Real Estate Q & A

richards real estate column 2014Real Estate Q & A

By Sam Richards

February 4, 2015


  • Q. After purchasing my home, a neighbor told me a sex offender lived across the street! My wife and I now are very uncomfortable to the point we will most likely sell, even if we take a loss. Shouldn’t this information be disclosed by our agent prior to the sale?

R.D. Rio Vista

  • Sex offender locations in the residential community, better known as “Megans law”, became a requirement of disclosure after a little girl named Megan Kanka of New Jersey was raped by a known sex offender that moved in across the street from her family. There was no disclosure requirement and the family of Megan had no idea they had a sex offender across the street.

During the mountain of paperwork that makes up a real estate deal, it is easy to overlook much of the information put before you for signature. There is so much for a buyer to mentally absorb that it is not uncommon to see their eyes glaze over and they just start signing without looking at the document. That’s why I give a brief description of each and every document at a signing, that way, if one comes up that holds particular interest you can stop and review it more thoroughly, or mark it for further review later.

The form most likely put before you is California Association of Realtors form #DBD-11, “Data Base Disclosure”. The form tells you that the police maintain a data base of sex offenders and last known addresses and is updated quarterly. The data is as current as the clerk that may or may not have entered it, and you are also dependent on the sex offending felon volunteering changes in address, and many don’t.

Depending on the court order, a sex offender may only have to report the county of residence, others must report residence address. A call to the local police should reveal the most current information; but, a whole new problem has arisen for police. Armed with this information, residents rise up to have the sex offender removed from their neighborhood. The law for disclosure strictly prohibits the information being used for harassment of the sex offender; however, don’t try to rationalize that with a parent who ends up next door.

The best access to sex offender information is to log on to:,

This site is sponsored by the Attorney General’s office, and information is taken from the court. The site lets you search your entire community by showing the address you enter (your home) as a red star, and sex offender locations as a blue box. Using your mouse, if you click on the blue box, a screen comes up showing a picture of the offender, offences, description, and more. With this information, you could call local police to verify if it is current to their knowledge.

As to your original question, a review of the above mentioned site did not reveal any sex offenders across the street from your home, so you should corner the neighbor with the information and find out if they are correct in their accusations. I’m sure you would be interested on how they came across that information since it isn’t on the website. You could knock on the door of the suspect and ask, but that could be confrontational and be viewed as harassment.

Unfortunately, a Realtor has no liability to this issue since they cannot be expected to verify the information. That is the job of law enforcement, who are dependent on offenders volunteering residence changes. Many don’t.

It is important that a buyer do the research, or ask their Realtor to search and submit the information for their review.

Since this is part of the disclosure process, basically you have 17 days after your offer is accepted to review and accept or decline the sale on disclosure issues.

Curious about State required information when you buy? Call for answers at 707-374-6491 or visit:

January 28, 2015


I was recently the unhappy recipient of a speeding ticket; I did it, I admit it, and the officer was courteous and wrote my ticket for less than my actual speed. This was, perhaps, due to my atonement and responsibility for my violation.

The best solution was driving school, where we all introduced ourselves, announced our crime, and our profession. I was captivated by the prevailing attitude that, as they announced their introduction, these future felons were upset for being picked on by the police. “Why should we be stopped and not someone else” they would say. They said the cops must have quotas and not enough to do.

The cops don’t have quotas; these people were stopped because they broke the law. I had a highway patrol officer pull me over years ago, and I said everybody was doing 80 or better, why me? He replied; you ever go fishing? I said sure, why? He said, you ever catch them all at the same time?

These same people in my class also announced they won’t change their driving habits because of their ticket. Good luck in prison.

Then on break, I became popular as a resource to define instant property values. Wouldn’t you know, these same people that don’t believe in the law also didn’t trust my information on property value. The market is going crazy, values are trying to go up again and this will cause another crash. They said in each case “it has to”. I didn’t argue, I’ll probably never see these people again, why try to wrestle with them? I simply replied that I was curious about their data source since it was contrary to every source available to me. The news, they said! Why, it’s all over the news!

Now, I come to realize I’m wrestling with a pig in the mud. They wouldn’t understand no matter how clear I try to make it, and they like to grunt and get dirty. And, of course, everyone knows pigs can’t read, that’s why they can’t decipher what they see and sort it for a reasonable analysis.

I once had a car salesman tell me there was no way a part time buyer could out-fox a full time salesperson. I think that what he meant to imply was that if you are a professional in your trade, the information specific to that trade crosses your desk all day long and keeps you on top of your game. When someone asks you a question but is predisposed not to believe your answer, they in reality are picking a fight.

Now, I surly could have beat up the little old lady, but a couple of the large guys looked suspect, so I was happy when break was over.

  • Is there a formula to use on how much rent to charge; this is my first rental home. J.B.Rio Vista
  • Charge more than you have to pay is the first rule. Some areas return a better rental profile than others, but as home prices go up, rents don’t always follow. You could purchase and have a $2000 a month payment in an area where the top rents are $1400 a month. How to know? Do some phone work and call local real estate offices and property management companies and have them put a rent value range on your home. Check ads, and even go and look at some that might be like yours, then determine what you have that is better or different.

If you have a rental income shortfall, you need to see if depreciation and tax deductions will offset the monthly losses until the market can catch up to your monthly payment.

If that doesn’t work, call me and I’ll sell it for you.  Do the speed limit to our office, or call 707-374-6491, or visit

January 21, 2015


  • Q.  I don’t see what my agent does to earn the large fee I’ll have to pay. Don’t you think I should sell it myself? G.N. Rio Vista
  • A. If things go smoothly and as promised, then your agent is experienced, knowledgeable, educated, and can keep you out of trouble. No two deals are exactly the same, and only your agent has the knowledge to negotiate a positive and timely close. Still think you’ll pay too much?

OK tiger, then sell it yourself; but, consider the following:

Ask too much for your home, and you’ll scare people away. And you don’t want to ask too little. Heaven forbid.
The first thing a Realtor can do for you is recommend a reasonable asking price. She’s always up on market demand, seasonality of sales, location, and a host of other variables.

The ad that says “for sale by owner” makes you fair game. If you don’t mind phone calls at all hours of the day and night, it might not be so bad. What about the person who “just wants to see what it looks like”, or the second shift worker who can’t make it before 11pm?  With a Realtor, prospects are screened to assess their needs, desires, and financial situation, and real buyers are sorted from lookers. Then, your home is shown only when it’s convenient for you.

You have a couple that seems to really like your home, and you figure you know what to say, how to present the home, and convince them. Are you sure? Your Realtor is. She’s trained in the art of salesmanship. Each sale has a structure, and your Realtor is trained to know where the buyer is in that structure at any given time and what to say or do next to convince or close the deal.

Ah, you devil, you got an offer, but it’s far below your asking price. You could argue your price and probably lose the buyer, or you could negotiate. But for how much? After price, you need to resolve terms, possession, inspection repairs, and things like that.  Your Realtor negotiates for a living, and can point out when you are wrong, and when to stick to your guns. Your Realtor will also help you avoid any sale killing misunderstandings.

A would-be buyer doesn’t do you much good unless he can lay his hands on enough money. Most buyers don’t even know where to start looking for a loan.  A Realtor deals with financing issues every day, which keeps him in close contact with all kinds of financial institutions and loan options.

So, you didn’t disclose a few things, no big deal. The buyer will figure things out over time, right?
The majority of real estate related lawsuits filed are from buyers feeling they have been wronged by a seller that withheld pertinent information that may have affected their decision to purchase.  Your Realtor knows the State required disclosures, and can advise you what special disclosures may be needed in your case. The small percentage a Realtor takes covers all the above, plus the marketing and advertising cost, with no limit on the number of hours it takes to get the job done.

We tracked an average sale, and found 131 things that had to be accomplished in the process to gain completion.
Use a Realtor, it just makes sense.  Thinking of selling? Give our office a call for what to do and what to expect.

Call 707-374-6491, or visit

January 14, 2015


  • Q.  My husband passed away 6 years ago, and among the things we owned is a Time Share in his name only. I have kept the annual service fees up to date, but the Time Share refuses to allow me to use it. They say my husband is the owner and only he can schedule use. When he died, we had a Family Trust in place and I am the executor, so I have produced the death certificate and a copy of the Trust but my access is still denied. I have contacted an attorney to gain proper ownership and sue to get back 6 years of maintenance fees since they wouldn’t let me use the Time Share. Is there any shortcut to this or is court the only answer? B.C. Rio Vista
  • A.  This is certainly not an area of expertise for me, but I made some phone calls with suspicions confirmed that upon your husband’s death, you became the owner of your Time Share. As to denying access, it sounds as though you have not spoken to the right people at the Time Share office.

The process for change of ownership and sale varies greatly within that industry, so you need an advocate at the time share office, and I would think that would be in the sales department so you can re-visit what they are quoting to buyers about situations like yours and the options provided.

Your best option may be to have your Trust put the Time Share for sale to rid you of the fees; or propose a “trade-in” for one in your name.

I would be upset as well about all the fees you have paid over 6 years without the ability to enjoy the travel you have paid for. Small Claims Court is going to be your best option since your recovery would a bit less than $7000.00, but I would certainly add on all the time you have spent sending documents and writing letters this past 6 years, and sue for the maximum allowable.

From what I can determine based on the paperwork you dropped off, no one at the Time Share takes this issue seriously. Don’t let them ignore you, go to court!

  • Q.  You have managed my rental for several years, and now I want to sell that home. Can you recommend a good Realtor? T.B. Rio Vista
  • A.  Wait, my head just exploded and I need to glue it back together! Recommend a good Realtor? So, you think all we do is property management?

Au contraire; Richards Real Estate is, first and foremost, a Realty office that lists and sells property. We started property management through pressure from buying customers that enjoyed our professional service and pushed us to manage their property.

Our first managed property was a 4-plex in Isleton, and from there it has grown into a complete separate business managed by my wife and I. My wife, Peg, handles 80% of the duties; mostly all I do is show rentals to prospective tenants. When not doing that, our entire staff is listing and selling. All the Realtors in our office are all full time real estate sales people, deriving their income from sales, not rentals.

So, recommend a good Realtor? There are no good ones here, but we do have excellent Realtor sales professionals!

Richards Real Estate, 25 S. 3rd, Rio Vista. Visit:

January 7, 2015


  • Q.  My Realtor keeps telling me my home is priced too high, that an appraisal would come in below my price by as much as $50k. My research on home value sites such as Zillow says I’m right on target; so, is my Realtor just trying to get an easy sale? F.C. Rio Vista
  • A.  You need to try and grasp the changes in appraisal since January 2009. First, appraisals can no longer be ordered by the Realtor or the loan agent, only by the bank or lender. The appraiser no longer gets a copy of the sales contract, and is blind to price or concessions. When working in a vacuum such as this, the appraiser can only decide on value based on what is visible and history of sales.

The value of a home used to be what a buyer was willing to pay; now that is not even part of the equation. Sales over 6 months old are not used and sales over 60 days old are devalued due to constant market changes. The condition and upgrades of a home count more than ever, lending to how long a buyer may stay if the home looks like a money pit.

The condition can also cause a change in lender requirements such as interest rate and down payment; this never used to be an issue with accelerating values.

As a Realtor watches their deals go down the drain due to unreasonable seller or buyer expectations, they tend to get a pretty good feel for the way values are going in their marketing area.

What could fail? The appraisal comes in less than the agreed sales price, and the seller won’t come down to that value. The home may not qualify at all (FHA or USDA loans), or credit requirements for the buyer could change during the purchase, or what has to be paid by buyer & seller.

This is a price market, if you are not priced right you may never get an offer, and if you do, what I’ve already mentioned comes in to play.

If you don’t think your Realtor has the common sense of a house pet, then why did you hire him?

  • Q.  I made a full price offer on a home using an FHA loan, and the offer was declined saying they will not do FHA. Isn’t that discriminatory, since this is a federally backed loan? S.C. Isleton
  • A.  Discrimination has to do with race, religion, and gender. A seller can require a certain type of loan or even all cash, and it is not uncommon for FHA to be declined. An FHA appraisal is more like a home inspection, and all the basic working systems in the home have to be operable, floor coverings serviceable, no broken windows or doors, and good paint and roof. This is a tall order for a maintenance deferred property, and the seller may elect to sell as-is rather than bring it to FHA certification.

When an FHA appraisal is completed and sent to the lender, it will “condition” the sale on certain things being fixed, and they have to be completed prior to the close of escrow, putting the responsibility on the seller. If the seller has no money to fix anything, or thinks it will cost more than they are willing to put in the home, they just reduce the price and look for a cash or conventional buyer.

So, what this seller is saying essentially is that his home has been poorly maintained and basic systems are failing, so it will not meet the most basic of tenable guidelines.

The sad part is that it was probably a rental, and he allowed someone to live there with all the problems.  Get the right information before you buy, call 707-374-6491 or visit:


Q.   I have a rental ( San Mateo) with a new tenant in it and the neighbor kids play loud music. The houses are attached. The new tenant wants out of the lease because of the noise. Is there any legal pressure I can put on the neighbor (who is also renter, different landlord) to stop the noise? The income from the house is a big part of my retirement. Thanks in advance.  C.B.

A.   Control of a situation like this should begin before the tenant moves in during the lease signing. As a standard protocol, we include loud noise as a possible cause to terminate a lease, with evaluation of the noise after complaint from their neighbor. We actually have a two page document that covers all the scenarios that could disturb “the right to quiet enjoyment”. If we receive a complaint, we respond with a letter of warning, and if not corrected a 3 day cure or quit. If it continues, then we start eviction proceedings.

You, however, did not rent to the bad tenant, the other landlord did. That landlord is who you should contact to inquire if they have a written rental or lease agreement, and if so, did they address any courtesy issues? You would then need that landlord’s assistance in addressing the issues with the loud tenant. Failing that, your options would be limited to public noise ordinances and calling the police to enforce them.

Rather than lose a good tenant, you might investigate soundproofing the common wall to give a little peace, or negotiate with the loud tenant for specified hours of noise.

My wife tells me about her youth in an apartment where the guy below her rocked the entire building without regard, and she couldn’t sleep. She found out he was a day sleeper, so she put her 300 watt Koss speakers to the floor, cranked the stereo all the way up with some Robin Trower rock, set it on repeat, and went to work.

He got the hint, and she enjoyed some quiet time after that.

This could be a tough negotiation with both the owner and the tenant, so a soft and humble approach would be best.

Q.   I am selling my home, and potential buyers are backing away because of two very loud and aggressive Pit Bulls in the back yard next door. The dogs jump so hard at the fence that I have had to reinforce the wood slats. The occupant there is a renter, and seems to rarely be home. I wonder if his landlord knows about those dogs. S.W. Rio Vista

A.  That would be my first thought; contact the owner and ask if his rental agreement has any animal restrictions.

Due to insurance issues on landlords, we have to prohibit Dobermans, German Sheppard’s, Rottweiler’s, Husky’s, Pitt Bulls; basically any dog over 80 pounds that has been known to be a breed used for guard or attack training. We actually meet the dog and take its picture to insure we are not being deceived and a prohibited animal ends up living there.

If the tenant has violated his lease, the dogs can be dealt with in that manner.

Your other option would be to call animal control to have them assess the behavior of the dogs to see if they would intervene and talk with the dog owner. I would imagine animal control would have some concerns given your described behavior of the dogs, and whether the dogs pose a threat to themselves or others.

Regarding insurance; insurance companies often have a drive-by done, and if they see a sign on your fence or home that says, “beware of dog”, they are prone to higher rates or even cancellation!




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