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Practical advice for real estate agents

Landscaping to Your Environment

Batch of succulent plants in front yard of home

With much of the Western United States experiencing extended droughts, some homeowners are turning to alternative landscaping methods to save resources. Recently REALTOR® Magazine1 (pg 34-35) wrote

With much of the Western United States experiencing extended droughts, some homeowners are turning to alternative landscaping methods to save resources. Recently REALTOR® Magazine1 (pg 34-35) wrote about owners who are “rethinking the traditional American landscape” by moving toward yards that require less water and maintenance. The “desert landscaping” method, popular in much of the Southwest, is probably what comes to mind when picturing drought-resistant landscaping, but depending upon your locale there are other options to save water without compromising the aesthetics of a property. Besides aesthetics, cost can be a deterrent when re-landscaping. It takes money to tear out a lawn, buy new plants, or truck in gravel. While these upfront costs are cause for legitimate concern, a move towards drought-resistant landscaping has the potential to save a homeowner money over time. The overall savings will depend on water prices in a given area, but expert estimates claim up to 75% less water is needed and maintenance bills could be lowered by 50% in Southern California when desert landscaping is implemented. It would be wise to investigate rebate opportunities from your city or county water authority in your area to help offset the upfront cost. There are opportunities throughout the western United States for rebates for everything from removing grass lawns and installing more efficient watering and irrigation systems to more general rebates for conversion to a drought-tolerant landscape. With hundreds of dollars in rebates oftentimes available, the investment can be manageable. Houses with great curb appeal are easier to sell and it is never too soon to plan ahead. While the traditional, perfectly green yard will likely never go out of style, trends in design can impact prices. Landscape economist John Harris states that good landscaping can add up to 28% to home value. A Clemson University study says that taking landscaping from good to excellent “in terms of design, condition, and placement” can add 6-7% to a home’s value. These statistics show that execution and design are important. If you choose to move away from a more traditional landscape design, but do it poorly, you may miss out on the opportunity for increased value or worse – even see your property value lowered. Choose the right layout, plants, and accessories, from gravel to a suitable gate to the backyard or courtyard. Seek professional landscaping help or gather the opinions of those you trust about what works. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also publishes information on “hardiness zones” that help people understand which plants can survive in which conditions. Remember, if your landscaping is already good, making it “excellent” could add 6-7% in value. Some owners resist the thought of a drought resistant yard because they fear that their children won’t be able to play as much. One option is to maintain a lawn in the backyard for room to play, while the landscaping for the rest of the property reflects alternative design. Some choose to pursue this goal with artificial turf in the place of a genuine grass. The distance to a good, safe park can also be a factor here. A nearby park can reduce the amount of green space you personally need and many newer developments are built with parks in the neighborhood. So if you’re a homeowner, consider a more efficient yard. It might just improve your curb appeal and the value of your home while saving you money on water and maintenance. Whether you’re taking real estate classes in Los Angeles or preparing for the real estate exam in California, make sure you know how to talk to your clients about landscaping. It may not be your job to convince them that alternative landscaping design is right for them, but it is your job to make sure they understand the reasons behind these designs and the community resources that may make up for lost green space.
Practical advice for real estate agents

Medical Marijuana and Tenancy in California

Medical marijuana in jar

Medical marijuana, the controversial practice that flies in the face of federal legal classifications of the drug, has been a troublesome topic for landlords for some time. While California landlords have

Medical marijuana, the controversial practice that flies in the face of federal legal classifications of the drug, has been a troublesome topic for landlords for some time. While California landlords have had the right to prevent tenants from smoking in their residences under existing smoking laws, the law lacked the clarity needed to assure landlords of the legality of medical marijuana smoking bans. A new bill working its way through the state legislature would clarify the law. California Assembly Bill 2300 is authored by Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) and is sponsored by the California Apartment Association (CAA) and supported by the California Association of Realtors. It specifically states that individuals permitted to smoke medical marijuana may not in “any location at which smoking is prohibited by law or prohibited by a landlord”. Marijuana is essentially being treated much more like tobacco. This will not give landlords the legal ability to prevent individuals with a medical cannabis card from consumption of marijuana in any noncombustible form, including the use of edibles, oils, pills, patches, or vaporizers. The language of the bill specifically states smoking is prohibited with no language addressing these methods. AB 2300 passed through the assembly floor on May 5th with broad bipartisan support—of the 80 potential votes, 77 votes yes and 3 were either absent or abstained. It is currently at the first reading stage in the state senate, meaning a vote should occur in the near future. If it passes—which looks probable given its bipartisan success in the assembly—it will move to the governor’s desk to be signed into law or be vetoed. If a landlord chooses to exercise this right, clear, specific lease agreements are crucial. Just like any other provision of tenancy, landlords should make it clear that they are renting with conditions in mind. If this bill becomes law and landlords can treat marijuana like tobacco, it would still be wise—if for no other reason than convenience down the road—to clearly explain this policy and present it in a leasing agreement. Clear communication is a safe practice. We will be sure to update our readers as this process unfolds. As always, for questions or clarifications simply comment below or reach out to cody@adhischools.com
Practical advice for real estate agents

So Your Renter Applicant Has a Criminal Record

Criminal background check paperwork being filled out

You’re a landlord and you receive an application for one of your vacant units. You get excited, looking forward to the income, but then you learn that the applicant has a criminal record. What do you

You’re a landlord and you receive an application for one of your vacant units. You get excited, looking forward to the income, but then you learn that the applicant has a criminal record. What do you do? Maybe it matters what the crime is. You might feel comfortable renting to a nonviolent offender convicted twenty years ago. Maybe mental illness was involved and the convicted individual has demonstrably undergone successful treatment. But what about a sex offender or someone recently convicted of running a meth lab in their last residence? Obviously the type of crime and amount of time since the conviction will impact your perception of risk. So what do you do? You want to protect your property and other tenants. Landlords must be careful to ensure that their reaction to these situations is not perceived as unlawfully discriminatory. While no state or federal law prevents discrimination that solely targets criminal offenders, it is illegal for the practice to discriminate against protected groups such as racial minorities, regardless of intent. On April 4th, 2016 the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that their interpretation of the Fair Housing Act is that any policy or practice that is “facially neutral” but has a “disparate impact on individuals of a particular race, national origin, or other protected class” is “unlawful”, unless the policy or practice is “necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest”. This is where the type of offense and the period of time since the conviction come into play. While refusing to rent to an arsonist who burned down his last apartment building can be considered legitimate, discriminating against someone with a petty theft conviction may be more difficult to justify. Especially if it turns out that you are turning away members of an otherwise protected class and you don't have uniform standards. The last requirement is an evaluation of potential, less discriminatory, alternatives. In the event a policy is challenged and upheld as lawful, HUD or the rejected tenant can examine alternatives. The landlord does not need to search for alternatives to their legal policy—this burden falls on HUD (or the potential tenant to recommend a HUD-approved policy). But change could be prompted if HUD finds the necessary interest of the policy “could be served by another practice that has a less discriminatory effect”. This could be a mandate to include an “individualized assessment” that allows the potential tenant to prove good tenant history since the conviction, evidence of rehabilitation, etc. This may not change the decision for the individual appealing the rejection of their application, but in theory it would make the policy less discriminatory over time. And in October of last year HUD allocated $38 million to more than 100 groups to fight housing discrimination. Legal challenges to these policies should be anticipated. So, unless you end up rejecting candidates in proportions that match your population, you could wind up on the wrong end of allegations of illegal discrimination. Thus, it is important to have a well thought out, comprehensive, consistent standard for these situations. And, if in doubt, contact legal counsel specializing in these issues. In summary, here are the rules to keep in mind to best protect yourself: Consider the nature of the crime Consider how long it has been since the conviction Apply your standard consistently—exceptions are risky!
Practical advice for real estate agents

The power of a new start

Licence

Recently, I received an email from a broker-partner of ours at Prudential California Realty. Last November, Everything I thought I knew about myself changed abruptly, and what others perceived about me

Recently, I received an email from a broker-partner of ours at Prudential California Realty. Last November, Everything I thought I knew about myself changed abruptly, and what others perceived about me shifted, too. I had been conducting my personal life in an artificial way - as if detached from the values my upbringing had taught, and that I should have embraced. The physical pain from that car accident has long healed. But the pain in my soul is more complex and unsettling; it has been far more difficult to ease - and to understand. But this much is obvious now: my life was out of balance, and my priorities were out of order. I made terrible choices and repeated mistakes. I hurt the people whom I loved the most.  And even beyond accepting the consequences and responsibility, there is the ongoing struggle to learn from my failings. At first, I didn't want to look inward. Frankly, I was scared of what I would find - what I had become. But I'm grateful that I did examine my life because it has made me more grounded than I've ever been; I hope that with reflection welcome wisdom. Golf is a self-centered game, in ways good and bad. So much depends on one's own abilities. But for me, that self-reliance made me think I could tackle the world by myself. It made me think that if I was successful in golf, then I was invincible. Now I know that, no matter how tough or strong we are, we all need to rely on others. Slowly, I'm regaining the balance that I'd lost. My healing process is far from complete, but I am beginning to appreciate things I had overlooked before. I'm learning that some victories can mean smiles, not trophies, and that life's most ordinary events can bring joy. Giving my son, Charlie, a bath, for example, beats chipping another bucket of balls. Making mac and cheese for him and his sister, Sam, is better than dining in any restaurant. Sharing a laugh watching cartoons or reading a book beats channel-surfing alone. Some nights now, it's just me and the kids, an experience that's both trying and rewarding. Probably like the experience a lot of families have every evening around the world. When I first came back off golf this spring, after taking a necssary break, I was worried about how fans would treat me. But they've been kinder and more supportive than I ever imagined possible. That's true aways from the golf course, too. When I go to the store, or to work out, or to grab lunch, I've been amazed by the considerate, encouraging words I hear. I've realized that those sentiments are not merely courtesies but generous expressions of compassion for which I'll always be thankful. I have a lasting gratitude to those who stood by me in ways large and small. Unfortunately, opportunists are trying still to cash in on my troubles, no matter how irresponsible or ridiculous their claims may be. In many cases, I've never even met these people. But there's no way I can dispute each lie without provoking more. Besides, everyone has probably heard more than they ever wanted to about my private life. I can never truly repair the damage I've done, especially to my family. But I can keep trying. What endures in the record books are the achievements won through competition. What endures in our actual lives is the love of our family and the respect of others.  I know now that some things can and must change with time and effort. I'm not the same man I was a year ago. And that's a good thing.
Practical advice for real estate agents

Tax withholdings for Realtors?

Accountant reviewing expenses for real estate brokerage company

One of the nice things about being in real estate is we are generally treated as independent contractors for tax purposes and work hour requirements. Legally, of course, the California Bureau of Real

One of the nice things about being in real estate is we are generally treated as independent contractors for tax purposes and work hour requirements. Legally, of course, the California Bureau of Real Estate always treats us as employees of the broker. From 30,000 feet this means that the broker must reasonably supervise any salespeople working for the broker and the broker is generally responsible for a wrong done by the salesperson while the salesperson is acting under the scope and course of employment. However, for tax purposes and work hour requirements - what I am attempting to talk about in this article - salespersons can be treated as independent contractors not employees. This generally means: 1. Salespersons are independently licensed. 2. Compensation is based on sales made, not hours worked. 3. There is a written contract that states that the salesperson will be treated as an employee for tax purposes. Recently, due to the California budget crisis, there was a proposal to have real estate brokers withhold 3% from commissions paid to salespeople. Yesterday, we got word from CAR that this is not going to be the case. Real estate agents that are taxed as independent contractors get to keep all the commissions due them and the brokers are not required to withhold this 3%! The world is once again in balance! PS: Check out our YouTube video of this here
Practical advice for real estate agents

Open house guidelines for unlicensed assistants

Open house sign on front lawn outside of house2

The following is from the California Department of Real Estate's publication entitled "Guide to Unlicensed Assistants". This is valuable information as many of you may be considering working for an experienced

The following is from the California Department of Real Estate's publication entitled "Guide to Unlicensed Assistants". This is valuable information as many of you may be considering working for an experienced real estate salesperson as an apprentice or assistant prior to you actually obtaining a license.Here is an excerpt from the section on "Open Houses""With the principal’s consent, assisting licensees at an open house intended for the public by placing signs, greeting the public, providing factual information from or handing out preprinted materials prepared by or reviewed and approved for use by the licensee, or arranging appointments with the licensee. During the holding of an open house, only a licensee may engage in the following: show or exhibit the property, discuss terms and conditions of a possible sale, discuss other features of the property, such as its location, neighborhood or schools, or engage in any other conduct which is used, designed or structured for solicitation purposes with respect to the property."
Practical advice for real estate agents

Does your family support your real estate career?

Family of four walking down the street holding hands and smiling

Let's face it. Being on commission can be tough. Having the support of your family can be key as you start your career in real estate. Explain to them WHY you are choosing this career path and what you

Let's face it. Being on commission can be tough. Having the support of your family can be key as you start your career in real estate. Explain to them WHY you are choosing this career path and what you plan on doing so that you don't fail.Get as much training as you can in the beginning. Finally, most businesses fail because they don't have enough customers. What are you going to do to make sure you don't fall in this category?