By Kay Wilson-Bolton
President, Ventura County Coastal Assn of REALTORS®
April 30, 2000
Recently a client of a REALTOR® was trying to purchase a home in the country that was more expensive than the one they were selling. Being disabled, the buyer asked her REALTOR® to call the County to see what being disabled might mean in the way of property tax benefits. It is a question on the Preliminary Change of Ownership form that is submitted to the Assessor’s office at the close of escrow.
The REALTOR® agreed to call the County and learned that if there is a true disability, the buyer could transfer their tax base to the new purchase based on an IRS tax code. In this case, it meant a savings of about $2000 a year.
This is a dangerous trap for a REALTOR® — wanting to be helpful, needing to be careful and being fearful that he or she misunderstood the information.
In another case, a buyer wanted to know if the owner had permits for their guest house and asked their REALTOR® to go to the County to make that discovery. Sure enough, the permits were in the file. Unfortunately, the REALTOR® did not check to see if the permits were signed off. Everyone discovered later that the permits had expired and the building codes had changed.
A REALTOR® went to their City to view a property file to see if a family room addition had a permit. He discovered no permit and no application fee. The City building inspector visited the property the next day and cited the property owner for the illegal room addition.
It’s a wrenching decision for REALTORS® to decide where the lines of helpfulness and liability cross. Fortunately the laws have made it clear that agents are not responsible for checking public records. But what does one do when their client is 80 years old, no longer drives or doesn’t hear well but is held accountable for providing good information?
Right or wrong, REALTORS® will likely err on the side of good service. After all, that single element will keep REALTORS® at the center of the transaction. No website can provide that service.
In your real estate activities, consider contacting a REALTOR® first. Not every real estate agent can use that name and there is a difference. REALTORS® have subscribed to the National Code of Ethics that are clear and commanding and provide a baseline for performance.
Kay Wilson-Bolton is president of the Ventura County Coastal Association of REALTORS® . For more information, contact Bob Seitz, CEO, Ventura County Coastal Assn of REALTORS® at 981.2100. Our website is http://www.vc-realtors.com