Category Archives: ethics

Atlas Chalet Shingles?

chalet roof400

Welcome to the newest scourge of home construction… Atlas Chalet shingles.  It looks like they might go down the same path as synthetic stucco and pressed board siding.  Lawsuits, big money outlays for home-owners and fear for home-buyers and sellers alike.

The brief history would be that Atlas Chalet shingles were marketed from the early 1990s until around 2010 as a lower-cost “architectural shingle” option.  The gave the look of a higher end architectural shingle, while installation and cost was more like a traditional composite shingle.  However, problems started popping up with the quality of the shingle.

chalet roof400If you have a house that was built or re-roofed from 1990 until 2010, there is a fair chance it has Atlas Chalet shingles… while certainly not on every house, they were quite popular for several years and tens of thousands of homes around Georgia have them.

What can I do about it, you say?

There are a few options open to home owners with the shingles…

  • pay to replace them… out of your pocket…
  • pray for storm damage and an insurance company that will spring for their replacement…
  • ignore the problem…

Obviously, before you pay to replace a perfectly good roof, you should get an inspection.  Some roofers will be happy to do a full inspection of the roof to determine what product is on it, as well as if there are any current issues.  If you are considering selling your home, GET IT INSPECTED!!!  Nothing will ruin your day like having an unexpected, but avoidable issue like this pop up from the buyer’s inspection.  And when the buyer’s inspector catches it, he is likely going to go into full “deal destruction mode”.  At that point, almost anything short of replacement out of your pocket… before consummating the sale… will kill the contract.

Which brings us to our first option… just sucking it up and replacing the roof out of your own pocket.  There are actually some roofers out there that will tell you about how they “work with the insurance company to replace your roof on their dime”… but what they are failing to tell you is that the insurance companies are ONLY going to pay if there is damage.  And even then, depending on how much damage there is, they may not spring for a full replacement.  Frankly, if you have a 20 year old roof (Atlas Chalet shingles were marketed as a 30 year roof…) it might just be time to replace it and take the hit.

If your roof is newer, and fully functional, you are not in a good place (well, you are… the roof is working, right?).  It isn’t old enough for you to justify dropping $10k or $20k on replacing a 5 or 10 year old roof.  The insurance isn’t going to want to eat that cost either, for a roof that is doing its job.  Further, there are reports that some insurance companies are cancelling policies at renewal if they find out that you have the Atlas Chalet product up there.

If you aren’t selling your home, as much as I hate to say, it, you might just hope for a hail storm…

Honestly, most home-owners are going to take the “head in the sand” approach and hope that they don’t have a problem.  If they are selling, they are going to not disclose… because they don’t know for sure.  And, since there aren’t any settled lawsuits that I know of, the product is neither recalled nor ruled defective, they don’t “need” to disclose it if it is there.  BUT… this WILL bite them in the butt if they are trying to sell.  A home inspector will find the roof and will notify the buyers and the whole transaction will almost assuredly blow up and fall apart.

If you are planning on selling your home in the next couple of years…

At the very least, you should get informed about this product.  If you have paperwork from the construction of last time the roof was replaced, check to see what product was used.  If you have the Atlas Chalet shingles… you will know what may come up.  If you DON’T have these shingles, you will be prepared if the buyer’s inspector wrongly tags you with these shingles… which certainly can happen.

If you have these shingles, you might call a roofer to get your roof inspected.  Be VERY careful when you select a roofer.  There are always some contractors in the world that just want to get your money.  They will say whatever they need to say in order to get a check…



A while back I was at a real estate seminar for agents.  I ended up being quite disappointed before walking out… because the ethics of the business model were lacking, in my opinion.

Sign coconut

Sign coconut (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The basics of the seminar revolved around acquiring more and more listings, which isn’t a bad thing… however, the problem was that the “leader” of this particular seminar was advocating agents ignoring the needs and desires of the sellers they are supposedly “representing” by using the listings to their own advantage, even if that means misrepresenting their purposes.

I have dealt with sellers for whom selling the property was desirable, but not necessary or imperative.  Others NEED to sell and expect their agent to do everything in their power to make that happen.  While a seller that is on the market looking for a specific price may be fine with their agent using their property as a promotional location (high traffic for the rel estate sign, etc.), a seller that has to sell is much less likely to feel the same way.

And the problem is when an agent uses the property of a “must sell” seller as a personal promotion, all of the while telling that seller what they want to hear… that they are doing everything in their power to get it sold.  That is exactly what this seminar advocated.

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It’s the Photos…

One of the most important things you can do to make your home stand out, whether it is on the MLS, Zillow, Trulia, Craigslist or some other site, is to have exceptional pictures.  Not just for bazillion dollar homes, either…

Vivienne galleria, in the 2nd arrondissement o...

Vivienne galleria, in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris. This panorama is made from 6 portrait pictures taken at 10mm (16mm in 35mm equiv.), f/8.0 and ISO 100. 3 exposures were blended to extend dynamic range and keep details in heterogeneously lit areas. All work was done with Hugin, Enblend, Enfuse and Gimp. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are some challenges, like vacant houses or those that really could use some freshening, but still, pictures are the first step in selling your house.  Video is nice… and virtual tours can add to the pictures… but in the end, having 5-10 great pictures, along with 15-20 good or better pictures (our local MLSs only accept 25 pictures) can be what gets eyeballs INSIDE your house.

Where the problems start are that few real estate agents take the time to learn how to shoot good pictures, or worse yet, they think that grabbing a few pictures with their phone will be just fine.  I know, phones have come a long way… but that doesn’t mean that they take pro-quality pictures.

Even better would be to hire a photographer to shoot the home.  Again, most agents just don’t feel that “this listing warrants that type of expenditure”.  Oddly, I have had agents tell me that when we were talking about $1M+ homes…  If they aren’t willing to hire a pro for a “seven digit home”, when are they?

Image created using the redscale technique wit...

Image created using the redscale technique with Kodak MAX 400 film. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luckily, I have a background in photography… and I still have hired in pros to shoot some of my listings.  It is simply too important.

But there is another problem that I run into… although not as frequently… that is manipulated images.  A little tweaking is fine, and some HDR shots might even be appropriate (HDR is High Dynamic Range, allowing both highlights and shadows to retain detail).  But, I see large areas of homes being digitally enhanced.  In fact, there is a service that digitally adds furniture to listing photos.

Of course, there actually IS a place for digital manipulation.  I have used a service that allows prospective buyers to “digitally remodel” a house.  They could go into key rooms and digitally alter details like wall and trim colors, floor surfaces and cabinetry and counters.  The big difference is that THEY started with a true representation of the room, and THEY made the changes.  They weren’t presented with an unrealistic portrayal of the area.

Some common things that get edited that might be ok would be trashcans by the street (seems easier to me to move them…) or a reflection of the photographer in a bathroom mirror.  But some things that cross the line… at least in my mind… are editing out power lines in the backyard, getting rid of stains on the carpet, cracks in the driveway and other defects which are factually accurate.

One direction that we have as REALTORS® is that we HAVE to honestly represent the property.  And as real estate licensees, we aren’t allowed to hide or lie about defects of which we have knowledge.  Advertising a proeprty should put it in its BEST light, but it should be honest, as well.

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Garbage In… Garbage Out…

Garbage Only

Garbage Only (Photo credit: Peter Kaminski)

It is an axiom among data types… Garbage in = garbage out.  you can’t derive good data from bad.  If you put garbage into the system, you are destined to get garbage back out.

MLS (Multiple Listing Service) data is the same way.  Real Estate Agents have to use strange and unique search patterns to overcome the bad data put in by other real estate agents… in some cases because the inputting agents are lazy, in others because they are incompetent… or a combination.  Mix in some “over-confidence” because they “have been doing this forever and don’t you dare think you can tell them what’s what” for good measure.

In this case, I’m talking about school district data.

Some of Butte's School Buildings (1915)

Some of Butte’s School Buildings (1915) (Photo credit: Butte-Silver Bow Public Library)

One of the main motivators people have in looking at a certain area will revolve around picking the best schools they can find.  In fact, the last areas to go down in value and the first to begin to rise are those with solid schools.  And the areas with solid schools had less of a slide to begin with.

Getting the schools right is a BASIC part of our jobs.

Unfortunately, we can’t rely on the seller (home owner) to know which schools serve their area.  Unless they currently have children in all of the schools, their data may be out of date.  Sometimes, even when they DO have kids in school.

In the case of one local area, there was a re-districting that went into effect in June, 2010.  A new High School, Middle School and Elementary School were added in the area.  But, we are almost 3 years into this change.

You’d think that agents would have a handle on it…

Wheelwright's tools

Wheelwright’s tools (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, you’d be wrong.  In fact, you’d be wrong 30% of the time.  Yep, out of 210 listings in this High School cluster, 64 of them had bad school data.  Usually one wrong school out of three… sometimes two.  I didn’t look to see if they were in the wrong cluster totally…  The one area that really surprised me was that 2 of them were new construction.

One of the tools that EVERY agent needs to use is the online data from school systems.  Granted, some school systems are a decade behind the times on getting districting maps online, but that is NOT the case here in Gwinnett.

But often, agent think they know the schools (since they have been an agent in this area since it was farmland) or the look to see what other agents have put in for the neighborhood… or worse yet, they look at the schools listed by Trulia (which can even be in the wrong county).  So, they don’t spend 10 minutes checking online.

I expected that with the agents listing bank-owned properties over the last few years.  They were churning their listings, not caring about serving the needs of buyers.  But as we have moved back into an era of private sellers again, I’m a little surprised at how few agents have the right info…

And Where Does This Go?


WRONG WAY (Photo credit: CarbonNYC)

First… as a seller, how many buyer searches are you missing out on because your agent doesn’t have basic information like schools entered properly?  Buyer search by school…  And they BUY based on schools they search.

Second… if they aren’t paying attention to things like schools, what other details are they not noticing?  I run across poor descriptions, bad pictures and other faulty data all of the time.

Third…  how much actual money or time are YOU wasting, as a seller, while buyers skip past your home because the data isn’t correct?  The average days on market for homes listed in this cluster over the last year with the RIGHT info is 86.  The average for homes listed with the WRONG data is 108.  Do YOU want to spend an extra 22 days on the market… almost an extra full house payment?

Fourth… and this is the one I don’t have the ability to find data for… how many times were homes put under contract, only to fall out of contract when the buyers discovered that they weren’t in the school system they thought?  How much missed market time was there?

Want to know more? Give Lane a call…






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Wayback Wednesday… Long Distance Listing (or Selling) Agents

A couple of years ago I was dealing with this situation… actually cleaning up after it.

I had a client that had an offer on their house with an out of town agent (the agent was the buyer’s niece).  She was very nice, but she couldn’t be there for any of the 6 inspections we had, nor could she be there for the closing.  In effect, her clients were largely unrepresented in the sale… they were constantly asking me (the agent that is contractually bound to represent the best interests of the seller) how they should proceed or what would be in their best interest.

It came to a head at the closing…  The closing attorney got a bit testy with them for continually asking me to explain the forms to them.  He asked where their agent was.  They replied that their niece wasn’t able to come up from Valdosta.  He then asked if she was there for inspections or anything else.  One of them stated that she usually was able to help them via phone, but that often they had to rely on me.  The husband made a comment that I had declined answering some of their questions.  The attorney busted out laughing.  After a moment, he said that since I was contractually tied to the seller, there were few questions I could answer for them, and that I should NEVER have ventured an opinion about any issue they faced.  The wife chuckled and gave her husband an “I told you so” look.  The closing attorney held up the check that was going to their agent and asked what she had done to earn it…  She hadn’t answered their questions, she hadn’t shown the property, she didn’t even find it and send them information on it.

There are a lot of agents that tag their listings with language like “If I show this property to your client, commission will be X%” (generally about 1/6th of the offered split in the listing).  I don’t usually employ such language because I want to get the listing sold for my client, not punish other agents for not doing their job.  But, I understand the reason.

The bottom line is that employing an agent (whether on the buyer side OR the seller side) that isn’t in the area doesn’t result in solid representation.

Check out the original post here…

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