New Year Opens With Inspector Licensing and Tax Increases
By Elizabeth Razzi
Sunday, December 30, 2007; F01
The new year brings new rules – and, in some places, higher taxes for home buyers and sellers.
HOME INSPECTIONS: After Jan. 1, home inspectors must be licensed to work in Maryland.
The law requiring licensing dates to 2001, but implementation was put off because the state hadn’t approved funding to administer the program until 2006.
When the license requirement takes effect this week, there will be between 800 and 900 licensed inspectors ready to go, said Elwood A. Mosley, executive director of the state’s Commission of Real Estate Appraisers and Home Inspectors.
An additional 300 to 400 home inspectors will still be completing the requirements, he said.
Because many home inspectors work in all three jurisdictions, Virginia and District buyers can piggyback on Maryland’s licensing effort. (Virginia has a voluntary certification program; the District does not regulate home inspectors.)
Go to http://www.dllr.state.md.us and use the “Occupational & Professional Licensing” tab to search for licensees.
Complaints about home inspectors may get a better hearing in Maryland, too. “We’re going to set up a very robust complaint process,” Mosley said. Consumers who are dissatisfied with their business dealings with an inspector or who believe the inspection itself was not performed to industry standards will be able to find a complaint form on the site.
They can send the commission a copy of their inspection report and have the transaction reviewed for improper conduct.
DISCLOSURES: Home sellers on both sides of the Potomac will have more explaining to do in '08.
In Virginia, sellers will no longer have the choice of giving buyers a disclaimer form that says they make no representations about the condition of a property.
However, the new “disclosure form” still says, in various ways, that the seller makes no warranties about the property and urges the buyer to rely on his own inspections. (A smart seller who likes to avoid legal tussles, however, will take care to disclose to buyers any facts about the property that would affect the price or the buyer’s decision to make an offer.)
In another change for 2008, the disclosures are supposed to include information about any pending enforcement actions alleging violations of building or zoning codes.
In Montgomery County, sellers and their real estate agents will be required to disclose the property tax the buyer can expect to pay the year after the sale.
In the past, some buyers have been surprised to find that their property tax bill was thousands of dollars higher than what the previous owners had to pay.
Previous owners had been protected from the full brunt of rising home values through a 10 percent annual cap on property tax increases.
Once the home is sold, however, the new owners must pay taxes on the full value.
The county’s Office of Consumer Protection is supposed to assist sellers in estimating the new taxes.
The county law does not apply to homeowners in Barnesville, Kensington, Poolesville or Rockville, according to county officials.
Also in Montgomery County, owners of land in or near agriculturally zoned areas must disclose to potential buyers that there are laws protecting farmers from some lawsuits, such as those alleging that the farm is a nuisance to neighbors.
After all, nothing says clean, country living like the smell of manure wafting through an open window.
If you set up housekeeping next to a farm, don’t expect the cows to accommodate you.
TAXES: In Northern Virginia, traffic congestion once again takes its toll on residents, effective Jan. 1.
This time it will be through a big increase in the grantor’s tax paid by home sellers.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which is increasing the grantor’s tax, estimates the change will generate $171 million annually for transportation improvements in Northern Virginia.
Currently at $1 per $1,000 of property value, the transportation authority will boost the tax to $5 per $1,000 of property value.
The authority also approved a variety of other taxes and fees on autos and hotels. Combined with the grantor’s tax increase, the authority estimates it will raise a total of $300 million annually.
The grantor’s tax increase will apply to sellers in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.
Also in Montgomery County, home buyers and sellers will have a big incentive to get their deals wrapped up before March 1, when the recordation tax will increase on homes worth more than $500,000.
For the portion of the sales price that exceeds $500,000, the recordation tax will go up to $10 per $1,000 from the current $6.90 per $1,000.
(The tax rate on the portion of home value below $500,000 will remain unchanged at $6.90 per $1,000, and the first $50,000 of value remains exempt from tax.)
The county is supposed to use the extra revenue in equal shares for rent assistance to low- and moderate-income households and for capital improvements.
The tax is almost always split between buyers and sellers at settlement, according to Harvey S. Jacobs, principal of Stress-Free Settlements in Rockville.
Happy New Year, everyone.