Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Here's a new winner for most unreadable MLS listing

Here are the public remarks for a new MLS listing.  The field allows up to 1,000 characters, but here's what this agent wrote:

wndos.Nu Hardwds Mn.Lev+Stairs.Title Kit.Ne.Granite Cntr.Plantation Shutters.Nu Gar Dr.Cust dream Garage stg.Nu Gar Dr.Spc Bdrm(16x12,14x22).6-Panel Drs.Epoxy Riv.Rk Patio.Beveled Patio Dr Close To New Light Rail.

These remarks not only appear on the MLS, but on multiple consumer websites.  Does this help consumers appreciate the home?  The agent also failed to upload an exterior photo of the home. I wonder whether the seller knows how the home is being marketed...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This Week's Featured New Listing: 5-Bedroom Arvada Ranch Home on 3/4 Acre Lot

[Published Oct. 25, 2012, in the Denver Post and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

 
This 1979 brick ranch at 7539 Secrest Place is located just north of the Westwoods Golf Course. Quaker Acres Park is just a short walk to the west. Equestrian, pedestrian and bicycle trails abound! The 3/4-acre lot gives an open feeling of being in the country and provides for an unobstructed view of the front range mountains. The home features hot water baseboard heat (3 zones), and an oversized 2-car garage with separate workshop. There is a laundry room on both floors, and one washer and dryer are included. The master bedroom features a walk-in closet with separate dressing room, plus a 5-piece master bathroom. Call Kristi Brunel, 303-525-2520 for a showing, or come to this Sunday’s open house, 1-4 pm.

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Do You Equate Real Estate Agents with Used Car Salesmen? Think Again!

[Published Oct. 25, 2012, in the Denver Post and in 4 Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

Every now and then I encounter someone with a very low regard of my profession.  That person may have good justification for their attitude toward my colleagues — and for applying their judgment against every member of that profession, including me.

Perhaps they were harmed in a real estate transaction one way or another, or believe they were treated unethically or rudely. Perhaps they felt the agent did not earn his or her commission.

You probably have your own list of grievances against real estate professionals, much as you might against other professionals.

But today I’d like to share why I think my profession — despite its occasional “bad apples” — is a lot better than some portray it.

First, however, I want to apologize to used car salesmen for this column’s headline.  In our culture  the used car salesman has (unfairly)  become a metaphor for dishonesty and misrepresentation.  I use the expression, however, only as a metaphor and not because I share that opinion of car salesmen.  I’ve bought enough cars, new and used, to know that it is not a valid generalization.

Having said that, however, let’s compare that profession to mine.

One similarity is that both of us are paid on success and not on effort. Even a successful agent like myself spends time and money day after day on sellers and buyers without getting paid for that time and expense. Just like selling cars — unless they’re on salary.

However, a car salesman always works for the dealership — it’s understood by you that he’s not on your side.  True, you can hire an auto broker, as I do (ask me for a recommendation)— but few car buyers do that. For the most part, we go to a dealership and work with a salesman whose goal is to sell you one of his dealership’s cars for as close to the list price as possible, for which he’s rewarded. 

In real estate, most buyers are represented by agents who have a fiduciary responsibility to negotiate in their buyer’s best interest. Even when the buyer is not our client, we are legally, not just ethically, required to treat the buyer fairly and with full disclosure of defects..

We can be disciplined and even lose our license for not putting our clients’ interests ahead of our own, or for not disclosing all material facts.  I’m not aware of a similar penalty in most other professions.

Cooperation with other agents is a hallmark of our profession. Imagine that you went to a dealership, and the salesman could sell you a car from any lot in town.  Because of the MLS, we can do the equivalent of that with homes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

If You’re Selling Your Home Because of an ‘Obamacare Tax’, You’ve Been Duped

[Published Oct. 18, 2012, in the Denver Post and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

There’s a viral email circulating which urges homeowners to sell their home before January 2013 because of a 3.8% sales tax on real estate hidden in the Affordable Care Act, (“Obamacare”), that goes into effect on January 1st.

I know I’m not the only real estate agent to be contacted by a homeowner about listing his/her home now to avoid that tax. I’d like to believe that none of my colleagues have accepted a listing under that false pretext.

The viral email states that the National Association of Realtors is aware of this tax and fighting to repeal it.  Yes, NAR is aware of the tax, but is not working to repeal it, because the tax doesn’t apply to the sale of most taxpayers’ homes.  NAR has created a web page explaining this tax — find a link to it at www.JimSmithColumns.com.

So that’s what the Obamacare tax is not.  What it is, simply, is a millionaire’s tax, and here’s why.

It is a tax on unearned income.  I used to have unearned income — rental income from an office building in Denver.  For five years I lived solely on that income, and I relished the fact that  I paid no Social Security or Medicare tax on my income, unlike on earned income (wages or business income). Other examples of unearned income would be capital gains and stock dividends.

What Obamacare did was apply a 3.8% Medicare tax to unearned income, but only on the amount in excess of $200,000.  Since a taxpayer’s primary residence held for at least 2 years is exempt from capital gains tax on any gain up to $250,000 (single) or $500,000 (married), and since the gain above those limits would have to exceed $200,000, it is unlikely that even an Aspen homeowner would pay this tax on selling their home. But that Aspen homeowner might, like Romney, have millions of dollars in unearned income that would now be subject to the Obamacare tax above that $200,000 threshold. Right now, their maximum tax on most unearned income is 15%.

Yet, the viral email warns you that if you sell your home for $100,000, you’ll pay a $3,800 tax because of Obamacare. It is such an outlandish lie, that it cannot go unchallenged, but so far I have only seen NAR challenge it — and well they should, since we Realtors are the ones being approached by scared homeowners who receive that viral email.

Don’t you think that if this “sales tax” on home sales were true that Romney and Ryan would be talking it up in debates and commercials? 

I just hope that no one sells their home when they don’t want to because of this lie.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

This Week's Featured New Listings - Both Under $200,000

This Lakewood townhome at 1954 S. Carr St. is in the heart of a 19-townhome subdivision just south of Jewell Avenue. Upstairs, both the master bedroom and the guest bedroom have private full bathrooms. The master bedroom also has a deck overlooking the quiet backyard. On the main floor is the living room with gas fireplace and formal dining room next to the kitchen and powder room. The oversized garage is more spacious than I'm used to seeing in a townhome — about 300 sq. ft.  Take a narrated video tour at www.LakewoodTownhome.com.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This bungalow at 550 Winona Court, in the Barnum neighborhood of west Denver, is bigger than it looks -- and it has a rare 2-car detached garage too! Its fully finished basement includes a third and fourth bedroom and second full bathroom, for a total of 1,668 sq. ft. of living area. In back is a covered patio.  Take a narrated video tour at www.WestDenverHome.com.
 

Real Estate Is Just One Area in Which Conflict Resolution Skills Are Useful

[Published Oct. 11, 2012, in the Denver Post and four Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

With several hundred real estate transactions under my belt, you can imagine that I’ve encountered my fair share of conflict. A major source of any agent’s business, for example, is divorce. When couples break up, the family home often needs to be sold, or one party will buy out the other’s interest.

It’s tempting after dealing with a contentious divorce to make the decision never again to list a home for a divorcing couple when they aren’t on speaking terms — especially when the one living in the house is angry and has nothing to gain and lots to lose from selling the home.

When a local mediator, Ronnie Rosenbaum, asked to have coffee with me to discuss what she does, I didn’t quite know what I’d get out of doing so, other than a cup of coffee, but we had a fascinating conversation.

Ronnie pointed out that October has been declared Conflict Resolution Month in Colorado, with the slogan, “Talk, Listen, Work it Out.”

Another difficult scenario, she told me, is when siblings can’t agree on equitable distribution or liquidation of assets, including real estate, inherited from a parent.

There can be issues between and among neighbors and their HOA.  Barking dogs, encroachments, eyesores, parked RV’s and boats — there are lots of reasons that neighbors might be in conflict with each other.

From bullying between children to conflicts within and between homes, to political disagreements, there are so many opportunities for someone with Ronnie’s skills to be helpful in reducing or resolving conflict. You can reach her at 303-278-3030 or online at www.RonnieRosenbaum.com.

 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Metro Area Buyers Still Active in All Price Ranges

Here's the end of September analysis of the percentage of homes under contract by price range. The lower price ranges are going under contract quickly, often with multiple offers, and notice the increase in buyer activity in the upper price ranges.  Million-dollar homes in Denver itself are showing more strength than elsewhere:

Here is the report by area and county, showing movement over 12 months, with peak buyer activity occurring in April and a noticeable increase over last fall. :
 
 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Round-Up on Oct. 5th

[Published on Oct. 4, 2012, in the Denver Post and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

Are you attending the First Friday Street Fair in downtown Golden tomorrow? If so, be sure to walk one block north, across Clear Creek, to the American Mountaineering Center, where there will be an Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Round-Up from 5-7 p.m. At this event, you won’t just see the same plug-in Priuses, Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts that you've seen before. You’ll also see some electric vehicles that aren’t yet in production, including a Chinese SUV that is totally electric and goes 185 miles on a single charge (see picture). You’ll also see one or more electric motorcycles and possibly an electric truck. Also expected: a Mitsubishi MiEV, a Ford Focus Electric, a Fisker Karma sports car, and a RideKick trailer that motorizes bicycles. It's fun!



 

Don’t Miss the All-Golden Tour of Solar & Sustainable Homes Oct. 6th

[Published Oct. 4, 2012, in the Denver Post and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

Every fall I look forward to the local tour of solar and energy efficient homes, but this year is different for me in two ways.  First, all of the homes have Golden addresses, instead of being spread across the metro area.  And, second, my own home is on the tour!

Six of the homes are within the city limits, and five others are outside the city but have Golden addresses — four on Lookout Mountain, and one in The Trails subdivision just north of Golden.

This is not just a tour of homes powered by the sun.  My home, for example, is solar powered, but it also provides an education in the degree to which a home can be weatherized and daylighted to save energy. You’ll learn about air source heat pumps and the proper insulation of crawl spaces.

My contribution to the organizing committee (Golden Earth Days) has been to shoot video tours of every home on the tour — and I really learned a lot in the process!

The website for this year’s tour is a Facebook page, which you can get to via www.GoldenSolarTour.org.  The video tours have their own channel at www.YouTube.com/GoldenSolarTour. 

You can register for the tour and receive the self-guided tour book between 9am and 4pm this Saturday, Oct. 6th, at the American Mountaineering Center at 10th Street and Washington Avenue in downtown Golden, but the homes on the tour are only open until 4pm. The book costs just $5 and is your admission to each home, which is described in detail, with directions to find it.  If you take the tour by bicycle, the book is free, so come on your bike!

On Friday evening, from 5 to 7, there is a reception with complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres at the AMC, plus an electric and hybrid vehicle round-up (see other post).

Both Friday evening and all day Saturday there is a Green Expo in the conference room of the American Mountaineering Center, where several solar and energy efficiency companies — and Golden Real Estate — will have booths and give out useful information. Our booth will be accepting polystyrene (aka “Styrofoam”) for recycling.

Every solar tour I’ve taken has taught me things I didn’t know about solar power, sustainability and energy efficiency, and this year’s tour is no exception.  Be prepared to learn something that you will want to implement in your own home. Get your questions answered about electric cars, weatherization, heat pumps, and so much more. I promise you’ll be glad you came!