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4 Common Code Violations Do-it-Yourselfers Often Make Without the Help of a General Contractor

Many homeowners believe themselves to be handy enough with their power tools to do various home improvement tasks on their own, but larger scale jobs involve a lot more knowledge and experience than what the average do-it-yourselfer possesses. Something else to consider is that when you take renovation projects into your own hands instead of hiring a professional general contractor to get the work completed, you’re not only risking accidents that could lead to injuries, but also some pretty serious code violations. Building codes and regulations are put into place to ensure that homes are safe to live in, so not paying proper attention to these requirements could result in severe repercussions. Below are some of the most common code violations that DIYers commit.

Diving Into a Project Without the Proper Permits

A lot of people don’t realize that even though they may own their property, it’s still necessary to obtain the appropriate permits when certain renovations are being performed. A good general contractor will be familiar with the local specifications of a city and know which projects call for permits as well as how and where to apply. Skipping permits means not having the advantage of an inspection to make sure everything is up to code and could result in penalizations later on down the road if the house is ever put up for sale.

Not Installing Suitable Venting For Bathrooms

Many times, bathrooms are mistakenly vented into an enclosed space like the attic, which can cause all sorts of problems, not to mention it’s a code violation. To be considered suitable, bathroom venting fans should be installed so that they are delivering to the outside into fresh air instead of into an attic. Recycling the type of warm, damp air that comes from a bathroom into the attic often causes rotting and mold and mildew growth.

Incorrectly Wiring the Electricity

Electrical wiring is one of the trickiest and most critical parts of construction and remodeling, thus, definitely demanding the proficiency of an expert. Errors made by do-it-yourselfers in this department commonly include using the wrong size circuits, neglecting to put in or replace ground-fault circuit interrupters and splicing wires together without utilizing a junction box, and any of these blunders can be extremely dangerous.

Placing Smoke Alarms in an Inappropriate Location

Most homeowners know they need smoke alarms in their home, but they may not realize that where they’re actually placed is just as important as having them. They can’t be put just anywhere, such as close to an HVAC system. Because of their life-saving purpose, smoke alarms must be given enough space away from air ducts so as not to be affected by circulating air. There should also be one on every floor of the house and hard-wired with a backup battery in newer homes.

Code violations often happen when homeowners decide they want to save some money by doing home improvement projects on their own. Although this may work for smaller tasks, jobs that are a little more complicated could end up costing a lot more if not left up to a qualified general contractor.

Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Passes

Congress passed important tax extensions including the Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act that prevents underwater borrowers from paying taxes on mortgage debt. This legislation was very important to the REALTOR® community, and is now headed to President Obama’s desk.

National Association of REALTORS® President Chris Polychron issued the following statement on the passage of this important legislation: “The package of tax extensions approved by the U.S. House and Senate and headed to the President’s desk for signature, includes important provisions that will help distressed homeowners and commercial property investors with transactions made during 2014. NAR applauds Congressional leaders in both chambers for their effort to pass this legislation before adjournment.

“REALTORS® strongly supported the bipartisan Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act, which was included in the package to prevent underwater borrowers from paying taxes on any mortgage debt forgiven or cancelled by a lender in a workout or after their home was sold for less money than was owed. We are grateful to Senators Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Representatives Tom Reed R-N.Y., and Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., for championing the provision.

“The legislation also includes one-year extensions of the 15-year depreciation schedule for leasehold improvements and the deduction for improvements to energy efficient commercial buildings.”

This blog is not published only for informational purposes and should not be taken as legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional before making any financial decisions.

How to Choose the Right Moving Company and Services For Your Needs

moving-312082_640Regardless if you’re moving somewhere locally or to another city or state, there are many details you’ll have to work out in preparation. You may be focused on tasks like selling your current house and closing escrow on a new one or making sure your rental is cleaned thoroughly enough to earn back your deposit, collecting boxes for packing, setting up utilities, etc., but it’s important not to get so caught up in everything else that you forget one of the most important details of your move – selecting the moving company that’s going to be in charge of all your treasured belongings. Hiring a moving service to take care of all the heavy lifting and transporting can take a lot of stress off your shoulders, but only if you hire the right one. It shouldn’t be a last minute, hurried decision that you haven’t really put any thought into. Below are helpful tips on choosing between all the moving companies and services that are available to you.

Referrals and Research

Getting referrals from friends, family and neighbors are a great way to begin your quest for a reputable moving company. This allows you to hear a first-hand account from someone you trust about the experience they’ve had with a certain moving service. However, in addition to getting recommendations, you should do your own research so that you can see other client reviews and confirm if there’s a history of complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Looking at how a company represents themselves on the Internet can also be a good indication of how they conduct business.

Verify License and Insurance

A couple things you will want to ensure is that the moving company you’re considering is legally licensed and insured. Be aware that there are different licenses required of movers who operate solely within a state and those who cross state lines, so if there’s a moving company that you’re interested in, it’s a good idea to check and see what they are specifically licensed for. Furthermore, in the event that anything gets damaged during your move, it’s critical the company has insurance to cover your possessions.

Consider Staying Local

While you might be tempted to call one of the bigger national moving companies whose name you’re familiar with, staying with a local service oftentimes makes a move go much smoother. It can be a lot easier to deal with a company in the same area as you that works on a smaller scale and is more invested in their customers than a larger company that doesn’t always answer questions or address concerns in a timely manner.

Determine Which Services You Need

Not all moving companies offer the same services, so before you even start getting estimates you’ll want to make certain that a company is equipped to handle your needs. Some may provide residential moving services but not commercial or vice versa. You may also decide to simplify the moving process even further by choosing a company that has moving supplies available as well as storage options. A moving checklist is a useful source for planning out everything that your move will involve so you can figure out exactly what type of services you will require.

Collect and Review Estimates

You’ll probably want to collect estimates from a few different moving companies to compare the expected cost of your move. Review each quote carefully, and don’t just automatically opt for the lowest bid. Lower estimates may not account for all the moving services you need, which will be added on separately, leaving you with a significantly higher bill than you anticipated. Obtain quotes that include an in-home inventory whenever possible so that you end up with a number that is as accurate as possible.

Moving can be an overwhelming experience, but choosing the right moving company and services is sure to make a big difference in how well your transition goes.

C.A.R. Supports Proposition 1

The California Association of REALTORS® is supporting Proposition 1 on the November ballot. If approved this will authorize $7.1 billion of general obligation bonds to fund water infrastructure. Including money for water management and conservation projects, water quality projects, water recycling projects, water storage projects, and flood management projects.

Proponents argue that this measure is a fiscally responsible bond, providing investment in only critical projects while requiring spending accountability through annual audits and public disclosure. This measure received bi-partisan support in the California State Legislature and was approved with only two no votes in the Assembly, one Democrat, and one Republican.

California’s water woes began long before this current historic drought. Proposition 1 is truly a compromise between Democrats and Republicans both in the essential water projects funded, and the total amount of the bond. This measure is critical to the future success of California’s communities. Without water, housing cannot thrive.

Your REALTOR® Associations only become involved in issues that are related to housing and private property rights. The remaining Propositions on the November ballot were deemed by the C.A.R. Board of Directors “not real estate related” so C.A.R. has no position on them.

Vote REALTOR for School Board!

The November general election is quickly approaching.  Decisions made by elected bodies can have substantial impacts on real estate, both positive and negative.  Voting is not only a civic duty, but a smart business decision when you consider the substantial impact an elected representative could have on your business.

The Sacramento Association of REALTORS® is proud to have two members who will appear on the November ballot for School Board.  These two people are great representatives of SAR and if elected will be wonderful representatives on our local school boards.

REALTOR® Michael Miller is running for the San Juan Unified School District, which is elected at large.  Michael has two children in San Juan and has been an active parent volunteer for years.  He has worked on a wide array of activities from a school’s strategic plan to soccer coach.  Before becoming a REALTOR® Michael was a classroom teacher, as many other members of his family are.  Michael wants to bring to the School Board a common sense business minded approach that will empower parents. Michael works at Miller Real Estate.  You can learn more about Michael and his school board candidacy at:

Michael Miller

REALTOR® Kate Woolley is running for the Sacramento City Unified School District Area One.  The district covers Curtis Park, Land Park, Midtown, and Downtown.  Kate is a mom of three children in Sacramento City schools.  She is on the PTA and has experience volunteering in her children’s classes, giving her first-hand knowledge of challenges teachers face.  Kate wants to bring a Mom’s perspective to the school board, increase transparency on the school board, and work on safe transportation to school.  Kate works in the Better Homes and Gardens Mason-McDuffie Office.  You can learn more about Kate’s candidacy at:

Kate Woolley

Both Michael and Kate have faced many of the common frustrations that many parents face being integrally involved in their children’s education.  They want to bring the perspective of a business minded parent to the school boards.  These candidates understand that good schools are essential to a strong real estate market.

Fulfill your civic duty on November 4th and vote.  And if you live in the San Juan Unified School District, or Area 1 Sacramento City Unified strongly consider supporting your REALTOR® Candidates.

New 2015 Laws Affecting REALTORS(R) (Part One)


No record retention requirement for text messages and tweets – C.A.R. sponsored legislation
Under existing law, a broker must retain for three years copies of all documents executed by him or her or obtained by him or her in connection with any transactions for which a real estate broker license is required. This new law, sponsored by C.A.R., excludes from this record retention requirement electronic messages of an “ephemeral nature” such as text messages, instant messages, and tweets (unless designed to be retained or to create a permanent record). The new law, however, does not clearly exclude emails from record retention requirements. Therefore, per CalBRE’s instructions from the Real Estate Bulletin – Spring 2013, emails sent and received in connection with a transaction should still be retained.
AB 2136 (codified as Business and Professions Code §10148 and Civil Code §1624) (effective January, 2015).

Agency disclosure expanded
Existing law requires listing and selling agents to provide the seller and buyer in a residential one to four real property transaction, including a lease of more than one year, with a prescribed disclosure form containing general information on real estate agency relationships. Existing law also requires the listing or selling agent to confirm their agency relationship by disclosing to the buyer and seller whether he or she is acting as the buyer’s agent exclusively, the seller’s agent exclusively, or as a dual agent representing both the buyer and the seller.
This law extends these disclosure requirements to include transactions involving the sale or lease for more than one year of commercial real property. Commercial property as defined includes vacant land, industrial property or any residential property, even if containing more than four dwelling units.
SB 1171 (codified as Civil Code §2079.13) (effective January 1, 2015).

Email address collection by CalBRE – C.A.R. sponsored legislation
This C.A.R. sponsored law allows CalBRE to communicate with licensees in a cost-effective and efficient manner by requiring real estate brokers and agents to provide the commissioner with his or her current office or mailing address, current telephone number, and current electronic mail address that he or she uses to perform any activity that requires a real estate license, at which the bureau may contact the licensee. The broker or agent must keep the information current and update it no later than 30 days after making a change. The law also exempts a violation of this requirement from criminal penalties.
This law provides that CalBRE is not required to post or publish electronic mail addresses or telephone numbers collected pursuant to the above provisions, and if this information is released by CalBRE, would require that the information be released in a way that discourages its use in unauthorized or unsolicited commercial electronic mail advertisement programs.
AB 2540 (codified as Business and Professions Code §§10150, 10151, 10162 and 10165.1) (effective January 1, 2105).

Document bundling is prohibited by HOAs as part of required common interest development disclosures. Seller to pay HOA fees
This C.A.R. sponsored law prohibits the practice of “document bundling” in the sale of units in a common interest development. (“Document bundling” means requiring the purchase of a package of documents together with the legally mandated disclosures.)
Current law requires delivery of various common interest disclosure documents (“mandated CID disclosures”). These disclosures include the CC&Rs, Bylaws, Operating Rules, rental and age restrictions, budget reports, regular and special assessments, etc. Under the new law the fees for these mandated CID disclosures must be individually itemized for each document. Additionally, the fees for all mandated CID disclosures must be separately stated and separately billed from all other fees, fines, or assessments. Only mandated disclosures may appear on the statutory form. Once a written request for the mandated CID disclosures is made, the HOA must estimate the cost of the mandated CID disclosures prior to processing the request. Where there is no hard copy delivery of documents, the HOA may not charge an additional fee for electronic delivery in lieu of the hard copy. The statutory form has been modified to reflect these changes.
This law would also require a seller to provide a prospective purchaser with all mandated CID documents that the seller possesses — free of charge. If a seller confirms in writing that the document is a current document then the HOA may not bill for it. The association may collect a reasonable fee based upon the association’s actual cost for the procurement, preparation, reproduction, and delivery of the documents – but only from the seller. It is the responsibility of the seller to pay the association, person, or entity that provides the mandated CID disclosures.
As a result of this law, C.A.R. will modify its standard purchase agreements to require that the seller alone will pay for the mandated CID disclosures, but the cost for other contractual disclosures will remain negotiable. Additionally, C.A.R. form HOA will be modified to reflect the required changes by dividing it into three forms: one to request from the HOA the common interest disclosures; one for mandated CID disclosures (per the revised statutory form); and one for additional contractual disclosures as required under the C.A.R. standard purchase agreements.
AB 2430 (codified as Civil Code §§4528 and 4530) (effective January 1, 2015).

Exclusions from taxation of mortgage debt forgiveness – state law conformed to federal through the end of 2013
This measure extends California’s exclusions of taxation of mortgage debt forgiveness for qualified principal residence indebtedness but only through the end of 2013 in partial conformity with the federal Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 (which sunset at the end of 2013 as well). Qualified principal residence indebtedness is limited to $800,000 ($400,000 for taxpayers filing separately). Forgiven debt will not be treated as cancellation of debt income, but will instead be capital gains. Taxpayers may exclude from capital gains up to $500,000 ($250,000 for taxpayers filing separate) of qualified mortgage debt forgiven.
For information regarding taxation of forgiven mortgage debt for sales after 2013 see C.A.R.’s Realegals® from December 5, 2013 and May 23, 2014, and C.A.R’s Q&A “Taxation of Foreclosures and Short Sales.”
AB 1393 (codified as Revenue and Taxation Code §17144.5) (effective on July 21, 2014).

Affordable Care Act for small employers delayed until 2016. Internal Revenue Service bulletin confirms real estate sales agent’s non-employee status
This law allows small employers to continue to offer their current health plans to employees through December 31, 2015, essentially conforming state law to the federal extension of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) until January 1, 2016.
Additionally, the Internal Revenue Service issued regulations in February of 2014 clarifying that real estate sales agents are not treated as employees for purposes of the ACA. Accordingly many, if not most real estate brokerage offices, may never reach the number of employees to trigger the employer obligations under the ACA.
Because real estate sales agents will not be counted as employees for ACA, the extension for employer compliance may be a nonissue for most REALTORS®. Nonetheless, REALTORS® are reminded that their membership allows them access to several health plan options as members of the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.
SB 1446 (codified as Health and Safety Code §1367.012 and Insurance Code §10112.300) (effective July 7, 2014). Internal Revenue Bulletin: 2014-9 (TD 9655, “Shared Responsibility for Employer Regarding Health Coverage”) (effective February 12, 2014).

Documentary transfer tax – Purchase price cannot be kept secret
This law repeals the right of a principal to demand that the transfer tax be shown on a separate document. Previously, a seller or buyer of real property could demand from the county that the documentary transfer tax (the DTT) be stated apart from the recorded document. This enabled some principals to effectively keep the purchase price secret, since the amount of the transfer tax can be reliably used to deduce the purchase price. (Although the information could be obtained through a California Public Records Act request.) Now every document subject to the DTT when it is submitted for recordation must show on its face the amount of the tax due. These rules have little impact on listings input into an MLS since MLS Model Rules require the reporting of the selling price within two days after the final closing.
AB 1888 (codified as Revenue and Tax Code §§11932 and 11933) (effective January 1, 2015).

Property tax exclusion for construction or addition of active solar energy system is extended
This law extends a solar tax exemption for new active solar energy systems until 2025. An existing law, set to expire in 2017, bars property tax increases based upon the construction or addition of a solar system. (Without this exemption, such an improvement would add value to the property and thus result in an increase in the property taxes assessed.)
SB 871 (codified as Revenue and Tax Code §73) (effective June 20, 2014).

The California Legislature expresses opposition to any reduction in conforming loan limits and urges the President to join in opposition
The Federal Housing Finance Agency has requested comments on a proposal to decrease national conforming loan limits. C.A.R. sponsored this joint resolution declaring the California State Legislature’s support to preserve existing federal loan limits.
This law expresses the Legislature’s opposition to any reduction in the current national and high-cost conforming loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and urges the FHFA to continue to resist implementation of any such reductions. It also urges the President and Congress of the United States to join California in opposing any reduction of the national and high-cost conforming loan limits.
SJR 19 filed with Secretary of State August 18, 2014.

New 2015 Laws Affecting Realtors® Part Two in October
In September many bills are sent to the Governor, who has until October to act on them. Look for the Realegal®, New 2015 Laws Affecting Realtors® Part Two, in mid October for more new laws.


C.A.R. had been opposing AB 2416 (Stone), a bill that creates a new kind of lien for wage claim disputes. C.A.R. opposed AB 2416 because it denies due process to the owner of the property and unnecessarily clouds title. AB 2416 failed in the Senate on a bi-partisan vote, but was eligible for another vote on the last day the Legislature was in session this year. AB 2416 required 21 “Yes” votes to pass the Senate; it only received 13. The proponents were unable to muster enough votes to bring the bill up again, and the bill died as the legislative session ended.

REALTOR® activism played a critical role in defeating what was a very bad piece of legislation. While C.A.R. worked as part of a coalition to oppose the bill, it was the thousands of REALTOR® calls, Tweets, and Facebook updates that made the difference.

Thank you to everyone who responded to the Red Alert!

Legal Update – Agency Disclosure

Legal Update
Attorney Steve Beede

On August 15, 2014, Governor Brown signed SB 1171 extending Agency Disclosure obligations to commercial property transactions. Until now, such disclosure was limited Real Property containing 1 to 4 unit residential properties. Effective January 1, 2015, this law’s definition of   “Real Property” will include: (1) properties with 1 to 4 residential units, (2) any commercial real property which is defined as all real property except single family residences, mobile homes, and RV’s, (3) any leasehold in these types of property exceeding one year’s duration, and (4) mobile homes, when offered for sale or sold through an agent.Legal Update

The target of this law is disclosure of dual agency. In the past the legislature refrained from extending the duty to commercial property transactions because it was presumed that a purchaser of commercial real estate is more (1) sophisticated, (2) of equal bargaining power, or (3) equally knowledgeable in real estate as the other party or the brokers involved, and therefor did not need this disclosure to protect their interests.  However, proponents of the new law argued that this can be a misconception that is not always true. Opponents, led by CAR, argued that the parties’ use of their own contracts and forms is sufficient to protect their interests.

To comply with this new law, agents and brokers must, in every real estate transaction provide both the seller and buyer or landlord and tenant (if lease more than 1 year) a Disclosure Regarding Real Estate Agency Relationship found at Civil Code Section 2079.16.  As with other disclosures under both the Civil Code Section 1102, et seq., and 2079, et seq., the duty to provide a written disclosure cannot be waived.  Even in the event of a buyer or seller who is out of the area and not able to meet face to face with the disclosing agent or broker.

The Agency Disclosure requirements in California first arose in the 1984 case of Easton v. Strassburger (152 Cal.App.3d 90) wherein the court held that real estate licensees owed certain duties of care to the property buyers.  Over time, the statutory disclosure duties expanded beyond agency to include the Transfer Disclosure Statement concerning the physical condition of the real property and improvements.  Having taken this step, many are wondering if the legislature may similarly extend the statutory Real Estate Transfer Disclosure obligations as well.  We’ll keep watch for this.    

NAR Testifies on Flood Insurance

On July 23, 2014, NAR testified on flood insurance before a Senate appropriations subcommittee. The hearing was called to evaluate FEMA’s first four months in implementing recent reforms to the national Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). REALTOR® Donna O. Smith (South Carolina), who is overseeing NAR’s efforts on NFIP, ably delivered testimony for NAR.

Ms. Smith testified that overall, FEMA’s early decisions to conduct outreach and provide for broader rate relief and refunds have helped to calm real estate markets. While there has been progress, NAR will continue to closely monitor FEMA’s efforts this fall when refunding all those property owners who were overcharged for flood insurance since 2012. NAR also urged FEMA to expedite particular reforms which set up a government office of the Advocate who can and will go-to-bat with the insurance companies for FEMA on behalf of home owners who challenge faulty rate quotes and flood maps.

How to Create an Eye-Catching MLS Listing and Other Top Home Selling Tips

Getting ready to sell a home takes a lot of preparation and effort, and it can be difficult to know exactly where to get started. There are many tasks that home sellers must tackle to get a property ready to list on the market, but there are a few tips to follow, in particular, that can help you sell your house quicker no matter what the conditions of the real estate market are at the time.

It’s tried and true advice that taking steps like creating an exceptional MLS listing, choosing to work with an experienced agent and correctly assessing the property’s financial value will work wonders to attract more potential buyers. Below are the top ways to close a real estate deal smoothly and get the most out of it.

Pick the Right Real Estate Agent

Numerous people have attempted to list their homes as for sale by owner only to realize that they really could have used the professional guidance of a real estate agent. The benefits gained by working with an agent usually prove to be completely worth the commission payout. Just be sure to pick one that has a reputation for success, knows the neighborhood well and is open to using new and improved tools of the trade, including advanced technology. Aside from taking most of the stress off your shoulders, an agent will also be able to handle all negotiations on your behalf, which will help accomplish a fast transaction at a fair price.

Price it Right

Pricing your home correctly is a major key to selling it. It requires doing the research necessary to find out it’s actual worth as well as how much comparable homes in your area are going for. You are likely to be unpleasantly surprised with a lack of offers from buyers if you neglect to gather this info, and instead, price your home based on whatever you feel it should be valued at. On the other hand, there is also the possibility of setting a price that’s way lower than what it would have appraised for, causing you to end up losing money in the deal.

Create an MLS Listing That Stands Out

Utilizing the MLS database is an important part of any real estate transaction, whether you’re a buyer or a seller. For a seller, it allows the property to be exposed in many more avenues and opens up an abundance of opportunities with possible buyers. However, an MLS listing is only as effective as a seller makes it, so you want to be sure to create a listing that will really stand out among the rest.

This can be done by adding first-rate photographs, detailing as much as possible about the amenities and features of the property without misrepresenting it in any way, personalizing the description to capture the attention of your target audience and making certain that all punctuation and grammar is accurate.

Do Home Improvements That Matter

It’s understandable to not want to invest a whole lot into a house you plan to move out of, but there are certain improvements that can be well worth the time and money spent to add value to your selling price. Things like kitchen and bathroom remodels are generally good ways to go if you think your property could profit from an upgrade. These are two rooms that buyers are known to take a specific interest in when house hunting.

Be Ready to Make a First Impression at All Times

There can be many inconveniences you encounter while your home is on the market. It isn’t always easy to keep the property clean at all times or find somewhere to go when your agent wants to have an open house last minute, but being flexible and having the house ready to show at all times will greatly increase the chances of a buyer choosing it over another one that wasn’t available at their convenience.

These are important tips for home sellers to remember when looking to get top dollar in a timely manner. Without a reliable real estate agent, compelling MLS listing and everything else mentioned above, selling can turn out to be quite a challenge.