Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year! What’s Your Vision for Jefferson County in 2030?

[Published Jan. 1, 2015, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

2030 sounds like a long way off, but it’s only 15 years from today!  Hard to believe, isn’t it?  But that’s another column!

Any 15-year forecast would surely have to focus on population, energy and water. And even if our population does not increase as much as projected, we will certainly have to deal with energy and water.

By 2030, our state population, currently over 5 million, is projected to be just over 7 million, but the fastest growth will be in Elbert County and along the I-70 corridor in the mountains. Jefferson County is projected to have the slowest growth (<1 all="" along="" annually="" be="" border.="" corridor="" counties="" front="" growth="" however.="" in="" kansas="" nbsp="" o:p="" of="" range="" slowest="" the="" urban="" will="">

Although Jefferson County itself will be growing at less than half the rate of the state as a whole, we will still be affected by the state’s overall growth. My 15-year forecast for Jeffco is driven by the need for the state as a whole to deal with higher growth.

What growth Jefferson County experiences in the next 15 years will be concentrated in the northern areas of the county, where we have the most buildable open land.

It’s hard to ignore the great increase in natural gas production, thanks to fracking, but we can hope this will not become extensive within Jeffco.  A countervailing trend is the pronounced increase in solar photovoltaic (PV) installations on open land. Many of these are “solar community gardens” which I wrote about two weeks ago.  While the growth of roof-top solar is limited to homes with suitable roofs, there is no limit to the use of PV from solar gardens. Even renters and condo owners can now take advantage of solar photovoltaic, and the cost of solar vs. utility electricity makes it a no-brainer.

In transportation, the manufacture and sale of electric vehicles — both cars and trucks — will have largely replaced that of gas or diesel powered vehicles by 2030. Battery costs will plummet thanks to Tesla’s battery factory being built near Reno, and electric motors have only one moving part vs. thousands of parts in internal combustion engines, virtually eliminating the high maintenance cost of cars propelled by combustion engines. Combined with increased solar PV, we can look forward to a quieter and cleaner future.

With the increase in population, we have no choice but to reduce water consumption. I expect to see more use of low- or no-water landscaping -- xeriscaping, zeroscaping, buffalo grass and Bella bluegrass, which I installed at my house.


2014: Jefferson County Real Estate Year in Review

These charts created from MLS data dramatize the changes in the Jefferson County real estate market.  (The Denver Metro statistics look much the same, but I specialize in Jefferson County.)  Clearly the "seller's market" which took shape in the spring of 2013 is still very much in effect.  REcolorado.com makes it easy for brokers like myself to create charts like this for any geographic area, not just by county.  If you'd like a report for your city or subdivision, just ask me! My email address is Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com


Invite Me to Speak to Your Group

I can speak to your service club, church or other organization about one of two topics. The first topic, of course, is any aspect of real estate. A second speech I have been giving is “The Gasoline Powered Automobile Is Obsolete and Here’s Why.”  When I give the latter talk, I offer free rides afterwards in my Tesla and Volt. Contact me at 303-525-1851 or Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com to discuss a possible speaking engagement.  I do not charge for either presentation. 


Sellers, Too, Can Pay Too Much in Fees When Selling a Home

[Published Jan. 1, 2015, in abbreviated form in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section]

In last week’s column, I wrote about buyers paying too much in fees when they buy a home.  Sellers can also pay more than they should in a transaction.

Listing commissions are negotiable, and agents can’t even discuss among themselves what they charge, much less “fix” commissions.  To do so would be a violation of the same federal anti-trust laws that apply to other industries.  A brokerage firm can dictate how much of their agents' listing commissions must be offered as a "co-op" to buyers' agents, but each agent sets his or her own listing commission. Since the typical co-op offered to buyers' agents is 2.8%, a 5.6% commission, for example, would net the listing agent 2.8% for himself after paying 2.8% to the buyer's agent.  A 6% commission would net the listing agent 3.2%, and so forth.

Your listing agent may not offer to reduce his commission if he does not have to pay a co-op commission, and he/she may hope that you don't ask him to... but he will reduce his commission if you ask him, and I believe that a 1% reduction is appropriate.  This way, the listing agent is still incentivized to sell your home himself and makes significantly more commission -- say 4.6% instead of 2.8% in the above example -- but you deserve to share in his windfall by paying less commission. 

In last week's column I mentioned that agents from many of the larger brokerages pass on the "broker administrative commission" which is assessed by their brokerages on each transaction.  These fees are typically in the $300-500 range, and agents from those brokerages routinely insert those extra fees in their listing agreements, but if you see such a fee, just know that this fee is a brokerage requirement of the agent, not of you, and if you refuse to include it in the listing agreement, the agent will happily absorb it from his commission rather than lose you as a client. 

Title insurance policies are regulated and pretty competitive, but the fees for escrow and other services vary widely, as does the discount given if you bought or refinanced your home in the last 3, 4, or even 6 years.  This is called the "re-issue" rate, and you need to inquire about it by name. If the title company recommended by your listing agent doesn't offer a re-issue rate that another title company might grant you, then ask to switch title companies.  If your agent doesn't know of such a title company, ask me!  

Sometimes buyers will ask the seller to pay the buyer’s closing costs in lieu of a lower purchase price. For example, $4,000 in closing costs with a purchase price of $200,000, rather than a purchase price of $196,000.  As a seller, you should demand of your listing agent that you pay commissions on the net sale price when there are concessions involved. MLS rules once required that commissions be paid on the total purchase price, as recorded with the County Clerk, but that rule was removed, partly because home builders have routinely violated it by paying commissions on the "base price" instead of the total transaction price. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Coming Soon: Half-Duplex Backing to Open Space East of Castle Rock

[Published Dec. 25, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section]


5988 Turnstone Place, Castle Rock
$239,000


Castlewood Ranch is a newer subdivision of single-family homes in a rural setting east of Castle Rock. This is one of the few paired homes here, making it an affordable option with fewer homeowner responsibilities. (The HOA is responsible for the exterior maintenance and roof, for example.) While there are several detached homes on the market in Castlewood Ranch, this is the only attached home for sale. The last one that was listed (at a higher price) went under contract in two days. — and it didn’t back to the greenbelt, as this one does. There is plenty of room to roam in Castlewood Ranch, with 159 acres of open space and miles of trails within the subdivision itself. The neighborhood is also close to Castlewood Canyon State Park, with its limitless opportunities for hiking, biking, rock climbing, bird watching, and picnicking. Take a narrated video tour of this home at www.CastlewoodRanchHome.info, then call me for a showing!  
Open Saturday, Jan. 3rd, 1-3 pm.


Buyers Often Pay More Than They Should When Buying a Home

[Published Dec. 25, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers. Sentences in italics were not in either version.]

It’s easy to predict closing costs for sellers — basically, commissions + title insurance + closing fee + HOA fees, if any — but the closing costs for buyers, unless they are paying all cash, are far less predictable. The costs paid by buyers who finance their purchase with a mortgage can definitely add up.

There is little consistency among lenders as to the loan origination, document preparation and numerous other charges which are paid by buyers.  Most but not all of those charges are spelled out in what’s called the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and cannot be substantially changed prior to closing.  This allows buyer to do some comparison shopping among lenders, although not many take advantage of that opportunity, trusting in a lender they’ve used before or in the lender recommended by their agent.

If you do utilize the lender recommended by your agent, note whether it is an affiliated or in-house lender.  You’ll know, because the Real Estate Commission requires your agent to present an Affiliated Business Arrangements disclosure listing all lenders, title companies and even inspection companies that are partially or fully owned by your agent’s brokerage.  

Virtually all the big brokerages have such affiliated companies and those affiliations can earn large brokerages large profits.  Agents in these brokerages are encouraged to recommend these affiliated companies to their clients and can find themselves being rewarded indirectly for doing so.  [Golden Real Estate has no affiliated business arrangements.]

Affiliated business relationships can pose a conflict of interest, however, which has not gone unnoticed by the Colorado Real Estate Commission, but so far all the commission has chosen to do is require disclosure of these relationships. The director of the Division of Real Estate has told me she is concerned about the potential conflicts and is considering recommending other measures to protect the public.

Meanwhile, if your agent does recommend an affiliated lender, simply ask the agent to provide the name of a second trusted but unaffiliated lender from whom you might get a competitive quote. That will take the form of a second Good Faith Estimate, but do also request a list of fees that may not be on the GFE. 

Regarding title insurance, the seller typically pays for the “owner’s” policy which insures that the buyer gets clear title to the property, and those premiums are pretty competitive, but the cost of the lender’s “piggy-back” policy, which you will pay, and of the closing fees associated with that policy can vary greatly, so be sure to ask about those fees and see if another title company offers lower fees.  

[Attention, sellers: The "reissue" rate on the owner's policy varies greatly among title companies.  If you bought or refinanced your house in the last six years you may be eligible for up to a 50% discount on the title insurance policy, depending on which title company you use.  This can represent a $1,000 savings or more, depending on the sale price of your home!  Shop around!]

The fee for closing services on the real estate transaction itself — as opposed to the closing of your loan — are usually split 50/50 between buyer and seller and can be as low as $100 and as high as $750.  A good website for comparison shopping title companies is www.mytitleins.com.

Even when the MLS specifies a title company for the closing, the contract your agent prepares for you can specify a different title company without shifting the cost of the owner’s title insurance policy from the seller to the buyer. Ask your buyer’s agent about this possibility. I have done this many times when representing a buyer.

Another area where buyers can pay more than they should is when the buyer’s agent inserts a “broker administrative commission” in their buyer agency agreement.  The larger brokerages in particular impose transaction fees of $200 to $400 on their agents, and the agents will matter-of-factly insert that amount in their buyer agency agreement for you to pay as "commission" at closing.  However, you can demand that your agent absorb that fee himself, and I can assure you that your agent will remove it rather than lose you as a buyer.  Typically, the word "commission" should appear nowhere on a buyer's settlement statement.  Sellers pay for both agents' commissions.

I feel bad for buyers when I see those and other unwarranted fees on settlement statements, but of course I can’t say anything about it at closing, and it’s too late then anyway.

If you have other questions about how you can save money on closing or other costs as a buyer, feel free to contact me.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Did You Know? You Don’t Need a Suitable Roof to Benefit From Solar Power

[Published Dec. 18, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

When Rita and I bought our current home, one of our considerations was that we have a suitable roof for installing a solar photovoltaic system so that we could reduce our monthly electric bill to what the utility charges to be connected to their electric grid — about $8 per month.

Thanks, however, to the “Community Solar Gardens Act” signed into law on June 5, 2010, we could have bought (or rented) any home at all and still installed that 10-kW system — as part of a much larger array in a field far from our house.

Now, 4½ years after that law was signed by Governor Ritter, hundreds or maybe thousands of homeowners, renters, and organizations across the state have done exactly that, and are now enjoying the same freedom from large electric bills that Rita and I enjoy.

Do a web search for “community solar gardens” and you’ll see that there are many entities, both for-profit and non-profit, in the solar garden business.  Clean Energy Collective is one I’m most familiar with, since they built a 2,422-panel array on open land just north of Golden. Learn how you can participate in their program at www.EasyCleanEnergy.com.

Their website explains the concept well: “Community solar arrays, sometimes referred to as a solar farm or solar garden, are centralized photovoltaic (PV) power facilities that deliver reliable, commercial-scale renewable energy to an electric utility's grid. The utility's customers, including residences, businesses, and tax-exempt entities, can own or lease solar panels in the array without having to install panels on their own rooftop or property.”

In effect, anyone with an electric bill can own or lease solar panels and have the panels’ production directly reduce their electric bill. Also, as a participant in a solar garden, you can easily add additional solar panels at any time. For example, when it comes time to replace your gas hot water heater or forced air furnace, you could choose electrically powered units and buy or lease additional panels to cover that added electrical load.

I know a home in Applewood, coming on the market soon, which terminated its gas service and became an all-electric house — powered by the sun. For cooking, they use induction cooktops which not only use less electricity than standard electric cooktops but are child-safe, heating only when non-aluminum metal pots are placed on each “burner.”

When your gasoline-powered automobile needs its next major repair, you could also purchase an electric car and buy or lease additional solar panels to cover that electrical load.

Even renters can buy into solar community arrays.  When they move, their solar garden investment moves with them, or they can sell it to another electric customer, or even donate it to a non-profit organization.

The more I think about the advantages a solar garden, the more I think that it is a good choice even for those with a “suitable roof.”  I’m thinking… no delay for building permits and installation, no HOA approval needed, no inverter to replace if it fails years from now, and easy expansion as my electrical needs increase. If I move, I wouldn’t have to install a new system.


Looking at the Big Picture: What’s the Future of Solar PV?



[Published Dec. 18, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section as a sidebar to "You Don't Need a Suitable Roof to Benefit from Solar Power"]

Solar-powered electricity has become so affordable now that utilities are (1) beginning to build utility scale installations, especially in desert areas of the country, (2) asking their regulators to eliminate or reduce their once generous incentive programs, and (3) proposing to make customers with solar PV pay for their use of the electrical grid.

Grid-connected PV systems save customers the cost of battery storage. During the day, when solar panels create more kilowatts of power than is needed, that power is pushed into the grid where it is used by other customers. The electric meter actually runs backward. After dark, the flow is reversed.

I like to say that “the grid is my battery.” If I didn’t have a net meter I’d have to invest in large batteries to store that power. Maybe I should pay for the grid.


Electric Driving Powered by the Sun

[Published Dec. 18, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section as a sidebar to "You Don't Need a Suitable Roof to Benefit from Solar Power"]

In the article above I point out that you can power an electric car with the energy created by your home’s solar panels, whether those panels are on your roof or in a “solar garden” several miles away.  So, you may wonder, how many free EV miles can I get from a single solar panel? The answer is about 1,500 miles per year. Thus, if you drive your Chevy Volt (shown here) or your Tesla 15,000 miles per year, you could obtain all the power you need from 10 solar panels. Electric cars of all sizes get 3 to 4 miles per kilowatt-hour.

This Week's Featured New Listing: Meadowlake West Townhouse

[Published Dec. 18, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]


6313 Zang Ct. #B, Arvada
$200,000


    This townhome is a short walk from Meadowlake Park, where there is a 1/2-mile walking path around the lake, plus a playground and tennis courts. This home is beautifully updated, too. The original wood-burning fireplace has been fitted with an electric fireplace insert which can project heat or simply look like a burning fireplace. The main floor has hardwood flooring throughout, which leads to an updated kitchen with slab granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Off the kitchen through a sliding glass door, is a spacious west-facing patio with a remote controlled retractable awning which makes the patio enjoyable year-round. All appliances are included, even the washer and dryer. The wall-mounted flat-screen TVs are not included but are negotiable. In the basement is a spacious workshop, and both work bench and shelving are included. The gas furnace is five years old, but the hot water heater and A/C are only two years old. The windows and doors are also new. In short, this home is in prime condition, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything to improve after you move in.  At just $200,000, this 3-bedroom, 2½-bath, home is a great buy! Take the narrated video tour at www.MeadowlakeHome.info, then come to this Saturday’s open house, 1-4 pm.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Buying That First Home May Not Be As Impossible As You Might Believe

[Published Dec. 11, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

This week’s column is inspired by a blog post I read last week.  It asserted that the group of young adults known as millennials will become the largest home buying age group (42%) by the end of 2015.

That comes as a surprise, given how that group is known for preferring renting over buying. They don’t even want to buy cars, becoming the largest source of customers for Car2Go and similar car share services.

For myself, I can’t remember anyone under 35 walking into our Golden office who wasn’t looking for a rental.

If millennials do in fact start buying homes, they’ll need to deal with several misconceptions that they share with other first-time home buyers. 

Myth #1: Lending requirements are too tight.  In fact, lending guidelines have loosened significantly in the past few years since the over-reaction caused by the housing crash of 2008-2010. You owe it to yourself to speak with a reputable loan officer to find out how much of a loan you qualify for. Do not go online to find a lender. Ask a Realtor like one of us at Golden Real Estate to recommend a loan officer we know and trust. We don’t have any captive or “affiliated” lenders.  If we recommend a loan officer, it’s not because our company makes money on the loan, it’s because he or she has served our past clients well.

Myth #2: You need to have a 20% down payment.  Even in the depths of the recent recession, this was never true.  The FHA loan still requires only a 3.5% down payment, and there are conventional loans available requiring 5% or less down without the burden of FHA’s mortgage insurance. If you get your loan through the Colorado Housing Finance Authority, you can buy a home with as little as $1,000 out of pocket!  If you’re an honorably discharged veteran, you may qualify for a VA loan which, as always, offers 100% financing.  

And don’t forget the Mortgage Credit Certificate program, which grants first-time home buyers the ability to declare 20% of the loan interest as a tax credit instead of a tax deduction for the life of the mortgage loan. Think of it as a rebate of 20% of your mortgage interest every year. This unbelievably generous program has been in effect throughout the recession and continues in effect today.  Not every lender or loan officer is authorized to enroll you in this program, so be sure to ask about it.  In addition to first-time home buyers, this program is available to anyone who buys in a designated distressed area, as well as to veterans.  We know loan officers certified for this program, so you could ask us.

Myth #3: You can get a better deal by buying without a buyer’s agent.  This belief comes from a real misunderstanding of the home buying process. As a buyer, you need an agent on your side, not just to negotiate the original purchase contract, but to shepherd you through the closing process.  You need an agent to coach you on valuation, on inspection issues (including selection of a trusted inspector), and countless other matters that will arise before a closing can happen. The listing agent, at best, can only treat you fairly. He will not be on your side in a transaction. You need a an experienced buyer’s agent.


Coming Soon: Fabulous Net Zero Home in Lafayette

[Published Dec. 11, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]


2339 High Lonesome Trail, Lafayette
$567,500

If You’re Into Organic Gardening, This Solar-Powered Home Is for You
This home is a rare "net zero" home in terms of electricity. The roof-mounted photovoltaic system generates enough electricity to satisfy this home's electrical needs, which include hot water. Only heating and cooking are done by natural gas. In the backyard are several organic gardening beds (below) plus composting boxes serving all planting needs. 
Upstairs is a spacious master suite overlooking the backyard and the greenbelt behind it, plus two guest bedrooms facing the front yard. In the basement is a guest suite with its own kitchenette, currently rented out to a roomer, plus a home theater with a high-end surround-sound system.  Don’t look for this home on the MLS — the sellers don’t want to list it until after the holidays.  But you can take a narrated video tour of it on its special website shown above.


Realtor.com Ranks Denver #3 In Top 2015 Growth Markets

[Published Dec. 11, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section]

In its latest housing report, realtor.com named 10 markets “ready for significant acceleration across housing metrics,” and Denver was third on that list, including our west metro area as well as Aurora and Broomfield.

Among the 10 markets named, Denver had the highest expected growth in home sales — 14%. Next highest were Atlanta (#1 on the list) and Phoenix (#8), both with 11% growth, and Washington DC (#10) with 10% growth in home sales.

The other cities on the list were Dallas-Ft. Worth (#2), Des Moines (#4), Houston (#5), Los Angeles (#6), Minneapolis (#7), and San Jose (#9).

The report stated that Denver’s high growth in home sales will be in spite of the low inventory we have been witnessing. For more information on this or any real estate topic, call me at 303-525-1851.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Negotiating Multiple Offers Can -- and Probably Should -- Resemble an Auction

[Published Dec. 4, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers. The last paragraph appears only in this posting.]


There’s an unwritten and largely unspoken protocol when it comes to revealing the specifics of competing offers when more than one offer is received on a listing.  I’m not sure why this is, but maybe some of my colleagues who are regular readers of this column can help me understand why they believe a listing agent should or should not reveal the specifics of offers received.

When functioning as an “agent” instead of as a “transaction broker,” it is clear to me that it’s in my clients’ best interest to maximize the price they get for their home.  In that effort, it seems only right that I should do what I can to play buyers against each other — with my client’s knowledge and approval.

This subject is on my mind right now because in the past few weeks I have been successful in engineering higher sale prices for two of my listings by working effectively with agents who submitted competing offers.

One of the keys to successfully working with competing offers is to tell the truth about them. The question in listing agents’ minds is how much of that truth to reveal. Sometimes I will say exactly what the existing offers are when a third or fourth agent asks me “what it will take” to win the bidding.  Let’s look at a typical scenario and how I chose to play it.

Agent #1 submits a below-full-price offer with $2,500 in concessions. A second agent calls and asks (as every buyer’s agent should) whether I have any offers.  I say, “Yes, but it’s below full price.” The agent asks if a particular purchase price would exceed that purchase price, and I say “yes.”  The agent submits an offer $2,000 below that amount but with an escalation clause stating that they will beat any competing offer by $1,000 up to full price.  I inform the first agent that their offer has been exceeded and that it includes the escalation clause up to full price.  That agent consults her client and informs me that they don’t want to go that high.

A third agent calls and asks the question about existing offers and I give the same information. That agent then submits an offer slightly above full price, all cash, waiving appraisal, and closing in two weeks. I recommend to my seller that he accept that offer and we go under contract. I didn’t ask the 2nd agent if they would like to beat that offer, because their buyer was borrowing 95% (albeit with a strong lender letter) and requiring 45 days to close.

Many agents are more coy about revealing details of existing offers and simply ask each agent for “highest and best” offers. What would you do, and what do you think is “right”?

Once you’re under contract, there’s still more that an experienced agent can do as other would-be buyers show up, disappointed that they didn’t get an offer in on time.  I suggest they submit a back-up offer because, with an attractive back-up contract in place, the seller is put in a stronger negotiating position regarding inspection demands.  If for any reason the buyer chooses to terminate over inspection issues, a seller doesn’t have to put his home back on the market if there is a signed back-up contract. Since only buyers can terminate a contract, the only way a seller can get out of a contract is to inspire a buyer to terminate. A seller can do that by refusing to meet any inspection demands.  

This creates a no-lose situation for my seller, because either he gets the original buyer to drop all inspection demands or he gets a better contract with a buyer who agrees in advance that they will accept the house "as is."  To make that happen, I provide both the inspection report (if it was provided by the first buyer) and the inspection objection notice to the back-up buyer so they know what they would be accepting if they get the home under contract. 


Just Listed: 5-Bedroom Lakeridge Tri-Level in California Contemporary Style

[Published Dec. 4, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]


2645 S. Zurich Court, Denver
$425,000
Video Tour at www.LakeridgeHome.info

Lakeridge is a quiet 1960’s subdivision created around a private lake north of Yale Ave. and east of Sheridan Blvd. For a voluntary $250 per year, homeowners gain access not only to the lake but to tennis courts, basketball court, playground, walking paths and a pavilion which can be reserved for private get-togethers.  The house itself is beautifully updated with hot water heat, central A/C, granite, hardwoods and a vaulted pine ceiling in the family room. The backyard features a heated aviary which could be repurposed as a playhouse if you don’t have birds. There’s also a large greenhouse frame. The basement has a home theater with Bose sound system, which is included, along with the screen, DVD player and projector. Open Saturday 1-4 pm. 

How Much Does Landscaping Help to Sell a Home?

[Published Dec. 4, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section]

We all know about curb appeal, and it is very real, even in a seller’s market.  Water features, such as the one at right are particularly nice, especially when the sound of running water can mask other environmental sounds such as a nearby highway.


A healthy-looking lawn can make a big difference, too.  I have recommended hiring Lawn Doctor a few weeks before putting a home on the market, because it’s impressive how quickly a lawn can look better after it has been treated correctly.

A yard can be “staged” too, much as the interior of a house can be staged to be more inviting.  A bench or swing is a way to “vignette” a yard, suggesting to the visitor the idea of sitting and listening to that water feature or enjoying that mountain view.

I recently replaced my Kentucky bluegrass lawn with Bella bluegrass, a new breed of grass available through On the Green, LLC (Chris Huxtable, 720-217-2587) which uses 75% less water and grows only to 3 or 4 inches tall, eliminating the need for weekly lawn mowing. I suspect it will need less attention from Lawn Doctor, too!  Think of it as buffalo grass but prettier.  I'm sure it would help my home sell quicker, were I to put it on the market. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Climate Colorado Summit Gave Birth to Many Sustainable Initiatives, Including Mine

[Published Nov. 27, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]


I was honored to be one of the presenters at the Climate Colorado Summit held Nov. 15 & 16 at the Wolf Law Building on CU’s Boulder campus.  My own presentation had to do with hastening the adoption of
electric vehicles as a way of reducing transportation’s contribution of CO2 pollution.  I have posted a PDF of my PowerPoint presentation at www.JimSmithColumns.com in case you would care to view it. 

    
Other presenters, including my friend Steve Stevens, developed projects during the summit aimed at reducing sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the other sectors shown on this pie chart.
  
Steve’s presentation was on how he has slowly transformed his 1970s Golden home from an annual emission in 2002 of 12 tons of CO2 to a “Beyond Net Zero” emission of negative 7 tons by 2012. This was achieved both through adding active and passive solar systems and implementing strong energy efficiency measures, including “super-insulation.”  Steve calls this the “catch it and keep it” program for the use of energy from the sun.  A PDF of Steve's PowerPoint presentation is also posted at www.JimSmithColumns.com.

  
Each of the other presenters had the opportunity to share with attendees a “challenge” for a project that would advance their work. A method of “Rapid Prototyping” (developed by Google) was taught, and we worked in groups to develop programs to meet the presented “challenges.”
    
My challenge was how to convince business owners to install electric vehicle charging stations as an employee benefit.  The half dozen attendees who joined my team developed a PowerPoint presentation to share with employers. You can view a PDF of that PowerPoint presentation, too, at www.JimSmithColumns.com.
    
Steve’s challenge to the attendees was to spread the transformation of the existing housing stock to and beyond “Net Zero.” His team came up with a publicity campaign which included a corporate sponsored homeowner “sweepstakes.” Entry in the sweepstakes is made with “earned tickets” which are awarded based on the homeowners’ effectiveness in dropping their energy usage from a baseline measurement, with additional tickets for greater percentage drops. 
  
Other teams addressed other challenges tied to their presentations. One, for example, focused on getting racially underrepresented  communities more engaged in the climate movement, with an immediate focus on promoting a Latino Eco Festival.  Another focused on creating an “energy literacy” curriculum for schools. Yet another developed a plan for creating “energy savings advisers” to work with and educate homeowners in Lafayette on reducing their carbon footprint while saving money on energy.
  
You can read more about the summit’s accomplishments and future Climate Colorado programs at www.ClimateColorado.org. My thanks to Bob Castellino for creating Climate Colorado and the summit and for inviting me to participate in it.