Tip: Four Point Inspections and Renovation Records

DSC00749.jpgIn almost every sale, buyers need to find insurance coverage.  Occasionally, they miss asking for a current Four Point Inspection, when ordering a home inspection.   If you aren’t inspecting, you always ask for a prior policy or look for permit information, if current.  An example of a citizen’s insurance four point inspection form, at the time of writing, is linked.

Permits online, owner’s disclosures or copies of recent updates from contractors might be used as proof of inspection.  If I’m making bigger changes to a property, asking for a letter from he contractor, attached to a 4 point inspection, is just smart.  On a commercial building, I kept letters  and plans noting current code updates for windows, electric, plumbing and roof, as of the renovation year.   You’ll see the picture to the right.  I also found keeping records of the renovation were extremely helpful over the following years.


As of September 30, 2012, "all inspection forms must be inspected and completed by a verifiable Florida-licensed professional. Without a verifiable, certified inspector’s dated signature, the form will not be accepted. The following FLORIDA-LICENSED individuals may complete a 4-Point Inspection for Citizens in its entirety:
  • A general, residential, or building contractor
  • A building code inspector
  • A registered architect
  • A home inspector
  • A professional engineer
  • A building code official who is authorized by the State of Florida to verify building code compliance

Note: A trade-specific, licensed professional may sign off only on their trade component of the 4-Point inspection form (e.g., a roofing inspector may sign off only on the roofing portion of the form)." Source: Internachi www.nachi.org/4point.htm 9/24/16

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Long Anti-Trust Kind of Day


This was an odd day.  An email from a competitor included a question about a fee I chose to charge and pay on a sale.   I think the mistake was unintentional, but talking about commissions between offices or even questioning how much a cooperative fee should be, can cross the

cap with r taken out

NEVER suggest a fee or imply there is an industry standard.

anti-trust line.  The wordage in this image is an example of what you should not say.  We all compete for clients.  NEVER suggest coordinating a rate, a standard local rate or an industry standard.  There is no industry standard and all brokers compete.

As a Licensed Real Estate Broker, I completely avoid discussion of commission rates with competitors.     We’re usually friendly competitors, but directly or indirectly discussing a fee is something you should always avoid with competing brokers or offices.


These laws are intended to prevent unreasonable restraints of trade. Examples of antitrust violations that impact you are price fixing and group boycotts. Competing brokers should never engage in discussions of their commission rates or the amount of compensation they offer cooperating brokers. You must also avoid conduct that could lead to allegations that you agreed not to do business with a certain competitor.

To limit antitrust liability: Adopt an office-wide policy that addresses such issues as discussing commission rates with potential sellers, and education of all sales associates with respect to antitrust compliance policy. Avoid preprinting commission rates on standard form contracts or in advertising. 

Source: http://realtormag.realtor.org/law-and-ethics/law/article/2000/03/top-10-legal-issues-facing-brokers

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Choosing the Right Security System and Company…Check to Be Sure Your System “SELF-TESTS”

I’m a little reluctant to use the company name, so I’ll just use XYZ Security (no relation to a real company), when describing my recent experiences in changing monitoring and service. As a broker, I’m usually pretty aware of whether a company provides great service or truly falls down on the job. During the last 10 years, I used XYZ, was a dsc01677loyal customer, kept cards on my front office desk and felt a little shocked to find we were not being monitored for 12 to 36 months. The system was not calling in to "self-test", any alarms were not going to a central monitoring station and our billing was not particularly competitive.

A few things I learned over the last 30 years help, when selecting service or a system. Some lessons were unexpected.

  • Rates are negotiable and vary from company to company. Asking about monitoring makes a difference and some companies give discounts for paying in advance.
  • Does your contract automatically renew or do you go to month to month service?
  • How often does your system "self-test"? This is a sore subject with me, since we were paying for as many as three years for non-existent monitoring. I like weekly, but I would shy away from anyone telling you checking the system is your responsibility.
  • Can you reach a live person at a higher level, do you have email contacts and do you have a live person to call, if you have a problem? When we experienced a proble m, trying to reach anyone able to give an answer became surprisingly difficult.
  • Look at reviews online. I always suggest calling a few current clients to see if they rave or if you get the "awkward silent" response when you ask about a current company.
  • Does the company offer wireless monitoring or wired? In a coastal area, in my opinion, wireless is a great idea. Cell signals are usually back up more quickly than cable or traditional phone lines. If power is out at your home, the backup battery and cell signal still calls monitoring if you have a problem. The cost with my current company is less than the cost for wired monitoring with the prior XYZ Security.
  • Do they offer current signs? I like window stickers or signs to show I’m actually using security. Whether it acts as a deterrent or not, I’d prefer to be a more difficult target and just avoid the whole issue. The company I just left, never brought new signs and we had signs from the name they haven’t used for 5 years…. still in the yard. I’ve nevedsc01673r experienced sadder customer service.
  • What kind of keypads are used and are the keypads compatible with other systems?
  • Are the alarms locked out or open? Alarms panels are often standard. You tend to sign a contract and most companies will leave the panel unlocked. Some companies will lock the panel, requiring a service call or making the panel, you usually own either at the beginning or after completion of the contract, more difficult to use.
  • Are upgrades offered without a fuss? I’m not talking about free upgrades. I asked one company at a commercial property for new keypads…I kid you not….4 times. I wanted to pay for the replacement. Finally, I changed companies, but they would take the call, tell me someone would be in touch and no one called.
  • Is there a phone app?
  • Is there an available history for the system?
  • Can you attach video or speech capability?

I prefer local companies with at least one live person I would know and recognize. Alarm systems are personal. Being treated fairly and receiving the service you expect, means a lot, but alarm systems have a purpose. I would NEVER recommend the company I described as "XYZ" and they do have a significant local presence. I find poor service and unfair practices appalling and, even though I’ll never mention the actual name of the company, I will never furnish the name to a client.

Check the operation of your system and the "self-test" policy your company may have. If they don’t set systems to notify anyone when inoperable, you might want to change companies. If you get a pat answer…." We recommend monthly testing" …. instead of "Yes Sir, your system calls in monthly, weekly, etc.…with confirmation of operation. Our policy is to contact you immediately to notify of the failure and set up an appointment to be sure your safety is uninterrupted." …I would recommend a change. Believe it or not, some security companies are far more interested in the monthly fee, than they are in providing the service they were paid to provide.

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Morning Thoughts and I Need My Clients!

I’m thinking about work this morning.  I have 30 plus years in the business and a massive knowledge base.  What do I lack?  When I sell properties, I always need more clients.   Think of a gas tank…with a leak.   How to I communicate the way I work?  I care about clients.  I know the business well and am professional.  Clients are never to be manipulated.   I put my client’s interests first.   I have “MASSIVE” experience.   I’m a native and local.   All are great messages and I think forgotten or difficult to repeatedly communicate.  Either reminding old clients you still need to work or finding new clients, can be distracting.  Agents or brokers are constantly working to attract clients….in order to work.    In this area, there are “468” matches for “AGENT” in the local MLS, as of today…9/18/16.  The majority of these work or also work on Amelia Island.    Assuming, and assuming should probably be in CAPS, they all could potentially work on Amelia Island.  This does not consider the few offices without MLS membership and working as referral only offices or rental agents or non-MLS agents or most commercial-only brokers.   More people line up for smaller slices every year.

What can I say to a client to encourage them to work with me?  I use the word “with”, because selling a home or property requires cooperation.    Thinking through some of the process and some of the thoughts I have in talking with a client, I’d like to pass on a few thoughts I hope to leave with you, the reader, and, in this case, a homeowner.  Your thoughts matter.  Before I expect someone to work with me or listen to the ideas I may have, I want to know my new client.  We’ll be working together for a little while and selling a home for or to you, means understanding how you think and how you want to live.   You and I need to talk about reality.  Most owners begin to overlook flaws in a home and most buyers tend to focus on flaws.  I try to put it all in perspective.  Selling a home often means I’m working with buyer, seller and sometimes another agent.   I want to know about your home, but I want to be certain you recognize a good property or buyer and have the benefit of an experienced perspective.

This morning, I read a blog post offering real estate listing tips.   I won’t quote the source, since I found some of the tips a little repulsive.  I never intentionally manipulate clients.  I’ll change the text to be sure everyone knows the “NEVER” ideas are not my thoughts.

NEVER and (My Views)

  • Agree with an owner to get the listing…..offer fake compliments.  (I only compliment clients or a home when I mean it.  You get honesty and the good, bad, ugly truth)
  • Give the owner an arbitrary assignment to be sure you begin the manipulation.  (I don’t manipulate clients…. period)
  • Extort a promise.  Promise to come back to me because (_______)……fill in the blank.  
  • Show the client a preprinted marketing brochure with a marketed plan.  It doesn’t matter if the same plan goes to every client, with the names/address changed, they’ll be impressed.  (Every agent has a marketing plan.  Printing a marketing plan out is just a kind of manipulation to try to convince an owner an agent is experience or different or just make you think they gave you something valuable/create obligation.  I can think of at least 5 places I can print a plan out and make minor changes, including almost any MLS system.)
  • OH…by the way, if someone actually tries to offer a better commission, it must be because they aren’t offering the same quality services.   (I do negotiate commissions, depending on the property.  My overhead is lower and I believe in free market competition.  As a broker/owner, I’m personally able to negotiate rates I want to make enough to operate, but if I also don’t have rent, debt or franchise fees)
  • Compliment the home.   Instead of actually offering advice, use phrases like “I’ll check” or “research tells us”….   (When know, I’ll offer advice.  If I don’t know, I don’t fill in the gaps with…. “research tells us”.   Substance and experience should always win.  Genuine trust and competence should always win.) 


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Blog, News or Opinion…..What I’m not…..

Every news source moves toward bias at some point.  Blogs think they’re suddenly media, just because someone can type.   Newspapers think they’re free of bias…well, because they say they are.   Opinions can be so pervasive, we barely notice the tone we take in writing or in our lives.  Think about the recent blunders by a presidential candidate.   Now, which candidate do you think made a mistake?

IMG_5878Earlier, I forwarded information to a local’s forum and started to think a little about how news and social media really works.  Reposting information available everywhere or trying to author something everyone can find on an app, but reposting in a blog, doesn’t accomplish much.   Authentic, not copied, information has value.   Occasional original thoughts have value and even high readership doesn’t mean much, if you don’t actually add anything to the conversation.

As an admin for several pages and groups, I routinely delete posts made only to pull traffic away from the group discussion.  "Come read more" is a truly weak excuse for posting and adds nothing.  Repeating verbatim versions of events I can find in 10 other locations, adds nothing.  Biased views, masquerading as news, adds no value.   Actually, I’ve watched bias so much in the last year, I’m a little sick of reading blogs purposely reporting parts of the story.

Thinking about my company or how I go about reaching clients, I make an effort to post original thoughts or ideas and add value.   The value for me is in building an actual relationship.  Social media managers try to respond and manage a brand.  I do that every day with client relationships.  Blog posts are authentic, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin and so many others, all need authentic interaction or you simply should not be using at all.  I spent tonight unfollowing one more person posting everything automatically to Twitter from another social media site.  They aren’t even present and there is absolutely no point in being connected to a non-entity.

Connection and authenticity is a part of, or should be a part of, every relationship.   Understanding the client, communication, authenticity, social media and the value of connection, always makes a better client relationship.

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Mobility and Storms, Work Anywhere

MKIE0479Teasing a competitor yesterday, when he said his office would be open, I thought a little about what it means to be open.   Weather really doesn’t change much for me, with files, contracts, listings and my office line available to me, whether I’m physically at my office or not.  The vast majority of my traffice comes from a network of contacts through social media, phone, email or video chat.

Does it really matter if you’re in the office during a tropical storm?  Not much.   Can you be in the office too much?  I think so.  Feeling tied to a location, in my opinion, makes it likely you’ll feel burned out.  When I’m less motivated, the biggest single trick to change the attitude, is to change locations.  An old negotiating trick to calm a client is to move the location.  If you’re sitting, sit somewhere else…if standing, sit…if thirsty, offer a drink…if in an office, go for a short drive.  The same trick works for me, when I need fresh motivation.  Getting out of the office, meeting for coffee, walking around the block…anything to change the routine can be used to trick the mind into fresh inspiration or motivation.   The last thing you want to do is feel obligated to sit in an office on a holiday or during a severe weather event.  I use technology and a little creativity, to work where I am and to be effective, wherever I happen to be when the phone rings.  My family understands when I reply to an email or text with voice to text or edit a contract on the phone or send out a closing cost estimate over coffee.

Being effective means finding more minutes in an hour, not filling the hour with ineffective use of time.   Remember the lesson on time management?   Fill the glass with marbles, then BB’s,…then sand….then pour in water…until you’ve used all the wasted time.

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Hermine Passes North

IMG_0151With high winds and a little rain, Fernandina missed the vast majority of #Hermine, or #Hermione, if you’re a Harry Potter fan.   The leaves and annoyance of finding a favorite coffee shop closed is my biggest inconvenience of the day.  The coming days may hold a different story for the coastline, as Hermine is expected to linger offshore.  The high appears to be likely to hold the storm, creating a warm, very strong, “Northeaster” for some states going north.  We “MAY” see epic surf in the coming week, if the storm lingers off New Jersey/New York and stays far enough from shore.     The potential for erosion and serious coastal damage is high if the storm lingers with 70+ mph northeast winds.





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Content and Engagement



imageI’m looking back at impression numbers for a part of my online effort.  Being able to see engagement or impressions, makes a huge difference in how a marketing campaign works.  Content and using social media to reach clients, takes time and engagement, so I’m far less concerned with being duplicated by a competitor.  Original content, knowledge of the subject and connection are the keys. 

There are definite peak periods associated with the time I take to write and times when I’m on vacation, the weather is good or something in the real world distracts the audience.

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River Frontage and Huge Changes in Value

MapI can remember thinking $300,000 was a high for deep water, 30 years ago.  The same deep water property, could be in the $1.2 to $1.5 million range today.  The map to the left shows the current MLS list, as of today, and residential property with “River Frontage” and an existing home.   River frontage can vary a great deal in price and locations can sell at a premium or be surprisingly affordable.  One home, on the far west side of the county, has over 300 feet on water and 18+ acres.  Think about location, configuration, elevation, distance to the ocean and even bridge height.  

  • Total # of Listings: 31
  • Lowest Price: $209,900
  • Highest Price: $4,950,000
  • Average Price: $1,268,855
  • Average Days on Market: 276

Days on market and price per foot isn’t particularly valuable, when you compare a broad range.  Personally, I would consider the kind of frontage you want, when choosing water.  Is water and depth important and, if it is important, what kind of boating do you plan.  Sail, motor, fishing, recreation?   How far is upland from navigable water?  Do you plan to build and is the structure built at the required flood elevation.

A feasibility period is important, but even more important for property with environmental or unusual restrictions. Knowing about existing wetland areas, whether construction meets current standards and whether all improvements are permitted, should all be considered.  I’m currently selling a point of land with over 1/2 a mile on the water, dock, frontage on two creeks (McGirts and Lanceford), a caretaker’s cottage and nearly a straight shot to Amelia Island and the Fernandina Beach Marina at $2.9 million.  Check for availability, but Nassau County is changing.   Click here for a video tour…


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The Burden of Prescriptive Easements…


IMG_9757I’m thinking about  the impact of easements by prescription, usually without any original permission from the property owner.   Other than a boundary based on past use, how can an owner, burdened by an easement, manage negative impact?   This waterway was probably a mosquito control district easement, placed without any formal agreement,  and now has an improved graded drive beside the ditch, culverts crossing the ditch and ties to nearby retention ponds.  In this case, the last to develop is sometimes burdened by roads, surrounding properties and even changes to grade, all interrupting natural water flow, possibly made without adequate consideration for the rights of the impacted owner.

My Concern, when I see an old unrecorded easement, is the burden placed on a property owner as flow through a ditch increases over time and as a poorly defined historic boundary has potential to grow..  An easement by prescription is defined below.

Easements by prescription, also called prescriptive easements, are implied easements granted after the dominant estate has used the property in a hostile, continuous and open manner for a statutorily prescribed number of years. Prescriptive easements differ from adverse possession by not requiring exclusivity.
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