Dear Jeanne & Leonard:
My sister and I own a rental property together. Having decided to sell it, we recently put the place on the market, listing it for what comparable houses in the neighborhood have been selling for. Now, after three months, we’ve received an offer, but it’s for $15,000 less than what we’re asking. I think this is the best, and maybe the only, offer we’re going to get, and I want to accept it. But my sister’s convinced that we can get at least $10,000 more, and she’s determined to hold out until we do. How do we resolve this?
— A.W., San Antonio, Texas
Easy. It’s always the older sibling’s call.
Just kidding. What you should do is tell your sister that you’re willing to wait for the better offer she’s sure is coming as long as she guarantees you that, whatever the house sells for, your share will be no less than half the amount of the current offer, plus whatever you have to spend on the house between now and when it finally sells (i.e., taxes, insurance, etc.). To be fair, though, your deal also should state that, should the house sell for more than the current offer, your share is half of the current offer and no more. In other words, propose a deal in which your sister gets any gain over the current offer in exchange for guaranteeing that you will lose nothing by waiting.
One more thing: To ensure that you and your sister continue to enjoy a cordial relationship in the future, put your agreement in writing.
Dear Jeanne & Leonard:
My wife and I enjoy supporting many of the arts organizations in our community, and every year we underwrite a major project for one of them. Since we’d like our son-in-law to share our enthusiasm for the arts, this year we asked him to choose which project, among a half-dozen candidates, we’d underwrite. To our surprise, “William” said he’d prefer that the money go to our grandchildren — that fostering his children’s development is a lot more important to him than giving money to the arts. What do you think we should do? By the way, my son-in-law and our daughter have good careers and live very nicely, and we’re generous with their children already.
— D.E., Buffalo, New York
Sounds like your enthusiasm for the arts is not contagious.
Look, there are people who can’t stand to see money being given to people or organizations outside the family — for them, only blood matters — and perhaps your son-in-law falls into this category. Or maybe he’s just greedy. Either way, you should explain to William (nicely, of course) that that’s not how you roll — that supporting these organizations is important to you, and that doing so is not coming at the expense of his and your daughter’s children.
Here’s a gift suggestion for William’s next birthday: a check made out to his favorite charity — himself.