DEAR BOB: My husband and I earn about $20,000 total per year. But we only have about $450 in our savings account. It seems we can't save enough for a home down payment. Any ideas how we can save up the down payment? Tammie R., Washington.
DEAR TAMMIE: Yes. To build up your savings, always deposit your paychecks in your savings account, never in your checking account. Withdraw only for necessary living costs. Cut the frills, then start looking for a house. Keep making purchase offers until a seller accepts one. Here are 15 ways to buy a home with little or no cash. A realty agent can suggest more.
1) Lease with option to buy in six to 12 months. 2) VA no down payment mortgage. 3) FHA low down payment mortgage. 4) 90 or 95 percent PMI (private mortgage insurance) mortgage from more than 22,000 banks and savings associations. 5) Buy a foreclosed FHA or VA home from HUD. 6) Borrow the down payment from relatives. 7) Borrow the down payment on your car or other personal property from a bank or finance company. 8) Get the seller to finance the sale on a first or second mortgage. 9) Buy a foreclosed home from a bank or savings association. 10) "Equity squeeze" by creating as your down payment a second mortgage on property you already own. 11) Get a group of friends to form a partnership syndicate to buy your home and give you an option to buy it for a higher price in a few years. 12) Buy an option on a home. 13) Buy out the owner's equity in a home about to be foreclosed. 14) Borrow the down payment at a bank if your credit is good. 15) Buy on a land contract with little or no cash down payment.
DEAR BOB: I'm receiving conflicting advice from relatives on the best way to sell my home. My daughter says I should notify several agents of my price and terms and let them all work on selling the house. But my ex-husband says I should list my home with just one agent. Who is right? Edna M., Bowie.
DEAR EDNA: Your ex-husband. To give a realty agent maximum incentive to work hard to get your home sold, list it exclusively with one agent. However, be sure that agent fully cooperates with other local agents who may have a buyer for your home.
The "open listing" suggested by your daughter usually results in no agent working hard to get your home sold. Most agents dislike open listings because they lack control over the property and earn nothing if another agent first finds a buyer for your home.
DEAR BOB: Is it true that from the landlord's viewpoint a sublease is better than an assignment because if the subtenant doesn't pay, the original tenant can be held liable for the unpaid rent? Cyril L., Upper Marlboro.
DEAR CYRIL; Yes. An assignment frees the original tenant of any further liability if the new tenant doesn't pay the rent.
DEAR BOB: Thank you for sending your report "How to Sell Your Home With or Without an Agent." After reading it, I came to the conclusion that smart sellers use a realty agent to market their home. But we have sold our home and are looking for a condominium to buy. From our viewpoint, don't you think we world save by buying directly from the seller so we can save the sales commission? Brent O., Bethesda.
DEAR BRENT: No. A do-it-yourself home seller goes through all the hassle and inconvenience of selling his property alone for one main reason, to save the sales commission.
Will the seller pass that saving on to the buyer? Of course not.
It's the marketplace -- not agents, not sellers and not buyers -- that determines property values. The price a willing buyer and a willing seller agree upon is the market value of a particular property. A realty agent can help you, the buyer, negotiate a fair price on the condo you want to buy. Without the aid of an agent, you may pay too much. The agent also handles the 1001 other sale details, such as arranging financing and the closing settlement. As a buyer, the agent's services cost you nothing extra.
DEAR BOB: I read that federal savings associations can now make new types of mortgage loans, such as variable interest rate mortages, graduated mortgages and reverse annuity mortgages. From the borrower's viewpoint, are these new finance methods good or bad?Fred T, Alexandria.
DEAR FRED: Some are good, some are bad. The graduated payment mortgage is good for borrowers. Payments start out small, at the interest-only level, and gradually rise as the borrower's income increases.
Reverse annuity mortgages, mainly for retired people who want to borrow on their home equity to provide monthly income for living costs, are good too. But there are dome problems to work out, so don't expect these mortgages to become widely available very soon.
Variable interest rate mortgages are bad for borrowers, good for lenders. The drawback is that the interest rate can go up or down, depending upon the lender's cost of funds. Unless inflation suddenly stops, lender's costs for funds will continue to go up. That means the lender can raise the interest rate, but the borrower gets to added benefit. Try to avoid such loans if possible. The old fixed interest rate mortgage is a better bargain.
DEAR BOB: Is it true that the 10 percent investment tax credit is now available for buying older commercial buildings? John G., Bethesda.
DEAR JOHN: The 1978 Tax Act extended the 10 percent investment taxcredit to the cost of improvements made to commercial and industrial buildings that haven't been remodeled for at least 20 years. The tax credit does not apply to the purchase price, just to the capital improvement costs.The purpose is to encourage renovation of older, urban commercial buildings.
DEAR BOB: In 1977 we sold 14 investment properties in preparation for moving to our retirement home in Arizona. The IRS says our profits should be taxed as ordinary income instead of as capital gains. Is this reasonable? Kevin T., McLean.
DEAR KEVIN: No. People who sell many properties in one year are often taxed as "real estate dealers" at ordinary tax rates. But there is an exception for liquidations of realty holdings. Hire a good tax attorney to represent you. It appears that you are entitled to capital gains tax rates on your sale profits since you are an investor, not a realty dealer.
DEAR BOB: Thanks for your explanation of that new "over 55 rule" $100,000 home sale tax exemption. But what if the house's title is in the name of a spouse who isn't yet 55? When my husband was very sick in 1970, we put the house in my name alone. I am now 52 and he is 56. If we sell, can we qualify for that exemption? Shirley McV., Fairfax.
DEAR SHIRLEY: No. To qualify the title must be in the name of at least one spouse who is over 55. Ask your tax adviser for more details.
Readers desiring the report, "How to Sell Your Home With or Without an Agent," should send 25 cents plus a STAMPED self-addressed envelope to Robert J. Bruss, P.O. Box 6710, San Francisco, Calif. 94101.