Don’t make waves when sale is going smoothly

DEAR MR. MYERS: We made an offer to buy a house in July, and the sellers accepted. The appraisal came in for $7,200 more than we are paying, even before the sellers made all the repairs we requested to be made. The trouble is, now the sellers want to extend the deal’s closing date by three days because their moving company misscheduled their moving date, but we want to settle in to our new house before our kids go back to school. What can we do?

ANSWER: Give them the extra three days they need to close the deal. All it would take is a call to the closing attorney or escrow officer who is handling the transaction to make the change.

Your letter states that the appraisal came in $7,200 more than you agreed to pay, even before the sellers made the repairs that you asked them to make. The fact that the sellers made those repairs suggest that they’re very reasonable folks, not to mention that you are buying a house that’s giving you an additional $7,200 or more in “instant equity” beyond your down payment.

You got a great deal, and everything has been going smoothly. Only a fool goes looking for a rainstorm on a sunny day, so give the sellers the extra three days that they need to move. I’m sure that your kids will understand.

REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: Most buyers and refinancers today wait an average of 45 days to close a new loan, a recent report by real estate research and service provider Ellie Mae says, although those seeking a mortgage that’s backed by the Veterans Administration should expect to wait four days longer.

DEAR MR. MYERS: Some time ago, you wrote that parents who co-sign for their child’s mortgage application may be forced to make the payments if the child cannot make the payment herself. But what if the parents simply give the child the money for the down payment, without co-signing for the loan? Could the lender come after the parents for their kid’s missed payments?

ANSWER: No. Lenders cannot take any legal action against parents or anyone else who provides down-payment help to a home buyer, provided the donor doesn’t co-sign for the buyer’s mortgage.

Some lenders and collections agencies still threaten such donors with a lawsuit or even foreclosure of their own home if they refuse to make up for the recipient’s missed payments. In reality, they don’t have a legal leg to stand on unless the donor’s signature is on the recipient’s original mortgage application or, in some cases, if the donors pledged their home or other property as collateral for the buyer’s mortgage.

DEAR MR. MYERS: We are looking to rent an apartment or even a small house. Some of the advertisements we see in the newspaper and online say that the properties are offered on a “step-up lease.” What is that?

ANSWER: A step-up lease, sometimes called a “graded lease,” is a rental contract that calls for specified rent increases at predetermined times.

Let’s say that you signed a two-year step-up lease. You’re on the hook for paying the higher rent in the second year, even if rents in general go down. That’s the law.

DEAR MR. MYERS: We have several dimmer switches in our home. I turn the lights down sometimes to save energy, but my husband says it makes no difference because the same amount of electricity is still flowing through the outlets and into the bulbs. Who’s right?

ANSWER: You are. Using the dimmer to turn down the lights reduces the amount of electricity that is needed to keep the lights on, which helps to reduce your utility bills.

Though using a dimmer can trim a bit off your electric costs, those savings wouldn’t come close to the money you’d save if you replaced those outdated lights with today’s federally approved Energy Star light bulbs.

The new bulbs use up to 90 percent less than traditional bulbs, a representative for the government’s Energy Star program says, and will last 10 to 25 years more than a conventional bulb. Each one will save anywhere from $30 to $80 over its lifetime.

That’s a lot of money, especially if you have several light bulbs in your home. As a bonus, today’s energy-saving bulbs create less heat than traditional bulbs, which will cut your cooling bills even as the summer turns into the fall.

David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.