By Kay Wilson-Bolton
January 1, 2000
There is so much to be said for protocol. Every industry has it. Every profession carries its own jargon and legalese.
Somewhere this week a homeowner asked if they should be present when their home is shown. One REALTOR® said “yes” because the owner can answer questions; Another REALTOR® said “no” because the potential buyer will feel uncomfortable. Yet another REALTOR® said “ask the REALTOR® “ if they would like assistance in showing the home.
Somewhere today REALTORS® conducted a final walk through five days before the closing. One REALTOR® representing the seller was present due to tension during the escrow period. One chose to be on call if there were any questions. Another chose to let the REALTOR® representing the buyer handle the walkthrough primarily because they showed the house, they handled the inspections and the walkthrough is a formal presentation of the home just prior to the closing.
More serious protocol comes into play when an agent wants to show a home, and fails to make an appointment to do so and just shows up. A REALTOR® fails to leave a business card notifying the owner of their presence in the home. An agent fails to lock a door or chooses to leave the door the way it was found thinking the owner went for a walk and left the door unlocked for easy re-entry.
It is difficult to convey protocol because each REALTOR® has his or her own style of doing business—hands on and hands off. Both can be effective but most should be held accountable for their style. The best method of accountability is to choose the services of a REALTOR® only. The public has the opportunity to pursue remedies for misunderstandings if their agent wears the blue “R®”. The Ventura County Coastal Association of REALTORS® will help you with complaints and arbitrations right here at home. Fellow REALTORS® hear the complaint and offer remedies and recompense. Otherwise, if you complaint is against an agent who is not a REALTOR®, the Association has no jurisdiction and the remedy must be found in Sacramento with the Department of Real Estate.
The term REALTOR® means something in good times and rough times. The Ventura County Coastal Association of REALTORS® is here for both and that is a good thing. When selecting your next agent, ask about their blue “R”. Not every REALTOR® member is perfect, but we offer a hand when things don’t go as they should and our Code of Ethics is very clear.
The pitfalls of research.
Recently a client of a fellow REALTOR® was trying to purchase a home in the country far more expensive than the one they were selling, Being disabled, the buyer asked her REALTOR® to call the country to see what being disabled might mean in the way of property tax benefits. After all it is on the Preliminary Change of Ownership form that goes to the Assessor’s office at the close of escrow.
The REALTOR®, not wanting to be unhelpful, 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. In this case, a savings of about $2000 a year.
The buyer was thrilled to know that the REALTOR® had made this discovery. This is a dangerous trap for a REALTOR® to be caught in…wanting to be helpful, wanting to be careful and being fearful that he or she misunderstood the County employee.
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 codes had changed.
One more—the REALTOR® goes to the City to view a property file to see if a family room addition had a permit. No permit. No application fee. City inspector visits the property the next day and cites the room addition.
It is a wrenching decision for REALTORS® to decide where the lines of helpfulness and liability cross swords. Fortunately the laws have made it clear that agents are not responsible for checking public records. But what does one do when the seller is 80 years old and no longer drives and is held accountable for providing good information? What does one do when a buyer is disabled and is unable to go to the public agency and cannot hear on the telephone to make the inquiry.
Right or wrong, I hope my REALTOR® comrades err on the side of service. After all, that element is what makes us quite from the Internet where there is no website for caring.
MORE ON PROTOCOLS
The more popular way of holding title these days is in the form of a trust. There are certain tax benefits in doing so as well as efficiencies in handling properties and assets.
Since every trust and reason for creating it is different, suffice it to say that when buying or selling a property that is owned or will be owned by the trust requires certain protocols. The escrow officer cannot process the escrow to completion without having at least three pages of the trust document: The cover page, the notary page and the authorization page to transact business. I have seen real estate agents and REALTORS® very upset with escrow company for asking for such things.
In reality, escrow companies are neutral third parties who have a job to do under very strict guidelines. They act as holders and conveyors of documents.
They help with the signing of loan documents. If you as the buyer plan to read your documents or need a translator, the process can take one to two hours. If you are one who things the documents “look right”, it could take five minutes.
Monies brought into the escrow to close the transaction must be wired to the title company by 10 am the day before closing or must be in the form of a cashier’s check. No cash. No personal checks.
Moving vans have come and gone with these demands and oversights. Don’t even ask a seller to move into a property early if the seller is a bank. The answer is no, no and no.
REALTORS® have learned to not even ask. Sadly days come when a closing should occur on a Friday, but the monies did not arrive in time on a Thursday and the following Monday is a holiday. The likelihood is that the loan will not fund until Tuesday for a closing on Wednesday.
It’s all protocol. Experienced REALTORS® know it best. New agents who work with experienced brokers and mentored by caring cooperating REALTORS® can do it just as well. The consumer needs to know whom they are working with.
Kay Wilson-Bolton is the president of the Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors and has been a Realtor in Ventura County Since 1976.