DEAR BOB: Several weeks ago you said we're in a "buyer's market" for homes sales. Please explain further. Do you mean this is a good or bad time to buy a home? I ask because my wife and I are waiting to buy a home until mortgage interest rates come down. Conrad C., Washington.
Dear CONRAD: A "buyer's market" means there are more homes listed for sale than there are active buyers seeking a home to purchase. Although I don't have exact statistics, I estimate in most communities there are four or five homes listed for sale for each one that has sold in the last month.
This means it is a terrific time to buy a home. While you probably won't get much of a price reduction from the seller, you will find home sellers are now very flexible on terms they are offering. Low down payments, low interest rates and low monthly payments are not uncommon today if the seller is helping finance the sale.
Start making offers. Don't get discouraged. Provide for seller financing in your offers. Forget about getting a new mortgage because they are too expensive.
There are so many ways to buy homes today on terrific seller-financed terms I can't list them all. Work with a good real estate agent who understands creative finance so the terms can be tailored to your circumstances.
Ideas to consider include lease with option to buy later, land contracts, wrap-around mortgages, deferred down payments and trading unwanted cars, boats, RVs, or land for your down payment. If you're short of cash, for ideas on how to buy a home with little or no cash, read Robert Allen's terrific new book "Nothing Down," just published by Simon and Schuster.
DEAR BOB: We own some rural land which was inherited years ago. The only way to reach this land is a round-about way which is four miles from the main highway. A friend told me I could get an "easement by necessity" over a neightbor's land which would cut the distance from the highway to less than a mile. How do I get such an easement? Fred T., Reston.
DEAR FRED: An easement by necessity can be obtained for land which has no means of access from a public road. In other words, it applies to "landlocked" property that does not adjoin any road.
The owner of such property can bring a legal proceeding to create an easement by necessity over adjoining land to a road. One of the elements of such an easement is that both parcels must have, at some previous time, been owned by the same person.
Since you have a way to reach your property, although it is not the most direct route, it appears you can't qualify for an easement by necessity. Your attorney can explain further.
DEAR BOB: Thank you for your article about tax-deferred "Starker exchanges." I am about to sell a North Dakota farm I inherited in 1949. The sale is all agreed upon, awaiting my sending back the papers. Can I use a Starker Exchange to avoid paying tax on my sale profit? Elmer H., Chevy Chase.
DEAR ELMER: Yes, but see a real estate or tax attorney. To qualify for a Starker exchange, the sale proceeds must be held in a trust, beyond your grasp, until you find a second property to acquire. Then you direct the trustee to acquire the second property to complete the delayed exchange.
If you have a right to obtain the sale proceeds, that disqualifies the sale from tax deferral. Do it right and you can save taxes; do it wrong and Uncle Sam will thank you for your mistake.
DEAR BOB: I enjoyed your recent article explaining tax deferred exchanges. If I trade my lot, which I bought as an investment, for a more expensive lot where I would build my new home, would this qualify for tax deferral on my profits in the old lot? Mr. S. K., Arlington.
DEAR MR. S. K.: No. Tax-deferred exchanges, explained in Internal Revenue Code section 1031, apply only to property acquired for investment or for use in a trade or business.
Since your second lot will be acquired for your personal residence, it can't qulify. Keep your personal residence out of tax deferred exchanges.