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Dear Ask George: "My parents, who live in Bradenton, Florida, which is located in Manatee County, are considering selling their home, moving to Augusta, Georgia, and buying a home there."

"They are in the process of selling two houses they also own here in Bradenton, because they will need the money to buy the home in Georgia. There was a 34 percent increase in home values last year here in Manatee County."

"My question is this: Should they also sell the home they are living in now? Or, seeing how the market is still climbing, hold out for a while and sell when it slows a little. This will be a big part of their retirement funds and I don't want to see them miss out on the rising market in this area. Several real estate agents are aggressively trying to get them to sell now. These agents are saying things like, 'It won't be worth anything tomorrow.'"

"Also, is there a way to find out in a certain area, say around my parent's home, as to what is being planned, as far as development for the surrounding property? I was just wondering because these real estate people are like predators. Or, is that just the game they play?" -- Caring Son

Answer: The answer to your first question, "should your parents sell the home they live in now?" requires some serious crystal ball gazing. In other words, how long will the home appreciation continue in Manatee County, versus how long until your parents need the funds? More importantly, are your parents "gamblers" or do they fall in the "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" category?

If they decide to ride the tide of home appreciation, the best indicator is the rate of in-migration to Florida in general and the rate of in-migration to Manatee County, in particular. This must be balanced against availability of new construction, because the home they need to sell is a resale home. So, there are two metrics affecting the demand cycle of available homes that must be watched, in-migration and availability of new construction.

As the availability versus demand for resale homes causes the home prices to increase (appreciate), they will go just so far until the market place (consumers) says, "For just a few dollars more we can buy a brand new home!" Thus, in-migration could remain strong, but the abundant availability of new construction could cause a flattening of the demand for resale homes. This flattening is normally followed by a series of price reductions, of resale homes, to regain the market demand for resale homes.

Conversely, if in-migration remains strong, and the availability of new construction does not keep pace with it, then the "wave of appreciation" will continue for resale homes.

A third possibility, is that the market supply and demand becomes somewhat balanced and remains in balance until acted upon by some external factor, such as interest rate reductions, renewed in-migration activity, or a new major employer opening a facility nearby.

As for your other question, contact your city planning department at cityofbradenton.com, specifically Larry Frey, Director of Development Services for Bradenton. He, or someone in his department, should be able to answer your question about what, if anything is being planned for development in the area around your parents' home.

Dear Ask George: "Is it common for Realtors to cut and paste signatures on contracts to get a quick counter-offer back to a seller?" -- Combative

Answer: I notice you're sending your email from Spartanburg, South Carolina. In your state, as in every other state, it is illegal for a Realtor or any other real estate licensee, to cut and paste the signature of any party to a contract.

Cutting and pasting a signature even when the real estate agent represents the interests of the party whose signature was used, even with the knowledge and consent of such party, would be an unlawful act. The very first client-level service enumerated in the form "Agency Relationships in South Carolina" is "Obedience." Essentially, the real estate company and the agent who represents you, must obey all lawful instructions they receive from you, the client.

Therefore, if a party knowingly consented to the real estate agent's cutting and pasting their signature, the real estate agent as a licensee would be at fault since they were not obeying a "lawful instruction."

Cutting and pasting a signature to appear as an original signature -- even if the real estate agent is a party to the contract, is forgery plain and simple.

Dear Ask George: "My wife and I are considering purchasing an excellent house we absolutely love. We do have one concern, and hope you can help us. In the far back left corner of the backyard is a utility pole, and the power lines run parallel to the home along the fence line. Is this something we should be concerned about? Are there any dangers to this? The home was built in 1989 and the owner assures us he has had no problems. We have heard mixed opinions from friends and family, but need a professional opinion. We have heard they can cause cancer and leukemia in children, of which we have one on the way. This will be our first home owned together, and don't want to start out with a bad experience." -- Health Conscious

Answer: First of all, you and your wife must understand that neither Chuck Jacobus nor I are qualified to provide you with a "professional opinion" regarding the potential harmful health effects of Electro Magnetic Force (EMF) fields that surround power lines, electrical appliances, cell phones, or other devices. The fact that neither Chuck nor I know of any studies that have ever held EMFs as being harmful should not be relied upon when making your decision to buy or not to buy.

Additionally, we assume that you are speaking of power poles that support residential service as opposed to commercial grade service and/or high tension towers delivering high-voltage electrical service before it reaches step-down transformers. I realize your question deals with specific health concerns and not the re-sale of your home, should you buy it. But the proximity of power lines to your residence will also be a concern of those potential buyers who are concerned about the possibility of exposure to EMF when you sell your home.

As to whether there is any truth or tangible evidence as to the effects of EMF, I point you to organizations such as the World Health Organization and it's New Children's EMF Research Agenda. A list of such organizations can be obtained by entering EMF+health+Concerns+government in your favorite search engine. I used Google and it returned about 39,800 documents.

Dear Ask George: "What is the best way to get into the real estate? I live in New Jersey." -- Inquisitive

Answer: I suggest you access the Department of Banking and Insurance. Once there, select "General Information for Licensees and License Applicants" beneath the heading "More Resources" on the right hand side of the splash page. Once there, beneath the "Frequently Asked Questions" heading, is a list of hyperlinks and general information. You should become familiar with all of them.

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