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Getting out among the people seeking real estate advice

Over the years, I have enjoyed getting out to meet my readers, especially those so loyal that they can quote whole sentences from columns I wrote 20 years ago.

Over the years, I have enjoyed getting out to meet my readers, especially those so loyal that they can quote whole sentences from columns I wrote 20 years ago.

So it was on one beautiful Saturday morning a month or so back that I made a return visit to Marlton to speak to the Friends of the Evesham Library, ably led by Barbara Mirsky.

Since 1964, when a group of Evesham residents went door to door to collect books to create a free lending library for the township, the organization has worked hard to create a place residents can be proud of.

Just as an aside: It was a sunny, cool suburban day with the noise of soccer and football games filling the air, yet the library was filled with people checking out arms full of books.

Not just people my age, but young folks, children and teenagers.

Don't put away the printing presses yet!

My audience was made up of people who were pondering when might be the right time to put their houses on the market.

Some had been in those houses for many years, reared children in them, and were beginning to think that there might be a better - read that "smaller" - option down an ever-shortening road.

What concerned them most was today's buyer, who has a reputation for wanting a palace in move-in condition, along with an armful of seller concessions.

One woman, whose target date was at least a couple of years away, asked whether she should bring in a home inspector this far out, so she and her husband could fix things an inspection might uncover early.

Because of disclosure requirements in both states, many real estate agents try to talk clients out of pre-inspections.

I cannot tell you the number of regular conversations I have had with agents over the last three decades that started, "Are you planning to write a column about home inspectors?" and went on with them listing the latest "outrages."

Although we tend as a people to pigeonhole - millennials do this, Episcopalians believe that - each real estate transaction is not exactly like the last one or the next one, so we must learn not to generalize.

There are bad real estate agents, doofus home inspectors, lousy builders - and they have not yet come up with a similar category to describe columnists.

If you think it might help, have a pre-inspection done. The caveat - and it's a big one - is that what the buyer's home inspector comes up with may not be the same, and so negotiations will follow.

It could be that comparing evidence might put a bee in the buyer's bonnet, but not necessarily.

The danger of offering advice is that not every problem has the same solution - a lesson I learned early on in writing my "Your Place" column.

For example, a couple of hours after my Evesham Library talk ended, I was finishing painting the second coat on our front porch.

Every once in a while, I would get a whiff of a rotting something from below the porch floor by the front steps.

Assuming the worst, I thought it might be a sewage leak, for which, coincidentally, I recently took out an insurance plan to deal with if necessary.

The sun had moved to the opposite side of the house, so even a flashlight revealed nothing.

The odor got worse.

Finally, just before I left for tennis at 8 a.m. on Sunday, I looked between the top step and the lattice work and saw the cause.

It was a rabbit that had, in the words of John Cleese in the Monty Python dead-parrot sketch, "ceased to be."

The lesson: It doesn't hurt sometimes to hope for the best but expect the worst. Even when the worst is a matter of opinion.

215-854-2472 @alheavens