Wednesday, July 30, 2014

“All My Agent Did Was Put a Sign in the Ground and Wait for It to Sell.”

[Published July31, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

Regrettably, this is a common complaint — perhaps one that you yourself have made.  And if that’s all your listing agent does for you, then why should you pay him or her a big commission?
I agree completely.  I promise that you will not hear this complaint about me or any of the nine broker associates at Golden Real Estate.  Any agent who joins our company has to agree to our full service policy.  We make that easier by providing several value-added services for their listings at no cost to the agent.  (If your agent is not giving you full service, it may be because they can’t afford that value-added service.)
For example, we don’t simply require the maximum number of photographs of each agent’s listing, we have a full-time assistant trained in HDR photography who takes the photographs for them (unless they want to master that process for themselves, in which case they can use our equipment instead of having to buy it themselves).
We don’t simply require agents to create live-action narrated video tours of each listing, we shoot the video tours for them (or, again, lend them the equipment) and then post those videos on YouTube, the MLS, Trulia, Zillow and all consumer and broker websites through IDX syndication.
We cover the cost of the following services, too, and make sure agents take advantage of them:
¨ Enhancement of all listings on realtor.com, Trulia, and Zillow.
¨ Free use of our moving truck and free moving boxes & materials for their clients.  (They can also offer free use of this truck to help win competitive bidding situations.)
¨ Free staging consultations by our in-house staging expert
¨ We purchase the URL’s for each listing and pay for the sign riders to promote those web addresses.
¨ To facilitate successful open houses, we provide free helium balloons and open house signs.
¨ All listings by our agents are promoted in my weekly real estate column/ad.
¨ Our high-end wooden “yard-arm” signs with solar lighting are installed free by our assistant.
Agents who tell you that such marketing is not necessary anymore are simply justifying limited service.  You can’t do too much marketing, especially when the opportunity exists to get multiple competing offers.  Consider this when choosing the listing agent for your home.
 
 

 

Three New Listings From Golden Real Estate

[Published July 31, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

The first home at 6656 S. Quail Court in Littleton’s Eagle Point subdivision was built in 2006.  Its original owners now offer it for sale. The home has many features, not the least of which is its location backing to open space.  It has a 3-car garage, hardwood floors, a master suite overlooking that open space, and a finished walk-out basement. Above all, it is a patio home, meaning that the HOA maintains all the grounds around the house (there is no fenced yard) and even shovels snow up to the home’s front door in the winter.  It’s a true “lock-and-leave” home!  Open this Saturday, 1-4 pm.

The next home, at 14534 W. 3rd Avenue, is just two blocks from Kyffin Elementary School, one of the most desirable schools in the Jefferson County school district. The community swimming pool is just two blocks in the other direction.  Features of this home include its four upstairs bedrooms, a high-end stair elevator, covered front porch and covered back deck, and a beautifully landscaped backyard. The street itself is very quiet, extending only one block from Flora Way to Holman Way.  The recently replaced driveway features a smooth entry — no “mountable curb”!  Voluntary HOA dues are only $35/year.

If you like to golf, you’ll enjoy the patio home at 2292 Augusta Drive, backing to the 2nd tee of Evergreen’s Hiwan Golf Course.  It has a main-floor master suite and a guest suite with large loft on the second floor. The walk-out basement is fully finished but completely open, used by the current owner as a combination exercise room, office and rec room. You can watch the golfers from the 26’ wide wood deck outside the living room or from the equally large concrete patio outside the basement rec room. Enjoy mountain living but within easy commuting distance of Denver. Open Saturday, 1-4 pm.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Purchase Contract With ‘As Is’ Clause Sounds Great, But It’s a Hollow Promise

[Published July 24, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]
As buyers compete for listings, it is common to see contracts which promise that the buyer will take the house “as is” and not submit any inspection demands.

The Inspection Objection Deadline remains in the contract, but buyers assert that it would only be used to terminate the contract and not to demand any repairs.

I have been on both sides of this promise, both as listing agent and buyer’s agent.  Whether writing this additional provision for a buyer or explaining it to a seller, I point out that it’s nice sounding but rather meaningless.

While the clause does suggest that the buyer will not submit a laundry list of both petty and major problems for the seller to fix, it does not guarantee that no major problems will need to be addressed by the Seller.

Here’s what really happens.  A week into the contract period the buyer does the inspection and finds some “deal killers.”  Sure, he or she could simply terminate the contract, but why do it?  The seller is already invested in the transaction and may have gone under contract on his or her replacement home.  If the buyer says, “I’m going to terminate… unless you replace the furnace which is emitting carbon monoxide gas at dangerous levels,” the seller would likely agree to make the repair. 

After all, remember that under real estate law both the seller and the listing agent are obligated to disclose all material defects to prospective buyers.  If the seller refuses to replace the furnace, he and his listing agent will have to disclose the defective furnace to all prospective future buyers of the property.  He might as well replace it for this buyer as for the next one.

With or without an “as is” provision, the buyer’s agent is always wise to submit the full inspection report with his or her inspection objection notice, thereby putting the seller and his agent on notice as to multiple defects that may not have appeared on the Seller’s Property Disclosure.  If this contract falls because the seller won’t agree to make a reasonable number of repairs to issues raised in that report, he will be obligated to disclose all those newly reported defects to future buyers or else be in violation of real estate laws pertaining to full disclosure.

Buyers Can Now Get Email Alerts About New Listings Within 15 Minutes of Them Being Entered on the MLS

[Published July 24, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

One of the coolest features of the Metrolist’s new MLS computer platform, Matrix, is that it offers immediate notification to both brokers and their buyers of any new listings matching their search criteria.

Given today’s seller’s market, where homes are selling immediately with multiple offers, buyers can’t afford to wait for alerts from any other source, including Trulia and Zillow.

The new platform also has a map-drawing feature when searching for listings that allows buyers to be very specific about neighborhoods, and a single search can include multiple  non-contiguous neighborhoods.

Any of the agents at Golden Real Estate can set you up with an email alert matching your search criteria and can explain the other features that come with it, including being able to do your own searches directly on the MLS.  

Our office number is 303-302-3636.

Is the Gas-Powered Automobile Obsolete? Consider This...

[Published July 24, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section]

For over 100 years, automobiles have been powered by internal combustion engines (ICE’s), and it has gone pretty well.  Systems have been perfected over the decades to make the ICE function better and better.  First was the clutch with manual transmission, then synchromesh transmissions for easier shifting, then automatic transmissions.  For noise control: mufflers.  For pollution control: PCV’s and catalytic converters. Automatic chokes and carburetors were replaced over time with electronic ignition.  Generators gave way to alternators.  Timing chains gave way in some engines to timing belts.  Original spark plugs have been replaced with platinum spark plugs good for 100,000 miles. 

ICE’s create lots of waste heat, so cooling the engine is important. The dissipation of that heat becomes a problem in stop-and-go traffic or in very hot weather.  (Park that hot ICE in your garage and you have another heat dissipation problem, especially if the garage is insulated.)

All these systems depend on an on-board computer — an expensive component in and of itself.  There are probably additional systems I haven’t mentioned.  After all, I’m a driver, not a mechanic.

What these systems all have in common is that they are designed to make a constantly turning engine work effectively with wheels that have to stop and go at different speeds.  Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy system in its Prius and Lexus hybrids just adds another layer of complication to the operation of the ICE.

If you’ve looked under a new car’s hood lately, you know how complex the support system for ICE’s has become.  These enhancements have been, for the most part, highly successful.  I am impressed at the quiet, smooth performance of my wife’s Lexus with its V-8 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission.

But let’s consider for a moment that the internal combustion engine with transmission is actually obsolete and that continuing to invest in gas-powered propulsion is no longer the way to go.

Once you have driven an electric car for 40,000 miles, as I have, it becomes clear that there is a better system — one that makes all that complexity unnecessary.

Thanks to today’s lithium ion batteries and the amazing torque of electric motors, it is clear to me that this simple combination of battery plus motor can be an effective substitute for the ICE with all its necessary components.

The electric drive train requires no transmission, no exhaust system, no pollution control, no starter, no alternator, no engine cooling, or many other systems.  There is no fan belt to drive the power steering, air conditioning or power brakes, which are powered by electric motors of their own.  With a range of 265 miles on a full charge, there is no need to plug in my Tesla except at home. 

Electric motors are 90% efficient vs. the 25% efficiency of ICE’s. If you pay for electricity — I get it from the sun — your cost is 3 cents/mile vs. 20 cents/mile for gasoline.  [Not included in this calculation are the maintenance costs of the ICE power train, such as oil changes, tune-ups and repairs of everything from fan belt to transmission. I figure those to be 10 or more cents/mile.]

What stands out for those who accept a test drive in a Tesla is its amazing acceleration and handling.  With its low center of gravity, it holds the road exceptionally well.  That low center of gravity is the result of putting the battery underneath the length of the car, taking up no space that you’d use for anything else.  And the motor is located between the rear wheels, where you’d find the differential in a conventional rear-wheel drive car.  The result is that you have a spacious trunk under the front hood as well as a spacious rear compartment.

I’ll be driving my Tesla to New York this fall, charging it for free during meal stops at the Tesla supercharging stations located every 50 miles along the interstates. The only cost for such a trip is the wear on my tires.  [Expect a future blog post about that trip!] 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fear of Homelessness Continues to Keep Sellers From Listing Their Homes

[Published July 17, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

What would you do? You can sell your home for a really good price right now, but can you find a home to buy? 

This dilemma is probably the main reason why more sellers are not putting their homes on the market. And with the supply of rentals equally tight, the prospect of being homeless — or settling for a home that doesn’t meet your needs or expectations — is a totally rational reason to sit tight. 

I find that those sellers who “pull the trigger” are ones who, for the most part, have been able to overcome this dilemma one way or another.

One strategy that works when you own your current home free and clear is to take out a loan on your current home so you can buy your new home, and only then put your current home on the market, paying off that loan when you sell.

Others who believe they’ll find the perfect home to buy within a few months find a short-term housing solution such as living with family or signing a short-term lease. (A client of mine found a complex in Golden that offers a 3-month lease.)

Moving twice is no fun for anyone, but using “pods” can make it a little easier. Such services will deliver one or more containers to your driveway. You fill them at your leisure and then the company removes them to a storage location, delivering them to your new home when you find it.  This beats moving everything into a storage unit and then having to move it from the storage unit to the new home.

If this concern of being without a place to live after selling is facing you, remember that you are in the driver’s seat when selling your current home. If you price your home correctly, you’ll get multiple offers and be able to select the buyer who not only offers you the best price but also offers you the most flexibility. 

That flexibility could take the form of a rent-back for up to several months as you work to find your new home.  At the very least, you can choose the buyer who gives you the longest contract period, but puts all their contingencies — inspection and appraisal, in particular — in the first 30 days of the contract.  Then you might have a provision that the closing can happen earlier if you find your next home quickly.

I’ve had clients who found a home they wanted to buy first, and then put their home on the market quickly — something we’re pretty good at — and were able to have their home under contract in time to make a winning offer on the home they wanted to buy.  In such cases, we’re able to tell the seller that if they don’t get their home under contract in time to buy that “perfect” home, we are willing to withdraw their home from the market at no cost so that they don’t have to sell.  That’s a lot of work for us with no reward, but that’s the nature of our business. 

If you want to sell but have this totally understandable concern, I suggest you call me or one of my associates at Golden Real Estate so that we can brainstorm a solution that works best for you.  You have nothing to lose but your time!  Our office number is 303-302-3636.

Just Listed: Tri-Level Home with Basement on 1/4 Lot in Heritage Dells

[Published July 17, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

 
318 Allen Street, Golden 80401
$400,000
This home is in the coveted Heritage Dells neighborhood of Golden. It is close to a light rail station, but also close to the Apex Open Space Park and Heritage Square amusement park. The Colorado School of Mines and downtown Golden are a short bike ride away via the Kinney Run trail, which is only two blocks from this home’s front door! With no HOA, you can park your RV next to this home’s 2-car garage. Inside, you’ll enjoy a master suite with mountain views and extensive hardwood floors. A second suite in the basement is great for guests. Take the video tour, then come to our open house Saturday, July 19, 1-4 pm.

Just Listed: Ranch Home in Lakewood Green

[Published July 17, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

 
8511 W. 8th Ave., Lakewood 80215
$395,000
Video Tour (in production) at www.LakewoodHome.info
 
Lakewood Green is a small subdivision southeast of 10th Ave. & Dudley Street. The streets are owned and maintained by the HOA and are in good condition — as is this three-bedroom, 2,862-sq.-ft. brick ranch.  It’s a good “lock-and-leave” home, since the HOA maintains the grounds and even shovels snow up to the garage and front door. If you like the idea of a truly quiet neighborhood, you will love this home, where you can hear only the birds and the wind in the trees. Special features include multiple skylights, an enclosed sunroom with doors from both the eat-in kitchen and the master suite, and a fenced back yard. The light rail to Denver or Golden is nearby, too. Visit this home's website, then call for a showing!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sellers Often Ignore Their Own Self-Interest in Selecting a Listing Agent

[Published July 10, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

Golden Real Estate does pretty well when it comes to getting listings.  This column has a lot to do with it.  That, of course, is why I started writing it 10 years ago — to show that my team and I know what we’re doing.

So, thank you, dear readers who provide us with a large percentage of our business!

Since I am kept plenty busy by those who come to me based on my writings, please don’t think I’m complaining when I simply observe that a high percentage of sellers use subjective or illogical criteria when it comes to the selection of their listing agents. You’d think that when it comes to the biggest transactions of their financial lives, people would use logic and common sense in the hiring process, but such is not always the case.

One of my most popular columns had the headline, “18 (or More) Questions to Ask When Interviewing Your Next Listing Agent,” and I even gave that column its own web site, www.The18Questions.com.

That column contained a lot of obvious and logical questions to ask an agent, such as whether they do “virtual tours” or narrated video tours, and whether they complete all the fields on the MLS, or only the mandatory ones.

I suggested that the best way to judge how an agent will market your house is to see how they market their current listing.  Get the address of a current listing, I suggested, and Google it to see how it is presented online — which is the most important element of marketing nowadays.  [Psst! Google your own address after your home is listed and see how it's being presented online. Complain to your agent if you think it's inadequate!]

Also important, does the listing agent use a good showing service to set showings by other agents, and does that service have a good system for obtaining feedback?

There were many other sound suggestions made in that column, but experience has shown me that few sellers choose to follow them.  Time and again I see people hiring agents from Boulder or Castle Rock to list their Denver area homes.  Sometimes it’s the seller’s relative or friend. Sometimes it’s the listing agent for the home they want to buy, instead of the agent who specializes in their current neighborhood.  Sometimes the agent is not even a member of Metrolist, the Denver area’s MLS!

Other sellers might think they will save money by utilizing a “limited service” agent who simply puts the home on the MLS but does little other marketing.  Still other sellers might put their home on a for-sale-by-owner website, without considering how they will manage agent showings or negotiate multiple offers.

Again, I’m not complaining so much as I am remarking on this phenomenon of sellers neglecting their own best interests when hiring a real estate agent to list their home.  Whether or not sellers hire Golden Real Estate with its marketing expertise, they could definitely be more logical in choosing the agent or brokerage that is best for them.

I freely admit that I may not be the best agent for a given seller.  Fortunately we have a diverse group of agents within our company. I would be happy to help you identify the best agent for your situation, even if that agent is with another brokerage.

Just Listed: 40-Acre Lot in Golden Gate Canyon

[Published July 10, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

 
$449,750
On it you could build your secluded mountain home with southern exposure. This unique property has 40 pristine acres, located in Golden Gate Canyon just 20 minutes from Downtown Golden! There are two suitable building sites to chose from that are easily accessed from both the east and west sides of the property. A well is already drilled. The property has many types of terrain including gentle sloping, sloping, ravine, and rock outcroppings. You'll find amazing panoramic views of the Front Range all the way to the Continental Divide!  Just listed by Mark Spencer, 303-842-4480

Just Listed: Newer Ranch-Style Home in North Golden

[Published July 10, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

 
1405 Jesse Lane, Golden
$748,000
Imagine living in this spacious Golden home at 1405 Jesse Lane, with a fenced yard & 3-car garage in the Canyon View subdivision. Enjoy the convenience to hiking & mountain biking trails just down the road. You’ll be impressed with the 10-foot ceilings on the main level & 9-foot ceilings in the basement, new hardwood flooring & Italian marble tile! Impress your family and friends with your gourmet chef's kitchen with its maple espresso cabinets, slab granite countertops, marble backsplash, built in refrigerator, 5-burner gas cooktop, double oven & 2nd sink. You will LOVE the upgraded light fixtures, 8-inch crown molding throughout most of this home and 7-inch baseboards. Take the narrated video tour on the website above, then call listing agent Karon Hesse at 303-668-2445.
 Open Saturday, July 12, 1-4 PM

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Buyer’s Remorse Is Resulting in More Contract Terminations Than Usual

[Published July 3, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

Multiple offers are still very common because of the seller’s market we are in. The result was predictable.  Buyers find themselves frantic to submit the winning bid, only to realize a few days later that maybe they settled for a less-than-perfect home or paid more than they should for what they got.

Or perhaps a new listing came on the market that is more appealing, so the buyers use one of their many opportunities to terminate the contract so they can buy that better home.

As a broker, I have been on both sides of this dynamic.  Just last month I had a condo listing that went under contract for $10,000 above the listing price with four competing offers.  Naturally, my sellers accepted the highest offer, but the buyer terminated on the inspection deadline with an explanation that the condo was simply not big enough for their family.

Before accepting the next-best offer, I made a point of asking the buyer’s agent about his clients so I could assess their likelihood of going all the way to closing.  What do they do for a living? How big is their family? In short, is this 2-bedroom condo perfect for their situation? I shared their responses with my seller before they accepted their offer.

The lesson for me was that in future multiple offer situations, I will ask those questions of the first buyer, instead of the second.

As these charts indicate, we are still in an extreme sellers market, where there is only one month’s supply of active listings.  What that means is that the number of current active listings is equal to the number of listings which are selling in just one month. 

By contrast, many of the previous years were characterized by a buyer’s market. Until January 2013, the inventory was five months or more, reaching a peak of 19 months in January 2011. During 2013, the inventory declined gradually from 5 months in January to about 2 months in December, and you can see above how it dropped to just one month in the first half of this year.  I dare say that it can’t go much lower.

What will the second half of 2014 bring?  I don’t have a crystal ball, but I suspect that the number of new listings will continue to rise in coming months, but inventory will remain below two months.