DEAR BOB: After reading your column several weeks ago, I wrote to our mortgage company to get a copy of our house's appraisal, which cost us $200. Enclosed is a copy of the one-page form that delayed closing even though the mortgage company took 12 weeks to process our Federal Housing Administration loan. The appraiser didn't even get the lot size correct. I feel ripped off. Why is the "maximum mortgage amount" less than the "estimated reasonable value of property?" -- Patricia W.
DEAR PATRICIA: Because you paid for the appraisal, you are entitled to a copy of the appraisal. Even the Veterans Administration and FHA will give persistent borrowers a copy. But the HUD Conditional Commitment form you received is not the appraisal form, signed by the appraiser. Ask again for a copy of the FHA appraisal.
The difference between your maximum mortgage amount and the estimated reasonable value of the property is the down payment required on FHA loans. Even if it took 12 weeks to get your FHA mortgage, you got a good deal with a fixed interest-rate assumable mortgage. In my opinion, FHA and VA mortgages are the best home loans available today.
DEAR BOB: A friend is completing his medical residency and plans to move with his wife and two small children to Lubbock, Tex., during the summer. He has talked about going there now to buy a home to move into when his residency here is completed. I think he should first rent a house, but I don't want to intrude into his business. What do you advise? -- Earl H.
DEAR EARL: Unless your friend is familiar with his new community, he should take his time about buying a home to avoid making a costly mistake. You are correct that renting a home would be a good idea until he gets established. Better yet, a lease with option to purchase would tie up the house he rents in case he later wants to buy it.
DEAR BOB: I am following your suggestion of trying to buy foreclosed houses that lenders have taken back and have contacted several local banks and S&Ls for lists of their "REOs." But they said they don't have any such lists. How can I find out about these foreclosed properties? -- Jon McV.
DEAR JON: Many mortgage lenders refuse to give out lists of their REOs (real estate owned) because it hurts their reputation if they have too many. However, banks and S&Ls often list their REOs with local real estate brokers, so ask local realty agents if they know of REO property for sale. If there were no bidders at a foreclosure sale on a property, contact the lender immediately after the auction to inquire about buying it.
DEAR BOB: We want to refinance a 13.75 percent interest rate mortgage on our house. The problem is our mortgage says we have to pay a 3 percent prepayment penalty if the funds come from a lender other than the present lender. Should we prepay the loan now from our own funds and then refinance with another lender? -- Richard D.
DEAR RICHARD: No. Contact your present lender to learn its best terms for a new mortgage. Of course, don't take the old lender's offered new loan unless it is a good deal for you. Consult at least two banks, two S&Ls and two mortgage brokers to compare their mortgage terms.
There is another problem you may not know about. Some lenders in the secondary mortgage market have a stupid rule that they won't buy a refinanced mortgage if the amount exceeds the old loan balance plus refinance costs. In other words, these lenders don't want you to take out tax-free cash from refinancing. If you want to borrow more than the old loan's balance plus refinance costs, you may have to shop among many lenders.
DEAR BOB: You recently wrote that the person responsible for the mortgage payments on a home is entitled to the interest tax deduction. But my CPA says otherwise. My stepson makes the payments, but I am on the mortgage loan and I hold the property title. Who gets the deduction? -- Richard A.
DEAR RICHARD: My statement was correct that the person responsible for the home mortgage payments is entitled to the interest tax deduction, providing that person actually made the payments. Your CPA is correct that you are not entitled to the interest tax deduction if you didn't pay the interest.
However, although your stepson made the mortgage payments, he is not entitled to the mortgage interest deduction because he is not legally obligated to make the payments. But you can solve this problem by adding him to the property title. Then he becomes legally obligated to make the payments and is entitled to the interest tax deduction since he is making the payments.
But before you add your stepson to your home's title, check with your attorney and local tax assessor to be sure that doing so won't cause a reassessment of your home for property tax purposes.
DEAR BOB: We are contemplating selling our home and moving to a lifecare retirement community. After taking our $125,000 once-per-lifetime home sales tax exemption, it appears our net deferred gain from this and three previous homes will be about $33,500. The lifetime occupancy fee for our retirement home will be $80,000. Because we are buying a right to occupancy for life and not title to it, will such a residence qualify for tax deferral on the $33,500? -- Winslow P.
DEAR WINSLOW: No. Since you are not buying title to your retirement home, you can't qualify for the "rollover residence replacement rule" of IRC 1034. All you can get is up to $125,000 of tax-free profits from the sale of your current and three previous residences. Consult your tax adviser for further details.
Readers with questions should write Bruss directly at P.O. Box 6710, San Francisco, Calif. 94101.