Q: Can you give me any recommendations or a checklist for purchasing a home that is for sale by owner? I know I need a real estate attorney to close, but what about earlier in the process?

Since the market has been so active, I have seen more houses for sale by owner. I did see a house I might be interested in, but buying without an agent makes me nervous.

A: What do you need to know about buying a property that’s for sale by owner? There are so many things it’s hard to know where to start.

First, you have to make sure the house is fairly priced for what it is. The only way to know this is to spend time visiting a lot of other homes in the area. You can also try a website, www.domania.com, for information on home values in your neighborhood, but just be aware that the site doesn’t cover each area equally.

Next, you should hire the real estate attorney now, to write up the contract and make sure you’re protected. It’s very important to have documents that protect you in this situation.  Not only that, but the attorney can make sure the taxes have been paid, can review title and survey matters, and any other documents that are needed for the closing.

Finally, many times a seller who lists by owner will be amenable to paying a buyer’s broker a half commission. If you’re been working with a buyer’s agent or buyer’s broker, you should approach this seller about working with your agent and paying some sort of commission.

That would probably make you feel a whole lot better. From the seller’s point of view, paying a half commission, or 2.5 to 3 percent, is a lot better than paying 5 to 6 percent.

Q: You recently spoke to a listener on a radio show who asked about the door to her home being left open by agents showing her home.

It is outrageous that agents can be so irresponsible! You told her to fire her agent if they don’t do anything about it. Shouldn’t the buyer’s agent be the one who is responsible? After all, she left the door open. What can the sellers agent do about it if the buyers agent denies leaving the door open (obviously that agent did not follow his buyer around the house or he would have seen the open door)?

Sellers agents shouldn’t have to visit a house after each time another agent has shown it. Our house is also for sale, and although it’s not vacant, I am worried now about our pets being let out and getting killed due to a negligent showing agent.

A: You and I may just have to agree to disagree about what seller’s agents do. My feeling is that you’re paying the seller’s agent to do something — that is show the house. If the seller’s agent doesn’t want to go to the showings, and puts a lock box on the house, and allows buyer’s agents to go in and out unescorted, and the buyer’s agent leaves the door open, I believe it’s still the seller’s agent’s responsibility. (Of course, there are plenty of agents who disagree with me.)

If I had pets, I’d worry about them getting out during a showing. So, protect yourself. Make sure your pets are in cages or out being walked whenever you have a showing at your home. This is a good idea anyway, since many buyers are allergic, phobic or otherwise don’t like animals.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a portion of my home equity placed in a 401(k) or a conventional IRA?

A: I’m not quite sure how you’d do this. I believe the IRS prohibits you from putting your personal residence into an IRA.

There are companies that will help you purchase investment property out of IRA funds. However, you can’t buy a portion of the property. My understanding is that you have to purchase the entire property with cash for this to work, so all of the equity of the property is in the IRA. When you sell the property, all of the cash goes back into the IRA.

If you are working with someone who tells you that you can put a portion of your personal residence into an IRA, I’d be careful. It might be a scam. For more information on what you are allowed to invest in with an IRA, check out the IRS website, www.irs.gov. You should also consult with a tax advisor who can work with you on these issues to determine whether this is a permitted transaction under IRS rules.

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