Building Department Interview City of Medford, Oregon
Building Department Interview City of Medford, Oregon
Complete Video Transcript Below
Don't Rehab Without Watching This First! Alice Interviews Medford Building Department
Alice Lema: [00:00:00] Good afternoon, real estate fans, Alice Lema here, broker John L. Scott, Southern Oregon, and today on our podcast, we're super, super excited because Kimberly London from the city of Medford building department is joining us. Yay. Hi, Kimberly. So Kimberly is a development services specialist and somebody that, I interact with a lot of folks interact with in the building department. And today Kimberly and I wanted to talk about disclosures because it's a pet peeve of both of us.
[00:00:31] Isn't it? Kimberly?
[00:00:32] Kimberly London: [00:00:32] Yes it is.
[00:00:33] Alice Lema: [00:00:33] So you have a really interesting story. As we were getting set up, can you go back and just touch base on how this all started in your life?
[00:00:44] Kimberly London: [00:00:44] Well, I was in real estate for 10 years in Northern California.
[00:00:49] Manager, yeah for Prudential, California, real estate had the Northern California account and the focus was of course, corporate relocation. But we also did foreclosure bank owned properties. And, you know, it was the eighties. I was much younger, much braver, and I loved the foreclosure properties, you know, going to these places, finding out if they were occupied doing drive by inspections for the lending institutions.
[00:01:19] Alice Lema: [00:01:19] Wow.
[00:01:19]Kimberly London: [00:01:19] That was, that was, it was just, it was really fun. And I enjoyed it. So then moving here, determined that people weren't checking permit history. I'd get home buyers at the counter and they'd been renting out their, what we reflect as a detached garage for years. And that's not legal. It's not even habitable.
[00:01:44] And you, you know, they bought it that way. So it's like, okay, what can I do? To get the word out that the city is not scary. We're very friendly. We are normal people. And I just want to help you, you know, do the best job you can. And that's when I started doing the real estate classes for real estate agents.
[00:02:05]Alice Lema: [00:02:05] You're one of the instructors here locally. Aren't you? Yeah, yeah,
[00:02:10]Kimberly London: [00:02:10] yeah. And I love it.
[00:02:12]Alice Lema: [00:02:12] You're really good at it. Very thorough. So I don't know why it is, I didn't know you had a real estate background that really that's how you can be so targeted and focused.
[00:02:21] Kimberly London: [00:02:21] Yeah. 10 years. I know what I don't know now, because I've been out of it for 25 plus years, but, it was, it was fun and I really enjoyed it.
[00:02:32] And I do know some of the stuff. I don't have an Oregon license, but, I work in the building department and that's even better. And I worked with them back when I had, you know, foreclosure properties. It was like, okay, this was not the family room. This was a garage. Or this attic, you know, the stairs something's amiss here.
[00:02:57] I don't think this was done with permits. So that was actually put, put me in the lead for this position. When I applied that based off of, I worked with building departments in Sacramento, San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin Sonoma counties. So this I was familiar with. It's always different when you go to the other side, but I was familiar with them.
[00:03:21] I had rapport with them. I knew to check permits before I put something on the market. Either get it rectified or demo it back to what it was or demo back, period.
[00:03:33] Alice Lema: [00:03:33] See, and you know, what's really great about the city of Medford and we're going to come loop back around to that too but, you guys have a brand new website and the website you had before was really amazing. In fact, people come from urban areas and their mouth just falls open at how much information cause you could actually get a PDF copies of permits, whether they're final or not online with an address. And the part that I don't think people understand is you guys are there to help and protect us.
[00:04:02] It you're not like this big, bad gorilla in the room. You're there to be, to help us be safe. It should be happy with our home purchases.
[00:04:12] Kimberly London: [00:04:12] Yes. And I want people to know upfront and you do too. I mean, whether you're representing the seller or the potential purchaser, you want to know what's going on when you show them a property.
[00:04:28] And, you know, okay, this has a garage conversion. I checked. Yeah, they did permits for this in 1963. There's a copy of the permi there. Yeah. We can go readily available right at hand from 1961 to current.
[00:04:45] Alice Lema: [00:04:45] Wow. Wow. That is incredible. So the garage conversion is a tricky thing. So can you define what a proper garage conversion is supposed to, how it's supposed to be done versus people just thrown up some drywall and then putting an ad in Craigslist?
[00:05:04] Kimberly London: [00:05:04] Yeah. Yeah. The thing with the garage conversions is, or attic conversions or in closing your rear porch. To extend a bedroom bathroom, you know, they. That area is not defined as habitable. It has different construction methods and different energy codes, like lack of insulation. You know, it's on a cement slab.
[00:05:30] There’s no protection there. You know, you need a vapor barrier. You need a slab edge insulation, possibly raise the floor. You're going to possibly need to fir out the walls to meet, you know, the insulation the R values for walls and ceilings. If it's a bedroom, my bedroom window has to meet certain specifications to be considered a sleeping room, a closet.
[00:05:54] Alice Lema: [00:05:54] That's for safety, right? That's the thing, case of a fire.
[00:05:59] Kimberly London: [00:05:59] Yeah. And it's large enough to 5.7 square feet is the clear opening when it's open, not the whole window, just the open part. And that's what they've determined is large enough for a firefighter to get in with all his apparatus on. Not so much for you to get out because we're going to get out any way we can, if there's an emergency, but if they can't get in to help you, if you're disabled or something, that's where we've really got to follow the proper protocol and rules.
[00:06:30] Alice Lema: [00:06:30] Yeah. And you know, when people do those conversions, sometimes there's no exit whatsoever. You know, they, they wall them up and it's like, Oh my gosh, what's going to happen if there's an emergency. Right, right.
[00:06:43]Kimberly London: [00:06:43] Or detectors or, you know, we had one where the attic was converted and it had just been converted and the stairs were within two feet of the front door.
[00:06:57] I mean, if you were coming down the stairs and someone was coming in the house, you were going to get slammed
[00:07:04]Alice Lema: [00:07:04] in the head. I'm sorry. I don't mean that.
[00:07:06] Kimberly London: [00:07:06] No, no. It's like, think about it, you know, and I have pictures sized showing some of my real estate classes. And it's like, if you see this, there's probably a problem.
[00:07:17] Alice Lema: [00:07:17] Yeah. Wow. Wow. Wow. That's just crazy. So, um, so back porches getting closed in that looks like a really particularly tricky, thing for somebody to do on their own. I mean, I can understand the garage cause people walk in and go, oh, there's a floor and a roof and walls, but at the back porch, why would somebody think they could take an open area and make it a closed area on their own.
[00:07:45] Kimberly London: [00:07:45] Well, just look around at the houses and the listings in downtown Medford area. Where's your second bathroom, second half bath. And your laundry. It's in what used to be
[00:08:00] Alice Lema: [00:08:00] the back porch.. Got it. Yeah. Like those 1920 to 1940. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:08:07]Kimberly London: [00:08:07] Constantly. And you know, most of the time it's been there forever, but honestly, a lot of times I have a plumbing permit and it's right there.
[00:08:16] washer and dryer ready to report. So I said, okay. As long as it's you haven't opened it up and expanded it into the kitchen or dining room or bedroom. I you're not going to sleep in your laundry room or your half bath. Let's just work together. Make sure you disclose that it's truly not habitable square footage.
[00:08:36] It's not marketed as habitable square footage. And. Keep tracking. Okay.
[00:08:42] Alice Lema: [00:08:42] So somebody buys a house and the back porch is enclosed, as agents. Uh, even for the listing agent, you know, somebody should be going and double checking what the status of that is. Huh?
[00:08:55] Kimberly London: [00:08:55] You would think? Yeah. It’s, we, I mean, I've worked here since 1998 and I would always write on the packets when I talk to somebody.
[00:09:09] And then 10 years later, 15 years later, you know, here it is in the same homeowner and I have the person's name that I spoke with and it's like, you know, Really, sorry. You know, they asked and I told them that wasn't, you know, legal and now you're stuck with it for one reason or another. We don't go looking for stuff .
[00:09:35] That's another thing people think, you know, getting a permit, like if you're replacing your heating and air system, come out and we're going to look at your heating and air system. If, if there's, we're not going to go look and see the garage has converted, or the attics converted or the rear porch is converted, we don't have time to do that.
[00:09:52] And it doesn't harbor goodwill. They're only going to call out if they blatantly see something odd during the scope of their inspections .
[00:10:02] Alice Lema: [00:10:02] Or hugely dangerous.
[00:10:04] Kimberly London: [00:10:04] Yes. Yeah. The front porch and decks missing, because it was dilapidated. You don't have to walk up, you know, a step ladder to get in the house.
[00:10:15] Alice Lema: [00:10:15] I'm only laughing because yeah, that's happened before.
[00:10:21] Kimberly London: [00:10:21] A few times. Yeah, we had an attic conversion one time that was sold and they hadn't been any reinforcement of the ceiling. So with all that bedroom furniture and stuff up there, there's, you know, there's a live dead load issue.
[00:10:38]Alice Lema: [00:10:38] Oh, I didn't think of that. Oh my gosh.
[00:10:41]Kimberly London: [00:10:41] And the foundation hadn't been beefed up to hold two floors either.
[00:10:48] It was, I mean, this was, this was one of my first ones and I was like, Oh boy, it was 30, $37,000 just in structural repairs.
[00:10:58] Alice Lema: [00:10:58] Oh dear.
[00:11:01]Kimberly London: [00:11:01] You know, after the fact. So it wasn't a win-win for anybody. Yeah. Yeah. You know, but it happens. I just want the agents to know they can fill out a public records request. And just ask for the permit history.
[00:11:18] If there's something specific you're looking for, you know, call it out, say, Hey, do you have something for the garage conversion? And let's see if we can find it. I have one now where they have all the permits, but it looks like they added onto permits and between construction, which is common, you know, you're in the middle of something and you're like, well, since I'm doing this, I might as well do this.
[00:11:40] Little notes, not enough for me to articulate. Exactly. What it was, they did. And I'm relying on the agent, you know, who's walking through the property to help me and tell me, okay, this is, you know, converted. Yes. It's, you know, family room with skylights, you know, so I could fix my records. Aha. You know, it's, it goes both ways.
[00:12:06] It goes both ways. Yeah. And some of our older permits just say remodel, you know, so it's like, okay. You know, in 1962 there was a remodel. So then I'll look, you know, is there a plumbing permit with it? Yeah. Yeah. There's a plumbing permit. They marked, you know, lab water closet, didn't mark tub and shower. So I know that remodel.
[00:12:27] So then I asked, Hey, is this, half bath and the what was the garage conversion? Yeah. Okay. Well, this permit was, I mean, we can put two and two together and figure it out, usually.
[00:12:43] Alice Lema: [00:12:43] And you know, the interesting thing is it's okay to have a bathroom in your garage. I mean, nobody, nobody has a problem with that. You can even have a wet bar. You can, you know, you can have a giant shop with a theater room, whatever you just, you just want it to be safety checked so that everybody's going to be okay. In case something goes sideways.
[00:13:01] Kimberly London: [00:13:01] Well, and with insurance too, you know, accidents happen, fires, you know, medical issues, lawsuits, you know, whatever, and your insurance company, they're calling, they're calling us to check on the permit history.
[00:13:17] Alice Lema: [00:13:17] Wow. That makes sense. But I didn't see that. Yeah.
[00:13:22]Kimberly London: [00:13:22] And so, and then, you know, they're requesting the permit history too.
[00:13:27] Yeah, the appraisers, the appraisers are so good in this Valley, really do their due diligence. And, they’re even refis you know, Hey, does this have permits, you know, cause they've got to disclose that. And a couple of them come in and actually real estate agents. We have real estate books dating all our docs
[00:13:52] sorry, real estate. We have permit books dating all the way back to 1926. Oh, yes. Yes. So you can look back through ledger books and people have, I've had real estate agents do that. And they're like, I found it, I found it 1938.
[00:14:09] Alice Lema: [00:14:09] That's awesome.
[00:14:10]Kimberly London: [00:14:10] Yeah. So it was grandfathered in it's on the property line, but we confirm right here with a permit.
[00:14:16] Wow that it was done then. So there's, there's other avenues also to figure out if something was permitted or not permitted. Yeah. It's legwork on the agent's part. Buyer's part.
[00:14:30] Alice Lema: [00:14:30] Not very much though, because you guys make it so easy. You really do
[00:14:35] Kimberly London: [00:14:35] Try to, I want to work together. I don't want buyers or sellers who bought it that way at the counter crying, because it's getting ready to close escrow. And now I'm telling them, you know, there's a $500, a thousand dollars, $2,000 permit. Or was that the detached garage on this older home is not habitable at all. Yeah. Print it out. You can't use the kitchen.
[00:15:04] I had had one. Where it was being refied. It was a VA loan and not one person checked to see if the second unit was legal and he needed that income to qualify. Right. So was it like two cottages, two older houses, a garage and a cottage. Yeah, that's pretty. Yeah. So they weren't permitted.
[00:15:24] It's pretty common and you know, we have a 50, 50 chance, but we don't go looking for stuff. You, you, people need to make us aware that there's something there or. Complaint driven.
[00:15:37] Alice Lema: [00:15:37] So what happens if there's a fire, let's go back to insurance because that really scares me. You know, we just had the Alameda fires and even though, Medford wasn't impacted directly, like, are there people out there that lost a stick-built home and couldn't collect all their insurance?
[00:15:54] I wonder because, Oh, wow. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:15:59] Kimberly London: [00:15:59] And I mean, and it does this as far as there was one and it was caused by. Wiring, they put in a new heating and air system. The homeowner did, and they ran the wiring for the heating and air system in with the duct work. And it caught on fire, of course. And it did burn the house, the insurance, they checked for permits.
[00:16:26] Where's the permits, no permits. Then they, you know, keep on going. Cause I mean, you can't, you just can't do that. You may think, you know what you are doing and maybe you do. I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna say, sometimes you don't and it can cause issues like converting your attic. And not beefing up the ceiling or foundation.
[00:16:47] Alice Lema: [00:16:47] Yeah. What I've seen people add second, story's kind of on the back where you can't quite see it from the street or whatever, and yeah. And I know I'm the one saying there going, I don't think the foundation was reinforced, so they're going, Oh yeah.
[00:17:00] Kimberly London: [00:17:00] How do I do this now? Well, you can hire new
[00:17:03] Alice Lema: [00:17:03] That wiring story is really scary.
[00:17:06] Yeah. That's, that's really scary.
[00:17:10] Kimberly London: [00:17:10] I mean, there's house fires. I mean, thankfully not a lot, but I mean, city of Medford's have, you know, fatality house fires. Like the last three weeks. Yeah. Yeah. That's kind of rare, but that's also super scary and I don't know. You know, I don't know the stats on those at all. I can't really speak other than it's super sad.
[00:17:35]Alice Lema: [00:17:35] So sad. And we're such a small community. It's like, we either know them or we know somebody who knows them. It's just, it's very personal here. so yeah, so, you know, a couple of times in my past I have purchased houses, for cash and then did not check the permit thing. So this is how I learned. I learned the expensive way.
[00:17:55] And then, later on, when I went to sell it, I got tagged. And so, you know, in, in those situations, I went ahead and fixed it, but I was really mad, you know, and, and just mad at the whole process. And then later realized that that this can all be done before you even put your house on the market and it should be part of that whole process. So how does that work if you know, Mr. And Mrs. Homeowner says I'm going to sell in six months. I want you guys to help me get ready. What, what would be the process?
[00:18:27] Kimberly London: [00:18:27] I would first step, even if you don't think there's any thing, fill out a public records request and request the permit history on the property.
[00:18:38] I mean, what if there wasn't, you know, a certificate of occupancy ever issued on the house it's happened before we building department's only been computerized since 96. So prior to that, it's all paper. We do still have the records, but the old school stuff wasn't as good as, you know, just type in address and off you go.
[00:19:01] Alice Lema: [00:19:01] Well, we were all more casual than too,
[00:19:03] Kimberly London: [00:19:03] or there might be stuff was permitted that you didn't even think would have even needed a permit. But as an agent, the stuff that you find out prior to listing it, Did it rectify, I mean, the woodstove thing is there no permit for the woodstove let's just yank that puppy out when we have someone that wants it. And now you're buying a brand new and
[00:19:27] Alice Lema: [00:19:27] The former real estate agent.
[00:19:29]Kimberly London: [00:19:29] No. Well, to me, what would be worse? Is it potential purchaser’s agent bringing it to your attention on a listing that you've already listed? I mean, know as much about the property as you can up front before hand and get it figured out before it goes on the market.
[00:19:51] Alice Lema: [00:19:51] Even as a homeowner, you can do that before you even talk to your agent if you want. Yeah. Well, and it really goes back to what you said in the beginning was disclosure, disclosure, disclosure, disclosure, and, it's okay for sellers to be in front of that. You don't have to wait for the buyers to do it all, you know, get in front of it. You'll sleep better,
[00:20:13] Kimberly London: [00:20:13] But it'll, you know, you'll look good.
[00:20:16] You'll come in and want to list your home, but we've got to get this. Yeah, and we want to get it figured out now because it's, you know, the buyer's gonna want the word well, the seller now, but I mean, you know, it used to be, you know, the opposite and you know, now I want you to replace the carpet in here.
[00:20:32] I want you to, you know, just all sorts of little things. So. If it's figured out and it's there and it's done and it's legal and they call an day. Yes, it has all the permits or even printing out the permits or the history and leaving it with the flyer on the counter.
[00:20:47] Alice Lema: [00:20:47] That is a great idea. That's a great idea.
[00:20:51] I'm going to add that. Yeah.
[00:20:53]Kimberly London: [00:20:53] I mean, you know, we can do just like a profile, you know, sheet. I tried to do a one page summary and then a lot of times be drilled down into, you know, Then did a gritty of it, but if you could do, you know, even on the back of the flyer or whatever, you know, here's the permit history.
[00:21:09] Alice Lema: [00:21:09] That's amazing. We're going to add that to our soap boxes.
[00:21:15] Kimberly London: [00:21:15] No, it just makes you look good. It makes you look better.
[00:21:18] Alice Lema: [00:21:18] And I'm wondering, you know, even if you're thinking of staying in the house till the bitter end, it wouldn't be a bad safety check, I guess, you know, just to have all the permits, have somebody from your family, pull all the permits and just make sure it's.
[00:21:31] So, because we have so many elders that don't want to move now, and that's actually part of our inventory problem. If they're going to stay in their house forever and ever instead of downsizing, then maybe somebody should go in and look.
[00:21:44]Kimberly London: [00:21:44] Well, we won't just, we don't do like home inspections. It has to be something that you need a permit on.
[00:21:51] Alice Lema: [00:21:51] Right. But they could at least start looking at the, what you call the permit history.
[00:21:56] Kimberly London: [00:21:56] Yeah. And even like the older historic homes that people purchase. And they want to know the permit history. You can make an appointment and come look at our ledger books and try to find all, all the history on it.
[00:22:10] Alice Lema: [00:22:10] Oh, that would be so fun.
[00:22:12] Kimberly London: [00:22:12] Yeah. What someone did it as a gift. They were on Queen Anne or Ready? I can't remember. Yeah, but they found when the house it was a Montgomery Ward's house, built 1523, and they found the whole history and she did a book. For her husband as a present. And I, so we printed out, you know, all the permits that we could find.
[00:22:34] And I just thought was just a fabulous idea.
[00:22:38] Alice Lema: [00:22:38] That is so sweet. Yeah, we should, we should do that. Yeah. So, so that's good to know. So you have to have an appointment now though, because of the Corona. Can we even come in and look at those books with an appointment?
[00:22:50]Kimberly London: [00:22:50] Yes,
[00:22:51] Alice Lema: [00:22:51] We can. Okay.
[00:22:53] Kimberly London: [00:22:53] We'll start with. You know, the public records request on our website.
[00:22:57] We'll give you the permit history from 61 to current. And then if the house was built prior to that, you can email back and say, Hey, can I make an appointment to come look at the ledger books? And absolutely. I have a room that we sanitized. We don't get a lot of people. I mean, we do clean it, you know, you have, we'll get you in the room.
[00:23:19] You know, there's a job. We're having a job fair tomorrow from one parking lot. I will be there. So will be there. So if it gets boring, we could have a dance party. Yeah. It's going to be fun. So if anyone's like interested in more information about the city of Medford, Come down from one to four and just meet us.
[00:23:44] Alice Lema: [00:23:44] Well, let's talk about your job fair tomorrow a little bit. So it's one to four tomorrow, which is Saturday, April 24th. And why is Medford city, Medford having a job fair?
[00:23:56] Kimberly London: [00:23:56] There are jobs available. The city almost always has something available. There's a lot of, Full-time positions open and numerous different departments by fluke, people retiring, you know, going, moving all sorts of reasons.
[00:24:14] I've worked here for almost 23 years, so it is a great place to work. There's also the temporary positions, you know, for parks, for like lifeguards and, you know, different positions with the parks that are available in the summer. Traffic counters, you know, for public works, there's all sorts of stuff that happens in the summer where they need extra help.
[00:24:36] And it's a good in for someone that wants to work for the city. I mean, you have to start somewhere.
[00:24:42] Alice Lema: [00:24:42] That's a good foot in the door. Yeah. And I think the city is a great gig. It's you guys are just wonderful. I think it's a wonderful, environment, a great organization. You guys are always so professional and you, you talk to people, , in a way that they understand.
[00:24:59] You know, and if you go to other States, no offense, but I've had to go to other people's States at counters and they're not very helpful. They're not very nice. And you feel like a freaking idiot and you guys, you guys are always so good about the educational part, you know? So you walk away knowing something,
[00:25:15] Kimberly London: [00:25:15] Well, you don't know, unless you ask.
[00:25:17] And I remember being on the other side of that in the eighties, way back there, but, and you know, You need to submit a plot plan. But yeah, I know plot plan, you know, submit a plot plan and it's like, oh, and then they tell, oh, assigned plan. Okay. 15 different words, just like a market value analysis or it can be called by different things.
[00:25:48] You just got to figure out what that person's calling it. Figure it out.
[00:25:53] Alice Lema: [00:25:53] Well, Kimberly, I love talking to you. You and I are going to chat more frequently as things evolve, excuse me, with the city of Medford. So, if somebody wants to get on your new website, where do they go?
[00:26:06] Kimberly London: [00:26:06] www.cityofmedford.gov
[00:26:12] Alice Lema: [00:26:12] and it's super slick.
[00:26:13] You guys are gonna love it. Kimberly London. Thank you so much. She's with the city of Medford building department development services specialists. Now thank you so much. We'll see you next time. Bye-bye.