DEAR BOB: We made a purchase offer on a home. Before the seller would accept our offer, he insisted we put up an earnest money deposit of the full amount of our down payment which would be $9,000. We did this and the seller accepted our offer. Unfortunately, we can't qualify for a home mortgage so we won't be able to buy that house after all. But the seller refuses to refund our $9,000 deposit. She says that we lose it because we didn't complete our purchase contract. Is this true? Shannon M., Springfield, Va.

DEAR SHANNON: See your attorney. You may be able to get at least part of your $9,000 deposit refunded, depending upon the wording of your purchase offer. If your offer specified it was contingent upon getting a mortgage, as it should have been, the seller must refund the $9,000. Your situation shows the importance of having a carefully worded purchase contract so there is no misunderstanding about the earnest money deposit.

DEAR BOB: Recently you said you were tired of hearing about people who were priced out of the home-buying market. You said that virtually any wage earner can afford to buy some type of home. That motivated me to see if what you said was true, so my wife and I seriously started house-hunting. We soon ruled out buying a single-family house because the ones we could afford were too far away from my job. But we did find a nice two-bedroom condominium, which we bought for only $3,000 down. It was the 34th place we looked at. Just thought you'd want to know that you're right.

DEAR CARLOS: Thank you for reminding home buyers that persistence still pays when it comes to buying a home. The important thing is that you bought your first home. In a few years, after you've built up some equity, you can sell your condo and buy a house, which is what I presume you really wanted. A first home usually isn't where the buyer wants to live all his or her life, but at least it's a start.

DEAR BOB: Thank you for your explanation of new tax-deferred exhanges. Can I use this retroactively to apply to a sale of land I made in 1978? I used the money to buy an apartment house in 1979. Should I apply for a tax refund on the land sale? Morris T., Potomac.

DEAR MORRIS: No. Use of tax-deferred exchanges requires expert planning before you close the sale of the first property as the proceeds must be held in trust until the second property is found to complete the tax-deferred exchange. Consult your tax advisor or attorney for full details on this great tax-deferral method.