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Be Careful Who You Buy a Home with

Denise S. Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents...

Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents...

Oct 29 4 minutes read

Some of the best advice came from middle school math

It's amazing the things we remember from our childhood. Mr. Stringer, my 7th grade math teacher, was full of down-home Will Rogers style advice. Much of it had little to do with math, but I remember it quite clearly, nonetheless. There's one pearl, which made me particularly red-faced no matter how many times he repeated it.

Every time I see a title report with multiple owners and a lien or judgment belong to just one owner, I can hear Mr. Stringer loudly and clearly telling us all to

"be very careful who we swap slobber with."

Often the complications that show up on title have little to do with personal relationships, but it's still an appropriate lesson.

When property is sold, a lien check is conducted on both buyer and seller. For seller, it covers the entire ownership period. Personal obligations such as debtor's judgments, child support judgments, and tax liens can attach to the property. Keep in mind, these are all matters of public record.

In one past transaction, a boyfriend/girlfriend purchased a property together. Girlfriend initially paid the down payment. Most of the monies where hers. When they split, the property was quit claimed back to her without compensation to him. Low and behold, when she decided to sell, a child support judgment had attached to the property. The claim was for a child the boyfriend had with another woman. This judgment had to be cleared before the sale could proceed. In other words, seller had to pay support for a child that was not hers.

Home ownership goes deeper than blood

More recently, siblings owned property as joint tenants. One owner passed away and by law, the property passed to the remaining siblings. Title passed but the child support lien remained unresolved. The siblings were willing to pay the amount due but apparently CSEA has grave concern for the privacy of the deceased. At least this is the reason they provided for being unwilling to provide a pay-off amount to the escrow company. No pay-off, no lien release! Closing was delayed but eventually, after a great deal of frustration and persistence, the payoff was provided.

Similar problems are common with foreclosures. Because foreclosures are often part of a generally deteriorating financial picture, the party carrying the note is forced to clear miscellaneous unrelated financial issues in order to take the property back.

This week I got another call from a boyfriend/girlfriend/co-owners who were splitting. Remember, even if one owner comes off title, both owners remain responsible for the mortgage. Girlfriend wondered how to make the co-owner buy her out. Truth is, without cooperation, it will take an attorney to force action. While it's possible for one owner to sell their portion, there's just not a market for ½ interest in properties. The most likely outcome will be a forced sale.

So here's the thing. The lesson I learned at Palatka Jr. High may not have been philosophically deep, but in retrospect, it really did have a great deal to do with math after all!

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