Thursday, August 25, 2005

Q: Is it really true that we have to disclose if there's a farm nearby if we want to sell our house?

Our listing agent just went over all of that on the seller's disclosure form and we don't know what to put down. The neighbors grow vegetables and sell eggs, is that a farm?

A: It's true that a seller must disclose whether or not there is a farm within a mile of their property. The legislature, in a rush to get this added to the disclosure form, didn't bother to define "farm" and didn't even define "mile". Did they mean "as the crow flies" or on roadways or what? My recommendation is to answer "yes" to this question if you live anywhere in unincorporated King County.

Like so many rules and regulations this is a result of lawsuits. We are, as a society, and perhaps even as a species, totally reactionary. We never seem to progress with forethought and planning, but only by reacting. There have been several lawsuits in this state involving the neighbors of farms that create noise and a bad odor. The neighbors wanted the farms to be closed down, moved or the noise and odors totally controlled.

In order to prevent further lawsuits the legislature added the item concerning farms to the seller's disclosure form. Their thought, I assume, is that a judge could say that the new buyers were fully apprised of the nearby farm and therefore knew what they were getting into. However, without defining "farms" they have opened up a can of worms. Is a lavender farm, organic vegetable farm, nursery or Christmas tree farm what they had in mind? Probably not. We know they probably meant those farms with livestock that could result in noise, dust and bad smells, but they didn't say so.

It's my opinion that we are all within a mile of some sort of farm so I would recommend that all sellers' choose "yes" when asked that question. It's hard not to be facetious but I doubt if that will slow the lawsuits down. What do you think?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Q: We're getting ready to sell our home and need some advise on what we should do to get the best price possible.

We read some of those magazines that talk about "staging" a house and it seems like more trouble than it's worth. We'd have to practically move out to do all that they say should be done. We can't afford to do that. We don't really want to ask help from any of the other real estate people on the Island because we plan on listing with my wife's sister who lives in Bellevue. We know a few of the real estate agents here and are hoping there are no hard feelings. Since your company doesn't list property but only sells we thought maybe you would be willing to advise us.

A: Don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings. Most professionals in the real estate business know that there are many things that come into play when someone selects a listing agent. I would recommend however, that you consider teaming with a local agent or working out a referral between your sister and a good listing agent on Vashon, so that you have representation from a local agent who knows our market.

As for "staging" your home I would say that in our fast paced market with such a low inventory you should do well without staging. The easy things you can and should do to bring a good offer quickly, include packing up most of your personal items like photographs, knick knacks and piles of clutter. Then clean everything inside and out until it sparkles. Tidy the yard and add some nice planters to the entry if you don't have flowering plants right now. Have the windows cleaned! Dirty windows darken a house and make it look unkempt. Have carpets cleaned, especially if you have pets. Spending a little time and money up front can add thousands of dollars of value to your home. I would also suggest fresh paint. Painting rooms, especially with a light, bright color, can make the place shine. Good luck.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Q: We are thinking of buying and expanding a business on Vashon but we're wondering why things seem so un-planned here.

We're used to a central design theme with businesses conforming to signage rules and required color scheme with regulations set down by a town planning commission. Things seem so haphazard here that we're concerned that it may not be a good business climate for us.

A: Like many small towns that consider themselves rural, Vashon Island has consistently resisted becoming a "theme" town. There are several such towns in Washington and many more beginning to succumb to the lure of regulated signage, color scheme planning and conforming hours of operation. Although some effort is underway to "spruce up" our town there remains a resistance to becoming just another La Conner, Langley or Leavenworth.

I had a business in a "theme" town many years ago and recall that it took me weeks to get the planning commission to approve my sign. It was restricted by design, color, size, lettering and method of attachment to my building. After going through the process I was far less enthusiastic about being a member of that business community.

Most people who have a small business are very independent minded. That's why they take all of the risks involved in owning their own store or service business instead of working for someone else. It's hard to imagine Vashon's businesses agreeing on a color scheme, sign ordinance or regulation of hours.

Keeping the town clean and adding flower baskets for color is about as far as I believe our community is ready to go at this time. The future may be very different, but I think most people who live here prefer the "hodge-podge" look of our town rather than the planned, manicured appearance common to most other places.

I would recommend that you do a needs assessment and find out if the community needs the service or product you intend to offer. That would be a far better test of potential profitability than the color scheme of our buildings.