Question: As a real estate broker I'm worried about (1) making a living since home sales volume is down and (2) reports I hear of home sale price declines (although my area is holding firm on prices). Do you think home sales volume and prices will pick up soon? -- Mark T.

Answer: Being a real estate broker, you understand that real estate sales is a feast or famine business. From 1975 until 1980, home sales volume and prices boomed. Real estate prices needed a slowdown such as the one we experienced this past year.

The volume of home sales is down, but don't be fooled by some of the misleading price statistics you may have read. Due to the high cost of new mortgages, most home sales are now financed by buyers assuming existing mortgages and sellers helping out with various creative finance methods. These sales prices don't show up in government or lender statistics. The most reliable average home sale prices are those compiled by the Realtors, and they show slowly rising home sale prices.

There is unbelievable pent-up home buyer demand waiting for mortgage interest rates to decline to affordable levels. When interest rates will decline, or wages increase, I don't know. Expect the next real estate boom when more potential home buyers can afford to buy.

We're now in the pause before the boom. It's a great time to buy, because many home sellers are offering excellent terms. Unfortunately, buyers don't realize this, so they'll wait to buy until interest rates drop and home prices go up.

Q: We want to buy a home which the VA appraised at $93,500. The seller insists on receiving $97,500. Is it legal to pay the extra $4,000 in cash and still get the $93,500 VA loan? -- Jo A.

A: Yes.

Q: About five years ago my neighbor sold me a small plot of what I thought was his land for $950. He gave me a warranty deed. I have used the plot for gardening and a tool shed. Now the city has notified me that I have to remove my tool shed since they own the land and plan to put an alley on it. The neighbor has moved away. Since I have a warranty deed to the plot, what should I do? -- Mabel T.

A: Ask your attorney to check the title status to confirm the city's claim to the land. If it is valid, you own nothing. A warranty deed is only as good as the grantor who gave you that deed. If he can't be found now to make good on his warranty, you're the loser. Your situation shows why it is so important to always buy an owner's title insurance policy to protect against unexpected title claims.