Seller Guide pg 2

Seller Guide
Scroll down to find the articles listed below:

SALABILITY SCORECARD FOR SELLERS
NEW LAW, NEW CONTRACT IN 2003
THOU SHALT DISCLOSE
HOW MOTIVATED IS THE BUYER?
DON’T LET YOUR DECK START WITH DEC-AY
WHEN DO YOU NEED BATMAN?
SELLER’S MOTIVATION AFFECTS AGENT’S MOTIVATION
MY TREE, YOUR TREE, OUR TREE
THE LEACHFIELD MYSTERIES
ARE TERMITES EATING AT YOU?
WHEN NEIGHBORS ARE A NUISANCE
DESIGN IDEAS FOR YOUR HOME
SELLERS: AVOID THESE 20 COSTLY MISTAKES

SALABILITY SCORECARD FOR SELLERS

Here’s a scorecard for you to rate whether your house is likely to get top dollar in today’s Groveland real estate market. You, the seller, can control each of the factors below to make your house more likely to sell.
Give your property 10 points for each YES answer:

* Everything is spotlessly clean: floors, windows, window coverings, grout, baseboards, lampshades, door thresholds, door mats, faucets, toilet bases, and nothing smells, sticks or squeaks ______POINTS
   
* Recent inspections have been done on the roof, structural pest and septic and no repairs are needed ______POINTS
   
* The Seller’s and agent’s Transfer Disclosure Statements indicate NO defects ______POINTS
   
* Seller will provide a one-year home warranty ______POINTS
   
* Personal property in good condition is included- refrigerator, barbecue, washer, dryer, patio furniture, etc ______POINTS
   
* If the house is vacant, it is regularly aired out, kept at a comfortable temperature, and looks inviting ______POINTS
   
* If the house is vacant, prospective Buyers can see the property at any time without calling, or if occupied, the occupants can get the house ready to show in 10 minutes anytime ______POINTS

The highest score you can get is 70 points. YOUR SCORE = ______POINTS

NOW…. IF YOU INSIST ON AN “ Asking price” FOR THE house THAT is 10% or more over CURRENT market value- THEN Delete all the above points.
YOU HAVE JUST LOST YOUR MARKET ADVANTAGE!

Salability Scorecard for SellersPart Two
Circle the minus number for each defect. Be brutally honest.
The numbers correspond to the percentage of prospective buyers that would likely be negatively influenced by this “defect”. A -20% means 20% of buyers would likely eliminate your home from consideration. A -90% means 90% of buyers would be less likely to want to buy the house.

Pet urine smells and spots on the floor or stale tobacco odors -90%
The neighborhood looks horribly junky and derelict -80%
Dark inside unless you turn on lights and open curtains -80%
The property is located outside the security gates (if PML) -70%
Wall paper or wood paneling on most walls -60%
Furniture is worn or outdated -60%
The property is located on a busy road with traffic noise -50%
The property has a steep driveway or poor back-up space -50%
Roof is old, leaky, wood shake, curling, obviously a mess -50%
The deck is rotting, shaky, and full of fungus -50%
House has bad heating system or none, single pane windows, old fireplace -not energy efficient -50% Leaves, pine needles on driveway, decks, stairs, that make people fear they will slip & fall -50%
The closets, garage and storage areas are crammed with stuff -20%

Well, did you eliminate every possible buyer? Not really…..

… IF YOU PRICE THE HOUSE UNDER THE MARKET VALUE ENOUGH TO COMPENSATE FOR ALL DEFECTS, YOU HAVE JUST GAINED MARKET ADVANTAGE! IT MAY ACTUALLY SELL QUICKLY, BECAUSE THE REMAINING PERCENTAGE OF BUYERS ARE LOOKING FOR A LOW-PRICED FIXER-UPPER!

NEW LAW, NEW CONTRACT IN 2003
Sellers of second homes and rental properties after January 1, 2003 will be surprised when they have to pay their capital gains tax to the State of California much sooner. Actually it will be when escrow closes. They want 3.33% of the purchase price withheld from you, regardless of how much you will actually owe the State when you file your 2003 return. And you can’t avoid it by not having an escrow- it is really the Buyer that is responsible for withholding the money, filling out form 597, and sending the payment to the Franchise Tax Board. The Buyer can delegate this task to their escrow holder, if they have one. Blame the California budget deficit for this new law.
There are exemptions. You don’t have to pay if it is a primary residence as defined in the IRS Code, or if the sales price is less than $100,000, or if you are doing a 1031 tax deferred exchange for other investment property. Transactions that will result in a loss for California income tax purposes are also exempt. However, if the property is just “over-encumbered” with loans, repair costs, real estate commissions owed, etc, the Seller may have to bring 3.33% to escrow to cover his tax.
This new law could hurt you if you needed all the proceeds from one house sale to buy another. Be aware of how the “tax status” of your properties, whether primary, secondary, or investment, can affect how much, and when, the gain goes in your pocket. If you rent out your primary home to buy a vacation home that you turn into your retirement home, and then rent that one while you go off in a motorhome…well, you could end up selling them and not getting the benefit of either the primary home exemption or the 1031 tax deferred exchange on investment property.
For many years the California Association of Realtors Purchase Agreement kept adding buyer protections. The latest version adds more protection for the Seller, probably as a result of the strong Sellers market in the state. The trend in California real estate is for sellers to disclose everything, but warrant very little. It is the Buyer’s responsibility to inspect the property and (usually) pay for all the inspections and give complete copies of the reports to the Seller, even if she decides not to buy it. Typical inspections are roof, septic, home, structural pest and chimney.
Let me clarify that the Seller can choose to pay for inspections before or during escrow and I strongly recommend that they do if they suspect a problem. If the 20-year rated roof is 19 years old, inspect it right away. Too many escrows fall apart when the buyer is shocked by revelations of leaky roofs, fungus-destroyed decks, or saturated leach fields and the Seller takes an “it’s-your-problem-now” attitude. It is far better to find out the bad news before any prospective buyers walk in the door. Then disclose it and start negotiating.
Sellers don’t need to say they are selling a house AS IS anymore. The revised BUYER’S INSPECTION ADVISORY says it for them: “Seller is not obligated to repair, correct or otherwise cure known defects that are disclosed to you (the buyer), or previously unknown defects that are discovered by you or your inspectors during escrow.” This is a huge change from a few years ago when Sellers were required in the printed contract to fix roof and plumbing leaks, repair appliances and electrical defects, warrant that the chimney was safe, and replace broken dual pane window seals. Current local practice is for the Buyer to ask in the contract offer for Seller to do 1) all structural pest repairs and 2) pump and repair the septic system. This will probably change as the new Purchase Agreement starts being used. Sellers will not even be obligated to do these two basic things.
Buyers will have 17 days to inspect, review and ask for repairs. They will also have 17 days to sign and return all disclosures, waive appraisal contingencies, and/or notify the Seller if they want to get out of the purchase or the BUYER may be in breach of contract.
The pressure will be on both parties in the first 7 days after the contract is accepted to swap information. The Seller must deliver: the Transfer Disclosure, the Natural Hazard Disclosure, preliminary title report, and the Homeowner’s Association Disclosures.
The Seller still must warrant that the water heater is braced in case of seismic shaking, and that smoke detectors are installed and operable. Seller must disclose any insurance claims on the property for the last five years. After everything is disclosed, by the Seller, the agents, and the inspectors, it is up to the Buyer and their agent to decide what to ask for. This is where an agent is most valuable- making sure the Seller meets all their disclosure obligations and buyer understands what he is getting, or should be getting.
If Seller does work on the house during escrow in response to Buyer requests he must provide written receipts for repairs or prepare a written statement indicating repairs performed by Seller. He must provide copies prior to the Buyer’s final walkthrough.
Prospective buyers who looked at houses in PML just a couple of years ago are sometimes shocked by the price increases when they come back ready to make a purchase. There are three major factors that drove up the prices:
1. Incredibly low interest rates, currently at around 5.75% for a 30 year fixed rate
2. The stock market drop that made investors switch to real estate.
3. The steady increase of “baby boomers” in the second home and retirement home market
Another factor has been the 1997 tax changes that reduced capital gains on non-primary homes to 20% federal, and allowed primary home sellers up to $500,000 per couple to be tax-exempt.
I have seen the effect of three recessions on PML: 1976, 1981, and 1992. So the “historic” high prices and low inventory of homes for sale will not last forever. The pendulum will swing again, and we are always two or three years behind the Bay Area market.

By Lauree Borup, January 2003

DON’T LET YOUR DECK START WITH DEC-AY
Imagine that you have eight $1,000 bills in your wallet. Let’s take a peek at those luscious bills. Oh no! Half the money has been eaten away by money-decaying fungus! Will the bank still accept them?
Now imagine that’s your wood deck (worth about $8,000) and it’s being penetrated and decomposed by wood-decaying fungus. Will the buyer still accept it? Will you have to replace it in order to pass a Structural Pest Inspection?
The most costly enemy of your real estate investment in Groveland is fungus decay. This is because we have a lot of decks, instead of patios and lawns, and because a lot of them aren’t properly maintained. The key to preventing rot is to keep moisture out of the wood. Proper construction and annual sealing are pre-requisites.
Decay fungi are living organisms that send small threads called "hyphae" through damp wood. They take their food from the wood as they grow, and reduce its strength until you can flake it apart with your thumbnail. There are two main classes of wood rot. Brown rot causes wood to be brittle, darkened, and break off in cube-like chunks. Eventually the wood shrinks, twists, and cracks perpendicular to the grain. Finally, it becomes dry and powdery. White rot is fibrous, spongy and light-colored. When either fungi causes the wood to lose 10% of its weight, about 80% of its ability to withstand shock loads is lost too.
Also, surface molds, "mildews", and sapstain fungi are often found growing on the surface of damp wood and can be confused with decay fungi. Although these organisms may discolor the wood, they do not break down wood fibers and thus do not weaken its structure. However, they are a warning flag that the wood is too moist and rot will soon set in. They are generally green, black, or orange, and powdery in appearance.
I had always wondered what "dry rot" was. Turns out it is rarely found, but is caused by a fungi called Poria incrassata which can conduct water through root-like strands several feet to dry wood, moisten it, and then decay it. This fungi thrives near water leaks and wood in contact with soil. Most of what you’ll see in Groveland is common "wet rot", though.
Many rot problems can be headed off by proper construction:
-Don’t place the deck too close to the ground (lower than two feet) or impede air circulation with fiberglass tacked to the bottom. The deck needs air to dry out!
-Deck treads should have a space between them. They will shrink eventually, but they need a little air space from the beginning.
-Many older decks have a deck tread parallel to the siding nailed to a ledger board with no flashing and no place for the water to go except to soak into the siding. The building codes don’t allow this anymore, but check your deck for this problem.
-If you can afford it, use heart redwood. The outer sapwood, or concommon grade, is not as resistant to decay. Trex brand decking is fairly new and expensive, but might be worth looking into now that redwood jumped up in price again this year.
-Consider putting a roof over the deck. A dry deck protected from sun and rain lasts much longer
-North-facing decks stay wetter and shadier, so be extra cautious with them.
If the deck is put on correctly, follow these guidelines:
-Clear leaves and pine needles off. If left on the deck, they form a "wet blanket". Remove any trapped debris between deck boards, and especially where they rest on support joists.
-Don’t put carpet or matting of any kind on the deck; underneath it will be rotting away
-Don’t keep putting more nails or screws in the ends of the treads when they pop up, creating more openings for water to get in. Replace popped nails with a screw in the same hole. (I have seen board ends with 8 or 9 nails in them, and usually rotten)
-Don’t paint the underside of the deck. Unless the top deck treads are kept water proofed, moisture seeps in the top and is trapped in the wood.
-Seal the deck every year. Follow the directions carefully on the can regarding temperature and wiping off excess product. Seal the ends of the treads, too. Pick a good product. Consumer Reports updates their recommendations every year based on their ongoing tests and new and improved products coming on the market. The professionals on the deckseal.com website recommend Sherwin Williams products and claim it is better than Behr’s and Penofin.
-When you suspect fungus, use products like Tim-Bor or Bora-Care, which can be sprayed or brushed on. A great place to get them is from the Online Store at accupest-bugfree.com, or call them at 1 (800) 805-0434. They offer "Professional Do it Yourself Pest Control Products and Services" and are very informative.
My husband and I wanted to add a small deck off the south side of our living room a couple of years ago, but we didn’t want it made of wood. We wanted something with NO MAINTENANCE. Kessel and Associates, architects in Sonora, had the answer and we love the results. The surface is 20-inch square colored concrete blocks, 2 inches thick and ungrouted, and the railing is powder-coat painted iron.
by Lauree Borup, December 1999

ON THE HOUSE: WHEN DO YOU NEED BATMAN?     
How do you know if a bat colony’s permanent address is the same as yours? Would you hear them squeaking and scratching as they settled down for the day after a long night of eating their weight in insects several times over? Not necessarily- they can be very quiet. Would you smell their urine and guano? Only if they had been living at a building a long time, like the Mt. Carmel Catholic Church in Big Oak Flat, where the odor of thousands of bats in the belfry became noticeable. Would you see them coming in and out of the house? YES, if you get up before the sun, or watch carefully at dusk to see if any of those flitting bats are coming out of your roof eaves.

That’s the usual call that Sierra Bat Exclusions gets: "we’ve seen bats flying around or one on the ground; can you get rid of them?" Dave Diehl and his son Rod can do just that. They operate the only pest control service in California that specializes entirely in bats, and they’re located here in Tuolumne County. About 20% of their calls come from the Groveland area. The way they "control" bats is to bat-proof a building by closing off all the holes where they can squeeze in. A bat can get in ahole as small as half inch in diameter. No bats are killed, and no chemicals are used, except for deodorizer and disinfectant.

A report from the UC Farm Advisors office (dated 1969) recommends scattering moth flakes to repel bats, but Dave says these don’t work. Neither do floodlights, because bats aren’t at home at night. My ant and spider exterminator suggested spraying them with water, but our bats seemed to enjoy the shower while they hung on to the siding. They hang by the claws on their wings, which are really their "thumbs". Look for roughened surfaces on your eaves where they might get a thumb-hold. While bats do not gnaw on wood, they do take advantage of existing holes. They like older buildings, whether occupied or not. Some homes are built so tight that bats will never get in, but Dave bat-proofs a lot of "loose" houses built in the 1970’s. Bats can get in where a roof shingle has blown off, or an eave vent screen is torn, or in our case, where a woodpecker has drilled an opening.

Bats don’t hang out under houses where predators like coyotes and cats can get them. Also, crawlspaces don’t fit their "swoop style". When bats exit a building they drop down in a swoop, although when they come back in, it is a straight flight. They like to roost at least ten feet off the ground. Multi-story houses on hilltops are especially enticing. Dave thinks we have a lot of bats in our area because Pine Mountain Lake provides a permanent water source and there’s lots of bugs for them to eat. They dine on moths, mosquitoes, crickets, beetles and grasshoppers.

It’s not good to share living quarters with bats for three reasons: 1) Bats carry rabies, 2) Bats carry bedbugs and 3) Bats stink. Dave and his crew avoid all contact with the bats and wear thick gloves if they must get close. Bats may carry rabies without showing symptoms of the disease themselves. Never pick up a bat, and if you do get a bite or scratch it should be treated by a physician immediately. If possible, bring the bat’s head in to health authorities so they can examine it for rabies.

I first suspected we had bats in the house because I found bedbugs in our…beds, of course. Bedbugs are small, only about 1/8 to 1/4 inch long, and oval and brown. Their legs are very tiny and they move quickly. They are difficult to find and they bite some people (guess who?) and not others (everyone else in the house). Their bites cause up to a quarter-sized itchy welt. You would not mistake it for a spider or mosquito bite, or poison oak. They bedbug spray we bought didn’t work.

You can sometimes see streaks of urine stains on siding, or accumulated brownish black guano that looks like mouse droppings below a bat entrance. The persistent odor can attract new bat colonies after the original ones are broken up. The size of a colony can range from ten bats to five thousand. They can be all-male colonies, or female and pup (nursing baby) colonies. Their natural habitats are caves, rock crevices, and tree limbs, but they love the warmth inside our walls and attics. When bats are driven from one roosting place, they look for another. They may try different places, hanging out temporarily, until the perfect bat pad is found. Since individual bats have been recorded to live up to 31 years, they may live in one place a long time!

Despite being protected by law, bat populations in California are dwindling. About ten species are found in the Sierra Nevada. Sierra Bat Exclusions finds the free-tailed bats most frequently; others commonly evicted are big and little brown bats. Species names are descriptive of appearance: hoary bat, pallid bat, spotted bat, big-eared bat. Some are not even called bats, such as the "long-legged myotis" and western pipestrelle". Most species hibernate in winter, but some migrate.

The cost to "exclude" bats is not based on the number of bats, but the number of holes they are using to get inside. All of them must be sealed up. There is no standard cost; it can range from $100 to several thousand dollars. Smaller holes are caulked, larger ones covered with flashing, netting, foam or trim boards. After the bats are gone, Sierra Bat Exclusions gives a one year warranty against bats getting inside again.

Sometimes sellers of homes have no idea bats are boarding with them until an exterminator points out the evidence during a routine termite inspection. Prospective buyers must be told, and they will want the bats gone. Sierra Bat Exclusions can be reached at (209) 532-8200.

Our bat colony was evicted for $200, about the same as the cost to legally evict a human free-loading tenant through the Justice Court. It was quicker, though.

by Lauree Borup, 1997, printed in the Yosemite Highway Herald
     

SELLER’S MOTIVATION AFFECTS AGENT’S MOTIVATION
There’s an answer to each of these questions sellers ask real estate agents:

1) Will you agree to a shorter listing period than the average time it takes to sell a home in today’s market?
2) Will you do extra advertising?
3) Will you reduce your commission?
The answer is: It depends on who’s asking.
For example: Seller A wants to “test” the market for his home. He doesn’t have to sell. He wants to price it $20,000 over the market value indicated in the price analysis prepared by the agent. He doesn’t want a keybox on the house. If the buyer wants him to replace the old carpet he’ll negotiate, but doesn’t want to spend the money now. He asks questions 1, 2, and 3. The agent says no, because the Motivation Equation doesn’t add up. The Motivation Equation, like algebra, goes something like this:
MOTIVATED SELLER + RIGHT PRICE + TERMS AND CONDITIONS TO ENTICE BUYER = SHORTER SELLING TIME + MORE EXCITED REALTOR WILLING TO TALK CONCESSIONS
Let’s try the equation with seller B, who has made the decision he must sell in the next three months. He goes into high gear fixing up the house to look like the star of the neighborhood. He selects a price that is right on the market target with no “negotiating room” added on. He offers an attractive bonus to the agent who brings the buyer to the closing of escrow, and pays for all the inspections and repairs up front. Then he asks the listing broker to reduce the listing time to three months, do extra marketing and reduce his commission by the dollar amount of the bonus (unless the listing agent sells it). This
Motivation Equation adds up! The listing broker knows that the likelihood of this house selling soon and generating a commission for all his hard work is much better than with Seller A.

Written by Lauree Borup, CRB, CRS, GRI, of RE/MAX Yosemite Gold.
     

MY TREE, YOUR TREE, OUR TREE
If a tree’s trunk is entirely on one person’s property, that person owns the tree, even if the roots spread under a neighbor’s land or the branches hang over it. But if the trunk straddles a property boundary line, then all the owners of the properties become co-owners of the tree. In California statute these are defined as "line trees". Even if the tree originally was on one side of the line, if the trunk grows over the line the neighbor
automatically becomes an owner, with half of the legal responsibility for maintenance, damage from, or removal of the tree.
For example, Pete plants a catalpa tree on his property near the line. As it grows larger and starts to drop long pods and 9" leaves, next door neighbor Ned grows to hate the tree. Eventually the roots begin to damage both their leach lines and break up a block retaining wall. The trunk now straddles the line. Pete agrees to have it removed. Ned is unhappy to learn that he must pay for half of the removal costs!
Owners of a commonly owned tree usually maintain the portion on their property. Groveland Community Services District Fire Dept. requires that dead tree limbs be removed up to a height of six feet above the ground, and all cut limbs, tree debris (slash), and downed tree trunks be removed from the property.
When the tree as a whole needs attention, both owners are obligated to pay for the work. And if the tree harms someone else, for instance a large limb falls on a third party’s house, both would be responsible for the damage. What if you are concerned about a diseased limb overreaching your property and threatening another neighbors structure? If you can solve the problem without help, on your own property, you shouldn’t expect your
co-owner to share the cost. You always have the right to cut the limbs of any tree over your own land as long as you don’t harm the tree.
A co-owner may not damage or remove a healthy line tree without the other owner’s permission. If they grant permission, and you agree to split the costs of removal,
get it in writing first with all the deedholder’s signatures.
If your neighbor complains about the upkeep of a line tree, and you suspect they will cut it down when you are gone for the weekend, send them a clarification and
warning letter. Remind them that it belongs to both of you and that it is valuable to you because of the summer shading and cooling. You might add that you can sue them if they cut the tree.
If the co-owner ignores your letter and drops the tree anyway, first check with your homeowner’s insurance agent. Many policies will reimburse you for a destroyed tree.
Sometimes the policy of the person who caused the damage will pay you for the entire loss, especially if the harm to you was unintentional. If insurance won’t pay-or won’t pay
enough-you can seek compensation for your actual loss from the co-owner. You should be entitled to the amount it would cost to replace the tree, or, if it can’t be replaced, for the diminished value of your property without it. (If the tree is solely yours, you may recover up to 3 times the actual damages, but not in the case of co-ownership).
If a line tree is dead or diseased beyond repair, a co-owner may remove it without the other’s permission. Because the co-owner really has no loss, they can’t complain. If it’s good firewood, you should offer to share it though!
My parents live on Cresthaven next to Long Gulch Ranch, and a couple of years ago noticed that their huge, old Ponderosa pine was turning brown. It was also leaning
over their house. They called the PML Association to look at it and get permission to remove it as a dead tree. Then they got a bid from a tree faller for the cost to completely
remove it. This was a line tree, over 4 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall. Many years ago it had been used as a fence post, and the tree had grown and completely engulfed the barbed wire fence dividing the two original ranches. The fence was still there, protruding out of each side of the tree, and following the newer PML surveyed boundary. The tree’s co-owners were contacted and agreed to pay for half of the removal costs.
What if they hadn’t? They could have ignored written demands for reimbursement. If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, suggest mediation with a neutral third party. An agreement on a payment plan or a compromise is better than a lawsuit between next door neighbors.
If your neighbor absolutely refuses to cooperate, you may choose to go to small claims court. In California the limit is $5,000. You should have documents proving the
ownership of the tree, the costs or damages incurred, and your paper trail of letters.
Remember that in Pine Mountain Lake you must get permission from the Environmental Control Committee to cut down trees over 5 inches in diameter at chest height.
by Lauree Borup, 1996

THE LEACHFIELD MYSTERIES
  by Lauree Borup, 1992   
Groveland Community Services District provides sewer service to about 1/3 of the properties in Pine Mountain Lake. In 1972, the newly formed State Water Quality Control Board required PML’s developer, Boise Cascade, to sewer within 1000 feet of the lake and wherever extensive soil testing showed individual septic systems would not work, such as areas in Units 3 and 12. Until 1983, all the septic systems on the remaining 2/3 of the lots were "engineered" using "canned" plans that worked well enough. But in 1983 a new and comprehensive sewage disposal ordinance, Title 13, was passed by Tuolumne County and changed how property owners and buyers looked at that mountain dirt.
Now, before getting a building permit, two 8-foot deep trenches must be dug on the lot and a sanitarian from the Environmental Health Department must approve the septic design. If the lot cannot be approved for a "conventional" system because of rocky or shallow soils, insufficient space, or high ground water, then a special design may be called for. This could double the cost of installing a system, from about $3,000 to $6,000+ for engineering. It can critically affect a lot’s value. To protect their buyers, real estate agents started putting clauses in sales contracts to have the test trenches dug during escrow. If a lot "failed" for a conventional system, the buyer was usually then not obligated to buy it.
A septic system consists of a sewer pipe which carries household wastes to a buried concrete tank of between 1000 and 1500 gallons. The solids settle in the tank and are turned into sludge by micro-organisms. The liquids are distributed to the leachfield by distribution boxes and gravity flow. A leach line is a trench up to 100 feet long filled with gravel and perforated pipe. The soil on top of the leach line must not be covered with buildings, decks, asphalt or gravel, which would prevent evaporation of the liquids.
And that’s where the 1983 ordinance affects your remodeling plans. The plot plan you submit for building additions or new construction must show a 100% expansion area, which means space to put an entirely new leachfield if the first one is saturated after 20 or 30 years. I strongly recommend that you get the "as built" plot plans showing where the tank, leachfield, and buildings are on your property. Get it from your contractor or the Building Department.
(The plot plan for our first house showed the septic tank behind the house. So we poured a concrete slab and built a storage shed to the side of the house. We found later the shed was right on top of the tank! Unfortunately, the contractor had not submitted revised plans to the County)
Your tank location is also important because every 5 years or so, it should be pumped out by a septic service. When your house is sold, most buyers want the tank inspected and pumped, if needed, at the seller’s expense. If it fills up, sludge will start clogging the leachlines. Tank pumpers recommend using your garbage disposal infrequently. Kitchen waste causes the tank to fill up faster. My plumber suggests flushing a 3-pack of active dry yeast in the toilet at bedtime and letting it sit overnight in the tank. There are commercial products advertised to keep your septic tank micro-organisms happy too. However, Environmental Health says regular pumping at 5 year intervals is the only effective maintenance they recommend.
For those families with vacant lots, some of the following County regulations will affect you when building or selling. No part of a septic system may be installed in a Drainage Protection Area, orDPA. The width of DPA’s crossing your lot may be from 25 feet to 100 feet and are shown on the recorded subdivision maps. Buildings may be put in DPA’s though, which would mean the liquids from the septic tank would be pumped uphill to the leachfield. A "pump-up" system costs about $1,000 more and is considered a "conventional" system by the County. It is nice to use when you want to put your house down next to a creek.
Leach lines should run parallel to the contours of the slope to provide a gentle gravity flow. They can ignore building setbacks and be within 5 feet of any property line. Does your neighbor have a cut bank that comes close to your boundary? A cut bank, even one created by your own driveway, can wipe out large areas of potential leachfield. Leach lines must be set back from the top of the bank a distance equal to 4 times the height of the bank, up to a maximum of 35 feet.
The required size of your leachfield is determined by the number of bedrooms in your house, not the square footage or the number of bathrooms. The reasoning is that a 5 bedroom, 2 bath household will probably generate more wastewater than a 3 bedroom, 3 bath household because a larger family can fit in it.
For more information, contact the County Environmental Health Department at (209) 533-5990, or your contractor, realtor, or a reputable septic service.

SEPTIC SERVICE COMPANIES IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY:
El Dorado Septic Service (209) 536-1925
Mother Lode Septic Service (209) 533-1950
Roto-Rooter (209) 984-4045 or 532-3995
 
ARE TERMITES EATING AT YOU?
   by Lauree Borup, 1992
What is a termite banquet? Cardboard boxes stored under your house on the dirt. What is a carpenter ant baby nursery? Dead wood, like your rafters and floor joists. What is a gourmet meal for a wood-eating fungus? The damp, dark underside of your deck. And who pays for all this hospitality? Yep, you do when you sell your house.
Get tough EARLY on structural pest control. The best time to get a structural pest inspection is before you put your house on the market. Why? Let’s look at a BAD scenario.
Your house is in escrow, you’ve put a $1,000 limit on your "pest repairs", and the inspector sends you an estimate for $3,000 of termite spraying, deck repair, and linoleum replacement. The buyer says he won’t pay a dime, his interest rate lock-in for his loan is about to expire, you’ve already bought your next house and you have two weeks to get all that work done. The repairmen are booked solid for two weeks. These things happen!
If you get your inspection done before buyers start going through it, you can get structural repairs done at reasonable prices without pressure. A second advantage is that a "pest clearance" is a positive selling feature that makes your home more competitive in a tough buyer’s market. Both the buyer and their agent are relieved to know there are probably "no nasty surprises" that they may have to pay for. Benefit #3 is negotiations go smoother and you can get a better price.
You save yourself even more money by preparing the house before the inspector comes. Clear out the crawlspace! Get the kindling, boxes and wood you were going to use some day out of there or up on concrete. Rake it clean. Smile. You may have just saved yourself $500 in pesticide spraying charges.
The most common and expensive damage to a house is not caused by termites in Northern California, but by wood-destroying fungi. It is white or black and you can scrape it off with a wire brush and then coat the infected area with copper napthenate or Bora-Care. If the wood is already spongy, it will have to be removed. Check for fungus in these places: eaves, decking and the supporting posts and joists, window boxes, and shutters, fences or stairs connected to the structure, door jambs and thresholds. Inside the house, look where water has been: laundry, sink and shower areas. Check for bulging or curling linoleum, peeling paint, water stains. Fix the damage if you can; but if it is extensive, wait for the inspector to look at it.
Outside move all your firewood piles at least six feet away from any wood structure (unless it is inside a detached wood storage shed, of course). Trim back heavy vegetation from the foundation. Shovel out dirt that is less than 4 inches from wood siding or deck posts.
Just a few more things before the inspector gets there. Unlock all the doors, turn on the water and electricity, remove stored items away from garage walls, and make sure they can get up in the attic. The inspector will use water to check the plumbing for leaks. Lights turned on will help them see in crawlspaces and attics.
The inspection will cost about $60 to $80 and if you get a clearance it will be considered good by lenders for about 4 months. Anyone with a less-than-new-home to sell should consider it money well-spent. Contact a Realtor or structural pest company for more information. TIP: Some companies that do regular spraying for spiders and ants don’t do termite inspections.
Structural Pest Companies We Usually Call:
AAI Termite and Pest Control 1(800) 585-5585
AIM Pest Control (209) 532-6997
Down To Earth Pest Control (209) 928-3777
Terminix (209) 533-1541    
 
WHEN NEIGHBORS ARE A NUISANCE
   by Lauree Borup, 1993
Most people in Pine Mountain Lake are a cut-above in being fair, friendly and cooperative, but unwitting neighbors can sometimes create unnecessary problems.
Problems with boundary monuments, also called property pins, are the most frequent. These pins are 27 inch long re-bar, ¾ inch in diameter, capped with a surveyor’s license number on top. They were all set when each unit of PML was subdivided, and originally stuck out of the ground about six inches. Many have been buried by accumulated dirt and leaves over the years and just need to be located with a metal detector, revealed, and flagged.
Buyers of property need to know where these pins are. Property lines must be determined before new houses or additions are built. Realtors and sellers have nasty surprises in escrow when they look for these pins. In one case, a parking pad with fill dirt five feet high and a wooden support structure was built by a tenant about seven feet onto the neighbor’s lot. On the same property, rear pins had been pulled up and relocated. Escrow was delayed two months while a new survey was done and the parking pad dismantled.
On another house sale, one pin had been asphalted over. The seller was unaware of it and the asphalt company refused responsibility, so the seller paid $280 to have the pin re-surveyed and marked.
In a recent lot sale, the neighbor decided to excavate along his property line. Unfortunately, the side pin was missing, and the neighbor wasn’t sure where the line was. He removed the dirt from a six-foot high embankment about ten feet onto the adjacent lot. The sale of this adjacent lot ground to a halt-the buyer wanted the dirt put back. The neighbor agreed to do so and escrow finally closed.
Excavation can cause reductions in adjacent property values in other ways. Leach lines for septic systems must be set back from the top of a cut bank. So if your neighbor carves a parking area and leaves an eight-foot cut in the hillside below you, you have lost 32 feet of your potential leachfield. On smaller vacant lots, this could render them unbuildable.
A new pad of fill dirt, if not compacted, strawed and seeded, can erode and cause a muddy mess. I also recently saw a new pad about ten feet high all along the rear of the neighbor’s lot. Now the neighbor wants to sell, and this ugly, tall fill bank will be a visual defect.
Neighbors sometimes plant lush, and eventually mature, landscaping in the middle of a driveway easement that will be needed for access some day. And then there are those dead trees and brush piles carelessly (or conveniently) cut and left on the vacant lot next door.
The Pine Mountain Lake Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R’s) state that "Storage of personal property on any lot shall be entirely within enclosed storage areas." Loose interpretations of this section can be seen on some streets. Property owners should be aware that junky, poorly-maintained houses REDUCE THEIR PROPERTY VALUES SIGNIFICANTLY, whether it is their tenant, their neighbors, or themselves causing the junky appearance.
An anxious owner very much wants to sell a charming chalet. EVERY time it is shown, prospective buyers object to living next door to "those neighbors". "Those neighbors" have mattresses, toys, animal cages, firewood, etc. strewn around their lot. When the chalet finally does sell, the owner will probably not get top dollar because of the mess next door. The reduced sales price will negatively affect appraisals in the rest of the neighborhood.
Here are some good neighbor tips:
-Be aware of where property pins, boundaries, driveway easements, leachfields, and drainage facilities are at all times.
-Be familiar with the PML restrictions and your property responsibilities.
-Don’t be afraid to approach neighbors or the Association if there is a violation.
-Practice the Golden Rule
     
DESIGN IDEAS FOR YOUR HOME
   by Lauree Borup, 1992
"What didn’t they like about my house?" is the anxious query a Realtor hears after showing a buyer through. The answers have to do with comfort, utility and beauty – these add up to good home design. Poor home design results when the finished house is not carefully visualized by the designer for that lot. Too frequently in Pine Mountain Lake a cookie cutter floor plan is used on totally different kinds of lots. In the mountains, where we don’t have uniform 60 feet by 100 feet flat lots, the lot should always dictate the location of view windows, privacy decks, guest parking, and of course, room layout.
Here are some ideas for remodellers, spec builders, and people sitting down to sketch out their first dream home.
Build decks on the north or east side of the house for evening shade in summer – that’s when decks are most used. Or put two decks on opposite sides of the house so that you have sun or shade options throughout the day or seasons. If you must face south for view or privacy, cover it. Otherwise the sun will bake the deck and you. Forget a west-facing deck (unless heavily shaded). The glare from the afternoon sun is unpleasant and even a roof won’t help much. Extend walls or lattice on the sides of decks for privacy, since lot line fencing is not allowed and the deck is usually higher than a ground fence, Nothing turns off a buyer more than walking out on a deck and seeing the neighbor’s picture window or deck "looking back".
When you finish a downstairs area, put an inside stairway to it and make sure the stairs are okay according to building code. When you have only an exterior access to a downstairs or living space in a detached garage, the market value of the square footage goes way down.
Don’t put in long narrow hallways or stairways that have a "cattle chute" feel. Widen them, lighten them, or break them up with windows or landings. Most people don’t want "bedroom wing" hallways anyway – they desire a master suite on a different floor or opposite side of the house from the other bedrooms.
Combining the living, dining, kitchen and family room into a "great room" is popular. But give the chief cook and bottle washer a place to hide the mess once in a while. I don’t want my kitchen sink in the middle of the living room or in full view of the front entry. There are many design solutions for this.
Unless it’s strictly a weekend cabin, squeeze in a laundry room. With counter space. And a sink. And a built-in ironing board. And a clothes pole. And shelves. Then you can sort it, soak it, fold it, iron it, or hang it up. Utility and comfort.
People want larger garages. It won’t sell a house like a knock-out master bath or a "welcoming front", but it helps. "Oversize" is at least 24 ft by 26 ft.
The cooks will have strong preference for either electric or propane range/ovens. If it is a new home it’s easy to plumb and wire for both. Make the dryer hook-up a switch-hitter, too. Over the life of the house this feature will be appreciated. (We did this for our range, water heater, and dryer).
Woodstoves frequently stand out like sore thumbs. It should be on a raised base, so you don’t have to get on your knees to load it. I like them recessed in special openings, with generous wood storage cabinets. We’re seeing hearths of marble, tile, brick and granite more now instead of slate rock or slump stone.
If you are building with resale in mind, stay one step ahead of decorating trends. Don’t use last year’s fad or it will look dated two years from now. 

SELLERS: AVOID THESE 20 COSTLY MISTAKES
How to Sell Your Home at the Highest Possible Price:

Selling your home can be an exhausting experience. Last minute walk throughs, constant cleaning, inconvenient calls, price adjustments and the possibility of being stuck with two mortgages are real concerns. If you are not completely prepared you could end up losing hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in profit. Knowing these pitfalls can mean the difference between a profitable smooth transaction
and a miserable experience. By utilizing the knowledge of a good, qualified real estate professional, you’ll ensure the profitable sale of your home. This report is designed to arm you with the knowledge to avoid 20 common mistakes that cost sellers serious money.

1. Thinking Your Home is the Best Your home is one of your most personal possessions. Don’t be blind to flaws and needed cosmetic improvements. This will cause over valuing of the home, hurting its chances to be sold. Listing with the right agent gives you a well informed third eye that will help you price your home at a fair market price.

2. Pricing Too Low Or Too High One critical reason to find the right professional is to make sure the property is priced appropriately for a timely and profitable sale. If the property is priced too high it will sit and develop the identity of a problem property. If it’s priced too low it could cost you considerable profits. The real estate market has subtle nuances and market changes that should be
re-evaluated by your agent every 30 to 45 days to help you maximize your return.

3. Waiting Until Spring Just as a broker who continually follows the trends of a stock, your
professional agent continually follows trends of your home market. They will know if the