DEAR BOB: Can I deduct depreciation on my home? Bruce McB., Annapolis.
DEAR BRUCE: Only if you use part of your home for business use, such as an office or shop, or if you rent part to tenants. Personal residences are not depreciable if occupied only for personal use. Your tax advisor has details on qualification rules for home business use.
DEAR BOB: Please explain how wrap-around mortgages work. Margaret M., Washington.
DEAR MARGARET: Wrap-around mortgages, called all-inclusive mortgages in some areas, are really second mortgages. They "wrap around" an existing first mortgage. Never use a wraparound mortgage if the first loan is "due upon sale" of the property.
DEAR BOB: Do you have a list of books you advise novice investors to read before buying investment real estate? Jim A., Wheaton.
DEAR JIM: Yes. Read Bill Nickerson's classic "How I Turned $1,000 into $3,000,000 in Real Estate in My Spare Time" and Albert Lowry's recent "How You Can Become Financially Independent Investing in Real Estate." Both are published by Simon and Schuster; larger libraries and bookstores have them. In addition, take real estate courses at a nearby evening school.
DEAR BOB: We own our property in "joint tenancy with right of survivorship." Will it be included in the estate of the first joint tenant to die? Rosalie S., Falls Church.
DEAR ROSALIE: Yes. But there are big federal estate tax exemptions of $147,000 plus at least $250,000 for assets left to a surviving spouse. Ask your attorney or tax adviser for full details on estate tax exemptions.
DEAR BOB: When we retire next year and sell our home, our daughter wants us to buy a condominium to live in. Would this qualify for that "resident replacement rule" you often write about? Reba M., Gaithersburg.
DEAR REBA: No. If you buy a replacement principal residence within 18 months before or after selling your old home, and if its cost exceeds the sales price of the old home, you must defer paying the profit tax. However, the replacement home won't qualify if it is not in your name. If you qualify, why not use the new $100,000 profit tax exemption to avoid profit tax? Your tax adviser has full information.
DEAR BOB: If I make a tax-deferred trade of my equity in a four-family house for a commercial building, how long does the tax deferral last? Warren W., Washington.
DEAR WARREN: Assuming the house isn't your personal residence, the tax deferral lasts until you sell the property acquired in the trade without making another tax-deferred trade.
DEAR BOB: We have a Florida condo that we rent to tenants from April through October while we travel. Do those "vacation home" tax rules apply to such a residence if it is our primary home? Roland M., Bethesda.
DEAR ROLAND: No. The 1978 Tax Act, section 280A of the Internal Revenue Code, says the vacation home tax rules do not apply to a principal residence that is rented to tenants part of the year. Your tax advisor has full deails on this new law.
DEAR BOB: We have a warranty deed to our condominium, with both my name and my husband's on it. Should it say "with survivorship" or as joint tenants, or something else? Gertrude MacQ., Arlington.
DEAR GERTRUDE: Run, don't walk, to your attorney's office to have your deed checked. I presume you want to avoid probate procedures and costs. In a few states, a deed to a husband and wife automatically creates survivorship interests. But this is not the general rule, so have your deed checked now.
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.