Jul. 25, 2004
Dear George: Our son, a first-time homebuyer, bought a home from a builder. This builder had a preferred lender. We noted several indications that this builder was constructing a substandard home during our first walk-through. It resulted in two-and-a-half pages of items requiring repair. The second walk-through, five days later, resulted in a few items being repaired while others showed additional damage. Our son wrote a letter to the builder's main office requesting a refund of his $2,000 deposit. The area sales manager told him he wants to meet with him, but that he isn't entitled to a deposit refund. Do you think our son should receive a deposit refund?
— Anxious Parents
Dear Anxious Parents: It depends upon the details of the contract your son signed. Did both parties perform as the contract stated they would? I suggest your son meet with the sales manager. Hear what he has to say. If that does not sound fair or reasonable to your son, communicate with the Better Business Bureau or the Texas Residential Construction Commission. The Texas Residential Construction Commission was recently formed to handle complaints of this type. It has a minor cost, but provides a way to resolve the complaint by a disinterested third-party inspector and if necessary, a professional arbitrator. The number is 512/463-1040.
Dear George: Our real estate agent showed us two townhomes in the same complex. The only difference between the two is that one is larger because it has a finished attic that is used as a game room. The asking price for the home with the finished attic works out to be approximately $100 per square foot. The home with the unfinished attic works out to be approximately $119 per square foot. That seems backwards to us. Why would we pay more per square foot for the home without the finished attic?
Dear Flummoxed: The two homes have two different asking prices because they each contain a different number of air-conditioned square feet. The finished attic makes that space usable as an extra air-conditioned room. The larger home will have a lower per-square-foot price because the finished attic space was less expensive to build than other areas with more amenities that are common to
Dear George: My ex-wife and I bought a home while we were married. She still wants to reside in the house. We had to refinance twice before. She says that a third refinance will not provide enough money for her to buy out my portion. I am broke and on the verge of bankruptcy. I desperately need to cash out for my portion. Still, I'd like to accommodate her wishes if possible. Is there a way I can be bought out that would enable her to remain in the house for a few years? What should I do?
— Sleepless in San Francisco
Dear Sleepless in San Francisco: First, make sure you comply with the court's instructions, if any, as to the property-settlement agreement. Second, I suggest you pay for an initial consultation with a bankruptcy attorney to identify all your alternatives. For example, you may be able to arrange a lease from your ex-wife without selling the property. Or, you might sell the property but pre-arrange a lease-back to her. In any event, you need a trained legal professional to
Dear George: In 2002, I bought a home using a real estate agent. I signed an agreement stating that the agent represented my best interests. The home we purchased was listed by another real estate agent. We had an inspection. The items that were listed as needing repair by the inspector were repaired. However, we discovered after moving in that there was an illegal drain discharging into the back yard. It cost me approximately $2,000 to make the repairs. Can I obtain any reimbursement for my out-of-pocket costs at this late date?
— Doubtful Buyer
Dear Doubtful Buyer: Did the inspector's report mention anything about the drain? If not, why not? It is possible neither the inspector nor your agent had any knowledge about this. The next step is to tell the agent (or the agent's broker) about the illegal drain. Let them know you are seeking reimbursement for your out-of-pocket costs. If you encounter any difficulties, call the Texas Association of REALTORS® at 800/973-9155. Tell the receptionist that you are a consumer and wish to speak with the Professional Standards Department about the
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