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What Are You Looking At?

Looking at a house

In my last column, I touched upon strategies that people are starting to deploy again as our housing market shows signs of heating back up. And with a recent NBC News poll listing Santa Cruz as one of the top areas expected to show appreciation in the country this year, it appears that we are in for a fresh round of transactions where the non-contingent offer rules the day.

This is all well and good assuming either the house is completely perfect, or the Seller and their agent have created a flawless disclosure package that has addressed every detail that could come back to bite them after the sale. As often as not though, there are inaccuracies and oversights made in these rushed transactions, and crucial details that can otherwise create liability and disputes have a far better chance of being correctly handled by giving both sides a little more time once the winning offer is selected to conduct at least an abbreviated due diligence period of a few days to double check and remedy any deficiencies in the reports and disclosures before moving forward.

Creator, writer and social commentator Trey Parker takes a healthy swipe at some of the more superficial aspects of the real estate profession in the South Park episode where Cartman decides to open his own real estate office after his mom—whom Cartman believes must be the dumbest person on the planet—starts working as a Realtor. Based on some quick online research, he determines that it’s basically a job where “you don’t do anything” and people send you large amounts of money every time a house sells.

After getting a “really good” headshot to kick off his campaign to become a millionaire in just a few weeks, he proceeds to put all his friends’ houses up for sale at ridiculously inflated prices with walkthrough videos using slick production values, where he presents the most mundane details with lavish descriptions. Predictably, out-of-town buyers start invading South Park in their Teslas, and the local established real estate company where his mom works is forced to up their marketing game.

What Cartman’s online research didn’t include was the importance of consulting with inspectors and other experts, and the research that should be done with county agencies to help quantify the many potential challenges and costs that will await the buyer once they own the home. With condos, this is often found by going through the HOA meeting minutes and budget to uncover potential litigation or assessments brewing. And with houses, a trip down to the Assessor and Building Department often reveals additions that were made without permits being signed off or in some cases even applied for, with related costs to cure that can easily run tens of thousands of dollars.

Sometimes it pays to be just a little more careful to understand exactly what you and your clients are looking at before they take that leap—and before you cash that commission check.

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