Sellers Guide

Pricing your home right for the current real estate market is critical, but just the beginning of what a listing agent can do for you. This guide is written specifically for sellers in the Groveland, Big Oak Flat and Pine Mountain Lake areas. We cover the basics of getting ready to sell, how to avoid costly mistakes, hiring handymen, inspections, and an extensive guide to home staging.

Sections Found On This Page

Home staging: Dreams and Nightmares

Groomed Home Entry

Home Staging: Pain Now or Later Article in Pine Mountain Lake News February 2010 Part 1 of 4 articles

It’s 2010 and you are getting ready for a blind date. You’ve heard she is pretty, witty and wealthy and you want to impress her. But you don’t want to spend money on new clothes, so you put on your maroon polyester pants with the white belt and match it with a colorfully printed nylon shirt that was popular in 1975. This outfit goes with your bushy sideburns and large-lensed glasses of the same era. If she has a good imagination, she should be able to see the delightful guy you are, and not be distracted by petty fashion.

You also have a house for sale. A superbly built home on the best lot in the neighborhood, and you want “top dollar”. The walls have dark brown paneling and the windows are heavily draped in harvest gold brocade. Tall lamps with pale orange shades and avocado green glass bases dominate the side tables. Your aunt made the crocheted bedspreads. The patterned rust-colored carpet in the kitchen is soft on your feet. The huge grandfather clock in the entry takes up a lot of space, but you think it will wow them.

Pictures of your house are displayed on multiple internet sites, where 85% of buyers start their search. These prospective buyers are underwhelmed by what these pictures reveal. This is not where they want to bring friends and family! And they perceive that it will cost a fortune to bring it up to current style standards. (Actually taking out the drapes, lamps, bedspreads, and clock will cost nothing. Painting the paneling, and putting in new kitchen floors would be a small, but worthwhile, investment for this seller).

This house is branded a “fixer-upper”. And after the area Realtors tour the house, they bring few prospects to look at it. You turn down one “bargain hunter” who offers $70,000 less than the asking price. But months later, you have reluctantly dropped the price by that amount, and then go even lower. Why can’t buyers see what a great house it is and make their own changes after they buy it?

To view dark and dated rooms, Click Here- Nightmares: Photos of Homes that Need Updating to Sell- Groovin in the 70’s and Stuck in the 80’s

Not every Groveland house sale in 2009 was a horror story of painful price reductions after years on the market. Here are three shining exceptions:

“June” House. Listed in May and sold 3 weeks later. Priced at $375,000, and sold for full price: $375,000. Immaculate, beautifully staged with soothing colors, inviting deck furniture, and a fire blazing in the hearth in the pictures.

“August” House. Listed in August, sold 8 days later with multiple offers. Sold over list price. A cheap house? NO-the price was $780,000! This house was built in 1974, but over the years the owners had updated the kitchen, painted the inside light and bright, created a delightful lake front setting, removed all the clutter, and staged it with stylish, but minimal, decor.

“October” House. Listed in June for $469,000, reduced price to $449,000, then sold in October for $440,000. This was 6.2% less than the original list price, after 15 weeks on the market. House was gorgeously furnished. When this SAME house was an empty “spec” house priced at $595,000, it languished on the 2007 market for over a year.

To see pictures of these homes, go to Dreams: Photos of Three Groveland Staged Homes that Sold Quick in 2009 . You can also see pictures of Groveland houses that weren’t updated or staged, and see the difference.

These are local examples that reinforce the findings of a National Association of Realtors survey: The longer a home stays on the market, the further below list price it drops.Nationally, homes that sold in the first 4 weeks averaged 1% more than the list price; 4 to 12 weeks averaged 5% less; 13 to 24 weeks averaged 6.4% less than original list price (this matches the results of the “October” PML house mentioned above); and 24 weeks averaged more than 10% less than list price.

A classic true story of losing equity over time is the “Jones” primary home, originally priced at $595,000 in 2004 and marketed by the owner. Lots of people dropped in on their open houses, but nobody wanted to pay $595,000. They listed with an agent in 2005 and asked $542,500. Then switched to a different agent at a price of $545,000, then dropped to $498,000. By 2007 they moved out and were trying a third agent with the price at $489,000. They rented to a tenant that left the house messy and had a big dog. Lowered price to $469,000. Got a different tenant with small dogs. Lowered price to $398,000. That tenant moved out, and the house was empty. Price put at $375,000, then $329,000. Finally they hired a fourth agent with the price at $299,000. They accepted $275,000 for their Pine Mountain Lake property in its “AS IS” condition. And it sold. Five years later, and 53% less than the original asking price!

Homes don’t sell quickly for two main reasons: they’re overpriced and/or they don’t “show well”. Even in the overheated “sellers” market of 2002 to 2006, some drab, price-inflated houses didn’t sell. When you were a child and someone let you choose from several pieces of cake, didn’t you choose the biggest one with the most frosting? If given a choice, don’t you usually want the biggest and best you can afford, and at a price you know is reasonable?

“Staging” is focusing in on the target market that will be attracted to your house and highlighting the property features that will appeal to them. You may think your house is already decorated. But “decorating” is making your home reflect your personal style and making it comfortable for you to live in. Staging helps buyers feel how wonderful it would be to live there. In each room they can envision their furniture, their decorations, their enjoyment. Entertaining their friends on the deck with their kids playing in the back yard. Them relaxing by the fire with a beverage, their boat stored in the garage, ready for good times on the lake. For the buyer to see this rosy future, the seller has to remove themselves, and their treasured stuff, from the picture.

I hope to convince you in the next few articles how some level of staging can help you sell your home faster and for more money. I will explore:

  • How to draw them in the door instead of driving by
  • How to appeal to all five of their senses
  • How to “bring the outdoors to the inside”
  • What are typical Pine Mountain Lake buyers looking for?
  • What are their biggest turnoffs?
  • What are the two things buyers want most?
  • Why doesn’t your real estate agent tell you these things??
  • I will use several other analogies like the lazy blind date example above.

If you want to start applying home staging techniques to your property, learn from the specific links on >LINKS > Home Staging.

If you go through the “pain now” of Pricing Right, Cleaning and Deodorizing, Uncluttering and Depersonalizing, Repairing and Inspecting, then Staging and Dynamizing, you will “gain later” a quicker sale and a higher price when you (finally) present your property for sale to the world. Article written by Lauree Borup in 2010, all rights reserved©

Home Staging: First Impressions and Outdoor Connections Article in Pine Mountain Lake News March 2010 Part 2 of 4 articles

At the top of most Groveland buyers lists are two things. First is enjoying the beautiful outdoors. We are lucky here to have a sunny climate, fresh air, and low humidity. You need to emphasize the outdoor connection in a way that makes a great first impression and entices the buyer into the house. Then you must appeal to all their senses so they really do “fall in love” with your house. Second on the list is a relaxed, informal, low-maintenance lifestyle. Even in this time of plummeting prices and foreclosure bargain hunting, buyers will still pay top dollar for a house that is “ready to move in” and needs no maintenance. You must impress on them that your house fits that category in the first 15 seconds after they get out of the car. Here’s how to do it.

Buyers here are actually turned off by a too-manicured yard. They are trying to escape lawn competitions, sidewalk hedging, and paying for a gardener. Try to make your forest yard look like it “takes care of itself”, even if you spent days raking, trimming, and burning. Add fresh cedar bark mulch to keep weeds down and present a more uniform appearance. Remove dead trees, ratty garbage cans, old hoses, overflowing debris in the gutters, and moss from the roof.

Refresh your exterior paint. Don’t repaint your house the same original color from 1985. Update it with something on-trend. Pick a rich and muted new color that blends well with our background of bright foliage greens and sky blues without competing with them. Colors that usually elicit negative response are: dark brown, barn red, mauve, or too-bright blue or green. If you can’t afford to paint your whole house, then do the front door and the trim. At the very least, use a pressure washer to clean off the grime and spider webs. Local tip: clean off the propane tank and paint it to match your home.

Most buyers want to avoid a “suburban” look: fences, buildings close together, rows of garages facing the street. Some homes are designed with the garage front and center, so that the private decks and views face the rear. If all you have in front is a big garage door, either paint it to match the house so it doesn’t stick out, or replace it with an upscale “carriage” door that is popular now. This is an expensive upgrade, but if the garage door is the main “first impression”, make it count. On your asphalt driveway put a fresh coat of black sealant, or, if it is gravel, put a fresh load of gravel to fill potholes and bare spots. On concrete, remove oil stains.

Get a very nice address number sign that includes the Unit and Lot number, but not your name. Don’t just go to the local hardware store and get what everybody else gets- go online and order some classy numbers. Get a classy new doormat while you are it. No coir that sheds, or rubber that cracks, or anything with a message.

It’s important to make people feel warm, welcome and safe as they approach the house.

The walkway and steps to the front door should be in perfect condition. Fix cracked stairs, uneven rocks, slippery mud, or any trip hazard. If you have room on your front porch, set up a bench or an inviting pair of chairs with fresh cushions. Put out one or three potted plants. Bright plants or flowers enhance the “cared for” impression. Don’t use plastic or silk plants- they look fake and fade in the sun. The front door should make a very positive impact. Consider adding a brass kick plate, a door knocker, or a new door knob or latch. The last thing you want is for the agent to struggle with a fussy lock, then push a sticking door in with their foot, and the hinges squeal loudly. Ugh!

What other common “entryway errors” do I see?

  • Old dirty porch lights, leaky downspouts, scuffed thresholds, deteriorated screen doors, nails popping up, non-functioning doorbells, bird feeders, wind chimes, cheap plastic chairs, other clutter, dog droppings.
  • Bat or bird guano littering the porch or the light fixtures. Don’t just sweep it off- get rid of the roosting bats and birds. You may need professional help.
  • Woodpecker holes in siding or trim. Huge turn-off. Fix them now.
  • Inside are hanging coats, keys and hats, shoes on the floor, piled newspapers or mail, family pictures, large tables or clocks “blocking” the sightline into the house, or, even worse, nothing but empty space.

House sellers often ask if it is better to list the house with all their furniture in it, or no furniture. The answer is “partly furnished”. Too much furniture feels cluttered and cramped. No furniture is cold and lifeless, and makes it hard for buyers to visualize themselves in the rooms.

Hang your most beautiful art or mirror in the entry, or where it can be seen from there. Splurge on a new, lovely light fixture for the entry.

Light and bright is what you want them to feel now. Turn on every light, or, if you’re not home, have a sign at the door asking the agent to first turn on the lights and open the curtains beforethey bring the buyers in. Remove heavy draperies, valances that cover part of the window, and wood blinds that even in their most open position cover several inches of window glass. Bare windows are better than windows with outdated, worn out or dirty window coverings. Trim back branches outside, or remove awnings to let light in. Clean the windows so they sparkle and consider removing the screens during the showing period. Take everything off the window sills. Increase the wattage of your light bulbs. Move all furniture, televisions, and large plants from in front of windows so buyers can look out at the trees, sky and deck.

To see a graphic example of this, see Before and After Staging: Photos of Five Rooms Staged in One House at No Cost.

Now they are looking out the windows and glass doors at that gorgeous outdoors. Make sure they can easily go out each door and experience every deck, patio and outdoor space. Each of these spaces should feel like a room that just happens to be outside. Decide on the function of the space- is it relaxing, sunning, eating, entertaining, or cooking? Then furnish and decorate it minimally to so they get the idea. If they can see the neighbor’s deck or driveway from the main deck, try to install a lattice or custom-made “screen” to block that image. It usually doesn’t have to be very large to direct their eye to the “good view”.

Decks should be swept and coated with new sealant or stain. Decks that need work stop more sales (or complicate escrows) than anything else in Pine Mountain Lake. New decks are very expensive, but many buyers want them. Discuss this issue thoroughly with your agent.

We’ve posted a series of “Pictures to Bring the Outdoors In” and “Decks and Patios that Look Inviting” here.

To further emphasize the “outdoor connection”, hang art or photographs of wildlife, Yosemite, Sierra landscapes, or people enjoying Pine Mountain Lake. Decorate with bowls of pine cones or fragrant cedar sprays. Our local and abundant incense cedar will last for several weeks in a sturdy vase full of water, inside or outside.

At this point, your house should be saying “Make yourself at home! No work here! Just relax and enjoy!”

If you are still resistant to staging your home, think of these “smart marketing” analogies:

  • The car showroom with ultra-shiny new models on fancy floors that make you crave a test drive.
  • The website home page with fast-loading graphics and mouse-grabbing headlines you just have to click on.
  • Stores with entrancing front window displays of specially lighted jewelry on black backgrounds, or of stylish, accessorized clothing mannequins, or sumptuous furniture flanked by coordinating lamps and art.

So don’t assume your house will sell itself. First, make a great first impression to draw them in. Then create an atmosphere that encourages them to linger and find more things to love about your property. I’ll cover that in the April issue. Article written by Lauree Borup in 2010, all rights reserved©

Staging: We are Proud to Present…Your House! Article in Pine Mountain Lake News May 2010 Part 4 of 4 articles

You know your home’s secrets. You know that the roof leaks in the closet, or that the self-cleaning cycle on the oven doesn’t work right. And when you sell it, you will fill out many pages of disclosure forms detailing everything you know about defects, insurance claims, last time you painted, if you have drainage problems, or if your neighborhood is noisy.

You also know the secret delights of your home, and it is your agent’s job, and yours, to reveal them. The buyer may only be in your home for a short time. They are going to miss a lot! I wrote in the last three staging articles how to make a good impression and encourage them to linger. Another “persuasive tool” is the detailed color flyer that they can pick up in your house and take with them. Besides a description of the square footage, number of bathrooms and acreage, it should be filled with the best pictures of the property. Every house in PML has a view, even if it is just the specimen manzanita in the front yard. That view should be highlighted, too.

The flyer should also mention the appealing things you love and appreciate- the things you will reluctantly leave behind. So share the answers to the questions below with your Realtor, so they can write them in the flyer:

  • Why did you buy this home?
  • What did you love about living here?
  • Are there good features a buyer might not see in a ten minute tour?
  • What did you replace, or improve, or add on that increases the value or enjoyment?
  • What should be emphasized in the advertising descriptions?

The features could be practical: the shade on the deck in July, the sophisticated lighting system, the extra big oven for cooking a turkey, the insulated garage that makes it comfortable to work in, the “whole house” fan in the attic, the good garden soil. Or for pleasure: the porch swing on a summer day, the owl family in the tall oak tree, the daffodils that come up in spring, closeness to the hiking trail or the beach, the brilliant sunsets or moon rises. Or big ticket items that you have replaced: new roof, new heating system, new tile shower.

The flyer should also list the personal property included with the “real estate”. This is like putting the big FREE! word in an ad. You’ll let them have the cord of firewood, the pool table, the fancy barbecue, or the swing set, maybe the new flat screen television, if they buy the house. First-time home buyers of mine once chose a house because the seller was including a lovely new dining table with matching buffet and chairs. The set was nicer than any furniture they owned, and they were thrilled to get it “free”. Many second home sellers leave all the furniture. If you don’t want to give it away, then list what is available for sale at reasonable prices.

Whenever possible, the floor plan should be copied in the flyer. The buyer can refer to this if they are trying to remember where the laundry room was, or which floor the second bathroom was on, or if there’s space to add another closet in the master bedroom. Even a large, faded building blueprint can be reduced and touched up and labeled. Sometimes I have a copy of an appraisal, which always has a rough floor plan that can be reproduced.

A plot plan showing where the house, driveway, septic system and building setbacks are located can clarify whether there is room to add on to the house, or enlarge the parking area. Also useful to the buyer and their Realtor is a map showing adjoining lots. Over 500 lots have been merged in PML, and it may be a selling feature to the buyer if they know a new house can’t be built on the open area next door.

If a home has been occupied full-time and is energy-efficient, it is helpful to list the history of propane and electricity costs for each year that you have records. When we sold our solar home, we gave the buyer records of eighteen years of low monthly PG&E costs and kilowatt usage. If the wood-stove heats up the whole cold house in an hour, mention that too.

The flyer should be available in your house, given to all the area agents, and be click-able online. Our MLS allows flyers to be uploaded so that all agents can print them at any time. Here are two flyer examples: Cresthaven 2 Page Flyer Buttercup 4 Page Flyer

When a buyer tours your house and likes it, one of the first things they ask the showing agent is “where are the property lines?” An important part of “presenting your property” is to clearly and colorfully “stake and flag” the corners. Agents know that the front dividing lines can usually be figured out because the power poles, water meters, and fire hydrants are placed there. Make it easy for the buyer to either see the flagged back corners from the deck, or to walk to them. Then they can mentally start “taking ownership” of their new domain.

Just twenty years ago a buyer who came to your property had only seen a small black and white exterior photo of it beforehand. But with the advent of Multiple Listing Service instant feeds to international internet sites, virtual “video” tours, and automatic emails to buyers from Realtors, that has drastically changed. You want your on-line photos to stand out from the competition! Over 85% of buyers are searching for homes online first. The buyer may never come near your house if the photographs are bad, or interior shots are missing. It is absolutely critical that your agent take lots of enticing pictures that make the buyer want to see the house “in person”.

Here are the most common picture mistakes:

Not Enough Pictures

Our local MLS allows 30 photos to be put in. If the agent can’t get 30 nice photos, then the property is not staged properly yet. In addition to the front of the house, the living room and the kitchen, also photograph every room, every outside space, every angle of the house, the view, the street scene, the nice bench, the fireplace, the whirlpool tub, a close-up of the real wood floors, a special tree. Then add a few photos of the PML lake and golf course.

The Wrong Time Of Day

Harsh shadows hide the front of the house, or the glare of mid-day washes out the color of the sky. An hour or two after the sun rises and before it sets is when the light is it’s softest, warmest and most flattering. You will get the best selection by taking photographs at different times of day of different sides of the house. A “twilight” photo, when the sky is dark periwinkle blue, with ALL the lights on inside and out and the windows uncovered, is a romantic peek.

Not Framing The Shot

Usually this means the photographer is too close to the house and gets the garage and house, but not the surrounding vegetation or view. The best shots are usually taken from across the street then zoomed in, or slightly above the house so it is framed by the pine trees

Not Trying Different Vantage Points

A shot of the great room looking down from the loft above will draw a buyer’s eye, and show the volume of space. Shooting the dining room or deck from the level of the seating makes it more intimate. Shooting the view framed by the window has more impact than just the view from the back yard. Vertical shots of bathrooms make them look bigger.

Blurred Photos

Either from shaking the camera, or a digital resolution that is too low.

Dark Interiors (Or photos with the window coverings closed)

Shooting into a bright window so the window turns white and the interior turns dark.

Your Realtor has access to many programs to touch up the pictures. Pictures can be lightened, cropped, color saturated, sharpened, and if done skillfully, will not look fake.

To see some of the worst and best examples of pictures of local houses, go to Best and Worst Examples: Pictures of Local Homes For Sale

Beautiful LawnNow your house is ready to present. It has been de-cluttered, de-personalized, cleaned, staged, photographed, priced to the market, and described in detail in materials the buyer has ready access to. It shows to its best advantage, both on-line and in-person. You keep it “show ready” at all times, because you never know which day the right buyer will be coming. And you leave the house during showings. Buyers will stay longer if you are gone, and feel less like they are intruding. They will be more comfortable inspecting thoroughly, and discussing the pros and cons with each other, and their agent. The only question left to ask should be “when can we move in?” If you want to start applying home staging techniques to your property, learn from the specific links on >LINKS > Home Staging. Article written by Lauree Borup in 2010, all rights reserved©

When is it OK to Hire a Handyman: The $500 Quiz

  1. If you hire someone to work on your home for a cost over $500, it must be in writing.
    True or False?
  2. If you hire someone to work on your home and the labor and materials is more than $500 they must be a licensed contractor?
    True or False?
  3. If you hire someone to work on your home for a cost over $500, and they aren’t licensed contractors or subcontractors and they aren’t members of your immediate family, then you may be an employer.
    True or False? ALL ARE TRUE

If you become an employer by hiring a handyman to do work over $500, you must register with the state and federal governments as an employer, and you are subject to several obligations including state and federal income tax withholding, federal social security taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, disability insurance costs, and unemployment compensation contributions.

There may be financial risks for you if you do not carry out these obligations, and these risks are especially serious with respect to workers’ compensation insurance.

That said, there are many expert tradesmen who are employees of licensed companies but who are not licensed themselves. You may want to offer them a “side job” if you know them and their work, the scope of the job is limited, and you are willing to assume the risks associated with the job.

Risks of Hiring an Unlicensed Handyman:

  • Liability if the worker is injured
  • Damage to your property
  • The job is left unfinished
  • You end up paying bills from unpaid suppliers
  • The handyman may give you a low bid, but are these risks of financial and legal consequences worth it?

It may be OK to have a handyman change out a kitchen faucet or to hire the building electrician you’ve seen at your job to install a lighting fixture or two in your home.
But, we’d draw the line at having that same handyman convert the water lines from galvanized to copper or allowing the building electrician to rewire the entire house.Although the handyman and electrician might be fully capable of doing the work, the potential risk posed by lack of insurance and bonding outweigh any benefits gained by the decreased cost.

The Contractor’s State License Board urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a contractor:

  • Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license
  • Don’t hire the first contractor who comes along
  • Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door, especially when they will use material they claim is left over from another job
  • Don’t rush into repairs, no matter how badly they’re needed
  • Verify the contractor’s license at (800) 321-CSLB
  • Don’t pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment
  • Don’t pay cash, and don’t let the payments get ahead of the work
  • Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract

Ask the contractor if the company is insured against claims covering workers’ compensation, property damage, and personal liability in case of accidents. Ask to see a copy of the certificate of insurance, or ask for the name of the contractor’s insurance carrier and agency to verify that the contractor has this insurance. In California, if a contractor has employees, workers’ compensation insurance coverage is required by law.

If a worker is injured working on your property and the contractor does not have insurance, you are the one who will have to pick up the bill for an injured worker’s injuries and rehabilitation, if necessary. Don’t let your insurance policy become your contractor’s liability coverage!

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California’s contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. The CSLB website is very consumer-friendly and informative. They will send you free pamphlets like these. Topics covered in depth are:

  • And lots more…

Preventing Mechanic's Liens

When you hire a prime contractor to do construction on your home, he or she typically hires laborers and subcontractors to do some of the work, and purchases materials for the job from materials suppliers. No one would dispute that a homeowner should pay for goods or services provided to improve their home. If the contractor—or the subcontractors, workers or suppliers—who provide goods or services to improve your property aren’t paid, they can file what is called a mechanic’s lien on your home.

Sellers - Outdoor Woods and Lake

What is a Mechanic’s Lien?

A mechanic’s lien is a “hold” against your property that, if unpaid, allows a foreclosure action, forcing the sale of your home. It is recorded with the County Recorder’s office by the unpaid contractor, subcontractor or supplier. It means that any of these unpaid entities can claim a lien against the property until they are paid.

The prime contractor has a direct contractual agreement with the homeowner. If the contractor isn’t paid, he can sue on the contract and record a mechanic’s lien. But subcontractors, workers and suppliers don’t have a contract with the homeowner. A problem occurs when the homeowner pays the prime contractor for all or some of the work, but the prime contractor fails to pay the laborers, subcontractors and materials suppliers that were hired to do portions of the job. If they are not paid, often their only recourse is to file a mechanic’s lien on the home.

What happens when a lien is filed against your property?
A lien can result in a range of problems:

  • Foreclosure, if the homeowner doesn’t pay off the lien or cannot afford to do so;
  • Double payment for the same job—if the homeowner pays the prime contractor—and then has to pay the sub or supplier who wasn’t paid by the prime;
  • A cloud on the title of the property, which can affect the homeowner’s ability to borrow against, refinance, or sell the property.

How can you protect yourself?
You can protect yourself from unwarranted liens by carefully selecting your contractor and responsibly managing your construction project. Investigate your prime contractor before you sign a contract and do the following:

  • Hire only licensed contractors and check the contractor’s license status on CSLB’s Web site at
  • Make sure your contractor hires only licensed subcontractors, and check their licenses, too.
  • Check with your local courthouse to see if the prime contractor has a history of litigation.
  • Get a list of all subcontractors, laborers, and materials suppliers to be used by your prime contractor.
  • Check with suppliers and workers about the payment history of the prime contractor.

Get a written contract and make sure it includes the following:

  • A schedule that demonstrates when specific construction activities will start and end, (such as the framing, sheet-rock work, or painting) and the projected payments tied to the contract price of these activities.
  • Identification of subcontractors who will be performing these construction activities.
  • Identification of suppliers who are providing materials necessary for these activities.

The Preliminary 20-Day Notice

If you receive a Preliminary 20-Day Notice, don’t panic. The preliminary notice isn’t a lien; it is a notice that a subcontractor or supplier has provided or will be providing goods and services to improve your property and could file a lien claim if they are not paid.

Don’t expect a 20-Day Notice from a prime contractor, however-since they have a direct contract with you, they aren’t required to send a 20-Day Notice. These notices allow you to track who has a potential claim against your property. Subcontractors and suppliers must provide you with this notice in order to maintain their right to file a lien. If they don’t provide you with the notice, they lose the right to file a lien. Watch the timing, however. A subcontractor or supplier can give you the Preliminary Notice before delivering supplies or starting work and up to 20 days after delivering supplies or starting work.

Preventing liens
Before you pay your prime contractor, deal with the possibility of a lien. The first step is to keep track of Preliminary 20 Day Notices and make sure you are aware of who your potential lien claimants are.
There are a few specific methods you can use to make sure potential lien claimants have been paid:

Joint Checks
Joint checks are the simplest method of lien prevention. When the contractor presents a bill for materials or labor, compare it to the schedule of payments in your contract and the Preliminary 20-Day Notices you’ve received. Make sure that work was provided as described and then make out the check to both the contractor and the supplier, or the contractor and the subcontractor. Both parties will have to endorse the check, which will ensure that the subcontractors and suppliers get paid.

Lien Releases
The release system is designed to allow property owners to track when potential lien claimants have been paid.

Here’s how the lien release system works:
Before you make a payment, you should first get a signed conditional release from the possible lien claimants.
The prime contractor is required to get this release for you from the potential lien claimants, if you ask for it.
After you receive the conditional releases, make the appropriate payment for the work that was done.

After you pay, the contractor should get you an unconditional release signed by each of the claimants paid for the portion of the work being released. Make sure that the actual claimant signs the unconditional release.
By law, you may withhold the next payment until you get the unconditional releases for the previous payment.

Notice of Completion
You can reduce the amount of time a contractor, subcontractor or supplier has to record a claim by filing a Notice of Completion with the County Recorder’s office after work is completed.
This notice reduces the amount of time a contractor has to record a mechanic’s lien from 90 to 60 days, and reduces the time a subcontractor or materials supplier has to record a mechanic’s lien from 90 days to 30 days.

There is a lien on your property-now what?
There are a number of reasons a lien might be invalid; for example, the work was not completed or the supplies were not incorporated into the structure. If a lien is placed on your home, you may want to consult an attorney for help in releasing the lien or identifying these issues.

Often, many lien claims are invalid because the contractor, subcontractor or materials supplier has failed to meet the required timelines for filing the claim. Review the Lien Requirements Checklist to determine if the claimant followed the required timelines.

Lien Requirements Checklist


  • Check to see if the Preliminary 20-Day Notice was given to you within the strict time frames.A subcontractor or materials supplier has until 20 days after beginning work or delivering materials to serve you a Preliminary 20-Day Lien Notice. If the notice is late, the claimant loses lien rights for work done or materials delivered more than 20 days before the notice. The claim against your property isn’t valid if this time frame is not followed. Laborers don’t need to give you the 20-Day Notice.

Check to see if the potential lien claimant filed the mechanic’s lien within the legal time frame.

  • The potential lien clamant must record the mechanic’s lien within 90 days of:
    • Completion of work
    • When owner began using the improvement (This point is often hard to verify because the homeowner is often occupying the residence during construction. You might want to contact an attorney for assistance on this point) or
    • When owner accepted the improvement.
    • If the potential lien claimant fails to record the mechanic’s lien within the appropriate time-frame, the lien isn’t valid. Once a mechanic’s lien is recorded, it attaches to your title and must be removed.
    • As previously mentioned, if you recorded a Notice of Completion, a prime contractor has 60 days to record a lien while a subcontractor or materials supplier has 30 days to record a lien.
  • Check with the Superior Court to see if the subcontractor or materials supplier filed a timely Lien Foreclosure Action.A lien foreclosure action is a lawsuit to foreclose the mechanic’s lien. The lien claimant must file a lien foreclosure action within 90 days of the date that he or she recorded the mechanic’s lien. Often a lien claimant with a valid claim will fail to follow through, making the lien invalid.If the contractor, subcontractor or materials supplier fails to follow any of these strict time frames, you can petition the Superior Court to remove the lien.Be aware that, although anyone can record a mechanic’s lien, unlicensed contractors cannot foreclose on a mechanic’s lien if the work is valued at more than $500.Why should you remove an invalid lien?Even when a contractor, subcontractor or materials supplier doesn’t act to foreclose on your property, the lien stays on the county records as a “cloud” on your property title until you take action to remove it. An invalid lien can make it difficult or impossible to refinance or sell your home. Steps to remove an invalid lienFollow the steps below to begin the process of removing an invalid lien:
    • Send the lien claimant a written request by certified mail. Keep a copy of your letter and the certification as proof of your request. Include:
    • Deviations you’ve identified from the Lien Requirements Checklist.
    • A request for the claimant to remove the lien. Remind the claimant that, if the lien isn’t removed and you have to get an attorney to remove it, the court can award you attorney fees of up to $2,000.
    • Keep your documentation. You may need to demonstrate to a court that “the lien claimant is unable or unwilling to execute a release of the lien or cannot, with reasonable diligence, be found.” (Civil Code Section 3154)
    • Send the request to the claimant’s last known address. Do your homework to verify that you have the correct last known address.
    • Sometimes, sending the letter is enough to persuade the lien claimant to release the lien.
    • Petition to release the property from the lien

    If the lien claimant doesn’t remove the invalid lien, and the time has expired to record the mechanic’s lien and take action to foreclose, you may petition the court for a decree to release the property from the lien. This is a complicated process that may require the services of an attorney. Refer to Section 3154 of the Civil Code for more information.
    Civil Code Section 3154 (f) provides that if you use an attorney and you prevail, you are entitled to attorneys’ fees up to $2,000.

    Minimize your risks and take steps to protect your home

    The mechanic’s lien law is complicated and confusing, and there are real risks involved for homeowners. Don’t risk foreclosure, a cloud on your title, or having to pay twice for the same job. You can take steps to avoid these problems by preparing for the possibility of a lien and employing the safeguards above to protect your home and your financial stability.


Salability Scorecards for Sellers

Here’s a scorecard for you to rate whether your house is likely to get top dollar in today’s Groveland real estate market. You, the seller, can control each of the factors below to make your house more likely to sell.

Give your property 10 points for each YES answer:
  • Everything is spotlessly clean: floors, windows, window coverings, grout, baseboards, lampshades, door thresholds, door mats, faucets, toilet bases, and nothing smells, sticks or squeaks ______POINTS
  • Recent inspections have been done on the roof, structural pest and septic and no repairs are needed ______POINTS
  • The Seller’s and agent’s Transfer Disclosure Statements indicate NO defects ______POINTS
  • Seller will provide a one-year home warranty ______POINTS
  • Personal property in good condition is included- refrigerator, barbecue, washer, dryer, patio furniture, etc ______POINTS
  • If the house is vacant, it is regularly aired out, kept at a comfortable temperature, and looks inviting ______POINTS
  • If the house is vacant, prospective Buyers can see the property at any time without calling, or if occupied, the occupants can get the house ready to show in 10 minutes anytime ______POINTS

The highest score you can get is 70 points. YOUR SCORE = ______POINTS


Here is another type of scorecard:

Circle the minus number for each defect. Be brutally honest.

The numbers correspond to the percentage of prospective buyers that would likely be negatively influenced by this “defect”. A -20% means 20% of buyers would likely eliminate your home from consideration. A -90% means 90% of buyers would be less likely to want to buy the house.

  • Pet urine smells and spots on the floor or stale tobacco odors -90%
  • The neighborhood looks horribly junky and derelict -80%
  • Dark inside unless you turn on lights and open curtains -80%
  • Wall paper or wood paneling on most walls -60%
  • Furniture is worn or outdated -60%
  • The property is located on a busy road with traffic noise -50%
  • The property has a steep driveway or poor back-up space -50%
  • Roof is old, leaky, wood shake, curling, obviously a mess -50%
  • The deck is rotting, shaky, and full of fungus -50%
  • House has bad heating system or none, single pane windows, old fireplace -not energy efficient -50%
  • Leaves, pine needles on driveway, decks, stairs and walkways that make people fear they will slip and fall -50%
  • The closets, garage and storage areas are crammed with stuff -20%

Well, did you eliminate every possible buyer? Not really…


A True Inspection Story

A true story to illustrate the importance of inspections and disclosures

House has been in escrow two weeks. The home inspector hired by the buyer writes in his report:
“Water is entering the foundation and substructure from the faulty grade at the back of the house. Dry rot and damage was noted. Water turned off so couldn’t test for leaks.”
The buyer’s agent wrote to the seller’s agent:
“On Monday the buyer’s were informed by their insurance company that there have been previous claims for water damage on this house. This was NOT disclosed to us. Now in order to obtain insurance, we must have the inspector return when the water is on and pay extra to have this re-inspected.”
The insurance company wants to know the source of the water damage. If it happens again, they will be paying the cleanup bill. “Attached is a copy of the Home Inspection report. There were a few surprises which raised concerns.”

Imagine yourself as the seller in this deal. Are you a little worried? Have you been packing, maybe already purchased another house? Now what?

The letter goes on: “The buyers made an offer on the house knowing about the old roof and the potential smaller repairs. But the fungus-damaged deck and possible water damage was not anticipated. We now also have electrical hazards, new gutters, water heater replacement, extensive deck repairs, and grading of the back hill against the house; about $20,000 worth.”
Uh oh, it sounds like money being emptied out of a pocket. Whose pocket?

“The buyers are asking for a credit of $7,000. They are willing to take on the balance of the cost of the repairs.”

Whew, that’s no so bad. It could have been a lot worse. Thank goodness this was a motivated buyer who wasn’t afraid of doing repairs. Many buyers would have backed out and the house would be back on the market. Then you must disclose all the problems and probably drop the price. Meanwhile, agents and buyers want to know why the house has been so long on the market and why the previous deal fell through. But the house sold. 

Common Questions Sellers Ask… When Listing Their House

  • Do I need to hire an appraiser to determine the value?
  • Should we sell it with the furniture?
  • Should we do any remodeling first to get a higher price?
  • What do I have to disclose?
  • What should I do to get my house ready to show well?
  • Will we as sellers be represented fairly by a dual agent?
  • If the market is slow, should we just rent it for a while?
  • How much capital gains tax will I pay?
  • What kind of properties qualify for deferred capital gains under a 1031 exchange?
  • I just found out that California takes 3.33% of my gross sales price at closing as their “estimate” of my capital gain. Are there exemptions or alternatives to that?
  • Do other real estate companies in town show your listings?
  • Is your commission negotiable?
  • How many months is the typical listing agreement for?
  • What happens if my Realtor is out of town, or ill?
  • What if we can’t find a place to move to after we are in escrow?
  • What if I change my mind about selling it?
  • Do I have to buy title insurance, or is there a way around it?
  • Why should I list with a RE/MAX Realtor? Why you?

Your RE/MAX Realtor can explain the answers…Ask away!

Little Known Secrets of Real Estate

Did You Know…

  • Community Property with Right of Survivorship may be a better way to take title than joint tenancy, regular community property, or even a trust?
  • There’s really no such thing as an AS IS sale in California?
  • A buyer can try to force you to sell to them by filing a lawsuit, filing a lis pendens notice, and making it nearly impossible to sell to anyone else?
  • Groveland and Big Oak Flat are in different climate zones for California’s energy standards for construction?
  • In 2004 the feds closed a loophole that would allow you to convert property you acquired as a rental in a 1031 tax-deferred exchange into your primary residence, then sell it two years later and pay no capital gains tax. NOW you have to have owned that house for 5 years before you can sell it as your primary residence.
  • Damage to decks from fungus is responsible for several times the costs of repairs from termite damage in real estate sales in Groveland.
  • The Pine Mountain Lake Country Club was originally going to be located at the Lake Lodge beach?
  • Sellers and agents have to disclose that a house within 300 feet of a GCSD sewer line may have to hook up to the sewer if they have to repair or add on to their septic system?
  • Over the last ten years, the real estate agents at RE/MAX Yosemite Gold have on average sold 3 or 4 times more real estate than the average of other agents in Groveland?

Arbitration in Real Estate Q & A

Arbitration is a method of dispute resolution by which parties to a dispute: (1) select a neutral person(s) to consider the merits of the conflict, (2) present evidence to the neutral person(s) to support their positions and (3) agree to abide by the decision of the neutral person(s) rather than seek redress in a court of law.

What are some of the advantages of arbitration?

  • An arbitration will almost always be resolved in a more timely fashion than a court action.
  • Attorney fees are usually lower than in litigation because less time is needed to resolve the claim and the procedural and evidentiary rules in arbitration are less burdensome.
  • Arbitration’s are private. Accordingly, sensitive information should not be widely disseminated because the hearing is not open to the public.
  • Arbitrators, who are selected by the disputants, are usually experienced in the field of the dispute. The necessity of educating the decision-maker in the area is substantially reduced and the parties should feel comfortable that the award was made by a knowledgeable person.
  • Arbitration awards are final, binding and legally enforceable.

What can be considered a disadvantage of arbitration?

  • There is only a limited right of review of an arbitration award.
  • If a party fails to comply with the award, then court action is needed to enforce it.
  • The parties must pay for the services of the arbitrator.

Are there different types of arbitration’s?
Yes. The obligation to arbitrate may be created contractually or judicially. Contractual arbitration exists when parties enter into an agreement to arbitrate a current dispute or any dispute which may arise in the future. Judicial arbitration exists when parties without a contractual arbitration provision are required to arbitrate pursuant to court order.

Thus, there are situations in which the obligation to arbitrate is voluntarily agreed to by the parties, such as the agreement REALTORS ® make, pursuant to the N.A.R. Code of Ethics, to submit disputes with other REALTORS ® to Board/Interboard arbitration, and situations in which arbitration is imposed involuntarily upon the parties, for example, through judicial arbitration in the course of a lawsuit.

Arbitration may be binding or non-binding. In binding arbitration, the participants are required to comply with the decision of the arbitrator(s) which is final and usually not appealable. In non-binding arbitration, the decision of the arbitrator(s) is advisory only. Some arbitrations are formal proceedings which require compliance with discovery, evidentiary and procedural rules similar to a trial in a court of law, while others may be informal. Arbitrations can be decided by one or more arbitrators depending upon such factors as the arbitration agreement, the type of claim, the dollar amount of the dispute and the rules controlling the arbitration.

The arbitration clause found in the California Association of Realtors contracts is an example of contractual, binding arbitration in which evidentiary and procedural rules are relatively informal, but the parties are granted pre-hearing discovery rights.

What are some examples of these different types of arbitrations?

Features of C.A.R. Purchase Agreement Clause
ContractualYes, by initialing the optional arbitration clause in a contract.
VoluntaryYes. Participants have no obligation to enter into a contract containing an arbitration provision.
Pre-Hearing DiscoveryYes.
Formal Evidentiary RulesNo.
Formal Procedural RulesNo.
Number of ArbitratorsUsually one.

How do I file for arbitration?
Arbitration may be commenced by submitting the following to the arbitrator or the organization administering the arbitration:

  • Signed copies of the written agreement to arbitrate;
  • Identification of the parties to the dispute;
  • A statement of the subject matter of the dispute and the amount of money involved;
  • The remedy sought; and
  • Any applicable administrative fee.

Who can administer an arbitration?
Any individual or any organizational entity may administer an arbitration. In recent years many individuals and organizations have entered the arena of providing arbitration services. One source of locating these arbitration providers is your local phone directory. A county or local bar association (association for attorneys) may be able to supply you with a list of providers.

Who can serve as an arbitrator? Is formal training required?
Any individual can serve as an arbitrator. While there are no California laws specifying minimum qualifications or training of arbitrators, certain organizations may have their own set of qualifications and should be contacted directly for that information.

If the parties cannot agree on an arbitrator and one has to be appointed, the arbitrator must be a retired judge or justice, in the case of a C.A.R. deposit receipt dispute. In the case of a C.A.R. listing agreement dispute, the arbitrator may also be an attorney with at least five years of residential real estate experience.

How much does it cost to file for arbitration?
The cost of an arbitration varies depending on who is conducting the arbitration.

Do I have the right to have my case in an arbitration decided by a jury or an active judge?
No. In an arbitration, the dispute will be heard by a single arbitrator or, in some instances, a panel of three arbitrators. The arbitrator(s) will not be active judge(s). There will not be a jury.

Will a trial be held in arbitration?
No. A trial takes place in a court of law where evidence is presented to a judge or jury in accordance with specific rules and formal procedures. In arbitration, by comparison, a HEARING will be held in which evidence will be presented to the arbitrator. Neither the arbitrator nor the disputants are bound by any formal rules of court other than those previously agreed upon or ordered by the arbitrator.

What is discovery?
Discovery is the legal term describing information gathering through written questions, verbal testimony and presentation and inspection of documents and other evidence.

Do I have the right to conduct discovery in an arbitration?
Yes, if the arbitration provision allows for “discovery.” The arbitration clause in the C.A.R. contracts grants these rights to the disputants by incorporating discovery rights pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1283.05.

Can I subpoena witnesses to appear at an arbitration or can the opposing party be required to produce relevant documents prior to or at a hearing?
Yes. These rights are granted. Subpoenas which are issued and signed by the arbitrator, but otherwise blank, are to be completed and served by the requesting party.

What if the opposing party does not comply with a discovery request?
The arbitrator has the power to order discovery and impose the same liabilities, sanctions and penalties as a court of law except an order of contempt which could result in arrest or imprisonment.

Are formal rules of evidence used in the arbitration hearing?

No. The arbitrator alone determines the admissibility, relevance and materiality of evidence offered. Conformity with the technical judicial rules of evidence is NOT required. The arbitrator must, nevertheless, comply with basic concepts of due process, treat all parties fairly and admit all relevant testimony and evidence.

Am I entitled to have an attorney present at the hearing?
Yes. California law allows any party to be represented by counsel. Additionally, you may be allowed to be represented by someone other than legal counsel if the arbitrator or administering organization allows it.

Are attorney’s fees recoverable in arbitration?
As a general rule, attorney’s fees are not recoverable unless a contract term provides for recovery of such fees. All the C.A.R. forms containing the arbitration clause provide for recovery of attorney’s fees to the prevailing party in ANY action or proceeding or arbitration. The arbitrator has the authority to include them in the award, provided the party has requested attorney’s fees at the hearing and before an award has been rendered. However, the right to attorney’s fees may be lost if a C.A.R. form had been used and the prevailing party had not first attempted to mediate a dispute.

What remedies may be awarded to a prevailing party?
The arbitrator has the authority to award any remedy requested (other than criminal sanctions) including:

  • Specific performance;
  • Damages;
  • Punitive damages;
  • Injunctions; and
  • Declaratory relief.

Is the decision of the arbitrator binding on the disputants?
Yes. The decision of the arbitrator, called an AWARD, is binding on all parties to the arbitration.

What is the legal effect of this binding award?
An award has the same effect as a written contract until and unless the award has been confirmed by a court. Prior to court confirmation, the parties are obligated to follow the award just as parties to a contract are required to comply with the terms of the contract. If the award is fully satisfied by the disputants, court confirmation will not be necessary.

How may an arbitration award be confirmed?
If a party fails to honor the award, the prevailing party must file a petition to confirm the award in court. The petition must set forth:
The agreement to arbitrate;
The names of the arbitrators; and
The award itself.
All parties to the arbitration must be named in the petition.

What is the legal effect of an award which has been confirmed by a court?
Once an award is confirmed by a court, a judgment is entered. This judgment has the same force as a judgment entered by a court of law in a civil action, and can be enforced the same way. This gives the prevailing party the ability to obtain writs, impose a lien on the property of the judgment debtor attach assets of the judgment debtor and take other actions allowed a judgment creditor.

Is there a time limit in which a petition to confirm an award must be made?
Yes, four years.

May I appeal an award if I do not agree with the decision of the arbitrator?
No. An arbitration award may not be appealed on its merits; however, you may, in certain narrow circumstances, petition a court either to vacate or correct an award.

What are the grounds upon which a court will vacate an award?
Generally, an award will be vacated only if:

  • There was corruption in one of the arbitrators;
  • The rights of the parties were substantially prejudiced by misconduct of a neutral arbitrator;
  • The arbitrator exceeded his/her power;
  • The arbitrator refused to hear material evidence or allow a postponement request made with sufficient cause;
  • The award was procured by fraud or corruption or other undue means;
  • An arbitrator failed, to disqualify him/herself, upon receipt of a timely request, if a judge would have been required to disqualify him/herself if the matter had been heard in court.

AN ARBITRATION AWARD WILL NOT BE REVIEWED OR VACATED BASED UPON THE MERITS OF THE CASE. In other words, the court will not re-hear the arbitration.

What may a court do if it vacates an award?
The award will be nullified. Then, depending on the circumstances, the court may order a rehearing before the same or a different arbitrator, or grant other relief.

What grounds exist to correct an award?
Generally, an award may be corrected to remedy an evident miscalculation or mistake. For example, if the arbitrator awards the prevailing party $500 in damages and $500 in attorney fees but incorrectly totals the two sums to equal $900, the court would correct the award to $1,000.

Does the arbitrator have the power to correct an award?
Yes, but only for very limited period of time. The party seeking a correction from the arbitrator must request it within 10 days after the arbitration award has been signed and served.

What is the effect of an award which has been corrected?
The arbitration award, as modified by a court or the arbitrator, is binding on the parties.

Is there a time frame within which a petition to vacate or correct an award must be made?
Yes, 100 days after service of the award.

Mediation in Real Estate Q & A

Mediation is a method of resolving disputes in which a neutral person (mediator) facilitates discussion and negotiation between the parties to a dispute. The mediator does not have authority to impose a settlement upon the parties but instead explores with the parties the possibility of settlement.

What are some advantages of mediation?

  • A mediation can often be held within a few days or weeks after a dispute has arisen;
  • Meditations are private, which allows for issues and feelings to be openly discussed without fear of sensitive information being widely disseminated;
  • Mediation allows the parties to express their point of view directly to each other;
  • Attorney’s fees can be reduced or avoided entirely if the mediation results in a settlement;
  • Mediators are often trained in techniques valuable in overcoming stalemate or impasse in negotiations; and
  • The parties themselves are empowered to reach their own agreement rather than having one imposed on them by an outside source such as a judge or arbitrator.

What can be considered a disadvantage of mediation?

  • The parties must pay for the services of a mediator;
  • If a settlement is not reached at the mediation, another dispute resolution mechanism such as arbitration or litigation may be required to resolve the dispute; and
  • If a party fails to comply with a mediated settlement, then court action or arbitration will be needed.

Who can serve as a mediator? Is formal training required?
Any individual can serve as a mediator. Currently, California law does not specify any minimum qualification for or training to become a mediator. Many mediators are lawyers or retired judges, many others are professionals with a background in therapy and many others are individuals with a strong desire to see disputes resolved without resorting to violence or court action. Many mediators have taken extensive training or received education on the mediation process and mediation techniques.

Who can administer a mediation?
Any individual or organizational entity may administer a mediation.

How do I initiate a mediation?
Contact a mediation service or individual mediator. If the mediation is pursuant to a written agreement, the mediation provider may want to see a signed copy of the agreement to mediate. The mediation provider will need to know the names of the parties to the dispute. Many mediators will require payment of any applicable fee either at this time or before the mediation commences.

How do I contact providers of mediation services?
In recent years many individuals and organizations have entered the arena of providing mediation services. One source of locating these mediation providers is your local phone directory. A county or local bar association (association for attorneys) may be able to supply you with a list of providers. Also, your Association/Board attorney or personal lawyer may be able to direct you to some mediation providers in you area. Additionally, you can contact your local County Board of Supervisors, city or county attorney’s office or the California Department of Consumer Affairs Dispute Resolution Office.

How much does it cost to file for mediation?
The cost of mediation varies depending on who is conducting the mediation. Some services receive some public funding and are able to charge as little as a few hundred dollars (or even nothing at all for those unable to afford any expense), others charge an hourly fee. When contacting a mediation provider, it is important to fully understand the fee structure before initiating the mediation.

Are there different types of mediation?
Yes. Because mediation is an informal process, it is extremely flexible. Some mediation’s keep the parties separate most of the time and conduct a sort of shuttle diplomacy, others let the parties themselves decide when to separate and when to have joint sessions, some mediators actively participate with ideas and analysis, others prefer to be involved only as necessary to allow the parties to communicate with one another.

What typically happens in a mediation?
Typically, the parties will be greeted by the mediator who will then make some opening remarks in order to explain the process and ground rules for the mediation. At that time the parties, and anyone else present at the mediation, will usually be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement (an agreement in which the parties agree that anything said or written in the mediation session will not be admissible in a court of law). The parties are then each given a chance to make an initial statement explaining how they view the situation leading up to the mediation. From this point forward, mediation styles vary. Regardless of the format or style followed by the mediator, one thing is certain, the mediator will make all attempts to keep the lines of communication open so that progress can be made in the effort to enable the parties to reach their own agreement for resolution of the dispute.

Who should be present at the mediation?
The parties to a dispute who have the authority to enter into a settlement.

Am I entitled to have an attorney present at a mediation?

Am I entitled to bring witnesses to the mediation?
While witnesses may help, it is important to remember that a purpose of mediation is to understand the other party’s point of view, not to convince the mediator of one party’s position over the other. Most mediation’s will probably start without witnesses present. However, if all parties to a dispute agree to listen to a witness at a later time, such a point of view can be useful.

Are attorney’s fees recoverable in mediation?
A mediator does not issue any award or rulings. Whether the parties’ settlement includes attorney’s fees is up to the parties themselves.

If the mediation concludes with a settlement, what happens then?
Typically the agreement is reduced to a writing which all parties sign.

What if a party does not comply with a mediated settlement?
If this happens, then a court action or arbitration must be commenced. However, mediation providers report that the overwhelming number of mediations that result in settlement are complied with by the parties.

Moving Terms: A Glossary

Accessorial (Additional) Services
Services such as packing, appliance servicing, unpacking, you request to be performed (or are necessary because of landlord requirements or other special circumstances). Charges for these services are in addition to the transportation charges.
Additional Transportation Charge (ATC)
This regionally adjusted charge compensates the carrier for services performed in areas where the labor rates are higher than the national average. It also compensates the carrier for additional costs incurred due to traffic congestion and added time traveling to an area for pickup or for delivery.
Advanced Charges
Charges for services of others engaged by an agent or the carrier at your request. These charges are advanced to your bill of lading charges. For example; having a pool table dismantled by 3rd Party Service provider is an advanced charge.
A local moving company authorized to act on behalf of a larger, national company.
Appliance Service
The preparation of major electrical appliances to make them safe for shipment.
Auxiliary Service (Shuttle)
If the assigned over-the-road van is unable to make a normal pickup/delivery because of physical constraints and a second, smaller, vehicle is needed, this is considered Auxiliary Service (a shuttle). Examples of such physical constraints include situations such as a road or driveway that is too narrow, a bridge unable to support the weight of the van, and the inability to park the moving van within a reasonable distance of the pickup or the delivery residence. Charges for the second, smaller, vehicle are assessed on an hourly basis, in addition to charges for the extra labor involved in making the pickup with the shuttle truck.
Bill of Lading
This is your contract with the carrier. It is your receipt for your goods and the contract for their transportation. Your signature acknowledges that your goods have been loaded on the moving van and released to the carrier.
Binding Estimate
A binding estimate is an agreement made in advance with the mover that guarantees the total cost of the move based on the quantities and services shown on the estimate. Also see Non-Binding Estimate.
Booking Agent
The agent who accepts the order for your move and registers it with the van line. The booking agent may, or may not, also act as your origin or your destination agent.
Bulky Article
Items such as cars, boats, snowmobiles and campers usually carry a bulky article charge to compensate the carrier for the difficulty of loading and unloading such articles, and their unusual bulk or low weight density. In some cases, an additional weight additive is applicable.
The company providing transportation for your household goods and on whose interstate or intrastate operating authority the shipment is moved.
Shipper’s statement of loss or damage to any of his or her household goods while they were in the care of the carrier or its agent. Such a statement is generally made on a Claim Form.
C.O.D. (Cash On Delivery)
Shipments where customer pays moving charges at the time of delivery. For C.O.D. shipments, payment is required in cash, or by traveler’s check, cashier’s check or credit card (pending a prior credit card approval process). Personal checks are not accepted for payment of C.O.D. charges.
The person to whom the shipment is to be delivered.
The person from whom the shipment picked up from.
CP (Carrier Packed)
Articles packed into cartons or crates by the carrier, not the shipper.
This abbreviation stands for the rate or charge per 100 pounds.
Declared Valuation
The shipper’s indication of the value declared for the possessions being shipped, thereby establishing the carrier’s maximum liability for loss or damage to the shipment. If no value is declared, the liability is then controlled by the tariff under which the shipment is moved.
Destination Agent
The agent designated in the destination area to be available to assist or provide information to you or the van operator regarding your shipment.
Elevator Carry
A charge to compensate the carrier for the additional labor required to move a shipment by way of an elevator.
A professional assessment as to the van space requirements, weight of your household goods and cost of the move determined by the physical visual inspection of a shipment by a representative of the carrier. Also see Binding and Non-Binding Estimates.
Expedited Service
A program which, for an additional charge, allows a specific delivery date to be requested. If the date is not met, only standard charges apply.
Extra Stop (Extra Pickup or Delivery)
If a van operator is required to make an extra stop at either origin or destination (other than the main pickup or delivery points) an extra charge is assessed – the charge is determined by the tariff.
Flight Charge (Stair Carry)
An extra charge for carrying items up or down flights of stairs.
Full Value Replacement Protection
A valuation program which does not incorporate depreciation as a factor in settling claims for loss or damage.
Guaranteed Pickup and Delivery Service
An additional level of service whereby dates of service are guaranteed, with the mover providing reimbursement for delays. This premium service is often subject to minimum weight requirements.
High Value Article
Items included in a shipment that are valued at more than $100 per pound.
The list itemizing the goods (and their condition) that you have released to the carrier.
Intrastate move
A move that does not cross state boundary, typically over 40 miles. See Interstate move or Local move.
Interstate move
A move which crosses a state boundary regardless of the amount of miles. See Intrastate Move or Local move.
Linehaul Charge
The tariff transportation charge to move your shipment from point of origin to its final point of destination.
Local move
A move within a state, typically 50 miles or less. See Intrastate move or Interstate move.
Long Carry (Distance Carry)
A charge assessed when a shipment must be moved more than 75 feet from the rear of the moving van to the entrance of the residence.
Non-Binding Estimate
A non-binding estimate is the carrier’s approximation of the cost based on the estimated weight of the shipment and the accessorial services requested. A non-binding estimate is not binding on the carrier and the final charges will be based on the actual weight and tariff provisions in effect.
Operating Authority
Certification issued by a state or federal governmental entity authorizing a carrier to move household goods between designated geographical areas. A van line’s agent may also have its own separate operating authority issued by a state or federal governmental entity, to move shipments within a certain geographical area.
Order For Service
The document authorizing the carrier to transport your household goods.
Order For Service Number
The number used to identify your shipment. It appears in the upper right corner of the Bill of Lading and on the Order for Service.
Origin Agent
The agent designated in the origin area to be available for preliminary readying of the shipment before movement (such as packing cartons), or to provide information to you regarding your move.
Articles that are left behind due to insufficient space on a van, to be loaded on a second van for transportation and delivery.
Peak Season Rates
Higher line haul charges that are applicable during the summer months.
Pickup and Delivery Charges
A separate transportation charge applicable for transporting your shipment between the SIT warehouse and your residence.
PBO (Packed By Owner)
Articles packed into cartons or crates by the shipper, not the carrier.
Second weighing of shipment performed at destination at the shipper’s or the carrier’s request.
The person (customer) whose goods are being moved.
Shuttle Service
The use of a smaller vehicle to provide service to residences that are not accessible to the mover’s normal linehaul equipment.
Short Haul
A move that takes place under 450 miles. Short hauls are (generally) performed with straight trucks, although tractor-trailers are often employed to complete large short haul moves.
Storage In Transit (S.I.T.)
Temporary storage of your household goods in the warehouse of the carrier’s agent, pending further transportation.
Straight Truck
A truck, generally one-half the size and capacity of a tractor-trailer. Straight trucks are single cab and body vehicles (as opposed to a tractor-trailer on which the cab can be separated from the trailer).
The booking or origin agent examines (i.e.: surveys, or visually inspects) the shipper’s goods to develop a cost estimate.
The carrier’s provisions, including rates, for services performed during the course of moving a shipment.
Third Party Services
Services performed by someone other than the carrier at your request or as required by federal, state or local law.
The removal of your goods from containers (boxes) and crates, and the disposal of such containers and packing materials.
Shipper’s declaration of the value declared for the possessions being shipped, thereby establishing the carrier’s maximum liability for loss or damage to the shipment. If no value is declared, the liability is then controlled by the tariff under which the shipment was moved.
A term used by movers to identify all types and kinds of trucks used for moving.
Van Operator
The driver of the vehicle carrying your household goods.
Warehouse Handling
An additional charge applicable each time SIT service is provided. This charge compensates the mover for the physical placement and removal of items within the warehouse.