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Agent Safety, SB-407 & Short Sale Auctions – Blaine Morris’ 2014 President of Marin Association of Realtors 02/24/14 Monday Memo

Good morning MAR members!

Auctions and Faucets and Prowlers, Oh My!

With ski week behind us, I anticipate a big week ahead.  From the looks of my email inbox, everyone is desperate and looking for properties to sell buyers.  I’m hopeful that this week is the week that sellers start to cooperate!

As for SB-407, well, we got it on the front page of the Marin IJ this week:

So I’ll call my efforts to get the word out a success.  Notwithstanding the IJ’s error in calling it “SB-470”, the article was largely accurate.  Janis Mara of the IJ called me a few weeks back, after having a realtor tell her about the new law.  Janis was looking for answers, and I had to break it to her that so was I…

Anyway, the local building officials group DID have its monthly meeting last week, and my understanding was that pretty much the entire meeting was devoted to this subject.  They have formed a committee to address this, and the goal is to come back with a template either next month or the month after.  The spirit of the CALBO direction seems to be the direction our local officials are headed:

Net-net, most permitted repairs shouldn’t trigger a retrofit.

Interestingly, the building official I spoke with said that “typically, the legislature legislates intent, and leaves it up to the building officials to provide the details of the code.  This time, the legislature legislated a very vague code with all sorts of grey area, and the building officials are left picking up the pieces.”  I could not agree more.  For example, please define a low-flow bathtub faucet…


Moving on, everyone was commenting to me on the subject of auctions that I raised last week, but no one was offering specifics on how they were harmed or held liable as the result of an auction process…anyone?  CAR has asked for our help.  Most of the comments centered on the one aspect of this auction world that I can’t comment on, compensation.  MAR, CAR and NAR cannot get involved in that area, sorry.


Now, on to my Big Subject of the week:  agent safety.  I want to thank our friends at Alain Pinel for bringing some unsettling stories to my attention from this past week relating to brokers’ open and open house security.  Super-important stuff, and these real-world stories offer a useful safety refresher for all of us.

First of all, I was reminded about how we live in a different world…or that the world is getting smaller and some problems we’ve not typically worried about here in Marin are starting to come to our doorstep.  Home invasions, anyone?  I read this article in the IJ last month, and was reminded about it by a couple of agents this past week:

In that one, robbers pushed their way into a Greenbrae home, last month, bound him and locked him in a closet and ransacked the home.

Earlier this month, the IJ discussed this growing trend of burglaries and robberies where our residents come face-to-face with these criminals:

I don’t know if we’re in the midst of a new trend here in Marin, but I’m certainly hearing about this sort of thing much more lately.

Which brings me back to agent safety.  Many of these stories seem to be coming out of Novato, where several years ago we had a very brazen prescription drug bandit.  This past week, one agent had prescription drugs stolen at the house during the Sunday open.  She has filed a police report, and the cops were ADAMENT that we need to report these things, it’s an increasing problem.

Another agent’s story was relayed from last week:  “one of our agents last week had just opened up an open house when a fairly large man entered the home.  Agent felt that he was a bit nervous.  The first thing he asked her was where the master bedroom was; she answered that it was upstairs.  He then asked her to please show it to him.  She said that she was busy opening up the home, etc, but he could go ahead up; he did so, and then called down to her to please come up and show it to her.  She just kept telling him that she was still setting up the home, etc.  When she asked him questions about what he was looking for and where he currently lived, he fumbled his answers and appeared to be making answers up on the spot.  It was a very uncomfortable situation; while he was there, agent made sure that she stood by the front door of the home in case she needed to get out quickly or get help.”

And another from last Wednesday’s broker’s tour in Novato:  “A man came in.  Not an agent. Claimed no one sent him there to see the condo.  He went upstairs.  She clearly heard him opening drawers.  She was alone so she didn’t say a word and stayed near the front door. He came down a bit later.  When she quizzed him again on what he was looking for and/or where he currently lived he was very aloof.  She got a strange feeling from him.  She informed the homeowner. ”

Are these all related?  Who knows, these sorts of stories come up every year.  PLEASE pass them along to your broker and to MAR.

Another safety item we should all take to heart and was shared this week by Carol Munson:  There is a local Marin emergency dispatch number,  415-472-0911.  Who knew?  You save critical and valuable time rather than being routed through some regional 911 call center.  Minutes count, please put this number in your cell phone!

I’m up front with sellers when I take a listing, and emphasize again when we are going on the market:   secure your valuables, particularly jewelry and things that can get up and walk away.  AND secure your prescription medication…particularly any sort of pain or anxiety medication.

Several years ago, in my extended family one of my family members developed a very bad problem with prescription medication that led to all sorts of bad things, bad behavior and ultimately very bad outcomes.  It’s everywhere.  I read last week that heroin overdoses have more than doubled in the last five years.  Doubled!  Heroin?  Really?  Why?  Because it’s easier and cheaper to get than increasingly regulated prescription meds.  So if you’re someone with a problem, perhaps it’s a little easier to go tour pretty homes on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday to support your habit than it is to resort to pursuing the even harder stuff…

As a man, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about my own safety beyond common sense and keeping an eye out.  But I’m also sensitive to the fact that our women colleagues view the issue of personal safety through a different lens.  I drove to a broker event last Thursday night in a big Suburban with seven of my women colleagues.  This issue was fresh in my mind, and I asked the women how many of them had felt uncomfortable in the past with someone in an open house.  All seven hands went up.  Then I asked how many had been fearful of her own safety to the point where she took active measures to secure her own safety.  Four of the seven hands went up.  “It’s a scary feeling and difficult to describe to a man” one of them said.

So let’s all be safe out there!  I’m not an expert on safety by any means, but don’t let unfamiliar visitors get between you and the front door or other safe exit.

NAR has a great agent safety website here:  I’m also looking into an agent safety class at MAR.  Several years ago we had one of our members, who is a black belt, teach a well-attended safety class at MAR.  We’re going to look into something similar.  Another agent told me that they had the San Anselmo chief of police come in and give a safety and self-defense class at her gym that was well-attended.

MAR takes this matter very seriously.

I wish you all a safe and prosperous week ahead!