Once again my husband, Cliff, has appointed himself the official "Commish" for March Madness. For years, he's poked fun of my unorthodox choices as I struggle to fill in my bracket -
"What's the school mascot?" I hopefully ask, grasping at straws. (I don't really follow basketball.)
As one grown niece pointed out to her boyfriend who participated in the tournament for the first time this year; "Essentially, my uncle makes up dumb rules as the tournament progresses to manipulate the outcome."
I'm not sure Cliff would agree with Karen's observation, but suffice it to say that he does takes great pleasure in this self-appointed role while the rest of the family plots a dethroning.
As you might imagine, there is all kinds of misbehavior that ensues between the warring families (Gardner North and Gardner East) as the incriminating emails fly back and forth throughout the tournament until a lone and much aligned victor is left standing at the end.
Here in the world of Real Estate, we are experiencing our own "March Madness" of sorts as prices move up, up, UP! It's actually the same pattern we see every year as the Spring Market takes off before it can no longer absorb the escalating appreciation and finally finds its cruising altitude. This year, the unprecedented early results have been amplified by too little inventory and tremendous pent-up Buyer demand - fielded by tremendous cash on hand!
While it may seem as if there are no rules in place regarding this highly heated marketplace; there are:
The most important of them has to do with DISCLOSURE. As many of you know, Cliff and I recently sold our home here in Piedmont and made an offer on a "fixer" in Crocker Highlands. I'm a girl who doesn't mind taking on these less-than-perfect properties, but throughout the transaction, I really struggled with the LACK of disclosure the Listing Agent and the Sellers provided on the other end.
It's one thing to waive inspections on a property that's been thoroughly inspected, but it's quite another to take one on that hasn't. Unless you are buying a foreclosure on the courthouse steps - at a significant discount - 'disclosure' is part and parcel of the process - as it should be! "I encourage you to have a pest, home, and sewer lateral inspection" I routinely tell my Sellers, "and if those inspections identify any red flags, we will investigate further and either correct the issues or quantify them." (It's not enough to identify an old furnace, you need to put a price tag on how much it will cost to replace it, or the Buyer will!)
(I'm just getting started.) "In addition, the law requires a Natural Hazards Disclosure, Seller Transfer Disclosures, a Lead Based Paint Disclosure, Water Conservation Disclosure, etc., etc., etc., AND several boiler plated disclosures, point-of-sale disclosures, and here in Piedmont: a permit history search and a sidewalk inspection as well. In the case of a condominium or townhouse sale, there are also HOA rules, CC&Rs, annual financial statements and at least twelve months of meeting minutes. (Whew!) Ultimately, the stack of disclosure is about the size of a phone book (remember those?) and a time-consuming endeavor on both our parts.
"What's the point of all these seemingly redundant disclosures?"
They provide the Buyer with material facts about your home so that he/she can make an informed decision about the property and its current condition, AND then submit a price based on this relevant information. Having done so, it's much less likely that the Buyer will renegotiate an accepted offer once in escrow.
And while pointing out a home's defects is the last thing many Sellers want to do, it actually protects the Sellers from future lawsuits regarding items that could have, and should have, been disclosed, prior to the sale. (Hiding material facts is behavior a seller should NEVER participate in.)
In the end, Cliff and I ponied up the dollars to do our own investigations and closed the transaction earlier this week. It's money well spent, in my opinion, to better understand - upfront - the property and the responsibilities we have agreed to assume. While admittedly, there is LOTS to tackle there, hopefully, we've mitigated any unwelcome surprises as we progress.
As for March Madness . . . I'm going to fumble along year after year utilizing my own unconventional methods and hoping for the surprising upset along the way. (This tournament may be the only place in which the "surprising upset" is a welcome outcome.)
It could happen. After all, I'm married to the "Commish" so I have friends in high places.
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.