Ask The Expert: What is a PUD; Plumbing problems; Pending assessments on short sales

Q. I’m looking at townhouse to buy, and it’s something known as a PUD. What is that, and how is it different from a regular townhouse?

A. A Planned Unit Development (PUD) is a planned community comprised most often of some variety of housing, recreation, and shopping, in one contained development or subdivision. A PUD can take the form of a community of townhomes or detached homes.

A town home or single family home refers to the STYLE of the home. A town home is generally a multi story living structure. PUD refers to the type of OWNERSHIP of the unit. The OWNERSHIP of a town home is usually condo (absolute ownership of the unit pus an interest in the common elements) or, more infrequently, a coop (title held by corporation owned by and operating for the benefit of the residents, who are the stockholders).

The difference between a PUD townhome and a straight condominium-owned townhome is that in a PUD, you actually own the land your townhome sits on, and usually a small back and front yard also. In the case of a condominium townhome, all land is commonly owned and maintained. Some people prefer a PUD because of this feature. You can landscape and enjoy the limited land you own, rather than having no control whatsoever, so long as the Homeowner’s Association does not have its own restrictions.

There is a HOA (homeowners association) and a fee assessed to cover certain expenses. Membership in the HOA is mandatory. The HOA fee is often used to cover road maintenance, or maintenance of commonly owned land or buildings. HOA fees for PUDs are usually lower than for condominiums because there is less for the Association to maintain. (The owner maintains their own lot.) A PUD may or may not have pools, clubhouses, or tennis courts.

There is no problem with PUD ownership, as long as the HOA is solvent and doing its job. You should look for demonstrated market acceptance of the PUD you are considering.

Again, the main difference between a PUD townhome and a condominium townhome is that in a PUD, you own some land. In a condo, you don’t.

Q. I recently purchased a home and had it inspected at the time of purchase. Now, less than 3 months later, there is a major plumbing leak in a cast iron pipe under the kitchen sink. Who is responsible?

A. The first thing to do is to take plenty of photos, dated, to document what you have found. Then, contact your Realtor. They have intimate knowledge of your transaction, and all of the disclosures that were made. They can best advise you as to where the responsibility and/ or liability lies. If this leak or damage was disclosed to you, and you bought the house “as is”, the seller has no liability. If the leak was a pre-existing condition, the seller and agents should have disclosed it to you. If the condition is substantial and visible to the naked eye, then your inspector probably should have caught it. Call them. They will send someone out to look at the problem and determine if it should have been caught by the inspector. They carry insurance for just such things.

But this could, in fact, be a new leak. It could have been “simmering” for a while, and finally come to light. Inspectors do what is known as a “visual” inspection of the property, looking for what they can see using the naked eye. The damage may have not been visible at the time of inspection. Cast iron deteriorates from the inside out; therefor, the damage may not have been detectable.

Your first source for repairs should be your Home Warranty (which most Buyer’s Agents insist you get when you buy a home). And don’t forget to make use of your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Q. How can if find out if there are any property assesments on a short sale?

A. Check the title report and seller disclosures to start with. Even on a short sale the seller should disclose all assessments, liens and delinquncies. Request a copy of the title report if you have an offer on the property and also ask your agent to ask the seller. Those items should give you a great idea. If it is a condo you can also look into the HOA records and talk with the property management.

The title company can also tell you if there is unpaid taxes or lien on any property. Another way to find out is to contact the county assessor office. You can get tax information by going to the county’s tax assessor website and entering the property address or Assessor’s Parcel Number.

One thing to remember is that assessments on a short sale change from moment to moment. It generally takes 60 to 90 days for short sale approval, and during that time, the assessment landscape will change. HOA dues go unpaid. Taxes may be missed. Additional liens may be filed. Remember that it’s a good idea to check throughout the short sale process, at least every 30 days, to keep track of additional liens and assessments.

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