Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Confidentiality Reduces Effectiveness & Utilization of Realtor Code of Ethics


[Published May 30, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

The National Association of Realtors (NAR), in its advertising, cites the Realtor Code of Ethics (which celebrates its 100th birthday this year) as the single most important reason for making sure your agent is a Realtor. (Note: Only NAR members can call themselves a Realtor, and only half of the nation’s real estate licensees are members of NAR.)

When I first became a Realtor, I was surprised to learn that all disciplinary actions under the Code of Ethics are confidential. It would be “unethical” (per the Code) for me to tell you whether I filed a complaint and whether the Realtor was determined to have committed and Ethics violation.  I couldn’t even tell you about any actions taken by other agents against me.  So what good is that?

If, however, I were found guilty of violating licensing law by the Colorado Real Estate Commission, (CRED) my offense and discipline would be published on their website.  So why not Code of Ethics violations?  Shouldn’t the public know about them too?

Last week, the California Association of Realtors (CAR) voted to change that rule for themselves and to lobby NAR to change its policy, which only allows publication of Code violations when the agent has been found guilty twice in three years.

Consumers can file ethics complaints against Realtors, but I’ve only heard of Realtors charging fellow Realtors. (If your complaint is against a non-Realtor, you must file with the CREC or Metrolist, Denver’s MLS.)  You can find out whether your agent is a Realtor at http://www.realtor.org/rofindrealtor.nsf/pages/FS_FREALTOR?OpenDocument=.  

Here's a link for the Realty Times story about the California Association of Realtors' action to end confidentiality of Ethics rulings.
 

Just Listed: Apple Meadows Bi-Level - 2 Miles North of Golden


This bi-level home is in a quiet subdivision a couple miles north of Golden proper. It has five bedrooms - two on the upper level and three on the lower level. The kitchen is updated with newer appliances. Flooring includes laminate, hardwood, vinyl and carpeting. There's a living room on the upper level and a family room downstairs. In back there's a full-width wood deck with playhouse overlooking a spacious grassy back yard with a vegetable garden at the rear. The single-car attached garage can be accessed through a service door into the backyard or through the overhead door up front.

Two Jeffco Horse Properties Just Listed by Golden Real Estate


[Published May 30, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

This home on 5 acres is not equipped for horses, but is a legal horse property. It’s 1/2 mile from Jeffco’s Centennial Cone Open Space Park (which has great riding trails), just 9 miles and 20 minutes from downtown Golden. The seller, an accomplished metal sculptor and builder, built this home for his own family and the craftsmanship is evident throughout. The home theater in the lower level will blow you away! There is a mother-in-law apartment down there too! If you like the quiet life of mountain living close to town, you should check out this listing!
 
This is a true horse property, complete with pasture, loafing shed, and domestic well. It is 1.86 acres of country surrounded by Lakewood!  With 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, it also has both a 2-car attached garage and a 4-car detached garage (or barn) with a full-size loft with all amenities except plumbing.  You can tour both listings at www.YouTube.com/jimsmith145.
 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mold — The Hidden Danger in Homes and What You Need to Know About It

[Published May 23, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

I’ve been reading and hearing about mold lately, and that’s a good thing, because it is a serious real estate issue which is not fully understood by most agents, but should be.

Those who have been impacted by toxic mold in the past have good reason to be paranoid about encountering it again. The effects of it can be extremely debilitating and can, I’m told, result in permanent damage to one’s immune response.

My recent professional encounters with mold as a real estate issue are instructive of its impact.

First, I had a listing which went under contract quickly after the seller completely prepped it for sale — new carpeting, new paint, new tile flooring, and even removal of “popcorn” ceiling (after testing it for asbestos content).  The model seller!

As soon as we were under contract I submitted the seller’s property disclosure to the buyer, who promptly terminated the contract without any inspection.  Why? He saw on the disclosure that a frozen hose bib ten years ago had resulted in minor flooding of the lower level, which necessitated replacement of carpeting and the bottom several inches of drywall. Testing for mold would not satisfy them, unless the current new carpet was ripped up and the drywall opened to look for mold. I suggested they call in a mold dog (dogs trained to sniff out mold behind walls and under carpets) and I would pay the cost ($200 or so) if mold was found.

The second episode occurred last week. Buyers loved a home I showed them, and, at my suggestion, looked for neighbors they could chat up about the house and the neighborhood. One neighbor told them the house was infested with mold and would probably have to be scraped. Having seen no outward signs of mold, I asked the listing agent, who told me that the previous owner had claimed mold as a reason for not paying his mortgage (it was foreclosed on), but sent me a mold report that showed no evidence of mold. 

So there is lots of fear on this subject, but it is, sadly, rooted in the very serious health effects of mold when it truly exists in a house.  Scott Lagge of Pinnacle Mortgage learned about mold the hard way and watch himself and his wife and children slowly decline in health getting no diagnosis or wrong diagnoses from medical professionals until his own research brought him to the realization that there was hidden mold in his home.
 
Click here to read Scott Lagge's story of his family's fight to diagnose, then deal with the effect of mold in his home.
 
Click here to read Scott's informational explanation about mold and how to survive it.
 

 
 

Ranch-Style Golden Home with City & Mountain Views


[Published May 23, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

 
189 Eagle Ridge Drive, Golden
$549,000
 
Golden’s premiere subdivision, the Village at Mountain Ridge, has 296 homes, but only 40 of them are ranch style, so when one of them comes on the market, it’s snapped up pretty quickly. Listed on Monday, this one overlooking Golden and the Table Mountains may be sold by this weekend, so if you’re interested, act quickly.  The same model on West Drive went under contract last Friday, the first day it was available for showings, and it didn’t have the views, finishes and walk-out basement of this one! Take a narrated YouTube video tour of this home at http://www.MountainRidgeHome.com then call me at 303-525-1851  to see it.
 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What to Do About ‘Coming Soon’ Listings Is Big Topic at Realtor Meetings


[Published May 16, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

When properties sell as quickly as they do nowadays, we find an increasing number of agents who keep their listings off the MLS in hopes of finding the buyer without having to share their commission with other agents.

At every Realtor or MLS meeting I attend, the topic of agents withholding their listings from the MLS is a recurring subject. 

Simple greed can be a factor, since withholding one’s listing from other agents increases the chance of selling one’s listing directly and not splitting the commission. I was told that this is not a clear-cut violation of the Realtor Code of Ethics, which frankly surprised me.  License law, on the other hand, does require agents to put clients’ interests ahead of their own, and one could argue that such is not the case when agents don’t expose listings to all buyers.

 

Two Big Garage Sales in Golden This Saturday


Community garage sales are great — many homes in the same subdivision selling their “stuff” simultaneously.  With enough participation, it can create great excitement and great neighbor interaction that may not be there every day.

Every year, I myself sponsor the community garage sale in Golden’s Village at Mountain Ridge, a 296-home subdivision within the city limits, backing to Mt. Galbraith Open Space Park. This Saturday, 8am to noon, is the big event.

This year, I’m adding a second garage sale in two nearby subdivisions — Stonebridge at Eagle Ridge and Lakota Hills.  Their garage sale is simultaneous. You can find maps of both subdivisions and the participating homes and what each of them is selling online at http://www.GoldenGarageSale.com.

After my garage sales, I pick up unsold items which sellers want to donate instead of keeping.

 

Big Price Reductions on Two Golden Listings


[Published May 16, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

 
   Carrie Lovingier’s listing at 16506 W. 14th Place, an attached home in south Golden, has just been reduced from $375,000 to $350,000.  That’s only $130 per square foot for a home with awesome finishes including slab granite counters and stainless appliances. Video tour at www.South GoldenHome.com.
 

    My own listing at 25298 Foothills Drive North in Genesee, has just been reduced by $30,000 to $519,000. Set in the woods and backing to open space, it has a mountain feeling just 9 miles from downtown Golden! Video tour at www.GeneseeHome.info.

 

New Listing: Country Charm in the Heart of Lakewood!

[Published May 16, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]
7670 W. 10th Ave., Lakewood
$379,900
     Located just 3 blocks from the Wadsworth Blvd. station of new "W" light rail line, this 4-bedroom, 2-bath updated country farm home is waiting for your clan. Fruit trees, grape vines and an "in process" vegetable garden adorn this slice of county living. You will love the updated dining room that will accommodate the largest of gatherings. The two llamas on the property (Carlos and YingYang) can be yours as well. Property has a registered well. The Jeffco Open School is across 10th Avenue. Listed by broker associate Jim Swanson, this home will be open Saturday, 1-4 p.m.  More info at www.JeffcoHorseProperties.com.
 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Momentum Builds to Ban Font Signatures on Real Estate Docs

[Published May 9, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

Readers of this column are well aware that I have serious objections to the use of typeface signatures on real estate contracts.  You can read my April 11th column at www.JimSmithColumns.com, in which I announced that the Colorado Real Estate Commission has, at my request, put this topic on their June agenda.  The Attorney General’s office is researching the issue at the CREC’s request.

Meanwhile, the Independent Brokers Group, at its April 25th meeting, unanimously passed my motion urging the banning of typeface signatures, and the Government Affairs Committee of the Denver Metro Association of Realtors (DMAR) has sent a recommendation to the Board of Directors (on which I sit) to pass a similar motion which I’ll then convey at the CREC meeting on June 18th.

At Golden Real Estate, we have a company policy of not accepting signatures created by selecting a font. Users of CTM eContracts can disable that capability on their own contracts by clicking on “Utilities”, then “eContract  Settings”, then unchecking “Enable CTM Font Web Signature.”

Unhappy With the County Assessor’s Valuation of Your Home? Here’s Help!

[Published May 9, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

With all the excitement about the resurgent real estate market, the valuations just sent to every property owner by the county assessors have not received the attention usually accorded them.

Also, since the valuations are based on what your home would have sold for last June 30th, many of the valuations should be somewhat lower than what your house could sell for today. The good news is that the next two years of property tax bills will be based on that lower valuation.

Nevertheless, many homeowners are probably feeling that their home has been valued too high, resulting in higher property taxes than they believe is fair.

These valuations come out May 1st of every odd numbered year, and you are given only until the end of May to file an objection. And, like two years ago, I am offering help in filing your objection.

Click here for a one-page guide to appealing your home's valuation, and click here for the Jeffco Assessor's explanation of his assessment process. 
 
I posted a similar guide two years ago and readers told me it was quite useful and helped in many cases to reduce their property tax bill for the following two years.

If, after following my instructions, you need additional help, feel free to contact me or your favorite real estate professional. The Jeffco Assessor’s office also provides personal assistance at 303-271-8666.

Monday, May 6, 2013

This Southwest Denver Bi-Level Shines in Every Way!

[Published May 9, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jeffco weekly newspapers]

 
4580 S. Everett Street, Denver 80123
$239,000
 
This home is located in the neighborhood east of Kipling Street and south of Quincy Avenue. You’d think it’s in Lakewood, but it’s actually in the City & County of Denver.  It has been carefully updated with all new carpeting, tiled floors and fresh paint inside and out. It's now move-in ready! It has only been on the market since Friday and already attracted two offers, so it may be under contract before this column in printed. Blog subscribers got to read this write-up on Monday evening.
 


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Over Half the Metro Area Homes Listed in April Are Under Contract or Sold

[Published April 18, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

We all know that days on market or “DOM” are declining — that is, homes are selling faster and faster.  For example, the DOM figure from Metrolist (Denver’s MLS) for March is 67 days, which is down 16% from February and down over 34% from March 2012.

As I’ve pointed out previously, however, these declining numbers are inflated by the high DOM statistics of homes which have been on the market for months or even years but are finally selling in this hot market.

Far more indicative of the current market are the DOM statistics for homes which are being listed currently. If you’re thinking of listing your home, it’s helpful to know how quickly it is likely to sell — and it’s much faster than 67 days!

This Tuesday, April 30th, I calculated the DOM statistics for all the homes listed since April 1st, and found that in the 7-county metro area, 52.1% of them are under contract, with a median DOM of 4 days, and 1.3% of them are already closed with a median DOM of 1 day. 

So, how are the homes that were listed during March doing?  Nearly three-quarters of them are under contract or sold already. I calculated that 50.2% are under contract with a median DOM of 13 days, and 23.8% of them are sold, with a median DOM of 4 days.

Only 44.3% of the 6,805 metro area homes listed in April are still available; and only 23.8% of the 6,227 homes listed in March are still available.  As I’ve stressed before, there is no shortage of homes being listed — it’s just that so many of them are selling quickly, reducing the active inventory.  The number of 7-county metro area homes added to Metrolist in April was up nearly 10% from those added in March, but the active inventory at the end of April is down 10% from the active inventory at the end of March because of the accelerating rate at which the new listings are selling.

By the way, I checked the figures for Jefferson County and Denver and found that the statistics were almost identical to the metro-wide statistics. In the past, such statistics have varied widely from one part of the metro area to another.

Buyers are literally wandering the streets looking for “For Sale” signs. On Saturday, I put a sign in the ground in Golden, planning to put the home on the MLS as soon as the seller finished painting the interior. The next morning a buyer saw the sign and within 2 hours it was under contract, disappointing a second passerby I met as I was leaving the house.

Genesee: Close to Golden, But a World Away!


[Published May 2, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]


This Week's Featured Listing:

 
25298 Foothills Drive N., Genesee
Do you like the idea of a mountain home that's just 9 miles and 15 minutes from Golden proper? This home is just three miles south of the Lookout Mountain exit of I-70, but because it is over a ridge and away from I-70's noise, you might as well be deep in the mountains! Buyers are rediscovering this retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life, as evidenced by the fact that during April five homes were listed on Foothills Drive and four of them went under contract in an average of 9 days. This home is easy to show, but is tenant occupied and requires prior day notice. The lease expires July 31st. The home backs to open space, and is in excellent condition.