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San Rafael Resale Inspections, Point of Sale Sewer Lateral Inspections and SASM, Upcoming CAR Meetings. MAR Monday Memo 04/21/14

Good morning MAR members! Happy Easter, Happy Earth Day!

With tax day blessedly behind us…so many buyers, so few houses, where is the inventory? Likely many listings in the coming weeks, but way more buyers than houses right now! The practice of auction-like pricing seems reasonable for our sellers, but it’s making so much work for so many whose buyers don’t really have a shot. Ten offers means nine sets buyers, nine agents and probably 7-8 mortgage brokers who all come away empty-handed. At least we’re all staying busy…

Last week’s big news–that the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin is considering a model ordinance for the various agencies that fall under its advisory umbrella–generated a lot of discussion among our member community. MAR has been in touch with many relevant stakeholders, sharing our opinion that point-of-sale inspections are not the solution. Point of sale inspections will result in a 47-year resolution to an immediate problem, and the very real and substantial issue of shared laterals leaves many unanswered questions. SASM needs to come up with a real plan. The vote that was going to occur last Thursday did not occur, and SASM is seeking more of MAR’s input into the process. Stay tuned.

The other big continuing issue is the ongoing San Rafael resale inspection matter. Thank you to all of you who have contacted me with feedback. It’s edged every other matter aside as far as feedback is concerned. I literally get several calls a day. While every individual case is different, MAR is advocating on our collective behalf.

To that end, MAR CEO Andy Fegley and I met last Wednesday with San Rafael City Manager Linda Mackel, and two key members of her team: Paul Jensen, the Community Development Director, and Thomas Ahrens, head of the building department. I’ll describe it as a good meeting, but with a lot of loose ends that remain untied. But they did give us an hour, and listened intently to our feedback and they took a lot of notes and asked a lot of questions.

Again, thank you for all of your feedback as I had a ton of specific, timely, recent info to share. They were largely aware of every case we discussed. They also acknowledged that there has been a material uptick in the complaints with the enforcement process, though City Manager Nancy Mackel did not seem to be aware of the magnitude of homeowner and MAR member frustration.

My message remained simple: (1) It is because of San Rafael’s decision to have resale inspections that we find ourselves where we are; (2) there is no statewide regulation calling for resale inspections, and most municipalities don’t have the requirement; (3) because of San Rafael’s requirement for resale inspections, we all put a lot of weight in their content, and people inform what is often the largest financial decision they make based on the info in this report; (4) if San Rafael requires these inspections, and gets them wrong (in the past), and people make hundreds-of-thousands or million dollar decisions based on the contents, do not come back and penalize the new homeowner (and future seller) for mistakes or omissions that San Rafael made with its mandatory report in the past; (5) this new level of compliance enforcement for sometimes decades-old improvements are creating uncertainty, slowing escrows, and hindering commerce in the largest economic driver in the City of San Rafael.

The first Principle in MAR’s Fair Principles for Resale Inspections is “Consistency” and the second is “No Double Jeopardy”. We obviously have a current disconnect with these two principles right now. MAR is all for compliance, but if San Rafael is going to suddenly escalate the rigidness of its compliance requirement, it can’t suddenly change the way it does business and not expect substantial pushback.

San Rafael must create a smooth path to compliance, with allowances for situations, permit fees and penalties that exist today because of San Rafael’s mistakes and omissions in the past.

To his credit, Paul Jensen quickly followed up with us last Thursday to schedule a follow up meeting, and asked us for specific recommendations for improvements. I expect to be meeting with them again early next month.

Please keep sharing your stories. It’s hard to get resolution on every situation, or any one situation, but collectively they help me paint the clear picture of a broken process.

Finally, the California Association of REALTORS Spring Meetings and Legislative Day are next week. As I’ve said in the past, these are amazing meetings, particularly the Wednesday morning session when Governor Jerry Brown addresses the CAR Board of Directors, and later on Wednesday when the REALTOR Party makes its positions known and heard to our elected officials and their staffs. For more info on Leg Day, click here: I hope to see many of you in Sacramento next week!

MAR’s members on the CAR Board of Directors include myself, President-Elect Matt Hughes, Katie Beacock (who is also Chair of CAR’s Region 4, of which MAR is part), Kay Moore and Mary Kay Yamamoto. If you have any concerns you’d like us to take to CAR on your behalf, please contact one of us. That’s it for now. I wish you a safe and prosperous week!