Archives for June 2011

About CC&R’s

CC&R’s, or Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, are legal limits of usage that can be placed on a piece of property.  Ordinarily when we think of CC&R’s we think of a condo complex, but believe it or not, some cities have homes associations.  When you are purchasing a property in California, you will receive a Transfer Disclosure Statement(TDS) from the seller of the property and one of the questions on the TDS is, “Is there a Homeowners’ Association which has any authority over the subject property?” and another is, “Are there CC&R’s or other deed restrictions or obligations?”  When the buyer sees on the TDS that the seller has said yes to these questions, he should request that the title company provide a copy of the CC&R’s with the preliminary title report. 

California Law allows that either the association or an owner in a common interest development may file a lawsuit asking the court to enforce the CC&R’s.  The law currently requires, with some exceptions, that either the owner or the association must offer to engage in some form of alternative dispute resolution process before filing a lawsuit.  You may wish to consult wth an attorney who specializes in this type of law if you are faced with or contemplating an enforcement matter.

When the rules are broken, penalties might include fines, forced compliance, or a lawsuit by the association.  For example, if an owner attempts to sneak in a large dog into a condominium unit despite a rule specifying a maximum weight for pets, the owner may be forced to get rid of the dog as well as pay fines or face a lawsuit if necessary.

In Citizens for Covenant Compliance vs. Jared A. Anderson, the California Supreme Court concluded that recorded CC&R’s are enforceable even when they are not mentioned in a purchaser’s deed to the property.  As long as the CC&R’s are recorded prior to the execution of a purchase agreement, they are enforceable, even if a misdrafted deed fails to mention them. 

I would like to share one of my recent experiences with CC&R’s of a condominium association.  I was showing townhouses in a popular development in Rolling Hills Estates.  My clients wanted to purchase a townhouse and rent it out for a couple of years and then retire there.  We found a unit that they liked and wanted to make an offer on.  Lo and behold, the CC&R’s required that the owners could not rent out their unit until they had lived there for at least three years.  Well, of course, that sale did not occur. 

Another thing to be aware of is that some of the CC&R’s were written in the 1920’s or 1930’s and some of the restrictions are now illegal.  One of the cities in which I sell property has CC&R’s and a Homes Association.  The restrictions were composed when the property was initially developed and because the developers did not want little cabins or mobile homes on the lots they were selling, there are restrictions about what can and cannot be built.  There are different architectural zones with height restrictions, lot coverage restrictions, and so on.  The CC&R’s also state that if the owner violated the building directives, the Homes Association can require that the owner tear down the structure and if the owner did not, the Association would tear it down and charge the owner for the cost of demolition.  The Association no longer does this but it is still in the CC&R’s.  I recommend that people who are purchasing in that city pay a visit to the Homes Association for clarification about any of the restrictions they may have questions about. 

The upside of CC&R’s and the Homes Association is that no weird construction or unsightly exteriors, like bright neon paint and zero-lot-line structures, are allowed.  This city is beautiful and property values are the most stable in the Palos Verdes area. 


Making That Offer on Your Dream Home

You have been looking at homes for a few months now and you believe you have found your dream home.  The asking price is $850,000; how much should you offer?  Here are a few tips about handling that offer:

  • Because you have seen a number of homes, compare the homes you have seen with this one and you will probably have a good idea if the asking price is in the right range.  Your Realtor should be able to provide you with a list of comparable homes that have sold within the last six months and you can derive the list price to sales price percentage.
  • Write the offer to be accepted, not to get a counter offer.  If you are aware of the listed prices and the sales prices, make an offer that is reasonable…one that will make the seller wonder if you will go away if he does not sign it.  If you are within 10% of the asking price, you will have a good chance of coming to terms in today’s market.  In brisker markets we need to be within 5% of the asking price.  If the property is offered below market value, you may consider going over the asking price.  It has been my experience that “low-ball” offers are rarely successful.  Most likely, the owner will either not respond at all or will counter back at full price or will come down only a little bit.  One time I presented a low offer on an investment property.  The owner said, “Get out of my house!”  Needless to say, that deal did not go through.  Because an owner is often insulted by such offers, they are seldom made.  Also, instead of writing an offer of $800,000 for a home priced at $850,000, consider writing it for $815,500; at a glance it is not so obvious how far off the price is and your offer has 5’s in it, just like the asking price.  Ask your agent to find out which title, escrow, and termite companies are acceptable to the seller so you won’t receive a counter offer just spelling out the services to be used.
  • Ask your Realtor not to give too much advance notice to the listing agent that you will be writing an offer.  Because the listing agent represents the seller, he will want to get the highest price for his client.  Nine times out of ten he will be on the phone calling everyone who has shown an interest in the property to get a bidding war going and before you know it there is another offer on your dream home.
  • Ask your Realtor to present the offer in person to the seller and seller’s agent, if at all possible.  The reasons that personal presentations are more successful are:  1.  Your agent will be able to tell the seller all about you and your family and your qualifications and  2.  Your agent will be able to read the seller’s “body language,” which is key to successful negotiations.  3.  Your agent will be more likely to walk away from the table with an acceptance or counter offer.  One time I was presenting an offer to a listing agent because the Seller was out of town.  There was another offer to be presented after mine.  The agent told me what the seller’s terms were and they included price, closing date and amount of the earnest money deposit.  She went on to say that a counter offer would be issued the following morning.   Because I knew what the Seller would require, I went over to the buyer’s house (it was probably after 10 PM) and we re-wrote the offer per the seller’s terms and submitted it to the listing agent.  If we had waited for the counter offer, we would have been competing with the other buyer, but because our offer was exactly what the owner wanted, he signed it without countering back to the other buyer.
  • Be sure your offer is accompanied by a loan approval, proof of funds to close the escrow and a copy of your earnest money deposit.  Because of the difficulties of obtaining a purchase money loan today, most sellers will not even consider an offer without verifying that the prospective buyer is qualified to purchase their homes.  If you are paying all cash provide verification of the funds to close the escrow with your offer.
  • Give the seller time to consider your offer.  When a seller feels backed into a corner, he will often say “no”.

 In closing I would like to add that if you really love a certain home and it is within your means to buy it, go for it!  I have had a few buyers who never got over “the fish that got away”.