Save Yourself a Little Time and Hassle: Fill Out the Right Forms


Each time a property’s ownership changes hands, a small avalanche of documentation must accompany the transaction. Your Realtor will walk you through the process, but it’s still nice to know what’s coming. Here’s some information on a couple forms, forms that will save you time and money if you complete them in a timely and thorough manner.

The first form is the Preliminary Change of Ownership Report (PCOR), a short document that informs the county about the change of ownership. Each time a property is transferred to a new owner, the county reassesses the property’s fair market value in compliance with Proposition 13: the PCOR aids them in this process.

In 1978, Proposition 13 declared that the maximum amount of any ad valorem tax on real property shall not exceed one percent of the full cash value of such property, and that annual increases of the tax would be limited to an inflation factor not to exceed two percent. A reassessment of the property tax can only be made when the property ownership changes or when construction occurs. (California Constitution Article XIII)

Given this information, you can understand why the county is eager to know about ownership changes: it’s one of the few times a big jump in the taxable value of a property happens. There are exceptions to the reassessment rule. For example, if one family member transfers ownership to another family member, the property’s tax base remains unchanged; but typically (if not a family member) a new tax base is established when the property changes hands.

Be aware that fair market value does not necessarily mean purchase price—a common misconception. The county assessor’s office independently researches the value of the property based on other properties in the area and current market conditions. So if you got an incredibly good deal when you purchased the property (or if you overpaid), your purchase price may have little to do with the fair market value assessed by the county.

When you sign the Preliminary Change of Ownership Report, you are certifying the information is correct under penalty of perjury. This is not a time to stretch the truth to try to get out of paying more taxes. Just dutifully complete the information that identifies the property, the seller, the buyer, and the terms of the sale. As with many regulations, if you don’t, the penalties get expensive.

The next form is the Statement of Information (SI), frequently required by your title company. It establishes that you are who you say you are, and prevents you from being confused with someone else. Sounds basic, I know, but you don’t want to be confused with someone of a similar name who has a problematic financial or legal history. This confidential form helps prevent a mistaken identity issue. It asks for information including your full name, social security number, date of birth, driver’s license number, and marital status. It also asks for ten years’ worth of residences and work history.

You may recall that title insurance is different from traditional insurance in that it attempts to protect you and your lender from problems in the past, rather than the future. The SI helps assure that problems that could impede the sale of the property are, in fact, related to the buyer and/or seller involved in this transaction. Clearly, if you have a common name like Smith or Jones, you’re more likely to have issues, but by collecting a detailed history, the SI is often able to prove you were not, for example, the John and Nancy Jones involved in a lawsuit in Los Angles when you’ve been living in Ukiah your whole lives.

So although these forms are mundane, take the time to complete them properly. You’ll be glad you did.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

Emergency Kit for the Car

Emergency Kit for the Car

Mickey Mantle said “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

Similarly, if people planning their summer travel knew they were going to have an emergency, they would have the right things available. Only 5% of drivers carry all recommended emergency supplies in their cars.9111296-250.jpg

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that all American have some basic supplies on hand in order to survive for at least three days if an emergency occurs. Some of these things would be more important if you lived or traveled in remote areas.

  • Reflective hazard triangle or road flares
  • Spare tire
  • Jumper cables
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Crucial medications
  • Emergency radio with batteries
  • Bottled water for each person and pet in your car
  • Non-perishable, high-calorie food
  • Distress signal flag
  • Matches or lighter

During cold weather, additional items are recommended:

  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Blankets and extra warm clothing
  • Road salt or cat litter to help with tire traction
  • Tarp for working outside in weather

It is recommended that emergency supplies should be checked at least twice a year to see that all of the items are in working order and in good condition. It is important that items are replaced if any of them are used during the year.

The American Red Cross is among many sources where emergency preparedness kits and supplies can be purchased.

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 Preliminary Title Reports Are Really Helpful, Especially If You Read Them

I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: when it comes to real estate documents, the large print giveth and the small print taketh away. When you decide to purchase a home, your preliminary title report will include many paragraphs full of boring (but important) information, and potentially a few paragraphs with information that could change your mind about buying the property. Be sure to read the whole thing.


Much of the information in a preliminary title report is information your Realtor and the seller’s Realtor will take care of; it won’t require any action on your part. For example, if the title of the property is in the name of a corporation, the seller’s Realtor will have to obtain documents from a vested owner authorizing someone to sign on the dotted line. While it’s not something you, as a buyer, have to deal with, it’s important; because if the corporation is not in good standing with the state, the seller may have trouble transferring the title.

Taxes and Assessments

While you will not be responsible for paying outstanding balances of taxes and assessments, it’s good to see what they are to get a sense of what your future liabilities will be. A local example of an assessment you may start to see are those from Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans. Mendocino County recently approved these loans that help people finance energy efficiency upgrades or renewable energy installations. PACE assessments totaling many thousands of dollars will need to be paid by the seller or taken into consideration when determining the purchase price.

Deeds of Trust

Preliminary title reports also show any deeds of trust that have not been reconveyed (released). Normally, this deals with loans the current owner is obligated to pay. On occasion, an old deed of trust from decades ago appears, and it must be addressed to avoid future problems. Conceivably, a beneficiary of an old deed of trust that was never paid off could make a demand for the outstanding principal plus accrued interest. While compounding interest in your retirement account works in your favor, compounding interest from an old debt does not.


One of the critical elements of a preliminary title report is to see who exactly owns the property. If an owner’s deceased ex-wife passed her ownership stake to her children when she died, and those children refuse to speak with the owner, it may take some time to clean things up. Start right away. Also, something as simple as an incorrect middle initial can cause problems if not detected and dealt with early.

Pending Actions

Likewise, you’ll want to clean up any legal disputes. If the neighbor’s lawsuit over the encroachment of your shared fence remains unresolved, it can do more than delay the closing of an escrow, it can kill it altogether.

Maintenance Agreements

The most common maintenance agreements are road maintenance agreements. Be sure you understand both the scope of the agreement and your obligation to pay for it. Other maintenance agreements can cover common areas such as greenbelts or shared wells. Read the details.

Legal Description

In the vast majority of cases, the legal description is routine. After all, if you buy a house at 123 Main Street with a fence around the property’s perimeter, the property line is probably obvious. However, a vacant lot in Brooktrails is tougher to determine, and the boundary line on a 350-acre parcel at the end of Spy Rock Road is harder still.

Property in Default

If a notice of foreclosure exists because of the current owner’s default on a loan, your timeline may be affected. The process may be delayed or a pending public sale may rush the escrow.

No matter how boring you may find the details of your preliminary title report, I’m confident you’ll be glad you read it.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

What Can You Expect?

What Can You Expect?

Businesses must treat customers fairly if they expect to do business with them again or get recommendations to their friends. Customers of stores like Nordstrom’s understand that a salesperson is an employee and represents the company.13959026-250.jpg

The line becomes less clear in some industries, especially ones that involve real estate. Agency is a legal relationship authorizing a person to act for or in the place of another. It involves responsibilities that exceed treating a person fairly.

The duties a buyer or seller can expect to receive from a real estate salesperson or broker include but are not limited to honesty, accountability, full disclosure, representation and reasonable skill and care. Buyers and sellers might additionally expect representation, obedience, loyalty and confidentiality.  State laws can differ on specific duties.

Mortgage and title officers are limited in their duties to the buyer to honesty and accountability and specific requirements under the federal Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act.

A special relationship with a real estate agent makes it advantageous to have them coordinate efforts with the other professionals in the home buying process. Since most buyers’ and sellers’ transactions are infrequent, the agent can bring valuable experience to the transaction.

Every buyer and seller should discuss the level of service they expect from the real estate professional they work with. Another good question is what happens if the purchase and sale are within the same company.

Til next time… May all your deals be easy ones!
Follow me on Twitter @yourmendorealty

Clint Hanks                                   707-391-6000

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New State Law Governs Granny Units


Recently, the State of California passed a law eliminating the ability of local governments to unreasonably restrict homeowners from adding a second unit to their property. One of the first considerations was to change the name of these units. They are no longer mother-in-law units or granny units; they are now Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

The State regulation defines minimum guidelines for ADUs, but the language is still a bit vague, saying local jurisdictions cannot “unreasonably” limit square footage. Clearly, the second unit must be big enough to include a kitchen, bathroom, and living space. As of this writing, the City Planning Commission is considering a 1200 square foot maximum for a detached ADU (one that is not part of the main dwelling), which does, in fact, seems reasonable.

If you’re a homeowner who may want to build a detached ADU, one of the biggest benefits of this new law is the prohibition for local governments to charge any water or sewer hookup fees (the combination of which can run about $20,000 in Ukiah). The law also precludes charging additional service fees, but it does not prevent higher rates based on usage. Since water is metered, your water bill will go up, and increased water usage can impact your sewer bill, too.

When most people think of ADUs, they picture a separate structure, but you can create an ADU inside your house. Consider, for example, creating a separate living space above a garage, one with its own entrance. The ADU would share a roof with the main house, but have plenty of privacy. If you create an ADU within your house, there is no size limitation with regard to square footage; however, you cannot make the ADU larger than 50 percent of your house. Honestly, this rule is a little silly because there’s nothing stopping you from living in your ADU and renting your main house, but such is the nature of bureaucracy. I do think it’s good to enable people to divide their homes. This allows empty nesters or single people who want to downsize to stay in their home rather than having to sell and relocate.

On the bright side, ADUs may help reduce the housing shortage in Ukiah. There are some drawbacks, however. In the older Westside, for example, if a third of homeowners added an ADU, we’d see a significant increase in traffic and decrease in the availability of street parking. I’m also concerned about how our issue-laden sewer system would manage the increased load.

Another potential problem could arise if people do not position their new ADUs appropriately. Imagine if your neighbor built an ADU five feet from their back fence that aligned with your side yard, where your main dwelling is only five feet from the property line. The ADU could be positioned only ten feet from your house, and potentially provide a clear view into your master bedroom. Hopefully, people will be considerate as they contemplate where to build.

All in all, I am in favor of allowing property owners to make decisions affecting the future of their properties. My only concern about the loosening of ADU restrictions is that current homeowners bought their homes knowing the rules at the time of purchase, and now the rules are changing. I don’t really expect to see too many new ADUs with construction costs currently in excess of $200 per square foot, but things can always change.

If you feel strongly about this issue, consider contacting a member of the City of Ukiah Planning Commission or a city councilmember. Better yet, attend upcoming public hearings. They’re very informative.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.