Mike Price, who along with his wife Susan Price, owns Mat-Su Title spoke today before the Valley Board of Realtors. He updated us on some recent case law as well as the recorded real estate activity for the year.
Here are a few of the cases he reviewed.
1. Varilek v. Burke. The Alaska Supreme court decided that a landowner who appeals a tax evaluation bears the entire burden of proof to show that the evaluation was improper. Serving on the Mat-Su Borough Board of Equalization showed me that this is entirely true and I would have been surprised by any other finding. If you want to contest your tax evaluation you better bring some hard evidence with you to show that the borough is wrong.
2. Trask v Ketchikan. A Ketchikan resident painted a biblical message on her roof, and after her uphill neighbors complained, the borough told her to remove it because it was an illegal sign. She fought it all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court and won. The Supreme Court ruled that her constitutional rights were violated so that she had a Federal Case against the borough and she could also get her attorney fees back. I wonder if we will begin to notice roof messages all over the state.
3. Shaffer v. Bellows. In this case two men were going to buy an island together outside of Sitka. Before they closed the deal they had a dispute between them. They agreed that one would buy the island and the other would receive an option to buy when and if the first person decided to sell. They agreed on a fixed price plus inflation. After many years the owner of the island decided not to sell but to gift it to his sister. The second man took him to court because he wanted to exercise his option to buy. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower court for further evidence because it appeared to be fraud. The big lesson here is to be very careful giving anyone a first right of refusal or an option to purchase unless it is very specific and has a definite ending date.
In addition to other cases Mike brought us up to date on Real Estate Activity from a title company’s point of view.
Here are the total recordings in the Palmer Recording Office, (the Palmer office records most of the activity in the Mat-Su Borough). These are from January through November of every year.
This shows a big drop off in activity between 2007 and 2008 and a slow decline since. It is close to what we have seen with housing sales over this time. The real estate recordings include all the papers recorded that have anything to do with real estate. That means that not only are sales recorded, but so are foreclosures, easements, and commercial leases.