Black Diamond Real Estate

Because we are a small firm by design, we are personally involved in every step of the buying and selling process, from listings to showings and from contracts to closings. When you have any questions, you deal directly with us.

When is a Bedroom a Bedroom?

When is a Bedroom a BedroomThis past spring my wife, Mary Staton, and I showed a condo in Burlington that was listed for sale as having two bedrooms. In preparation for the showing we pulled the original MLS listing when the condo was first sold in 2007, as well as the current active listing, and the public property tax record. All three documents represented this condo as having two bedrooms. So far we have a two-bedroom condo, right?

The showing was going as expected until we went upstairs and saw the second bedroom which was located adjacent to the second full bathroom and bonus room loft area. The first two things we noticed about the room being counted as a bedroom were the skylight in the middle of the ceiling and a double door closet. Was this bedroom really a bedroom? Drawing from my appraisal experience I recalled that a bedroom must have an accessible window or an exterior door for egress access - for safety reasons in case of a fire. This room with a closet and skylight apparently didn’t meet the egress requirement of it being called a bedroom.

Knowing this, Mary Staton and I decided to investigate the matter further since this home was being represented as a two-bedroom condo. Afterall, just because I suspected that this room wasn’t a bedroom doesn't mean it’s not a bedroom, right? Doing what any professional Realtor would do, we contacted the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, the attorney with the North Carolina Association of Realtors (NCAR), The North Carolina Appraisal Board, a local Home Inspector, the City of Burlington Inspections Department, and the City of Burlington Fire Department to get their opinions.

The Appraisal Board said that it was up to the appraiser to determine whether or not they considered it to be a bedroom, but if they did the appraiser should provide detailed comments in their report as to why they were classifying it as a bedroom. In other words, the appraiser could theoretically call it a bedroom, but it would be inadvisable from a professional liability standpoint.

The Burlington Fire Chief referred me to the City of Burlington Inspections Director who said that the second bedroom did not meet egress code which states that upper story windows shall have a total glass area of no less than 5’.7” square feet and be no less than 44” off the floor.

The local home inspector concurred with the City of Burlington Inspections Department that this condo’s second-floor bedroom did not meet egress code, and that they always note in their home inspections that bedrooms without proper egress access are safety concerns. The home inspector said he commonly encounters this situation with rooms in basements, without windows, being used as bedrooms.

After speaking with the attorney with the NCAR, he advised that since this room with the skylight did not meet local egress building code, then it couldn’t be represented as a two-bedroom condo, and that the listing agent of the condo should correct the listing and market the property as a one-bedroom unit or count the loft area as a bedroom.

So, the question is how was the builder, Keystone Homes, able to market and sell this condo as a two-bedroom property in the first place? Mary Staton researched Keystone Homes’ website and found an almost identical floorplan that they were selling where the second-floor loft was an “optional” bedroom. Apparently, when this homeowner bought this condo in question, they decided not to convert the loft to a bedroom. In order for them to make this condo appear as a true functional two-bedroom unit, the owner should sheetrock up the half wall in the loft, install a closet, and put up a bedroom door for privacy.

One last word about bedroom classifications. While many rooms are called and sometimes used as bedrooms, common sense should prevail when in doubt, especially when it comes to functional utility. Contrary to popular belief, a closet is not a requirement for a room to be counted as a bedroom, as long as the room functions appropriately as a bedroom and meets the egress requirement.

To illustrate the point, there’s a home that comes to mind that was being marketed as a four-bedroom property. The second story has a bedroom with its own private and separate bathroom. One of the other two bonus rooms on the second floor was being counted as a bedroom by the listing agent but did not have direct access to a bathroom without having to pass through the bedroom. There is however another full bathroom located on the first floor in the foyer hallway, located adjacent to a first-floor bedroom. If someone were sleeping in the upstairs bedroom (or getting ready at the same time in the morning or evening), the other second-floor bedroom occupant would have to walk downstairs to use the other bathroom. This inconvenience makes this fourth bedroom a functional utility issue, adversely affecting the home’s overall value and marketability. As a result, it would be a stretch to call this additional second-floor bonus room a bedroom. A professional Realtor or Appraiser would not count this as a bedroom and sellers shouldn’t either since most buyers and Realtors will recognize the deficiency and not consider it a true functional bedroom.

If you are ready to buy or sell, call Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.

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Willful Seller Omission

My wife and I were representing a buyer to purchase a remodeled home in the county on well and septic.  After our buyer entered into a contract to buy their home, we discovered through a septic inspection that the seller had a non-permitted septic system.  Needless to say, this was a big surprise since we had pulled a copy of a septic permit on file for this home and that the seller represented on the North Carolina Residential Property Disclosure Statement that there were no problems with the septic system.  

After notifying the listing agent of our findings, the seller called us all out to meet about it at his home.  What we learned was that a septic system had been installed in a different location than the permit on file showed, and had not been permitted by the Alamance County Health Department.  The seller said the septic system backed up just over a year ago and that he had it repaired.  It was at this time that we believe he was made aware that his septic system was not permitted (he probably bought the home without getting the septic system inspected and his agent only pulled the original existing permit on file at the time of purchase).  He contacted the Alamance County Health Department about repairing the septic system and getting it permitted. The seller decided to have an unlicensed friend make the septic repairs and bypass obtaining a permit, due to the cost involved in going through the permit process.  We were shocked to find out that this seller had willingly and knowingly failed to disclose to his listing agent and all prospective buyers on the open market, the material fact that his home had a non-permitted septic system.  

Luckily for the seller, our buyer still wanted to buy his home at the time if the seller could get a new permit issued for a three-bedroom septic system, which he agreed to do.  As it turned out, this seller tried to get the Health Department to issue a permit for the existing septic system which they declined to do. As a result, the seller did not obtain the permit, breached his contract, and negotiated a settlement agreement refunding most of the buyer's incurred expenses.  

Fortunately for this seller, our buyer decided not to sue him for breach of contract preventing him from selling his home to any other buyers.  He also could have faced legal problems for failing to disclose on the North Carolina Residential Property Disclosure Statement that his septic system was not permitted, which he knew and was a Material Fact and a Willful Omission.

If you are ready to buy or sell, call  Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.  

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Why Homes Don’t Sell

The primary reasons why a home doesn’t sell are location, condition, financing, marketing, and price.  

Location is the only factor in which no one has any control over since it cannot be changed.  For example, if a home is located on a busy street or near railroad tracks, this detracts from its value (unless zoning permits it for commercial use in which case it’s highest and best use is most likely not residential property).  On the other hand, if a home is located on a golf course or lake, for example, there are always buyers who are willing to pay more for these unique locations. Of all the determining factors of value, location is the most important.

Another factor that determines a home’s ability is its condition.  If a seller wants to get top dollar for their home, it must be in top condition.  If the home is not in good condition and the seller is not in a position to make repairs it should be priced accordingly.  Common examples that adversely affect a home’s condition are an old roof, old HVAC systems, damp crawl spaces, old windows, and exterior and interior deferred maintenance.

Financing involves a buyer’s ability to obtain a mortgage loan.  This is self-explanatory in that a buyer will need to come up with a larger down payment and have more income to buy an executive type home.  In the $200,000 +/- price range the down payment is less of a factor with FHA loans being prevalent and income playing a larger factor in obtaining a mortgage loan.     

About fifteen years or so ago, in order for buyers to find out about homes for sale in the market area they were looking in, they needed to engage a Realtor to find out about them.  Today when a Realtor markets a home for sale, it is inputted in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) which streams to a service called ListHub that disseminates the listings to a number of real estate websites such as Realtor.com and the like.  So generally speaking, if your Realtor is a member of MLS, then a seller’s home will be exposed on-line for buyers to see without having to contact a Realtor.  If a buyer is interested in finding out more about this property they will either call the listing agent directly or contact a Realtor friend. This is how the majority of homes are bought and sold.  As a result, Realtors who are members of the local MLS are able to market homes to the public at large like never before. A final word about marketing is that all the marketing in the world won’t sell an overpriced listing, it will just let more people know it is overpriced.

Price is another factor in which a seller has control over it since it is not the Realtor’s job to set the listing price.  The Realtor’s job is to help the seller come up with a list price by performing a Broker’s Price Opinion (BPO) but the seller ultimately determines how much to ask for their home.  Only once a home is listed and exposed on the market will a seller find out what their home is worth.  Based on the number of showings, showing feedback, and offers or lack of offers will a seller get a realistic picture of what buyers are willing or not willing to pay for their home.  Price is primarily a function of time. If a seller is in no hurry to move or can’t or won’t move unless they can get a certain price, they will have to wait longer and hope that the market improves.  If a seller has been relocated, chances are they will need to sell their home relatively quickly and they will either price their home to sell from the onset or reduce the price accordingly to sell at market value.  At the end of the day, a home priced properly overcomes all buyer objections.

Of course, there are other conditions that affect the salability of a home such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, upgrades/finishes, the functionality of the home, and the seller’s motivation or reason in wanting to sell.  The purpose of this article was to address the primary factors of why some homes don’t end up selling. 

If you are ready to buy or sell, call  Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.  

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You Can’t Sell A House If Your Spouse Doesn’t Sign

One morning when I was first getting started in real estate sales, I received a call from an older retired man looking to get his home appraised.  I asked what the purpose of the appraisal was for since there are different types of appraisal assignments that can affect an appraiser’s opinion of value.  He advised that he was interested in an appraisal for sale purpose. I let him know I could help sell his home, but if I did, I would not be able to appraise it since it would be a conflict of interest.  The owner decided that since I was an appraiser, a Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) performed by me would serve his interest just as well as an appraisal since he wanted to sell.  

After pulling and reviewing copies of the tax record and deed, a listing appointment was scheduled and I went out the next day to meet with him.  Upon arriving I covered Working With Agents with him and he proceeded to let me know why he wanted to sell.  As it turned out, he had purchased the home for his son to live in while the son looked after him.  The only problem was his son didn’t want to move back to Burlington so my client was moving to Texas to live with him.  He further explained that he was tired of living alone after his wife took him for half of everything he owned. I listened with empathy and promised I would do everything I could to help him sell his home for the best possible price so he could make the move to Texas and be with his son.  

After the second week his home was on the market, it was placed under contract with a financially qualified young couple.  Approximately four weeks later we met the buyers for the first time at the closing table. The first question out of the attorney’s mouth to my seller was, are you still married?  I was thinking this was just a formality and how could this man be married after explicitly telling me about how he had been taken for half of everything he owned? Then he replied yes he was still married.  

After hearing his answer my jaw dropped and I looked across the table at the young couple and their agent, looking at me as if they had just seen a ghost.  We were all taken aback and speechless, except for the attorney. The attorney asked if his wife was still in town to which the seller replied she was. He then asked if he had her phone number and that if he called her, did he see any reason why she would object to coming in to sign the deed?  To which he replied I don’t think so. As good luck and fate would have it, the attorney was able to reach his wife and fifteen minutes later she came in to sign the deed.  

After the closing successfully ended, I asked the attorney how he knew my seller was still married since the public records showed that my seller was the sole owner of record.  The attorney said that he handled the closing of the home when my seller bought it and knew he was married. My seller assumed that since he bought the home without his wife, that it was his to sell without her.  After hearing my seller’s sad story about being left by his wife and that he was the sole owner of record, It never crossed my mind to ask the magic question of whether or not he was still married. After this close encounter, I no longer assume that someone isn’t married just because they have settled up and parted ways.

If you have any questions about what you will need for a home closing,or if you are ready to buy or sell, call  Mary Staton or Bert Ward - they’ll be happy to answer any questions.  

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