Tips & Advice

Q & A – Should a Seller Order Pre-sale Inspections?

Q:  We are putting our house on the market in a couple of weeks.  We have heard from a couple of people that we should get inspections on our home before we put it on the market.  Is this smart?  I thought buyers paid for inspections? Jason in Pleasanton

A:  Jason that is a great question!  Traditionally, buyers have been responsible for paying for any inspections they require.  The only exception is in Contra Costa County, where the standard procedure was for sellers to pay for a termite inspection.  However, in recent years there has been more of a shift to having sellers pay for and obtain inspections prior to going on the market.  While it does cost the seller anywhere from $800 – $1500, there are several compelling reasons why this is a good idea:

  • It gives the seller more certainty by identifying potential issues with the property before going on the market.  
  • It avoids the “second negotiation” where the buyer, after paying for inspections after the contract is negotiated, comes back to renegotiate armed with inspection reports that show issues with the property
  • It typically shortens the inspection contingency, as buyers are more likely to accept the existing reports, thereby cutting down on the time they need to complete their due dilligence
  • It reduces the chance the transaction will cancel because all issues are disclosed upfront. thus eliminating unpleasant surprises that could derail the purchase
  • It gives the buyer a higher level of comfort, which usually leads to a smoother, more amicable transaction

Can the buyer still get their own inspections?  Of course.  In fact, in my opinion sellers should avoid mandating that the buyer accept their inspections.  If the buyer wants to spend the money on their own inspections let them.  It is highly unlikely they will uncover any significant issues not covered in the original inspections.  One caveat however… make sure you choose inspection companies that are well known and well regarded in the area.  Presenting a home inspection from Bill’s Bait Shop and Home Inspection Company will not instill a lot of confidence in the buyer.  Talk to your agent to see who he or she recommends.  Good Luck with your sale!

Top 5 County Fairs in California!

It’s FAIR SEASON and we love a good fair! We should considering our backyard is host to one of the top county fairs in the country. But you don’t have to settle for local just to get some good things “on-a-stick”.

Here is the top 5 Fairs to think about visiting if you are loading the family up in the family truckster for a roadie this summer!

 Alameda County Fair

Pleasanton may be a burgeoning suburban city these days, but the area’s ranching roots surface during fair time. For the third year, a cattle drive – yes, steers on Main Street! – will kick off the festivities. Throughout the event’s June 15-July 8 run (18 days over four weekends), nighttime concerts will supplement the traditional fair fun. And the racetrack will host three libation-filled events: one with microbrews, one with wines, one with cocktails. Details: http://annual.alamedacountyfair.com.

Humboldt County Fair

Who says a trip to the fair has to be a sweltering affair? Consider this one in Ferndale, where the average temperature in August ranges from 58 to 71 degrees. Ahhhhh. The event bills itself as the “oldest uninterrupted county fair” in California, with plenty of old-fashioned exhibits. At the 122nd annual event, Aug. 15-26, live horse-racing is expected to be the big draw, with seven days of “Racing in the Redwoods” scheduled. Details: humboldtcountyfair.org.

Los Angeles County Fair

There’s big and then there’s really big — bigger-than-state-fair big.  While the state fest brings 511,000 fairgoers to the 350-acre Cal Expo grounds, L.A. draws about 1.3 million to its 487 acres of festival hoopla, which includes bacon-wrapped everything, of course, as well as hot bands, racy rides, a steampunk circus, fire-eaters, exotic animals and special exhibits, such as this summer’s 20 immersive exhibits celebrating the iconic Route 66. Last year, it was the GRAMMY Museum’s Taylor Swift Experience. The fair runs Aug. 31-Sept. 23. Details: www.lacountyfair.com

Orange County Fair

At a rip-roaring 23 days, this enormous fair packs a punch, from its Budweiser Clydesdales and Alaskan pig races to its unicorn nitro pop — a liquid nitrogen-frozen combo of kettle corn and whipped cream — and extreme pogo-stick events. Plus: A gigantic Ferris wheel, with 500,000 LED lights and 36 air-conditioned cabins, which will move on to the L.A. fair after the OC’s fair, which runs July 13 to Aug. 12. Details: https://ocfair.com/

Santa Cruz County Fair

To get to the fairgrounds in Watsonville, you have to drive along roads that go through many, many acres of crops – a good reminder of the county fair’s agricultural roots. It’s a relatively small fair, which is perfect if you have small fry. Besides the obligatory animal and produce barns, carnival rides and pig races, there’s a shaded Kiddie Korral where your kids can run off some of their energy. The event runs Sept. 12-18 this year. Details: www.santacruzcountyfair.com.

 

Q & A: Can a Seller Cancel a Counter Offer?

Q:  Hi Doug.  We recently submitted an offer on a San Ramon home for sale.  We have bought and sold several homes, so we are not beginners.  We absolutely loved this house, and we were delighted to get a counter offer from the seller.  The counter offer expired the following day at 5:00 PM.  We had to check on a couple of things with our lender before signing it, but we definitely planned on signing it by the 5:00 PM deadline.  At about 3:00, we got word from our agent that the counter offer was cancelled.  That seems really unfair!  Needless to say we were devastated that the seller did not let us respond first.  Can the seller do that?  Amy in San Ramon

A:  Thanks for the question Amy.  I can certainly understand how upsetting it is to you, and how unfair it must seem.  The short answer to your question is yes, the seller has the legal right to cancel (rescind) their counter offer before it is signed.  It may seem unfair, but the seller has the legal right to do that.  Usually it is because the seller received a better offer, and no longer felt the terms on the counter offer they sent you were good enough.  I know it is disappointing, but the law is the law.  In general, the seller is perfectly entitled to act in their best interest, and as long as the buyer had not yet signed the counter offer, they can rescind it. 

The same goes for the buyer by the way.  The buyer is free to withdraw their offer any time before the seller signs it.  My best advice is when you get a counter offer that is acceptable, sign it.  A lot of things happen if you wait, and many of them are bad.  In a hot market like we are experiencing, things move fast, so be sure you are geared up for the pace of the market.  As always, be sure to check with your attorney for legal advice.  Happy hunting!

Q & A: Should a Seller Consider a Contingent Offer?

Should I Accept a Contingent Offer On My House?

Q: We have received a contingent offer on our home. What are the pros & cons of accepting a contingent offer? We have been on the market now for a couple weeks with no offers. Sarah in San Ramon

A: Great question Sarah. Contingent offers have not been too common in the strong seller’s market we have been in. Generally we see more contingent offers (contingent on the sale of a home) when the market is more balanced, or in a buyer’s market. But in the right situation they can be worth pursuing. As usual, there are pros and cons to a seller accepting a contingent offer.

Reasons to consider a contingent offer include:

Price. Contingent buyers are usually willing to pay a good price for the property, often more than a non-contingent buyer. And that is only fair, as they in effect are compensating the seller for taking the risk of their home selling.

Timing. If you as a seller have lots of time, or don’t want to be forced to move quickly, a contingent offer can sometimes be a better choice than demanding non-contingent buyers who may not want to work with your schedule

Ease of Sale. If the buyer’s home is easier to sell than your home, then a contingent offer can make sense. For example, if you are selling a home that has a very narrow market with a limited buyer pool, and the buyer makes an offer subject to selling their home in Palo Alto, it can make a lot of sense to consider it, as the buyer’s home will likely sell in about 8 hours, and your home may take months to sell

Reasons to be wary of a contingent offer include:

Locking out Non-Contingent Buyers. If you accept a contingent offer, you are possibly losing out on other non-contingent buyers. One way around this is to include a release clause that gives you the seller the right to accept a non-contingent offer and cancel the contingent offer after a certain period of time (usually 2 days). Even if you continue to market the property as a contingent sale where you can accept a non-contingent offer, the showing activity drops as buyers typically do not want to pursue a home they may not be able to secure.

Lack of Control. A contingent offer is essentially an option to buy your home, as it is up to the buyer to decide if they want to accept an offer on their home. Or the buyer may decide they want to ask a price above what the property is worth. Very important to review carefully the pricing strategy of the buyer on their home before you agree to tie up your home

Added Complications. As a seller, not only do you have to get through your own contingency period, but your sale is also subject to the buyer of the buyer’s home getting through their contingencies. In effect, you are often adding twice the contingencies, and increasing the odds of something derailing your sale

Uncertainty. If you accept a contingent offer, you will be adding uncertainty to the transaction. It becomes difficult to make firm plans around moving, as you need all contingencies removed before you can safely commit to moving. Even then, you may not want to physically move until your transaction closes in the event there are any last minute hiccups.

Contingent offers are not to be automatically dismissed, nor should they always be embraced. As is often the case with real estate, it depends on the situation.

American Flag Etiquette

Memorial Day is next Monday! As an important symbol of our country, everybody should understand the significance of flying the flag. On Memorial Day fly the flag at half-mast, a position reserved for when the country is in mourning, until noon, before raising it to full mast for the remainder of the Day.

Here is the full list of the proper way to fly the American Flag:

  • The custom is to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on flagstaffs in the open, but it may be displayed at night upon special occasions to produce a patriotic effect.
  • When the flag is hung vertically on a wall, window, or door, the Union (blue section) should be to the observer’s left. When the flag is hung either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the Union should be to the observer’s left.
  • The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
  • The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement.
  • The flag should be displayed at every public institution and in or near every polling place on election days, and at schoolhouses during school days.
  • In a procession, the American flag should be to the right of any other flag or, if in a line of other flags, in front of the center of that line.
  • The flag should not be displayed on a float except from a staff, nor draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle.
  • When the flag is displayed on a vehicle, the staff should be fixed firmly to the chassis.
  • No other flag should be placed above the American flag or, if they are to be placed on the same level, to the right of the American flag.
  • The United Nations flag may not be displayed above or in a position of superior prominence to the United States flag except at United Nations Headquarters.
  • The flag, when displayed with another against a wall—both from crossed staffs—should be on the right (the flag’s own right), and its staff should be in front of the other staff.
  • The American flag should be at the center and the highest point when displayed with a group of state flags.
  • When flags of states, cities, etc., are flown on the same halyard, the American flag should be at the peak.
  • When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height, and the American flag should be hoisted first and lowered last.
  • When displayed from a staff projecting from a building, the union should be at the peak of the staff.
  • When the flag is displayed otherwise than by being flown from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out; or so suspended that its folds fall as freely as though the flag were staffed.
  • When displayed over a street, the flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, or to the east in a north and south street.
  • On a platform, the flag should be above and behind the speaker, with the union uppermost and to the observer’s left.
  • When displayed from a staff in a church or auditorium, the flag should occupy the position of honor and be placed at the speaker’s right as he faces the audience.
  • When flown at half-staff, the flag should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to half-staff position. It should again be raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. Half-staff is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff. The flag must be flown at half-staff on all buildings on the death of any officer listed below, for the period indicated:
    • For the President or a former President:30 days from the date of death.
    • For the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives:10 days from the day of death.
    • For an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a member of the Cabinet, a former Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives:From the day of death until interment.
    • For a United States Senator, Representative, Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico:the flag should be flown in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia, on the day of death and on the following day; in the state, congressional district, territory, or commonwealth of such Senator, Representative, Delegate, or Commissioner, from the day of death until interment.
    • For a Governor:Within the state, territory, or possession, from the day of death until interment.
  • When the flag is used to cover a casket, the union should be at the head and over the left shoulder.

When does “As Is” mean “As Is”?

One of the most misunderstood concepts in Real Estate is the concept of “as is”. In it’s truest sense, “as is’ means the buyer is accepting the property in its present condition with no obligation for repairs from the seller. Not surprisingly, most sellers would love to sell their home “as is”. In fact, I have seen many sellers light up with the mere mention of the word, like my 12 year old niece lights up at the mere mention of Justin Beiber. The reality is that very few homes are ever sold “as is”. In practice, most of the time when a seller says “I want to sell it as-is”, what they are saying is they don’t want to be responsible for a long list of minor repairs. They are essentially saying I don’t want the hassle of doing a lot of work. This is certainly their prerogative, and as long as the buyer is willing it can be done.

NYC signing September 1,2009 Nintendo Store - NYC

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The standard CAR real estate contract used here in the Bay Area is essentially an “as is” contract. In standard practice, there is usually a stipulation that the seller will take care of any Section 1 items that are discovered as part of the Pest Inspection. These items would include any dry rot or infestation from termites or other pests. Other than that, there are typically no other repairs that are mandated, with the exception of water heater bracing and smoke detector installation. Recently, Carbon Monoxide detectors are becoming more and more the obligation of the seller.

But it is certainly possible to write a contract that is strictly “as is” with no obligation on the part of the seller. There are generally two situations where this is done.

The first situation is when the seller gets ALL INSPECTIONS AND DISCLOSURES completed prior to putting the home on the market. In this situation, the seller can provide copies of the inspection reports and disclosures to prospective purchasers before they make an offer. This allows the purchaser to make an informed decision about the condition of the property, and allow for any repairs that need to be done when arriving at an offer price. This is the best way to truly achieve an “as is” sale, as there is full disclosure of all known issues and needed repairs, and the buyer can move forward with confidence. This is a fairly rare event.

The second situation, which is much more common, is where the seller states the property is being sold “as is” but there are not inspection reports on the property. In this case, it is “as is” subject to the buyer’s inspection and investigation of the property. The buyer will have the opportunity to inspect the property thoroughly to ascertain the condition. It is then up to the buyer whether they want to proceed with the purchase and remove their inspection contingency, or elect not to go forward with the transaction. The seller in this situation can’t force the buyer to buy the property. Rather, the buyer typically has some leverage. It is not uncommon in this situation for the buyer to request the seller correct any issues with the property as a condition of moving forward, which is how standard real estate purchases are handled. It is up to the seller to agree. Of course, if the seller does not agree, and the house goes back on the market, any future buyers will likely have concerns about any issues that were raised, so it might be in the seller’s best interest to agree to handle some of these repairs. Even on bank owned homes or short sales, which are typically “as is”, the lender will sometimes agree to remedy defects with the property, knowing that other buyers will likely have the same issue.

One additional caveat; Often the buyer’s lender require all termite repairs be completed prior to close of escrow as a condition of the loan. This complicates the transaction, as the buyer does not want to do repairs to a property they don’t own. And increasingly lenders are requiring other repairs to be done as well. So if the buyer is getting a loan it can create issues at closing.

So can a seller insist on an “as is” sale? Absolutely…. as long as the buyer is willing to go along. And as we know buyers are generally so easy in today’s real estate environment! One thing is for certain; the property ultimately will have to be priced to reflect the condition.

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Pass Your Home Inspection

Home inspections are often lumped (packaged) together with appraisals and while home inspections are usually not required in California, appraisals are almost always required when a mortgage loan is being used.

  • Inspection:A home inspector’s primary objective is to evaluate the condition of the house and identify items in need of repair. He’s not particularly concerned with the market value of the property.
  • Appraisal:The purpose of a home appraisal is to determine the current market value of the house, based on recent sales activity in the area (and other factors). The appraiser’s primary goal is to figure out how much the house is worth in the current market.

A properly passed inspection will allow you to get maximum dollars for your home and could be the difference in a decision being made to buy your home for any potential buyer that might be on the fence.

Pass your home inspection with these tips:

Check Roof and Foundation

These are two budget killers when it comes to home improvement. Before the inspection, check your roof and foundation. If there is a doubt that something is wrong (like a leak in the roof), you should call a local contractor to come have a look. They can estimate the cost of the repair and see if it’s a big issue or not. By having this done before the inspection, you are saving the potential buyers a huge worry.

Check Drainage

Your roof plays a key role in your drainage. If faulty, poor drainage can ruin your foundation. In fact, poor drainage is the No. 1 problem home inspectors find.

Make sure your downspouts lead water away from the home. They should be thick and long enough to handle large amounts of water. Especially in areas of heavy rainfall, downspouts of 3X4 inches are highly recommended.

Clean It Up

Sometimes, a happy home inspector can make all the difference. Therefore, make sure it’s easy to move freely about the home. If you have heavy boxes in front of the attic or around the furnace, move them before the inspection. Clutter can’t hide home issues, but it can certainly make for an unhappy inspector and longer examination.

Check Electricity

While I highly recommend hiring a professional electrician to check the entire house, there are small fixes you can make. First off, organize the wiring if it’s visible. Then, make sure all light bulbs are changed. If one is out, an inspector or potential buyer could attribute it to faulty wiring. Repairing an electric system can get expensive for some, but make sure your circuit breaker, light fixtures and all wiring are up to code.

Provide Documentation for Repairs & Maintenance

When and if you are completing some projects prior to the inspector arriving, be sure to keep the documentation to present to the inspector as well as any potential buyer. Nothing breeds the “warm-fuzzies” like a recently dated document for repair or replacement.

Check Insulation

Ventilation and insulation can create higher gas bills and other HVAC-related issues. First, go up to your attic (if you have one) and make sure there is enough padding and insulation. Some may fall off or wear down over the years. Inspectors will notice, so make sure you fix it right away.

Go Away

Almost everybody operates at a better level when they are left to do their work without being hovered over. Inspectors are no exception to this rule and remember that a happy inspector can make a difference in your grade. Leave them alone while they do their work but come back prepared to ask in-depth questions about their findings.

Real Estate in Pleasanton

Simple Spring Fixes for your Home

Spring is about to, well, spring. Time to assess the worst in your home brought on by winter. Use the break in the weather to take a closer look at what needs to be done heading into a nicer season and prepare yourself fully for next year.

Trim

Get at those bushes and trees! Perhaps the winter weather has weakened some vital branches that could snap once dry. Get rid of them. Take a good long look at the bushes that are somewhat manageable now because the impending warm weather will cause them to growth spurt.

Gutters

The number one offender of big money damage in a home is water. You must respect the flow! Treat your gutters with respect in the weather break by really getting in there. Clean them out, look for breaks or loose mounts, check the pitch and make certain that everything is flowing the direction you want it to.

Screens

There is nothing like a broken and dirty screen once you want to throw the window open on the first beautiful spring day. Take this opportunity to remove all your screens and give them a good cleaning as well as check the trim and rescreen as necessary.

Woodwork

Our old foe water comes into play here again. Assess your trim and external woodwork on your home for damage. Poke and prod below the paint to check the integrity. Do you have rot, or holes? Well they aren’t going to get better in warmer weather. In most cases you can simply strip, seal and repaint your woodwork. This will save big money later and also give your home a facelift for curb appeal.

Vents

The next thing to look at would be vents that lead outside, which connect to your heating and cooling systems, dryer and more. A damaged or missing vent cap could allow birds or rodents in, clogging the vent and potentially releasing toxins into your home. “This is the time when birds are going to immediately want to nest. Couple that with some nice weather, and within a day or two things can change dramatically,” Dave Lavalle, founder of Dryer Vent Wizard says.

Take advantage of the sun coming out and give your home a good once over! You will be able to enjoy the nicer weather so much more as well as know that when the bad stuff rolls through again you will be ready!

Choosing the Right Realtor

Experts agree that you should interview at least three agents to find the one with the experience, skill and personality that matches your needs. Choose from a variety of candidates including personal references, researched and close connections and treat every candidate the same.

Check Credentials

Check for license and disciplinary actions. Check with your state’s regulatory body to find out whether a prospective agent is licensed and if there have been any disciplinary actions or complaints.

While Online…

In todays digital landscape, your agent should be easy to find online. Check to see exactly where they are online and how they present themselves. Do they talk only about themselves and their accolades or do they appear to have community involvement? Do they stay away from divisive topics? There is nothing wrong with cross checking their professional profiles with their personal ones and look for red flags.

Interview

By all purposes you are conducting a job interview and should feel comfortable asking the tough questions. Be on the look out for red flags that lie below the surface. Are the answers mechanical or are they seemingly answering from the heart?

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How long have you been selling real estate?
  • What is your average number of clients?
  • What area do you cover?
  • What type of communication should I expect from you?
  • Do you have a recommended vendors list (Title, contractors, inspectors, etc.)?
  • What questions do you have for me?

Audition

Get listing presentations from potential realtors, who will tell you what comparable homes have sold for and how long they take to sell. The agents are all looking at the same data, so the suggested listing price should be close. Pricing a home too high at the start often means it takes longer to sell and ultimately sells for less.

Full Time or Part Time?

Whether you’re a buyer or seller, you want to choose an agent who is actively following the market every day. If you’re buying, you want an agent who can jump on new listings and show them to you immediately. If you’re the seller, you want an agent who is always available to show your home to prospective buyers.

Trust Your Gut

At the end of the day you need to listen to your inner voice. Pay closer attention to the voice that is throwing up red flags and don’t be afraid to walk away no matter what stage of the process you are in. If you aren’t having your needs met or there is a concern from the beginning then this just isn’t the agent for you.

 

 

 

 

Pleasanton Homes for Sale

Q & A: Can a Buyer Cancel a Contract For Any Reason?

Q: We recently accepted an offer on our home in Pleasanton. The buyer appeared to be very strong, and wrote an offer with a short inspection contingency. When the buyer’s inspection contingency removal was due, they cancelled the agreement, and did not give an explanation. Can they do that? Can we keep their deposit? We are quite upset about this. Bill in Pleasanton

A: Bill, that is a great question. The contract (CAR purchase agreement) provides that during the inspection contingency the buyer may investigate the property, order inspections, review all associated documents, and due their due diligence. The contract stipulates that at the end of the inspection contingency period, the buyer may either remove their inspection contingency, or cancel the agreement. In the event the buyer elects to cancel the contract, there is no contractual requirement that the buyer give the seller an explanation, nor is there any requirement that the seller gets to approve their reason for cancelling in order to release the deposit. It is black and white. Unless and until the buyer removes their inspection contingency, their deposit is theoretically not at risk, as the contract allows the buyer to cancel the agreement. The only realistic argument a seller has would be if the buyer acted in bad faith, either by never intending to complete the purchase, or entering into contract on another property simultaneously, or somehow demonstrating bad faith in another fashion. However, keep in mind the old saying in legal circles; “It’s not what you know, but what you can prove”. Proving bad faith can be an extremely difficult and expensive endeavor.20160921-share-kcm

One way to minimize this risk as a seller is to provide all disclosures and inspection reports up front to potential buyers, which generally leads to more serious offers and/or shorter inspection contingency periods. But there is no way to eliminate this risk entirely other than having the buyer write an offer waiving all contingencies, which is a big risk on the buyer’s part. Better to let it go and concentrate on getting another buyer. As always, when dealing with legal issues it is best to consult an attorney who can properly guide you in these matters