“Buying a home — new or old — should be a rewarding experience. Unfortunately, for too many homeowners, it has been a complex process,” Kass wrote in his first column freelanced to The Post. “This series is designed to give prospective buyers some tips and hints to make the homebuying experience more enjoyable and hopefully, it may also save you some money.”
For Kass, the “series” would last 46 years and cover the gamut from scams, to what every first-time buyer should know, to federal tax implications of selling, to foreclosure, to short-selling, to condo rules, to Airbnb rules and even drones in real estate. Kass, 82, a longtime real estate lawyer in the District and Maryland, died last Saturday, according to his son-in-law Keith M. Sterling.
“He was a superb translator of complex legal issues about condominiums, homeowners associations and real estate settlement matters,” Kenneth R. Harney, whose long-standing Nation’s Housing column is syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group, wrote in an email. “I am certain that many of his loyal readers who followed his work for so long will miss his always-helpful presence in The Post’s real estate section.”
Indeed, Kass had a dutiful following of advice seekers — and he never tired of dispensing it in his no-nonsense style. His favorite columns were the Q & As in which he could troubleshoot readers’ questions directly.
“I find it interesting that unit owners vote for members of a board that will control their destiny without having any information on who these prospective members are or what they stand for,” Kass wrote last November responding to a condo owner wondering about how to set up a new association. “In my opinion, a condominium association is a mini-democracy, and just as we have political campaigns for government officials, we should also have campaigns for directors of the condominium association.”
Looking back on his body of work, much of his advice — but clearly not all of it — holds up today. Here is what he wrote in 1983 about interest rates:
“However, in your case, I strongly recommend that you hang on to the existing loan until 1985. During the interim period, it is conceivable that interest rates may drop (although I doubt that they ever will go much below 12 percent) and you will be in a better position to determine your next course of action.”
●Still, here is a sampling of some of his best work:
●“Put the bite on termites before buying or selling a home,” May 6, 1995
Watch “out for the language that only requires the inspection of ‘accessible areas.’ This often will not include basement crawl spaces or other inaccessible areas, which unfortunately carry the greatest risk of infestation. I have known too many home buyers who found termite infestation in wooden basement floors that were covered with wall-to-wall carpets. If you as buyer discover termites after you go to settlement, you probably do not have any right to ask your seller to make the repair — and you may be stuck for a large sum of money correcting any such termite problems.”
“There are a number of steps you should take when you start to get behind on your mortgage payments.
“If you want the lender to cooperate with you, you have to cooperate, too. That means talking with the lender as soon as problems come up. According to Freddie Mac’s guidelines on alternatives to foreclosure, the secondary mortgage market gives a mortgage lender broad discretion to extend relief, ‘to a borrower who encounters hardship, is cooperative and has proper regard for fulfilling obligations.’”
“Have you explained your financial situation to your brother? Does he really want to throw you out of the house, or is it only about money? Can you agree on the market value of the house? If not, then you should arrange for an independent appraiser to provide a valuation. Some people use what is known as the ‘three-appraiser’ method. Each party pays for its own appraiser. If the difference between the two evaluations is less than 10 percent, they split the difference, and that is the agreed-upon market value. But if the appraisers’ values are far apart, the two parties together hire a third appraiser, whose decision will be final.”
“The general rule is that unless the neighbor knew or should have known that his tree was unsafe, he is not responsible even if it hurt you or your family member or damaged your property. Our courts follow the old common law: It’s your property, so take care of it, unless you can prove your neighbor was negligent.”
How “long should the home be listed? I generally recommend no more than six months. If after that time you are satisfied with the way the agent has been working, the agreement can be extended. But if you are not happy, why prolong it? Get another agent.”