Mendocino County Building

Call in the Reinforcements for the County Building Department

In the recent fires, our community lost more than 300 homes plus various other structures in Redwood Valley and Potter Valley. In addition to the financial and emotional toll this will take on displaced families, it will also put a huge strain on a system that was already stretched beyond measure.

The Mendocino County Building Department must now add a few hundred homes to the huge pipeline already waiting for their attention. Before the fire, the County told us it would take 4-8 weeks to review plans and issue a permit, and that’s assuming the plans were picture perfect to begin with.

In some cases, it takes several months to get a permit. This is in addition to the time required to complete all the steps necessary to apply for the permit, including settling with the insurance company, making the decision about whether to rebuild or relocate, selecting an architect, having the architect draft plans, approving those plans, and choosing a contractor. Only after all of that do you submit plans for approval to the County.

To make matters worse, anyone who has tried to hire a local contractor in recent years is painfully aware that even before our fire—and the ones in Sonoma County, Lake County, Napa County, Santa Cruz County, and down in Orange County—we had a shortage of available contractors. Because of the fires in Lake County in the last two years and the hurricanes in the southern part of the U.S., most of the contractors who were willing to relocate for work have already done so. Given these facts, I’m sorry to say that I think the rebuilding process for many locals will be 2-3 years or longer.

I anticipate Mendocino College will respond by expanding construction-related classes, and that the County will respond by increasing staff in the Planning and Building Departments. Although, candidly, I don’t know where they’ll find the people. Most employers in Ukiah were already facing the challenge of finding new, competent employees.

If you’re a dependable worker willing to pay attention and learn a building trade, you’ll be in high demand in the coming months and years. Many entry-level people hired in the construction trades don’t last because employers cannot afford to keep people they cannot rely on.

The winter term at Mendocino College begins January 22, and their Sustainable Construction program offers classes in construction fundamentals, residential remodel and repair, introduction to residential electrical systems, and introduction to plumbing, among others. Whether you hire someone to rebuild your home or you rebuild it yourself, it’s nice to have some basic familiarity with construction practices.

I know this column has focused on the negative side of things, but even with all the pain and inconvenience, there may be some silver linings.

The average age of the housing stock will be newer, safer, and more energy efficient. And if you calculate replacement construction costs for 250 homes at 2,000 square feet apiece; at $250 per square foot, we’re looking at $125 million of new construction with money mostly coming from outside the local economy. Add that to another $35-40 million to be spent replacing personal property from socks and underwear to refrigerators and new cars, and we’ll definitely see an uptick in the local economy.

While there’s probably nothing that could have been done to prevent these fires, hopefully next time (and there’s always a next time) we will be slightly more prepared and will suffer less personal loss.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business in Ukiah for more than 40 years.


Emergency Preparedness Hits Home

I’d like to start by saying how sorry I am for all those who lost their homes and worse in the recent fires. I know we have a long recovery ahead, but I’m confident our community will pull together and rebuild.

Given our recent disaster, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to plan for emergencies. The truth is, because the Redwood Valley fire was so fast and so ferocious, people often had no time to do anything but run. In other emergencies, however, people who have prepared ahead of time often fare better than those who don’t.

Of course, any preparation you can do to prevent a disaster from occurring is best. Those of us lucky enough to have homes still standing should make sure our properties are fire safe. Clear flammable brush at least 100 feet from your home and trim trees at least six feet off the ground. Make sure tree limbs do not hang over your roof and clear debris from your roof. If you have aboveground utilities in your neighborhood, keep an eye on electrical lines that go through trees—make sure there’s plenty of clearance. Locate woodpiles and other fuel sources at least 30 feet from all structures and maintain a 10-foot clearance area around them.

Most fires start small. If you are ready, you may be able to stop a fire from spreading. Be sure you know where the closest fire hydrant is, as well as your garden hoses and outdoor faucets. If you have a well providing at least two gallons per minute, consider filling a 2000-gallon storage tank so it’s ready if you need it.

Sadly, even with all this responsible preparation, your home can still go up in flames. Just ask the families who returned to find ash where their houses used to be.

For insurance purposes, you should create a photo or video log of all your possessions. While tedious, it’ll be time well spent if you need to ask an insurance company to pay a claim.

While disasters come in all shapes and sizes, preparations are similar. You’ll need food, water, and medications for you and your pets. You’ll need some clothes and, depending on the situation, you may need your own shelter for a while. You may also need fuel for your vehicle.

In my house we have backpacks ready to go, because they are easy to carry. In them we have flashlights (with batteries stored in plastic bags, not inside the flashlights where they will corrode). We have matches, a couple water bottles per person, non-perishable snacks, a change of clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a utility knife and/or multi-tool, and a pair of boots or sturdy shoes. We also have our camping gear stored in one place so it would be easy to grab and throw in the car.

If you have time to pack more than just the essentials, consider the irreplaceables: photo albums, family heirlooms and keepsakes, important documents, and if you can, your computer. For more information about disaster preparedness, go to and There, you’ll find a wildfire safety toolkit, as well as many other resources.

One of the most important ways to reduce stress during a disaster is to be sure your loved ones are safe. Agree upon an out-of-town family member or friend who everyone can call to report in. Also, in case you cannot get in touch with one another, agree upon a location away from your home where you could all meet.

For locals impacted by the Redwood Valley fire, be sure to visit the Local Assistance Center at Mendocino College. It’s a multi-agency support center where you can register for assistance of all types. Also, I encourage everyone to attend the community fundraiser Saturday, November 4 at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds. For details, visit

If you have questions about real estate or property management, contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business in Ukiah for more than 40 years.




Ukiah Valley

Winterizing Your Home


What a difference two weeks can make. When I wrote this column, our valley hadn’t burned, so let me begin by sending my condolences to all those who’ve lost so much.

For those of us in the fortunate position of still having a house that is standing, now is the time to prepare it for winter. These tips will keep the structure in good condition and its inhabitants safe and comfortable.

Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Alarms – Be sure to test your alarms each fall, and change the batteries before they wake you in the middle of the night, or worse, don’t wake you at all. Newer models have 10-year batteries that do not require changing, so you may opt to replace your alarms rather than just switching out the batteries this year.

Fire Extinguishers – If you have a fire extinguisher (and you should), make sure it is still pressurized (check that the little indicator points to green), and put it next to an exterior door (not in the garage behind several boxes).

Lint Trap – In your clothes dryer, you should remove the lint from the trap after every single load. Lint loves to catch fire. While you’re at it make sure the vent from the dryer to the outside is clear of lint as well.

Extension Cords – If you are foolish enough to have extension cords in traffic areas (like I do), consider moving them or make sure they are well secured. If the cords look damaged, replace them.

Railings, Walkways, and Steps – Secure railings and loose boards and fix tripping hazards.

Roof – A 30-year roof doesn’t mean you should ignore it for 30 years. Repair loose shingles and check flashing, eaves, and soffits. If your flashing needs new mastic (sealant), apply it.

Chimney – Before you fire up your fireplace, have a chimney sweep repair cracks and clean the flue.

Gutters, Downspouts and Drainage – Clear debris and be sure the splash block at the bottom of the gutter directs water away from your house. While you’re at it, confirm that the soil around your home directs water away from your house, too.

Outside Faucets – It only takes one freezing night to burst an uninsulated pipe. Adding insulation is cheap and easy, and it helps avoid a potentially expensive repair. This is also a good time to store hoses for the winter.

Windows and Doors – Add caulking and weather stripping as needed.

Redwood Decks – Re-stain decks and hammer any nails that need attention.

Shrubs and Trees – Cut back any shrubs that grow right next to the house. It’ll save the paint and prevent critters (two-legged and four-legged) from hiding where they shouldn’t. Trim trees up six-feet from the ground.

Leaks – After the first rain, walk around and check for signs of water, including inside closets and attics. While you’re in the attic, make sure you have ample insulation and that it’s in decent condition.

Tile, Tubs and Showers – Repair grout and caulking before problems get worse.

Refrigerator – Vacuum and clean the coils to keep your fridge from working harder than it needs to. Dust works as an insulator on the coils, making it harder to cool the air.

Heating/Air Conditioning – Replace the filter every few months, and if it’s been a few years since you last had the unit serviced, consider an inspection.

Water Heater – Flush your water heater and it will last longer. The particulates in water sink to the bottom of your tank, creating an insulation barrier and causing tanks to rust faster and work less efficiently.

It’s easy to put off routine maintenance, but if you take care of your house on a schedule, it typically saves time and money in the long run.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business in Ukiah for more than 40 years.







Dumb Reasons People Don’t Buy the House They Want

When you decide you’re in the market to buy a house, you can: 1. Do this the smart way, and maximize the likelihood that you’ll end up with a house you like and can afford; or 2. Do this the dumb way, and rush headlong into a complicated process without the support or information you need to be successful.

It always amazes me how many people opt for #2.

Most people don’t buy and sell houses very often, so it’s understandable that they don’t know much about the process, but if you’re going to make one of the biggest purchases of your life, it seems as though a little homework and some help from experts would be a good idea, right?

Mistake #1: Not Selecting a Realtor

The first mistake some people make is to try to save money by opting to go without a Realtor. A good Realtor can save you time and money. They walk you through the process, preparing your for each step so you have as few setbacks and surprises as possible. (Is it self-serving for me to say this? Yes. But is it true, anyway? Yes.)

Mistake #2: Not Getting Qualified for a Loan Up Front

The second mistake people make is to start looking at houses before they know what they can afford. This wastes time and can be very disheartening. It’s far better to schedule an appointment with a loan broker to get “pre-qualified” or “pre-approved” for a loan. Pre-qualified consists of sitting down with your Realtor to figure out roughly how much income you have and how much debt you carry (car payments, insurance payments, tuition payments, etc.), as well as whether you have any savings for a down payment. Being pre-qualified is much better than not being pre-qualified, but it’s not as good as being pre-approved.

To become “pre-approved” is more involved, but it can dramatically increase the chances of getting the property you want. Pre-approval requires a thorough review of all your assets, liabilities, tax returns, W-2s, credit history, and any other relevant financial information to begin the process of applying for a loan. Basically, the only difference between being pre-approved and applying for a loan is that when you’re pre-approved, you haven’t found your property yet.

Getting pre-approved increases the chances of having your offer accepted, and it puts you ahead of your competition, if you have any.

Mistake #3: Choosing the Wrong Loan Broker

Working with an out-of-town or online loan broker can be a risky business. Real estate loans are complicated, so ask your Realtor for a referral so you know you have a loan broker you can trust, one who will walk you through the process—and look out for your interests.

Mistake #4: Putting in a Low-Ball Offer

In a seller’s market, sometimes it’s wise to put in a full-price offer. Sound crazy? It’s not. It’s fine to negotiate in a buyer’s market, but don’t lose your dream house because you thought you were supposed to play hardball.

Mistake #5: Messing Up Your Financing With a Big Purchase

Once you’re in escrow, don’t buy a car with $500-a-month lease payments (or make other, similarly expensive purchases), because big purchases can change whether you still qualify for your loan.

Mistake #6: Running Out of Cash

In addition to a down payment, you’ll need cash for several other expenses when you buy a house. You may have to pay a premium for private mortgage insurance, fund a lender’s escrow account, or pay upcoming property tax and insurance bills. Plan accordingly (your Realtor can help you with this).

Sometimes escrows fall through, but you can reduce the chances of a failed escrow by avoiding these unnecessary mistakes.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.


Photograph showing the headquarters of the U.S. Mortgage company Fannie Mae in Washington, DC, on 14 July 2008. US mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are set to be put under government control in an attempt to rescue the firms, media reports say on 07 September 2008. Top bosses would be removed under the US Treasury plans which could see the US's largest ever financial bail-out.  EPA/MATTHEW CAVANAUGH

Time to Buy, Thanks to a Loosening of Loan Restrictions

If you’ve been waiting for home prices to fall before you jump into the market, you might have a long wait. It still costs less to buy a house than it does to build one, and with recent changes to rules covering many conventional loan programs, now could be a great time to embark on the adventure that is home ownership.

The two biggest government-sponsored buyers of residential real estate loans are the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), commonly known as Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC), known as Freddie Mac. As of July, they’ve loosened restrictions, making it easier for people to get home loans.

First, they decided to eliminate derogatory credit remarks on some credit reports, which will improve some people’s credit scores and help them qualify for a larger loan amount, or perhaps a lower interest rate. Second, they increased the debt-to-income ratio from 45 to 50 percent. If your combined monthly income is $6,000, the 45 percent debt-to-income ratio would only allow you to put $2,700/month toward monthly debt. Now, with that same income, you can put $3,000/month toward debt. Debt includes things like your mortgage payment, any car payments, revolving credit card debt, and student loans. If your situation allows you to put the additional $300/month toward a mortgage payment, that enables you to spend almost $60,000 more on a house at today’s rates, potentially moving you from a two-bedroom, one-bath house with a single-car carport to a three-bedroom, two-bath house with a two-car garage.

This change is important because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own a huge percentage of mortgage loans, and influence even more. Banks underwrite to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac standards so they can sell to them.

So, if you want to buy a house, you may be able to get a larger loan with the same income. I understand that there are benefits to renting over buying—like having a landlord who is responsible for the structural repair and upkeep of your home, but there are many great perks to owning your own home as well.

First, real estate is one of the best long-term investments you can make. Although home prices may rise and fall in the short term, the trend during the last 40 years is clearly upward. Ask your parents what they spent on their first house and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Another benefit to owning over renting is that much of your new monthly housing cost is tax deductible. Interest rates remain near historic lows. In fact, in my 40 years in the real estate business, the lowest interest rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage I recall was 3 percent, and it was only that low for about a day. Today, rates range from about 4 to 4½ percent. Compare that to the peak interest rates in the 1980s, when they were above 14 percent, and you’ll understand why I’m so enthusiastic about today’s rates.

Finally, there are benefits to home ownership that you can’t put a price on. It feels empowering when you don’t need anyone’s permission to change the landscaping, replace the carpet, or paint your dining room lavender.

All in all, these changes from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow more buyers to qualify and at higher prices than they would have in the past. But remember, just because you can qualify for more, doesn’t mean you should. Review your personal finances and consider the fact that your mortgage payment won’t be your only house-related expense; you’ll need to budget for repairs and upkeep, too.

If your situation supports it, now could be the perfect time to venture into the world of home ownership.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.


10 ways to improve home

10 Inexpensive Improvements That Make Your Home More Valuable

When it comes time to sell your house, you want to get top dollar. With some simple, inexpensive updates, you can significantly improve how people perceive your home’s value.

  1. Wash Siding
    If your exterior paint is in good condition, washing the exterior can almost make it seem like you’ve just repainted your house. You can rent a commercial power washer to make the job quick and easy; but be careful, you can inadvertently blow a hole in the side of your house if you’re not careful.
  2. Paint Inside and Out
    If your paint is chipped or wearing out, go directly to the paint store (or in my case, call professional painters). A new coat of paint revitalizes a property, making it clean and bright.
  3. Update Landscaping
    While I love bright, pretty flowers, they are hard to maintain and rarely drought-resistant. I recommend low-maintenance, native plants that can stand up to our brutal summers and chilly winters.
  4. Replace Kitchen Cabinet Doors
    If your cabinets are in fine shape but outdated, consider replacing their doors. Old oak cabinets will last forever, but you may not want the style of those cabinets to remind potential buyers that your house was built 50 years ago. With updated glass-paneled doors, for example, they’ll just see your beautiful kitchen.
  5. Add a Hot Water Dispenser
    You can install an after-market hot water dispensers next to your kitchen faucet for instant tea, hot cocoa, or a head start when you put water on the stove to boil. This is an inexpensive luxury feature you can pick up at a hardware store for less than $300. Just don’t do what I did, and sweep your hands under that scalding water. It’s just shy of boiling hot.
  6. Replace Door Handles
    Choosing new door handles can add a little pizzazz as you enter each room. Just be sure not to put stainless steel levers in a Victorian-style home or old-fashioned class knobs in a contemporary home.
  7. Showcase a Unique Fixture or Piece of Furniture
    Before you go buy a new piece of furniture, remember: it’s best if you remove a third of your belongings before you put your house on the market. Your house will seem roomier when it’s not cluttered. Now, if you have a piece of furniture or an interesting fixture that will make your property memorable (in a good way), go ahead and bring it in.
    I have a table that belonged to my mother. It has a big oval marble top, and while it is a little more ornate than my other furnishings, I absolutely love it and it sets off the room perfectly. If you are a crafty do-it-yourselfer, you might be able to find a gem at a garage sale or thrift shop. Sometimes old pieces just need a little refinishing to become stunning works of art. If it were me, I’d head down to the Furniture Design Center in Ukiah. I’m not really the crafty type.
  8. New Window Treatments
    Replacing worn curtains or broken shades can really update the look of a house and give the impression that it’s newer than it is.
  9. Build a Window Seat
    Assuming you have space and the right location, a window seat can be an attractive addition, providing a charming little spot to read or enjoy a cup of coffee.
  10. Add Storage
    I don’t think you can ever have too much storage. Adding shelving and plastic storage bins in a garage or basement pulls unnecessary items out of closets, making the house seem spacious. You can also add an inexpensive shed, so people know they’ll have a place to store things when they move in.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business in Ukiah for more than 40 years.


Ukiah Will Finally Get Its Costco

I’ve been promising my children we’d do our Christmas shopping at Costco in Ukiah since about 2013, so when I tell them Costco plans to open in April, I can hardly blame them if they don’t rush to put it on their calendars. However, this time, it’s the real deal. Escrow is scheduled to close in September, and Costco plans to break ground shortly thereafter.

When a company like Costco decides to build a store in a new location, it’s generally the result of long hours of negotiation to determine who will pay for what. Costco needs infrastructure to support its new store, and local government needs to be sure the tax revenues and other benefits outweigh the costs.

Now that negotiations are done, we can expect construction to begin. While Costco works on building its store and gas station, local contractors will begin several infrastructure projects: reconstructing Airport Boulevard, adding a second left-hand turn lane from westbound Talmage Road onto Airport Boulevard, as well as creating a two-lane off-ramp from southbound Highway 101 at Talmage Road with censors connected to the traffic light at the Talmage and Airport intersection. They will also add a left-hand turn lane from Hastings Avenue on to State Street   and a traffic light at Hastings Avenue and Commerce Drive.

I don’t have a lot of details, but I am told Ghilotti Construction has been awarded a $4.6 million contract for much of the construction (not including the off ramp).

The half-cent sales tax recently approved by Ukiah voters via Measure Y will fund the rebuilding of Airport Boulevard. Additional funding will come from a gas tax and a capital improvement fund. Contributors to the capital improvement fund include businesses currently located in the Redwood Business Park (that’s the official name for the Airport Boulevard shopping area).

I know we still have people against Costco coming to town, but it’s here so let’s embrace the benefits, of which there are many. When Costco opens, it will provide a place with more goods at lower prices, and its presence will likely lead to lower prices on goods throughout our community (thanks to the laws of supply and demand). Gas prices should also drop. Lower prices make everyone’s paycheck go further. Most of the jobs at Costco will pay enough to allow their employees to afford Ukiah-area rents, and I expect many employees will be able to afford to buy homes.

People will not go to Santa Rosa to shop as often, saving gas and keeping more sales tax revenue here. Having a Costco in town will also reduce online shopping. Many locals say they would shop in Ukiah if they could find what they’re looking for. While Costco may not be a local mom-and-pop business, shopping there will certainly support the local employees who work there, and it will increase sales tax revenues to pay for things like public safety and other services many of us appreciate.

Ukiah’s 8.375 percent sales tax gets distributed to city, county and state governments. The city gets approximately 2 percent. The state gets approximately 5 percent, and the county gets the rest (including 0.125 percent for the library). Costco will also pay property taxes to the tune of about 1 percent of the finished value of the land and improvements.

Thanks to City Manager Sage Sangiacomo and City Councilmember Doug Crane for providing timely information about costs and revenue on this project. The city’s fiscal analysis for Costco conservatively estimates net annual sales tax revenue to the City of Ukiah will be about $800,000. The estimated assessed valuation for the Costco development is about $27,000,0000, so property tax revenue should be approximately $270,000 of which the city will get about $25,000. Most of the other $245,000 gets distributed to other local agencies. Overall, this is a good deal for Ukiah.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.






Meathead Movers

Do What You Can, Then Hope for the Best When Moving Part II

Last week, I reviewed a few tips about how to minimize potential problems that come along with moving. I recommended ways to carefully manage the packing process; I provided information on choosing a reputable moving company, and I shared advice from Rob McAsey at Mark Davis Insurance about reviewing your homeowner’s policy to be sure you’re adequately covered. I also mentioned the importance of contacting utility companies before you move to prevent the unfortunate scenario of completing your move, only to be left sitting in a cold, dark house surrounded by boxes ready to unpack.

Because most people don’t move very often, they have no way of knowing what’s normal and what’s not, as well as what’s included in the base price and what’s extra. I’m happy to say that I’ve heard of no reports of fraud or negligence with professional moving companies in Ukiah, but for those moving out of town, here are some additional tips on how to protect your belongings and minimize the move’s impact on your pocketbook.

The number one way to have a bad moving experience is to work with a bad moving company, so be sure to ask your Realtor for a list of licensed and insured movers. Be aware that hiring a company solely because they offer the lowest price can end up being very expensive.

Not all moving companies are created equal. In addition to their experience and professionalism, consider their specialties. Some companies are accustomed to the challenges of rural moves with dirt roads and homes that aren’t accessible with big moving trucks. Other companies are used to working in big, metropolitan areas with constant traffic zipping around their movers and the challenges of getting your belongings into your third-floor condominium.

Once you’ve found a good company, avoid misunderstandings by clearly expressing your needs and expectations. Carefully review the moving company’s scope of work and fee structure so everyone is clear on who does what. Are you packing your belongings, or are they? Where will they unload your belongings—to the curb, to the first floor, upstairs? Is there an extra fee for furniture that weighs more than a specified amount (like your solid oak desk or piano)? Here’s a list of common services for which you may have to pay extra.

  1. Disposal Fee. If you want the movers to take the extra packing material with them after they move the furniture, you may have to let them know ahead of time.
  2. Furniture Disassembly and Reassembly. Some furniture won’t fit through a regular door jamb and must be disassembled and reassembled when moved. Are you doing this, or are they?
  3. Appliance Hook Ups. Some moving companies may not even offer to hook up your appliances because of liability issues, but if they do offer this service, they’ll likely charge for it.
  4. Long Carry. If the movers cannot park directly in front of your house, or if there is no parking close to your house, they may charge extra for a “long carry.” If possible, reserve the space in front of your home to avoid this charge.
  5. Shuttle Moves. If the movers cannot drive their big truck up to your new house, they may need to transfer your belongings to a smaller “shuttle” truck. This will cost extra.
  6. Storage and Warehousing. If there is any delay in moving your belongings directly into your new house when the truck arrives, the moving company will charge you for the use of their truck (or the cost of the warehouse), and any extra labor costs.

Although moving is stressful, if you plan well, you shouldn’t have any problems.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.


Meathead Movers

Do What You Can, Then Hope for the Best When Moving

You’ve sold your house and you need to be out by 5:00 pm today, but the movers don’t show up as promised. You call to inquire why and they let you know they’re running a couple days behind. You call your Realtor to see if the buyers can wait a couple days, but find out their movers are on the way with two big trucks full of everything the buyers own, and they’re on schedule to arrive promptly at 5:00 pm, when you no longer own the house, according to your sales contract.

To avoid this and similarly dreadful moving scenarios, it’s best to plan ahead as much as you can. Then, all you can do is take a deep breath and hope for the best.

Carefully manage the packing process.

Whether you pack your own belongings or have professional packers do it for you, head to the hardware store and purchase about eight different colors of duct tape. Use yellow on boxes for the master bedroom, blue for the kitchen, and so on. When you arrive at your new home, put a little duct tape of the corresponding color on the doorway to each room so movers can put boxes in the right rooms.

If you pack your own things, use small and medium-sized boxes (ones you can lift when they’re full). If you hire movers to pack your things, I recommend keeping a close eye on the process by letting them know you’ll label boxes as they pack.

Choose a reputable moving company.

Many people try to save money by moving themselves. If you can afford professional movers, I recommend you do so. While your brother-in-law and your Great Uncle Ned might be fun at family barbecues, their knowledge about how to transport Grandma’s heirloom china might not be too impressive.

To find a good moving company, ask your friends, family, or Realtor for a referral and then check out the reviews online. Make sure whoever you hire has liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and content coverage. And for specifics about what is included in their fees and what is extra.

Review Your Homeowner’s Insurance.

According to Rob McAsey at Mark Davis Insurance, you should review your homeowner’s insurance before you move so you know what’s covered. Let’s say you own a home worth $500,000. Contents coverage is usually set at 70 percent of that value, or $350,000. The coverage for contents that leave the home is often 10 percent of that, so $35,000. If all your belongings in that truck would cost more than $35,000 to replace, you might consider purchasing more insurance.

I recently heard a horror story about a family moving to Ukiah whose mover stopped en route to visit someone. During the stopover, the moving truck was stolen. Unfortunately, although the client had confirmed that the moving company had insurance, he had not checked how much. The moving company’s insurance carrier paid $50,000 for $130,000 worth of losses, leaving our new Ukiah resident $80,000 in the hole.

Schedule Utilities Activation Early.

It’s Friday at 6:00 pm. Your belongings have been transported to your new home and almost all the boxes have miraculously been placed in the right rooms. The sun is setting. It’s time to order pizza and celebrate.  You reach for the light switch to turn on the lights when you realize no one has alerted the utility companies that you’ve arrived. You have no electricity, no water, and no gas.

Avoid this situation by contacting utility companies early.

Be Clear About What’s Included and What’s Extra.

Next week, I’ll write about all the services that are typically included when you hire movers, and those for which you must pay extra.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.


Appealing Your Property Tax Bill


When you purchase a property, the Mendocino County Assessor’s Office determines the property’s assessed (or market) value for the purpose of establishing future property taxes. The initial assessment is critical because it establishes the basis for all future payments. Property taxes are calculated on the base year (first year) and cannot increase by more than two percent compounded per year.

Once this base value is established, if the property value falls below the original base year value, the assessor can lower the assessed value to reflect the current market value. But if prices take a big jump the following year, the original base value comes back into play, and the value can be increased by two percent per year from the original acquisition date and amount.

Usually, the assessor establishes the base year value at the purchase price, a reasonable approach. However, there are occasions when this approach isn’t appropriate. The assessor’s job is to equate the assessed value with the fair market value as of the closing date of the purchase. If you got a screaming hot deal, the assessor is obligated to assess the property at a value higher than the purchase price. In this case, the responsibility to justify a base value higher than the purchase price is squarely on the assessor’s shoulders.

Revenue and Tax Code 110 says, “For purposes of determining the ‘full cash value’ or ‘fair market value’ of real property, other than possessory interests, being appraised upon a purchase, ‘full cash value’ or ‘fair market value’ is the purchase price paid in the transaction unless it is established by a preponderance of the evidence that the real property would not have transferred for that purchase price in an open market transaction. It goes on to say, “This presumption may be overcome if the assessor establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that all or a portion of the value of those improvements is not reflected in that consideration.”

Clearly, the assessor has to do two things: use evidence to show that the sales price wasn’t fair market value, and then demonstrate what fair market value is. The method to determine fair market value is well established by appraisers, using comparable properties that have sold recently and making adjustments for the condition of the property in question.

Now, this can work in the opposite direction, too. Let’s say you overpaid for a property, perhaps this property was your childhood home, or maybe you want to be sure no one builds on the empty lot next door. In these cases, if you want to have the property assessed so you can pay taxes on a lower base value than the purchase price, the burden of proof is on your shoulders.

The most critical thing to remember is that the first year of assessed value will impact your taxes for as long as you own the property. Once the base year is established, doing home repairs should not impact the assessed value; however, improvements will. If you replace your roof with the same type of roof, that’s considered a repair. If you replace a flat, 1955 tar-and-gravel roof with a peaked composition shingle roof, that’s an improvement and can cause an increase in the assessed value. To the extent that the new roof is superior to the old, the assessed value can reflect that improvement.

The bottom line is this: if you honestly feel your assessed value is higher than fair market value, call the assessor’s office and explain your position; then ask them to lower the assessed value.  If they don’t agree, don’t be afraid to appeal the decision. If you convince the appeals board you’re right, it could save you a lot of money.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.