Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Q: We bought our house about two years ago and knew when we bought it that there was some doubt about the boundary lines.

We didn't really want to spend the money on a survey and the seller didn't either so we just let it go. Now the house next door has sold and the new owners are cutting down bushes and trees we think are on our property. We talked to them and they seemed friendly, but said they want to get rid of the trees because they really want more sunlight. Now we're suddenly very exposed on that side of the house with those trees and shrubs gone. We don't want a big fight, so what can we do?

A: I would say a survey is the first step. You can't defend a border until you know where it is. Talk to these people again and ask that they refrain from cutting down any more trees until you both know whose property they are on. I think I would offer to pay for the survey since asking them to pay half might antagonize them. Keeping things friendly is important.
Once the survey is done, and if the trees were on your property, you might want to consult with an attorney. An attorney might counsel you to ask for restitution for the lost trees and shrubs if it turns out that they were on your side. However, it's up to you to decide how far you want to take this issue. Perhaps the neighbors will feel badly enough that they will offer to plant new trees, build a fence or otherwise try to make up for the loss to you.
If it turns out that the trees and shrubs were on their side of the property line I suggest you invest in some nice, fast growing trees or shrubs that you can plant on your side of the boundary to restore some of your lost privacy. Or you could fence in a courtyard closer to your house which will shield you from the neighbor's house.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Q: We want to buy a home this year but my husband says he wants to wait until the economy really hits bottom.

That way we will get the best deal. In the meantime, we’re paying rent and I think that’s just wasting money. I want that money to go toward a home of our own. What do you think?

A: First, of course, is the simple fact that no one knows when we’ve hit bottom until we aren’t there anymore. Once prices start to stabilize or even start upward, it’s too late. I’ve always believed that the best time to buy is when you want a home.

We all learned, sadly and dramatically, what trying to outsmart the market will get you. If the stock market crash, the banking melt down, and the real estate disaster have taught us anything, it should be that we can’t really predict the future. We can only try to learn from the past.

The real estate market is actually changing for the better at this very moment. The news out at the end of May indicated that pending sales of homes in the US had risen three months in a row and that in April, sales jumped 6.7% the highest leap in eight years. That report, from the National Association of Realtors, also stated that in several states, bidding wars were becoming common on foreclosures as speculators and first time home buyers flood the market to find bargains.

The $8,000 tax credit for first time home buyers has also helped to turn the real estate market around. Many banks are now allowing these funds to be used as part of the down payment and closing costs. According to investment analysts, looking state by state at many economic indicators, the recession will end in Washington state by the fourth quarter of this year.

Even if these predictions don’t come true, it’s a ray of sunshine to those hoping for better days. With our inventory at an all time high and prices reduced dramatically I would say this is a great time to buy.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Q: How important is the Form 17, Seller's Disclosure Statement?

Our listing agent has asked us to fill it out so she can put it online with our listing and we want to wait until we get a buyer.

A: I agree with your agent the the Form 17 (a form put out by the multiple listing service that sellers are required to fill out) is very important. Not having it available for potential buyers is a serious mistake. It may lead buyers to wonder what the seller is hiding when the form isn't available. Having the form online shows buyers that you are willing to disclose what you know about your property up front.

You should go over it carefully and be sure you know what you want to say before you fill it out. I see these forms all the time with answers crossed out and other answers checked. That's a red flag to potential buyers. They often ask if I think you lied, changed your mind, or just didn't know anything.

You should also remember that some answers require explanation. You can add a sheet of paper with comments on it to explain any answers that require it. A good example that I saw recently was, "Has the roof ever leaked?" The sellers marked, "I don't know." The first reaction my client, who was interested in the house, had was, "Of course they should know if the roof has leaked. What are they hiding?"

I think that question is not well-worded and that the seller probably meant that he wouldn't know if the roof ever leaked in the past, before he owned it. It would have helped to explain his answer by adding language that the roof hadn't leaked during his ownership.

I saw another Form 17 today that had dozens of answers crossed out and other answers inserted. That would give a buyer pause. Did the seller not know his own mind, or was he just sloppy? Many buyers would think that he reconsidered his answers to hide defects.

So, yes, I think it is a very important document.