Thursday, January 13, 2005

Believe in Self-Responsibility?

This week provides an excellent test for property owners across Indiana, what with the unusal high rains that have followed the run-off from melting accumulated snowfall. Do you believe in self-responsibility?

If your property is flooded, is it anybody's fault? It is entirely possible that the parcel your home of business is located on has always had standing water in flood events. Are you responsibile, or is your builder? Or your city? Or your county? Or your state?

If you bought the property, didn't you take it as acceptable as built? Caveat Emptor! Is the buyer completely absolved of the responsibility of due diligence?

I see it as a two-way street. Too many buyers of homes or business buildings, whether new or long established, fail to look at drainage or other more technical concerns. Home buyers look at the aesthetics, the proximity to the schools, to the parks and shops, and to the highway. They never notice drainage unless it is overwhelmed. They can buy a home next to a double-tracked railroad mainline that has stood since the Civil War and moves 100+ trains a day, and then complain about the noise! Buyers of business space look for square footage, proximity to the highways, visibility for drive-up business and signage, and tax rates. They, too, never notice drainage unless it is overwhelmed.

Sellers are very eager to part with any parcel in exchange for greenbacks. What is amazing to me is how many parcels are under six inches of water continuously in February, March, and April, and then sell at a real bargain price in August, September, or October. Come February or March (or January this year) the new owner is livid.

Did the seller conveniently fail to disclose? Did the buyer willingly overlook the disclosure in order to arrive at a bargain?

So, who is at fault? Unfortunately, that is one to be sorted out by legal teams. I do put onus, not necessarily fault, on buyers.

Investing in property is usually the largest investment most people will ever make in their lives. You will spend more time in your home than you will spend anywhere else. And yet, I've seen people spend more time planning a 7-day vacation than they spent examining the land surrounding their future home site. Shouldn't you make 2-3 dozen visits to the site to examine traffic patterns? It's amazing to discover where the landing and takeoff flight patterns are, even 20 miles from the airport. Shouldn't you ask next-door neighbors what happens in the area in storm events? Etc.

Too many buyers assume that everything has been worked out, and that any thinking beyond sale price is unnecessary. Well, you see the results of that approach.

Hopefully, you bought insurance. Those who believe in self-responsibility resent having to bail out those who refused to think.

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