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Resale Inspections, Flood Insurance Alternative and Loss of One of Our Most Respected Realtors – MAR Monday Memo 03/10/14

Good morning MAR members!

Inventory is slowly starting to come online.  My brokerage had its monthly buy/sell meeting last Monday, and I was pleased to fill up two pages in my notebook of upcoming listings relevant to my clients…so they are on their way!  Several of you mentioned to me this week that you are flush with buyers and nothing to sell them.  This situation obviously creates anxiety for our buyers, and the resulting byproduct is anxiety for us as REALTORS.  In Patty Oxman’s presentation at our Marin Young Professionals Network meeting last week, Patty pointed out that there is 40% less inventory countywide than there was two years ago at the same time (mid-February).  And probably twice as many buyers, or more.  Hang in there MAR, spring is coming!

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you at the MAR General Membership meeting tomorrow for our Annual Meeting.  I will be introducing Andy Fegley, MAR’s new CEO.  Our Marin Market Update from Steve Dickason is always informative, timely and useful, and our keynote speaker Guv Hutcheson of CAR will update us on all that’s new and the best practices of selling California real estate.  Registration for the event is closed, but there still might be a few seats left, please call MAR to see if there is any room if you’d like to attend.

I’d like to take a moment and reflect on MAR’s loss of our dear friend Catherine Munson.  Talking about Catherine allows me to talk about service.  While unfortunately I cannot say that I was friends with Catherine, I can say I was friendly with Catherine.  I first heard of Catherine’s illness early last Monday morning when the emails and phone calls started to come in.  Call after call, email after email inquiring about what was known about her condition.  When I got the very unfortunate news that Catherine had passed, the calls and emails kept coming.  Stories about Catherine and how much she meant to people.

And stories about service.  Service to her community and service to her colleagues.  So many of you  looked to Catherine as a friend, mentor, and someone to look up to.  Kathy Schlegel summed it up best:  ”if you didn’t know her… you have missed much!! Probably the most respected REALTOR in Marin for the last 50 years.”  Indeed, Catherine gave of herself throughout her life, blazing many paths, and always coming back to service to her community.  Practicing her business of real estate right until the end.  I last saw Catherine at a brokers’ open house several months ago, and she was so full of energy, holding court with the neighbors, telling stories, and accompanying me out the front door to make sure all of my questions were answered.

MAR and Marin lost a true original last week.  Thank you Catherine Munson for all you gave to your community and your colleagues.

Thank you for all of your emails and conversations about last week’s topic, flood insurance.  Last week, the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly and with bipartisan support to pass its version of flood insurance relief.  While not as broad nor as generous as the Senate bill, it now heads to conference committee to determine what the final bill will look like.  The bipartisan nature of the vote makes me hopeful that they will hammer out something out soon.  The House’s bill falls short of the Senate bill in that it does not place a moratorium on increases like the Senate bill.  The House bill is more about  controlling the rate of everyone’s increase, and after some of the crazy increases I’ve heard of this will be good news as well.  Stay tuned.

Thank you to Chris Caproni, one of MAR’s mortgage broker affiliates.  We love our affiliate members! Chris shared some info with me about an alternative to FEMA, the Natural Catastrophe Insurance Program (NCIP) which is underwritten by Lloyds of London.  Unlike FEMA, this program looks to have the ability to provide more affordable flood insurance WITHOUT an elevation certificate.  I encourage all of you to confirm this with your lenders, but through all of this flood insurance mess perhaps this new market might launch a bit of flood insurance competition.  I’ve been hesitant in the past to utilize Lloyds of London, as it’s often a last resort with very high rates.  I saw some rates last week that seemed very reasonable to me by comparison.  Please keep talking with your lenders, and let’s all look into this rumored new competitive product to FEMA.

Finally this week, resale inspections.  It’s like the big nasty bear that goes into hibernation, only to wake up in the spring hungry and ornery.  When we get into resale inspection aggravation season, the calls and emails flow like water.  When the season is over, the calls and emails cease like someone turned off the faucet.  The trouble is, the season seems to happen at a different time every year.  But trust me, we are in season and the faucet is on.

One of our large municipalities seems to have gotten back into the double jeopardy business, big time.  Claiming the moral high ground, cleaning up “past mistakes.”  It’s the same story:  old resale inspections that said things were ok (or not mentioning problems), and problems arising when it’s time to sell, even though no work had been done on the house since the current owner purchased the property.  This municipality has been telling our colleagues that it’s time to “clean things up.”

Two years ago, MAR’s Government Affairs Committee, under the leadership of then-chairman Gene Laico, came up with MAR’s “Fair Principles for Resale Inspections”.  An amazingly lucid and reasonable set of principles that are hard to argue with:  (1) Consistency–building standards should not be applied retroactively;  (2) no “double jeopardy”–no problem items on new reports that were not identified on prior reports; (3) Transparency–cities and towns should communicate resale inspection requirements in advance; (4) Timely inspection process; (5) No excess inspection fees; (6) Distressed home sales–in the difficult environment from which we are just now emerging, cities and towns should be sensitive that there is often no money for corrective repairs by the sellers.

We have witnessed politician after politician come through MAR, under various contexts, some reporting on their towns, some asking for MAR’s support at election time, and all in general agreeing with the reasonableness of these Fair Principles.  I’ve read these Fair Principles at town council meetings with affirmative nods all around.

We need to remind our partners in the building departments that the leaders of their towns agree with our Fair Principles for Resale Inspections.

Please keep sharing your stories of troublesome resale inspections.  This is something that MAR works on every year, advocating for our members.  We are on it.

I wish you a safe and prosperous week!