DEAR BOB: Several months ago you wrote an article explaining the various types of real estate listings. Now that we are ready to sell our home, my wife and I decided an exclusive agency listing would be best for us. We realize the benefits of hiring a realty agent, but also might find a buyer ourselves and don't want to pay a sales commission if we do.
I have talked to four different brokerages and none will sign us up on an exclusive agency listing. They insist on an exclusive right to sell listing which, as I understand it, gives the agent a full commission even if we find a buyer for our home.
Why can't we get a broker to take an exclusive agency listing? -- Nathan R. DEAR NATHAN: In most cities there is currently a buyer's market for homes. That means there are more homes for sale than there are qualified buyers.
Even the best real estate agents are having difficulty selling their homes listed for sale on exclusive right to sell listings. As you know, an exclusive right to sell listing means the listing agent earns a full sales commission whether the agent finds a buyer or the owner does.
Since most realty agents have all the exclusive right to sell listings they can handle, they are turning down the less desirable exclusive agency listings that do not produce a sales commission if the property owner finds a buyer for the house.
Frankly, I don't fault those agents for rejecting your exclusive agency listing in today's market. I suggest you interview at least three agents, check their references of previous home sellers closely and list your home on an exclusive right to sell with the best agent. Under current market conditions, you need all the professional help you can get.
DEAR BOB: I earn a high income and would like some tax shelter. A good friend who is a real estate agent has shown me an apartment building he has for sale in the best part of town. The building is in immaculate condition. He will continue managing it for me if I buy it.
The problem is that even if I make a 40 percent cash down payment the building will show a negative cash flow of about $1,000 per month.
Considering the tax shelter benefits, do you think I should buy a building that will lose at least $12,000 per year? -- Robert G. DEAR ROBERT: I doubt you will receive any tax shelter from that building. The maximum tax loss deduction from so-called passive loss property such as apartment rentals is $25,000, but this is available only if your adjusted gross income is less than $100,000. Over that amount, your deduction phases out down to zero at $150,000 adjusted gross income.
It sounds like the real estate agent has shown you what is called a "pride of ownership" building that you will be proud to point out to all your friends. But be sure to also emphasize it costs you at least $12,000 per year for the privilege of owning that building. I hope you get my drift. For further information, consult your tax adviser.
DEAR BOB: Three of my golfing buddies want me to invest $50,000 in the purchase of a motel. One of the friends knows how to manage motels and has been quite successful. But he is in poor health, so I am concerned that if anything happens to him and his assistant who does all the work, my $50,000 would be in danger.
What do you think of motel investments? -- David P. DEAR DAVID: Not much. Motels, hotels, bed and breakfast inns and other real estate-oriented businesses are very risky. The failure rate is extremely high and the ownership turnover is substantial. Those are not real estate investments. They are primarily management-intense businesses.
Another problem is the partnership. Since you will only own one-fourth of the motel, you have very little to say about what happens to your investment. For example, suppose you think it's time to sell, but the other partners don't want to sell. There is virtually no market for a one-fourth share in a motel, except at a very deep discount.
DEAR BOB: My home has been listed for sale over four months with no purchase offer so far. The realty agent is doing a good job and I can't fault her as she advertises the house every week and holds an open house every other Sunday.
Several weeks ago you wrote about how you use lease-options to sell homes and how you bought your personal residence on a lease-option. But when I brought up the subject with my agent, she turned very hostile, like I had said a dirty word.
Why was my agent so opposed to a lease-option? -- Henry C. DEAR HENRY: Most real estate agents have never done a lease-option and don't understand how beneficial they can be. Another problem is the agent receives either part or none of their commission when the agreement is signed and must wait until the option is exercised before receiving the rest of the commission.
For example, I recall the first lease-option I did where a realty agent was involved. It was the home where I now live. I told the realty agent I had to buy on a lease-option until my old residence could be sold. I explained that the realty agent would get the listing on my old home and probably have to wait less than six months for me to exercise the purchase option. When she saw the two sales commissions she became very enthusiastic about lease-options.
If your agent refuses to offer your home on a lease-option, since she has failed to sell your home, I suggest when your listing expires you switch to an agent who is sees the benefits of lease-options.
DEAR BOB: Last summer we made a bad mistake. We bought a vacation cabin. Now we have learned everything is wrong with it and we can understand why the bank foreclosed and sold it to us for nothing down. However, it will cost more to make repairs than it will be worth.
The banker who sold it to us says he is willing to let a buyer take over our mortgage if we keep up the payments until we can find a buyer.
We started advertising the house in April, but have not had any offers. What should we do? -- George McC. DEAR GEORGE: The banker sounds like a reasonable person who just wants his monthly payments on the mortgage. Surely you can find another person to take over the loan payments. Perhaps if you list the home with a nearby real estate agent, even if it costs you a few thousand dollars in sales commission, that will be cheaper than continuing to make mortgage payments on a vacation home you don't want. Whatever you do, don't just walk away and quit making mortgage payments because that will ruin your credit.
DEAR BOB: I make the mortgage payments on my mother's condominium since she doesn't have enough income. When the Internal Revenue Service audited my tax returns I let it slip out that I am making the payments on my mother's mortgage.
The agent promptly denied my interest and property tax deduction, since I don't own the condo. Is this correct? -- Ann R. DEAR ANN: Yes. The IRS is right that you are not entitled to the mortgage interest and property tax deduction on your mother's condominium.
The reason is you have no liability if you should fail to make the payments. However, if your mother adds your name to the title, then you become eligible to deduct the payments. Consult your tax adviser for details.
Readers with questions should write Robert J. Bruss directly at P.O., Box 280038, San Francisco, Calif. 94101.