Real Estate Realities
Disclosures Can Help You Avoid Sinkholes
By David Rosenfeld
Mar 15, 2013 - 3:13:24 AM

LOS ANGELESAfter the news of the disastrous sinkhole under a Florida house recently that tragically killed one person, there’s been a lot of talk in the media about the dangers of sinkholes. Naturally, those in real estate understand that there are important disclosure documents that will alert potential buyers about those kinds of problems. 

In the Florida incident, it was revealed that the entire neighborhood has had problems with sinkholes for years. In fact many parts of Florida have had issues with sinkholes due to the high water table in many regions. It goes with the territory, sad to say.

But as a potential property buyer, take the time to review the disclosure documents on the property you’re interested in. Even if you don’t know much about geology or sinkholes or anything like that, be sure to ask about those things and any documents that would address those issues. In Los Angeles, sinkholes are rare and generally occur when there’s a broken underground water pipe under a street or something of that sort.

Our main concerns in Southern California are whether you’re in a fire zone, whether you’re in an area prone to flash floods or flooding and also how stable the ground is. Buying property in an area that tends to burn every few years is not a great idea, even if the view is breath taking. There are many who would still take a risk and buy property in a fire zone, but it’s always best to be forewarned by examining the disclosure documents.

Many nice properties are also located on hills, canyons and mountain sides that are prone to flash floods during heavy rains. Thankfully, these events don’t occur very often, but when they do, the damage can be devastating so do your homework about these properties.

We all know Southern California has its share of earthquakes from time to time so it’s especially important to know what kind of soil is under the property you’re looking at. If you have a lot of sand under the soil, for instance, it could make the ground very unstable during a quake and result in significant, if notcatastrophic damage to the structure.

By law, you’re entitled to know all the pertinent background and information about any property you are purchasing so you should take advantage of that and give these documents a good, long look and be sure you’re satisfied with the information. If not, you can do your own research or ask your broker to request more information from the seller.

If you’re a seller, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to fully disclosing problem areas with your property. Possible buyers generally have a laundry list of questions about the property you’re trying to sell, so be ready for this and provide as much information as possible. Many people understand that no property is perfect, so your candidness is often appreciated by buyers.

Potential buyers will always have questions about your property, so it’s important to be as upfront as possible when it comes to questions about potential problems. Many of these can be resolved for the most part, so don’t be shy about disclosing information about your property.

Purchasing a home is an emotional issue for most buyers so take your time and examine your disclosure documents and weigh the pros and cons before you decide on whether you want to buy or not. Stay informed, keep your broker in the loop and buy smart.

David Rosenfeld is a Real Estate broker and president of Advantage Real Estate, a Real Estate and investment firm in Santa Monica, and a Rotary Club member. He has more than 20 years experience in commercial and residential property investments and financial counseling. He can be reached at 310 450-4488, at and at

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