What’s My Sign?

I hate to complain but sometimes it feels like there’s a big red bulls-eye subliminally etched into those Monterey Bay Properties signs I keep putting up out there.

A flashing neon beacon. Not quite visible to the normal eye but blatantly obvious to the occasional bad neighbor living next door behind the darkened blinds.

Signs are just signs right? Yes – but. They can also become signs of things to come. In the form of strange story lines and unexpected plot twists set into motion by their arrival.

The phenomena goes something like this: I list a property. Prepare it for sale. Put it on the market. Have the sign guy go out. Put the post in the ground(Careful not to clip one of those irrigation lines dude!). The Monterey Bay moniker gets hung up for all to see

On the surface it just looks like the company name, the familiar shell logo and my phone number. A simple announcement of a new home for sale. Prospective buyers can call to inquire. And curious lookey-loos, with a little too much time on their hands, can start licking their lips. Maybe they’ll be a chance for a sneak peak at how the Jones’ have really been living all these years, at an upcoming open house.

But beneath the surface? Other motives may be lurking in the shadows. An odd neighbor out. One with unfinished business. A chip on their shoulder and a gnarly bone to pick.

When that sign goes up, they see a perfect target. A golden opportunity. A long-awaited vehicle for redress. Instant leverage. A chance to settle the score on some past slight that never really got resolved. At least not to their satisfaction.

It’s amazing how often, on the same day the sign goes up, Realtors receive calls out of the blue from “concerned” neighbors, “not wanting to cause trouble”, but “just wanting to let us know” about some past boundary dispute, a fence that’s six inches over the property line, a troublesome tree limb leaning in the wrong direction, a parking spot that has been unceremoniously appropriated or a chicken coop that’s been illegally constructed in the rear set-back.

Nevermind that the caller has lived next door, within easy shouting distance of the offending party, for ten years. Or that their kids went to school together. Or they used to have bbqs in the back yard. Or take care of each others’ dogs when they went on vacation.

Suddenly, it has become the Realtor’s job to find a way to right the wrong that’s been festering for so long. To bring peace to the feuding Hatfields and McCoys.

I once had a neighbor call me “just wanting to let me know” that the Seller of a property had buried too many pets in their back yard. Shades of Stephen King? Another to report their neighbor’s penchant for not folding up their cardboard properly before putting it into the recycling bin. Petty private road disputes throughout the County are of course, the stuff of legends.

Here’s the theory for all you armchair attorneys out there:

Sellers are required to disclose things like neighborhood nuisances, pending litigation, code or permit issues. Anything that might inhibit a Buyer’s ability to utilize and enjoy their new property. If Sellers don’t disclose properly, they could be liable after the fact – i.e. – close of escrow.

So, sometimes unhappy people figure that rather than confronting their neighbors directly, all they have to do is call their neighbor’s Realtor, tell them about some real or alleged infraction/problem/misdeed and then it will have to get taken care of, if they want to sell the house. Of course the real Catch 22 then lies in also having to disclose the fact that there is a difficult neighbor who likes to complain.

Rodney King passed away recently. He wasn’t a Realtor but perhaps he said it best back then: “Can’t we all just get along?” When good fences don’t make good neighbors the task often falls to us Realtors. Perhaps one more reason why we get the big bucks?

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