From trying to unload a home that just won't budge to unloading a realtor who isn't up to snuff, there are plenty of real estate conundrums out there. Here, TODAY's real estate contributor Barbara Corcoran answers your toughest questions.
Q: I own a home with my now former brother-in-law (my sister passed away two months ago). We all shared the home together. I want to sell and he doesn't. What are my options? — Jen
A. Either try to get him to agree to sell at a fair market price or, if that fails, think of the house as a divorce. And just like a divorce, you’ll need to get a court-ordered petition and a good attorney to represent you. No one can force you to own property when you don’t want to own it, including your brother-in-law.
Q: I've been doing property management for the last decade and I want to work for myself now. I have not-so-good credit and I want to obtain financing for investment properties. How shall I get started? — Sherell, Boston
A. There’s a big difference between managing properties and having a nose to find the right properties and cut the right deals. But if you think you have that ability, you’ll have to find yourself a strong financial partner to fund your acquisitions because no bank will give you the financing while your credit stinks. If you can fix your credit, banks will happily lend you money to make your acquisitions.
Q: We can't sell our house. I accepted a job in Virginia not thinking that our house would not sell and now we are caught up in this housing mess. My husband is still in Florida while I rent a room in Virginia. What can we do? — Cynthia, Fla.
A. You have two options: You can either sell low and buy low, or just rent your house out. If you slash your price well below competitive houses, you’ll take a hit, but remember you’ll also be able to buy your next house for a lower price in today’s soft market and make up the difference. If you’re not comfortable doing that, your only option is to rent, and remember when sale prices are falling, the good news is that rents are usually rising.
Q: I have a lovely vacation property in the mountains of Virginia and need to sell it. What would be the best way to advertise it out of my area, especially in the D.C. area? Would it be better to contact a real estate agent or list it on one of the online services like Craigslist? — Juanita, Clifton Forge, Va.
A. You need to hire a great agent in your area; don’t do it yourself! There’s no substitute for a shrewd agent who knows their neighborhood inside and out, and if you’re an out-of-towner yourself, their market knowledge is worth twice as much to you. Even if you list with a good agent, you can also list your own house on Craigslist and zillow.com to reach the four out of five buyers who start their search online.
Q: We signed a contract with a realtor to sell our house under false pretenses and we would like advice on how we can cancel the three-month contract. Can you provide some insight in this tough environment? — Janie, Penn.
A. If you’re not happy with your realtor, you can try to negotiate with the next realtor to pay the first broker a small referral fee when the house gets sold. And usually when the homeowner is unhappy with their agent, the agent is equally unhappy and often relieved to get rid of the listing.
Q: I am in a five-year ARM [adjustable rate mortgage] with a 4.8 percent interest rate and the ARM is up in two years. I want to take advantage of this great rate as long as I can, but I also want to be proactive and refinance at the right time so I don’t get stuck with a high rate that puts me in a financial bind. Should I act now while rates are low or wait and take advantage of the lower rate for as long as I can? — Jenna, Chicago, Ill.
A: First, check to see if you have a pre-payment penalty. If you do, all bets are off, as it won’t pay for you to refinance. Instead of refinancing, you can start paying the lender a little more money each month — say, an extra $100 or $200 if you can afford it — which is applied to the principal and brings down your principal balance. Last, remember that refinancing is not just about dollars and cents, and piece of mind is worth a lot of money. So if you’ll sleep better at night, you can refinance now so you don’t have to worry about it tomorrow.