Friday, February 24, 2017

How to get an accurate measurement of a home's size and square footage when public records are incorrect...

Generally when I list homes for sale, I pull data out of public record to get an idea of the number of bedrooms, bathroom, parcel size, and square footage. Occasionally though, the data in public record is inaccurate.

Recently, a potential seller client contacted me about listing a home in the Arden area. According to the Sacramento County Tax Assessor's records, the home was 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and 1,440sf. So I reviewed similar comparable recent sales in the neighborhood and then met the seller at the house a few days later. Immediately I could tell that the home was significantly larger than the assessor's records. The home had an addition. This particular addition was not permitted...however sometimes even permitted additions do not get updated in the public records.

Another seller contacted me who owned a home in Natomas that he purchased new directly from the builder. Assessor's records showed the home was 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and 1,519sf. For whatever reason, the builder reported a different floorplan than the one my client had purchased. His home was actually 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, and the flyer he had from the builder said the home was 1,805sf.

So what do we do about this? In these situations I hire a professional property appraiser, at no added expense to my clients, to come out and measure the property. Getting an accurate measurement of a home is important, because even a small difference of perhaps 100 square feet may change the value, or change the buyer's perceived value of a home. In addition to having accurate square footage, a floorplan sketch can be a valuable marketing tool as well, since home buyers like to have room measurements.

In these two instances, the Arden home turned out to be 2,243sf, and the Natomas home turned out to be 1,838sf. Clearly those are large differences and those accurate figures definitely helped to properly market the homes and get top dollar. So I say, when in doubt, measure it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Listing - 2701 Bronco Creek Way, Sacramento, CA 95835

Stunning, better than new 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom, 1,838sf Natomas home! You will love the open layout, recessed lighting, tile flooring downstairs, kitchen with cherry cabinets, granite counters, and stainless appliances, formal dining room. Large loft/separate family room area upstairs, large master suite with walk-in closet, separate tub and shower, dual sinks and granite counters. Owned solar lowers utility bills! 2-car garage with epoxy flooring. Low maintenance yard. Adjacent to brand new charter school under construction. Low $60/month HOA dues covers front yard care. Don't wait! Offered at $339,900. For more photos and information please visit 2701 Bronco Creek Way, Sacramento, CA 95835.

Friday, February 17, 2017

California Transfer On Death (TOD) Deed -- avoids probate, less expensive, faster...

Thanks to California Assembly Bill 139 that passed in 2015, as of January 1, 2016 a real property owner has a new way to avoid the Probate process. AB 139 created the "Transfer On Death" Deed. Why is this significant? Let me explain...

Generally, if a property owner dies and does not have a Living Trust, any real estate owned must go through the Probate process in order to be sold. This applies even if the property owner has a Will...so don't be fooled into thinking that property named in a Will avoids the Probate process. IT DOES NOT. The Will only serves to specify who the deceased person wants to pass the property along to. Probate is a court process to actually transfer ownership of the property. Probate is expensive, extremely time consuming, and can be highly emotionally charged...trust me, I have helped several clients through the process in order to sell homes of deceased loved ones, and it is not a process I would wish on anyone.

So I am frequently asked -- how can we avoid Probate? Up until this last year, my answer was -- talk to an attorney, form a Living Trust, and do not forget to deed your real estate into the trust. Creating a Living Trust sets up a mechanism that transfers responsibility for real estate to a Successor Trustee, which makes selling a home after death pretty simple. There are two downsides to setting up a Trust though. The first is that forming a Trust is pretty expensive -- an attorney will charge $2,500 - $10,000 depending on how complicated your estate is. The second is that Trusts take time to plan properly -- so it could take a few weeks to a few months to form your Trust and deed your real property into it.

With the passage of AB 139, there is now an inexpensive and faster option -- deed your property into a "Transfer On Death" Deed -- aka, a TOD Deed.

One of my past clients called me in September when her mom was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.  Her mom had just weeks to live, had no trust and no will, and owned a home in Carmichael. I immediately thought of the TOD Deed. With a TOD Deed, the owner remains the owner while that person is alive, and it names a beneficiary that the property is transferred to upon the death of the owner. She called an attorney who prepared a TOD Deed for her mom, had it signed and  notarized and recorded with Sacramento County. She passed away just days later.

The entire process to prepare, execute, and record a TOD Deed was just days and a few hundred dollars. Once her mom's death certificate was available, an "Affidavit Death of Transferor" had to be prepared and filed with Sacramento County. So within a short period of time, and for a few hundred dollars, daughter had full authority to sell the property. No Probate. No excessive costs. Way less stress.

I always suggest getting tax and legal advice before doing something like this, but what I can tell you is that this is a streamlined way to take the expense, time, and stress out of what is already an emotional time. And as a side note, an owner can file a TOD Deed, make changes to the beneficiary during his/her lifetime, sell the property, or deed the property into a trust later. No need to wait until a fatal illness to get one done. In fact I would recommend being proactive.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Named as a "Five Star Real Estate Agent" in Sacramento

For the 3rd year in a row, I have been named as a "Five Star Real Estate Agent" in Sacramento for 2017. The Five Star organization does research in metro areas and surveys those who have purchased or sold property. In order to be named a "Five Star Real Estate Agent" in Sacramento, consumers have given me the highest marks for exceptional client satisfaction and service. So this is a great honor yet again! It's nice to be recognized by my clients and the community. And there is an article in this month's Sacramento Magazine as well.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Want to list your Sacramento area property on AirBnB or VRBO? Here's what you need to know...

"If I buy this downtown condo, can I just list it on AirBnB and rent it to legislators when they visit the Capitol?"... "What if I turn this detached garage into a 'granny unit' and rent it out on AirBnB?" Hmm...good questions.

I get asked pretty often about transient occupancy and short-term rentals. Just to clarify, a transient occupancy or short-term rental is one that is for a term of less than 30-days. Think of a place that might be rented using AirBnB or VRBO -- probably more commonly thought of as vacation rentals. This type of short term arrangement is becoming more common these days thanks to these websites, and can be a nice alternative for travelers who perhaps want to stay somewhere other than a hotel. (Side note: a rental in excess of 30 days does not fall into this category. A landlord-tenant relationship is created in that case, and an entirely different set of laws apply.)

For example, my family and I stayed in a home for 5 days that we rented on VRBO in Scottsdale when we attended the SF Giants Spring Training a couple years ago. It was a nice place and the convenience of having a home where 6 of us could all comfortably stay, with amenities like a kitchen and laundry facilities were great!

It sounds appealing -- and a nice way to supplement income renting out part of your home, or perhaps you have a rental property and you'd like to offer it as a short-term rental instead of leasing for a longer term...People visit Sacramento, right? But as a property owner, what are the local rules? Well, right now the rules differ all over our Sacramento region.

City of Sacramento: for properties within the city limits, the City requires owners to obtain a Short-Term Vacation Rental Permit and pay a fee of $125. Owners must also collect and remit 12%  Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). And there is a different set of parameters if you are renting out space in your own primary residence, versus renting out a vacant/non-primary residence (such as a 90 days per year limit).

County of Sacramento: for properties within the unincorporated areas of the county (like Antelope, Arden, Orangevale, Fair Oaks, Carmichael, other non-city Sacramento areas, etc.), the county requires owners to obtain a Vacation Rental Permit and pay a fee of $270.66. Owners must also collect and remit 12% TOT. The county does not allow short-term rental of vacant/non-primary residence property.

City of Galt: it seems there is no specific ordinance regarding short-term rentals within the city limits, however if you own any Galt rental property you are required to get a business license from the city. They also require TOT.

The Cities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, Elk Grove, and Rancho Cordova all require collection and remittance of TOT, however it seems they have no specific policies governing short-term rentals right now. You may want to defer to the county's policies here.

Keep in mind that just because the city or county may allow short-term rentals, if your property is located in a Homeowners Association (HOA), the HOA may specifically prohibit short-term rentals. I have started to see this in a number of HOA documents for my transactions. Also, speaking with a local insurance agent, be sure that your property insurance policy covers this sort of activity. Most policies specifically exclude coverage for short-term rentals.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

New Listing - 952 Q Street, Sacramento, CA 95811

Elegant updated 2 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom, 1,013sf unit in the Saratoga Townhomes in downtown Sacramento at 9th and Q Streets! You will love the great location and modern amenities; updated kitchen with granite counters and new stainless appliances, new laminate flooring downstairs, new carpet upstairs, freshly painted interior, new light fixtures. Private balcony with awning off upstairs bedroom, private patio off living room downstairs. Attached garage with direct access to unit. Bonus - Zone E parking permit included. Close proximity to all downtown has to offer - The State Capitol, Golden 1 Arena, Roosevelt Park, R Street Corridor, art galleries, great restaurants, and other nightlife! Don't wait! Offered at $339,900. HOA dues $269.44/month. For more photos and information please visit 952 Q Street, Sacramento, CA 95811.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Where to get free sandbags in the Sacramento area...

With the torrential rain forecast for the Sacramento area this coming week, many homeowners should stock up on sand bags to prevent flooding in their homes...here are locations where free sand is available:

C-Bar-C Park in Citrus Heights (city of Citrus Heights residents only)
Folsom Fire Station #36 in Folsom (city of Folsom residents only)
Jose P Rizal Community Center in South Sacramento
Lowe's Parking Lot in Rancho Cordova (city of Rancho Cordova residents only)
Orangevale Community Center in Orangevale
Point Pleasant United Methodist Church in Elk Grove
Port of West Sacramento (city of West Sacramento residents only)
Sacramento County Branch Center in the Mather area
Sacramento Metro Fire Station #106 in the Arden area
Sacramento Metro Fire Station #55 in the South Sacramento area
Westside Park in Rio Linda
Wilton Fire Station in Wilton

Many locations have free bags for you to fill as well, however I would suggest that you bring your own bags and a shovel. Most of these locations are completely self-service.










Monday, January 2, 2017

Disclosing death on a property....

It seems a few times per year, I list property where someone has passed away at the home. Death at a property is one of those things that will not bother some people, and for others it will be a deal breaker when deciding whether to purchase a home. But how should it be disclosed? Where should it be disclosed? And for how long is it relevant to disclose?

In late 2016, legislation passed clarifying disclosure obligations in California for death on a property.

The provisions in AB73 are pretty simple: any death in or on a property MUST be disclosed if it occurred within 3 years from the date of the purchase contract. After 3 years has passed, the death, and the manner in which someone passed away, will no longer legally be considered "material facts" and disclosure is not required. Additionally, this legislation clarifies that no disclosure is required if an occupant who lived at the property had HIV, or died from HIV-related complications.

As I assist sellers to fill out their property disclosures, when we get to this question in the Seller Property Questionnaire, usually the answer is no and the "no" box is checked accordingly. However when the answer is yes, just checking the "yes" box that there has been a death on the property within the last 3 years, is usually not enough. I would recommend noting, if known, the location within the house where the death occurred and circumstances. Something like "Previous occupant passed away by natural causes in the master bedroom" is appropriate. It's also something I put in the agent comments section in MLS, so that it can be known to buyers before they view a property. If buyers have additional questions about the death, I generally suggest they ask in writing so that the seller can respond appropriately.

I also ask my clients to think about other notable deaths that may have occurred at the property. I recently had a seller who buried a 60-pound dog in the backyard, and after some discussion we agreed was a good idea to disclose that burial. What new owner wants to start landscaping and unexpectedly find buried bones in the backyard? Providing appropriate detail may save everyone from surprises later.