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Things Are Not Always What They Seem

Things are not always what they seem. This is true in real estate, but it’s true everywhere in life, and the older and wiser we get, the more we see this play out all around us. I’ll point out a few examples to emphasize how important this is for you and me, but the goal of this article is to help you avoid traps for the unwary when you buy a home in the Sequim area, or Port Angeles or Port Townsend. 

Things Are Not Always What They Seem

Things Are Not Always What They Seem

I quoted the short version, but the full quote goes like this: “Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.”  Phaedrus

Let me set the stage. Have you seen a TV commercial promoting a pillow that sounds too good to be true? Even the price sounds fantastic when you hear that you get the second pillow free. So you call, but you find out the actual price is $180 for two pillows. You can buy one, but it will be the same price. But if you use the promo code, the price is ONLY $90. But not really. A set of two pillow cases is $50. But with the promo code that is reduced to $25. You wanted to buy one pillow for yourself, and what you find out is that you get two and the regular price is a total of $230. Plus shipping. But they tell you if you order now and use the special promo code, you get this incredible bargain. 

You say to yourself, “You know what? I can go buy a good pillow at Costco for $28 to $38,” and you would be right. The reminder is that sales people on TV and everywhere will pitch their product and make it sound so doggone irresistible, but things are not always what they seem.

Awards are another example. How many times have you seen a car advertisement boasting that their model has received the J.D. Power & Associates award, and they obviously intend us to be impressed by that award. The truth is car companies have to pay substantial fees to J.D. Power & Associates to be included in the studies and get the reports, and if they want to boast that they received this award, they have to pay J.D. Power another $300,000. Things are not always what they seem. So much for the credibility of the award. It’s just another sales gimmick to fool consumers.

Things Are Not Always What They Seem

Realtors and home builders can get prestigious awards, too, but we also have to pay for them. I was awarded a prestigious Realtor award only given to the top 7% of Realtors in the entire Seattle area. I was quite pleased, but then after the award notification, they informed me the key to taking advantage of the award was to give them $4,000 to buy a half page add in Seattle Magazine. In other words, the entire business is to sell expensive advertising. The awards are just a front. Things are not always what the seem.

If you don’t know these things, you might be fooled when a sales person boasts about their awards. Understand that awards today are almost always bought. So are certificates. All those initials that Realtors have after their names were bought and paid for at expensive seminars. Entire industries are created for the sole purpose of creating false images all to sell smoke and mirrors to consumers and to make a sales person sound better than he or she really is.

The less knowledge, experience, and wisdom a sales person has, the more they need the smoke and mirrors, the more they need lots of initials after their name, and the more they need certificates and awards. Otherwise you would see right through them, and you wouldn’t be impressed, which means you wouldn’t hire them. May I say it again? Things are not always what they seem.

When you look at an MLS data sheet with photos online in search of your perfect home, are you getting an accurate representation of the home? When you get the seller’s disclosure statement, is it 100% accurate? When you work through the due diligence on your prospective home, maybe you would do well to pause and recall that things are not always what they seem on the surface.

The single most important thing you need when you visit a new area of the country like Sequim, Washington, intending to buy what may be your last home, is someone who is absolutely trustworthy. Do you know how to find that trustworthy Realtor? I hope so, because I can assure you . . . things are not always what they seem.

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Sequim Bluffs and Insurance

Sequim bluffs run for miles along the beaches, and many homes have been built on low, medium, and high bluffs over the past half century. I’ve written extensively about Sequim bluffs and bluff stability in prior articles [Sequim Bluffs]. I also produced a video that shows you some major sloughing of Sequim bluffs and explains the issues of concern [Bluff Stability].

Sequim Bluffs

There is a home close to the edge at the top of this bluff (not visible).

Sequim Bluffs and Earthquakes

Many of my buyers retiring to the Sequim area express their concern about the “big one,” especially those looking at property along a bluff. Living on the west coast anywhere raises the question about when the next big earthquake will happen. But even as I write this, there was a recent earthquake in Oklahoma and one in Kentucky. If we do have the big one on this side of the country, I suspect we’re all in trouble on the West Coast, not just those of us living on the Olympic Peninsula.

Sequim Bluffs and Insurance

While you may not decide to buy a home on a bluff that is too close for comfort, you may still want to know the answer to the question, “Does homeowner insurance cover a home that is damaged by slippage or even totally destroyed by going over a bluff?” 

The default answer is “no.” But this requires an explanation. You would be covered if an earthquake damaged or destroyed your home on an unstable bluff, provided you purchased the additional earthquake coverage. That coverage is relatively inexpensive, about $200 per year.

But if a home is damaged or totally destroyed on a bluff for reasons other than an earthquake (rain and storms and sloughing), you would not be covered unless you paid for very expensive additional coverage, and few people do that because of the cost.

In either case, if your home is condemned, damaged, or totally destroyed, you may be responsible yourself for demolition and removal of the home, whether it is at the top of the bluff, halfway down, or on the beach. Looking at real estate on Sequim bluffs requires some serious due diligence and careful consideration. As I’ve studied Sequim bluffs, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are many homes that are precariously perched on unstable bluffs, and unfortunately, the majority of these homeowners are probably not covered by full earthquake and bluff stability insurance.

Having said all of this, there are many areas where the bluffs are very stable, and the water views are just stunning, and I have many very happy clients living the retirement of their dreams high up on one of our Sequim bluffs.

 

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How to Prorate Propane at Closing

How do you prorate propane at closing? When you buy a home, if the tank still has some propane in it, the seller is entitled to be reimbursed, and as a buyer you will be charged an amount on your closing statement to prorate the propane in the tank. But how does the escrow agent prorate propane? As a buyer, you should know how this works so you don’t get into an argument with a seller at the 11th hour.

Prorate Propane

How to Prorate Propane

You would think that it is super easy to prorate propane. Like anything else, you simply calculate how much the propane is worth per gallon, multiply by the number of gallons, and you reimburse the seller that amount. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, and there’s a very logical reason.

If you call a propane distributor and ask how much propane is per gallon, you won’t be able to get a short answer. In fact, your conversation will probably be at least five minutes, and if you clarify the answers with more questions, you may be talking for 10 minutes before you understand. I know, because I’ve done this.

Prorate Propane Per Gallon

Here’s why it is hard to calculate how to prorate propane. Propane companies will quote a current retail price, which may be $2.39 per gallon. But that’s not necessarily what you will pay if you’re filling a residential propane tank. The price you pay will “depend.” It will depend on how big a propane tank you have, how often you refill it, and how long a contract you are willing to sign. There isn’t just one fee–there are multiple fee schedules based on all these variables. With three variables, that means there are nine possible fee schedules. And there’s another price they will quote. It is the first time customer price, which may be as low as $1.69 (in the current pricing model). But you’ll only see that price once. Now you know why it is so hard to prorate propane.

The standard real estate contract (Form 21) that is used in Washington states in para “h. Closing Costs and Prorations and Charges and Assessments,” the following:

Buyer shall pay for remaining fuel in the fuel tank, if, prior to closing, Seller obtains a written statement from the supplier as to the quantity and current price and provides such statement to the Closing Agent.

Everyone assumes that this language includes propane, and I won’t challenge that assumption, except to say that it is not 100% clear that propane is “fuel” in this contract. Let’s assume it is, and move on to the bigger ambiguity. The language refers to “current price,” but does not define the formula for determining what current price is. As you read above, current price can be any of multiple prices from various price schedules, and even those prices can vary from company to company. How to prorate propane is not so easy.

The local Sequim practice has been to reimburse the seller for the seller’s actual costs as calculated from his propane company. That makes sense from the seller’s perspective, but what if a buyer says, “Well, as a first time propane customer, I can get $1.69, instead of the seller’s cost (which may be $1.85 per gallon). Why should I pay the higher fee?” 

Going with the seller’s actual cost is probably the most objective approach if you have to prorate propane, but there is room for differences of opinion here. At least now, you know what to expect when it is time to prorate propane on your closing statement.

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Is a building permit important? What if the home you want to buy does not have a building permit? A couple arrived in Sequim to buy a home, and they found the perfect home and property in a peaceful location. They were so excited. Their buyer’s agent told them it did not have a building permit, but she told them it would be easy to get a building permit after they purchased it. All they had to do was fill out the application, staple a notice on a tree, and pay a small fee, and Voila! the Clallam County Building Department would issue a building permit. This is what I call a trap for the unwary buyer. Perhaps this article should be entitled The Building Permit Nightmare.

Building Permit

Do You Need a Building Permit?

You might want to know how someone could buy a home and get a loan when the home doesn’t have a building permit, which means it also has no occupancy permit. Appraisers don’t automatically check a building permit file at the local county office. Apparently they are not required to by law or by the appraiser’s code. That’s not a surprise, because they are also not required to do a septic inspection, or a home inspection. The appraiser’s job is to see to it that the home is structurally sound, and so they do a visual inspection. If they see something that is a red flag, they investigate further.

The appraiser’s employer is not the buyer, although the buyer pays his fee. His employer is the lender, and his primary job is to make sure the lender’s loan is secured sufficiently. So the appraiser is looking at the building integrity and the value. Based on the appraisal report, if the lender feels their loan to value ratio is good, and the house is structurally sound without serious issues, the appraiser has done his job, the loan is approved, and the buyer closes on the purchase.

This means some appraisers may feel it is necessary to actually check the county building department’s permit file, and some will not. If the builder of a home never obtained a building permit, and the appraiser does not check the file, the issue never comes before the loan underwriter. A buyer could buy a home, obtain a loan, and close and never know their new home is not permitted . . . until they decide to sell it someday. And here’s where the nightmare begins.

Building Permit Nightmare

If the new buyer’s lender’s appraiser checks and finds out the house was never permitted, the new buyer’s lender’s underwriter could refuse to fund the loan. This means the homeowner can’t sell his home. Now the seller is in a nightmare scenario!

So what is the lesson here for buyers? There are two, and both are extremely important. Lesson number one is make sure that the home you want to buy has a building permit. You can certainly buy one without a permit if you have cash, but the issue may come back to haunt you when you sell. Lesson number two is simple but no less important. Hire a real estate agent who is educated, experienced, competent, professional and honest.

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How to Terminate a Transaction

You may need to know how to terminate a Purchase & Sale Agreement. There are many legitimate reasons a buyer may choose to terminate a transaction. For example, if a loan is not approved and your purchase is contingent upon financing, you will need to know how to terminate the transaction. If your home inspection report requires it, you will need to know how to terminate. And if the septic inspection fails, or the well inspection fails, or the appraisal comes in too low, you will need to know how to terminate.

how to terminate

How to Terminate v. Rescission

There is a great deal of confusion in the real estate industry across the U.S., and it often results in buyers using a contract rescission instead of the proper notice of termination. When a purchase and sale agreement (PSA) is terminated, two things must happen. First, the contract must be properly terminated, and second the escrow company must receive written instructions approved by both parties in order to release the earnest money and deduct any title cancellation fee. A rescission and a termination are two different contract options. They are completely different legal concepts with different purposes.

How to Terminate Correctly

A more detailed analysis of how to terminate a transaction is found in this five page downloadable document. Here’s an example.

If a buyer needs to terminate based on the home inspection, there is a very specific procedure. When a buyer issues a Form 35R (Inspection Response) to a seller stating that he is terminating the contract, that is clearly a termination. Using a Rescission Form 51 is not appropriate and NOT authorized in the contract. The Form 35R terminates the contract under the terms of the Form 21 and the Form 35R in para I. The notice affirms the buyer’s contractual right to return of the earnest money. This notice only requires the buyer’s signature to terminate, but both parties must also sign instructions to the escrow company addressing the return of the earnest money to the buyer, and the payment of any title cancellation fee.

You can see how important it is that your Realtor has the knowledge and experience to deal with contract issues like termination. This is more detail than I usually share in a blog article on this site, but since this subject is so important, I wanted to make sure buyers as well as other Realtors would know how to terminate a transaction. Terminating a contract may not happen very often for a buyer like you, but when it is necessary, you definitely want to have a Realtor who can guide you through the process properly. Knowing how to terminate is just one of many important aspects of buying.

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Life Doesn’t Always Go According to Plan

If you are near retirement, you undoubtedly can say, “Life doesn’t always go according to plan.” When I was young, I thought it did. Now I know that the rule is it doesn’t, and the rare exception is when it does go according to plan.

According to Plan

Life According to Plan

When I was in high school, I thought life would work out according to plan. At that time, my buddies and I planned to graduate from high school and drive around the country in a van. It never happened, but life did, including college, and work and making money to survive, and marriage, and children, and all the challenges that come along, plus an awful lot of unplanned “stuff.” 

So life did not go according to plan. There were unexpected events, deaths, losses, financial setbacks, and somewhere along the way I lost most of my hair. Hmm. Life did not go according to plan. But then it rarely does for anyone. I’ve asked hundreds of retirees moving to the Sequim area, and 100% of them said that their lives did not go according to plan.

According to Plan in Sequim

But when retirees move to Sequim and settle down in their new homes and make new friends and engage in their hobbies or passions or whatever it is they love to do, life does go according to plan, at least for a while during these wonderful years of retirement. Granted, we all retire with some scars from life, and our bodies are getting older, but if there was ever a place to live happy forever after, I swear it is Sequim, Washington. I sometimes like to use the cliche, “Another day in Paradise.” My earlier life may not have gone according to plan, but living in Sequim at this phase in my life is going according to plan, and as Martha Stewart liked to say, “And that’s a good thing.”

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Sequim Real Estate Traps for the Unwary

There are many Sequim real estate traps for the unwary.  I’ve been writing about traps for the unwary buyer for over a decade.  As a real estate lawyer I saw so many good people get caught by Sequim real estate traps for the unwary that I have made it a point in my writings to help buyers avoid those nightmares.  Believe me, life will go so much smoother when you don’t get caught unexpectedly in a stressful conflict with a seller or a neighbor.  One of the most profound secrets to a successful life is simply avoiding major mistakes.  And so it is when you are buying your Sequim retirement home.  Avoid major Sequim real estate traps for the unwary, and your transition and retirement will be a much happier experience.

Sequim Real Estate Traps for the Unwary

Traps are dangers we don’t recognize initially, or we misjudge what appears to be something it is not.  Perhaps these images will make the point better than giving 100 specific real estate examples.  Which line in this image is longer–the upper line or the lower line?

Sequim-Real-Estate-Traps-For-The-Unwary

You are correct if you said they are the same length.  Sure looks like the upper line is longer, doesn’t it?  It really is true that things are not always as they seem.  That is true in real estate, too.  If you’ve spent time looking at listings online in our Sequim MLS, and if you arrived in Sequim to look at some of those homes, you know that what you thought you were going to see was not necessarily what you did see.  Listings are often not real good representations of a home for sale.  Buyers tell me that.  Buyers tell me the photos often don’t match what they see when they view a home.  The water views are often not at all as represented in photos.

Sequim Real Estate Traps for the Unwary – The Misperceived

sequim_real_estate_traps_for_the_unwary

Collecting information from a seller, from the title company and the auditor’s office, and from the county and state agencies for water and septic issues can be a challenge.  None of those parties are watching out for your best interests.  Hopefully your buyer’s agent is watching out for your interests, but again that depends on his or her experience level.  There are traps everywhere for a buyer.  Ignorance of a danger is a trap itself.

Sequim Real Estate Traps for the Unwary – Subtle Chicanery

sequim-real-estate-traps

Wouldn’t you say the inner narrow rectangle is lighter in color on one end and darker at the other end?  Sure looks like it.  At least that’s what our eyes and brain tells us.  But I copied that section and pasted it here.  It’s the same color all the way across.

sequim-traps

Negotiating the price and dealing with counteroffers and amendments is full of Sequim traps for the unwary.  You can’t be too careful these days, and when your shopping for a home in Sequim, I hope you’ll find the articles on this blog helpful in avoiding the traps.  You’ll be a lot happier if you do avoid Sequim real estate traps for the unwary.

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Sequim boundary line disputes between neighbors are far too common. Here is a short audio by a Sequim real estate attorney (ret.) on boundary line issues and avoiding them when you buy property in Sequim or Port Angeles.

This is another in the series Traps for the Unwary by Chuck Marunde, J.D.

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Real Estate and Peace in the Neighborhood was originally published in a real estate magazine just before the Holidays in 2007 two years ago.  With all of the chaos and stress across the country and with the theme of Thanksgiving being with families and friends and being thankful, and with the theme of peace during the Christmas Holidays, it seemed appropriate to republish this article, although here I’ve decided to create an audio version for your listening pleasure.

Keeping the Peace in the Neighborhood:

Peace in the Neighborhood

My your Holidays be blessed with peace in the neighborhood.

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Question From John.   I’m seriously thinking about buying my mother’s house.   She has almost paid off her mortgage, doesn’t need the square footage and acreage of this house, and it’s an ideal house for me and my family.   She is willing to take monthly payments from us and that will save us having to try to qualify for a loan.   But what kinds of things do I not know that could mess me up?

Answer.   John, I think you are wise asking this question.   It’s the questions we don’t ask that can create nightmares later, and for many people a lot of stress and writing blank checks to lawyers.   There are a few things I would say you want to think about before you close the deal.

First, if I understand, your mother would sell you the house and move into her own small place or apartment.   If that is not the case, and she is staying in the house, you need to talk about the relationship issues of living with a parent.   That can get complicated very fast.

Second, if she is carrying the contract, I recommend that you do everything just as formally as you would as though you were total strangers.   In fact, the closer you are, the more important it is that you take care of all the legal issues and the contracts very professionally and above board.   Having a dispute later with a family member or a friend can destroy the relationship for the rest of your lives.   That would be a disaster.

Third, use a deed of trust and promissory note and a third-party escrow company to collect your money and disburse it to your mother.   This will also help alleviate any disputes over how much you’ve paid, how much has been amortized and what portion has been applied to interest and what portion to principal.   This is one of the major problem areas, so don’t pass on this idea.

Fourth, be sure you have included all the details of your transaction in your final contract.   In other words, if you are paying your mother over 30 years just like a bank loan, great, but if you are going to cash her out in five years, be sure to come to grips with that.   Five years goes by so fast, and while most people think a balloon payment is no big deal, I could tell you stories of how many people could not make their balloon payment.   As someone once said, “Balloon payments are for clowns.”

Fifth, I recommend you have a provision in your agreement that if you sell your home, your buyer must pay your mother off entirely.   Don’t put your mother in the position of being forced to be in a contractual relationship with someone other than you, someone she does not know and doesn’t trust.

Sixth, and lastly, be sure you pay your mother the maket rate of interest, which as of this writing is 4.5% on a fixed 30-year loan.   That could increase quickly, but the point is if your mother gets paid less than the fair market interest rate, the IRS will want to tax her on the difference, which is a gift tax.   While she also can make an annual gift to her children, the whole thing can get complicated and messy for your mother.

Good luck, and be sure to take care of your mother above your own interests.

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Sequim and Port Angeles Traps for the Unwary

Real Estate Traps for the Unwary
By Real Estate Attorney Chuck E. Marunde, J.D. (Ret.)
Port Angeles, Washington, and Sunny Sequim, Washington

Trap for the Unwary #1: The Trespassing Fence
Trap for the Unwary #2: The Trespassing Driveway
Trap for the Unwary #3: Timber Trespass
Trap for the Unwary #4: The Good Samaritan
Trap for the Unwary #5: Encroaching Branches
Trap the the Unwary #6: Road Maintenance
Trap for the Unwary #7: View Easements
Trap for the Unwary #8: Speed Bumps
Trap for the Unwary #9: Private Well on Vacant Land
Trap for the Unwary #10: Shared Wells
Trap for the Unwary #11: Well Circles
Trap for the Unwary #12: Buying Vacant Land

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Traps for the Unwary Millionaire

Over the the past 25 years, I’ve had many incredible clients as an attorney and Realtor, and some of those clients became millionaires buying, selling, and developing real estate. Several were home builders and are now worth ten to fifty million dollars net. A few lost everything once and earned it all back. I admire successful people. All of these people had some things in common: an intense drive to succeed, tenacity and perseverance, creativity, and each of them took massive action to get where they are now.

There is one other thing most of them also have in common. Think of it as another Trap for the Unwary. Eight out of ten have done almost no estate planning to avoid probate and taxes, and they have done virtually nothing to shield their personal wealth from business liabilities. In this litigation fertile culture we live in, deep pockets are great targets for potential plaintiffs and their attorneys. A large portfolio of real estate is the ideal treasure chest, since it cannot quickly be liquidated and converted to a safe haven.

May I suggest a wise course of action? First, find a professional who really understands business entities, business development and business succession, estate planning, trust planning, capital gains taxes, insurance devices, securities, real estate, and asset protection. Do not assume your average financial adviser or average attorney understands these subjects in depth. Most do not. I strongly recommend you do not let an inexperienced planner experiment with your life’s work. I could talk for hours on this subject, but I won’t.

Second, get a good plan and implement that plan. And find a professional who is both competent and trustworthy. When you find that person, keep them for life. You will make more money even after paying their fees than you ever could taking short cuts.

To read some of my articles, see one of my sites at: http://freerealestatelaw.com/assetprotection/ and
for a review of the types of trusts that can revolutionize your planning, take a look at: http://freerealestatelaw.com/assetprotection/TypesofTrusts.html and
for a discussion of asset protection, see: http://freerealestatelaw.com/assetprotection/assetprotect.html.

Best regards,

Chuck Marunde, J.D.
Broker/Owner, (Retired Attorney)
Sequim & Port Angeles Real Estate
618 South Peabody St., Suite I
Port Angeles, WA 98362
tel.: 360-775-5424
chuckmarunde@gmail.com
http://www.SequimPortAngeles.com

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Sequim Real Estate Traps for the Unwary

Real Estate Traps for the Unwary
By Real Estate Attorney Chuck E. Marunde, J.D. (Ret.)
Port Angeles, Washington, and Sunny Sequim, Washington

Trap for the Unwary #1: The Trespassing Fence
Trap for the Unwary #2: The Trespassing Driveway
Trap for the Unwary #3: Timber Trespass
Trap for the Unwary #4: The Good Samaritan
Trap for the Unwary #5: Encroaching Branches
Trap the the Unwary #6: Road Maintenance
Trap for the Unwary #7: View Easements
Trap for the Unwary #8: Speed Bumps
Trap for the Unwary #9: Private Well on Vacant Land
Trap for the Unwary #10: Shared Wells
Trap for the Unwary #11: Well Circles
Trap for the Unwary #12: Buying Vacant Land
Trap for the Unwary #13: Buried Fuel Tanks
Trap for the Unwary #14: Contaminated Ground Water
Trap for the Unwary #15: Clandestine Land Fills

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Timber Trespass

Timber trespass happens far more than most people realize. An unintentional or intentional trespass onto someone’s property and cutting trees is “timber trespass.” People can work up a serious froth over this, and battles ensue. I’ve represented many clients in civil lawsuits on this.  Sometimes friendly people can simply work it out, but every once in a while there is what I have called, “the neighbor from hell.”

Timber Trespass

Timber TrespassThe Washington state law can award the stump value of each tree wrongly cut down on a neighbor’s property, which is the fair market value of the timber, and the court can award three times the stump value.  If the cutting was intentional, the court can also award attorney’s fees and costs.

Timber Trespass

Perhaps an explanation of timber trespass with be helpful.  This is a short audio I recorded on the subject of timber trespass:

A Description of Timber Trespass by Chuck Marunde

Timber Trespass

It always pays to know precisely where your boundary lines are and exactly which trees are on and off your property.  Timber trespass is a serious civil offense and could costs you dearly.

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Buy Real Estate Safely

What do I mean? There are about a thousand ways to get into legal trouble in a real estate transaction, so my recommendation is that you practice preventive law to stay out of trouble before you sign a contract to buy. There are literally volumes written on the problems people get into, and I’m sure you don’t want an expose here on that laundry list, but you can save yourself so much stress, money, and time by doing your due diligence ahead of time, and frankly, if you’re not a real estate expert now, you need to become one unless you like playing Russian Roulette. I realize this is blunt language, but would you rather I not tell you the truth from a real estate lawyer’s perspective? Thank God I’m no longer a lawyer. I’m a Realtor now, but I still see the same old nightmares all the time. My hope for you is that you live long on your real estate and prosper!

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Buying a Fence Line Problem

Fence line problems are not uncommon.  In the Sequim and Port Angeles areas there are a lot of old fences, especially barbed wire fences left over from over a hundred years of grazing cattle and farming.  Fence line disputes come up periodically, because many of the old surveys were not accurate.  I’m surprised at how often fence lines are off by two feet, 7 feet or even 15 feet on larger parcels.  But a fence line problem can arise even on a small lot in the city.

Fence Line Disputes

Fence Line Problems

Question: I purchased a 5 acre parcel in Clallam County, but just found out (after closing) that the neighbor’s fence line (a 1947 barbed wire fence) is about 7 feet on my property at one end and about 2 feet at the other end. What can I do?

Fence LineAnswer: Buying property in an area that developed from agricultural or dairy farms, such as the Sequim and Port Angeles areas, means fence lines are not always the true survey line. But that isn’t obvious when you’re buying property, unless you have a survey (prior to closing and with the right language in the addendum, etc.).

The best solution is to work it out with the neighbor. Move the fence at your cost, if your neighbor is agreeable. If not, you might find yourself just leaving it where it is, unless you can’t for various reasons. If you cannot work out any solution with your neighbor, and you don’t want to leave the fence where it is, the legal cause of action is called a “Quiet Title Action.” That is expensive and stressful. Honestly, having been a lawyer and now a Realtor, this comes up more than most people think.  It can be a stressful and expensive crisis, one most people could do without.

Fence Line Issues

I recommend knowing where your boundary lines are and whether any fences are the true boundary line or on or off your property.  When you buy property, especially a large parcel that has been part of a larger farm or agricultural area, I recommend working with an experienced buyer’s agent, and I hope that buyer’s agent will be me.  Fence line disputes are no fun.

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The Neighbor From Hell

Among real estate lawyers there is a phrase that sums up much about a case, “the neighbor from hell.” Unfortunately, there are more of these folks than people may realize. True story. My client’s neighbor put a giant concrete speed bump in the shared driveway but just past the neighbor’s turn off. When my client had it removed, because it did $900 damage to his car bottom, the neighbor began putting large stones in the driveway, then paint in the water puddles after the rain, and also stood in the middle of the driveway blocking my client’s exit. Amazing, isn’t it? Just amazing!

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Business Succession Plan

There are several thousand business owners in the Port Angeles and Sequim area. How many of these owners have a succession plan for their business? In other words, how many have business planning with an exit strategy and the business equivalent of estate planning? Statistically, 70% of Americans have no estate planning at all. My guess is that 70% of business owners have no business succession plan. So if you are a business owner and your partner dies, maybe your partner’s widow will become your new partner. Hmmm. Scary thought? There are worse things. I think.

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Easements

One of the top 10 real estate traps for the unwary when buying real estate (from my experience as a real estate lawyer and now Realtor) is the issue of easements, including driveway easements, access easements, view easements, well maintenance easements, and utility easements.

Easements are Everywhere

EasementsIn Clallam County, we have a lot of farm land that was chopped up and developed over the years, and surveys are often inaccurate, but more importantly, people often don’t know where the real easements are. Adverse possession and easement by prescription are real issues here. Know what you are buying! This is a pretty serious reason to hire a Realtor who is knowledgeable and experienced about legal issues. Hint hint.

Easements – Views

In the Sequim and Port Angeles areas, view easements are important since so many homes have beautiful water views and views of the Olympic Mountains. Here is a brief explanation of view easements I recorded:

Easements Effect Property

When you buy property, you will receive a preliminary title report.  This report will reference easements that are of record, meaning it will disclose all easements that are recoded in the county Auditor’s office.  But some easements may not be recorded, and those are the ones that could create a problem.

I recommend using a professional buyer’s agent when you buy a home or land.  But your agent should also have substantive real estate knowledge, so he or she will be able to advise you on what I call “traps for the unwary.”  I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating here.  Don’t just hire any Tom, Dick, or Jane who happens to have a real estate license.  Hire a buyer’s agent who actually has knowledge and experience.  Believe it or not, many buyers don’t make any distinction, and with several hundred thousand dollars of your hard earned money at risk, it makes sense to be careful.  Right?

I am a Sequim Buyer’s Agent as well as a Port Angeles Buyer’s Agent, and you can always reach me at 360-775-5424 or simply email me at chuckmarunde@gmail.com.

Easements effect the use of your property, so be sure you know all about the easements around and across your land before you buy.

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Chuck E. Marunde, J.D.

Founder and Broker of
Sequim & Port Angeles Real Estate dba iRealty Virtual Brokers
435 W. Bell St. Suite A, Sequim, WA
(360) 775-5424
ChuckMarunde@gmail.com
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Who is Chuck Marunde?

Chuck Marunde is the #1 Sequim Buyer's Agent, having sold more homes (by volume) to buyers than any other agent or any "team" of agents for the past seven years. He is the author of thousands of articles for buyers on this real estate blog, and he is the author of several real estate books for buyers and one for sellers. He is the creator of many free tools that buyers use and love every day. He is recognized as a national expert on real estate transactions, marketing, and negotiating. Please schedule your appointment to view homes with Chuck well in advance of arriving in Sequim.

From Los Angeles

It's rare, but once in awhile life provides the perfect collaborator for an important endeavor such as buying your new home. For me that person was Chuck Marunde. His two decade background as a Real Estate Attorney, his prolific career as an author of articles and books on Real Estate and his forthright and moral character made choosing Chuck a no-brainer. Chuck is dedicated, thorough, incredible at the negotiating table, knowledgeable about all local laws & regs but, most importantly, Chuck loves what he does. And what he does is find his client the perfect property. Chuck isn't about making the sale, he's about making the sale that is OPTIMUM for his CLIENT and this makes Chuck a rare bird indeed. I love my new home in Sequim and I am indebted to Chuck for making it happen. Kevin E.

From Seattle

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Chuck over the past three years in selling my parent's estate. It was a tough time to sell during the housing recession, but Chuck always kept things on the positive side. With his real estate law background, he offers sound, practical advice. He helps you along with the process using discussions and reason, rather than opinions and speculations. If Chuck doesn’t know the answers, he will get them for you. In several instances, Chuck took the initiative to meet with county officials to get up-to-date facts about zoning and regulations. I was always impressed with his company’s tech savvy communi-cations and internet presence: weekly email updates, blogs, videos, links, Linked-in networking, etc. He is truly pioneering the future of buying & selling real estate. Brian M.

From Florida

We do our homework for the task at hand and we look for and expect to enlist partners that do the same. It was our good fortune to select Chuck Marunde of Sequim and Port Angeles Real Estate to represent us as a buyer's broker in our search for a home in the Sequim/Port Angeles area. Chuck's site is all encompassing and super fast compared to many others, he knows the market at every conceivable level and his guidance through the process of selecting and purchasing a home is priceless - above and beyond that of anyone with whom we have ever worked. Add to all this his 20 year background in real estate law and you have discovered a superb asset in the adventure of purchasing a home. Greg and Marilyn

From Gilroy California

As an out of state buyer unfamiliar with the area, it was important to me not only to have a real estate agent who knew the area well, but also one who knew the value of the properties. I chose Chuck because he is also a real estate lawyer and it is reassuring to have that extra degree working for you. I selected the houses I was interested in on line before taking a two day trip to Sequim to look at them in person. I sent my list to Chuck, who gave me feedback, then organized our tour so we could see 16 properties in a short time. He was very accommodating, driving me all over Sequim, and rescheduling appointments when we fell behind on our time. On day two, I found my home and we drafted an offer on it that evening. By the time I arrived back home on the plane the next evening, my offer had been accepted. Chuck was honest about what it would take to get me into my new home, while having my back the entire transaction. Since I was unable to relocate immediately after closing, he and his assistant Ade, have been taking care of many additional responsibilities for me. He was a pleasure to work with. Chris D.

From Corona California

The best decision I made, once I settled on Sequim as the ideal place to spend the rest of my days, was to hook up with Chuck Marunde as my broker/go-to guy. He happily took on the entire complicated merry-go-round associated with a long distance move that involved selling in Southern California (with a different agent) and buying in Sequim – all in the span of just over a month. The unexpectedly quick sale of my previous home was already a week into a 30 day escrow when I got to Sequim for my house hunt. We had two days to find my slice of heaven. And day one was less than stellar, each home having at least one major issue. The killer was the dream home that turned out to be an unmitigated disaster once we got inside. I was crushed. Chuck had his work cut out for him that night. And he worked his magic. On day two there was one beautiful possibility, but not quite right. Suffice to say, in the early afternoon we pulled into a driveway and the first words out of my mouth were “That’s my house.” 29 days later I took possession of my new home. Every sale has its issues, but throwing in the complications of a short escrow on top of 1200 miles of separation from all documentation, etc. gives new meaning to “challenging”. Thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge coupled with a great sense of humor, Chuck was able to keep me on an even keel when things got dicey. He knows when to step in and when to let it evolve. I cannot imagine making this move without him. Rebecca B.
Sequim Real Estate

From Bakersfield California

"During the months of February and March 2012, Chuck showed my wife and I over two dozen homes from Port Angeles to Port Townsend. We found Chuck to be very helpful, friendly and courteous. With Chuck there is no pressure; It is all about finding the best home for the buyer. As a Buyer's Agent, Chuck will give you his honest opinion of a property, including a fair market price. In one instance Chuck wrote up an offer for us which was accepted. Chuck was very helpful arranging for home and well inspections which involved multiple trips to the property. Unfortunately, escrow failed to close when, during the home inspection process, it was determined that a septic system repair was needed which the seller was unwilling/unable to make. We will continue to work with Chuck as there is no better Buyer's Agent on the North Olympic" Bert and Sally
Sequim Real Estate Q&A

From Los Alamos New Mexico

"Over a year ago, during a visit to the Olympic Game Farm, we developed what we eventually called the “Sequim Syndrome.” We live in New Mexico and decided Sequim was where we wanted to live in retirement. On our second visit to Sequim, we met with Chuck and asked him to help us. Chuck's web site provides such amazing search capabilities. Chuck's site also contains a 1000 blog postings and a real estate video series detailing buying real estate in Sequim. We bought Chuck's book about Sequim real estate and set out to follow his advice carrying on an ongoing email and phone conversation with Chuck. Doing our due diligence “Marunde style” and using his MLS search site, we came up with about 50 homes that met our needs. We narrowed the list down to 15 properties that best met our needs. We came back to Sequim a third time with our list in hand, and Chuck spent two days with us showing us all the homes on our list. Not only did Chuck help us find that dream home, he spent time to educate us about the quality of construction, fair market values of various properties, home layouts, and the joys of Sequim living. We had a great time as we traveled from house to house. By mid afternoon of the second day, my wife said we had found “the house.” Chuck helped us draft our offer and sent our offer to the seller's agent. It turned out there was a second offer made on the property at the same time. Chuck's help to make a clean offer paid off. At breakfast two days later, we got a call from Chuck saying our offer had been accepted by the sellers. We are now back home in New Mexico. Chuck attends every inspection on our behalf, updating us at every turn by email and phone. Our dream home is becoming a reality because of Chuck and because we were smart enough to follow his advice. We absolutely would NOT have been able to do this without Chuck Marunde's expertise and enthusiasm. We recommend Chuck to everyone planning a move to Sequim, Port Angeles, or anywhere on the Olympic Peninsula. Chuck is a gold mine of information and expertise for home buyers everywhere, not just on the Olympic" Larry and Shirley
Sequim Real Estate Bookstore

From Sun Lakes Arizona

"We are ex-Washington residents who currently live in Arizona. We had been searching the Puget Sound area four years for a waterfront property to build a retirement home when we first contacted Chuck Marunde through his website. We had made multiple trips to various areas but most of the Realtors we contacted simply sent us an email, provided no follow up and did next to nothing to help us locate a property. On our first trip to Port Angeles, after connecting with Chuck, we purchased our dream property. We now own a high bank waterfront lot overlooking the Straight of Jaun de Fuca, and are excited to become part of the Peninsula community." Paul and Linda

From California

"Andy Romano is a successful motion picture character actor with over 40 years in 'the Biz.' Mr. Romano has a home in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, but he chooses to live most of the time in Sequim, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula in the great Pacific Northwest. Why? In his own words, 'Because it's even more beautiful and surrounded by more beauty in this incredibly peaceful and quiet place. With respect to real estate agents or brokers, well my friend Chuck Marunde, owner of Sequim and Port Angeles Real Estate, is hands down the best there" Andy R.

From Sequim

I’ve known Chuck Marunde for several years. My wife and I bought and sold one house through his services, and now have another listed through him for sale. Whether Chuck was representing us as the buyer or seller, I am confident he always had our best interests at heart. He helped us set or negotiate a reasonable price, and made sure there was a clear and open line of communication. He responded rapidly to email and phone calls and always knew the best person to contact for the various services involved in a transaction. I have worked with quite a few real estate agents and Chuck is right at the top of my list of good ones. Actually, Chuck is first and foremost just a good person, and he carries his personal honesty and integrity over into his profession. He has the greatest depth of experience in real estate of any agent or broker I have known. His years of practicing real estate law prior to becoming a broker are evident in the meticulous care he takes with the process and documentation. I am impressed by the way Chuck has integrated internet services into his real estate business. He probably knows more about this process than any other realtor in the country. In this tight market it is important to use every possible means to spread the word about available properties…to reach the few people who might be interested in a particular property. Steve L.

From The Netherlands

"We contacted Chuck about six months ago to help find a retirement property in Sequim. We had visited Sequim several weeks before and decided that this was the place for us to retire. We liked the friendly people and the natural beauty of the area. We had been looking for some time in other parts of the country - California, Oregon, North Carolina, and Vermont. In most of these other areas, we found real estate agents that were knowledgeable but did not follow up with us to continue narrowing down real estate possibilities. Once we were out of earshot, communications would stop. That is one of the reasons we were interested in working with Chuck. Besides having great knowledge of both the local real estate market and of law, his testimonials on the internet indicated a willingness to actively communicate with his clients. Chuck demonstrated this immediately. Even before we met, he responded very quickly and helpfully to any email question. After arriving for a second visit to Sequim in September, we finally met Chuck face to face. He was friendly, encouraging, and readily shared good practical information. We worked with him on a number of candidate properties - including an offer on a property while visiting that week. Although we could not come to terms with the owners on the final property price, we look forward to continuing to work closely with Chuck. He is an invaluable resource to help us identify and purchase the retirement property that's right for us." Paul and Virginia

From Fremont California

We can't say enough about working with Chuck Marunde. Luck would have it that we discovered his web site, spoke with him on the phone and had an instant feeling that we had found our realtor. And we were right. With Chucks help and expertise, our longtime dream to retire to the Pacific Northwest came to fruition with Chuck assisting us in finding the perfect home for us. Buying a home is always a big decision and these days can be complex with unexpected delays etc. In fact, our whole experience from offer day to closing, was very smooth. Chuck took all the time we needed to explain processes and made us feel at ease, even though we lived 800 miles away, tying up loose ends and getting ready for the big move to our new home in Sequim. We were impressed with Chuck's ability to listen to our needs and understand our concerns in buying from a distance. Chuck kept us informed all along the way, during the process and was so good at getting right back to us if we had another question. All went so well and Chuck really went above and beyond for us, taking time out from his busy schedule to assist us with some details regarding our beautiful property, even after the closing, because we were not yet arrived there. Without hesitation, our son and his wife will be contacting Chuck this summer, as they plan to follow us to paradise in this lovely town. Thanks again Chuck, for everything! Mary and Jerry

From Fontana California

My husband and I went to Sequim intending to interview several realtors to find one to help us locate and buy a home in Sequim. We knew we wanted someone we could trust and who would have our best interests in mind. Since we would be handling the transaction from S. California this was very important to us. We met Chuck and looked no further. We felt a connection right away and spent some time looking at homes together so Chuck could get a feel for what we wanted. Well, we left Sequim having made an offer on a home which the owner accepted. Chuck has helped us through the purchase process. We are positive it would not have gone so smoothly without his help. We give him 4 thumbs up. Wally & Cathy

From Tacoma

Chuck Marunde’s level of expertise in real estate investment is amazing. His knowledge, experience and legal training have given me a dramatic advantage in real estate investing. He works hard to stay on the cutting edge of real estate marketing, sound advice and value-added service for his clients. Kirk Wald, Financial Planner

From Wendell Idaho

My wife and I moved to Sequim six weeks ago, and prior to our move here I contacted Chuck Marunde and enlisted his help as our buyer's agent. Once we got here, it took us about two weeks looking at houses, and Chuck did a superb job of showing us places and letting us make our own decisions and guide us through the purchase of our home. We now completed our transaction and are very happy. We would recommend Chuck to anybody. Don & Marilyn

From Sequim

"Buying property either commercial or residential can sometimes be a tricky proposition. That’s why I would recommend Chuck to help you with purchasing or selling property. His background as a real-estate lawyer and his no nonsense to the point advice will help you make the right decisions. Experience and Integrity, what you need when you can’t afford to make a mistake. Dail Hurdlow, CEO, Hurdlow Enterprises

From Seattle

I am an experienced real estate buyer, but I am not from the Sequim area. I am somewhat flexible, realistic, but also particular. So the question was, “how do you choose the RIGHT real estate agent?”

I made my appointment with Chuck on a Sunday morning in March, 2013. He showed me 5 houses. Every house he showed me was within my parameters! I was amazed: a real estate who listened, did his research, and didn't waste my time showing me houses I would never buy! I made an offer a few days later. That was the easy part…

Buying a house is always a stressful time in life. Advice to Buyers: choose an agent who is competent, communicates well, and has exceptional follow-up and follow-through! You will spend a lot of time with your agent during the process. Choose someone likable. Go with your gut. I got to know Chuck during the process, and he's a great guy!

You need an agent who is competent to handle and help you negotiate the issues that come up during disclosure, home inspection, appraisal, etc. Chuck's competence is superb! I got truly professional, sound, straightforward advice.

Chuck's communication skills are exceptional: phone, email, fax. He has a wonderful ability to stay "on-point" with what is actually important and doesn't lead you astray on issues that aren't so important.

Chuck's turn-around time on questions, issue resolution, etc. was virtually always within 24 hours. He follows-up, follows-through. He does what he says he will do timely. This relieves a lot of Buyer stress!

Having a difficult time finding the right agent? Simplify your life! Choose Chuck Marunde. I did. [Name withheld by request]

Intro by Chuck Marunde

From Sequim to California

"In our Sequim real estate broker Chuck Marunde we found a Realtor who knew not only how to list a property, but most importantly, he knew how to sell a property. Chuck is very skilled in current technology and uses that skill to advertise your property nationally. We were very pleased with Chuck, his honesty and integrity." Jerry Levitan and Donna "Teva" Tetiva
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