Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Are we there yet? Is real estate going to improve?

Each year the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors provides a seminar on real estate trends. Last year Dr. Michael Walden, economist from NCSU, was part of a panel and he talked about everything from household savings trends to GDP. Last year the takeaway was that until most people can save money for a down payment, or at least get out of debt, we wouldn't see a huge increase in real estate home sales.

That sentiment was echoed in a panel of commercial brokers earlier this year. The consensus was that, over time, there will be a slight improvement, but we shouldn't plan to see a huge improvement in the real estate world any time soon. Hits, not homeruns.

So today I expected to hear a lot of the same, with hopefully data showing that things are headed in a positive direction. Dr. Walden's presentation was very similar to last year with the exception that household wealth seems to be higher than liabilities, which was not the case last year. So that's good. But economic growth is still painfully slow. It's in a positive direction, but not moving up very quickly.

What was most interesting about today's seminar was Mitchell Silver's presentation titled "Emerging Issues in the 21st Century." As Raleigh's Planning Director, he has a different perspective than Realtors. He's looking far into the future while most Realtors are looking at the present, and maybe a year or so ahead. But certainly not out into 2030 and 2050.

Director Silver reviewed a lot of information very quickly, so it was hard to document exactly what he was saying and still pay attention and absorb it all. What I loved about his presentation is that, while focused mostly on demographics, it answered the WHY question for so many issues. Why is transit so important? Why are cities so focused on downtown cores? Why should we care about the development code?

The facts that I found most interesting were (most of these were national numbers):
Like I said, he covered a lot of territory, so take these bullets with a grain of salt.  He is the expert in this area and he covered a LOT more than those bullets above. He said he would publish his slides once he was finished with the speaking circuit, so stay tuned.  Overall, I think I was most pleased with his talk because I think it is what the audience needed to hear. As real estate agents, we are essentially ambassadors for the city and we now have the data to inform our clients when or if they start to express concern about transit or all the attention being spent on downtown. Downtown cores are critical to the tax base and can generate more revenue per acre than the suburbs. Transit is a necessity, not a luxury, for the aging population. His data put everything into perspective and was very practical.  In this day and age of the 30 second sound byte and divisive politics, it was very refreshing. I'm glad he's on our team.

Friday, October 7, 2011

AIA Residential Architecture Tour

On October 2nd the Triangle chapter of the American Institute of Architecture hosted its 2nd annual tour, which was fabulous! I thought I would share a short synopsis of what I saw.

Stevenson-Thrower House 210 E Forest Rd, Raleigh
My kids and I walk by this house almost every day on our way to school. I watched the construction from foundation to landscaping so I was super excited to get a chance to see the inside of the house. I was blown away! I loved the blend of colors and materials in the kitchen/dining room. As with most contemporary homes, tons of windows let in natural light, but this house takes it a step further by varying window shapes and styles, drawing the eye to different levels of the home. The master bedroom is oriented to give the feeling of a tree house with views of the wooded park across the street. The home blends well into the urban neighborhood feel of Cameron Park. Although most homes in Cameron Park are traditional, E. Forest Rd is creating its own contemporary enclave expanding the theme of urban living within an historic framework. 
Taylor House 816 Graham Street, Raleigh
Graham Street in Cameron Village, like E. Forest in Cameron Park, personifies the modernist trend in these historically traditional neighborhoods. There are several contemporary homes in the neighborhood as well as a number of renovated mid-century homes. The theme of this home is Green Building and Sustainable Design. The roof collects rainwater, the solar thermal panels collect sun to heat the home and the home’s water supply. The orientation of the home provides shade from the trees in summer and sun in the winter to provide natural heating and cooling elements. I loved how the matching ‘butterfly wing’ patios on the second story of the home overlook the neighborhood.

Davis Residence 3105 Janice Road, Raleigh
This home has a simple open floor plan encased in two story windows that span the entire south and east facing walls, giving the home owner a feeling of living among the trees. The home owner wanted to evoke the memory of summer camp cabins, the essence of which is evident in the exterior design of the home’s overhanging roof line and the quiet way the home sits on small stilts. Besides the obvious ‘wow’ factor of the home, I liked the smart use of a small space: lots hidden storage, the loft area for an office (keeping the clutter out of the main living area), ample guest room with bath tucked above the master, and small kitchen that doesn’t seem cramped due to the openness of the living/dining area beyond. The house feels like the perfect country retreat.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Welcome New Author

You have probably noticed a few new posts on the blog by a guest author, Christine Lewis. Christine and I have been working together since York Simpson Underwood had a downtown presence in 2007. She has tons of energy, knows a lot about Downtown Raleigh, lives in Cameron Park, walks her kids to school, and makes you laugh quite often. She is now an official author of Downtown Raleigh Digs, helping me spread the word on how awesome it is to live in and around Downtown Raleigh. Welcome, Christine!

2 Great Deals in SE Raleigh

I recently saw two properties in SE Raleigh that I think are worth checking out:

211 Camden Street
This house has a nice two-story facade with matching front porches -one off the master suite upstairs, one at the entrance. The floor-plan is open and flexible. I loved rustic texture of the hardwood floors. The kitchen had granite, new cabinets, and stainless appliances. There is a true master suite with its own full bath and a small walk-in closet. The other two bedrooms were pretty small, but not awkwardly so. The only draw-back to the home, from my perspective, was that there is no yard to speak of. There is a thin strip of fenced in yard that circles the house, which may be enough for a small dog to run around. You could fit in a grill but seating would be tight. Of course, for those of you who hate lawn maintenance, this may be a bonus!

829 E Hargett Street
This 2 bedroom/1 bath has been completely renovated. The sellers moved some walls around so the house lives bigger than its 952 sqft. They also replaced the roof, insulated the walls and floors, and updated the systems of the home . . . all the ‘hidden’ luxuries. The house also sits on a large, flat lot so an addition is certainly possible. Considering the comparable sales the list price may seem a bit high, but since it's in pristine condition and everything’s new, at least you know you’re getting a quality, maintenance-free house. Plus it’s a great piece of property close to downtown, certainly a good investment.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Looking at Downtown Raleigh Living from a Different Perspective

This Week’s Tour of Homes

When I speak to most people about living downtown, they think of high-rise condo buildings or high density townhomes. My vision of downtown living includes those options, but I also think of all the wonderful historic neighborhoods that surround downtown: Historic Oakwood, Boylan Heights, Cameron Park, 5 Points, Hayes Barton. There are many neighborhoods within walking/biking distance of downtown, each with their own unique urban feel. I wanted to stress my vision of downtown living because most of our tours will highlight homes in these neighborhoods.

As a resident of one of these downtown neighborhoods, I cannot express how wonderful it is to walk to restaurants and shopping. I walk my kids to school, we take the RLine to the museums, shop at the Farmer’s Market, do skits at the Rose Garden, and more. The diversity of activities available are as wide as the scope of your (my) imagination. And, as Raleigh grows, downtown Raleigh real estate will continue to demand premium pricing due to its proximity to all the amenities downtown Raleigh has to offer.

If you’d like more information about downtown Raleigh neighborhoods, feel free to give us a call. For now, let’s talk about the houses we saw on tour this week.

612 Smedes Pl – Cameron Village
This house is in a GREAT location, just a few steps from Cameron Village. The neighborhood of Cameron Village consists mainly of Mid-Century Ranch style homes, but due to its excellent location, many of the homes have been completely renovated, added onto, or rebuilt. The neighborhood is definitely worth investing in, as I see no reason why people would not continue to want to live so close to Cameron Village, NCSU, Broughton HS, Glenwood South, etc. This particular home was your traditional 3 bedroom/2bath ranch with no updates other than granite counter tops in the kitchen. Although it was neat and clean, quite a bit of modernization would be necessary to justify the list price of $450,000. If it were priced in the $300s I might suggest it as an investment well worth the renovation costs. At this point, I might wait for a price reduction.

1215 Pierce Street – Glenwood
This house had a ton of cool features. I really liked the open floor plan of the formal living room/kitchen and there was a tiny nook completely dedicated to wine, which appealed to me! There was a cute, private exterior courtyard off the kitchen, huge den, and a cool loft office that looked down over the den. They even had their basement hidden behind some bookshelves like in a mystery novel. Of course, Hilary wanted to figure out how to open the doors, yet I found myself creeping down the steep stairs to investigate (just a storage basement). The main drawback to the home was that there were only 2 bedrooms upstairs (3 total). I thought that might limit the buyer pool. As far as the exterior of the home, great porch, courtyard, decent backyard and 2 car garage, but the proximity to Capital Blvd may turn off some buyers.

1206 Dogwood Lane – Ridgewood
I loved the floor to ceiling windows in the living room! The front rooms had a nice open floor plan. But, as I moved back into the bedroom area, everything got kinda tight. I felt like the rooms were a bit small and close together. Then, I went down to the basement. It was HUGE. Great living area/play area for kids or could be its own in-law suite because there’s a full bath and exterior doors.

124 Hudson – 5 Points
What can I say? It’s a fixer-upper. Great price for a renovation project in a fantastic location.

2007 Varnell – Beckanna
I thought this house had a lot of space and a good floor plan for the price. 1662 Sqft with a big yard inside the beltline for $289,900 is pretty good. I like the well-established neighborhood with big trees and a diversity of home styles.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Property Preview: Founders Row, Palladium Plaza, & Oakwood

Background: As an agent, you're expected to be up to date on the inventory of homes. But I'm not sure that most consumers are aware of this practice. Commonly referred to as "tour," typically an office would dedicate a meeting time once a week to see all the new listings. But with the price of gas and the market downturn, many offices have cancelled this activity. Not here! Regardless of the office policy, my colleague Christine Lewis and I regularly get out there and preview property. Pictures just don't always convey the feel of a home.

Today we focused on homes around downtown. Here's a brief recap and our thoughts.

Palladium Plaza
1) Unit 121 - Christine and I know this building well as former listing agents, but hadn't see the 3 bedroom first floor unit that is now for sale. Used as an office space, this unit is spacious and has a floorplan that would accommodate several set ups. The $425k price seems right on the money since there aren't many three bedrooms out there. I've stayed at PP with a friend while my home was undergoing renovations and I can vouch that the place is a fortress. I took the dogs out after 11pm and never had any issues, and even bumped into friends coming out of the Lincoln Theater. I like how Palladium is tucked away but still only blocks to just about everything.

2) Unit 213 - This unit was on the Downtown Home Tour a few years ago, but it was worth seeing again now that it's for sale. The sellers have done an amazing job of customizing the condo. You'd think with the concrete countertops and concrete floors that the condo would feel cold, but the wood bar and other custom features and warm lighting help keep it cozy. Many condos look the same as other units, so kudos to the sellers for making their condo stand out.

Founders Row
With all the new construction lately, Founders Row may get lost in the shuffle a bit. It doesn't have the gloss and shine of a spiffy new condo, but at the same time the building has oodles of charm through its brick walkways and courtyards. If you desire the condo lifestyle but want to feel connected to nature, consider Founders Row.
Unit 284 - This unit is on the first floor and on the corner of Person/Davie. Some folks may have concerns about privacy, but the living area is most private. I don't know about you, but it seems that's where you'd be spending most of your time. The windows there are higher than the street. The bedrooms each have plenty of natural light. The condo seemed very bright -the kitchen had been painted a fresh white, but the cabinets were not new. The master bath had been updated and there seemed to be a decent amount of closet space. The only thing missing was a private patio.

707 N East St - Who doesn't love Oakwood? This house sits high off the street, giving you a nice, private front porch. The yard is small, but most folks looking to move into an urban area like Oakwood prefer smaller yards. Just enough to have a small garden, but not a burden to maintain. As with many older homes, this home had creaks and funny layout issues. But the kitchen was updated nicely. Biggest drawback, as with homes of this age, was the lack of closet space. But to get into Oakwood for under $300k with a home that has already been updated is not bad. Depending on the rest of the condition, of course.

Took a look at 715 Devereux St and remembered that I had seen it before. Cute, cute bungalow with complete updates. The kitchen/dining/sunroom is one big, open room. Great for entertaining. Totally updated with master suite, new kitchen, and the old fireplaces are still there to keep the charm. Not much yard, but again, most folks looking to live in an urban area don't mind that. Driveway, which is key this close to Glenwood South. Current homeowners don't have much furniture, so it shows really well since it is not cluttered with too much. You can easily see how your furniture could fit. The neighbors on the corner are architects - I toured that house last year. It used to be a grocery store! Neighborhoods like this have tons of stories.

So.. there you have it. Our take on a handful of listings in the downtown area. There's a lot of good stuff out there! If you're interested in taking a look, give us a shout.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Raleigh's Creative Class at Risk

The theme for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance 2011 annual meeting was Breaking Ground with the Creative Class. Since then, a few events have also supported the theme, including the recent "Creating a Culture to Attract the Creative Class" event.

The good news? A Creative Class exists in Raleigh, particularly downtown. A few examples:
- Hopscotch Music Festival - this event brings thousands downtown for a weekend of music
- SparkCon - an event celebrating everything from art to music to design, fashion, and more.
- Co-Working businesses - These shared office environments give entrepreneurs a space to work with other creative minds without the overhead of a large office.
- Study to define Raleigh's Creative District
- Red Hat to move HQ to Downtown Raleigh

So we seem to be on the right track. But wait... this whole food truck thing has gotten a little out of control. Food trucks are very popular with young professionals and any foodie because of their quirky take on everyday food. For others it's simply quality food at a lower price. Food trucks are businesses owned by the Creative Class and they are patronized by the Creative Class. So it makes perfect sense that Raleigh, who wants to attract this audience, would support these efforts.

The debate on food trucks, unfortunately, continues. The City Council cannot seem to come to any kind of agreement. Is Raleigh serious about this campaign? The Creative Class is already coming to Raleigh. It's working! If the City cannot find a way to support food trucks, it will be a big kick in the teeth to the Creative Class. Please write to your councilor and ask them to support food trucks so we don't lose this momentum.

Photo grabbed from City-Data discussion.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene Debris Disposal

Condo lovers enjoy this time of year because they are completely validated in their lifestyle choice to leave the yard behind. Events like Hurricane Irene make anyone living within a few feet of a tree very nervous. Single family homeowners likely spent this past Sunday picking up the debris that was strewn through the yard by Irene's gusts of wind. Homes with mature trees and tons of limbs may not have enough trash cans to fit everything. So, what to do? Well, fear not, for the City of Raleigh Solid Waste Services just sent out instructions:

The City of Raleigh Solid Waste Services Department requests that residents prepare their vegetative storm debris per normal yard waste collection guidelines (limbs no longer than 5' long, 18" diameter, weighing no more than 75 lbs.) and place it out on their regular collection day. The materials can be prepared and put at the curbside (not in the street) as the residents clean up their property and they will not receive a code violation between now and September 6, 2011. For large amounts of vegetative debris that cannot be prepared according to the guidelines residents may put the materials at the curbside and call for a one time free Special Load collection. The normal $50 fee for this service will be waived through Tuesday, September 6, 2011. Beginning Wednesday, September 7, 2011 fees will resume. Residents must schedule this pick up by calling 996-6890.

Area residents and businesses also may carry their debris to the City of Raleigh Yard Waste Center, 900 North New Hope Road. The normal fees will be charged.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Downtown Raleigh Market Report - Q2 2011

We're halfway through the year, and so far the numbers are looking good. Have we hit bottom? Possibly for volume, but It may be too early to tell for pricing. After recently attending the TBJ State of Real Estate event, it seems that a slow and steady recovery is what to expect. And that's what Q2 shows us for the sub-market of Downtown Raleigh residential real estate - stable and steady sales.

Are we done with auctions?

While the Quorum auction contributed to the sales volume in Q2, it was only 20% of sales, proving that demand still exists for condos outside of special promotions. Overall, a total 45 units sold in Q2, more than second quarter last year. While sales seem to be picking up, there is still a bit of inventory.

How does Downtown Compare?

The TARR Report shows that condo sales are down from 2010 both in Wake county and ITB, but Downtown Raleigh condos have fared much better. See the full report for details.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What if the City of Raleigh had “an app for that?”

It’s no secret that the web and mobile apps have made our lives more convenient. From banking to maps to the totally unnecessary but fun apps like Ocarina – many people can’t imagine their life without internet access or apps. So what’s missing? Why doesn’t Raleigh have more apps?

Think about what bothers you most about your neighborhood. Have you done anything about it? Why not?

Stick with me here.

When most people think of government, they think bureaucracy and politics. At the city level, they pick up your trash, clean up your parks, maintain the sidewalks, and all the things that you encounter on a weekly, if not, daily basis.

So what if those little things could be made easier? When things DO go wrong, wouldn’t it be so much easier to “have an app for that?” Going back to why you probably haven’t attempted to solve what bothers you – we’re hoping to find ways to make solving those problems easier through more open government.

Let’s walk through a typical day and you’ll see what I’m talking about.


After you’re dressed and ready to walk the dog or go for a run, you head out the door. Down the street you notice that the abandoned property near your house has grass 3 feet tall. You’ve had it. You take out your phone and fire up SeeClickFix and report it to the City. Takes 30 seconds.


Over lunch you check your personal email and notice that both of your SeeClickFix issues from this morning have been acknowledged and one has already been assigned. Sweet!

Meanwhile, your co-worker, who lives in the neighborhood next to yours, asks if you’ve heard about the proposed development around the corner from your houses. You haven’t, so you pull up the city’s website neighborhood map feature, insert your address, select to see all activity from all city departments within a 2 mile radius of your house, and the map appears. You see that a parcel of land on the corner of your neighborhood entrance has a zoning case assigned, and someone is applying to have it changed to business. You pull up the application and see that they want to add an ice cream shop. Fun!


On your evening walk you notice that there are police at a house and ask the officer what’s going on. There was a break-in and thankfully no one was home. Everyone is ok, and the thief took mostly electronics. You mention to the officer that you’ll share the news with your neighbors, and he tells you that it has already been reported to the Neighborhood Watch app. Anyone within 1 mile from the property has been notified if they have the app. This is all news to you, so you download the app right away. Sure enough, there is the report. You walk down to the elderly woman’s house a few doors down and make sure she knows about the incident. Two pieces of cake and 1 hour later, you arrive safely back home.

You probably get the gist of where we’re going with all this. The point is – government CAN be so much more accessible and your life can be improved because of it. SeeClickFix already exists and has helped fix hundreds of issues already. It has brought accountability to the city. Think of how else we can leverage technology to interact better with our local government. The other examples are just hypothetical, but the links are to existing data that is already available.

So, what do you wish there was an app for? Send us your ideas or tell us what issues you want solutions for. Or just vote on the ones we've already thought of!

We are planning an event called CityCamp that has nothing to do with camping and everything to do with solving problems with technology and making government more accessible. You don’t have to be a techie to participate, but techies will be attending the event to help bring the ideas to life. Join us June 3-5.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

From the City: Repair Damage before Progress Energy can Restore Power

Residents Must Repair Damage And Obtain Electrical Inspection Before Progress Energy Can Restore Power
If the City of Raleigh electrical inspector discovers structural damage to the dwelling that could negatively impact the safety of the occupants then the Housing and Environmental Inspections Division will be called to assess damage before power will be restored. The Housing and Environmental Inspections Division will determine what additional permits are required and what work will need to be performed before electrical service can be restored. Please call 919-516-2500 to schedule the inspection. The Inspections Department will be expediting these inspections and it is anticipated that electrical inspectors will work Friday due to anticipated high volume of meter replacements.

The City’s online development center can be used to obtain e-permits such as electrical, mechanical and plumbing. If a resident’s project requires a building permit then you can not obtain any permits through the online development center. All permits must be issued together from the Development Services Customer Service Center at One Exchange Plaza or from 8320-130 Litchford Road office.

For additional information about electrical permits, please contact Jay Daunoy, Electrical Inspector Supervisor, 919-807-5131.

For additional information about the structural integrity of a residential dwelling, please contact the Housing and Environmental Division at 807-5110

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Does property tax value mean anything?

The timing couldn't have been worse for Raleigh's most recent tax assessment. From a home owner perspective, anyway. At a time when the economy was just starting to hit Raleigh in 2008, the assessment began. Wake county assesses real estate values every 8 years, and the values from 2000 were incredibly low compared to market values. However, this also meant that someone could buy a $320k house in 2006 and pay taxes on a home worth $165k. The good news was that taxes were pretty low. If you owned the same property from 2000-2008, you likely benefited from low property values, and thus low taxes, during the boom times of the housing market.

Fast forward to today where tax values seem unrealistically high when compared to market values. Homeowners are now paying taxes based on what their homes are theoretically worth. While some would argue their assessed value since the market value is lower, remember that the tax value has to last 8 years. So things should balance out, especially for those that benefited from such low taxes prior to 2008.

The challenge arises when it's time to sell. Agents working with sellers have to explain why they can't get tax value for their home. My experienced colleagues here at PruYSU, Jewel Parker and Betsy Brewer, recently conducted an analysis of an area inside the beltline and discovered that the average sales price was 85% of tax value. This validated what many agents believed to be true - that sellers can't expect market value to equal tax value.

So imagine my surprise when I checked the tax value of an upcoming listing that I knew would have a market value in the low $200's. Tax value? $165,000. Eeek! What in the world? This didn't seem to be following the convention of market value being less than tax value. So, I did some research. Low and behold, Woodcrest, a neighborhood inside the beltline, is bucking the trend. Homes in the last 12 months have sold for an average of 25% ABOVE the tax value.

So, I repeat the question: Does tax value mean anything? Not really. It can be a decent starting point, but should be taken with a grain of salt. More perspective and information is necessary to determine market value.

Look up your tax value here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Downtown Raleigh Condo Report - 2010 Summary

Goodbye 2010!
With another year in the books, you can't help but feel optimistic about the future. Before we move forward, it's important to a look back at 2010. The good news is that the Downtown Raleigh condo sales volume was on par with 2009. The disappointing news is that the average sales price dropped. This can be good news for buyers who may be looking to purchase property at the bottom of the market.

What will 2011 bring?

While you can't predict the future, you can recognize trends. Rates are still very attractive, but many young professionals may not want to drop their entire savings on a down payment. With the Hue and Tucker apartment buildings, there is more of a "try before you buy" mentality. Some residents may fall in love with downtown and buy. Others may simply be waiting to sell their existing home. Sales in 2010 were bolstered by incentives and 2011 will remain just as competitive. With the news of the Quorum auction, it looks like 2011 may continue with incentives to unload some of the remaining inventory. This is a good thing! More people downtown means more services, which means more things to do.

Raleigh continues to receive great press as a place to live and work. While these few years may be tough, the long term still looks good for Downtown Raleigh.

Download the full 2010 Downtown Raleigh Condo Report

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In Real Estate, the Devil is in the Details

Tuesday I attended the City of Raleigh Public Works committee meeting because there was an item on the agenda that impacted some of my listings. Parking. Go figure. Being last on the agenda meant sitting through a few other topics. Normally people dread this activity, but I think it is fascinating to hear the debates and comments. I always learn something.

Tonight's topic was assessments. Being a public works committee, it was about sewer becoming available to neighborhoods outside the city. The agenda item was specific to a few lots, but several people from the neighborhood were present to dispute the assessment.

The link to real estate is that there were several homeowners present at the meeting who claim that they never knew about the assessment. One in particular had recently purchased the property. The date of the assessment notification was 2004, according to comments made. That's six years ago. An assessment is a material fact. Right there in the Residential Property Disclosure statement (required by property owners selling their homes) it asks, #18, "Lawsuits, foreclosures, bankruptcy, tenancies, judgements, tax liens, PROPOSED ASSESSMENTS, (all caps for emphasis on my part), mechanics liens, materialmen's liens, or notice from any government agency that could affect title to the property?" If yes, you check the box.

This form exists to disclose all necessary items to the next owner. If an owner lies, the agent may have no way of knowing. But what I think is necessary, in some cases, is for the agent to cite examples of the types of things that the homeowner may have forgotten about. An agent asking "have you gotten any letters from the City, even going back several years?" might prompt an owner to remember something. A helpful agent can educate the homeowner on why these answers are important. Not to say that didn't happen here, but things like this make me want to polish my own procedures to help homeowners do the right thing.

After sitting through this meeting tonight, you better believe that if I am ever involved in a listing or purchase on the outskirts of the city, I am checking that assessment website! Or even calling the city. And making double sure that the owner has not received notice from anyone. I didn't realize the time lag between notification and actual billing. It can be years. But HOA's can have assessments, too, so condos aren't off the hook.

This woman in particular would never have bought that property if she knew a $4000 assessment was coming. Who is to blame? The previous homeowner. Should the real estate agent have known? Was there a real estate agent? Normally the attorney would catch it if no one else did. Somehow, it was missed. And now this woman is on the hook.

I feel for her. I really do. She had done everything she thought necessary. She has all her paperwork. She is organized. You can tell she's on top of things. These meetings really let you see how one small misstep in a real estate transaction can impact a person. Was there evidence of something new? Was there still fresh construction from the installation? If so, that should have been a clue to someone to ask questions.

Buying a house is more than finding the right layout and view from the backyard. There is a whole team of people that work for you. Your agent, your lender, your attorney, and anyone else that comes into the picture - inspectors, contractors, etc. If they do a good job they should help prevent things like this from happening, which is what they are being paid to do - look out for your best interests. (Disclaimer - I'm sure there are things that people can't possibly know about. Unfortunately there's a first time for everything).

I came away from this meeting with the idea that all agents should go to at least 3 meetings with their county or city related to property before getting their license so that they can be aware of how things work. It's one thing to read it in a book. It's quite another to see things in reality, with real people and real money.

What happened here? Did the homeowner simply forget? Maybe that's the case. But as an agent, I think we need to remind sellers and buyers about these things and walk them through the paperwork so that they understand why the questions are being asked. I know I'm adding a few more items to my usual checklist.