Jewish World Review May 2, 2000 / 27 Nissan, 5760
You know you are in trouble when ...
DEAR BRUCE: I recently bought my first home, directly from the owner. I gave her $7,500 of earnest money as my 10 percent down payment. Everything was going great: We'd arranged for financing from a local bank, the title company said that everything was OK, and we were ready to close.
The day before the closing, the bank called me and said that there was a small problem. They found a $7,500 lien against the property, but the owner assured them it would be cleaned up. The bank told us that since we had anticipated closing and had already made plans to move right in, that we could go ahead and move in, which we did.
The following week we were blindsided with information that there is over $200,000 worth of liens against the property. Obviously, the sale of the property wouldn't clean up those liens. Now the bank says that we may never close, and furthermore, the owner has already spent my $7,500 and she has no access to any money. What do I do? -- In Trouble (e-mail)
DEAR IN TROUBLE: You sure are!
You failed to say that you had an attorney, so I assume that you did not. While the attorney would not have solved the problem, he or she would have obviated all the difficulty in the deposit and the subsequent non-sale.
I don't see that there is a whole lot that you can do. Yes, the owner improperly spent your money, and, yes, she owes it to you -- but she does not have it, and as evidenced by the liens, she's in hock up to her eyes.
Any competent attorney would have come across these liens well before the closing, and your attorney would have insisted on holding the deposit personally, instead of giving it to the owner.
An expensive lesson learned.
DEAR BRUCE: We are really in a jam. We found a home that we were really pleased with, and the price was even in our range. To make it an even better deal, across the street and down the block was a public elementary school that has an excellent reputation, which would be great for our two school-aged children.
We bought the house and moved in, expecting to enroll our children the following week. You can imagine our shock when we found out that our kids could not attend this school but would be bussed to one of the least desirable parts of town to achieve some kind of racial equality. When we insisted that our children attend the school in our neighborhood, we were told that this was impossible. The school system was operating under a court order to achieve integration.
Our kids hate their new school. I was raised in a neighborhood with schools like that and have broken my back to get out -- now my own kids are thrust back into the same situation through no fault of theirs or mine. -- J.T. (e-mail)
DEAR INCENSED J.T.: I really feel sorry for you and your children. This idea of social engineering has been described in many parts of the country as a poor plan. I particularly sympathize with you since you have worked very hard to get out of the situation and now your children are thrust right back into it.
About the only choice that you have is private school or selling your home and moving into another neighborhood where your children will attend the school of your choice.
It's a sorry situation that things like this can happen. No longer can we assume that because there is a good school in the neighborhood our children are entitled to attend it.
DEAR BRUCE: I recently sold my home. When I purchased my home years ago, it came with an alarm system, which I believed to be operative, although I never used it. I told the new purchasers that it was in good shape, as I was told this when I bought the house.
Now the purchaser has come back and said that lightening must have struck it, and it will take a couple hundred dollars to repair it -- which they are looking to me to pay.
I had told him in good faith that it was in working order but sadly did not qualify that statement with the fact that I had never used it. What do you think? -- L.W., Toledo, Ohio
DEAR L.W.: I suspect that you will have to pay them. If you had qualified your statement by saying that you had never used it, but that you were told it was in good order, you would be off the hook. But since you told them, unequivocally, that it works, you are
Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).
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