In The Trenches  by Jim W Hildreth 

Real Estate Mediation

John and David had purchased a home in Berkeley. They were in a committed relationship, would split all expenses and were approved for a $600,000 mortgage. Their plan was to sell the home within two years.


Within months, their relationship went sour and they faced a relationship disaster and a financial crisis.


Beth and Susan entered into a partnership as a real estate broker and agent to offer property management services.


Susan became sick and the business relationship failed. Susan wanted $40,000 for settlement.


Two real estate Brokers and agents disclosed a home had dual pane windows. The escrow closed and the new buyer discovered single pane windows and sued for non-disclosure.


Real Estate Disputes do occur, and these disputes can be costly and a major stress to all parties including buyer, seller, real estate agents, landlords, tenants and the courts.


In California most real estate contracts allow for Mediation, And Arbitration, prior to litigation.


Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process of exploring solutions and negotiating mutually acceptable resolutions.


Unlike the legal process, mediation allows the parties to Decide the fairest and most reasonable solution.


Participation in mediation will not waive your rights to later pursue the matter legally.


Mediation is a process in which a neutral person-the mediator- helps parties reach a settlement to their dispute by opening lines of communication, objectively evaluating the case, identifying the parties' real needs and finding solutions to address those needs.


The advantages to mediation are cost, confidentiality, fairness and the potential for resolution.


After 30 years in the real estate brokerage business, seeing all phases of real property issues, the concept of mediation was appealing.


Training at UC Berkeley, actual cases in small claims court and mediation, both in the public and private sector, have led to a mediation practice that that is exclusive to real estate issues.


John and David had many more issues than the value of a Bay Area home worth $775,000.


Issues of trust, lack of communication and the individual perception in dealing with feelings vs. factual information.


The mediator’s role of having a long-term background in real estate was valuable to all parties, especially when questions arose about mortgages, present and future values, discounts and an understanding of the present real estate market.


David stated, a Realtor-Mediator “added value, credibility and trust in helping me form a decision”


Within 3.5 hours, a written settlement occurred and they left the mediation shaking hands.


Beth and Susan and her attorney invested 4 hours in their mediation session. The consensus in the end was a deadlock and all parties agreed that binding arbitration would be the next phase.


The attorney for Susan stated, “As a mediator you did an outstanding job of keeping us on a level of open communication, fairness and being neutral. We felt respected.”


The non-disclosure issue over dual pane windows made headway as all parties agreed that the non-disclosure issues were not one of fraud, but an honest mistake.


The Realtor-mediator played an important role in creating an open dialog between buyer, seller and agents.


The conflict was settled and all parties reached a written agreement within 2 hours.


Mediation Does Work

I thought I would share a recent real estate mediation experience:


A Section 8 housing unit had a long-term tenant who had never been in trouble. He is a single dad with two small children. He loves his music and has stated his music at times can be loud. By his own admission, he likes to drink and he has had a DUI. He had a party and went to bed while the party continued. The Police Dept. showed up and under a probation search found 10 pills of an illegal narcotic on the floor. No arrests were made due to the inability of the police to determine ownership of the pills. The landlord served notice to the tenant for violation of park rules for zero tolerance for drugs. The landlord wants the tenant to vacate; if the tenant vacates under eviction, he then looses his Section 8 benefits. He works and goes to college part-time while being a full-time dad. The tenant had only made some bad judgments with alcohol, and perhaps the crowd that he invited to his home, but he faced eviction due to the wriiten policy. Mediation brought out a solution that all parties agreed to: The landlord would withdraw the eviction, the tenant would give a 30-day notice to vacate and, since this would not be an eviction, the tenant could keep his Section 8 benefits and move to a new location with a fresh start. Perhaps there are many other ideas and solutions to this dilemma and conflict. In my mind, we had a win-win.


Neighbor Against Neighbor

The neighbors used to talk, but after a series of disputes over fencing, an easement and the lack of access, the level of frustration and non- communication became common ground.


They shared the same roadway and would have to pass one another.


The feud reached the scale of physical threats.


The only option was a lawsuit.


Attorneys were retained and litigation was started.


The Superior Court suggested mediation. The neighbors were reluctant and would never allow face-to-face meetings.


The attorneys agreed to a mediator and the parties agreed to give it a chance. The attorneys had the experience that it was more than likely this litigated case would go to trial.


The mediation took place, positions were discussed openly and within 3.5 hours both neighbors reached a written settlement.


Joy filled the room, the neighbors shook each others hands and openly stated they could be friends again.


Mediation allows the parties to "work" for a common benefit.


A "neutral" was valuable and the real estate mediation was a success.


Elder Mediation 10-25-2009 by Jim W Hildreth


Conflicts involving older adults can be a complex mix of legal, phsychological

and spirtual issues. Elder Mediation is often multi-issue, multi-parties

and multi-generational.


The Arnold resident makes the transition from a ranch house with acreage

and a home filled with memories, the loss of his wife and a move to Sonora,

closer to medical needs and less snow.


The long term Bay Area residents move to Sonora, following their long time dreams of a countryhome and the "Golden Years" only to be faced with mounting medical issues, a death of a spouse and being served a pre-foreclosure notice.

At age 85 this World War Veteran feels shame and confusion.


Mom lives in Columbia and is comfortable in her single wide mobile, she is served locally with Meals on Wheels.

She needs assistance in her daily living needs, her son lives in Southern California and has been laid off, making it difficult to assist and visit his mother.


Toulumne County and Sonora have many support systems in place for our seniors however many mediation partisipants come to a mediation with limited knowledge of the resources available.

Elder Mediation allows a "Neutral" to address concerns of medical, nutrition, safety and day to day needs of paying bills, transportation, social security, the pain and depression of loss of a loveone.


In one recent Sonora conflict, the accusation of sexual harrasment and in multiple other disputes was missing funds from a care giver.

Today it is common to see real estate disputes, such a Foreclosure, Short Sales, Loan Modifications, Landlord-Tenant Disputes and Homeowner Associations conflicts.



Mediation is a way for people in conflict to talk together, with the help of an impartial third party.

Mediation is voluntary and confidential.

The many benefits of Mediation may include:

Mediation increased the role of older adults in the decisions that impact their quality of life.

Mediation helps older adults experss their emotions, preferences and concerns during decision making.

Improves understanding between older adults and the important people in their lives.

Provides an alternative to litigation.