DEAR BOB: You're always writing about how to spot bargains. It doesn't seem to work for me. Everything here seems so overpriced. How can I find one of those bargain homes you're always writing about? With our three children, we're most anxious to move out of our apartment. Lucy T., Washington.
DEAR LUCY: You find bargain properties by persistence. Work with a good real estate agent. If he or she doesn't phone you at least once a week with new listings to inspect, find a better agent.
Once you find a home you would like to own, make a purchase offer to buy if for what you think it is really worth. This may be thousands of dollars below the asking price. You may have to make 20 offers before one is accepted. But when that one is accepted, you've made yourself a terrific buy.
Sellers will never come to you to offer to sell on attractive terms so you've got to come to them. Get busy and start making purchases offers. The more offers you make, the better your chances of buying soon.
DEAR BOB: In 1977 my brother and I spent many hours fixing up a rental house we bought as an investment. On our income tax returns for 1977 we each deducted 100 hours of labor of $5 per hour as repair expense. The IRS rejected this deduction. Should we appeal? Lorrie M. Washington.
DEAR LORRIE: It would be a waste of time. The value of personal labor on real property is not tax deductible. For this reason, it usually pays to hire work done on investment property since (1) the work usually gets done faster and (2) the cost is tax deductible.
DEAR BOB: Some friends bought a home about a year ago. It developed all sorts of problems, such as a leaky roof, defective appliances, termites, and even a cracked basement foundation. How can we avoid such problems when we buy our first home? Mrs. T. E., Uper Marlboro.
DEAR MRS. T. E. There are several good ways. (1) In areas where termites are a problem, put a termite inspection contingency in your purchase offer, (2) put a professional home inspection contingency clause in your offer, and (3) insist that the seller provide a one-year home warranty insurance policy.
DEAR BOB: I am 53 and disabled due to a job accident. My doctor says I should move to a warmer climate. If I sell my home, can I qualify for that $100,000 "over-55 rule" tax break you often write about? A friend says there is a special provision in that law for disabled people like me. Edna M., Rockville.
DEAR EDNA: Sorry, but the "over-55 rule" $100,000 home sale tax exemption does not contain a special provision for disabled people who are not 55 or older. There was such a proposal, but it didn't get through Congress. Your tax advisor can explain further.