Thursday, May 25, 2017

Q: We had a drone hovering over our property last weekend and it turns out it was a real estate company taking overhead photos for a house that’s going on the market a block away.

I really am upset that they were photographing over my property.  Isn’t there some kind of law that they can’t fly those things just anywhere?  That’s an invasion of my privacy.

A:  The answer to your questions is that the rules and laws governing drones are still being written.  According to the attorney’s representing the real estate community, there have not been many court cases yet, or definitive legislation to be positive where we stand.  But there are at least some rules governing real estate brokers and others doing drone photography for business use that say that you can only photograph within the corners of the property being marketed. 
In addition, you can only go 400 feet above the ground using a drone. Listing brokers want to show the surrounding area, of course, but that should be easy to see from 400 feet or under.  The incidental showing of neighboring property clearly happens when you are photographing from 400 feet.  You also must have a special license to operate a drone for commercial purposes and check with local air traffic control in some instances. You are also limited to photographing only during daylight hours.

Drone use is becoming standard for the real estate industry and there will probably be more rules and regulations coming along.  I am more concerned that these overhead photos give a very false idea of the property being marketed for sale.  Because we are on an island, you can see water and mountains from a few hundred feet above almost any property here.  I believe it could give a potential buyer the idea that they will have such a view from the home that’s for sale.  I believe that misrepresents the property.  As for your specific situation, I would recommend that you check with an attorney to see what your rights are concerning the drone flying over your house and property.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Q: My neighbor just had several of her tall trees topped.

They’re on a steep slope and I guess she did that to open up her view.  Is it possible that this could increase the potential for landslides?  We are close to her property and already have had a few small slides.  Is there anything we can do about it?

A:  In checking King County’s IMap for slide hazard areas on Vashon, it’s clear that you and your neighbor are in a landslide area.  Topping trees is never a good idea and there is a great deal of information online from landscape specialists, arborists, slope stability experts and the EPA to indicate that topping will kill a tree slowly by opening the top to disease. This weakens the tree so that it can slide down, pulling soil and other debris with it. 

It’s always a hard call when talking to folks who want a big view but there are trees blocking it on a slope.   What they don’t realize is that the trees and their large, intertwining root system with other trees, that are holding that slope together. Cutting them down or topping them adds to the instability of the slope and can cause some real damage.

As for what you can do, there isn’t much, other than take diligent care of the slope on your own property and educate yourselves about pruning methods that can open the view a bit but not kill or damage the tree. If you are very concerned you might want to have a geotechnical engineer take a look at your property.  He or she might be able to recommend some things that can minimize any damage to your property if a slide does occur on your neighbor’s property. 

Also you need to channel any water running off your yard and your downspouts as far down the slope as possible.  Water is often the major cause of slides, as our recent heavy rains have shown. The water can undermine a slope quickly so pay attention to drain lines and keep them clean and working.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Q: You sold us our house 25 years ago!

I can’t believe it’s been so long.  We are now moving out of state to be near grandchildren, as you’ve probably heard.  My question is about what they call bidding wars.  Our neighbor sold his house a few months ago and people bid up the price.  He took the best offer but felt that he had “left money on the table”.  In other words, that he might have sold for more.   How can we price our house so that we get what it’s worth but don’t end up feeling that we could have made more if we’d waited for additional offers?

A:  Your question is a sign of the times, I’m afraid.  Close to half of our listings sell for over asking price, but you should know that the other half sell for at, or under listed price.  It’s easy to think everything is going for more.  There is an old adage in real estate that says that your first offer is usually your best offer.  I’ve found that to be true.  Waiting for a longer period to see if someone will give you more money can mean that the first buyer moves on to another property.  Plus, some buyers just won’t “play” if they feel a seller is being greedy.

We have some sellers doing what I call “baiting.” They list at a lower price than the property is worth, hoping to create a “feeding frenzy,” causing people to bid higher. That means that many hopeful buyers will look at the home thinking they can afford it when, in fact, the seller has no intention of selling at the listed price. That’s very disappointing and, I feel, even a little cruel. However, that can all backfire on the seller if there are no multiple offers and the seller gets less than the house is worth.  Too much game playing can really mess up both buyers and sellers. I think it’s a good practice to price it fairly and take the best offer you get as soon as you get it.