The first thing to do when you are trying to sell your Palo Alto home and you find out your brick chimney is cracked is: don't ignore the situation and don't panic, it is not the end of the world.
Chimneys of homes built in Palo Alto, unless they are newer homes, were usually built with brick chimneys that do not have metal reinforcements to withstand earthquakes. In the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 many chimneys cracked at the roof line. What this means is that the already weak structures is even more vulnerable to coming down in the next earthquake.
Many homeowners are not aware that their chimney is broken and only discover the problem when the home is inspected prior to selling their Palo Alto home.
This potentially dangerous crack can be fixed before the chimney comes down for about $3000 or if you wait for an earthquake to bring it down, the damage it can cause can easily run in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.
So if you had a chimney inspection before trying to sell your Palo Alto home and the inspector said the chimney is cracked at the roof line, or that the chimney moves when it is pushed on, you have two choices.
1. Get it fixed before you sell your Palo Alto home. You will have to shell out about $3000 but it will make your home more appealing to buyers and if there is an earthquake during the time you selling your Palo Alto home you will be safe from this particular danger.
2. Sell the house "As-Is" just disclosing the defect and let the buyer factor that expense into their offer. You will not have to put the money out up front, and the market is so hot in Palo Alto it may not effect the price very much. However, if there is an earthquake during the time you are selling your Palo Alto home and the chimney comes down, taking part of the roof and siding with it you will be sorry.
Because the market is so hot with so many multiple offers there are many things a Palo Alto home seller can leave for the buyer to do, like termite work, old water heaters, and even old roofs. Most homes are sold "As-Is." But leaving a broken chimney is a gamble.
So the question is: "Are you feeling lucky?" If not, fix the chimney.
If you have any questions about selling a home in Palo Alto please feel free to contact me.