October 21, 2014

By:  Kenneth M. Gammill, Jr.

Most of us have heard the phrase ‘knowledge is power’ – but we may not fully understand how to translate this into improving our lives in a practical way. I read recently a simple way to break this often used phrase down: knowledge gives one options which results in someone becoming more valuable.  We all continue to educate ourselves, we learn new things constantly. This new knowledge allows us all to make better decisions and improve our thought process and in the end makes all of us more valuable. The more valuable of a person you are, ‘the more people will want to be around you, the more they will want to work with you, the more they introduce you to others who need your help or can help you.’

We live in an area where power, education, and sophistication are at the forefront. Yet I believe we should never be afraid to ask questions to gain more knowledge and hence become more valuable. Sure we can all educate ourselves on the internet, but as I always say to players I coach ‘the stupidest question is the one not asked’ and we all need to get out and seek knowledge by asking questions of others who can give us insight and make us all more valuable. In this real estate community we are blessed to have accomplished, bright, sophisticated professionals who want to help one another and their respective clients. Brokers, attorneys, and clients all can learn from one another and when we all work together to further our knowledge on the market or a specific transaction we all benefit and hence all become even more valuable.

For example, there are several issues, legal and non-legal in nature that one may encounter in any real estate transaction. Should issues crop up, they will have to be immediately addressed. All parties should be as open as possible with each other from the earliest stage of a transaction to ask questions to make sure even the smallest details are understood so that, as much as possible, all uncertainty is eliminated from a transaction so one can focus better on the unforeseen issues.

To increase the likelihood of a smooth and painless transaction, all parties must be mindful of several realities and consider each on its own merits. First, there are costs associated with a real estate transaction aside from the sale and purchase price itself, such as mortgage fees, title premiums, inspection/survey fees and conveyance taxes.

There are other issues where it would be well-advised to consult a lawyer before even considering or making offers to buy or sell a property. For example, there may be open building permits that require additional work. There may be old buried fuel tanks or elevated test results for lead or radon. As a seller, you will have to complete affidavits and/or disclosures for lead, smoke alarms and a wide variety of items. If you are unable to provide certain disclosures or affidavits, the buyer will be entitled to a slight credit off of the purchase price at closing.

Finally, one of the most common obstacles is the existence of an easement or right of way giving other property owners the right to enter upon your land or entitling you to use an adjacent piece of land, for example a private road for access. A question often asked in our area ‘who pays for costs when one uses a common driveway absent any agreement?’ Well funny you should ask as new Connecticut legislation has been enacted on this issue. Public Act 14-67 addresses maintenance obligations and responsibilities for a right-of-way or easement, such as a shared driveway or private road. In the absence of a written agreement to the contrary, the new law will provide that the costs will be shared by the adjacent landowners in proportion to the benefit received. Of course, if damage is caused by a particular property owner, then they will be solely responsible. The statute also comes into play if you are obtaining a mortgage for your purchase as your lender will certainly inquire about maintenance fees for any easement or right-of-way benefiting your property. This new legislation is a default rule and only governs the situation where there is no written agreement.

In sum, the more brokers, attorneys, and clients work together from the outset, often even before an offer is made, or at the initial stages of an offer being made, the more knowledge all parties have, and more often than not issues are eliminated before they occur. A simple question leads to some insightful knowledge. Properties may have attractive features that allow a broker to market it at a higher price as a seller, or draw one to the property as a buyer. Despite the property features or price considerations, the utmost goal for all parties should be a smooth transaction. This is best achieved where all parties have a full understanding of all aspects of the property and all the terms of the transaction. With this complete understanding in place, all parties working together will then be able to tackle any issues as early as possible in the process. From that point, the transaction will be able to proceed smoothly to the scheduled closing date.