Missing abstract does not mean the end of the road for refinancing

Dear Edith:

My husband and I are refinancing our home because rates seem to be going up, and we want to catch today’s lower interest rates.

Just when we thought we were ready to close, our lawyer told us that our abstract is nowhere to be found!

Whose fault is this, and how can a thing like this happen to nice people like us? Now we will have to shell out big money to have a new abstract made.

– C.L.F.

That abstract (of title) was a condensed history of the ownership of your property, taken from the county public records. It listed things like sales, wills, mortgage claims against the property and how they were settled.

Abstracts that go back to colonial times can make fascinating reading. Many states, though, now require them to cover only the past 40 or 60 years.

Yes, before lending money for your mortgage refinance, your new lender will want proof that it would have the first claim against your land. That’s why it wants to examine your abstract. If you can’t find the old one, you’ll have to pay to have a new one made.

If it’s any consolation, you would have had some expense even with the old one, because an abstracter would have searched the public records office to bring the old information up to the present.

Condo-selling specialist

Dear Ms. Lank:

Although I’ve bought and sold several homes, I always feel like I don’t know what I’m doing!

I’m selling my condo next year, and I was wondering if I should seek a Realtor who is a condo specialist. Also, you mention getting an attorney early on. Is there a resource that you can recommend? How much should this cost?

– M.S.

Looking for a condo specialist is a good idea. You might search listings of local condos for sale. You should probably be studying them right now, anyway. They will show you which brokers specialize.

Better yet, post a single for-sale-by-owner ad, and then just sit back — you’ll hear from plenty of enterprising agents who are particularly interested in marketing condos.

As for an attorney, you don’t say where you’re located. In some areas, including mine, it’s routine to use a lawyer. If that’s true where you are, your broker could probably suggest the names of two or three lawyers who specialize in condos.

Not all licensed real estate salespersons are Realtors, by the way. That’s a trademarked word that applies only to brokers who choose to join a private organization, the National Association of Realtors. I usually just write “broker” or even use the general word “agent” — someone authorized to act for another.

Anyhow, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask in advance what the costs are likely to be.

Lead paint

Dear Edith:

We have rented several apartments over the years, but yesterday, when we applied for one, we were given a pamphlet about the possibility of dangerous lead paint there.

The place is exactly what we are looking for, but my wife says she does not want to pay for a lead paint test and she is afraid to rent the apartment. Can we make the landlord have a test done?

– F.I.

Lead was widely used in paint for centuries until its dangers were realized. It was banned from consumer use in 1978. If you received that pamphlet, you must have been looking at a building at least 40 years old.

In that case, there’s an old law requiring you to be alerted, given a chance to test for lead-based paint within 10 days and allowed to cancel any lease you might already have signed. You cannot, however, require the landlord to test.

I can’t say you’d be perfectly safe in that apartment. If you have a small child and the wall still contains a layer of lead paint more than 40 years old, you’d need to worry about flaking paint that might be picked at or eaten.

If, after nearly half a century, there’s no flaking and probably many re-paintings, you’d probably be fine. But I can’t say so from here.•

Contact Edith Lank at www.AskEdith.com, edithlank@aol.com or 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester, NY 14620. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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