Dog restrictions in HOAs: yes or no?

Full disclosure: I love dogs. I’m the crazy dog lady who posts ridiculous numbers of photos of my puppy on Facebook. (She’s ridiculously cute, so I can’t help it.) So it’s no surprise that I find the dog restrictions in many HOAs to be, well, ridiculous. Many prohibit dogs who weigh over 35 pounds. The lowest I’ve seen is 20 pounds. The highest I’ve seen is 70 pounds, but that one was an outlier.

photo
The JacksonFuller team mascots — Bonnie (Matt’s dog) and Maddie (Britton’s dog).

My guess is that an HOA will decide to cap the weight of any resident dogs to try to maintain peace and quiet in the building. I decided to look up which dog breeds bark the most, and according to the ILoveDogs website, here’s the list:

  1. Beagle
  2. Basset hound
  3. Jack Russell terrier
  4. Keeshond
  5. Maltese
  6. Lhasa Apso
  7. Boston Terrier
  8. Miniature Pinscher
  9. Samoyed
  10. West Highland White Terrier

See any kind of trend on that list? Seven of these ten are small dogs that would be welcome in an HOA — and be more likely to bark than their larger doggie brethren. So there goes that justification for a weight restriction.

Perhaps the HOA believes that bigger dogs need more exercise and will make more noise just by moving around the condo. According to Pet Plan, the laziest dogs are:

  1. Basset Hound
  2. Bernese Mountain Dog
  3. Bichon Frise
  4. Brussels Griffon
  5. Bullmastiff
  6. Chihuahua (WHAT?)
  7. Chow Chow
  8. Clumber Spaniel
  9. Cocker Spaniel
  10. Dachshund
  11. English Bulldog
  12. English Mastiff
  13. French Bulldog
  14. Greyhound
  15. Havanese
  16. Leonberger
  17. Newfoundland
  18. Saint Bernard
  19. Tibetan Terrier

Fourteen of these 19 couch potato dogs are medium or large. So it’s difficult to justify the blanket belief that bigger = louder.

What about the possibility that a bigger dog will make a bigger mess in the common areas, say, if a wet dog walks in from the rain with muddy paws? I say that one goes back to the owner — no matter how big or small the dog, the owner needs to dry off Fluffy or Fido before walking through the lobby or into the elevator. Common courtesy is common courtesy, regardless of the size of the pooch at the end of the leash.

The last one I’ll mention is breed restrictions — probably one of the foremost political hot buttons of the dog world today. Many HOAs prohibit breeds such as pit bulls, mastiffs, Rottweilers or Dobermans. This one is more difficult because in some cases it’s out of the HOA’s control — the HOA’s insurance policy may prohibit these dogs or others considered to be “fighting breeds.” (And while it’s not the case in San Francisco, some cities have enacted breed-specific bans on certain dogs. Not surprisingly, the ASPCA is against these laws, and there are many passionate arguments on both sides.)

HOAs are trying to reduce liability and financial exposure by limiting breeds that are perceived to be dangerous. What do you think? Should HOAs prohibit dogs of certain breeds or over a certain weight?

Hey, listing agents, take off those 2009 glasses!

Here’s a little trip down memory lane about buying property in San Francisco over the last dozen years or so. Not just buying property, but HOW property is bought — i.e., with financing, with or without financing contingencies, or cash buyers.

bag of cash

2002: Mortgage broker: “No down payment, bad credit, but you’ve got a job? You can get a loan! Or two!”

2005: Buyer: “Man, these properties are getting expensive and the market is competitive. I’m glad it’s so easy to get a loan that I don’t need a financing contingency!”

2007: Seller: “I know it’s easy for buyers to get a loan, so I’m not worried about accepting an offer with a loan.”

2008: Everyone: “Oh S&%$.”

2009: Buyer’s agent: “My buyer client won’t remove his loan contingency until his loan funds.”

2010: Seller’s agent: “Take the all-cash offer. That way we don’t need to worry about the buyer not being able to get a loan.”

2012: Mortgage broker: “This is a solid preapproval. Banks have tightened their underwriting guidelines and if a buyer is preapproved, he or she will get the loan (unless there’s something drastically wrong with the property or it doesn’t appraise).”

2013: Buyer’s agent: “My buyer has gone through the complete underwriting process and only needs to have the contract and title report approved. There are no issues with this property so please don’t toss our offer in favor of the cash buyer offer!”

2014: Seller’s agent: “I know your client wrote the highest offer, but we took one that was lower because it was an all cash buyer.”

Back in the 2003-2007 timeframe, it was easy — ridiculously so — to get a loan. So easy, in fact, that even buyers who didn’t have a down payment were able to write offers with no loan contingency. At the same time, there wasn’t a whole lot of cash in the market, so the playing field was at least somewhat level: if a property received seven offers and all had financing, the relative strength of the offers was determined by who had a bigger down payment, who had one loan vs. two, and who had a contingency (or not).

Fast forward to 2008, when everyone in the whole world said a collective, “OH S&%), what just happened?” and the economy imploded. Lenders tightened up their underwriting guidelines and anyone with less-than-stellar financial details was out of luck. No loan for you!

That meant that sellers started to care a lot more about the financial picture of their potential buyers, which translated to anyone with less than 20% down being moved to the back of the line or kicked out of the line completely. Buyers with the biggest down payments came out on top, and of course, a cash buyer would trump all.

Fast forward another couple of years. The stock market was on an upward trajectory, property values were starting to rebound, tech companies were expanding…and the market became flush with cash. At the same time, though, lenders were starting to exhale and loosen up their guidelines just a little bit, and there was no longer a risk that the lender would pull the funding at the last minute before closing (as had happened in 2008-2009).

Which brings us to 2014, a year in which we are seeing a deluge of cash into the real estate market — and a time when some agents look at a 2014 buyer with 2009 eyes. Say a property gets five offers — one all cash and four with financing. Providing those buyers are preapproved with reputable lenders who have sent the buyers’ files through underwriting, there is very little risk that their loan won’t be approved. It’s not a 100% guarantee, but it’s solid enough that we advise our sellers to evaluate the whole offer, not just if it’s a cash offer or not.

What does this all mean? It means that agents should take off their 2009 glasses and stop penalizing buyers who need a loan to buy a house. Yes, they should do their due diligence about a potential buyer before advising a seller to accept an offer, but they should also match their advice with the lending situation as it is *today,* not as it was in 2009.

Post-wedding paperwork, Part II

A few days ago I wrote about adding a new spouse to the title of your home after getting married, and a reader commented that he wondered if the tax benefits provided to same-sex registered domestic partners would be the same as the benefits for married partners. I’ve done some research into the and will preface this post with a big fat disclaimer: I’m not an attorney, I’m not a CPA, I’m not a tax advisor, and I don’t play any of these on TV. I’m summarizing what I’ve found and I’m encouraging anyone who needs advice on how to hold title to real property or how to file their taxes to consult their financial gurus. There. That’s out of the way. Now, on to what I’ve found out.

Because we work in San Francisco, I will focus on California, which allows domestic partnerships as well as same-sex marriages.

In a nutshell, in terms of owning property, the demise of Section 3 of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996 and partially struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013) has now allowed same-sex married couples to enjoy the same benefits given to opposite-sex married couples. In California, both same-sex married couples and registered domestic partners can hold title as community property with the right of survivorship. Same-sex married couples also benefit from the other 1,137 protections and responsibilities granted to married couples from the federal government.

Our reader’s question was about domestic partnership vs. marriage. He asked: “is there any benefit or disadvantage from a real estate perspective to marrying vs. remaining in a domestic partnership? Doesn’t *seem* like there’s much tax difference between the two because of our robust DP benefits here in California.” My research didn’t produce any substantial real-estate-related differences; domestic partners can hold title as community property and thus receive the tax benefits associated with that method of holding title.

So, in California, if we look just at real estate, I didn’t find any major differences between same-sex marriages and registered domestic partnerships. If any readers know of anything that I didn’t discover in researching this topic, please let me know in the comments or via email. I’d be happy to post an update if I missed anything important.

Post-wedding paperwork

Say you own a home by yourself. Then, OKCupid or Match.com or your sister or your roommate or your personal trainer hooks you up on a date that turns out really well, and time passes, and you get married. Yay! Congratulations to you and yours. (Shameless plug for happiness: I just got married at the beginning of March and am on my way through the paperwork to-do list that follows the nuptials.)

This is a real estate blog, so I’ll start with things to consider about your property now that you’re married. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to assume that there’s only one property. If there are two: lather, rinse, repeat for home #2 (with a few modifications that I’ll mention later).

OK, you’re back from the honeymoon and it’s time to get busy. No, not like that — this is a G-rated blog! I mean it’s time to decide how you’d like to hold title to your property. If you live in California, which is a community property state, property acquired before marriage is considered separate property — i.e., it belongs to the spouse who owned it before getting hitched. If you want to own the property jointly with your spouse, you can add him or her to title by way of a grant deed that you will sign granting ownership to You & Your New Spouse, husband & wife (or wife & husband, or spouse & spouse) as community property with right of survivorship, if that’s what you choose. I’m not a tax advisor nor am I an attorney so I will say that you should seek the advice of a CPA or an attorney about how to hold title; there are some pretty significant tax implications that make this a very important decision.

How do you accomplish the change to title? Talk to your attorney or your favorite escrow officer to draw up the deed, then have it notarized and recorded in the public records in your county. A few caveats: Check with your lender to make sure that adding a spouse to title is acceptable (most lenders are OK with this but you don’t want to find out the hard way that your lender is not). Most jurisdictions do not consider adding a spouse to title as a taxable event and no transfer tax would be due, but again, it’s worth checking before you start deeding.

For the sake of discussion regarding insurance, let’s add a second property to the mix. Presumably you and spouse will live in one and rent the other. Be sure to convert the insurance for property #2 to the correct type of policy for a rental property. And it’s a good time to review the policy for the home that you’ll live in — make sure you have sufficient coverage for personal property (which might need to increase based on the belongings that Spouse moves in).

These are just a few tips for post-wedding paperwork. Let us know if the comments if you have any other property-related tips.

See a downed or low-hanging power or phone line? Here’s what to do.

File this under: what to do if you see a wire drooping very low off a power pole, you’re pretty sure it’s not an electrical wire because you know those are located at the very top of the pole and the droopy one is several feet lower than that.

First of all, you might think you know for sure that it’s not an electrical wire, but don’t be a hero and try to touch the wire.

Second of all, why am I writing this? I’m writing this because a few days ago Matt and I were driving down St. Mary’s Avenue in Bernal Heights and we saw just such a droopy wire hanging across the street. A tall SUV would have taken it out. It looked like this:

Low-hanging wire across St. Mary's Avenue.
Low-hanging wire across St. Mary’s Avenue.

I figured I’d be a good citizen and try to head off any wire-related disasters, so I called the SFPD non-emergency line…and waited on hold for about 15 minutes. So I gave up on that and called 311, which answered right away. They told me that any time there’s a wire-related fiasco — either a low wire or a high wire — one must start with PG&E, which is the sole arbiter of the very important question: “Is it an electrical wire or a phone wire or what?”

Continuing to be a good citizen, I called PG&E to report this situation, and they took it from there.

PG&E’s website says that if you see a downed power line, you should call 911. 

Never, ever touch a downed power line or go near one. Power lines are not insulated like power cords. Always assume the power line is live.

  • Don’t touch a fallen power line or anything touching the wire.
  • Do not touch anything or anyone in contact with a fallen power line or other equipment.
  • Keep children and pets away from fallen electric wires.
  • Do not drive over a fallen power line.
  • Call 911 immediately to report a fallen power line.

This concludes our public service announcement for the day. Be safe.

Whole Foods on Market Street opening November 6

This morning, like the grocery geeks we are, Matt and I took a tour of San Francisco’s newest Whole Foods, opening next Wednesday, November 6. It’s located at 2001 Market Street @ Dolores, the site of the former S&C Ford dealership.

Photo tour (click on any image for a larger version/slideshow):

A few nuts & bolts first…

Number of Whole Foods Markets in San Francisco: 7

Approximate square footage of new store: 27,000

Number of parking spaces for the store: 63

Number of those that are for electric cars: 2

Hours of operation: 8:00 am – 10:00 pm every day

Official opening day/bread-breaking: November 6, 9:45 am (They don’t cut ribbons, they break bread. Cool, huh?)

While the Safeway across the street continues quaking in its staid corporate boots, I’ll describe some of the unique features of the new Whole Foods.

Just to the left of the main entrance is a two-seat shoeshine stand, operated by a local vendor called A Shine & Co., adjacent to a wall of what our tour guide called “man products.” By which she meant “men’s grooming stuff,” like shaving gear and skin care. The shoe shine stand will be open daily until about 6:00 pm.

Now for some unique-to-this-store food items. Oh, Whole Foods, you had me at sausage on a stick, made in house and available in the grab-and-go section. There will also be locally made gelato with flavors like Blue Bottle Coffee (Ok, you had me at sausage on a stick AND Blue Bottle Coffee gelato). The bakery will put out mini foccacia in a variety of flavors daily.

Every Whole Foods has a hot bar, but this one amps it up with an entire section of the hot bar with all Paleo foods. If you’re throwing a cheese tasting party and you need 250 kinds of cheese from around the world, they’ve got you covered. They’ll also sell honeycomb from Steve’s Bees in Orinda and tell those of us who are unfamiliar with honeycomb how to pair it with cheese. Who knew?

Now I’ve got to bust on Whole Foods a little bit for a cake with a big ol’ carbon footprint. They’re selling cakes called Baum cakes and they’re flying them in from Denver. DENVER. That’s far away from San Francisco, even though a layer cake cooked in a rotisserie sounds really damn cool.