Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Real Estate Transactions Can and Should Be a Win for Both Buyer and Seller



As a member of my local Rotary Club, I recite Rotary’s “Four-Way Test” at the beginning of each weekly meeting. This test of the things we think, say or do was introduced in 1932 as a guiding principle for all Rotarians:

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?

Isn’t that how all real estate transactions should unfold? We believe this at Golden Real Estate and we work diligently to make certain that every transaction results in a win/win, in which both parties are satisfied with the final outcome. You can also think of it in terms of ethics. When both parties and their agents have acted in accordance with the Four-Way Test, you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that ethics have been served.

Telling the truth is not just a nice concept for real estate professionals — it is a legal obligation. We stand to lose our real estate license if we fail to disclose a known material fact about our listing or if we deceive the other party in any way. If we are engaged by a seller who wishes to conceal a defect or other material fact that is known to us, we are obligated to decline that listing.
   
Even when a buyer of a listing is a “customer” instead of our client, we are legally bound to treat them fairly and honestly. It’s embodied in the Realtor Code of Ethics. Article 1 of the Code reads as follows: “When representing a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, or other client as an agent, Realtors pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client. This obligation to the client is primary, but it does not relieve Realtors of their obligation to treat all parties honestly. When serving a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant or other party in a non-agency capacity, Realtors remain obligated to treat all parties honestly.”

Regarding “fairness to all concerned,” we enter the domain of personal integrity rather than of legal requirement. This comes to the forefront when  multiple offers are received, giving a listing agent the opportunity to “double-end” a transaction — that is, to accept an offer from an unrepresented buyer versus one from a buyer who is represented by another agent.  The result of a double-ended transaction is a higher commission for the Seller’s agent, who now doesn’t have to split it with another (buyer’s) agent.

Our legal and ethical responsibility is always to put the client’s interests ahead of our own, which means we are to counsel the Seller to accept the offer that most benefits them, irrespective of how that decision might impact our commission. I think it’s only fair for agents to reduce their commission rate when they don’t have to share their commission. That way, sellers can share in the listing agent’s good fortune — the agent makes more total commission, and the seller nets more in the sale of their home. The result is what all would consider a win/win situation.

But fairness also enters the picture when we are negotiating multiple offers from multiple agents. I feel it’s only fair to let every agent know exactly where their offer stands so that no one is blindsided in our efforts to obtain the best offer for our sellers. That means letting each buyer’s agent know what our current highest offer is, so their buyer has the opportunity to increase their offer. This is standard operating procedure at Golden Real Estate, and I am frequently thanked by agents for managing multiple offers in this manner. (This practice also addresses the Rotarian tenet of “building goodwill and better friendships.”  Even losing bidders appreciate it.)

When a real estate transaction is conducted following the principles and practices I’ve outlined here, the end result is a sale which was beneficial to all parties. 

 The agents of Golden Real Estate may not all be Rotarians, but I can say with confidence that we all practice the Four-Way Test in the way we deal with the public and our colleagues. To me, it’s the only way to be.  Reach the agent of your choice at 303-302-3636.

Golden Fine Arts Festival Is This Saturday & Sunday, 10am-5pm



The 27th Annual Golden Fine Arts Festival, presented by the Golden Chamber of Commerce, is one of the largest and most prestigious juried art shows in the country.  The 2-day Festival features over 130 artists from 20 states, including many from Colorado. Artists will be juried in various media categories such as painting, sculpture, jewelry, and photography. Admission is free there will be food vendors, live music and locally brewed beer, plus free art activities for children. As co-sponsors, we invite you to join us for this wonderful art show located adjacent to beautiful Clear Creek.

Denver Home Buyers Are Increasingly Looking at Western Suburbs & Foothills



By JIM SMITH, Realtor ® 

As a “semi-native” of Denver — my family moved to Denver from Maine when I was in kindergarten — I have always loved Denver, but I recognize the yearning of Denverites to “go further west,” either to Jefferson County or the foothills.  

As a kindergartner at Dora Moore School, as a 1st and 2nd grader at St. Anne’s Episcopal School, and as a 3rd grader at Stevens Elementary School, I developed fond memories of life in Denver during the 1950’s and driving into the mountains to picnic along Clear Creek. At that time, Arapahoe Basin was about the only place to go skiing. I remember playing with my battery powered boat on City Park lake and attending Easter sunrise services at Red Rocks.

I remember living at 721 Marion Street, when President Eisenhower would stay at his wife Mamie’s home a block away. There was none of the security we see today, of course.  The Secret Service set up shop in their garage on the alley, and none of the streets were closed off. The good old days!

I remember all my other addresses when we lived in Denver — 1020 7th Avenue, 2100 S. Josephine St. (later the Lamont School of Music, where my second wife took classes!) and 1444 St. Paul Street (later replaced by an apartment building). 

The weather is what I remember best. That was when the Denver Post boasted on its front page banner that it was “The Climate Capital of the World.”  I couldn’t wait to move back to Denver from New York as a 41-year-old and experience again that great climate and wonderful life that I remembered as a child!

Six years later, in 1997, I felt the pull of the mountains and moved again, this time to Golden, where I bought the first of six homes I have owned in or near that one-time territorial capital, still the county seat for Jefferson County.

Denver’s founding fathers felt that pull too, creating “Denver Mountain Parks,” 14,000 acres of parks and conservation areas that include Red Rocks, Winter Park, Genesee and Lookout Mountains, even part of Mount Evans — all outside Denver’s city limits! No other city in America has made such an investment.

Since becoming a Realtor in 2003, I’ve observed a migratory pattern among metro home buyers.  It starts in Wash Park and arcs through Highlands and Berkeley and ends in Golden.  Some buyers skip Highlands and Berkeley and move straight from Wash Park to Golden, although the inventory is rather limited now — just 13 active listings and 20 under contract as I write this on Monday evening.  (Those figures are for the City of Golden. There are 150 active listings with Golden addresses.)

What draws buyers to Jefferson County, not just Golden?  First and foremost, it’s our proximity to the mountains. Indeed, roughly half of the county is in the mountains!  The air is cleaner here, crime is minimal, and traffic is lighter.  Despite increasing home values in Jefferson County, Denver buyers are finding that real estate is more affordable here, too.  I’m happy to help them find their dream home in Jefferson County.

The schools are good, even great. Jeffco Schools has a week-long Outdoor Lab which every 6th grader gets to participate in, at one of two mountain retreats for all kinds of outdoor education and experience. Learn about it at www.OutdoorLabFoundation.org.

Jefferson County has the nation’s first sales-tax funded open space program. The 1/2 percent sales tax passed by Jeffco voters in 1972 has led to the purchase of 53,000 acres of park land with over 230 miles of trails. Learn more at http://jeffco.us/open-space/.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Condo & Townhome Owners Need to Consider Their Collective Liabilities



In a recent article about hail deductibles, I mentioned how the deductible for Belmar Commons in Lakewood was so high that each of the 45 owners in that townhome community received a $5,600 special “loss assessment” to cover the quarter-million-dollar deductible for roof replacement.

There are other perils besides a bad hail storm that could subject condo and townhome owners to a loss assessment. Considering the increase in real estate values, your HOA — like any  homeowner — needs to make sure their covered real estate is not underinsured. In addition to checking your HOA’s master policy for its coverage limitations, this would be a good time to discuss additional personal policy coverages with your insurance agent, not only to cover high-deductible assessments like the one discussed above, but for those imposed to cover losses exceeding the coverage limits of your HOA’s master insurance policy.

Here are a couple scenarios that could result in losses that exceed your master policy coverage limits:

Scenario One:
   A child riding a bicycle takes a shortcut through your community’s HOA-maintained street, hits a large pothole and crashes, sustaining injuries that are permanently disabling. The family sues the HOA, prevails and is awarded a settlement that far exceeds the liability limits maintained by the community. You are notified of a special assessment for your portion of the amount not covered. Divide just $1 million — and such awards can be much bigger — by the number of unit owners, and you’re talking about a huge special assessment.

Scenario Two:
   The owner of the unit just below your own causes a kitchen fire that destroys the entire condo building. Luckily, no one was injured. It never occurred to your HOA board that the surge in property values required a re-evaluation of your master policy’s coverages. Failure to update that coverage could potentially result in a huge assessment should the community experience a major loss event.

These are just a couple examples of occurrences that could affect your financial position as a condo or townhome owner and subject you (and your fellow owners) to a huge loss assessment.

For this article, my associate, Andrew Lesko, surveyed 85 individual condo and townhouse HOA declarations (covenants). Over 35% of these declarations made no mention of limiting the deductible in the community’s master insurance policy. As the owner of valuable (and appreciating) real estate assets, it would be unwise of you to assume that you are protected. It is best to know for sure, so ask your HOA board to check and confirm the community’s coverage limits and deductibles.

Board officers are responsible for addressing current valuations of the buildings, structures and amenities that make up the community. Of  course, reducing the deductible will raise the premium for the master policy, but consider the alternative. Your HOA board should make it their practice to regularly update your community’s insurance coverage.

Are you adequately covered personally? Here is a good place to start.

1)  Review your HOA Declaration documents. List any items not covered by the master policy.

2) Verify the current master policy deductible.

3) Estimate the replacement cost of the items that are your responsibility. Total the values, including labor.

4) Change your coverage from “Named Perils” to “All Risks, unless excluded.”

5) On your individual unit HO-6 policy, raise your loss assessment coverage limits as advised by your insurance agent based on increased asset valuations and current replacement cost estimates. (Most if not all of the Belmar Commons owners had this coverage.)

6) Buy adequate liability coverage. Discuss various possible claim scenarios with your insurance provider. Consider purchasing an “umbrella” policy.

Hopefully, the above scenarios have inspired you to evaluate your coverage position should there be an unfortunate occurrence within your condominium or townhome community.
————————
   Andrew Lesko, a broker associate at Golden Real Estate, assisted me with this article. You can reach Andrew at Andrew@GoldenRealEstate.com or at 720-550-2064. He is our condo and townhome specialist. Check out his website detailing 30+ Golden ├írea communities at www.GoldenLifestyleProperties.com

How to Check Out Any Denver Real Estate Agent



Nowadays, you can learn a lot about an individual real estate professional simply by Googling his or her name, but one thing you may not know how to do is to check out their level of success. How many active listings do they have, and how many homes have they sold as either listing or buyer’s agent?

Well, I have made it a little easier for you by creating a shortcut to that information on Denver’s MLS, REcolorado.

Go to www.FindDenverRealtors.com, where you can enter the agent’s first and last name. Remember, the first name may be a nickname. For instance, I’m “Jim” on the REcolorado, but I'm “James” on my Colorado real estate license. You only need to enter their name, then “Enter.” The search defaults to agents who are Realtors (that is, members of the National Association of Realtors), but you can change it to search for “All Agents.” 



Once you find your agent, you can click on “View My Listings.”  If that doesn’t appear, then the agent has no listings, either active or sold. 

It defaults to active and under contract listings, but you can click on “Properties I’ve Sold” which is a great way of seeing how experienced that agent is. 

Then click on “Map View” so see the geographic distribution of that agent’s transactions. Have they sold any in your area? 


How many of their transactions were their own listings, and how many were buyer sides? Each sale displays the listing brokerage.  If the name of the brokerage is not the same as the agent's brokerage, you know that agent was representing the buyer in that transaction.
 
Lastly, be sure to click on “View My Profile,” too. You may learn a lot about the agent and their background. If there is no profile, that tells you something, too — that he or she isn’t diligent in managing their online presence.

What’s a ‘Material Fact’ That Must Be Disclosed by Seller and Listing Agent?



At last week’s meeting of the Colorado Real Estate Commission (CREC), there was lengthy discussion about what constitutes a “material fact” that should be disclosed by the seller and his broker. State law requires the disclosure of material facts, but does not adequately define what’s “material.’

Would you, as a buyer, consider it a material fact that the next door neighbor is a registered sex offender? Or that the house was a meth lab but was mitigated to state standards? Surely many people would, but state law exempts sellers and their brokers from disclosing both of those facts.

Other facts that you might consider material, however, are neither specifically stated nor exempted from disclosure under state law or CREC rule.
 
No action was taken by the Commission, but the topic will be on the October agenda.
 
Is it “material” that the neighbor has a rock band that practices regularly?
 
Is it “material” that the seller suffered from an undiagnosed allergy living in their house, suggesting an indoor air quality problem?
 
For that matter, why, you might ask, is the seller selling? When I’m representing a buyer, I like to ask the listing broker why the seller is selling. The broker isn’t required to answer, and that question isn’t asked on any disclosure form, but wouldn’t that be useful information, if only to put to rest any fears about a “bad” reason for selling?

Golden Real Estate Receives National Recognition



San Juan Capistrano – America's Top 35 real estate firms based on service excellence are being honored for exceptional customer service satisfaction with an industry first, a QE Award (pronounced "Quie") "that measures and independently verifies excellence in the delivery of the highest levels of customer satisfaction and service quality in real estate in North America," according to Quality Service Certification, Inc. (QSC), creators of the award.

The 2017 QE Award recognizes the Top 5 Large Companies, the Top 10 Midsize Companies and the Top 20 Small Companies, spanning 22 states, from Florida to California and Minnesota to Texas, and includes some of the most respected independent and well-known national and regional brand names.
 
The 2017 QE Award is based upon the results of an independent survey limited solely to buyers and sellers who were in a real estate transaction that actually closed with participating real estate companies from January through December 2016. Quality Service Certification, Inc. and Leading Research Corporation administer the survey process to ensure that every past customer is surveyed, preventing agents or the company from interference or influence in any way.
 
Golden Real Estate, Inc. was named one of the top 20 small companies — one of only four in the state of Colorado.
 
"At a time when consumers seek transparency, greater accountability, and trusted information to help them make better, more informed decisions and choices, tens of thousands of service professionals are electing to participate in service assessment and feedback following every transaction, which is setting a better standard for excellence," said Kevin C. Romito, President, Quality Service Certification, Inc.