Daily Archives: May 16, 2010

They should have just sent Al Gore

Global warming group flies two members 12,000 miles to Bolivia to attend a protest. Some members of the organization, which advocates against any airline travel at all, aren’t pleased.

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One of the larger Chinese drywall importers is settling cases

Smart move, because the cases that have reached court seem to have been awarding damages 3X greater than each settlement will cost. If you recall, the stuff was contaminated with sulfur which not only made houses uninhabitable it corroded the pipes and wiring, too. What a mess. I never heard of the product making it this far north but it’s a huge problem in Florida and other parts of the south.

KPT, which said it is being sued by three builders, has been working to settle with builders ahead of potentially expensive court decisions. As part of a suit against different drywall manufacturer, Taishan Gypsum Co., a court awarded $2.6 million in April to seven Virginia families. That averages more than $371,000 per homeowner. Also, last month, a federal court in New Orleans awarded $164,000 to a Louisiana homeowner who claimed faulty KPT drywall had been installed in the family’s house.

In that decision, the court relied on information provided by Beazer, which developed a remediation protocol based on fulfilling the warranty agreement in the “most practical and cost-effective way possible.” Beazer’s process replaces everything from cabinetry to affected plumbing components.

Beazer was one of the first builders to step up and fully remediate troubled homes, said Chris Seeger, a partner with Seeger Weiss LLP, a firm representing families suing KPT.

“There’s really no defense in this drywall,” he said. “The product is defective.”

Repairing the homes might address the distinctive “rotten egg” odor, but the possible health effects, which remain under investigation, weren’t addressed at either trial.

That’s one reason why John C. “Chuck” Fowke, president of the Florida Home Builders Association, questioned whether settlements that provide homeowners money for remediation work go far enough.

“At this point houses that have been completed with full remediation are still viewed as a liability. Is cross contamination a possibility?” Mr. Fowke said. “I could go on and on but the fact is that there is much uncertainty surrounding drywall imported from China.”

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HVAC recommendations?

A reader asks who is good. In fact, I haven’t heard anything bad about any of our local suppliers (I’m not being a wuss here, I really haven’t – the locals have all been around for decades and must be doing something right)  but I’d be grateful if readers who have recent experiences in this field chose to chime in.

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Retired Greenwich cop shoots himself accidentally

Sounds like he’ll be okay, for which I’m glad, but sheesh – what sort of training do we give these guys?

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Shocker! Woody Allen defends Polanski

Who’s to say any girl is too young for sex? Maybe we should cut a deal with Switzerland: they can keep Polanski if they’ll also take Allen.

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Disposable crap

A reader’s comment about the low quality of WalMart’s inventory got me thinking: what do we American consumers want?

I’m an outdoorsman, or I like to consider myself to be one, so I’ve always purchased stuff that’s rugged and lasts – I have a Woolrich heavy shirt that I wore in Wyoming’s Wind Rivers in 1973 and is still going strong, for instance, a Bean duck hunting parka I’ve been using since maybe 1982, etc., and I am really pissed when something gives out after a mere ten years or so. But that’s me – I pay for value and expect something to last for decades (I give Land’s End shirts a pass – they’re cheap enough – $29 bucks or so, that three years through commercial cleaners is satisfactory).

But I’m obsolete – have we moved to a disposable culture, where people don’t care about quality? What do you think?

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Netflix customer service – superb

My mother really likes Netflix, so I’ve given her a subscription for some years now. Last Christmas, after I learned that she was sometimes waiting several days for her next selection to arrive, I upped the subscription to eliminate that problem.  But it didn’t work, and I just recently learned that she was still going days without a new film. So I called them just now and spoke to a great young man named Matt who took the limited information I had (name and zip code) tracked down the account and saw that, although I had paid extra for the additional movies, the upgrade hadn’t taken. He corrected that instantly and tomorrow a new movie will be sent out. Elapsed time: maybe four minutes, all of which were pleasurable.

Will I get a credit for the five months I paid for without result? I never asked and I really don’t care – in the grand scheme of things, it’s a de minimis sum – I’m just happy to deal with a company that chooses to pay for a live customer service line, open 24 hours a day (it’s what, 7:30 on Sunday morning out there?) and base it in Utah because, as NetFlix’s president said at the time,”people are nice in Utah”. Indeed they are. Great company, great service.

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It’s all Bush’s fault

I’ll get the links up to give proper credit to fellow bloggers (Intsapundit to someone else, etc. and as usual) but do enjoy this column from a liberal(!) disillusioned by Obama’s failures.

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Breaking news from NPR

Just heard that BP has managed, on its second try, to thread that mile-long pipe down the well and link it up. This should mean they’re closer to shutting down the spill entirely and for now, lessening it. Good news.

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Buyer’s representation agreements

Having spent three hours on a glorious sunny day yesterday learning what I already knew, it seems only fair that I inflict that experience on my readers. But more briefly, I hope. Here’s the deal:

In the old days, stretching from English common law through the codification of the law of agency, real estate agents represented just one person: the seller. That was the law, but the law didn’t accurately reflect how people behaved. An agent working with a buyer for several months develops a personal relationship with that person and it’s hardly surprising that she would come to believe, and act as if  she was representing the buyer; and the buyer would labor under the same belief. But under the law, the agent owed all her fiduciary duties: confidentiality, loyalty, etc., to the seller, a person she probably never met.

So the law was changed to allow buyer representation, and that’s a good deal for buyers. Now, their agent really is their agent – she is free to dig up dirt on the seller: the messy divorce, the looming bankruptcy, the foreclosure suit – all the good stuff  – and pass it on to you, the buyer, to use in getting the best possible price. As a buyer, you’d be silly to decline that representation (which you are entirely free to do) and choose instead to be a mere “customer”, rather than a “client”, because then your agent can’t disclose that stuff to you. Knowledge is power, in negotiation, and a buyer’s agent can often supply that knowledge  – and if she can’t, fire her.

Where I fault my industry is that many agents took this consumer protection law and perverted into a client trap, luring unwary home buyers into agreeing to an exclusive relationship for six months or even a year. That’s crazy, and if you signed such an agreement, I’m pretty sure a good lawyer can get the agent’s broker to release you, but it still annoys me: if someone doesn’t want to work with me, of course they shouldn’t have to -what a poisonous relationship that would be!  So I always put in my agreements that they can be cancelled at will (by either party – there are some people I don’t want to work with, either).

But if you watch the duration of a buyer’s rep agreement (one day for your first meeting with agent, then perhaps a three-month period if you get along that first day seems to me to be a reasonable term), you really have everything to gain and nothing to lose from entering into such a contract. By law, we agents MUST present a buyer’s rep agreement to you at our first face-to-face meeting and, if you won’t sign it, which I repeat, you don’t have to, we can only show you houses listed by our broker, not other MLS properties of other brokers,and can only represent the seller.

So sign up for a day, get the benefits the law is trying to give you, and if you decide the agent’s not for you, move on. If you like her, give her three months or so, and relax. There are a lot of terrible laws out there, but the buyer’s representation law is not one of them. It gives you a lot of rights, because it imposes stiff duties on us agents to treat you with the highest level of loyalty and diligence. If we screw up (more likely in some cases that others), you’ll have recourse.

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