Q: I have made so many costly mistakes in my life, I write to you now to get your wisdom before making a move to sell my home that may be a mistake.
My home has been on the market for more than 18 months. Frankly, I am starting to feel rather anxious.
A company approached me about a “lease/option.” I would transfer the property to them for 36 to 60 months while they locate a buyer for the home.
This is my first encounter with any such arrangement, and the company’s representative, of course, assures me that this could only work in my favor. Needless to say, I would realize next to no profit. The primary benefit would be that this company would take over the responsibility for the mortgage for the stated period and aggressively seek a buyer.
Please tell me what the negative side of this could be. Also, I will need to find another home that’s smaller and more affordable. Will this lease/option agreement preclude me from getting another mortgage?
A: Unfortunately, what you’ve described sounds to me like a scam. I suppose it might not be, but even if it isn’t a scam, there are tremendous risks for you and hardly any benefit.
If I understand the situation correctly, an agent is suggesting you transfer the title of the home while the “lease/option” company will simply take over making payments on the mortgage.
As long as your name remains on the mortgage, you are legally responsible for making payments. If you transfer title to the property, you will soon find that this company has stopped making payments to the lender and possible has sold your house out from under you.
Do not do this. If you want to lease out your property, put an ad in the paper offering a lease with an option to purchase. If you can’t get anyone to do a lease/purchase, then you have three options: You can simply lease the home until the local market conditions improve, stay in your home until local market conditions improve, or you can drop your price enough to undercut other sellers with similar homes for sale in your neighborhood.
If you lease your home, you should rent another, less expensive home, until market conditions improve and you can sell your primary residence.
If you decide to continue to try to sell your home, you should talk to top area agents about the current market conditions and if your home is currently listed, consider pulling it off the market for the summer in order to freshen the listing. (Homes that stay on the market longer than 6 to 9 months run the risk of looking stale to agents, who may assume there is an underlying problem or reason the home hasn’t sold.)
You’re in a tough position, but your desperation could make you an easy mark for con artists. The scheme you’ve described is often found to be fraudulent. I don’t want to see you hurt, so the safest move is to take a pass.