Residential Real EstateSept. 24, 2012

Strength returns to North Bay home market

Residential Real Estate: Revised Napa Pipe plan cuts 54% of homesMarin Realtors new web tool shows sewer hookups deter home sales

SAN RAFAEL -- Marin Association of Realtors released a new, mobile version of its Marin Housing Turnover Index (, an interactive website financed in part by the National Association of Realtors and designed to illustrate how certain mandated repairs are discouraging home sales and slowing the turnover of housing stock in Marin County.

Repairs of particular concern are "sewer laterals," privately owned pipes that connect a residence to a public sewer system. While a broad consensus exists that aging laterals are frequently in need of repair or replacement, the association has spent nearly a decade arguing that mandates requiring inspection and possible repair as part of the home selling process are less effective than grants and low-interest financing.

"We think everyone should do what they can to lower the barriers, not raise them," said Edward Segal, CEO of the Marin Association of Realtors. "Obviously, a point-of-sale trigger can be a significant barrier."

Since lobbying efforts began in 2005, Mr. Segal said that five Marin County wastewater districts have begun offering low-interest loans to help residents repair the aging and leaky pipes. Those costs can exceed $12,000 in some cases, and demand for those grants remains high.

"Last we checked, the programs were so popular that they ran out of money," he said.

A bill to allow further options for financing through wastewater districts, Assembly Bill 741, was passed in the Legislature late last year. Sponsored by Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, the bill allowed the Las Gallinas Sanitary District in northern San Rafael to begin offering low interest loans for lateral repairs in March.

Mr. Segal said that the Marin Housing Turnover Index helped inspire the legislation, showing that current point-of-sale retrofit and repair rules contribute to a turnover rate of up to 72 years for some housing stock in Marin.

The index allows users to see the turnover rate in 14 major housing markets in Marin, links to various sewer lateral repair programs and provides ways to contact policymakers about the sewer lateral issue. It uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bay Area Real Estate Information Services MLS for the last five years, as well as the Marin County Community Development Agency and local sales statistics.

Noting the success of the index in assisting lobbying in Marin, the California Association of Realtors has recently launched a pilot program make the index platform available to other Realtor associations around the state, Mr. Segal said.

The association is continuing to lobby for reform and financing programs in Marin, where some cities, including Sausalito, require that sales be linked to repairs, Mr. Segal said.

"If it's that important, why wait until the last minute to do it?" he said.