Water Rights

Water Rights for Homeowners

Many of us don’t think much about the water we use. If we turn on the tap and water comes out, we’re satisfied. When we hear ominous warnings about droughts, we stop watering our lawns (or limit watering to early mornings), but deep down, we’re not too concerned. The tap has never stopped working, so we expect that to remain the case.

However, if you are considering buying a property, whether it’s residential, commercial, land or industrial, one of the most important considerations is the water supply—is there enough water to do what you want to do year-round? Since droughts really are taking a toll on California ground water and other water sources, water rights will continue to have an enormous impact on real estate. Here’s how.

First, some places will have moratoriums on new water hook-ups, so if you plan to build a home in a place where all the other houses have water, you still may not be able to get it. Several years ago, this happened in Brooktrails north of Willits, Redwood Valley, and in the Ukiah Valley for properties in the Millview County Water District. Those moratoriums have since been lifted, but they and others could go into effect again if the shortage isn’t addressed.

Second, rationing could go from voluntary to mandatory. When we all do our part to cut back, there’s enough water to go around, but at some point, there may not be. This is when you’ll get nasty looks from neighbors if you leave a hose running while washing your car or you’ll stop getting invited to neighborhood parties because of your lush, green lawn. Rationing could come in the form of tiered water pricing: the more you use, the more you’ll be charged per gallon. That’ll make everyone (except teenagers) think twice about those 20-minute showers.

Even without a moratorium or rationing, access to water can be difficult and expensive to acquire. Right now, water hook-ups in the Ukiah Valley cost about $6,000 each, which is cheaper than the cost of drilling a well or developing a natural spring. If your property is off the beaten path, the hook-up to the water main is only the first cost. You then have to pay the construction costs of getting the water from the water main to your property.

In some areas, the cost of getting and/or using water may have an impact on your ability to develop the land. One of the problems local farmers face is the cost of electrical service to run the pumps that protect crops against frost. Even when farmers have almost limitless water rights, they find themselves in a financial bind because they have to pay PG&E a stand-by power charge—the fee for the privilege of using the pumps a couple hours every now and then. To be fair, it’s not unreasonable for PG&E to charge a fee since PG&E has to maintain the infrastructure to deliver the power to all the farmers’ pumps (at the same time) the moment a frost hits.

The next challenge occurs when there’s a misunderstanding about property boundaries and water rights. Even though your boundary line may go to the middle of the Russian River, you may not have enough water rights to get a watering can’s worth of water to soak your tomato plants. Property boundaries do not convey water rights. And that well you drill three feet from the river may be legally determined to be river water, and thus, illegal.

In this world, there are four types of laws: criminal, civil, railroad and water. The bookcases full of laws pertaining to water make sense when you think about it. Water is the life-giving, industry-sustaining substance we all depend on. To that end, California just passed a groundwater management plan that’s destined to have a significant impact on water rights, so before you buy property, make sure you know your water rights.

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.comDick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

 

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What Are Landlords Responsible For?

Many people rent rather than own their homes. If this is true for you, you depend on a landlord to maintain your residence in good working order. At a minimum, landlords are responsible for ensuring homes are habitable and safe.

The legal definition of habitable means the structure should be weather-tight with functioning heat, electricity, running water, and sewer or septic. In the middle of summer in Ukiah, you may believe that air conditioning is required to make a place habitable (I’m inclined to agree with you), but legally, air conditioning isn’t required.

Under a normal rental or lease agreement, responsibility for maintaining habitability cannot be passed on to the resident. It is the owner’s obligation not only to have everything in good working order when residents move in, but throughout the term of the lease.

This means landlords must attend to repairs in a timely manner; however, “timely” means different things to different people, and different situations call for different responses. Emergencies require immediate attention, while lesser problems can wait a day or two, or sometimes longer. This is where we employ the Prudent Man Rule (also known as the Common Sense Rule). What is prudent in this situation? What makes sense?

A slow drip in the bathroom on a Saturday night is an incredible annoyance, but probably doesn’t justify a 3:00 am call to the plumber. On the other hand, if sparks are flying from the breaker box, go ahead and make an emergency weekend call. (As a practical matter, the resident should know how to shut off electricity to the house.) The same logic goes for a broken gas line. Keeping in mind that the resident may have no way to contact the owner at 3:00 am, he or she must take some personal responsibility and address the gas leak immediately, then deal with the payment issue with the landlord later.

Who pays for emergency maintenance depends on two things: the cause of the problem and whether the issue was serious enough to warrant emergency action. One of my favorite sayings applies here: “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” If a gas line breaks because the resident backs his car into the meter, that’s on him. If a buried gas valve reaches the end of its serviceable life—which only seems to happen at the most inconvenient possible times—that’s the landlord’s responsibility.

The more details are spelled out in the lease agreement, the better. Who cares for the landscaping? Who is responsible for brush removal for fire safety? Many contracts call for appliance repair to be the responsibility of the resident, since appliances are not a habitability issue. If the contract isn’t explicit about who should maintain the appliances, maintenance falls to the landlord.

The type of the residence can also determine who is responsible for what. It may be perfectly reasonable to include landscaping upkeep as part of a lease agreement on a single family home with a small yard, but ridiculous to ask someone renting a small cabin on a 200-acre ranch to mow the whole property on a regular basis (unless the resident is compensated for that time with a reduced rental payment). As is always the case in these situations, it really helps if you read and understand the lease agreement BEFORE you sign it.

Although some maintenance issues are negotiable, safety issues are not. Landlords must install and maintain smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. These are incredibly important (and inexpensive). Less immediate but also important are issues related to sewer or septic, mold, and dangerous but difficult-to-see hazards like small cracks inside the chimney. Landlords should inspect residences periodically for obvious and not-so-obvious threats.

Whether you’re a resident or a landlord, my best advice to you is to communicate to clarify expectations and avoid misunderstandings.

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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The Accidental Realtor

In a typical real estate transaction, buyers and sellers each have a licensed real estate agent to represent them. Realtors are legally obligated to work in the best interest of their clients, and when each party has a Realtor, everyone’s roles and loyalties are well established. Sometimes, however, one or both parties in a transaction (buyers and/or sellers) opt to represent themselves and forego the assistance of a Realtor. This can cause significant problems for everyone involved.

Unlike many industries, no written contract is required for a Realtor to represent a client. A verbal agreement between a buyer or seller and a Realtor is all it takes for a Realtor to become a client’s legal agent. In fact, even without an agreement, as soon as a Realtor starts giving advice about a real estate transaction, that Realtor can be considered a buyer or seller’s legal agent. Odd, but true. Once a Realtor is in the role of legal agent, he or she becomes responsible for many aspects of that client’s transaction, not just the ones advised upon.

This is why it is unfair to ask your friend who is a Realtor to advise you unless that friend is representing you in the transaction. Realtors are friendly by nature (or they don’t last very long in the real estate business). They want to help you, both because they’re nice and, candidly, because they’re probably hoping for future referrals. However, you are putting your friend in a terrible fix by asking for advice, because as soon as your friend advises you, he or she takes on economic and regulatory liability. Your friend can be sued or fined for giving advice if the transaction goes poorly.

Realtors who represent half of a transaction when the other party has no representation need to be really careful how they walk the tightrope between making a transaction go smoothly for their client and accidentally becoming the legal agent of the unrepresented party.

Here’s an example of how slippery the slope can be. If the unrepresented party asks a Realtor who they recommend to do a pest and fungus inspection and the Realtor provides three local contacts, the Realtor has not become that person’s legal agent. If instead the Realtor says, “Hey, I’ll see my favorite pest guy this afternoon, I’ll have him call you,” now we’re in a gray area. If the Realtor agrees to review the pest and fungus report with the unrepresented party once it’s done, the Realtor is clearly signing up to be that person’s legal agent.

Let’s consider the classic for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) situation. To avoid paying a Realtor’s fee, a homeowner puts his home on the market and plans to represent himself in the negotiation. Buyers who are represented by a Realtor fall in love with the property and make an offer. The Realtor representing the buyers wants everything to go smoothly for her clients, so she finds herself in an awkward position when the seller starts asking questions about the sales contract. It is in the best interest of her clients that the seller understands the offer, but as soon as the Realtor starts answering the seller’s questions, she may inadvertently be signing up to represent him as well as the buyers.

Realtors can also accidentally become legal property managers simply by being helpful. For example, if a property owner finds a tenant for her investment property and asks a Realtor for help negotiating the lease, that Realtor has legally become the property manager. If the property in question is later found to have black mold and the tenant gets sick, the Realtor could be liable for damages as a property manager who didn’t adhere to regulatory requirements.

If you’re a Realtor, protect yourself by educating friends and clients about your legal liability when it comes to giving real estate advice.

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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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.

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.

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 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.