Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Over the next few weeks I am going to blog on the topic of Real Estate Options, also called “lease to own” and “lease options.” The blogs will address several questions:

  • Why option? Motivations and benefits for buyers and sellers.
  • How do you do it? The documents required to establish an option.
  • Negotiations? The interrelated aspects of price, term, option fee, rent, portion of fee and rent applied to down payment, all of which are subject to negotiation.
  • Closing costs? Title, escrow, MOU, junk fees, inspections, and real estate agent commissions are among the costs paid by both buyer and seller.
  • Lender? How and when the lender gets into the picture.
  • What are the risks? For both buyer and seller, there are plenty of ways for things to go wrong.

The context for these discussions will be California residential properties and the documents used will be selected from the libraries of the California Association of Realtors (CAR).

Please feel free to contribute with your own insights and stories.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Hate PG&E

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog titled "Hooking Up Electrical Service in Rural Counties." In the blog I was quite complimentary to the folks at the PG&E application desk. Two respondents quickly fired off dissenting opinions. Both said words to the effect: "I hate PG&E." Here is my summary of their points:
  • PG&E is a profit-oriented business, and a monopoly, and its goal is to squeeze every last cent it can from its customers.
  • PG&E tells you one thing in the office and another thing out in the field.
  • PG&E manipulates customers toward the most costly solutions for hooking up service.
  • PG&E withholds information about available discounts, shared service options, and other cost saving strategies.
  • PG&E's attittude is "if the customers are too stupid to know about a cheaper way to do things, then they deserve to get a higher bill."

You can see that there are at least two very unhappy PG&E customers.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


How much will it cost to put in a septic system on a parcel of raw land?

The rough estimates below for Percolation and Mantle Testing (aka Perc and Mantle) were compiled in consultation with three different engineers with offices in Nevada County. The figures represent average costs for testing and designing septic systems. There are three initial expenses:

$500 Nevada County Testing Fee
$900 Test and Report from the engineer
$400 Backhoe rental fee

$1800 Total

Then there is the design fee that will depend upon the test results:

$600 Standard leach field design
$1500 Complex design (and costs in between for other systems)

So adding initial costs and design costs, for your design you are looking at:

$2400 - $3300

Now you will have to take the design to the County building department for approval and to pay your installation permit and inspection fees. This cost will depend upon the size and complexity of the system, but you should figure on:

$500 - $1100

Finally, you will need to hire a licensed contractor to install the system. How much will that cost?

$7000 to $10000 for the simplest standard system
up to $40,000 for an elaborate, engineered, computer monitored system for 4-6 bedrooms

So, the least expensive system you can test for and install on your raw land is about . . .


If you have a disastrous Perc and Mantle test that requires a pre-treatment pod system, and you are planning on 4-6 bedrooms, your test, design, permit, and installation costs could very well exceed:

$45,000 (gulp!)

And here comes the really cool part . . . you will be paying additional annual fees for maintenance and monitoring of your space-age poop disposal system!