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(TNS)—With the foreclosure crisis over and home prices continuing to increase, we’ve moved past the problems that were unique to the housing bust. It’s a more normal real estate market these days, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues around every corner. Here are my top lessons learned in 2016.

Whether you’re on the board of your community association or just live in one, you need to read your governing documents. The answers to most problems can be found there, so it should be your first stop before you file a complaint or a lawsuit.

Remember, when you bought your home, you agreed to the restrictions that are now vexing you. If you want to change the rules, get involved. Join the board of directors. If you’re on the board and want to change things, first clear it with the association’s attorney. Association litigation is expensive and often easy to avoid if you know your community’s rules and follow them.

I’ll address two questions I hear several times a week. First, your association can foreclose on your home over a small amount of owed dues. Even if there is a mistake on your maintenance bill, pay the disputed money and then work with your association to resolve the error. Second, accept that residents are entitled to service animals under the law—even if the residents don’t appear to have visible disabilities. If you think a resident is abusing the rules, speak to the association’s attorney before you do anything.

Interest rates are rising, and lenders are lending money again. If you have any intention of refinancing your mortgage, now is the time to do it. It’s also a good time to buy a home. As interest rates increase, your purchasing power will decrease. Although I don’t think interest rates will skyrocket, you should get the cheap money now while it’s still available.

Finally, one of my favorite sayings is, “If you can say it, you can sign it.” Many times relationships go wrong, and promises get broken. Two people can have the same conversation and walk away with very different understandings. Whether you are agreeing to help your adult child buy a home or making a deal with a contractor to remodel your kitchen, always write down what you both agree to and then sign your names to it. While a properly drafted contract is best, just writing down, in detail, what each party agreed to will reduce the chances of a dispute and make things easier to resolve if there is a disagreement.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar.

©2017 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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