What’s this Hirst thing all about?
Well it comes down to water. To get a building permit, the owner of the property has to show that the home will have a source of clean, potable water. And when no public water system is available, the owner must rely on a private well.
Before October of 2016, the Department of Ecology was the agency responsible for determining if a new well would impact in-stream water flow and senior water rights. For years the Department of Ecology had granted blanket waivers to anyone building a single family residence that was using less than 5,000 gallons of water a day – which is 95% of people. But then the Washington Supreme Court issued the Hirst decision, saying that local government at the county level was now responsible for ensuring a new well wouldn’t negatively impact in-stream flows or senior water rights. There would be no more blanket waivers. Unfortunately, counties didn’t have any established baselines to measure against or mechanisms in place to measure the impact of new wells. Therefore the Hirst decision basically brought the issuance of building permits to a screeching halt.
Over time, counties throughout the state have come up with different interpretations of the Hirst decision in watersheds that are not subject to federal in-stream flow rules. In western and southern Spokane County (Medical Lake, Cheney and Spangle-area), those areas are not subject to federal in-stream flow rules, so the county issued an interim ordinance allowing one well per every five acres as long as it is no closer than 500 feet from an existing well. The Little Spokane River watershed (Chattaroy, Deer Park, Elk-area) IS subject to federal in-stream flow rules… so the interim ordinance does not apply there and there are still no established benchmarks for hydrologists to measure against. That means building permits in the Little Spokane River watershed will not be issued…period. Unfortunately, that covers virtually all of Spokane County north of downtown.
Even if there’s already a well on the property or if you’ve already drilled one, you won’t be granted a building permit to use the water for a residence. So you can drill a well now, you just won’t be able to do much beyond that. However, you may be able to use rainwater collection, trucked water, or cisterns as other potential sources of water.
Who does this impact?
Really, everyone. First, it obviously affects anyone who wants to move out to the country and build a home. But because most rural land can’t be developed, it’s causing a collapse in value of that rural land. Therefore a burden of property taxes will likely get shifted to homeowners who already have water.
How can the Hirst Decision be fixed?
Well state lawmakers can fix it with bills…and they are working on it. Senate Bill 5239 puts the Department of Ecology back as the water regulatory authority. It’s gotten through the Senate four times…but stops once it gets to the House. The 2017 session ended in late July, so a fix likely won’t happen until at least 2018.
Whew! So there you have it: a summary of the Hirst Decision and what it means for you! If you have any further questions about this decision or how it impacts you, I recommend reaching out to your county building and planning departments or a real estate attorney. If you’d like to read more information about the decision, head over to FixHirst.com.
Purchasing a new home or putting one on the market takes some serious prep… and you need an ally to direct you during it all. That’s where a good real estate agent can make a world of difference.
Characteristics of a Good Real Estate Agent
Real estate agent vs Realtor®
Real estate agent vs Realtor. Are they the same thing? Not really.
A real estate agent is anyone who has a license to sell and buy property: typically about a hundred hours of schooling and then passing a state exam
A Realtor is an agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors®. They must abide by a detailed code of ethics, promising to treat clients honestly and fairly. It’s like added insurance that they’re committed to YOUR best interest.
This should be real estate 101…but there are a lot of agents who are really bad at returning calls and texts…or even just giving updates. One of the biggest frustrations for people is a lack of communication from their agent…and in a time-sensitive market like real estate, bad communication is not something you want to waste your time with.
You’re the one who should be doing most of the talking and making sure that your agent understands your needs, wants and requests. A good agent should be asking most of the questions… not the other way around.
Makes sure this is their full time gig. This ensures they’re available when you and any potential buyers are. You don’t want to wait for your agent to get off their shift at a Starbucks before they can respond to an offer on your house or show you a home that is just perfect for your family.
“Run Away!” Signs
If the agent suggests an extremely high price for your house. Pricing a home too high at the start often means it takes longer to sell and if it sits on the market for too long, buyers will start assuming something’s wrong with it.
Commissions are traditionally 5 to 7 percent, split between the buying and selling agent. If the commission on your house is lower, there’s a good chances that fewer agents will show it.
“Technology? Not my thing.”
If an agent dismisses technology, it a sign that he or she is WAY out of touch with today’s marketplace and is likely lacking key skills to sell your home. Agents have to use technology today: from marketing to using the MLS and making your home’s info and photos available on smartphones.
“Open houses don’t really matter that much.”
Selling a home takes a blend of technology, interpersonal skills and business know-how. If an agent never wants to host an open house, they might be lazy, overworked or simply not good in the art of open houses. On the other hand…be careful of an agent that only wants to do open houses. They are best done when a house hits the market to generate buzz, but doing it often after that….sort makes you look desperate.
The Bottom Line
Get an agent you trust and trust your first impression. The first meeting should feel like a counseling session, where they’re asking you most questions. The whole relationship should really be a conversation. If you get an agent that you connect with and respect… chances are things will go great. If they do? Make sure to tell your friends about them.
Next week we’ll chat about staging tips to help attract buyers.
Today we’re going to answer the classic question: “Do I really need to hire a real estate agent?!” I know DIY is all the rage right now…but try to resist when it comes to selling or buying one of the biggest purchases of your life…and here’s why:
Paperwork on paperwork on paperwork…there’s a lot of it. Your agent will help you through those stacks of paperwork, and make sure you don’t miss anything – because no one wants a closure delay thanks to a missing signature or document that slipped through the cracks. Once a contract has been accepted, it’s our job to stay in communication with the other professionals involved and make sure timelines are being met, that there aren’t any title issues, and that all the financing is squared away.
Yes, Zillow and Trulia are great tools for somethings…and also not for others. We have tools, like the MLS, that are up-to-date. We also have access to a lot of listings that are available, but not being advertised.
We know people. Besides knowing all the “coming-on-the-market soon” homes within our offices, we know professionals in other venues. Lenders, title companies, home inspectors, real estate attorneys, interior designers… you get it.
You home needs to be priced right from the get-go; a price that will attract the right buyers in the shortest amount of time. And real estate agents aren’t emotionally invested in your home – so you’re guaranteed to get the dirty details as to your property’s actual value.
The same emotionally-invested speech goes with negotiation – and it’s about more than the price of the property. You can be the most level-headed person you know, but when you’re arguing with a seller about fixing or not fixing the 3-thousand dollar furnace…sometimes it’s hard to be objective. You don’t want the other party to know you’re upset or not upset about something…so let your agent give them the poker face. In today’s market there can easily be 4, 5, 6 offers on a house…and things get heated. Let us take that heat.
A good agent knows the importance of marketing aggressively. It’s not just promoting a house as is, taking some photos and posting it online. It’s recommending staging techniques to make your home appeal to buyers, getting professional-quality photos and weeding through potential buyers so you’re only dealing with serious ones.
Your guide, expert and therapist
We wear a lot of different hats. We’re giving sage advice (if I do say so myself), making connections, spending our own money on marketing and researching the neighborhood to make sure you’re getting the best deal you can. Whether you have a question about the property two years after closing or just someone to put your mind at ease about your offer at 9 at night… we’re just a phone call away. All agents should understand that this is incredibly emotional…and the biggest purchase of your life. Guiding you through it isn’t something good Realtors take lightly.
The Bottom Line
Think hard about the time and effort you want to spend. You won’t replace your car’s transmission without a trusted mechanic… so why make one of the most important financial decisions of your life without hiring a real estate professional?
Next week we’ll chat about finding a high-quality agent: what to look for and runaway NOW signs.
“The Welcome Mat with Alyssa Curnutt” is posted every Friday at 9am.