Tag Archives: real estate disclosure

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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Home Inspection Coming…Duck and Cover!

Another Home Inspection this week. Another reminder just how risky daily life is. Will most of us even survive the night under the false-security and un-protective custody of our not-so-safe-houses?

Homes used to be a places of refuge. Bastions of comfort. Sanctuaries from all those bad things – out there.
They used to say that most accidents occurred within five miles of home. But after reading this 60 page tome of a Home Inspection my listing client paid $750 for, I’m not so sure.

Now that I’m more aware of all the insidious dangers lurking in every room, closet and corner of the one place that’s supposed to nurture us the most, I don’t see how anyone makes it out the front door in one piece – let alone down the driveway.

Nothing like a Home Inspection Report to make you feel incredibly paranoid and insecure. Nothing like a Home Inspection to make a million dollar place feel like a loathsome den of inadequacy.

I call it the 60 Minutes Syndrome. Goes something like this. Morley Safer (fictitious name?) does a riveting expose on the dangers of automatic garage doors – evil snares for unsuspecting children and small pets – waiting to pin them helplessly underneath.

By the following week consumer protection advocates are up in arms calling for new codes and retroactive auto-reverse safety mechanisms.

On the front line of the Center for Dis-Ease Patrol are the Code Talkers. The Home Inspectors that cite chapter and verse of all the new codes to live by. They understand after a lawsuit or two that if they don’t warn everyone about every possible thing that could potentially harm everyone, their own asses are in grave danger. CYA rules. Absolute CYA rules absolutely.

And so we are moving into strange territory –Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) is slowly morphing into Caveat Venditor – which means Seller Beware of all those things that will scare you about your own home and scare the heck out of potential home buyers too.

Home Sweet Home. How can it kill, maim or injure thee? Let me count the ways… Here are just a few of the things you never knew you had to worry about…until now.

Does your oven have an anti-tip device? Ever see an oven fall over on someone? Not pretty.

That naked light bulb in your closet? Stack those sweaters high enough and there’s a fire waiting to happen.

That dryer vent? Filling up with combustible layers of lint even as we speak.

How many dyslexic plumbers have installed hot and cold water lines backwards?

Is every stairway a potential stairway to heaven? Risers too high? Too wide? Treds uneven? Handrails too hard to grip?

And God Forbid. Deck rails more than 4 inches apart? Wide enough for small heads to get stuck? My own baby crib had bars wider than that. You are all witness to the end result.

Those sharp screws that secure the electric panel? What if the tip of one of those screws pierces a wire coming in?

GFCI’s? Carbon Monoxide Detectors? Smoke Alarms? Pool Alarms? A ban on all extension cords? Installing tempered glass? Clamps to hold open the damper on your gas fireplace?

When I was growing up we had the good old overriding fear of the atomic bomb. As long as we listened to Bert the Turtle – ducked, covered and didn’t stare directly into the blast, we were ok.

Everything else was gravy. Well, except for remembering not to run with sharp pencils in hand or put those plastic dry cleaning bags over our heads. Life was a gift with all it’s imperfections. But that was a different day and age.

Long before fear came home to roost.

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Danger Will Robinson

Just because things are a little slow in the Transaction Department at Real Estate Central these days, I don’t want any of you to think the REC is slacking off.  Don’t worry. We’re right on top of it.

Trust me.   Even when we aren’t crazy-busy fueling all those forces that drive the engine of the economy in our ongoing effort to spread money around the planet and grease the wheels of international finance, we’ve still got plenty of other things on our to-do list.

Not the least of which is our duty to protect and serve YOU – the huge backlog of clients sitting in our tickler files, who may or may not actually end up buying or selling something someday in the (hopefully) not to distant future. It’s a solemn charge we take very…well…solemnly. Specially in these solemn times!

But protect against what? Simple. Against everything.  Every single thing you can possibly imagine. The premise?  If  someone can think it…then surely we must all need protection from it.

But protect how? By warning everyone of course.  By sounding the clarion call. By disclosing to Buyers what Sellers do and mostly do not know about their own properties. And in turn disclosing to Buyers, the ever-growing list of worrisome issues they might want to obsess about. The great compendium of woe orbiting around in the grey area of space somewhere between what is said and what remains unsaid.

So whether or not we happen to be Agents with a whole lot of “closure” going on these days, we remain resolute in our role as Agents making sure a whole lot of “disclosure” is going on in the ongoing paper-jam of a paper-chase that is Real Estate.

As proof, I’m proud to announce:  This winter! Coming to a disclosure package near you!  A long-awaited chip off the old boilerplate.  A big, bold WARNING about the impending scourge of BEDBUGS  poised to sweep over our psyches!   Following in the faded footsteps of other Ghosts of Disclosure Past still buried deep in the bulging escrow files of today!  Radon gas! Asbestos! Lead-based paint! Toxic mold! Bedbugs is an idea whose time has come. Bedbugs are ready to take their place in the pantheon.

Surprisingly, it isn’t California surfing the wave of popularity on this particular urban legend.  It is New York, where a once-nascent epidemic of bedbugs has suddenly gone from hot topic to targeted legislation.  This quote from one of our popular REC newsfeeds:

In a recent condo sale on the Upper West Side, Louise Phillips Forbes, of Halstead Property, represented a seller and spent about six days hunting down bedbug history, or the lack thereof, to help seal the deal. The buyer asked about bedbugs and was not satisfied just knowing that the seller knew of no bedbugs in the building.  The building had recently switched managing agents, so Ms. Forbes had to get statements from both agents, and she also checked with three members of the condo board, none of whom knew of any bedbug problems.

And this:

Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, Democrat from the Upper West Side, said she planned to introduce a separate disclosure law for co-ops and condos next year. “I think it’s great if people are voluntarily disclosing the information already,” she said. “Since this is such an epidemic, the more transparency the better.”

If New York is doing it, can California resist the temptation to add Bedbugs to its Ten Most Wanted List of Dangerous Disclosures?  We’ve got a reputation to uphold.  We’re the State most likely to over-amp on any and all forms of consumer protection that raise their well-meaning heads to bite us in the ass.  We also have to preserve our status as the State voted Most Likely to Succeed in having everyone sue everyone else for something.  All that protecting requires a steady stream of victims.

So, even though a whole lot of properties aren’t selling right now,  Buyers, Sellers,  Looky-Loos … you want us on that wall.  You need us on that wall!  Standing guard.  Offering the cloak of protection from everything under the sun (Check the UV Ray  Disclosure.)

At the end of the day, at the end of the long process of home-buying. when you are finally settled into your new home and lay your head down on your soft pillow of dreams… we at Real Estate Central want you to be able to sleep tight, knowing that the bedbugs won’t bite. Not on our watch.

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