Craftsman Kitchen

What’s Hot?

Style trends come and go, so it can be pricey to continually chase the latest fads, but if you’re interested in selling your home, it’s smart to know what sells. Right now, here’s what’s hot. Statistics about performance are from the Home&Wealth newsletter.

Barn Doors – but not on your barn. People are wild for barn doors to separate indoor living spaces. They affix a metal rod above a doorway and slide the interior barn door like a curtain between rooms. Listings with barn doors sold for 13.4 percent above expected values, 57 days faster than expected.

Shaker Cabinets – simple, well-made, minimalist cabinets. No curly cues or intricate engraving. Listings with shaker cabinets sold for 9.6 percent above expected values, 45 days faster than expected.

Farmhouse Sink – big, deep rectangular sinks like you see in old farmhouses. Usually, they’re porcelain, but you can find them in stainless steel. Listings sold for 7.9 percent above expected values, 58 days faster than expected.

Subway Tile – rectangular tile (about twice as wide as they are tall), often white. Listings sold for 6.9 percent above expected values, 63 days faster than expected.

Quartz – countertop materials come in and out of fashion faster than teenage slang. Right now, quartz is hot and it’s beautiful,. Listings with these countertops sold for 6 percent above expected values, 50 days faster than expected.

Craftsman – unlike countertops fads, Craftsman style homes and décor have stood the test of time. They are perennially popular. Famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright was a fan and built many such homes. Listings sold for 5.4 percent above expected values, 14 days faster than expected.

Exposed Brick – this only works if you have the brick to expose, typically in older homes. If you go into local restaurants Patrona or Saucy, they’ve used this style to great effect. Listings sold for 4.9 percent above expected values, 36 days faster than expected.

Pendant Light – these hang down on a wire or cord and have an exposed bulb under a small shade, often made of glass. They can be modern or traditional, depending on the shade, and they’ve been popular for a while. Schat’s Courthouse Bakery has them above their baked goods counter. Listings sold for 4.6 percent above expected values, 48 days faster than expected.

Frameless Shower – these have glass with beveled edges rather than encased in metal. Listings sold for 4.6 percent above expected values, 38 days faster than expected.

Heated Floors – instead of stepping on to cold bathroom tile with bare feet in the middle of winter, heated floors keep things nice and toasty. Listings sold for 4.3 percent above expected values, 28 days faster than expected.

Stainless Steel – stainless steel appliances have been popular for at least the last decade. I worry they’ll go the way of the avocado refrigerators from the 1970s, but for now, they remain very stylish. Listings sold for 4.2 percent above expected values, 42 days faster than expected.

Granite – like I said for quartz, countertop preferences come and go. Granite is beautiful, but not always easy to maintain. Listings sold for 4.1 percent above expected values, 38 days faster than expected.

Backsplash – the tile or countertop lip that protects the wall from kitchen messes. It’s especially nice to have behind the kitchen sink and stove. Listings sold for 4.1 percent above expected values, 46 days faster than expected.

Tankless Water Heater – I am a big fan of having instant hot water, and if not for my son, Dan, who actually has fallen asleep in the shower, my tankless water heater would save me money. Listings sold for 4 percent above expected values, 43 days faster than expected.

Outdoor Kitchen – especially in areas with temperate weather like ours, outdoor kitchens almost seem to expand the square footage of the house. Listings sold for 3.7 percent above expected values, 19 days faster than expected.

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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Planning to Buy or Sell Real Estate? You’ll Need These Pros

If you’re planning to buy or sell real estate, it’s best to get help from the pros. Like anything in life, you’re better at it when you’ve done it before. Most people (outside the real estate industry) don’t buy or sell houses too often. And let me tell you, there’s more to it that sticking a sign in your front yard. Read on to find out who can help you.

REALTORS

While I may be biased on this one, everyone I know who is familiar with the real estate industry believes you’d be crazy to go through a real estate transaction without a Realtor.

On the selling side, a Realtor will give you an objective assessment of your property, determining its market value and bringing to light any issues that make it stand out. Realtors advertise your property locally, online, and via the Multiple Listing Service, reaching thousands of potential buyers. And remember, the Realtor doesn’t make a dime unless your house sells.

On the buying side, Realtors can save you a ton of time. As long as you are clear and specific about your needs, a Realtor can filter through all the properties for sale, so you only see ones of interest to you.

Whether you’re a buyer or seller, in negotiations, he who speaks first loses. However, when Realtors communicate, they can act as independent parties and provide you with information without giving away your position. Realtors can also help you understand the process of buying or selling property, and serve as your advocate until escrow closes.

ESCROW (TITLE) OFFICERS

If you don’t really know what you’re escrow officer has done for you because everything went off without a hitch, you should probably send that person a thank you card. Good escrow officers anticipate problems and resolve them before they get in the way of your transaction. They spot old deeds of trust that weren’t reconveyed or fraudulent deeds in the chain of title. When these problems are identified early, you can avoid delays. Delays can be inconvenient and expensive.

LOAN OFFICERS

Like your title officer, loan officers are unsung heroes. Good ones are organized and proactive. They don’t send 27 separate emails requesting information, but rather anticipate all the likely information they’ll need and ask for it up front. They’ll review your data and recommend the type of loan that makes the most sense for you.

INSURANCE AGENT

Having a good insurance agent can mean the difference between getting affordable homeowners insurance and not getting insurance at all. Right now, many insurance companies are becoming stricter about which properties they’ll insure, especially after last year’s fires.

HOME INSPECTORS

Inspectors who tell you the condition of various parts of the property.

  • Property inspectors scrutinize the structure. Although your brother-in-law may be a contractor, I’d still hire a property inspector who is used to looking for signs of problems that contractors often overlook.
  • Pest and fungus inspectors identify active infestations, signs of old infestations, and situations that could lead to infestations.
  • Heat/Air specialists can find things like a cracked heat exchanger, which could save your life and the lives of your children.
  • Well inspectors determine the condition and production capacity of the well, in addition to the water quality.
  • Engineers are only called in when buyers or sellers are concerned about structural integrity or maybe a retaining wall.

REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY

Realtors know a lot about real estate, including when to refer clients for legal advice. A Realtor can review everything in a contract; a real estate attorney can interpret and advise you about whether you should sign it. Most transactions do not require an attorney, but if your situation calls for legal advice, make sure you get it.

CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT

Some real estate transactions can get incredibly complex from a tax perspective. Involve your CPA to be sure you’re maximizing tax benefits.

APPRAISER

You do not get to choose who appraises your property. The federal government requires a convoluted process whereby a lender submits a list of approved appraisers to a third party who then chooses the appraiser. Don’t get me started on unnecessary government regulation.

Your Realtor can help you find all the professionals you need to have a great real estate buying or selling experience.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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How About a Career in Real Estate?

So you’ve graduated. Now what?!

If you’re a recent high school or college graduate with people skills and a strong work ethic and you’re looking for a career that offers flexibility and plenty of money, may I suggest becoming a real estate agent?

While a liberal arts degree in sociology or political science may have broadened your worldview, it may not be immediately clear to you how you can use that new degree to get a job. Although high school and college can teach you many important things, the information isn’t always directly applicable to the jobs listed on monster.com.

Especially in college, you learn to “adult.” You learn to work independently (since mom and dad are no longer there to look over your shoulder and prompt you to stop watching YouTube), to set goals, schedule your time, meet deadlines and, if all goes as planned, become responsible for yourself. If, in the process, you also learn to think logically and relate well to others, you might find that real estate can provide you with a rewarding career.

Most licensed agents can find a job within a day or two in almost any city in the nation. There are some requirements, of course. First, you must pass the state exam to get licensed. Then, you must have the wherewithal to run your own business, even if you’re working for a broker.

As with any startup, a new real estate business requires some capital, so you’ll need to figure out how to afford basic living expenses while also covering some business costs until your commission checks start rolling in. Although being a successful Realtor requires hard work and long hours, it also affords you the flexibility to schedule time off when you like and to be in control of your own financial future.

Many high school graduates living in Ukiah wonder how they can support themselves financially in such a small town, especially without a college degree. Becoming a Realtor does not require a college education.

When I’m trying to figure out if someone is a good fit for a job, I look at two things: whether they can learn the skills required and whether they have the right personality or character traits. Some things can be taught. Some can’t.

To be a successful realtor, the top requirement is that you be interested in meeting and working with people. In addition, you need to be a self-starter. Being a Realtor isn’t like having a regular office job where people notice (and care) if you aren’t there during regular business hours. You have to be disciplined enough to prioritize and schedule all your own activities.

Furthermore, it’s best if you enjoy solving problems, since that’s what you’ll do most of the time. As a Realtor, you’ll work on behalf of your clients to find homes, invest money, sell homes, borrow money, and lots of little details in between. Since a Realtor works on commission, your financial success depends on your ability to solve problems for your clients.

Real estate sales can be the lowest paying easy job or the highest paying tough job you’ll find. You can make $5,000 a year or $250,000 a year. Depending on the market, your income is largely up to you.

I graduated with a degree in business administration and immediately began a career in real estate. I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years and I cannot imagine doing anything else.

If you think this might be a good fit for you, come and talk with me or make an appointment with other brokers in town. We love what we do. When you think about it, you’ll spend a lot of time at work over the course of your life. Might as well pick something you’ll enjoy.

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

From "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" by Laura Numeroff, Illustrated by Felicia Bond

If-You-Give-a-Mouse-a-Cookie Renovations

There’s a wonderful children’s book series by Laura Numeroff, the first of which is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It goes through the problems of giving a mouse a cookie: if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll probably want a glass of milk. If you give him milk, he’s likely to ask you for a straw. One thing leads to another, and the mouse needs a hair trim, a pillow for a nap, art supplies for an art project, and on and on. This is the book that came to mind during my recent conversation with our in-house contractor.

Our contractor informed me that parts of our building desperately need paint. Although the whole building doesn’t really need to be repainted, if we’re going to paint part of it, we may as well paint all of it. And if we’re going to paint we’ll have the cherry picker out, so we should probably re-do the gutters at the same time. When we’re outside looking at the gutters, we notice that the landscaping is outdated, so we consider replacing the lawn with more drought-resistant plants. As we discuss landscaping, we talk about the importance of making sure none of the landscaping tree roots can reach the parking lot and cause cracks in the asphalt. Speaking of asphalt, it’s probably about time to reseal the parking lot.

As we head back indoors, we can’t help but notice that the carpet is quite worn in a few spots. If we’re going to replace part of the carpet, we should probably just replace all the carpet. And the whole process begins again, this time for indoor repairs.

That’s the nature of home maintenance. As soon as you update or repair one part, the surrounding parts look old and worn by comparison. Maintenance is a never-ending cycle—sometimes it requires a major expense and sometimes just minor ones, but as a homeowner (or property owner of almost any type), you should plan on constant upkeep.

This is why we tell home buyers, especially first-time home buyers, to plan on spending about 3 percent of the value of the home annually on expenses (i.e., taxes, insurance and maintenance). That is to say, if your home is worth $300,000, plan to spend about $9,000 a year on home-related expenses. Most years you’ll spend less, others a bunch more. For example, you only need a new roof about every 30 years, but when that bill comes due, it’s a doozy. If you haven’t been saving for it, you’ll be sorry. For a few springtime maintenance projects to consider, visit www.richardselzer.com/2017/05/15/springtime-maintenance.

If you happen to be responsible for the upkeep of a business building, I highly recommend asking your employees about their preferences before launching into a big, expensive renovation that you believe they will appreciate. People have different tolerances for mess and inconvenience during the renovation phase, and people don’t always value the same types of renovations. We recently updated the bathrooms in our building, and although most everyone seems to appreciate the updated facilities, not everyone believes they were worth the inconvenience.

Last piece of advice for the day: if you think you may sell anytime in the near future and you plan to paint before then, I highly recommend choosing neutral colors. You can add wild splashes of color via the artwork you hang on the wall or accent pillows you throw on your couch, but not everyone will appreciate the chartreuse accent walls you adore.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

UkiahCityHall

Solving the California Housing Shortage in Ukiah

City leaders are currently discussing ways to address the local impacts of our statewide housing shortage. This is a complex problem, so I don’t envy their task. What I can offer is a perspective, one based on more than 40 years in the real estate business.

First, it’s important to gather accurate data. To that end, the City of Ukiah just completed a housing survey. Although the survey was flawed (the way information was collected skewed the results and the questions didn’t differentiate between homeowners and renters very well), some information is better than none.

Shortcomings aside, the City found that 70 percent of respondents—renters and owners—are unsatisfied with available housing. Forty percent said it took more than nine months to find a home they wanted. Most people cited the cost of housing as a primary barrier, while others said the lack of available housing options prevented them from moving into a more satisfactory home.

In the past decade, an average of 80,000 homes a year have been built in California, which is less than half the units needed to keep pace with population growth through 2025, according to a California Department of Housing and Community Development report. Ukiah has a similar problem. Since 2010, only 92 residential building permits have been pulled in the greater Ukiah Valley most of which were for middle to lower income subsidized homes). During that time, to keep up with population growth 420 new housing units should have been built.

Even with housing prices as high as they are, regulations prevent developers from investing here—it isn’t cost effective for them.

I was particularly disappointed to read Phil Baldwin’s ill-informed op-ed on this subject earlier this month. Baldwin clearly doesn’t understand the complexity of the housing market nor the basic laws of economics, but he is fairly good at spreading fear and distrust.

He noted that the Realty World Selzer Realty website listed 48 residential properties for sale and suggested that if there are that many properties for sale, we must not have a housing shortage. Based on the number of prospective buyers my Realtors are working with, there are about 200 active, qualified buyers in the Ukiah Valley. Even if 48 of the buyers were perfectly suited to buy the 48 homes for sale (whether those homes be mobile homes or million-dollar properties), we’d still have about three-quarters of the prospective buyers left with nothing to buy. And if you assume that many renters would also like to buy, the number of prospective buyers skyrockets. There is more demand than supply. This means we have a housing shortage.

Baldwin also rails against community leaders who support the Lover’s Lane development. He assures us that this development will cause urban sprawl and implies that when the free market determines the cost of these new homes, it is somehow evil. By the way, this development is on ag land that isn’t very productive, according to local farmers. By building market-rate housing, we’ll be able to keep the qualified professionals who want to serve our community but cannot find a place to live, the ones we are currently losing to other communities.

By building a new subdivision, we don’t prevent infill development. We have enough of a shortage to build a new subdivision and build on vacant lots throughout the city. As for the idea of creating a mixed-use, commercial/residential zone, we’ll have to see if there’s a market for it here. Baldwin cites the city of Windsor’s town square where people live in condos above retail space. In Ukiah, we didn’t allow that type of zoning for a long time, so now we’d have to rethink things.

The point is this: we have a housing shortage. Baldwin would have us only build subsidized housing for the poor and elderly. Price controls don’t work. Does anyone remember what happened with gas lines in the 1970s? Not pretty. Let’s reduce regulation, invite developers to build more housing at various price points, and go from there.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

alex-holyoake-lightbulb-expensive mistakes

Avoid These Expensive Mistakes on Home Furnishings and Maintenance

Owning a home can be costly in the best of times, so there’s no reason to waste money on expensive mistakes. Here are a few to avoid.

Using Incandescent Light Bulbs – Replace traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs) or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. LEDs especially may be more expensive to purchase, but they’ll save you money in the long run. Incandescent bulbs cost about a dollar per bulb and their average lifespan is about 1,200 hours. CFLs cost about $2 per bulb and go for about 8,000 hours. LEDs cost about $8 per bulb, which seems expensive until you realize their lifespan is about 25,000 hours. Let’s do the math: to get 25,000 hours of light, you’ll spend about $20 on incandescents, but only $6-8 on CFLs or LEDs. When you add in the cost of electricity used, it’s still a no-brainer. For every $100 you spend on light with incandescents, you’ll only spend $24 on CFLs or $19 on LEDs. You also save the hassle of changing bulbs.

In using CFLs and LEDs, you’ll need to figure out how much light you want. These bulbs aren’t sold by wattage (how much energy is used), but rather lumens (how much light is emitted). More lumens equals more brightness. To replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb, choose a bulb with about 1600 lumens. To replace a 75W bulb, choose a bulb with about 1100 lumens. To replace a 60W bulb, choose a bulb with about 800 lumens. To replace a 40W bulb, choose a bulb with about 450 lumens.

Ignoring Leaky Faucets – A leaky faucet that drips one drop per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year, which is enough water to take more than 180 showers. I recently had a leaky toilet valve that cost an additional $50 in just a couple months. I figured it out when the excess water caused a pretty green patch on the hillside next to my house where the leach lines for my septic tank drain.

Using the Wrong Air Filters or Forgetting to Replace Filters Regularly – If an air filter doesn’t fit properly or it gets too dirty, it can’t function well. This can not only increase your power bill, it can shorten the life of your furnace.

Not Adjusting Vents – In many offices, some areas are burning up while others are ice cold. Rather than having employees bring space heaters and fans, adjust vents to balance the temperature throughout the office.

Water Heater Temp Set Too High – Most of us have traditional water heaters that keep water hot 24/7. If you set the water temp too high, you’re wasting money (and putting family members at risk of getting scalded). In our rentals, we set the temperature to 120 degrees. You can turn this down in the summer.

Overwatering Your Lawn – Automatic sprinklers that come on early in the morning are great, unless you have a broken sprinkler head that is gushing water or misdirected so you’re watering the fence instead of your lawn. Periodically run your sprinklers during the day so you can see how they are performing when you’re not around.

Hiring a Handyman for Simple Repairs – If you have YouTube, you can probably figure out how to do most of the minor repairs in your house and save a lot of money. However, if you’re like me—not handy with tools—by all means, leave repairs to the experts. If you need a referral to a fix-it professional, from plumbers to electricians, ask your Realtor.

Ignoring Roof Repairs – If you see curled shingles or damaged flashing and mastic around roof penetrations (like chimneys, stove vents, or bathroom vents), do not ignore them. Water is really good at finding small flaws and making them bigger.

Houses are expensive enough without allowing these mistakes to bite into your pocketbook.

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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Finding the Best Interest Rate

I recently went online in an attempt to find the best interest rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate JUMBO real estate loan with 65 percent loan-to-value. I did not go to a comparison site, but a single lender’s site, where I entered my information and requested their lowest rate.

I shared the information a lender would need to give me their lowest interest rate: my annual income, net worth, FICO (credit) score, and property value, along with my contact information. Within a day or so I was receiving calls from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm from all sorts of people trying to sell me their loan services. My email inbox blew up with emails offering rates from as low as 2.5 percent to 6 percent.

Although I didn’t intend to have my information shared with a bunch of people, I figured I’d ask the same question of each lender: what is your lowest interest rate given the criteria above? Many of them wouldn’t give me a rate unless I allowed them to run a credit check, which I wouldn’t. The more often you allow people to check your credit score, the worse your score becomes. In essence, if I allowed them to run my credit, I’d have to stick with them.

Some lenders said they needed to run the credit check because each situation is different. While that is true—each loan is unique—their lowest rate doesn’t change. Regardless, they danced around the answer but wouldn’t give it to me.

These were nationwide companies—the ones you see ads for on TV—not local lenders. The few who did give me a rate often gave me rates that were too good to be true. I could tell I wasn’t getting a straight answer.

I realized later that I had been too vague. I should have asked for their best annual percentage rate (APR), because the term “interest rate” can be used to mean an introductory rate or some other special rate. Then they make up the difference between that low rate and the profit margin they want by charging fees (called points).

APR is a legal term. It’s a metric that was developed specifically to allow buyers to shop for loans using an apples-to-apples comparison. Otherwise, it can be really hard to know which loan is best.

If someone offers you a 30-year, fixed-rate loan at 4.5 percent with 2 points, is that better or worse than a loan at 4.75 percent with no points? As it happens, the 4.5 percent with 2 points is slightly better over 30 years. However, if you’d asked about a 15-year, fixed-rate loan, the 4.75 percent loan would be better. This is why you need to ask for the APR.

To avoid disingenuous lenders who are simply out to make a quick sale, I highly recommend asking your Realtor for a referral to a loan officer they trust. When you live in a small town, it becomes obvious in a hurry whether you’re out to fleece people or whether you’re providing a good value for your clients.

With local lenders, you won’t get calls at all hours of the day and night, but you should get straight answers. The loan process will still require a mountain of paperwork with W2s, bank statements, tax returns and the like (and if you’re self-employed, the mountain will be twice as high), but at least you’ll get a solid loan without hidden fees or surprise balloon payments.

It’s okay to buy some things online. Loans are not one of them.

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

 

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Cannabis and Title Insurance

As state and federal law enforcement agencies try to figure out how best to deal with conflicting cannabis statutes, it can be difficult for some industries to figure out how to position themselves. This should not be the case for title insurance companies, because their primary job is to provide a policy that guards against unknown liens or a flaw in the chain of title (who can prove legal ownership of a property).

This is why I am baffled by recently published statements saying properties in the 28 states that have in some capacity legalized cultivation, distribution, manufacture or sale of marijuana products will not be able to purchase title insurance. This includes the purchase and sale of undeveloped land, commercial properties, retail stores, and houses—any property where marijuana has been used (regardless of whether that use is legal under state law).

Title insurance typically deals with issues like easements, old deeds of trust, reconveyances, liens and the like. It does not have anything to do with how property owners use their property.

It’s true that the government can seize property under property forfeiture laws, some of which relate to the Controlled Substances Act. The government can also change a property’s zoning or designation, or red-tag a building rendering it uninhabitable. None of these actions are covered by title insurance. Standard title insurance policies already exclude coverage for this type of government action.

In reading the title insurance bulletin, I couldn’t find an explanation to drive their anti-cannabis policy. They point to the discrepancy between state and federal laws for seizure of property, but again, that offers no explanation for not insuring title.

It is important to note that most title companies are informing prospective insureds of their anti-cannabis policy up front, so if prospective insureds proceed on the what-they-don’t-know-won’t-hurt-them basis, and later file a claim for a missed deed of trust or easement, could the title company decline the coverage if the property is involved in the cannabis industry? One title company told me no, BUT a word to the wise: if your property will be used for cannabis and the title company asks, don’t hide it! As I have said before, make full disclosures (on this and any other issues) at the earliest possible time.

It seems to me that title insurance is all about guaranteeing property ownership; I don’t understand how the cannabis issue affects it at all. I cannot imagine how any title insurance company would be liable for cannabis issues, any more than they would be if a house burned down or someone slipped and fell while walking around on the property. Those issues are addressed by homeowners’ insurance, not title insurance.

Eventually, I expect conflicts between state and federal cannabis laws will be resolved, but until then, people complying with state laws can still be prosecuted under federal law. I spoke with Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman who let me know that his job is to enforce state and local laws. He has no jurisdiction when it comes to federal laws, and that’s fine with him.

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

RMS_Titanic_3

 Our Housing Shortage: Rearranging Deck Chairs While the Titanic Sinks

I recently attended several meetings that made me shake my head in disbelief. It was akin to watching people rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic while the ocean rushes in.

At these meetings, people discussed how to provide rental housing for displaced fire victims. Their recommendation was to put fire victims at the top of the list for newly available rentals. I have two problems with this. First, why should fire victims be put above others who need housing? Why, for example, should a doctor or teacher or other person coming to the area to help our community be put at the bottom of the list? Second, we have almost no rentals to offer these people, so no matter who gets priority, we simply don’t have enough housing to go around. Why are we talking about priority instead of how to increase the housing supply?

We have had a housing shortage in this valley for at least 15 years, and last fall’s wildfires made the shortage much worse. If we want to address housing, our local leaders need to recognize how supply and demand influence people’s behaviors and then make policy based on these well-established norms.

In the past 30 years, we’ve had no new market-rate apartment complexes of any consequence. Since 2010, only 92 residential building permits have been pulled in the greater Ukiah Valley. During that time, if we were simply to keep up with population growth, 420 new housing units should have been built, whether they were single family homes, duplexes or apartment buildings.

Clearly, we need more market-rate housing—housing that people who live and work in Ukiah can afford with salaries they earn from legitimate local employment. Although local government doesn’t have complete control over the housing market, they can influence the cost of development. Right now, their influence is going the wrong way.

In 2009, the county implemented an inclusionary housing ordinance. Inclusionary zoning requires real estate developers to give the county a certain percentage of the lots they develop or pay a fee in lieu of the “gift”. In our county, developers can either include low-income units as part of their development or build low-income housing in a different location as a condition of approval for their main development. This fee makes it prohibitively expensive to build market-rate housing in many cases. For the Lover’s Lane development in Ukiah, the inclusionary fee demanded by the county is $1.7 million, which makes any hope of a profit on the project pretty slim. If developers cannot make a profit, they will not build here. Would you go to work every day if your employer didn’t pay you? I didn’t think so.

In the meetings I attended, our county supervisors were getting bullied to make poor economic decisions. A lawyer associated with Legal Aid said the county could expect to be sued if the county removed the inclusionary housing ordinance. This is crazy.

If the only housing we build is subsidized for low-income residents, it will change our community. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have a mix of housing. We should. But the inclusionary housing ordinance is preventing market-rate housing from being built—housing for our fire victims, housing for incoming professionals who will enrich our community.

We have an opportunity to change course. We need to revoke the inclusionary housing ordinance and make it easier to build new subdivisions in the Ukiah Valley. If profit margins are thin in Ukiah and thick elsewhere, developers will go elsewhere. That’s just plain common sense. If you could do the same job in two equally great places and one place paid twice as much, where would you go?

If this matters to you, I strongly encourage you to call your county supervisor. Let him or her know you value market-rate housing and you hope they will stand up to the bullies.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning and Home Maintenance

As flowers bloom and the weather warms, it’s time to think about spring cleaning and annual home maintenance. Whether you gather family members for a long work weekend or chip away a little at a time, maintaining your property protects your investment.

One of the smartest things you can do each spring is to plan ahead. For example, if you use wood to heat your home, you can have it delivered now, so by fall it is both stacked and seasoned when temperatures begin to drop. You can also test your air conditioner before the full heat of summer is upon us. If your air conditioner doesn’t work in April, I’m confident you’ll get a speedier response from the repairman than you will during the first blazing hot day when everyone is testing their air conditioners.

Next, take a walk around your property. Make sure you have 100 feet of defensible space; note any brush that needs clearing and identify any tree limbs that need removing, growing over your roof or fences. Remember, putting off tree trimming only makes matters worse—those limbs won’t get any smaller as time goes by.

Do a visual inspection of your roof to make sure you don’t have missing or worn shingles or other damage, especially around roof penetrations like vents or skylights.

If you have a propane tank and you want to check for leaks, you can mix up water with a little dish soap in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on gas line couplings. If you see bubbles emerge, call the gas company immediately.

As you walk around, check concrete walkways and patios for cracks, especially if it makes for uneven footing. Smooth concrete can prevent everything from stubbed toes to broken hips. Rather than simply grinding down the rough spot, see if you can take care of the root of the problem, literally or figuratively. I’m not sure why people always plant trees with shallow roots wherever there’s concrete, but they seem to.

To prevent shallow roots from ruining concrete, I just learned you can line the hole where you plant the shallow-root tree with special mesh to force roots to go a little deeper. Obviously, this is not useful if you have a 10-foot maple that’s already well established. But if you’re about to plant something, it could be helpful.

Once your walkways are smooth, take a look at the exterior paneling of your house. Is the paint in good condition? If not, don’t wait. Like those limbs hanging over your roof, peeling paint is a problem that only gets worse with time.

If you’re planning outdoor work (like roof repairs or exterior painting), don’t get lulled into a false sense of security if it hasn’t rained for a few weeks. As my mother and mothers everywhere have said since time immemorial, “April showers bring May flowers.” Be sure your project can be buttoned up to prevent water damage if need be.

Once you’ve taken care of outdoor maintenance, head inside and check the washing machine connection, continue to replace heating/air conditioning filters monthly, and consider getting your carpets cleaned.

Tim Cabral of Cabral Carpet Care recommends cleaning carpets once a year, unless you have a lot of traffic (kids, dogs, etc.); then every six months is a good idea. Tim said you can just get the high traffic paths cleaned, if need be.

Vacuum cleaners are great for top-level dust, but they cannot pull all the debris out of the bottom of the carpet fibers, debris from doggy paws, shoes, and those moments when you’re watching TV and your team scores and the salsa goes flying onto the carpet. So, while vacuuming is good, getting your carpet cleaned professionally will get rid of that deep dirt and revitalize the carpet.

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.