Small house with rental label over a wooden background with space

Right Problem, Wrong Solution–Rent Control

 

In 1995, the California State Legislature enacted the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, preventing local governments from enacting rent controls on single-family homes and on housing built after 1995. Rent controls limit how much landlords can charge their tenants.

Proposition 10 would repeal the Costa-Hawkins legislation, thereby allowing local governments to adopt rent control ordinances without restriction. Before I tell you why this is a terrible idea, let me fully disclose that I personally own rentals and my company has clients who own rentals. We also sell properties used as rentals and we manage rentals. None of these things change the basic laws of supply and demand—and it is the laws of supply and demand that make Proposition 10 such a wrong-headed approach.

Prop. 10 proponents are big on emotional messaging and short on factual information. They share pictures of low-income seniors and disabled veterans with stories of them getting evicted next to slogans like, “The rent is too damn high.”

Rent control is price control. Does anyone remember trying to get gas during the 1970s? When President Nixon (and then Presidents Ford and Carter) artificially suppressed gas prices, they caused a huge mess and massive inflation. Stations ran out of gasoline and consumers could only buy gas on certain days. The artificial price caps prevented market forces from restoring balance.

Rent control will have a similar effect. The current waiting lists for rentals will get even longer. When vacancies appear, the people rent control is intended to help will be the first to suffer. Why would a landlord accept a prospective tenant with a monthly income of $3,000 when they have another applicant for that same unit who makes $7,000 per month?

On the supply side, if rent is capped at $1,000/month, but the cost of construction is $200,000/unit, no one is going to build. That’s the primary problem with any kind of price control. Rents go up because demand is up. If you eliminate the profit motive for building new units, you’ll eliminate the supply of new units. The only exception is when the government steps in and says, “Gee, there isn’t enough housing. We’ll build some.”

The most recent government-sponsored housing in Ukiah can be found next to the Sun House Museum. According to the City of Ukiah, a finished unit cost $382,000, including the land and construction. No developer in his right mind would build units at $382,000 with an artificially low rent schedule of $1,000-1,500 per unit. (That means that those of us who pay state and/or federal taxes have just seen an increase in our tax bill.)

The true solution to the housing shortage, especially the shortage of rental properties, is not rent control, which will inevitably lead to further shortages. Instead, the answer is to increase supply. The way to increase supply is to reduce the cost of development. To reduce the cost of development, we need to make more land available—zone more land for residential use. We also need to streamline the permit process, which the county has promised to do for 30+ years. And we need to cut building costs by reducing onerous and unnecessary building regulations.

Perhaps the single easiest and most effective way to increase the local housing supply is to dramatically reduce or eliminate the uncertainty surrounding the approval of new building projects. Right now, developers must invest tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars prior to final approval. Uncertainty leads to risk which leads to higher costs. Each time a developer starts a project that doesn’t receive final approval, the cost of that failed investment must be made up in the next project.

California definitely has a housing affordability crisis, but the problem is driven by a housing shortage that is driven by high development costs. Instead of rent control, let’s address the root of the problem—let’s reduce development costs.

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.

A spring and summer time show of weeds against a wall.

Maintain Your Property

As I was driving into town to come to work this morning, I noticed the weeds growing up in the median strip on Perkins Street near the Hwy 101 onramp and offramp. I’ve noticed these weed for weeks and they irritate me.

If you checked the median near Hwy 101 on Gobbi Street, I expect you’d see the same thing. While the City of Ukiah and other local government entities promote tourism by telling people what a great place Ukiah is (and it is!), seems to me they could put a little effort into improving visitors’ first impression of our town by trimming the weeds near the highway offramps.

For visitors who take Perkins Street into town, they will be greeted with properties along Perkins Street that are in desperate need of a little TLC. We’ve all seen these properties—with dead, overgrown landscaping and “For Rent” signs affixed with masking tape that’s peeling off in the summer heat.

If those visitors are here to scout out whether Ukiah would be a nice place to live, or even just to stay for a while, many of them are probably thinking, “No, thanks.” For those of us who travel those streets on a daily basis because we live here, it’s disheartening to see our town decline.

For property owners, this decline should be even more alarming. When adjacent properties aren’t maintained, the value of the whole neighborhood or business district goes down. And as for the occupied properties, patrons aren’t likely to have a very good impression of the business if the building and landscaping make it clear no one cares enough to mow the grass or paint the siding. Properties in disrepair leave customers with the impression that they’ll be receiving a lower quality of service and/or merchandise.

If a building is unoccupied—for sale or rent—a shabby appearance doesn’t do the property owners (or those nearby) any favors. Prospective tenants aren’t likely to think too highly about the caliber of the landlord. And they’ll take their cue about how to care for the place from the way it’s been cared for thus far. Prospective buyers are likely to wonder, if the landscaping and basic maintenance have been ignored, what other, more serious issues may have been ignored?

Although I cannot explain the physics of this next phenomenon, I’ve seen it enough to know it’s true: trash in a front yard does, in fact, attract more trash. The same goes for weeds and graffiti. By keeping up a little at a time, property owners prevent a snowball effect from occurring. One graffiti tag left unaddressed can lead to a building received a new coat of paint—spray paint, that is.

So, here’s my request. To the City of Ukiah, I ask that you take a couple hundred dollars out of the thousands spent on promotion and clean up the areas within your control. If you’re a property owner, take a little pride in your property. I’m not saying every building needs a manicured lawn and a new coat of paint every year, but I am suggesting that taking care of your property will improve its appearance, which will pay dividends for passersby, occupants and owners alike.

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.

 

 

Ross Liberty

Way to Go, Ukiah!

Ukiah is my hometown and I love living here. I know it’s not perfect, but no place is. One of the many things I enjoy about Ukiah is our unique sense of community. Last fall and again this summer, when fires threatened local homes, Ukiahans came together in truly remarkable ways.

According to the logistics guy who manages the firefighters’ staging area, uniformed firefighters can’t pay for anything in this town. They go into a restaurant for a meal, and it’s covered. They go to Ukiah Valley Athletic Club (the old Redwood Health Club) and they’re given a free membership for as long as they’re in town. They walk into Starbucks, and the coffee has been prepaid by other patrons.

I was eating in Star’s Restaurant and saw a group of firefighters having dinner. I asked the waitress if I could pay for their bill, but she told me another patron had beaten me to it—the meal was already paid for. I even heard about a lemonade stand where kids were raising money for firefighters. I confess that I never pass up a chance to support kids selling lemonade, but this time I made a point to get in my car and drive around looking for the lemonade stand so I could support them.

As I drive around town, I see signs thanking firefighters for their service all over the place, and I just learned that a group of citizens with thank-you signs have been greeting firefighters at 7:00 am each morning, standing across the street from where the firefighters rolled out, so the first thing the firefighters saw was signs of appreciation.

In small ways and big ways, Ukiah has rallied around the firefighters who have come from as far as Australia and New Zealand to safeguard our families and our homes. My best friend, Ross Liberty, owner of Factory Pipe, has gone way above the call of duty. Ross owns the old Masonite property and when he learned the firefighters needed a place to set up, he offered the use of his land for free. Just so you know, the going rate for providing that kind of space is about $5,000/day. When people ask why he doesn’t charge, he says, “They’re doing us a favor by being here. This is the least I can do.” But of course, that’s not true. It’s not the least he could do; he could have charged them. Instead, he’s just a great, community-minded guy, like a lot of people in this valley.

Local businesses aren’t only rallying around the firefighters; they’re also helping local people recover from the fire. The Lake and Mendocino County Rotary Clubs, North Coast Opportunities and the Community Foundation of Mendocino County have funds set up where people can donate to assist fire victims, and the Savings Bank of Mendocino County is giving a discount to people seeking construction loans if their property burned in the fire—whether it was last fall or this summer. Details are available by calling either Cesar Lopez or Jose Cardenas-Ortiz at (707) 462-6613.

As we go about our daily activities, most of us don’t put our lives at risk very often. Most of us don’t leave our families for extended periods of time. Firefighters do both, and sometimes they pay the ultimate price. My condolences to the family of Utah firefighter Matthew Burchett and my thanks to all the firefighters who came to fight the Mendocino Complex fire.

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.

nathan-dumlao-263787-accidental realtor

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UkiahCityHall

Solving the California Housing Shortage in Ukiah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

alex-holyoake-lightbulb-expensive mistakes

Avoid These Expensive Mistakes on Home Furnishings and Maintenance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

interest-rate-rawpixel-com-602154-unsplash

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.

 

RMS_Titanic_3

 Our Housing Shortage: Rearranging Deck Chairs While the Titanic Sinks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning and Home Maintenance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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