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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.

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Smart Homes Keep You Connected 24/7 – Part II

 

Last week, I shared some of the smart-home innovations made possible by modern technology, things like thermostats you can adjust with your cell phone regardless of your location, and smart doors and doorbells that allow you to unlock your door automatically or respond to a visitor at your door without being home.

These are just a few of the conveniences modern families can enjoy. Here are more you may not have heard about yet.

AMAZON DASH BUTTON

Don’t you hate it when you get home from a long day at work and realize you forgot to pick up cat food (again)? Amazon.com knows we’re busy, so they’ve made it incredibly easy to purchase household items with their Dash buttons. At home, I have a Dash button affixed to the wall in the garage directly above the place where I store my cat food. When we’re running low, I hit the button and it flashes green. Two days later a 25lb bag of cat food is delivered to my front door.

It’s really quite brilliant. You simply affix an Amazon Dash button on the wall or on the inside of a cabinet door (near the place your store the item in question), and when you run low on whatever it is—pet food, dishwasher detergent, soap, toilet paper, or any other essentials—you simply press the button and your wi-fi sends a signal to Amazon.com to put your item in the mail to you. Each Dash Button costs about $5, but since Amazon discounts your first order by that amount, the button is, in essence, free.

SMART REFRIGERATOR

At this January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, LG featured a new refrigerator that did everything except make dinner. You can look into the fridge without opening the doors, create notes and reminders, scroll through recipes, peer into your fridge remotely, and monitor the freshness of your groceries. Right now you have to manually enter expiration dates to get alerts as those dates approach. Eventually, you’ll be able to scan those expiration dates, removing the need for manual entry. Gone are the days when you have to call home to find out whether you have enough butter.

ROBOT VACUUMS

Probably one of my favorite inventions is the Roomba, in our house we call it “Robby the Robot.” Granted, this is not a smart-home innovation as far as its connection to the internet, but it sure is convenient. Our version just vacuums hard surfaces, but the newest robot vacuums can also mop the kitchen floor and clean windows.

SMART GLASS

Smart glass is another cool invention. With an electrical charge, clear glass becomes opaque. I can imagine installing this in the bathroom. When someone’s in the shower or on the commode, you make the glass opaque; otherwise, you allow the clear glass to make the bathroom feel more expansive.

SMART TELEVISION

Voice-activated television is sure handy. You can surf the net, watch YouTube, enjoy a show on Netflix or Amazon Prime, and you never have to get off the couch. I can say, “Hey Google, I’d like to watch Scandal.” Google responds, “Would you like it on YouTube or Netflix?” If I choose Netflix, Google remembers and sets it up that way next time, too.

You do have to be a little careful because advertisers have discovered that if they include “Hey Google” or “Alexa” in their commercials, they can cause your smart-gadgets to order their product for you.

ATOMIC CLOCKS

If all this smart gadgetry seems a little too much, you may consider starting with an atomic clock. These battery-powered clocks connect to an atomic clock so they are always on the right time. When Daylight Savings begins or ends, the clocks automatically make the adjustment. Maybe that’s enough convenience for now.

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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Smart Homes Keep You Connected 24/7 – Part I

In 1898, the commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office, Charles Holland Duell, reportedly said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Wouldn’t he be surprised if he attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas each January to see all the latest tech creations?

For decades, technology has developed at an astonishing pace, changing how we interact with each other and the world around us. One area of development has been “smart home” technology—the creation of devices and software that allow us to have remote access to our homes and keep us more comfortable when we’re at home.

In the 1980s, we thought it was high tech to use timers for lights, thermostats and coffee pots. It was revolutionary when we began recording TV programs on VCRs, so we could watch our favorite shows whenever we felt like it and fast-forward past commercials.

These days, we have computers that can teach themselves how to make us more comfortable. For my birthday, my children got me the new Nest thermostat, which not only allows me to program temperature settings, but also to access the system with my cell phone. When I was feeling under the weather recently, I used my phone to tell Nest to increase the temperature in my house because I planned to go home early. By the time I got home, it was nice and warm.

Nest also predicts my needs. I’d been turning down the heat when I headed off to bed about the same time each night. Then I went to bed early a few nights in a row, and the Nest system noticed the new behavior and turned the heat down at my new bedtime automatically.

If I’m at home and I don’t happen to have my cell phone in my hand, I can simply say, “Hey, Google. Please turn up the temperature to 70 degrees.” And just like that, my house starts warming up.

During the holidays, we had a Christmas tree with lights that plugged into a wall outlet behind the tree. Turning the lights on and off required gymnast-like dexterity and flexibility, neither of which I possess. So, we made that outlet a smart plug, and all I had to do to turn the lights on was to say, “Hey, Google. Turn the Christmas tree lights on.” Voila, beautiful lights.

Another bit of smart-home convenience comes in the form of the smart door. How many times have you approached your locked front door with arms full of groceries, fumbled for your keys, dropped your keys, then as you attempted to pick up your keys, dropped your groceries (usually the bag with the eggs)? With a smart door, this never has to happen.

You can convert your old front door into a smart door with a new lock and knob that detects your phone and automatically unlocks the door. You can also program the door to open for your cleaning lady’s digital key on Tuesdays between 1-3 PM when she’s scheduled to arrive, or provide a one-time entry key to the dishwasher repairman so he can stop the water from leaking all over your kitchen floor.

In addition to convenience, smart homes can increase safety. The smart doorbell allows you to see who is at your door and to talk to them. This is not a huge improvement over the peephole and yelling through the door, until you realize that you can respond to the person at the door from your lounge chair in Cancun. The person at the door has no idea you’re not home.

If someone does decide to break into your home, motion sensors trigger the auto-record feature of your video surveillance cameras, allowing police to get a good look at the intruder.

These are just a few of the smart-home innovations available. Who knows what’s next?

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.

MCCC

Mendocino County Construction Corps

As long as there have been schools, there have been students who knew sitting in a classroom all day wasn’t for them. This feeling doesn’t necessarily go away when it comes to the workplace; not everyone is meant to sit behind a desk. But because kids often hear that they have to go to college to amount to anything, they don’t consider other avenues.

Well, I’m here to present another avenue: getting into the trades. In Mendocino County, many tradespeople are approaching retirement age and they cannot find enough people to replace them. I just attended a meeting of the Mendocino County Construction Corps (MCCC) program, a pilot program that encourages high school seniors to pursue a career in construction, and I enthusiastically support it.

MCCC is made up of tradespeople and business people, educators, and community benefit organizations. It’s a great example of community members recognizing a need and working together to address it.

As a real estate broker, my business depends on having enough housing for the people who live in our valley. Right now, we have a shortage—one that just got worse because of last October’s fires. I love the idea of local people supporting themselves financially by becoming carpenters, plumbers, electricians and general contractors. I also love the idea of having enough plumbers in town so if my washing machine breaks and water is flowing all over my house, there’s someone I can call who can help me immediately.

In recent years, there’s been more school funding for what they call “career technical education” (CTE), programs that help students get the skills they need to pursue careers that do not necessarily include going to a four-year university. CTE programs remind students that there are plenty of people who make a good living fixing cars, growing food, and building houses, among other pursuits.

While there is some money for CTE programs, it’s limited, so when Ukiah Unified School District CTE Coordinator Eric Crawford was inspired to start the MCCC, he knew he’d have to figure out how to fund it with grants and donations. He pulled together a steering committee and since then, he has been able to raise more than 75 percent of the funding needed to provide 14 weeks of education for the 21 students who were chosen through a rigorous selection process.

The program includes weekly evening classes and four all-day Saturday classes on subjects like power tools, reading blueprints, construction safety, first aid/CPR, framing, roofing, solar, plumbing, concrete, electrical, construction math and more. Students also learn to drive a forklift and other heavy machinery.

Once they complete the coursework, which is mostly hands-on practice, the students participate in a two-week boot camp where they help build houses for Rural Communities Housing Development Corporation and the Hope Crisis Response Network. At the end of all this, they’ll receive a $750 stipend for their work and a tool belt with tools to get them started.

Local tradespeople who believe in the importance of supporting our community and who like the idea of creating a pool of well-trained people have volunteered to teach the classes. John Boies of Granite Construction said Granite encourages employees to give back to the community, which made it easy for those who like to teach to sign up.

In addition to teaching, several local businesses signed up to be major donors (donating $1,000 or more) include Christensen Construction, Friedman’s Home Improvement, the General Contractors Association, Granite Construction, Guillon Inc. Construction, John McCowen, the Mendocino County Office of Education, Mendo Mill, Menton Builders, Jim and Arlene Moorehead, Realty World Selzer Realty, and the Ted and Wilma Westman Fund of the Community Foundation of Mendocino County.

After the boot camp, local contractors will have the opportunity to hire MCCC graduates. If you’re interested in learning more about this program, visit https://sites.google.com/uusd.net/mcccwebsite.

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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Warning Signs of Underlying Problems

When you fall in love with a house, it’s easy to get swept away in the emotion of it all, imagining summer barbecues in the backyard and holiday celebrations around the hearth.

However, before you begin arranging the furniture, be sure to look for these warning signs that things may not be as perfect as they appear.

  1. Overpowering Scent
    When your Realtor opens the front door to show you a house for sale and your nostrils are immediately accosted by strong smells, from candles to air freshener, be suspicious. It’s one thing to notice a pleasant aroma; it’s another when the smell is strong enough to mask a problem. Pets, mold, smoking and other issues can cause long-term odors.
  2. Gaps in Tile Work
    Poorly executed do-it-yourself remodeling can be problematic for a few reasons. At best, it’s unappealing. At worst, it may indicate this and other work on the house doesn’t meet professional standards. For example, is the tile the only problem, or did the previous owners neglect to remove the dry rot underneath, opting to patch over it instead?
  3. Major Cracks and/or Sticky Doors and Windows
    Most homes have hairline cracks in walls in ceilings, but if you see major cracks, take a closer look. Is the house settling on its foundation, or is the foundation crumbling? Also, pay attention to any doors or windows that are hard to open and close. If you’re concerned, consider hiring a contractor, home inspector or engineer to check things out.

    While foundation problems may be more common on hillsides, flat lots can be unstable, too. I once owned a building on a flat lot. It was a concrete building on a slab floor. What I didn’t know when I bought it was that one corner of the building had been built on an old dumpsite. The landfill underneath began to settle and that corner of the building settled with it. After extensive and expensive testing and renovation, the problem was finally solved, but it was a huge bummer.

  1. Mold
    A few small, black or gray mold spots may seem like no big deal but think again. Mold can cause major health problems, and it may indicate more extensive water damage that isn’t visible during a casual inspection. Look carefully at walls, inside cabinets, under sinks and behind furniture in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, around water heaters, and anywhere else water is commonly used. Keep in mind that problems resulting from mold can be so bad that some insurance companies exclude them from homeowner policies.
  2. Cosmetic Enhancements
    Paint can hide a multitude of problems. While many people put a new coat of paint on the interior and exterior of the house to spruce things up before they sell, others use paint to cover flaws. It’s perfectly okay to ask your Realtor, “Is that new paint covering anything I should know about?”

It’s always better to find problems before escrow closes. Of course, sellers are legally required to disclose problems, but they can only disclose what they know or should reasonably have been expected to know. This is why inspections are so important: home, roof, pest and fungus, heat and air, well, pool and more! Can they get expensive? Sure, but not getting them can be even more expensive. Consider the cost of inspections a down payment on your peace of mind.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. 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 www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

arbitration

Arbitration

When you buy or sell a house, it can be very exciting, whether you’re becoming a homeowner for the first time, upgrading to a new neighborhood, or selling a home to start an adventure elsewhere. Sometimes, however, things do not go as planned.

There’s a paragraph in the standard purchase agreement from the California Association of Realtors that allows a buyer to include an arbitration agreement as part of the offer. The agreement basically states that if the buyer and seller have a disagreement that will likely amount to more than a small-claims-court-sized settlement, then both parties agree to binding arbitration.

Arbitration is an alternative to taking someone to court. It’s a dispute resolution process whereby both parties agree to an arbitrator who acts like a judge, listening to arguments from both sides, reviewing the evidence, and “awarding” one side or the other. Usually, arbitrators are attorneys or retired judges, but sometimes a real estate expert can fill the role. The upsides of arbitration are that it is typically cheaper and faster than litigation. The downside is that it is often binding, whether the arbitrator makes a bad decision or not. If there’s mistake is in your favor, that’s great; but if you’re on the losing end, you’re stuck with it.

While this may give you pause, arbitration is often a faster, less expensive alternative to litigation. Here’s how it works.

A typical arbitration starts with selecting an arbitrator. Both sides must agree to the arbitrator, preventing one side from insisting that their brother-in-law, who happens to be a lawyer, preside over the case, for example. Since most people don’t go into arbitration too often, they contact a private arbitration service to fine a qualified person.

Once the arbitrator is selected, the buyer and seller submit formal written statements before the hearing, outlining their positions on the dispute. Both sides then prepare for the hearing, which to the untrained eye seems exactly like a court trial. Both parties submit evidence, call and cross-examine witnesses, and make arguments to the arbitrator. They can also depose witnesses and gather written evidence and documents.

After the arbitrator considers all the evidence and testimony, they announce their decision (usually several days after the hearing ends). This whole process can take months, which may sound like a long time until you realize that if it were litigated in the courts, the same case could take years.

The types of disputes requiring arbitration include things like breach of contract, misrepresentation and/or fraud. The arbitration agreement most often used in Mendocino County excludes certain matters from arbitration, including those within the jurisdiction of small claims, probate or bankruptcy court.

Be aware that if a dispute includes the actions of a third party (someone other than the buyer and seller), arbitration usually isn’t worthwhile because the third party isn’t bound by the arbitrator’s decision. For example, if a dispute involves an inspector, insurer, or appraiser, unless they agree to arbitration, they can simply refuse to comply with the arbitrator’s findings.

Even if the buyer and seller did not agree to arbitration in their original purchase agreement, they can still opt to go that route in the event of a dispute. The bottom line is this: there are pros and cons to arbitration, and the best way to know if it is a good choice for you is to ask your attorney. Talk to your attorney for advice; advice WILL change based on the facts of the case.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. 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 www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

RWSR Sign

Tired of Renting? Now’s a Great Time to Buy!

Many renters are under the mistaken impression that they cannot afford to buy a house. Some believe they need a substantial down payment; others believe they cannot afford the monthly expenses of home ownership. While these assumptions may be true, it’s best to review the facts before crossing home ownership off your list.

We’ll assume you’re a first-time homebuyer interested in buying a $380,000 home in Ukiah’s Oak Manor subdivision. You don’t have money for a down payment, but you do have a job and good credit. You’ve been paying $1800 per month for rent, but you could afford a little more.

Here’s the good news: FHA loans do not require a large down payment (typically 3 percent), and at today’s rates if your household income is at least $85,000, you may be able to qualify for a loan that gets you into that $380,000 house. You’ll need to budget about $2400 for PITI (i.e., mortgage payment, interest, taxes, and insurance). So, instead of buying that new car, find a used one and, voila! You can afford little higher monthly house payment.

You’ll also need to budget for things the landlord used to pay for, like painting your home inside and out, putting a new roof on, replacing the water heater, and similar maintenance. Let’s estimate about 1.5 percent of the purchase price for upkeep each year (about $475/month), since that’s usually about what it costs.

Before you panic, let me share a little more good news: you get to write off some of your mortgage payment. Let’s say your household income puts you in the 25 percent tax bracket. Some of your mortgage payment is tax deductible:

Mortgage payment        $2400
Maintenance/upkeep   $   475
Tax benefits                    $ -265
                                          $2610/month

If you think this is a realistic number, here are some important facts about qualifying for a home loan. First, you need to have good credit (a credit score in the mid-to-high 600s). Next, you need reportable income. For the FHA loan I’ve used as an example, there are minimum income restrictions based on formulas that have to do with the number of people in your household, the number of children you have, and other factors. The final requirement is job stability. You need to have been in your job for at least a year, and it needs to appear that you will remain in that job for the foreseeable future.

Owning your own home has many benefits, the most obvious of which is financial. Your monthly mortgage payments allow you to build equity in an investment that is likely to increase in value over time. I can’t make promises, but I can tell you that with all the ups and downs in the economy during the past 50 years, the overall trend in the value of real estate has been up. I bought my first property in 1973 for $18,000. Today, it is conservatively worth $275,000. That’s an average annual increase of 6.4 percent.

Owning your own home also has benefits that go beyond financial. You get to pound a nail and hang your child’s artwork wherever you want without asking anyone for permission. You get to plant trees, paint a room your favorite color, and rip up that ugly carpet. And all your hard work benefits YOU.

If you think you might be able to purchase a home and you’d like to learn more, call your local Realtor and they can help you figure it out.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. 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 www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

HeatGoesOut

What To Do When Your Heater Goes Out Midwinter

You may have noticed that heaters, and electricity in general, have a way of going out when Mother Nature brings her coldest winter storm of the season. While we don’t face the same freezing extremes as people in Wisconsin or Minnesota, it’s still a bummer to be cold. If you have a low tolerance for whining and you live with teenagers, a broken heater in winter can be truly unbearable.

So how can you warm up with a broken heater? After you schedule a service call, the first thing to do is to locate any places in your home where outside air can get in. Cracked windows are common culprits, as are poorly caulked or weather-stripped doors. Ideally, you’ll want to replace broken or cracked windows, but since that can get expensive and takes time, re-caulking and/or putting packing tape over cracks and holes will help keep warm air in and cold air (and moisture) out.

Keep curtains and other window coverings closed until sunlight hits the windows directly. During the day, concentrate heat in the main living quarters by closing doors to unused rooms such as bedrooms and bathrooms. To make this even more useful, you can get under-door draft stoppers at CVS. These sleeves fit under the door with Styrofoam cylinders on either side, effectively preventing drafts under the door.

Once you’ve done all you can to prevent warm air from escaping, you can do a few things to increase the indoor temperature. If your heater is broken, but you have electricity, you have more options, of course. You can bring in space heaters and allow the heat from the stove and/or oven to warm things up. Incandescent light bulbs, while not a great source of heat, do produce some. (You’ll know this if you’ve ever burned your fingers trying to change a bulb after it’s been on for a while.)

If your electricity is out, options are more limited. If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, you’re in great shape. If not, candles help a little, as do kerosene or propane lamps from your old camping days. Be careful with these, especially if you have small children in the home. Never leave them unattended. If you use a kerosene lamp or heater, be sure to crack a window to re-oxygenate the room. If you have ceiling fans, you can reverse their direction (or install the blades upside down) to push warm air down toward you. You’ll also feel warmer if you put rugs over hardwood or tile floors.

Although healthy adults can throw on warm pants and a ski jacket and do just fine without a functioning heater, be aware that infants and old folks have a harder time regulating their temperature. Be sure to keep them extra bundled.

While Murphy’s Law gets all of us eventually, you can sometimes prevent your heater from going out at the most inopportune time with some preventive maintenance. Call the furnace inspector in fall when you’re the only one calling, rather than in December when everyone in Ukiah wants an inspection. As a side note: be sure to ask for a carbon monoxide inspection at the same time. We recently had a property management client call to let us know their carbon monoxide alarm went off. When we called to have the heater inspected, the company did not check for carbon monoxide, only to be sure the heater appeared to be heating. I was livid.

Preparing for contingencies is rarely the most pressing thing on anyone’s mind, but you’ll thank yourself later if you find yourself in a pinch. For tips on winterizing your home, visit richardselzer.com/2017/10/23/winterizing-your-home. For more on emergency preparedness, visit richardselzer.com/2017/10/30/emergency-preparedness-mendocino-county.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. 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 www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.