Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I Love to Write About Real Estate, But This Week It’s Personal

By JIM SMITH, Citizen
I’m writing this week’s column from the woods near Kalispell, Montana, where we are visiting Rita’s sister and her husband. Although I usually write about real estate, that topic is not top of mind for me this week. Instead, I’m going to write about what’s really top of mind for me these days — Donald Trump and the decline and fall of the America in which Rita and I grew up.
I’m paying for this ad space personally. That’s why I removed all branding in the printed versions.  The opinions I express herein are not those of the brokerage I own and manage.  None of my broker associates were consulted about its content and I know that at least one would disagree with what I write below.
What’s really on my mind as Rita and I take this 10-day road trip to Boise, Seattle and now Kalispell, listening to the national news and conversing with friends and relatives, is the sad state of our republic.
Since I am also writing this on Father’s Day, I’m also thinking about my late father, Abbott Smith, an old-school proper New Englander to whom integrity was everything. I can still hear Dad saying, “Just because other people steal apples doesn’t make it right for you to steal apples.”  I got my values from him.
Dad would be appalled that we have a president who, under the tutelage of his one-time lawyer, Roy Cohn, practices the principle that if you tell a lie long enough people will believe it. Also, that you should never admit you’re wrong. (Google the two names together or click here to learn about Cohn’s influence on Trump.)
Rita and I left on our vacation about the time that President Trump negotiated with his “new friend” Kim Jung Un after insulting his fellow G-7 leaders, including the prime minister of our country’s strongest ally and trading partner, Canada.
It was clear to me years ago that Donald Trump is a narcissist and bully, whose only interest is self aggrandizement and self promotion, even when it violates the emoluments provision of our Constitution. My lifelong Republican father would be turning over in his grave if he knew not only what Donald Trump is doing and saying but, worse, how the elected members of the “Grand Old Party” — most of whom at one time proclaimed “Never Trump!” (Google that phrase or click here to read the very long list) — have snapped into line with Trump because they think that’s how they can maintain what’s most important to them — their re-election.
How much further down this road must America go? The President, who says that military exercises with South Korea were “costing us a fortune,” ordered a military parade that will cost millions of taxpayer dollars that would be better spent on almost anything else. He was inspired by a parade in France, but such parades are really the trademark of Russia, China, North Korea and other dictatorships.  What’s next?  Oversized wall-mounted portraits of him in Washington DC?

Rotary’s “4-Way Test”

Every Tuesday we begin our breakfast meeting at the Rotary Club of Golden by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by Rotary’s 4-Way Test. I can’t picture this president beginning cabinet meetings with this declaration of “the things we think, say or do”:
  • First, Is It the Truth?
  • Second, Is It Fair to All Concerned?
  • Third, Will It Build Goodwill and Better Friendships?
  • Fourth, Will It Be Beneficial to All Concerned?
 Try applying that test to such Trump policies as separating immigrant children from their parents, while falsely claiming the Democrats made him do it.   Or how about denying climate change and removing all use of that phrase from EPA documents on the subject? What about imposing tariffs on our closest trading partners, while claiming falsely that trade wars are “good” and “easy to win”?  It’s hard to think of any Trump policy for which any one of those four questions could be answered in the affirmative.
Well-intended policies often need to be reversed, but Trump, as taught by Roy Cohn, will never admit he’s wrong, so he allows bad policies to stay in place when they shouldn’t, just to avoid admitting a mistake.  That’s why he insists on keeping nonsensical campaign promises he made — such as bringing back coal, quitting the Paris Climate Accords, quitting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, exiting the Iran agreement, or abandoning NAFTA, among others.  (The list is pretty long!)
As offended as we have been by so many of this president’s words and deeds, we’re also saddened by the lack of an articulate opposition by both Democrats and those once-moderate never-Trump Republicans.
Also, as a professional journalist, I am saddened by the attacks on the mainstream media as the “enemy of the people” (a Stalinist term) and by the use of the phrase “fake news” to dismiss honest journalistic coverage. The complicity of Fox News in this process is disappointing to anyone who knows and appreciates real journalism.
So what can be done about this situation?  Below are two “modest proposals” that I’d like to advance.

A Couple Modest Proposals for Saving America

It’s easy to criticize President Trump and where he is leading us, but where are the proposals to remedy this situation? Here are mine.
The first is for the Democratic Party to create what the British Parliament has long had and which I learned about in the 7th and 8th grades — a “Shadow Cabinet.”  
Wikipedia describes this pillar of British government as follows:
The Shadow Cabinet is a feature of the Westminster system of government. It consists of a senior group of opposition spokespeople who, under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition, form an alternative cabinet to that of the government, and whose members shadow or mirror the positions of each individual member of the Cabinet. It is the Shadow Cabinet’s responsibility to scrutinize the policies and actions of the government, as well to offer an alternative program.
In most countries, a member of the shadow cabinet is referred to as a Shadow Minister. In Canada, however, the term Opposition Critic is more common. In the United Kingdom’s House of Lords and in New Zealand, the term “spokesperson” is used instead of “shadow.”
I propose that the minority party (currently the Democratic Party) designate political leaders to serve as Shadow Secretaries for each Cabinet department.  (How cool would it be if they recited the 4-Way Test when they meet as a group?)  The Shadow EPA administrator could focus his or her attention on the unreported activities and pronouncements of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. The Shadow Secretary of Energy could monitor the actions and pronouncements of Secretary Rick Perry, and the Shadow Attorney General could do the same regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions. And so forth for every other Cabinet member. Their press conferences would be covered, including by Fox News, and provide information which is currently only being provided by investigative reporters who are readily dismissed by the president as “fake news.”  Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi simply cannot provide this service or play this role. Good candidates for a current Shadow Cabinet would be former heads or deputies of those cabinet departments.
I wish the Republicans had had a Shadow Cabinet during the Obama administration for the same reasons.  All sides would benefit from the perspective provided by a Shadow Cabinet.  It would serve to keep the “real” Cabinet and the President honest.  The worst part of the current situation is how easily the President can dismiss investigative reporting that is critical of his administration. If, instead, the reporters were covering the informed statements of department experts, it wouldn’t be as convincing when that coverage is labeled “fake news.” 
My second proposal is that some newsworthy opponent of the current president (likely a Democrat) announce his or her candidacy for President now instead of next year. Doing so not only provides a mechanism for fundraising (which is working well for Trump), but it also makes it possible to have full-fledged rallies (also working well for Trump) that would garner coverage by all the media, providing yet another avenue for turning the mainstream media  into reporters covering newsmakers critical of the Trump administration instead of providing the analysis themselves, which has only made them vulnerable to charges of partisanship (aka “fake news”).
Lastly, I want to reiterate that these are my personal remarks and not those of my real estate brokerage or its broker associates. I’m not worried that speaking out on this subject will hurt my brokerage or me financially, but if it does, I am willing to pay that price, and I will understand if an agent wants to disassociate him or herself from what I have written and leave our brokerage. Our democracy, our country, our future as a nation are too important for me to remain silent any longer about this president, his denial of climate change, his assault on the free press, and his total disregard for telling the truth.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I am moving www.JimSmithBlog.com to a WordPress blog

Until recently, I posted all my "Real Estate Today" content to this blog on blogger.com. 

The URL www.JimSmithBlog.com, until now, has been forwarded to this blog, whose "real" URL is www.jimsmith145.blogspot.com.

As of today, I am forwarding www.JimSmithBlog.com to a WordPress blog whose "real" URL  is www.goldenreblog.com

This blog will stay live for archival purposes, but all future posts will be on the WordPress blog, and people who click on www.JimSmithBlog.com will go to that blog instead of here.  

Thanks for reading my posts!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

When It Comes to Real Estate Statistics, We Should Think “Median” not “Average”



Excuse me for getting a little nerdy here, but it’s important to know the difference between “median” and “average” when studying the real estate market, and here’s why.

Let’s say an area has five home sales: one at $300,000, a second at $325,000, a third at $330,000, a fourth at $400,000 and a fifth at $1.2 million.  The average sale price would be $511,000, a huge increase over the previous year when all the sales were under $400,000. The median sale price would be $330,000, because half the sales were under that price and half were over.

Now let’s look at “Days on Market.” Let’s say those five homes took 1, 2, 5, 7, and 150 days to go under contract. The average days on market would have been 33, while the median would have been only 5 days. Which is more useful?

These two hypothetical scenarios are precisely what we’re seeing in the real estate market. Luxury homes are selling much more quickly than they have in years past,  inflating the average sales price, whereas the median sales price by definition discards both the lowest and highest data points, providing a more accurate picture of what’s happening in the market.

At right is a chart comparing 2017 average days on market to median days on market.   Homes that take a long time to sell -- particularly in the current market -- are almost invariably overpriced.  The amount of time these homes languish on the market artificially increases the average days on market. The median days on market is a much better reflection of the market.


Despite this, statisticians and market analysts keep reporting changes in the average sales price or the average days on market instead of giving us the more meaningful median statistics.



It's Thanksgiving, and I'm Thankful for Many Things and Many People

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – a non-denominational opportunity to reflect on the past year and our current situation.

I subscribe to the teaching that what we dwell on affects what we draw unto ourselves. For example, if we think we might fail at a task, we are more likely to fail, but if we think we’ll succeed, we’re more likely to succeed. Some people refer to this as the “law of attraction.”

That’s why I like Thanksgiving, because it causes me to dwell on what I’m thankful for – not my regrets, not my failures, not what went wrong, but what went right and the good people in my life.

Well, I have a lot to be thankful for!

First of all, I’m thankful to be married to Rita, who always thinks positively and now shares her positive energy with me and the broker associates at Golden Real Estate as our office manager.  Her positive orientation is evident in our house, where she has such phrases as “How Does It Get Any Better Than This?” and “What Else is Possible?” printed on our family room wall.  How did I get so lucky as to attract this woman into my life?  I’m forever grateful for that!

Rita and I have no children together, but we have three “adopted daughters” — three women who consider us “Mama Ri” and “Papa Jim.”  Thank you, Kristin in Kansas City, Ashley in Centennial, and Benedikte in Seattle, for honoring us with your love.

Secondly, I’m thankful for our great broker associates at Golden Real Estate.  In order of seniority, they are:

JimSwansonJim Swanson, who worked beside me at Coldwell Banker and RE/Max Alliance before joining Golden Real Estate when Rita and I founded it in 2007.  He’s our native Goldenite, living ½ mile from our office.




web_smallCarrie Lovingier lived in Golden when she joined us as Carrie Ackley soon after our founding. She married a high school sweetheart, Brady, and lives with him and his sons in Evergreen now – she’s our foothills anchor.




Cropped 2016 pictureKristi Brunel is from Wisconsin but met her soul mate, Kenny, on the ski slopes of Colorado, marrying into that legendary “old Golden” family. Kristi and I met through Leadership Golden, and I was honored that she wanted to begin her real estate career with us.  As an owner, along with Kenny and her father-in-law, of numerous rentals, she’s a resource to me and her clients as an expert in buying investment properties.


Leo_Face_Shot_with_Glasses_-_04-17-2016_1668_1_25Leo Swoyer came to us as a new Realtor after a long career as a licensed appraiser specializing in mountain properties. His expertise in valuing properties and his knowledge of mountain properties has benefited us on many occasions.



photoChuck Brown was an independent broker with Metro Brokers in Denver, but he lives on Lookout Mountain, so he was attracted to joining Golden Real Estate as a broker associate. He is our Denver specialist and continues to list many Denver homes and serve Denver buyers as well as here in Jeffco.



David's head shots 003David Dlugasch was broker/owner of his own real estate company in Crested Butte, but chose to join Golden Real Estate when he moved to Arvada to be closer to his daughter’s family in the Village of Five Parks. He says that reading my newspaper columns was a factor is deciding to join us. Thanks for the compliment, David!


Susan DixonI met Susan Dixon at the Colorado Environment Film Festival. Her commitment to sustainability drew her to leave her previous brokerage and join Golden Real Estate. She lives in Arvada.




Andrew LeskoAndrew Lesko transferred to Golden Real Estate so he could specialize in Golden area condos and townhomes. We were so impressed by his research on this topic and his creation of www.GoldenTownhomes.com that it was a no-brainer to welcome him into our fold!



NormKowitzNorm Kowitz serves with Kristi Brunel on the board of directors of the Christian Action Guild, and I met him when he represented a buyer for one of my listings. He, too, was attracted by this newspaper column and before long he became a great copy editor for me. Thanks, Norm, for joining us!




These broker associates provide a depth and breadth of expertise, but they all share a commitment to our values of integrity, service and sustainability, and I couldn’t be prouder to be associated with them.

Next, I am thankful for you, our readers, who turn to us every week for advice, which we are happy to provide, whether or not you hire us for the sale and/or purchase of real estate.  Thank you for your confidence in us.



Realtor pinNext, I’m thankful for the National Association of Realtors and our local association, the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. Not all licensed agents choose to join NAR and DMAR, but they all benefit from these organizations’ work to protect home ownership and our industry. I’m proud to say that Golden Real Estate is a Realtor brokerage, and all our agents are Realtors.

I’m also thankful for our local MLS and its CEO, Kirby Slunaker, who has shepherded the organization to a level of service and effectiveness which I couldn’t have imagined just five years ago. Our MLS has a great website, and now we are about to merge with the northern Colorado MLS, called IRES, to create an even stronger and better MLS. I’m proud to serve on the Rules & Regulations Committee of REcolorado.

Regular readers know of my commitment not just to sustainability but also to the adoption of electric vehicles.  I am so thankful that EVs are going mainstream and that multiple countries (France, China, Norway and the UK, among others) are speeding the end of internal combustion-powered automobiles. I predicted this revolution a couple years ago, but this year’s developments in that regard surprised even me.

Rotary Club of Golden Logo
We should all be thankful for the various service organizations which contribute so much to society— Rotary, Lions, Sertoma, Optimists, Kiwanis, and others. Rotary, for example, is singularly responsible for the eradication of polio. The Lions Clubs, inspired in 1925 by Helen Keller, have worked on projects to prevent blindness, restore eyesight and improve eye care for millions of people worldwide. The Optimists are all about serving youth. Here in Golden, they have a “bicycle recycle” program that has provided free or inexpensive bicycles to those who couldn’t afford them. Sertoma (short for “Service to Mankind”) is devoted to serving those at risk of hearing loss.

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Service clubs in America are in decline, although I’m pleased to report that both the Golden Rotary Club and Golden Lions Club are experiencing a surge in membership this year. (Rita and I are Rotarians, and I’m a Lion.) If voluntarism is in your heart, I urge you to check into one of these clubs in your community, all of which welcome you as their guest at one of their meetings.



chamberlogo
I don’t have room to mention all of the organizations or people for whom I am thankful, but let me mention one more — our local chambers of commerce. Golden Real Estate is pleased to be a member of the West Chamber serving Jefferson County and the Golden Chamber of Commerce, on whose board of directors I serve. These organizations play an important role is promoting a healthy business environment in the communities they serve. Legislators benefit from their advice and feedback regarding bills affecting business. All businesses should consider joining their local chamber and participate in their events.

8WWLogo copyLastly, on a personal note, Rita and I are eternally thankful to have connected with Body in Balance Wellness Center, where our health and fitness benefited from their “8 Weeks to Wellness” program — a real life changer!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

If You’re Into Horses, You’ll Like This Book — About My Brother



My brother, Pete Smith, was a highly respected and greatly loved veterinarian who built his own big-animal practice and clinic in Athens County, Ohio, but he earned his DVM degree in Fort Collins, at CSU in 1961.

I thought I knew Pete well, but my respect and admiration for him grew tremendously from reading this biography by Gina McKnight.

When it was announced that this book was being written, I thought it was a nice memorial to my brother, but after reading the stories of his service to clients, I realized this book would be of interest to a much wider audience — in particular anyone who loves horses and values the work of a remarkable veterinarian.
 
Pete’s love of horses was matched by his love of logging and sawmills. In addition to building his own clinic on his Milliron farm, he also built a lumber mill, and used the sawmill to process logs that he cut on his expansive land holdings north of Athens, Ohio. It was while he was logging by himself that he misjudged how to cut a big tree and was critically injured by it. After a month or two in intensive care, his heart gave out.

Pete had had so many near-death experiences that family members like myself didn’t take the news of his accident as seriously as we should have, but we traveled from Colorado, Sweden and Maine to attend his standing room-only memorial service. That, too, is documented in this well researched and well written book that you can buy (in paperback, $15) at www.BarnesandNoble.com. It’s a worthy tribute to my brother, but also a great read for horse lovers.

Why Do We Refer to 110-Volt and 220-Volt Electricity, When It’s Actually 120 and 240?



I’m not an electrician, although I’ve done my share of DIY home wiring over the years. Ever since I started driving electric cars, which utilize  240-Volt charging stations, I’ve been curious why REcolorado (Denver’s MLS) refers to 110-Volt and 220-Volt service instead of 120-Volt and 240-Volt service. And they’re not alone in doing so.

Recently I asked someone at Xcel Energy to explain this dichotomy. What I was told was that 120 volts became the standard as a result of the Rural Electrification Act in 1930.  As for how you get  240-volt service, it’s created when two 120-volt lines of opposite phase are combined.

Nevertheless, most Americans continue to refer to electricity as being 110 or 220 volts, even though those voltages no longer exist and haven’t for nearly a century in the United States.

Using a voltmeter, I verified that my own home’s outlets are running 120 volts and 240 volts.

What Due Diligence Should You Do When Buying a Home?



Here’s some advice I give to buyers I work with:

1) Do the home inspection immediately, so that you have time to do secondary inspections. These could relate to electrical, mold or plumbing issues identified by your inspector. Ask about our trusted inspectors.

2) Order a sewer scope, even for a newer home. It’s $100 well spent, because it could identify issues that cost thousands to fix.

3) If buying a home with an HOA, read the minutes of the board meetings, looking for controversies or recurring issues. We have agents with special expertise in studying HOA financials for our buyers.

4) Look for neighbors — they can tell you a lot!