If you have ever considered purchasing property in San Carlos you have probably been hit with the dreaded “disclosure package”. The disclosure package is a compilation of forms from State of California, inspection reports conducted by the seller, warnings from the real estate brokerage and a host of documents detailing the seller’s personal experience while living at the property.
The disclosure package can be overwhelming for buyers. Trying to carefully examine one hundred and fifty, plus, pages of information under the pressure of a house purchase can be stressful. On the flip side, for sellers, disclosures can be equally stressful. An inadvertent error or the failure to disclose something that was not thought to be material can be the fast track to a claim by the buyers after the home closes escrow.
Based on my experience in San Carlos, below are the Top 5 disclosures that buyers should be aware of when dealing with San Carlos. Again, not all properties will have these disclosures, but it’s a good idea to be aware of them when purchasing.
(1) Work Not Permitted. It’s been discussed several times on the this site, but this is far and away the number one red flag for San Carlos, in my opinion. Conservatively, I would estimate that at least half of the homes in San Carlos have some type of work that was done to the home, without the benefit of a permit. Usually, this type of work is conducted by the homeowner or an unlicensed contractor. Most sellers will disclose work that was not permitted. If you are a buyer and are dealing with work that is not permitted, work done by the homeowner or work done by an unlicensed contractor, I would recommend that, in addition to your property inspection, you have a contractor examine the workmanship to alert you to potential issues.
(2) County Records Don’t Match. Slightly different than number one, above. Here’s the way this situation usually materializes: a home is listed as a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home. The buyer purchases the home. Sometime later on down the line, the buyer goes to refinance the home or sell it and the county records are pulled. Upon an examination of the county records, the owners discover that the home is actually only recognized as a two bedroom, two bath or a three bedroom, one bath home. How does this happen? Somewhere in the chain of ownership, there was an addition or modification to the original home that was not permitted (excluding a clerical error on behalf of the county). The unfortunate part about this situation for the current owner is that when they go to sell the home, they will need to list the home as the permits allows. So if they bought the home as a 3/2, and it’s only permitted as a 3/1, they will need to actually list it as a 3/1 which will obviously dilute some interest in their home and ultimately affect the value.
(3) Drainage. The majority of homes in San Carlos are not built on an entirely level lot. Additionally, the western hills of San Carlos (including most of the Beverly Terrace area) are filled with natural springs. For those on a level lot, primarily the Howard Park, Oak Park and White Oaks areas, they are built on a mixture of adobe clay, which obviously does not drain well. For homes in the hills, buyers would be wise to have a drainage inspection. These homes are more highly susceptible to issues because it’s not only your own home that could be receiving water under the house, but your drainage could be damaging your neighbor’s property as well. For those homes on a level lot, buyers should be looking for an upgraded sump pump system under the home if there is evidence of previous standing water.
(4) Retaining Walls. As mentioned above, many homes in San Carlos are on hillsides. In the flat areas of San Carlos, there are three creeks that run the length of the Howard Park, Oak Park and White Oaks areas. Homeowners are always shocked at the true cost of an engineered retaining wall. Your smallest and most basic engineered wall can start as low as ten thousand dollars and for larger more detailed walls, the cost can run into the hundreds of thousands. There are really two types of retaining walls. Those that are engineered, and those that are not. Homes on hillsides needing retaining walls and homes backing up to any one of the creeks in San Carlos will most likely need some type of retaining wall work. If the home you are considering purchasing falls into this category, it would be wise to have it evaluated. One additional note, if you have a home backing up to a creek, be aware that not only will permission be needed from the City of San Carlos for your retaining wall, but the Department of Fish and Game will most likely need to be involved as well.
(5) Neighbors. It is the City of Good Living, but what happens at the neighbor’s house is still a major issue in disclosures. Many sellers have become used to nuisances in their neighborhood and sometimes it does not register with them while filling out their disclosure forms. Items such as: a barking dog next door, carryover noise from a school or park, your neighbor’s garage band and cars driving faster than they should on a particular street….are all issues for San Carlos properties. The issue for most buyers making a claim after the escrow has closed, is proving damages. The seller may have completely forgotten to disclose a material neighborhood condition and be 100% liable for the error. The problem is that it is up to the buyer to calculate the damage….which can be almost impossible in certain situations. The best way for a buyer to truly curb this issue is to visit the property at all times of the day. Speaking to the immediate neighbors prior to the purchase is also a good idea.