Thursday, September 18, 2008

Homeowners Associations, The Good; The Bad; The Ugly

I live in a community with a well established Home Owners Association (HOA). I also used to be the President of a Youth Baseball League (YBL). All of the antisocial interplay that I saw in the YBL often rears its head in the HOA. This one single truth is endemic to the process, " The danger belying a HOA, the same as a YBL, is in the by-laws that are adopted along with the general guidelines." The danger presents when members of the group digest the by-laws and then set out to enforce them.

I had more than one occassion when a family would choose to falsify their address so that they could play in our League. Once caught, the player was ineligible. Also the games that were won when the player was on the roster were immediatley declared forfeits. So many others were punished when a violator was detected. Who brought the charges? Usually an unoccupied parent with nothing better to do than to pour over the rosters and the League rules adopted and amended by the same League.

I recently had a pre-marketing sign stolen from a property that I was getting to list in my neighborhood. It merely announced that this property was soon to be on the market, a fairly innoccuous declaration. Someone deemed that either the wording or the placement of the sign was in violation of the HOA, Covenants and Restrictions (C&R). They pulled up the sign and took it to the HOA office and left it. This person risked life and limb in so doing. Suppose I was a less enlightened, knuckle-dragging practitioner and happened upon someone pulling up my sign. That is a rarity in this business in that 90% of all realtors are the less aggressive gender. The sign puller risked injury or threat of the same by putting their hands on my personal property. Is that really worth it?

To some it is. There is obviously some sort of endorphin rush associated with successfully flaunting the park rules of the YBL and/or the C&R of the HOA. The architectural design committee of the HOA must be consulted and stroked before you put that rose garden into play in your own front yard. To challenge them can cause penalty and fines. The HOA is a recognized political subdivision of the state. They can assess penalties and fines and if you do not pony up the dough, they can place an enforceable lien on your property.

The HOA is a friendly face when someone tries to put a helicopter landing pad next door to you, in their back yard. They are antisocial, lunatics when they bring action against you for failing to edge the curb in front of your home, which you do not own in the first place.

The classic chair person of the architectural and design committee is Ms. Agnes Skooch, retired state of Florida museum curator. She has no husband, hence no children nor grand children. Her only legacy is time and lots of it. She forms a little posse as her committee. They meet for coffee once a week and speak on the phone incessantly. A conversation goes like this:

"Agnes, this morning I drove by the Shamrock address. You know that family of West Virginia Pygmies that moved in a month ago? "

" Yes, Matilda, I know just who your speaking of."

" They must have taken a road trip over the week end because their autos are covered with the remains of Love Bugs. They have the vehicles backed into their driveway with windshields facing the street."

" Well, I don't know how they handle things like that back in their tar-paper covered shack community in Huntington, W. Va. but here they are in alarmingly flagrant violation of paragraph 12, subsection 4-a of our C&R."

" How shall we proceed?"

" Let's drive by at 2:00 AM and put a note on thier mailbox, telling them to wash their vehicles immediately."

" You do not want to visit them and engage them personally?"

" Oh my, no! One of my sisters from the DAR might see me and think I am calling on them socially. This way is much better."

"Oh yes, I see what you mean. What was I thinking? We will do it your way. Then if they do not comply we will bring charges against them at our meeting of the Board next Tuesday. Mr. Trotsky can then send them a notice on official HOA stationary and bring them into compliance."

HOA's are here to stay. The conflict is here to stay. They are a curse and a blessing. Make sure you read up on everything there is about them before you buy in a particular neighborhood. An attitude of " they are out to get me" is a safe place to be.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Predatory Purchasing

In the mid-seventies I was in Long Island, New York on business. It was a week long stay. While I was there an Eastern airlines jet went down. The death toll was nearly 100. I clearly recall that the news reports covered the fact that before authorities could secure the crash site, other human beings were approaching the scene and stealing jewelry, wallets, purses and other personal items off the corpses. That has always loomed very large in my mind as to just how low humankind can sink.

It hardly parallels in an analogy but I have been thinking about that experience here lately as I represent people as Sellers and Buyers in our current real estate market. The mindset in a large number of people is that many sellers are under extreme duress in selling thier homes. This market represents an opportunity to try and obtain an extraodinary purchase. In other words many buyers turn into predators trying to benefit at the crash site of the current real estate downturn.

There is little compassion displayed in many of the offers that I have had to handle within the last few months. The prime victim is the person who has not been able to make a payment for awhile on thier homes. They are heading into foreclosure or short sale. The Buyer armed with a sufficient line of credit or cash moves in for the kill. Never mind that the seller is down on thier luck, financially. The predatory purchaser wants to obtain that property at an extreme discount, hang the circumstances of the poor property owner.

Now, I know that we live in a free market economy. I am all in favor of getting a good deal on just about anything I go to purchase. However, I feel that common decency should drive us in the direction of offering a fair price for property. Low ball offers have always been a part of our business however the current market we are in seems to bring out the predator in some of the more unscrupulous. You see their signs on every street corner, " Will pay cash for houses, quickly."

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