When Realtors Face the Loss of Home There are things than can’t be destroyed.


December 17, 2017

By Kay Wilson-Bolton

There is something unique in the business transaction of helping someone purchase a home or finding the right rental.

The goal is always a good ending and the perfect match. When a Realtor® hands someone the keys to their home, it goes with our best hope that all will be well and that memories become the basis of a good and certain future. Based on how the transaction went, there is a lifetime connection. There was great temptation during the Thomas Fire to call or text clients to see if they were safe or if we could help. So many of us had been evacuated ourselves, there was often little to do other than pray, be encouraging and supportive from afar and literally stand by.

We learned from the ravages of the Thomas Fire what any particular home, apartment, single family residence or manufactured home really means. It appears that each one who lost their home struggles most with the loss of the memories made inside. Yes, each of us placed some priority on what things needed to be removed in haste, but it seems those items were attached to memories such as family photos, grandma’s quilts, special books and keepsakes or to a new future with important papers and records.

The inconvenience of losing their dwelling manifested itself differently for each family. Some had the good fortune of finding vacant homes quickly or were able to stay with family and friends. It was very different for the 11 farmworker families in Santa Paula who lost their mobile homes located on ranch which were owned by their employer. The rally to provide for them took on its own personality as did the efforts in Ojai, Ventura, Fillmore and Santa Paula. Donations at most evacuation centers exceeded need, but it was determined by all it was a good problem to have.

During the smoky days of uncertainty, there were moments of angst when lenders stopped funding loans and the issuance of insurance policies was halted. The Realtor® community had to coalesce like never before to keep clients and colleagues informed and encouraged. Most of us had agreements that we would not press for updates but would stand by and wait for them.

Special communications were required of Realtors whose clients had left the area and left the care of the home to family and friends and their Realtor. The looming issues of safety collided with the issues of an uncertain future relating to value and a potentially slow market impacted by tragedy.

The real estate community in particular mobilized and uniquely rallied around our 16 colleagues who lost their homes. There was little time lost from the moment of discovery to making connection with an offer of a place to stay and the provision of basic necessities. Within a few hours, most of us knew from Facebook who the victims were and shared their sadness. It was clear no one was exempt from loss.

At the same time, Realtors for our communities joined their neighbors to serve food, collect items, have fundraisers and be good neighbors. There was cross sharing of resources.

We found Facebook to be our reliable information source. Posts were mostly thoughtful and carefully fact-based.

What is categorically true is that while there is justified sadness over the loss of property and the comforts of home, there is an overriding sorrow for the loss of firefighter Cory Iverson from San Diego. He gave all so that we would be safe. His family gave all too. It is the one most significant memory the survivors of the Thomas Fire will recall together.

Kay Wilson-Bolton has been serving Ventura County for 41 years.

The Impact of a Pre-Emptive Offer

June 18, 2017

By Kay Wilson-Bolton

In a competitive market like this, the impact of a making the early and quick “pre-emptive” offer can vary. In the old days real estate professionals would advise clients their first offer is their best one. It’s not always true.

If a home is listed at $650,000, it is reasonable to assume that a quick, full-price offer with reasonable terms, made prior to full market exposure, would be readily accepted by the seller.

Recent experiences demonstrate it isn’t so.  In the case of a trustee’s sale, it is the duty of the trustee to obtain the highest net return for the beneficiaries. The trustee may feel more compelled to wait to see all offers unless a fee appraisal is in the file making the trustee aware of what to expect when the house is appraised. And, the trustee will wait if there is no pressure from the beneficiaries.

If the sellers are being relocated, they are likely to accept their first, full-price offer unless they have a guaranteed buy-out and can afford to wait for a higher price. If it is a flip house, investment funds for the next sale are tied up until the close, it could go either way if the investor has significant funds in the bank.

The various business practices of individual brokers and their agents will influence the outcomes. Based on the contact management programs being used, buyers may hear about new listings within 24 hours of being taken. Others will learn about it in real time.

The neighborhood network is also in play. Word will leak that the property is coming on the market soon. Sharp buyers and their agent will make the pre-emptive offer that will result in one of two events. “Stop — let’s see what else is out there;”  or, “Go” and move towards escrow with the seller not looking back.

Listing agents needs to be wise in how they advise their sellers. The wrong advice could cost their clients  both money and time. There is no substitute for experience, but the agent is obligated to present options stand by while the client decides. It is always the client’s choice. Always.

Kay Wilson-Bolton has been serving Ventura County since 1976 and brings a regional perspective to local issues. www.kaywilsonboltonblog.com.  She can be reached at 805.340.5025, or kay@realestatemagic.com and is associated with Century 21 Troop Real Estate.



Discreet Discrimination – Those Love Letters to Sellers

The Unintended Consequences of a Buyer’s Love Letter

May 27, 2017

As the elements of an uncomfortably familiar marketing period unfold, I encountered a set of circumstances that gave me pause.

In a heated market where there are multiple offers, competition is painful for buyers and difficult for sellers who have to make choices about what offer to select. It is rare that all offers are the same when you look at the variables of down payment, quality of lenders, and reliability of pre-approval letters, job stability and credit scores. It is possible for a seller to select an offer on its own merits.

An interesting practice has developed where buyers provide letters appealing to a seller’s emotions. Photos are often included which show the family on an outing at the beach with the little bouncing children tumbling with the non-descript playful pup. Of course, the kids are cute and the parents are charming.

Or, the photos might show grandma and grandpa holding the three little grandchildren who come to visit and that is why they need the big yard and two master bedrooms.

In a case of multiple offers accompanied by a variety of appeal letters, it may be easy for a seller to be viewed as discriminatory if a solid offer was bypassed because it was written by two men or two women, or a single career woman from what is considered to be a minority with no children, or two professional men who are business partners and want to lease the home to college students.

The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting, buying, or securing financing for any housing. The prohibitions specifically cover discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and the presence of children.

Housing discrimination occurs when an individual or family is treated unequally when trying to buy, rent, lease, sell or finance a home based on certain characteristics, such as race, class, sex, religion, national origin, and familial status.  This type of discrimination can lead to housing and spatial inequality and racial segregation which, in turn, can affects the wealth disparities between certain groups. In the United States, housing discrimination began after the abolition of slavery as part of a federally sponsored law, but has since been made illegal; however, studies show that housing discrimination still exists.

Federal and State governments have various laws stemming from rights guaranteed by the US Constitution.  Most of us think we know what that means, but a recent experience in the market place makes me wonder.

Most of us believe a seller has a right to select any offer they choose no matter what. In a recent specific example, the seller selected the offer on her 2000 sf home from buyers who had children. A competing offer was from a multi-lingual, single woman with a master’s degree and with no children. Her offer was over asking price, credit score was high and the down payment was almost a full 50%.

The agent representing the seller stated the other offer was accepted because of a written and passionate plea for consideration–and they had children.

In another case where a “Love Letter to the Seller” was written to entice acceptance of the offer, there was a moment in time when the seller and the buyers ended up at the property for a garage sale without their agents. There was an argument over a delayed closing and strong words were used. The sellers felt their buyers’ “love letter” was deceptive and considered opportunities to cancel the transaction fearing an unhappy future for family members who lived next door. This is not a discriminatory practice but the letter set up the circumstances for second thoughts.

This matter is very important to Realtors®. Our Code of Ethics provides specific instruction in   Article 10 where “REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation. REALTORS® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin or sexual orientation. (Amended 1/11).

Real estate contracts and documents include warnings, admonitions and agreements about fair housing, equal opportunity and fairness. In the typical listing agreement, it simply states in paragraph, “14. EQUAL HOUSING OPPORTUNITY: The Property is offered in compliance with federal, state and local anti-discrimination laws.

In the Real Estate Purchase Agreement, paragraph 27 reads: “27. EQUAL HOUSING OPPORTUNITY: The Property is sold in compliance with federal, state and local anti-discrimination Laws.”

Generally speaking, anti-discrimination law refers to the law on the right of people to be treated equally without regard to sex, age, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and sometimes religious and political opinions.

I believe we all have a sense we can sell our home to anyone we choose, particularly if one party is viewed as a better fit for the neighborhood. However, there are many laws which should prompt all of us to think differently about that and look at the merits of the offer and not the attributes of the people making it.