Q: My wife and I have found a house for sale by owner. The owner has offered to finance the property for us. The asking price is $130,000.

What kind of interest rate should the seller charge us? How much should we put down on the house? Should we put 10 percent down? Do we enlist a real estate agent friend to get involved or should we hire a lawyer and title company?

We’d appreciate your guidance.

A: First things first: you need to hire a real estate attorney to draft up the contract and make sure you’re protected.

When you buy a home that’s for sale by owner, you need someone to walk you through the process, make sure the seller is providing all of the disclosures you’re entitled to receive under state law, and be sure that the title insurance purchased is sufficient to protect you in case someone else makes a claim to the house in the future. The attorney can also draft up the loan documents.

To find a good real estate attorney contact your local bar association and ask for the phone number of the individual who heads up the local real estate committee. Talk to him or her about what you’re looking for and ask for some referrals. You want to hire an attorney who has plenty of experience with residential transactions.

As for loan prices, take a look at Bankrate.com. You should be able to figure out what a 30-year mortgage is going for in your area and that should be the interest rate you pay your seller on the loan. Hopefully your seller will give you the loan without any points or fees, which will make it quite inexpensive for you to finance the property.

As far as the down payment goes, you should put down whatever you can afford. Ten percent sounds like a nice round number.

Q: My ex-spouse and I own a house. He’s living in the house and I live elsewhere.

We’ve just received a court order that states the house is be placed for sale. My ex has been ordered to cooperate with the sale and help make the house presentable for sale.

But to date, the house has not yet been listed because he says he is not ready for the agent to view the home. Apparently, the house is in total disrepair.

Considering that I’m the co-owner, should I be able to view the home to help determine what we might do to prepare it for sale?

A: As a co-owner, you should be able to view the property. But that doesn’t mean your ex-spouse isn’t going to make it difficult for you to do so.

Try talking to your ex-spouse to find a time when he can be there to walk around the property with you. Ask if he would be willing to move out of the home before it is sold, so you can at least have it cleaned professionally and perhaps get more money for the property.

If he is unwilling to work with you, you may have to go back to court. Consult with your attorney for more details.

Sept. 23, 2004.