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Condo owners should have gotten legal advice before signing contract

June 10, 2011

Question: Our 16-unit condominium in Hillsborough County was devastated by Hurricane Charley. For nine months all residents had to move out of the building. A total of $2 million was supposedly spent on repairs, but when we moved back into the building in May/June, the lobby and many of the units were not completed, and they are still not finished. We owners had to pay for the carpet in the corridors and repairs inside our units. When the project began, the contractors stated in writing that the $2 million would pay for all the repairs, including carpet and tile inside all the units. Now, the contractors say that they have run out of money and that any further repairs will require more money from the owners. The contractor has placed a lien on the property.

For weeks we have been asking where the money was spent and how we can get the repairs completed. We are not getting any answers. Many of the owners are elderly and they feel victimized. Where can we go to get this problem resolved?

Answer: That hurricane hit us a long time past This has taken 5-6 years to just get this question to me? Don't know how much of this is still good. If the contractor failed to fulfill the contract, then the board of directors should consult an attorney. Get some legal advice regarding the contractor's obligation to complete the work. You may have been victimized, but a thorough review of the contract is necessary to determine your next move.

Check with the State Contractor's License Board. You will need to know the contractor's license number to check the records to see if the contractor's license is still valid and whether there are complaints against the contractor. This information may have some bearing on your case.

In my opinion, the association's board should have protected the owners by obtaining legal advice before signing a $2 million contract. It is possible that the board was negligent and the contractor is not at fault.

The owners may have adequate reason to sue the board of directors. Consult your attorney, this could get involved.

Question: Bob, in this downward market, do you have any advice on renting

versus owning/buying. We are renting a home in Fort Myers, and keep hearing how owning a home (especially in this market) can be a big tax advantage. Can you give us any examples on owning vs. renting and should we wait for the market to go lower?

- J & P.

Answer: J & P, I don't know what the market will do, maybe a little lower? If you're a young couple with small children still searching for ways to scrape together enough money to get into your first home, you may not have to look too far to come up with a little more money (credit is a rough thing in this market) each month. You're probably sending it to Uncle Sam.

Consider a fictitious couple in their mid 20s with two small children. Assume that their gross income is about $48,000. They currently rent and figure that, in addition to the down payment they've been saving, they need to have about $100 a month of disposable income to defray a mortgage payment.

Good news! They may have already that $100 a month. Bad news! They may not even be aware of it. Since they can't itemize deductions, their past tax bill came to about $4,900. Had they owned a home last year, they could have deducted mortgage interest and real estate taxes. Assuming those deductions came to about $5,000, and that they had other deductions of about $2,500 their federal tax bill would have reduced by nearly $100 a month!

Add to all of this that the couple probably would also save on any local and/or state taxes by owning a home. I'm not a tax expert and since your tax-savings "mileage" may vary, consult your personal tax adviser to learn about any "hidden" money you may actually have. Good luck!

Question: I understand that the most important task in selling a house is decided on the right sales price. How do you come up with the best price?

- Tom

Answer: Wow! Tom you are very right, especially in this market. This is not done by looking into a crystal ball or consulting a guru. The most important factor is the price of comparable sales in your immediate area. These are sales that have already been completed of homes as nearly like yours as possible.

The sales should also be near in time, for two-year-old sales have almost no meaning in today's volatile market. Also, the homes should be similar in style, size and condition as your property - the closer the better. I hope everyone is enjoying the new year and is looking forward to the coming (I hope) controls. We will know after this month?

Have a real estate question? Write, call, fax or e-mail:

Bob Jeffries, Realtor,

Century 21 Birchwood Realty, Inc.

4040 Del Prado Blvd., Cape Coral, FL

239-549-5724 Office

239-542-7760 Fax



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