1. Archive

Too late at closing to negotiate fees

Question: We are buying our first home. The real estate agent just delivered our estimated closing costs and told us to bring a cashier's check for $7,236.48 to the closing.

We never dreamed we would have to pay high expenses such as a mortgage loan fee, advance property taxes, title fee, attorney/escrow fee and prepaid fire insurance premium.

Shouldn't the seller pay some of these costs? Are we being ripped off?

Answer: The time to negotiate home sale closing costs was when you made the purchase offer. Your realty agent should have given you a written estimate of closing costs at that time.

If you're short of cash, you should have asked the seller to pay most or all of your closing costs. Reread your purchase contract. If the seller didn't agree to pay these costs, you get to pay them.

I suspect the prepaid fire insurance premium and the advance property taxes are to establish your escrow account so there will be sufficient money in it to pay those bills when they come due, but the property tax bill for the current tax year is prorated between the buyer and seller for the days in the tax year each owns the home.

Paint that house

Question: Our house has been listed for sale almost three months. The realty agent says it hasn't sold because it needs paint.

However, we have the lowest asking price in the neighborhood. We feel its better to let the buyers paint the house in the colors they prefer. Who is right?

Answer: Your agent is correct. If you want to get your home sold, paint it. Fresh paint is the most profitable improvement that can be made to a house. Use attractive colors _ nothing gaudy.

Get professional appraisal

Question: I own a commercial building that consists of upstairs offices and my carpet business on the first floor. I am moving my company to a better retail location with more parking so I want to sell the building.

I have talked with three commercial real estate brokers. Their verbal opinions of my building's market value vary by about $72,000.

I'm not greedy, but I don't want to sell too cheap. What's the best way to value my one-of-a-kind building?

Answer: Hire a professional appraiser who specializes in commercial buildings. Explain that the purpose of the appraisal is to set a value for sale.

Also, go back to those commercial brokers and ask them each to give you written estimates of your building's market value. After you have all this information, you can set a realistic asking price.

Robert J. Bruss is a nationally syndicated columnist on real estate. Write to him in care of the Tribune Media Syndicate, c/o the Times, 435 N Michigan Ave., Suite 400, Chicago, IL 60611. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column.