Archive for November, 2014
Thanksgiving is more than my favorite holiday. It reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for, because in our busy lives it is easy to forget to be thankful all the time. Like me, I hope you take some time off this week to be with those who are important in your life.
So this Thanksgiving, think of all those people in your life who enrich it, all the experiences and opportunities that make it beautiful, and the many blessings that you have every day. Thank you for being a part of my expression to the world through my writing – I appreciate all my readers because you give me a reason to write.
From my home to yours, I wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving. May it be filled with love, laughter, lots of good food and most of all, peace.
Today on Twitter a follower made a comment about the benefits of having a home pre-inspection prior to listing a property. There are some agents who recommend doing so and it can be a good idea. However there are also agents who would not recommend doing so because it could open up a can of worms for the seller. I thought it would be a good idea to look at the benefits and disadvantages of having a pre-inspection.
Issues with the Home that the Seller may not Know About Could be Revealed in a Pre-Inspection
Benefit: A pre-inpsection gives sellers an opportunity to repair/remedy any defects or problems that are discovered, in order to present a home to the buyers that has been well cared for and has no deferred maintenance. This means there will not likely be any surprises when the buyers have their inspection. Oftentimes inspectors discover issues of which the sellers were not aware. Most buyers will ask the seller to repair such issues or credit them through escrow so they can do so after closing, or even reduce the price because of any issues. A pre-inspection could eliminate any surprises, but keep in mind that the buyers still may have their own inspection (something I always recommend), and it is possible that their inspector may discover other items.
Disadvantage: There could be some major issues discovered that the sellers did not know of, that could cost a lot of money to fix. If the sellers do not have the funds or do not choose to repair such issues prior to sale, they now are aware of these problems, which means they must disclose them to buyers. Disclosure of know factors affecting the property is required by law. One could argue that no matter whether the buyers are told via disclosures that there is a problem, or whether they discover it themselves through a home inspection, they will still likely seek repairs or a credit, so it may not matter either way.
The one problem I see with having a pre-inspection is that if something major is discovered, meaning the seller has to disclose it, it could affect the value of the home (depending of course on the issue). For example, say there is a crack in the swimming pool, or the roof needs to be replaced. These could be costly issues to fix, and could detract from the value of the home. The seller can turn it into a positive and deduct the repair costs from the value right off the bat if aware of issues, OR if not aware of such issues and presented with a repair request by the sellers, it is possible the seller may be able to negotiate a price under full repair costs.
A Special Note About Termite Inspections
It is important to note that this month there will be a big change to the California Residential Purchase Agreement (RPA) regarding termite inspections. The current contract has an addendum called the Wood Destroying Pest Addedum (WPA), which normally specifies that the seller is responsible for Section 1 items – damage caused by pests. This would include dry rot on wood and fumigation, which could be costly. The new RPA eliminates the WPA, so it will now become a repair issue. This means that the buyer will be responsible for paying for a termite inspection, and any issues discovered will need to be negotiated with the seller, along with any other non-termite repair issues.
Keep in mind that a buyer can write something different into the contract, such as sellers are to pay up to a certain amount, if necessary, for any termite work discovered. If sellers have a termite inspection prior to listing and discover any issues, they can inform the buyer up front in disclosures so that the buyer can negotiate those repairs or decide what action to take. I will be suggesting to my sellers to have termite pre-inspections, as I feel it could eliminate potential problems. It also allows the seller to choose a reputable termite company.
I suggest always to discuss the above with your agent before listing your home so that you are aware of your rights and can make an informed decision.
Every now and again something terrible happens to a real estate agent, reminding all of us just how dangerous our business can be. The tragic death of Arkansas agent Beverly Carter in late September, murdered by a potential client whom she met to show a home, made agents think about safety precautions. Similarly, I remember years ago an agent in the company I worked for was brutally attacked and raped at a vacant house – again, she was meeting a potential buyer there.
The nature of a real estate agent’s job means that sometimes he or she will need to meet unknown persons to show property, but there are ways to be safe and still do our job. Here are 9 precautions that every agent should utilize to keep as safe as possible.
1. Meet potential clients at your office or a neutral place. Meeting an unknown person at a home could be deadly. Suggest having the person meet you at the office and sit for a while to discuss the property/properties you will be viewing. If you feel uncomfortable at all trust your instincts, and do one of the following.
2. Tell someone your plans – addresses included, and identify the persons you are meeting. Provide the name of the person(s) you will be be with (see number 4 below)
3. Have another agent or other person go with you. This is always a great idea and probably one of the easiest ways to protect yourself. You can reciprocate when that person has a showing one day. Find someone in your office with whom you can team up. If that is not possible or if you work alone, you can find a showing buddy from another company, or a friend, neighbor or spouse.
4. Get a copy of the client’s driver’s license, and tell them it is office policy to protect agents (it should be – discuss with your broker). If you met them at your office this is easy to do. If not, snap a photo of it with your phone and send it to a colleague and someone close to you, along with the address where you will be and the time.
5. Have someone check in with you via cell phone – either by calling or texting. Make a plan as to how often someone should call to check up on you, and what that person is to do if you do not answer.
6. Always have your phone in your hand during showings. Pepper spray is another good idea.
7. Never walk in front of the client – hold open the doors and let them go first. Stand outside rooms while they wander in.
8. Do not include your photograph in advertising material – I know many agents feel they need to do so, but it is not a smart idea. Criminals can choose you based on what you look like, and then call to schedule an “appointment.” Better to be called because someone really is interested in a home, not because they like something about the way you look and want to harm you.
9. Trust your instincts. This is by far the most important bit of advice. If you feel uncomfortable at any time you need to either get out of there or find someone to join you.
The final walkthrough is a necessity for buyers purchasing a home, but many buyers do not understand the purpose of the walkthrough and there are many important aspects to getting it completed correctly in order to protect their legal rights.
First of all, it is important to understand that the final walkthrough is NOT a contingency to the sale, so in other words if a buyer discovers something at the walkthrough and all contingencies have been released the buyer does not have the right to cancel the contract at that point – doing so may put the buyer in breach of contract.
The purpose of the final walkthrough is threefold:
1. Make sure the home is in the same condition as when the offer was made
2. Check to see that any negotiated repairs were completed as agreed
3. Make sure seller has completed any other obligations under the contract
Of course, it is possible that things will be discovered during the walkthrough that give the buyer certain rights against the seller. If this occurs, there are 2 things the buyer needs to do in order to preserve her legal rights against the seller after closing.
How to preserve your legal rights after close of escrow when issues are discovered at the walkthrough:
1. Indicate on the walkthrough form (which in California is called the Verification of Property Condition, or VP for short) specifically what the issue is (e.g. seller did not make __ repairs as specified in the contract).
2. Have an attorney write a “right to reserve” letter to the seller and his agent, specifically identifying the issue(s) that were neglected. An agent can do this as well, but since most agents are not attorneys the agent needs to make sure he or she does so correctly. The California Association of Realtors has a library with examples of these letters. Make sure the agent runs it by her broker for approval before submitting it.
If the buyer has completed the above steps then s/he will be able to pursue legal action against the seller after closing. Of course, the first things that should be done is for the agent to discuss any issues with the listing agent – many times the seller will simply take care of them. Make sure to still complete step 1 above just in case.
Buyers have many legal rights when purchasing property, especially in the state of California (a pro-buyer state). It is important for all buyers to understand each and every part of a real estate transaction, and how it will affect his or her rights. Staying legally protected is not hard if you start off with a smart and savvy real estate agent who can help steer you through the process from beginning to closing.
People always say you can’t choose your neighbors, and for the most part this is correct. I suppose if you did want to choose your neighbors you could purchase a new construction home and have friends and family purchase on the same street. But the reality of that happening is of course slim. So when you buy a home you may try to meet as many neighbors as possible prior to signing off on all the paperwork, but of course you never truly know someone from just a meeting, so most of it is left to chance. The same is true of co-workers and bosses, and for real estate agents.
I have worked with many agents since I started in this business, and many of them have been pleasant and professional, kind and cooperative. That obviously makes the entire transaction process a much better experience for all involved, including my clients and myself. It is so wonderful to be able to work with someone who returns calls, stays on top of paperwork and is willing to go the extra mile as a representative for her own clients and also as a professional.
Of course, there are many agents in the real estate business who appear to be professional but are very difficult to work with. I have a collection of names in my head, based on past experiences, whom I hope never to work with again. Of course I can only control that outcome so much – if a client wants to buy a home and the listing agent is someone I dread working with I may be left with no options….So what is an agent to do when the agent on the other side is a pain in the neck?
Here are a few things I have learned over the years that agents can do when they are in those tricky situations, in order to try and ease any difficulties or challenges:
1. Set goals/intentions from the start. If I have to work with a difficult agent I will let the agent know from the start what I expect and how I would like to work together.. I will send an email identifying a time table of all the important dates and responsibilities – including my own – and provide all contact information. I will set my own expectations as to paperwork and the best way to communicate. If the person is not someone who is easy to talk to or hard to get a hold of, I will spell out the best way to communicate. I also find out right away if there is a transaction coordinator or assistant involved, and make sure to cc them on every communication.
2. Involve the agent’s broker and your own broker. If things are challenging I will always involve the agent’s broker. I am not shy and have called many brokers. Most of them are more than willing to step in and assist with deadlines and communication. In the case where the agent IS the broker, I lay it all on the line and tell the agent that s/he needs to cooperate and communicate. Usually this works, but if not then sometimes you have to be prepared to threaten to file a complaint (luckily I’ve not had to do this). If you are an agent working for a broker, it is important to involve YOUR broker right away as well. That is what s/he is there for, so don’t feel like you have to deal with difficult people on your own.
3. Put everything in writing. One of the first things I learned in law school is that you always have to have a paper trail. I ALWAYS put things in writing during a transaction. If I speak to the other agent over the phone or in person, I follow up with an email reviewing the conversation. If things go sour and there is a complaint filed (or even worse, a lawsuit) down the road, that paper trail will be your salvation. Save all emails in a file on your server.
4. Document all communications that are not in writing. Document all phone calls – it is easy to keep a running Word doc and add to it as needed. When the sale closes save everything on a CD or a file in your system.
5. Stay professional throughout, but stick only to the facts and keep things tight. No matter how much you may want to give a nasty agent a piece of your mind, remember that doing so only brings you down to their level. Instead, use your inner strength to remain professional. Keep communications short and to the point, and remember to document everything.
No one wants to work with a unprofessional or difficult person, but we all have to at some point. As I have taught my children, what is important is how we react to challenging situations. Losing our cool and getting upset won’t help our cause at all, nor is it healthy, so keep your chin up and stay professional and positive. You can always get out your frustrations by exercising.