Sharpened pencil resting on a sharpener

Back To School! License Law

By Doug Dean

It’s that time of year – back to school!  At this time of year, I picture kids with backpacks, school buses, summer heat giving way to cooler fall temperatures, football games, and all the changes as we move from summer break to autumn and school.

For professionals, education is a year-round activity, both to stay current in our field and to meet our licensing requirements for CE (continuing education).  At Shafritz & Dean, LLC, we’re proud of our resources to assist you with your education, both through our own GREC-approved real estate school and as an instructor in other real estate schools.  It’s one of the ways we are here to help and support you, and we typically teach 3-5 CE classes each month for real estate agents.

A popular topic for our CE classes is License Law, as it is both important topic, and a mandatory component of real estate agent CEs.  I’ve compiled a list of 5 License Law pointers as a refresher.

1- Presenting Offers: A licensee shall promptly tender to any customer or client any signed offer to purchase, sell, lease, or exchange property made to such client or customer (GREC 520-1-.10(1)).  Although, the language is clear and unambiguous, I hear stories that an agent “won’t even pass that offer along to my seller; I know it’s too low and they won’t take it”.  Remind your fellow agent of their duty under this rule to tender any offer to their customer or client.

2- License Numbers: The license number of each licensee participating in a transaction and their firm shall appear on all brokerage agreements and purchase offers (GREC 520-1-.10(2)).  Interestingly, while this is not a new requirement, the GAR forms were revised only recently (within the past 2 years) to add places in the GAR Purchase/Sale Agreement for the license numbers.  Having the space to enter this information serves as a “reminder”, and I now see the license number on these documents much more consistently than in the past.

3- Copies of Documents: A licensee shall provide a copy of any document utilized in a real estate transaction to any individual signing such document. If any offer is accepted and signed by all parties, copies of that document shall be properly distributed, one to each person signing the document and one to each brokerage firm involved in the transaction (GREC 520-1-.10(3)).  This rule is straightforward, and the increasing use of electronic signatures and document distribution have made compliance with this rule more streamlined.  If you’re still paper-based, don’t overlook the requirement to distribute copies of documents properly.

4- Retention of Copies of Records and Documents: Copies of sales contracts, brokerage engagements, closing statements, leases, and other documents related to a real estate transaction required by law to be maintained in a broker’s file for three years shall be made available to authorized agents of the Commission upon reasonable request and at a reasonable cost to the Commission (GREC 520-1-.10(4)).  Remember your duty to keep the records for 3 years, and make them available to GREC upon request.  You may keep copies of the documents in any records storage system (that utilizes paper, film, electronic, or other media) provided you can produce true and correct copies of such documents and records and make them available to GREC upon request.  IMPORTANT: If you retain electronic or scanned copies of documents, be very careful to maintain good back-up copies, so that any failure or loss of a computer or storage device doesn’t cause you to lose all of your document copies!

5- Managing Trust Accounts and Trust Funds: A licensee shall place all cash, checks, or other items of value received by the licensee in a brokerage capacity into the custody of the broker holding the licensee’s license as soon after receipt as is practicably possible (GREC 520-1-.08(1b)).  The standard of care for this rule is very high – “as soon after receipt as is practicably possible”.  Make sure to place earnest money (and other cash, checks, or items of value) into the care, custody and control of your broker as quickly as possible.

Please check our calendar, and join us for the full 3-hour License Law CE class, coming soon to a location near you! Additionally, if you have any questions regarding license law or real estate law in general, please reach out to me.  We are here to help!

Wooden by Coach John Wooden book cover

Realtors & Lenders Need Coaches Too

Wooden – A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court

With the theme of this month’s newsletter – “Back to School” I could not think of a better choice for a book review than Wooden.  So many of the agents and loan officers we work with have sought out coaches to help them in business.  Our firm has also looked to coaches to help make us better in business.  I recently heard a life/business coach indicate that her industry developed from sports coaching which makes sense.  Wooden is the coach of coaches. So much of the coaching I have been exposed to in business seems to borrow from John Wooden’s philosophies and strategies.

Sports coaches are famous most often for winning.  John Wooden, my all-time favorite coach, is famous for not only winning but for teaching and developing his players into great people.   While, he won 10 national college basketball championships in 12 years, at heart he was a teacher.  This book is a summary of his philosophies and suggestions for what to focus on to become the best version of you.  As I reread the book for this article I was reminded just how influential John Wooden can still be as a coach.

The book is a collection of short essays, paragraphs and even poetry which are broken down into four parts: I. Families, Values, Virtues, II. Success, Achievement, Competition, III. Coaching, Teaching and Leading, IV. Putting it All Together: My Pyramid of Success.   This book has something for everyone and at each stage in a person’s career and life.

Section 1 is for all of us.  My favorite advice in this section was to make each day your masterpiece.   His words –

“Too often we get distracted by what we can’t control.  You can’t do anything about yesterday. The door to the past has been shut and the key thrown away.  You can do nothing about tomorrow.  It is yet to come.  However, tomorrow is in large part determined by what you do today.   So make today a masterpiece.  You have control over that.”

 And with that small quote is the foundation for the book and the philosophy that each and every day we need to attempt to become a little better and if we do, over time we’ll become a lot better.
In this book, Mr. Wooden “coaches” you in so many areas, and if you listen to his words, reflect on them  and attempt to apply them, you will likely see that improvement you’re seeking.  Sure you may already have a coach for your industry (albeit one you are likely paying hundreds of dollars monthly) but who better to seek coaching from then the winningest coach of all time who defines success as so much more than wins and losses.  Success to John Wooden, is the “peace of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

At heart John Wooden was a teacher and this is your opportunity to learn from the best!

Plate of bbq and roll

Banana Tree | Stone Mtn, GA

By Robynn Miller

Nestled in the Redan neighborhood in Stone Mountain.  It is Caribbean Cuisine at its finest.  Really it is some good old fashion Jamaican food.  It reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking in Jamaica.

The staff are personable and remember0 their clients well.  My favorite dish lately has been the vegetable plate with Ox -Tail gravy.  What is funny I’m not a gravy girl.  We have sent so many people there and it is great to hear their favorite dishes.  We have one friend that buys Rice and Peas with Jerk Gravy, that is all.

Banana Tree’s soups are really popular and sell out fast.  My Dad’s favorite is the Cow Foot Soup.  Don’t ask what is in it.  I really do not know but I have to call in early on Saturday to make sure 1 large soup is held for my Dad.

There is a vibe when you walk in; the music is loud and you dance your way to the counter or table but you can have a conversation.  Like a sports bar the TV is on and the men are watching with their sports. They are active in the community; sponsors of local soccer teams, and up and coming politicians.  They keep us informed about local news and upcoming Reggae shows.

Boss Lady (Management) and Peter (Waiter) sure make me and my family feel welcome and at home.  They remember little things like my granddaughter only likes the Beef Patties and the Jerk Chicken Alfredo Pasta Dish.  Boss Lady threw herself a birthday party and made it a customer appreciation party.  They always make going there an experience to remember.

Visit Banana Tree at 4885 Redan Rd, Stone Mountain GA 30088.

Honoring Richard Shafritz

Rich Shafritz Portrait

As many of you may know, Richard Shafritz was diagnosed with cancer (melanoma) in August 2018.  He has fought bravely and valiantly, following his doctor’s orders and treatments. 

Unfortunately, with the greatest heartbreak and sorrow, I need to share with you that, despite all best efforts, his cancer spread and his health continued to fail.  Richard passed away peacefully at his home Friday night, in the company of his family .  Please join me in praying for the Shafritz family during this difficult and painful time. 

Richard and I are very proud of our firm and of our success.  Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and Richard’s health, our firm remains strong.  This is a testament to Richard’s planning and leadership.  We will miss him greatly. 

As a law firm, we will move forward and persevere.  We will continue to faithfully serve each and every one of you.  We can think of no greater way to honor Richard’s legacy than to carry on with the utmost pride the firm he helped build. 

I hope that you will join me in honoring Richard by continuing your relationship with Shafritz & Dean, LLC.  Our firm is proud to serve you. 

Impact To Our Firm

What will happen to Shafritz & Dean, LLC?  

While we will miss Richard greatly, we foresee no changes to our firm’s operations, and intend to maintain “business as usual”. 

Will the firm name change? 

No, the firm name will remain the same.  We are proud of the reputation Shafritz & Dean, LLC has built, and is continuing to build.  Richard’s name will remain in the firm letterhead, with the words, “In Memoriam”.  

What can I do to help the Shafritz family?  

Richard would like to help children in need. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  Due to COVID-19, the funeral will be limited to family.   Details on a Shiva will be announced later.   Thanks for your understanding.  

What can I do the help Shafritz & Dean, LLC?  

I hope that you will join me in honoring Richard by continuing your relationship with Shafritz & Dean, LLC.  We are proud to serve you, and will continue to do so.  

What if I have a question not covered above, or if I need help?   

Please contact Doug Dean (Managing Partner) or Michael Payton (Director of Operations) if you have any questions or concerns not addressed above, or need any assistance. 

View of 2 large buildings with benches in front

Freedom and HOAs/COAs

by Richard Shafritz & Doug Dean

Planned Unit Developments

So many of our communities are Planned Unit Developments and the condos, townhomes and even fee simple have mandatory associations!  We pay a price for all regulation and with these properties the price is freedom.  We have to make sure the communities we purchase in allow us to live the lives we wish to live.  For example –  Is it me, or does everyone all of a sudden want chickens – for eggs, for meat and even for pets.  But before you get to excited because the City /County your buying in allows them, make sure the association does too!  Otherwise, you’re dream of chickens could be cooked before the first egg is hatched (the metaphor is scrambled but you get the idea).

Rental Restrictions

But so often lately, the big pinch is on rental restrictions.  Please consult with the association directly before assuming (now that you have read the 4 Agreements of course you’ll never assume) you can rent the property in general or that the maximum rental capacity has not been met.

Just last week, we got to closing and a realtor representing a buyer assumed that the property had no rental restrictions because it was near a similar community and appeared to have the same architecture.  Fortunately the saving grace was that the listing agent was aware that the buyer wanted to rent and had already confirmed there were no restrictions.

Mandatory COAs or HOAs

The last point on HOA/COA is as the saying goes – “Freedom isn’t Free” and neither are Mandatory COAs or HOAs.  They are downright expensive at times and we often find ourselves in a “tug-of-war” with the appropriate party to pay for the letter required to close your transactions.  Don’t let this happen for a number of reasons – 1. if your client is waiting, the fees get much higher as we get much closer to the closing date.  It’s not uncommon for us to see a $100 letter become a $300 letter as we go from 14 days or more to a “super rush fee” of 3 days or less. 2. If we wait, we run the risk of discovering a fee which is a surprise to either party, and 3. Waiting can delay a closing – something we all fight to avoid.

So encourage your clients to cooperate so the closing attorneys and staff may ensure the letters are ordered to minimize costs, surprises and delays!

Of course if you want that chicken, another option is to avoid the COA/HOA in the first place… but be careful the county or city may have something to say and don’t even get me started about roosters…

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz book

The Four Agreements

by Richard Shafritz

Oddly enough, this month, a staff person handed me a book as a gift entitled “The Four Agreements… A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.” By Don Miguel Ruiz

As many of my friends and those who know me best are aware, I read a lot of books on a variety of subjects but often the purpose of the book is to improve in a specific area.  Self help as one comedian joked is what gets us into our problems in the first place so I like to see what others have to say that can help me improve.

This small 138 page book packs much into the easy to read pages.  If you read fast you can certainly finish in a couple of hours and if you read slow not much longer.  But of all the books which fit into this category called “Self Help” I am convinced this book is the one to read if you read no others.

I begin by noting there is definitely a “New Age” and “Spiritual feel” to the book but suggest that even if that’s not your cup of tea, push through the beginning and get to the 4 agreements which the author correctly notes that “if you begin to live life  with these agreements, the  transformation in your life will be amazing.”  The 4 agreements is a premise that you can enjoy freedom and be a much better version of yourself by adhering to 4 agreements:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
  4. Always Do Your Best

Here what many reading this might be inclined to think – oh this is “common sense” and while I agree, it’s not often common in practice and I’ll bet everyone is better at one or two of the four listed above.  However, instead of 12 Principles for this that and the other as so many books suggest (and I have seen 25 prinicples and more in these kind of books) the four agreements above are enough to transform yourself and your life.

I loved this little book and want to read it until I am as close to 100% as I can be with the 4 Agreements. Please if you do read the book or have read it, let me know what you think!  Here’s to your freedom and to your transformation too.

Plain Bagels in the oven

Bronx Bagels, Alpharetta

by Tracy Wood, Director of First Impressions

When I first moved from New Jersey, to Georgia, I was desperate to find a place that served up a good New York style bagel.  When a friend recommended Bronx Bagels, in Alpharetta, assuring me that it was just as good as the ones back home, I decided to see for myself!

Bronx Bagels has a fun retro diner vibe, with an old school menu loaded with a variety of breakfast and lunch choices. The staff is hustling and bustling behind the counters, tending to each patron, ready to place their order whether it is in house or carry out. While all of their food is delicious, I HIGHLY recommend ordering their AMAZING bagels or bagel sandwiches.  Each day they bake fresh hand rolled, Kettle-Boiled bagels which gives them that authentic New York flavor. My personal favorite is their Taylor Ham, egg and cheese sandwich served on your choice of bagel.

So if you are in the mood for a real New York style bagel, I would urge you to check them out. There’s a reason they’ve been voted #1 Bagel in Atlanta and Top Ten Bagels in the United States!

Visit Bronx Bagels

Grill fire

The Real Estate Market is Hot

Reh! Quente! Atsui! Caliente! Hot!

So many languages and so many ways to say hot!  You know it when you see it and we are in a traditional hot month for real estate sales throughout the country and in Georgia!

Did you know that nationwide, June is traditionally the fastest month to sell a home?  So if you have listings right now or you’re a loan officer with successful listing agents you are probably very busy!

It’s  even better for all of us because the current economy worldwide and nationwide is hot.  Globally,  growth is “expected to reach 3.2 per cent in 2018 and 2019” which is robust  and in the United States, unemployment is at the lowest level since 2000  just 3.8%.

“But  wait…. There’s more!” as the infomercials say!  Our greatest optimism for real estate professionals (including realtors, agents, mortgage professionals, builders and closing agents) is what’s going on right here in Georgia!  Our employment growth and wage growth are both outpacing national averages.We have the busiest airport in world but more importantly we are currently #1 in corporate relocation.  That means jobs, which means more housing needs, which means more purchases, sales and financing opportunities.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!  So  the Fed raised rates on June 13thand is signaling they may play a lesser role in keeping rates down.  Many of us are old enough to remember when fixed rates first dropped below 10% and we all cheered.  Perhaps ARMs will make a comeback but if we are employed and the local economy is booming you can make it big in real estate (and Shafritz & Dean is here to help!).

Be excited and be ready because this is haymaking season and for those of us who survived the Great Recession it’s time to make up for lost time, lost profits and well, just plain old losses. However, don’t forget that word recession, because cycles happen so make sure you squirrel some away for the rainy day.

At Shafritz & Dean, LLC we are hot, but we are never too busy for your referrals,  never too busy to help you with your contracts, your loans, your questions and your business!

Hot charcoal

Don’t Get Burnt By Cold Feet

By Richard Shafritz & Douglas Dean

Wow… what a month it’s been!

Activity is significant, but we saw a rash of Purchasers of all kinds getting cold feet after the due diligence period lapsed, after the appraisal contingency lapsed and after the opportunity to terminate lapsed. A pattern seemed to take shape: Purchaser became anxious for one reason or another (justified or otherwise) and wanted to unilaterally terminate; unfortunately, they simply were not in a position to do so. When their agents contacted Shafritz & Dean, we became the messenger of what happens when you want to terminate, but the other party doesn’t, & worst of all, you don’t have the unilateral right to do so any longer.

So let’s start with some generic examples of what happened.

Example 1 – Agent calls me to tell me the client wants to terminate as home did not appraise initially. Agent was told orally by listing agent that Seller would not sign amendment presented to reduce price. Armed with that information, agent showed new home to her client who fell in love. You guessed it, Seller on first property signed the amendment and now a real problem existed for the Purchaser, since they could not buy both homes. They tried to unilaterally terminate and of course were told that was not acceptable.

Example 2 – Investor purchased home “as is” with limited due diligence period. When they pulled down a decorative blanket placed by the tenant during their walk through and after the due diligence period, to their surprise they discovered what appeared to be mold and water damage. They wanted to unilaterally terminate and the Seller hired a good attorney who notified our firm the next day we needed to hold the earnest money and be prepared for potential litigation.

Example 3 – Purchaser and Seller agreed that Seller would make numerous repairs to the property, following written underwriting approval by Purchaser’s lender. Purchaser wanted to terminate despite only providing written underwriting approval 24 hours or less and after extending the contract unilaterally due to their lender requiring additional time. Seller was unwilling to do so and has threatened litigation.

Why is this happening so frequently?

We believe the Buyers are not fully aware of the rights of the Seller (and perhaps vice versa) when a default occurs. Agents must know the GAR contract inside and out, and this means ensuring your clients know what the risk is of failing to perform or default.

Under GAR Contract Section C.2 a.-c. The defaulting party is liable, and for much more than earnest money. “Any lawful remedy may be pursued against the defaulting party.” Section C.2.a. The broker may pursue commissions under Section C.2.b. and perhaps worst of all the non-prevailing party will be liable to the prevailing party for reasonable fees under Section C.2.c.

So you may be wondering how these and other “fine messes were resolved.” Several are ongoing but 2 were resolved: one for the Earnest Money plus damages under $5000, and one for a five figure settlement. Oh… in one case the buyer didn’t believe us, and so they met with an outstanding local real estate attorney. That buyer settled for five figures (not including the attorney charges).

Don’t let this happen to your clients, and don’t get caught in the middle.

Even though it is a sellers market, if you want to limit liability to the Earnest Money, submit your offer accordingly. Call or email us for guidance on contracts and look for our CEs on drafting etc. Don’t let your buyers get burnt!

What the heck is a “Title Czar”

Ken Grim HeadshotNow that’s a funny name!

As our firm has grown, we decided what we needed was an attorney with significant underwriting experience, practical closing experience and substantial title clearing experience. Fortunately, Ken Grim was available and an obvious choice.

Ken worked briefly for us when the Great Recession was going on.  However, prior to become a lawyer, Ken was an actual “deed dog” i.e. title examiner.  During his approximate 25 years as a licensed attorney in Georgia, about one third of this time has been spent in residential and commercial title insurance underwriting, with both national and regional title insurance companies.   Ken’s other experiences include being a lead title curative attorney at one of the larger firms in Georgia and helping with closings and business law matters elsewhere.

We don’t like to brag but we are proud that Ken joined our team.  As our “Title Czar” he is both an internal and external “help desk” for all things title.  He reviews every title exam and assists staff, “friends of the firm” and even other attorneys with solutions to challenging title problems or just answers to questions.

You can reach Ken at [email protected].