask if they would hire that contractor again. Don't necessarily select the lowest price contractor but the one with the most satisfied customers.
DEAR BOB: What is the real estate commission rate now? A local realty agent wants 10 percent commission to sell my land. Too high?Helga D., Springfield.
DEAR HELGA: Real estate sales commission rate are fully negotiable between seller and agent. For homes, the nationwide average commission is 6 percent of the gross sales price, but I've seen rates as high as 8 percent and as low as 2.5 percent. On sales of vacant land, a 10 percent commission is typical.
The time to haggle about commission, by the way, is not at the time of listing. Doing so would dampen the agent's incentive. Agree to the rate asked if it is reasonable. Only if the agent brings you a low offer, far below the agreed asking price, would commission cutting be proper.
The 13-chapter Bruss Report "Realty Tax Tips" is available for $1 sent to Robert J. Bruss, P. O. Box 6710, San Francisco, Calif. 94101.