1. Archive

Smart buy will pay off in retirement

About 10 years ago, I bought a nice lot on a top-rated golf course. Homes in the community are valued from $500,000 to $1-million. Mine is the only unimproved lot fronting on the golf course. I often get calls from builders wanting to buy my lot. The area is booming, and a large corporation recently announced it plans to build its headquarters nearby. My tax appraisal recently jumped substantially. I will retire next spring and plan to sell the lot then. How can I determine its market value? The developer still owns a few lots nearby, but he no longer offers them for sale because he builds spec homes on them before selling. How can I determine my lot value?

Congratulations on a very smart real estate investment. Disregard the local tax assessor's valuation. It is usually below market value. As a starting point, hire an experienced professional appraiser who is familiar with the community to evaluate your property. It won't be an easy assignment, so he or she might charge a substantial fee. Next, I would contact the developer to see what he would offer you for your important lot. Of course, don't let him know you already have a professional appraisal. He is your logical buyer, but if his offer isn't what you want, you might list your lot for sale for 90 days with a local real estate agent and see what happens. Since you're not in a hurry to sell, you can take your time after having done your homework to guesstimate what your lot might be worth.

New deed does the job

How can I get my boyfriend's name added to my home mortgage? We have been together about 30 years. He is 67. I am 57.

Your letter is very unusual. I often hear from ex-wives and ex-husbands who want to get their ex-spouse off the title to a property or off the mortgage obligation. I can't think of any valid reason why your boyfriend's name should be added to your mortgage obligation to your lender (unless you have some ulterior motive). If your boyfriend wants to be able to claim income tax deductions for mortgage interest and property tax payments he pays, it's easy for you to sign and record a quit-claim deed giving him a partial interest in your home. Then he can claim deductions for the interest and property taxes he pays. He doesn't need to be legally on the mortgage obligation to claim such deductions if he is on the title.

Tax break at any age

How old must I be to qualify for that $250,000 home-sale tax break you often mention? I will be 55 in November. Will I then qualify to sell my house and claim up to $250,000 tax-free profits?

Your age has nothing to do with qualifying for the Internal Revenue Code 121 principal-residence sale-tax exemption up to $250,000 (up to $500,000 for a qualified married couple filing jointly). All you must be able to prove is that you owned and occupied your principal residence an aggregate two of the five years before the sale.

Roommate moved on, but is still on title

My good friend and I bought a condo together as tenants in common. We both moved in and happily lived there about 10 months. Then he fell in love, got married and moved into his new wife's house. Since then, I've been paying all the expenses. We're still friends. But he refuses to sign a quit claim deed to me, although I am willing to buy out his equity, which is going up at the rate of about 2 percent per month. How can I get him off my title?

You can't, without a partition lawsuit. There is no way you can force your co-owner to sign a quit claim deed to you.

You can send e-mail to Robert J. Bruss by visiting his Web site, Click on "Ask Bob a Real Estate Question." Or write to Robert J. Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010.