Reader Question: We are buying a house direct from the owner. The property also contains a partially burned-out mobile home relatively close to the house. It appears to be a total loss. The house was not damaged. Our question is, does the seller have the right to request we replace the mobile home? We would rather expand the house and build a new garage instead of replacing the trailer home.

 

Monty's Answer: There are many unanswered questions. Is there a written purchase agreement between the two of you? If not, the seller's mobile home is on their property, and the two parties are negotiating. While the seller can ask you to replace it, you have the right to tell them "no." If the seller is stating they will not sell the property unless you agree to replace the mobile home, you have a decision to make. Why would the seller ask you to replace it? Does the seller want to live in the mobile home? If it burned down while under contract, before the closing, it might be a new negotiation. The seller may have some issues with the insurance company. 

 

Potential action steps

It is unclear if there is earnest money involved, the value of the property, and many other factors. Whether or not a building addition and a garage is a good idea or not depends on many variables. This article at

https://dearmonty.com/the-red-flags-of-real-estatemay help. You may not want to create a red flag. Consider speaking to three different types of experts to get "boots on the ground" opinions. Here are the experts to talk with:

 

1. A knowledgeable real estate appraiser. This person can tell you if your proposed addition will be a wise investment. Contact several to find one that does this type of work to learn what they will charge to come out and look at the property to assess the situation. 

2. A competent real estate attorney. This person can tell you your legal obligations and your options in a negotiation with the current owner of the property. Here is one way to find one at https://dearmonty.com/8-tips-find-good-real-estate-attorney.

3. A building contractor. Here you learn what it will cost to expand the house and build a garage. Contractors also can be creative and may offer alternative ideas to what you are envisioning.

 

A cautionary note

One last bit of advice that you did not ask for, but I feel an obligation to offer. While it is unclear at what point you are in negotiations, a question to ask yourself is, are you biting off more than you can chew? Whenever I encounter a buyer and a seller unrepresented in the same transaction, experience has shown me, one of three outcomes is likely. Things go well when both parties are informed. An uninformed party is at a disadvantage in dealing with an informed party. When both parties are unaware, one accidentally gets taken.

 

Richard Montgomery is the author of "House Money - An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands
When You Buy or Sell a Home." He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate
advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty, or at DearMonty.com.