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New grassroots campaign takes aim at municipal ‘point-of-sale’ real estate requirements

Published Monday, March 25, 2013

MALVERN, PA: The Suburban REALTORS® Alliance (SRA) today launched a campaign titled “This Doesn’t Make Sense” to educate home owners and local elected officials about the adverse impact municipal point-of-sale inspection requirements (POS) can have on real estate sales. The campaign, which includes a website, www.thisdoesntmakesense.org, will focus on informing home owners about municipal regulations that can affect the sale of their home, and elected municipal officials about the ineffective outcomes produced by POS inspection policies, according to SRA President/CEO Jamie Ridge. “These requirements are rare in most of Pennsylvania and the rest of the country, but they are now present in more than 130 municipalities in southeastern Pennsylvania,” Ridge said.  "Most home owners have no idea they exist, and are often surprised when their borough or township insists on inspecting their home as a condition of its sale. On the other side of this issue, most municipal elected officials aren’t aware of how ineffective these regulations are when it comes to improving safety standards in their communities.”

At the municipal level, POS ordinances can require the modification, improvement or repair of some aspect of real property at the time of sale. Ridge said the ordinances run the gamut between a simple check of house numbers and handrails on the exterior of a home, to a fullblown interior code inspection by municipal officials that can lead to thousands of dollars of required repairs and retrofits. The heaviest concentration of POS ordinances is in Delaware County, where more than 90 percent of municipalities currently require some level of local government inspection as a condition of residential real estate resale. There are fewer POS ordinances in Bucks (55%); Montgomery (53%); and Chester (31.5%) counties. The Suburban REALTORS Alliance, which represents the legislative interests of approximately 10,000 REALTORS® in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties, says the problem with the current system of inspections is multi-faceted.

  1. Point-of-sale transactions are inadequate to address serious concerns. Only a small percentage of homes in southeastern Pennsylvania are sold each year. As the index of home sales on www.thisdoesntmakesense.org demonstrates, correcting serious code violations only at the point-of-sale would take many decades to accomplish in most municipalities.
  2. Municipal inspections introduce more bureaucratic red tape. Guidelines for municipal POS inspections can be complex, and can require many steps to be completed by home sellers in a short time-frame. The requirements for the inspections are not uniform among municipalities, and sometimes lead to situations in which township and borough code inspectors demand expensive seller, and or buyer repairs under timelines that are more stringent than required by state law.
  3. The system is duplicative of private home inspections. The vast majority of home buyers order a private inspection prior to agreeing to purchase a home. These inspections, conducted by licensed home inspectors, are extremely thorough and result in a list of issues that are traditionally negotiated by the buyer and seller.

Ridge said a better solution would include: a system of regular education about the need for household safety items such as smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors; more consistent enforcement of existing municipal building codes for all housing units; and a more holistic approach to correcting municipal-wide infrastructure issues, such as sidewalk and curb repair and sanitary sewer issues.

“The bottom line is that we shouldn’t be placing more roadblocks in the way of real estate transactions, especially at a time when our local economy is still struggling to recover from the recession,” Ridge said. “Introducing a more uniform system of code enforcement and infrastructure maintenance makes much better sense than our current hodge-podge of regulations.”

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