Yikes! Un-permitted Square Footage???

Sadly, it isn’t uncommon to come across properties that, over the years, have work done without proper City or County building permits.   Older homes that have had multiple owners lose the history of what has been done and when, so getting to the “real” facts about additions, changes, etc. becomes very difficult.  And shudder to think, government records aren’t always accurate either!  Even though an owner may think they got their worked signed off by the City or County, the jurisdiction has no record of it!  Common improvements done without permits that we have seen in our years of real estate sales:

  • Decks
  • Garage conversions
  • Garage bathrooms
  • Patio/sun room enclosures
  • Electrical work (both indoor and outdoor)
  • Window installations
  • Hot water heaters
  • Attic access improperly made
  • Kitchenettes
  • Second dwelling units

So, what to do….

HOMEOWNERS:  Please comply with your local building regulations regarding modifications to your home.  If you want to ensure the work is done properly and up to code, hire a licensed contractor who knows what they are doing and acquires the appropriate permits and inspections.  Ensure the permits are “finaled” meaning that they get the final sign off by the appropriate jurisdiction.  Then and only then can you represent to a future buyer that the work was done with permits!   Work done without permits must be disclosed to any potential buyers, and the value of your property can be severely impacted by not having work done to code.  In some cases insurability may be impacted, as well as a property appraisal for a potential buyer’s lender.

Bottom line:  get the necessary permits, use a licensed contractor, and add value to your property, not diminish it.

BUYERS:  So, you see that dream house, with that added family room (used to be the back patio sunroom) and 1/2 bathroom in the garage…but were these building modifications done with permits?  The Seller is required to disclose what they know about a property, but perhaps they bought the property with those “improvements” already there, so they don’t the status of any permits.  We assist our Buyer clients in researching such matters at the appropriate governmental agency.  If work has not been done with the necessary building permits, it may have been done unsafely.  Worse yet, if the work results in some sort of other governmental code violation (such as a garage conversion), a Buyer may later be required to tear out the improvements either permanently or have them redone with permits.  Both of these scenarios can be very expensive.  Finally, a Buyer’s lender may not accept square footage that was added without building permits and where the public record does not reflect the additional square footage in the County Assessor’s tax records.  With square footage excluded from an appraisal, the available loan amount may be severely impacted and the Buyer unable to finance the purchase.

Bottom line:  review thoroughly all disclosures available regarding the property.  If there is ANY discrepancy in the square footage being represented and the County Assessor official records, get to the bottom of it by checking on issued building permits.  Have a general property inspection done to determine the overall safety and quality and condition of the property.  Unfortunately, in this very hot real estate market, there are property investors/flippers that cut corners to get the property back on the market to make top dollar.  Be wary, check the disclosures and the quality of the work that’s been done.  As they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover:  investigate the property thoroughly or risk years of disappointment.

So YIKES…be careful when a property has non-permitted improvements: for your own safety and physical and financial well being!

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Patience Is A Virtue

Patience (George Michael album)

We have wonderful clients.  Believe it or not, we have some buyer clients who grow concerned that THEY are wearing US down because they haven’t yet found their dream home.  We gently remind them that until they find a property they are excited about, that they can picture themselves in for years to come, that meets the majority if not all of their requirements in a home, we will be with them every step of the way.

The current market can be very frustrating for buyers, with historically low inventories and multiple, sometimes irrational, offers in competition.  However, buyers who are patient (with patient agents too!) will eventually get into a place to call home.  So, don’t be discouraged…be patient and let the process and market unfold.  Then schedule the housewarming party LOL.

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Working for Buyers: The Representation Agreement

Brown eyed rufusAll of us get our butts out of bed in the morning for different reasons. For us, it’s this pesky dog. Rufus the Dufus whines and cries and whimpers at the crack of dawn until we let him out to go potty. He is an annoying little 50 lb.-creature, but he gets us out of bed. It’s hard to be mad at him once our sleepiness subsides.

What gets us into the office is something entirely different. Our Clients have an expectation that we be at the top of our game when it comes to representing them. There is a big difference between a “Buyer Client” and a mere “buyer customer”. We ONLY advocate for the interests of Buyer Clients after they’ve formally retained our services to do so. We’d rather avoid working on behalf of buyers for weeks or months, putting aside our evenings and weekends and family time only to (argh!) have a buyer suddenly decide to have their newly licensed cousin represent them, for example.

Part of formal buyer representation includes an “Exclusive Buyer Representation Agreement”. This document outlines what the buyer and agent parties can expect of each other and what documentation is required to get started.  We take representation of Buyer Clients as seriously as we take our representation of Seller Clients. Here are a few of the benefits of formal buyer representation:

  • We’ve built a reputation among fellow agents in our market area for having rock-solid buyers. Our Exclusive Buyer Clients benefit from this by having their offers submitted by us be taken more seriously, especially in multiple offer situations which are common in our area. This means we have compiled a complete Buyer Package before we show even one property to a buyer.
  • Exclusive Buyer Representation ensures our Clients that they are our first priority. Evenings and weekends, for example, are reserved for Clients first and foremost.
  • Many of our Clients are high profile, very busy individuals. We take the time to preview properties for Exclusive Buyer Clients and record walk-thrus and report to them whether or not a property is even worth seeing.
  • We attend weekday real estate marketing meetings where we broadcast what our Exclusive Buyer Clients seek, and often learn about upcoming listings long before they hit the market.
  • We send out monthly real estate e-newsletters to broadcast to our databases what our Exclusive Buyer Clients want, and through this medium, we also learn about properties that will be available before they hit the market.
  • If our Exclusive Buyer Clients MUST move into a specific neighborhood, we’ll knock on doors and send mailers out to ask those neighborhood property owners if they have interest in selling rather than wait around for something to come available.

Right now, our Exclusive Buyer Clients include a recovering peninsula dweller buyer, the newly engaged couple, the seller of this gorgeous home who’s buying in the San Ramon area to be close to family, and also the family of a US veteran who’s seeking an affordable home in the East Bay.

We’re darn good at what we do, so there are certain steps we take before we use our talents, expertise, network and experience to advocate and help protect a Client’s interests. There are only 24 hours in a day, after all…

 

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Say Yes First, Then We’ll See

Image-wedding and engagement ring 200

In addition to the Exclusive Buyer Clients we have who jump in head first or take their time to make a decision, we also have those who are “perpetually engaged”.

One such Exclusive Buyer Client of ours has been “engaged” for quite a while and for a number of reasons, has not sealed the deal.

Being “engaged” in a real estate transaction means that a proposal has been offered and accepted. The engagement is sometimes dragged on and on for many months while one or both parties work on some issues.

Sound familiar, all you serial monogamists?

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Seeking an Ideal Match

Marissa headshot
Recovering Peninsula dweller seeks urban oasis in hip, diverse, warm Hayward or San Leandro. Marketing geek, takes all corners on the tennis courts, easily persuaded by cabernet, burgers and new cuisines, loves food & podcast recommendations.
Her ideal mate is a home that has two-three bedrooms and at least two bathrooms on a single level on a large lot with room to build, or even a duplex.
Serious suitors for her purchase only. Show your goods and she might be interested!

 

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