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An agent is not your surrogate

by Patti Lyles

A lesson in real estate problem-spotting

All too often, home buyers and sellers remove themselves as active participants in their real estate transaction when the contract is signed, confident that their agent will handle everything for them. This approach can result in an unpleasant surprise if your agent calls to tell you at the 11th hour that the sale has been delayed or won't be closing at all.

A Santa Cruz real estate agent should, of course, stay on top of the details. But an agent is not your surrogate. Ideally, you and your agent will work as a team to close the deal. However, remember that you are the decision maker, and your agent is merely the facilitator.

For example, let's say the people who have agreed to buy your home are having trouble lining up financing. They request a couple of extra days to finalize a loan commitment. The request will be made through your agent. It would be inappropriate for your agent to grant the extension. That's a decision for you, the seller to make, while relying on the good advice of your agent.

The delay in financing could be due to the fact that the lender hasn't received a forthcoming document. Or, it could be due to a bad credit report. The first is nothing to worry about; the second could mean big trouble.

Suppose your agent decides not to bother you with the request for an extension. Instead, your agent tells the buyers' agent that it's OK to take the extra time. The agent has now stepped in to the role of decision-maker.

A few days turns into a week and you still don't know that anything might be amiss with your sale. If the buyers aren't successful in obtaining the financing they need to close, you could have wasted precious marketing time by not staying involved.

Some agents think they're doing their clients a favor by insulating them from bad news. They hope to solve the problem so that the buyer or seller isn't bothered. Although the agent's intentions might be good, they are ill conceived.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: To ensure that you have a successful home purchase or sale, resolve to stay involved in the process from beginning to end. This may seem impossible to buyers and sellers who are extremely busy. There's usually a lot at stake, so it's worthwhile to make time to stay involved in the outcome of your real estate transaction.

One reason buyers and sellers shrink into the woodwork as soon as the contract is signed is they feel they're out of their element. They have little or no real estate experience and think it's best to leave the heavy lifting to people who know what they're doing.

A good way to stay on top of your transaction -- regardless of your level of expertise -- is to ask your agent to provide you with a summary of the critical details of your purchase contract as soon as possible after the final contract is signed.

The summary should include key contract dates for such things as the date the buyer's deposit is due, contingency deadlines (for financing, inspections, the sale of another property, etc.), a final walk through of the property and the closing date.

It should also include the names and contact information of the people involved in the transactions, such as the buyers and sellers, their real estate agents, the closing agent, inspectors and the buyer's mortgage broker or loan agent. A synopsis of who pays for what (transfer taxes, mortgage fees, etc.) is also useful.

THE CLOSING: Enter the key contracts dates on your calendar and follow up with your agent on the critical deadlines as they come due.

What to be apart of an online auction?

by Patti Lyles

Would you want to be notified when another online property auction happen in Santa Cruz County? Of course you would….

From the

 $442,000 in online property auction - With neither gavel nor auctioneer, 5 months ago Santa Cruz County staged its most successful tax-defaulted property sale this week, peddling 10 parcels for more than $442,000.

The county's first eBay-style online auction garnered 752 bids from 38 people in six states. Generally, fewer than 10 people bid in previous county auctions, said Treasurer Fred Keeley.

The online auction "draws a larger field of folks who have the willingness to bid these properties up," he said.

The properties, which were more than five years past due on property tax payments, sold for between $8,900 and $121,100 to bidders in California and Hawaii.

The money first goes to pay a total of $51,100 in back taxes. The previous property owners have one year to collect the rest of the auction proceeds — $391,489.50 all together. If unclaimed, the county divides the money among cities, schools, and other tax recipients.

Dunstant Smikle of Camarillo bought the cheapest property, a 4,300 square-foot sliver of land in Scotts Valley on Lockhart Gulch Road. He hasn't seen the land yet, but hopes to build a small house or cabin.

"Where else in California can you find property for $9,000?" Smikle said.

A controversial Felton property also sold. Damaged in a 1982 mudslide, the county condemned a house on View Circle, just north of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Raymond Tate, the owner since 1986, fought the county and ultimately lost an 18-year legal battle.

"They've forced my hand," Tate old the Sentinel in 2001. "Now it's time to go for the jugular"

The county spent $11,000 to tear down the house in 2004.

Al Tamesabi of San Marcos bought the 1.25-acres for $13,600.

Initially 28 properties were available, including a Santa Cruz Home one block from West Cliff Drive and a large house on Highland Avenue worth more than $700,000. Those properties and 15 others fell off the auction block before the three-day sale started on March 12. The owners had until midnight March 11 to pay the taxes they owed.

Maryland-based Bid4Assets ran the auction for a flat fee of $75 for each property sold. Keeley said the county saved $10,000 by not running a live auction.

Santa Cruz County now plans to hold future tax-defaulted property auctions online.  I will notify you when, just email me at


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Contact Information

Photo of Patti Lyles Real Estate
Patti Lyles
Century 21 Showcase, REALTORS
P.O. Box 67275
Scotts Valley CA 95067

DRE #01385517