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Dear Ms. Lank: My cousins bought their timeshare from a place called RCI. They are allowed to trade the timeshare for another one in any place where RCI has timeshares, including Hawaii. There is a $175 fee to trade.

They are very happy with their timeshare and use it pretty much every year. I expect that not all timeshares are alike, though. If people thought of timeshares more like a car, how the value doesn't increase and may decrease, and there will be maintenance costs, they may be happier. -- L. C.

Answer: That last sentence of yours sums it up nicely.

Happy Timeshare

Dear Ms. Lank: My husband and I own a timeshare through the Hilton hotel chain. We love it. We can use it to stay in any of the worldwide resorts owned by Hilton with no blackout dates.

We have children who live in various locations, so we often use our timeshare to visit near them. Or we all go on vacation together. All of this is through the timeshare at no additional cost to us.

It's true that we bought this timeshare when we were fairly young, and we have really gotten our use out of it. But I also love the fact that our children will inherit a paid-for timeshare. So, except for the yearly maintenance fee, they will have all their travel paid for in advance.

I hear horrible things about timeshares, but we love this one. -- P. B.

Answer: Thanks for sharing your experience. Judging from my mail, though, it's possible your children may feel differently by the time they inherit.

Title Commitment

Edith: I bought a home 10 years ago. I purchased an owner's title insurance policy. Prior to being issued the policy, I was provided with a title commitment. Do I need to keep the commitment with my important papers, or just the policy? -- askedith.com

Answer: That commitment was the company's binding promise to insure the title once you owned the property. Now that you actually have title insurance, you don't really need the promise. For as much space as paper takes up, though, there's no harm in leaving it in the folder.

Agent's Opinions

Ms. Lank: I worked as a site agent for two top-five national builders. In my years of selling, there were certain words and statements that set me on edge.

For example, a Realtor said, "Let's hurry because we have another appointment at a home down the street." This statement was voiced while we were writing a contract for the buyers to buy a home they had fallen in love with. Even as I was taking the deposit check, she was trying to get the buyers into her car so she could make her next appointment.

"We are buying our forever home." Job transfers, downsizing, family emergencies, restlessness, school changes, promotions ... there are dozens of reasons why people seldom stay in their "forever home."

"We are moving to be closer to family." See "forever home" above. I have seen cases where parents or children have moved to be in proximity and then circumstances changed. The remaining party then had no support in an unfamiliar city with no friends, etc. And in a new home, it may be a challenge to resell without suffering a loss.

"We want to use a home inspector." Since I sold for national builders, we used a standard form contract that made changes virtually impossible. In the rare event we would permit inspections, we had the inspector sign a release before he entered the property and provide his insurance, contractor license, qualifications, etc.

So many of your reader issues could be solved if buyers were to get an experienced Realtor who could lead them to a mortgage expert and perhaps recommend a home inspector. Beyond that, if they were to get access to a good CPA and attorney. I always appreciate when you encourage your readers to follow up with qualified experts. -- E. Z.

Answer: Not sure I agree with all your points. At any rate, you were dealing with new houses. It's still wise to use a home inspector when making an offer on an existing home.

Regaining Virginity

Dear Edith: Is there such a thing as becoming a first-time buyer after owning real estate in the past? Could someone qualify for special first-timer mortgage programs after a certain amount of time has passed? -- L

Answer: First-timer programs have their own definitions. Yes, you may qualify for some if you haven't owned a house for a certain number of years.

Contact Edith Lank at www.askedith.com, at edithlank@aol.com or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

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