Your AARP ; The Law
; Ask the Experts
By Emily Sachar
; The issue: Who’s responsibile when sellers
defraud home buyers?
Sandra Barkley listened hopefully to the
United Homes promotion: “We make
dreams come true.” And she nodded when
the sales team convinced her she had the
means to buy a home.
A single mother making $49,000 a year
at the New York City Housing Authority,
Barkley became in 2003 the first member
of her family to buy a home. But in buying she became trapped. The two mortgages she needed to purchase her home
in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section
consumed 70 percent of her income. Soon
In June, Barkley and six New York resi-
dents were collectively awarded more
ers had engaged in fraudulent activity.
than $1 million in a case involving “property flipping” in
which United Homes, working with lenders, lawyers and
appraisers, bought and then
sold overpriced homes whose
serious flaws were masked by superficial
“At first, I was really depressed and over-
whelmed by what had happened,” Bark-
ley, now 55, said. “But the great thing is
that, now, other people won’t experience
the same problem.”
After a U.S. district court trial earlier
this year, a jury concluded that United
Homes of Briarwood, N.Y., its owner,
Yaron Hershco, and two mortgage lend-
; Barkley is still
trying to fix
came with her
Q I’m self-employed and have been receiving lots of solicitations for “business” credit cards.
Are they a better choice than regular cards for
people like me?
AThese cards are touted as having generous rewards and enhanced transaction reporting
to help you monitor spending. But they come with a
huge drawback: They’re not covered by key protections of the Credit CARD Act of 2009. Unlike regular
plastic, these cards, also marketed for “professional” or
“corporate” use, may be subject to “anytime” changes
in terms: unrestricted increases in penalty fees, perhaps, or sudden interest rate hikes for any violation of
terms—even on existing balances. In a recent survey,
the Pew Charitable Trusts found that people 65 and
older get a higher proportion of offers for these cards
than any other age group.
QThe recent fluctuations in stocks have got me worried about my retirement savings. What
should I be doing?
; What it means to you:
Because homes are often the primary asset for older Americans, it is particularly
important that they guard against fraudulent or unfair practices that increase the
risk of losing a home. When purchasing
a home, seek independent advice. Make
sure the inspector, the realtor and the appraiser don’t work with the seller. ;
A Financial advisers generally caution against let- ting a single day’s drop stampede you into quick,
emotional decisions that you might regret. Many are
saying “stick with equities”—the blue chip, dividend-paying kind—and suggesting that this is a good time to
buy cheap as part of a properly balanced portfolio. Consider how much risk you can live with; then, if necessary,
make changes in your holdings. Generally speaking, the
further off your retirement, the more risk you can take,
because your assets will have time to recover from any
fall. Meanwhile, stick to your budget. If you don’t have
one, that’s task number one.
Emily Sachar is a journalist and author
based in Brooklyn, N. Y.
Pew Charitable Trusts on credit cards; AARP on markets. Send your questions
to: Ask the Experts, AARP Bulletin, 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049, or email
firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out bulletin.aarp.org for previously asked questions