General Info for Buyers and Sellers in San Francisco

The General Info for Buyers and Sellers in San Francisco document is a, shall we say, comprehensive document that contains numerous disclosures about laws, ordinances, rights, and restrictions related to the ownership of property in San Francisco. It is produced by the San Francisco Association of Realtors, and is typically provided to all parties in a transaction electronically.

// This post is a part of our series: Your Guide to a San Francisco Disclosure Package. //

The General Info for Buyers and Sellers in San Francisco document is a *general property* disclosure. It contains language that does not vary from transaction to transaction and is not property specific.

Pictured below is the cover sheet for the General Info for Buyers and Sellers in San Francisco document:

geninfo

The entire Gen Info for Buyers and Sellers of Residential Real Property in the City and County of San Francisco is 60+ pages. The good news is that the document is indexed, and it has also been verified to cure insomnia in all but the most hard core insomniacs.

I give the document a hard time because it isn’t exactly what I’d call easy to read, but on the other hand it does contain a lot of general background information that can be good to know.

We always give this document to our clients early on in the research process – if you don’t review the general disclosure information contained in the Gen Info for Buyers and Sellers of Residential Real Property in the City and County of San Francisco at the beginning, you probably won’t have time to read it closely when you are interested in a specific property.

Carbon Monoxide Devices Save Lives

The Carbon Monoxide Devices Save Lives (or other CO disclosure) is a document that probably dates me to a certain era. You may or may not, at this point in time (2015 and forward) find it or a similar document in a San Francisco disclosure package.

 // This post is a part of our series: Your Guide to a San Francisco Disclosure Package //

The Carbon Monoxide Devices Save Lives (or other CO disclosure) is a *general* disclosure.

page1_co page2_co

Up until 2011, carbon monoxide detectors were not required for compliance with any point of sale laws. However, beginning in 2011 the requirement that carbon monoxide detectors be present at the point of sale began to phase in, starting with single family and mobile homes.

In 2013, condominiums and all other dwelling types were also included. Use of a current transfer disclosure statement typically complies with disclosure requirements, it also important to see evidence that the property is in compliance with carbon monoxide detector requirements for that area and property type.

Appraisers, when performing an appraisal for a bank, will also look for carbon monoxide detectors and if they are not noted, it is typical for the bank to require their installation as a condition of receiving their loan.

So, depending on who is putting together the disclosure package, you may or may not see additional information or disclosures about carbon monoxide detectors and devices, their installation, or laws relating to their requirement.

As always, this blog post about carbon monoxide detectors isn’t legal advice, oar advice for your particular situation. We never suggest taking advice from strangers on the internet, so let us know if you’d like to meet in person some time.

Underground Storage Tank Inspection

The Underground Storage Tank Inspection is an optional document. If included in your San Francisco disclosure package, it provides evidence that no underground storage tank is located at the property.

 // This post is a part of our series: Your Guide to a San Francisco Disclosure Package //

The Underground Storage Tank Inspection is a *property specific* disclosure. It may be an important disclosure to review.

A sample Underground Storage Tank inspection
A sample Underground Storage Tank inspection

As of this writing, California law requires the owner of a property where an underground storage tank is present to remove and remediate any leakage. If you are the potential buyer of the property, you typically want to know if a property has an underground storage tank so that you can make sure it is removed or you are credited for the removal of it if you decided to pursue becoming the owner of the property.

Underground storage tanks were used for a period of time to store heating oil for old furnaces in certain parts of the city. Depending on the property type, the neighborhood, and the age of construction it may (or may not) make sense to have an underground storage tank inspection performed.

We have yet to have a property be inspected for an underground storage tank and have one unexpectedly turn up. Which isn’t to say we don’t know of some nightmare stories, and also some properties where they were present and disclosed.

As always, our comments and thoughts about a typical San Francisco disclosure package are not intended to serve as legal advice or create an agency relationship. You shouldn’t take advice from strangers on the internet you haven’t met, so schedule a meeting with us some time if you like.

Property Statement and MLS Printout

The property statement and MLS printout are typically included in a complete San Francisco disclosure package.

// This post is a part of our series: Your Guide to a San Francisco Disclosure Package. //

The property statement and MLS printout are *property specific* disclosures about how the property is being marketed in print and in the MLS.

mls printout

propstatement Information contained in the marketing may be different from the information available from other sources, including public tax records, the building and planning department, and any other city or county agencies.

As a buyer, you should be aware of and comfortable with any differences between marketing and public records. There is no city definition of what a bedroom is, so different agents may market different rooms in different ways, for example.

Public tax records are often also contained in a disclosure package, so it can be fairly easy to compare the two documents when reviewing a disclosure package in San Francisco.

The discrepancies between public records and property marketing can be important points of investigation for a buyer. Even if the property statement and MLS statement aren’t contained in the disclosure package, it is never a bad practice to compare the property marketing documents you’ve received with public data sources.

As always, this series about what’s in a San Francisco disclosure package isn’t intended to be legal advice. Your situation and circumstances may vary. Don’t take advice from strangers on the internet. You should at least meet us first.

What you should know about the Buyer Inspection Election (BIE)

The Buyer Inspection Election is used in conjunction with all of the many other inspection disclosures for a buyer to make a record of which inspections they’ve chosen to perform on the property they are purchasing.

// This post is a part of our series: Your Guide to a San Francisco Disclosure Package. //

The Buyer Inspection Election (BIE) is a *general property* disclosure. It contains language that does not vary from transaction to transaction and is not property specific.

Pictured below is the Buyer Inspection Election (BIE). The beginning of the document recounts advice and information that is mirrored in numerous other documents that talk about inspections. The long and short of it is that when making a major investment, doing due diligence is incredibly important, and here are some possible inspections you could have…

Buyer Inspection Election form in California.
Buyer Inspection Election form in California.

If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll note that there are *a lot* of disclosures and disclosure documents that relate to property inspections. For those of you who are familiar with my theory about the origin of disclosure documents, you can quickly surmise what the real estate lawsuits are about.

While the form language suggests that a buyer complete it at the beginning of their inspection period, I’ve never seen it used that way. Why? Because most buyers are smart buyers and want to maximize their knowledge of the property with the minimum expenditure of money. So, most buyers (in SF, at least) start with a general contractor’s inspection. If a general contractor/general home inspection turns up further items for investigation – then buyers generally decide if they want to continue investing in inspections or if they just want to cancel the purchase contract.

The Buyer Inspection Election is a great document for a buyer to confirm the inspections they’ve chosen to have for the property they are buying. In my experience, I’ve only seen this form filled out if the deal is going to close, because if a deal falls apart during inspections there’s really no need to document which inspection contained information that wasn’t acceptable to the buyer.

And while I admire the thinking behind the form, the actual execution of that idea could use some improvement, IMHO.

For example, the form lists square footage, lot size, boundaries, and survey as four different inspections. The general purpose of a survey is to determine lot size and boundaries - so which boxes do you check?

What about an inspection for an issue related to a foundation that involves information about soil stability? Do we check for a soils inspection, or a foundation inspection, or both?

 

What are the differences between a plumbing inspection and a “water systems and components” inspection?

Given that the purpose of this document is to bring clarity to inspection choices, I think it has a lot of room for improvement.

What You Should Know About the Buyer Inspection Advisory

The Buyer Inspection Advisory comes in two flavors: A Buyer Inspection Advisory from the seller to the buyer, and a Buyer Inspection Advisory from the broker to the buyer.  The two documents are almost identical, the only difference is who provides and signs the advisory: a broker or a seller.

// This post is a part of our series: Your Guide to a San Francisco Disclosure Package. //

The Buyer Inspection Advisory is a *general property* disclosure. It contains language that does not vary from transaction to transaction and is not property specific.

Pictured below is the Buyer Inspection Advisory (BIA-A), which includes a line for the property address and is an advisory from the seller to the buyer. The document is a two-page document (at least, as of 2014) and outlines the importance of understanding the condition of the property, the buyer’s rights to investigate, and outlines a long list of potential types of inspections a buyer can obtain. It also reminds buyers of the broker’s and seller’s disclosure duties in a transaction.

BuyerInspection_A_web
Buyer Inspection Advisory: From Seller to Buyer

Pictured below is the Buyer Inspection Advisory (BIA-B) that is almost identical to the BIA-A but the BIA-B comes from the broker instead of the seller. Other than that, the document is almost identical to the other advisory, and again, outlines the various types of inspections a buyer can obtain, the importance of understanding the condition of the property, and a reminder of the broker’s disclosure obligations and the seller’s disclosure obligations.

buyerinspectionB_web
BIA-B: The Buyer Inspection Advisory from Broker to Buyer

There is probably a reason for the existence of the two almost identical but slightly different forms, but since I’m not an attorney I can’t tell you what the reasoning is. Regardless, you can expect to see one of these forms, if not both of them, in a San Francisco disclosure package. If you’ve got a great agent, they’ve already reviewed this information with you and none of it should be new information.