DEAR BOB: When we bought our home last fall, the realty salesman couldn't stop talking about the virtues of the home. The view, the neighbors, the quality construction, the garden and the good schools couldn't have been better, according to him. After we moved in, we found out (a) our view will be blocked in a few years by a neighbor's growing trees and there's nothing we can do about it, (b) many of the neighbors have barking dogs that drive us crazy, and (c) while the local schools are good, we found out our son must be bused cross-town for special classes. Do you think we should sue the real estate salesman for misrepresentation? Kingsley H.
DEAR KINGSLEY: Most salespeople, whether they are selling cars, furniture or homes, at one time or another get carried away extolling the virtues of what they want to sell. It's called "puffing" if they merely express their opinion, such as "I think this home has a beautiful view" or "the neighbors are extremely friendly people."
But harmless puffing or salestalk can easily become misrepresentation. For example, if a realty salesman said, "This is the best neighborhood in town," that's just puffing. But if he says "The local schools are the best in the state, as measured by achievement tests," and it's not true, that's misrepresentation. In other words, puffing is an opinion, misrepresentation is an incorrect statement given as fact.
It sounds to me like your salesman was merely "puffing." But you should consult your attorney to see if there was any actionable misrepresentation.
DEAR BOB: I am 61 and my wife is 59. We retired last year, thanks to our property investment. While we were young, we set a goal of buying at least one investment property per year. As a result, we own 17 properties, mostly rental houses.Now that we're retired, we plan to sell one property a year for the next 16 years. We've already sold one. We plan to take back a first or second mortgage on each one. That way we'll have plenty of retirement income and the installment sales will keep us in the lowest tax bracket. Why don't you ever mention such an idea to your readers? Gary M.
DEAR GARY: Thanks for sharing your success. I have mentioned the "one property a year plan" before, but I guess you missed it. But your success with the plan is far more encouraging than my mere suggestng it. Best wishes for many years of retirement, thanks to your real estate investment.
DEAR BOB: We plan to sell our home soon. Should we hire a professional appraiser to set the sales price? Murphy A.
DEAR MURPHY: A professional appraisal can be an impressive sales tool to show to a buyer, especially if you try to sell without an agent.
But an equally good method is to invite at least three active local realty agents to estimate your home's sales price. They will gladly prepare a written "competitive market analysis" for you in hopes of getting your sales listing. Of course, don't necessarily list with the agent who estimates the highest price. Select on the basis of references and services offered.
DEAR BOB: Please explain the procedure for buying at a delinquent tax sale. Unis M.
DEAR UNIS: Contact your local tax collector or other official who conducts property sales for the amount of the unpaid property taxes.Get a list of the properties to be offered. Drive by each one to see if you are interested.
In most communities, however, you'll rarely find good properties going to tax sales.The reason is one of the 40 thieves, before the sale, buys the property from the defaulting owner, often for a few thousand dollars. Then the new owner redeems the property, before the sale, so it isn't offered at the tax sale.
DEAR BOB: Some time ago you mentioned a group called "the 40 thieves" who bid at foreclosure sales. Who are these people? I've never heard of them. Karen W.
DEAR KAREN: The "40 thieves" don't really exist. But it is an expression to represent the professional bidders at foreclosure sales and tax sales.These people make a living by following the foreclosure and tax sales. Many are related to each other. I've met several in my area. They tell me the skill is usually passed down from father to son. Actually, they are quite nice people, unless you're bidding abainst them at a sale, of course.