Q: I'm preparing to sell an eight-unit apartment building I own. I think my asking price should be about 10 to 20 percent above the property value. That will give me room to negotiate. Do you think this is a good idea?
A: No. The best way to obtain the highest price possible is to list your property exclusively for three to six months with an active commercial real estate broker at a price about 5 to 10 percent above its realistic market value. You have room to negotiate, and your price wouldn't be so unrealistic that it would frighten potential buyers away.
A: We will be moving soon. Our home is 14 years old, valued at about $78,000 and we hold a $45,000, 7 1/2 percent mortgage. Our next house will cost about $80,000. We will also be paying college expenses for the next six years. Our dilemma is whether to sell and use the gain for a down payment on the new house, which would ease our college expenses or to rent with a small annual cash flow. It would be tight, but earnings and savings could be sufficient to carry both houses.
A: From an investment viewpoint, it would probably be wiser to keep your house and rent it, providing that it's structurally sound and desirable, well-maintained, and well-located. Appreciation in value on houses in the Washington area has often brought just about the best investment return and inflation hedge available. But is this going to be touch-and-go financially for you as a family? If so, you'll want to weigh reasonable peace of mind against making an investment. If the former wins, sell your present home.
Q: In a recent column, you said that an owner of mortgaged real estate can be relieved of mortgage debt by (1) foreclosure of the mortgage by a lender, or (2) selling the property and paying off the mortgage. Can't an owner also be relieved by voluntary agreement between the lender and owner (borrower) by which the lender takes the property and releases the owner from all further obligations with respect to the mortgage and the property?
A: Yes, of course. I meant that to be implicit in my answer. But I should have made it explicit. If the parties voluntarily agree as you've indicated and there's "consideration" (without getting too technical, this means that each party to the agreement gives, or gives up, something, usually, of value), then the lender gets the property and the owner-borrower is free of the mortgage debt.
Earl A. Snyder, an appraiser, answers questions only in this column. His address: 14909 Kalmia Dr., Laurel, Md. 20810.