Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Second Dumbest Guy I Know: Richmond Real Estate


When I describe the ordeal of what occurred after purchasing my first home in Richmond, CA, the first thing that I am asked, “Why wasn’t the flooding disclosed?” or, “Isn’t it against the law not to disclose it?”

Not in an estate sale.  Nothing has to be disclosed about a property that the seller, in this case the executor of the estate, presumably isn’t aware of.  I say “presumably” because it’s difficult for most to believe that the seller, who grew up only a few blocks away and whose father resided in the home since the early sixties, had no knowledge of the flooding.  Regardless, by stating he knew of no defects he and his agent are protected by law.


An estate sale leaves the burden to the buyer to discover any issues with the property.  Knowing this, we did the typical due diligence by having inspections, title report, property i.d., etc.  Routine inspections didn’t reveal anything unusual nor was there anything in public records.  

Additionally, the property i.d. stated that the neighborhood was in Flood Zone “A” which, per FEMA’s definition, means that there is only a “one percent annual chance of flooding. We paid $265,000 in 2003.

But two months after moving in we discovered that our experience would be reversed.  There was more likely only a one percent chance of NOT flooding.  

After Contra Costa County became aware of what we eventually discovered has been a thirty-year problem, the property was assessed at $4,000.  No, I didn’t forget a zero.  That’s $2k for the house, $2k for the land.  

Realizing that we were literally and figuratively under water and that after nine years Richmond had no intention of addressing its obligation to fix its failed and inadequate stormwater infrastructure, we surrendered the home to the bank.

Unable to sell the property in auction, the bank put it on the market for $24,900.

In an attempt to “pay it forward” and make sure that no one else would unwittingly become subjected to Richmond’s neglect, I went out of my way to make it clear as to what any prospective homebuyer would be getting into by purchasing a home in the neighborhood.

Besides providing the YouTube channel I created and the press I received including interviews as far as Winnipeg, Canada, I painted on the roof of the house “This Street Floods!!!  Ask why: 510-620-6512, x1”.  
"This Street Floods!!!"
Additionally, the agent representing the bank included our

2004 letter to Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt requesting help and

the May 2012 letter from Contra Costa County Health to Richmond City Manager, Bill Lindsay

mandating that Richmond fix the problem to reduce the health risks associated with the flooding in the associated documents for the sale.

Even after having every single disclosure provided including the tax bill showing the $4,000 assessed value, the property at 5201 Van Fleet Ave. was purchased for $71,000.

I am now the second dumbest guy I know.

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