Fire Season Is Always At Home


It’s been a snowy, rainy year in the State of Utah. The wildflowers are lush, the hills are green. Pretty!… and pretty scary if we get a hot summer. We could get massive wildfires, many which could be started by fireworks and lightening storms. What was Utah’s largest wildfire on record? The ‘Milford Flat Fire’ that started on July 6th, 2007 and ended up burning 567 square miles of Utah before it was finished.  Firefighters said it was the fastest fire they had ever seen take hold and sections of I-15 had to be closed down to protect the public.


          Home fires are even scarier. Thousands of people every year die in home fires and or are badly injured by those accidents. A little over 1/3rd of home fires have causes that remain unknown reports the U.S. Fire Administration. They have research that has found that cooking accidents are the number one cause of home fires (26.4%), followed by heaters (11.4%), candles (5.4%), smoking (2.1%) and children playing with matches (.04%).


          If you live in an apartment building or condo complex, you should have overhead fire suppressant sprinkler systems and fire sensors in your unit. All new construction multi-unit properties must have these items, but many old, old buildings have not upgraded to a current sprinkler system. When you’re considering renting in a multi-unit complex, do look for safety concerns before you put down a deposit. A friend of mine and her son lived side by side in a big complex by the University of Utah, and both units were lost in a major fire a few years back despite the sprinkler system.  Also, consider renters insurance on your possessions-it’s pretty darned cheap!


          Home builders aren’t required (yet) to put in full sprinkler systems in new construction houses, although some are leaning towards that safety feature as an upgrade.  Everyone knows we’re supposed to put in our own fire alarms throughout our homes, but how many of us check them periodically to see if they are working?  Take out your smart phone and just put in a 6 month (repeat forever) date to ‘test fire alarms’ for your own safety.


          Most of us never think about our furnaces and air conditioner units until we are using them at full blast. In most Utah homes, the furnace runs the air conditioner some how (I’m so NOT mechanical). Clean out flammable debris from around your live flame areas of your furnace and hot water heater storage room.


          Also, this is a big BBQ weekend for many!  Yeah! Celebrate!  And celebrate safely!  DON’T light your charcoal with gasoline. Don’t put your grill under your patio eaves or close to your house. Find that dusty old fire extinguisher you bought a while back, test it and keep it somewhere where you’ll remember it- in case of emergency. Clean the darned grill of old grease that could flame up unexpectedly. If you use propane, check to make sure the connections are tight.  The last thing you want at a holiday party is for the paramedics and fire department to race to your home to put out a house fire or administer burn care to something other than your infamous ‘blackened’ chicken and ribs!

REALTOR vs Real Estate Agent


    People often ask me what is the difference between a Realtor and a real estate agent?  Simple answer: a Realtor is a real estate agent, but a real estate agent isn’t necessarily a Realtor.  A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, is THE largest trade organization in the United States. The Association became the largest trade group in the 1970’s and has over 1.2 million members, 54 State Associations (including Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and more than 1400 local Associations..  The NAR was founded with 120 members in 1908 at a convention in Chicago, Il., to ‘unite the real estate men of America for the purpose of effectively exerting a combined influence upon matters affecting real estate interests.’ Soon afterwards (1916) the NAR adopted a Code of Ethics for its members to follow while selling real estate.


          To sell real estate on the behalf of others, you must have a real estate license. That license is issued in each and every state in the Union, and the licensing requirements are different in each state.  Basically, you must go to a real estate school (live or on-line) for a specific amount of hours and learn about national and state real estate laws and practices. Then, after passing a state-issued test and paying fees, the new licensee can sell real estate by affiliating with an already licensed real estate broker.


          Once you receive your license from the state, you are qualified to join the NAR and its local entities. Here in Utah you would join say the Salt Lake Board of Realtors or the Park City Board of Realtors, and also the Utah Association of Realtors simultaneously.  In joining, you pay more fees and promise to abide by the NAR Code of Ethics. The license here is issued by the Utah State Department of Commerce.


          Both the word REALTORS and REALTOR are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and only Realtors in good standing can use both the word ‘Realtor’ and the recognizable ‘R’ trademark in advertising.  The NAR has vigorously defended the ownership of these words and trademark successfully over the years in courts throughout the country.


          As the word ‘Xerox’ has come to mean ‘copy’, the word ‘Realtor’ has come to mean ‘real estate agent’ to many people.  Yet it is Realtors who openly stand behind a stated Code of Ethics (see and who fight for the property rights of individuals in the U.S.  Realtors lobby Congress and State governments to keep the mortgage deduction on your tax return and also help police the real estate industry by calling out crooks who attempt to scam homeowners into bad mortgages and false loan modifications.


          It’s worth a minute to Google the Realtor Code of Ethics and look for yourself as to what Realtors promise to abide by in their day to day practice. All real estate agents must abide by the laws of their state and the U.S.  Realtors have an extra layer of rules and regulations we must try and follow every day in addition to the law, and are proud to say at the end of the day that we take extra steps to do good by our clients and customers.

Real Estate Sales Can Be Impersonal


            Where’s the buyer? Where’s the seller?  These are questions I often get at the closing table when the client is signing their final sales or purchase documents at the title company.  People are very surprised that the other party isn’t sitting with them at the closing table signing papers at the same time.

            Back in the day when we wrote purchase contracts on bark with bloody arrow tips, Realtors who had written an offer on a property would call the other agent to arrange a time to sit down with them and the sellers to present the offer in person. This helped personalize the process-sellers could ask questions about buyers and agents could feel out ‘the other side’ as to the vibe of the parties doing the deal. Then came mobile phones and fax machines. I remember years ago when Georgia Ball was the broker of The Ramsey Group. I called her one day to tell her I had an offer on one of her properties and asked if I could fax it to her. She said, “We’ll never get one of those machines!”. The Ramsey Group got a fax a few months later as did every other real estate brokerage.

            With modern technology ruling all our lives, it is rare that buyers and sellers meet before, during and after a real estate transaction. Nowadays an offer is written, scanned (faxes kill trees), and emailed to the other agent. Sometimes the agent writing the offer doesn’t call the listing agent, just sends an email of the offer with a loan pre-approval letter attached, and hopes for the best. People just don’t sit down and meet anymore-everything is done virtually.  I did five transactions with another agent a few years back and I never met the agent. All the offers, counter offers, inspection responses, questions were done via email and scans.

            Also know that buyers and sellers often work with two different title companies to close a transaction. In the bark days of contracts there was a rule that the seller always chose the title company. Buyers had problems with that and helped changed the rules of business and laws so that now buyers can work with their own title company and sellers can work with theirs.  The advantage to this is that there are two groups watching to make sure the title reports, deeds and final sale paperwork is done correctly and recorded with the County correctly. The disadvantage to this system of choice is that a transaction may be delayed (in some cases) because so many different parties are involved in the final sale.

            If you’re a buyer and the sellers of the home still live in the home, you can arrange for a final walk through before you sign the closing documents on the transaction. This can be a few days before you sign and it’s a great opportunity to find out: when is garbage day? What time does the mail come? Who are your neighbors? Tell me all the nuances of the home the inspector didn’t mention (like, “Sometimes when it rains a lot this back door sticks”)!