DEAR BOB: We recently bought our first home. No agent was involved, so we have only ourselves to blame for our mistake. We paid too much. Our purchase price was $98,000, plus closing costs. After we moved in, we learned from a neighbor that homes in the neighborhood have been selling for $88,000 to $92,000. Should we sue the seller for charging us too much? Dirk L., Gaithersburg.
DEAR DIRK: It wasn't your seller's fault that you paid too much. A good real estate agent would have shown you recent sales prices of similar nearby homes before you made your offer so that you wouldn't overpay. But it's too late now. The seller had no obligation to stop you from paying more than market value.
Fortunately, real estate is a very forgiving investment. Your home will probably appreciate in value within a year to become worth what you paid for it. The net result will be that your eventual resale profit won't be as high as it could have been if you had bought at the right price. The first profit is made when property is bought at the right price.
DEAR BOB: I would like to become a knowledgeable investor. Where can I learn more about property? Have you written any books? Mrs. O.P., Bowie.
DEAR MRS. O.P.: In most communities, local colleges and universities offer excellent, low-cost real estate classes. Start with the real estate principles course and then take more advanced classes.
No, I haven't written any books yet, but one is in the works. In the meantime, I have a series of realty reports available. You and other readers can get a complete list, plus my report on "How to Maximize Your Profit When Selling Your Residence," for 25 cents and a self-addressed STAMPED envelope sent to Robert J. Bruss, Box 6710, San Francisco, Calif. 94101.
DEAR BOB: I listed my home for sale with a real estate agent. She brought me an offer at my full asking price. But I have decided not to sell as I can't find another place to live as nice as mine. The agent says if I refuse to sell, the buyer can force me to sell. Is this true? Hartley Y., Bethesda.
DEAR HARTLEY: No. Although you listed your home for sale with a realty agent, you can't be forced to sell. But if the agent brought you a purchase offer which exactly met your listing terms and you didn't accept it, you owe the agent a full sales commission even if no sale takes place. Only if you had accepted a purchase offer and then refused to deliver the deed, could you be forced to complete the sale (it's called a specific performance lawsuit, brought by the buyer). Ask your attorney for details.
DEAR BOB: How can I get a time extension on the purchase of a replacement home so I won't have to pay tax on my profit on the house I sold last year? The IRS lady said she didn't think extensions were allowed. Herv S.
DEAR HERV: The "IRS lady" is right. Time extensions are not allowed according to Internal Revenue Code section 1034. You are allowed only 18 months before or after your principal residence sale to buy a more expensive replacement if you are to defer your profit tax payment. Ask your tax adviser for more information.
DEAR BOB: Over the years I have acquired five different properties, plus my home. I would like advice about whether to continue holding these properties or sell or trade them. Is there any way I can get impartial advice? It seems that my attorney and CPA aren't very knowledgeable about real estate. Gordon M., Fairfax.
DEAR GORDON: Attorneys and CPAs are experts on law and accounting, but not on real estate. For impartial advice, not based on any sales commission motivation, consult a real estate counselor.
These expert real estate advisers are usually older men and women with many years of real estate experience. For a fee, you can have your property portfolio reviewed and suggestions made as to any changes you should make. If you accept the advice, the real estate counselor will help you implement it with the aid of specialists such as appraisers or real estate agents.
To find the names of local real estate counselors, consult your Board of Realtors for a roster of their counselor members.