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.


Happy Thanksgiving to Our Readers — We Have So Much to Be Grateful For

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

As a homeowner, a practicing Realtor and the owner of Golden Real Estate, I have much to be grateful for as we celebrate one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving. 

Although Colorado’s recovery from the “great recession” which started in 2008 may be uneven, it has been strong, and one has to be grateful for that.  We can be thankful that Colorado was not one of the “bubble” states like Nevada and California where home values had risen so fast and so far that they fell fast and far.  With our modest year-to-year appreciation prior to 2008, our home values fell, but they did not plummet.

So, yes, I am grateful, first of all, that Colorado, including Jefferson County, suffered less than other areas in the country and has, overall, more than recovered from that recession.

Beyond that, I am also grateful that Golden Real Estate, which was founded in 2007, was able to outlast that downturn and come out stronger than ever.  At this writing, we now have nine excellent broker associates who work together well and have each been successful in their own right: Jim Swanson, Carrie Lovingier, Karon Hesse,  Kristi Brunel, Mark Spencer, Suzi Nicholson, Leo Swoyer, Chuck Brown, and David Dlugasch.  You can read more about each of them on our website, www.GoldenRealEstate.com.

Equally important, we now have an office manager, Kim Taylor, who recently obtained her own real estate license but solely for the purpose of being a more effective assistant to our agents and myself. She also functions as our transaction coordinator and HDR photographer. Her contributions to us all have been invaluable. 

I am also grateful for our clients who have helped to make Golden Real Estate one of the leading real estate brokerages in the county, selling over $35 million in real estate in 2013, a figure we’ll exceed in 2014.  (Every year since the founding of Golden Real Estate has been better than the year before.)

In that regard, I have to thank the Denver Post, which introduced YourHub as an affordable local advertising medium just as I was gaining traction as a Realtor.  Because of the exposure I get through this advertising, my agents and I have been successful in attracting clients and in selling our listings, which we feature in this space. Sometimes, like this week, I don’t have a new listing to feature, but that just means I get to write more!

Speaking of this ad, the writing of which is frankly the highlight of each work week for me, I should also thank the late Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post, who gave me my first job in journalism way back in (gasp!) 1968. It was an internship during which the city editor, Steve Isaacs, actively taught my intern class all facets of professional journalism.  Combined with an excellent education in English (and many other languages, including Latin!), that training laid the basis for my success in real estate and, in turn, the success of Golden Real Estate.

Last but definitely not least, I am grateful for my wife Rita and for my friends, especially those in the renewable energy community, who reinforce our company’s sustainability efforts.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Listing Your Home for Sale During the Holiday Season

[Published Nov. 20, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

It is “conventional wisdom” that December is not a good time to try to sell a home.  True, most people are preparing for the holidays, have full social calendars, and are shopping — but not for their next home.

This fact begs the question of whether your home is likely to sell and weighing that prospect against the inconvenience of disrupting your own holiday season to make it available for showings.

Working in favor of listing your home is the fact that the number of active listings which would compete with your home for buyers is so small.  Shown below, courtesy of REcolorado, our local MLS, are charts displaying by month the numbers of sold and active residential listings for Jefferson County over the past five years.

Notice the dramatic change over past Decembers of the ratio of active listings to the number of sales.  Last December, for example, there were 700 sales and 1,370 active listings — a ratio of less than 1:2.  The previous December, there were 608 sales and 3,226 active listings, a ratio of about 1:5.  The year before, it was 1:9.  The year before that, it was about 1:12. 


November statistics aren’t available yet, of course, but I did an MLS search, and the number of active Jeffco listings as of Nov. 18th is 1,105, and there have been 459 closings of Jeffco properties so far this month.  
There are another 670 listings that have been under contract since before Nov. 1st, and are likely to close between now and the end of the year, so one can guess that the number of sold listings will be higher than previous years for November and December.

I’m not going out on a limb to suggest that the ratio this December will again be less than 1:2.  This tells me that if you are thinking of putting your home on the market this holiday season and if you price it right, it will probably sell quickly. Moreover, because of continued low inventory and high buyer activity, your home will likely sell near or above asking price with multiple offers.  The key is pricing your home right, as I have written numerous times, and not pricing it at a wished-for price that isn’t justified by comparable sales. 

My strategy is always to price the home at or just below what comparable sales support and “let the bidding begin.”  Time after time I see other listings going on the market at 5-10% above what comparable sales can support, and those are the listings that sit on the market the longest and even expire without selling, while the properly priced homes are selling for that 5 to 10% premium because of multiple offers. 

The above paragraphs address the likelihood of your home selling if you choose to put it on the market despite how disruptive it could be to your own holiday plans. What are the other pros and cons of doing so?

At other times of the year, it is recommended by home staging professionals that you remove any religious icons along with personal photos and taxidermy.  However, I believe that if you celebrate one of the religious holidays in December and like to decorate your house accordingly, go ahead and do so as festively as you like — but not enough to be featured on 9News at 10!

Another problem you’ll encounter is buyers tracking snow and dirt into your home, but you can expect showing agents to honor instructions to remove shoes and/or use paper booties which you or your agent can buy at Home Depot or online.

Just Listed: Spacious Home with Denver Address but Cherry Creek Schools

[Published Nov. 20, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers] 


1386 S. Akron Court, Denver
$279,000

You will love this spacious two story single family home. Small fenced yard and corner lot is perfect for your pet or busy lifestyle. Features a large living room with vaulted ceiling. The open kitchen includes all appliances (gas stove, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher) with a good sized adjacent eating space. Open to the kitchen is a cozy family room featuring a gas log fireplace and entertainment alcove. Upstairs offers a loft area perfect for an office space or play area. Master bedroom with walk-in closet and two additional bedrooms are upstairs. This home is in the Cherry Creek School District. 

Listed by Jim Swanson, 303-929-2727

Golden Real Estate Food Drive

[Published Nov. 20, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section]

It has been reported that one in four Colorado children face a constant struggle against hunger, and Golden Real Estate’s agents want to contribute in any way we can to feed hungry children and their families. If you don’t have a church or food bank or other organization to which you are already bringing non-perishable food, you can bring it to our office, and we will make sure it gets to one or more local food banks. 
Thank you for caring.

(Photo from Food Bank of the Rockies website)


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Have You Wondered Why Some Homes Don’t Sell, Even in a Seller’s Market?

[Published Nov. 13, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

Any real estate agents with at least 20 transactions under their belt can tell you that a seller’s market is no guarantee that a home will sell.  As an example, in the last six months, 73 residential listings with Golden addresses either expired or were withdrawn from the MLS without selling. In those same six months, 481 listings sold.  So, it can be said that 13% of listings did not sell despite a hot seller’s market. Why?

The median price of those unsold listings (after reductions) was $580,000.  The median days on market was 38. Ten were on the market over six months. About half of them reduced their listing prices before giving up. The other half held firm at their original listing price.

Usually the reason a home does not sell is because of price, and it is so tempting when sellers are seeing homes sell quickly and above listing price to insist that their homes should be listed for more than comparable sales suggest — or than their listing agents recommend.  

As I have written many times in this column, it is so much smarter in a hot market to price a home low instead of high. One column headline from several months ago read, “You Can’t Underprice a Home in This Market, But You Can Overprice It,” and I stand by that statement even more now than when I wrote it. 

If you “underprice” a home, you’ll more likely attract multiple buyers who will drive the selling price (with proper management by your listing agent) to a price higher than you’d get if you had listed for that higher price. 

On the other hand, if you overprice a home, it can sit on the market for weeks, whereupon if you lower the price it appears “stale” to prospective buyers. The notion that you only get one chance to make a first impression is as true with home listings as it is in your private or professional life.

If you do find it necessary to lower a price, it is best to do it quickly — within a week, for example — instead of after a lengthy period of not attracting any offers.

Another dynamic to be aware of is that “buyer’s remorse” is more common in a seller’s market . That’s because many buyers act too quickly to get a listing under contract, only to realize that the house isn't quite right for them. When this happens, the house goes back on the market. To forestall this, my practice is to carefully vet the winning bidder to assess whether this home truly meets their wants and needs.


Join Me This Weekend at CU for Climate Colorado Summit 2014

[Published Nov. 13, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

I’m a presenter/guide on Saturday and Sunday at this conference committed to dealing with climate change as it affects Colorado before it’s too late. Learn more and/or sign up to attend at www.ClimateColorado.org.

Colorado’s First All-Electric Car Share Opens in Golden

[Published Nov. 13, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section]


Tim Prior, owner of eThos Electric Car Share, poses with one of his cars. Rates for the car share service start at $7/hour and drop to $5/hour as members log rental hours. A Tesla Model S is also available for half-day rentals to qualified customers.  Learn more at www.ethoscarshare.com.



Just Listed: Ralston Estates Home Backing to Greenbeltt

[Published Nov. 13, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]


13820 W. 66th Way, Arvada
$298,000

Ralston Estates is a mature neighborhood with a greenbelt passing through it. This tri-level home backs to that greenbelt and has a large fenced yard with raised deck from which to enjoy a view of that greenbelt. The wall-to-wall carpeting is new, and the kitchen has been updated. The family room on the lower level walks out to the backyard and has a wood-burning fireplace. Tenant (a relative of the owner) is moving out Nov. 25th.  Seller will replace tenant-owned appliances, so you can consider all appliances included.  As with all Golden Real Estate listings, the buyer gets free use of our large moving truck and free moving boxes.


Just Listed: Great Home in the Heart of Village of Five Parks

[Published Nov. 13, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

13774 W. 84th Ave., Arvada
$440,000
Video tour at www.FiveParksHome.info

If you’re not familiar with Arvada’s Village of Five Park, it is a 10-year-old subdivision built somewhat along the lines of Belmar’s “new urbanism” but with far lower density. There’s a town center with shops, restaurants, a swimming pool, community center, fitness center, and an outdoor performance area for concerts, etc.  This home is directly across from the village green and all those amenities!  If you’re not ready to set a showing, you should at least drive by during Saturday or Sunday’s open house 1-4pm.  Then you’ll probably want to see inside!  Inside it has 4 bedrooms, 3½ bathrooms and 3,322 finished sq. ft. of living space. Typical of “new urbanism,” the 2-car garage is off the alley. You won’t want to miss this one!  Listed by David Dlugasch, 970-209-5941.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Press, With Its Limited Understanding of Real Estate, Is Easily Manipulated

[Published Nov. 6, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]


Those of us with real estate licenses (and Realtor membership) are accustomed to misconceptions among the public regarding commissions and other aspects of our industry. Some brokerages are happy to play on those misconceptions to promote their discount model on the premise that sellers get nothing by paying “traditional” brokers a higher commission.

Since real estate brokerage is not as straightforward as one might think, one can only wish that media would balance the quoting of these discount brokers with interviews of someone like myself who can provide some perspective of the topic.

A recent example was a Channel 4 News segment on Oct. 29th which featured two discount brokerages. The segment sounded like a paid commercial and probably helped to sell one brokerage’s only active listing, which had been on the market over two months but which sold two days after being featured on the broadcast.

The premise of the segment was that you don’t need to pay a “typical”
real estate commission to sell your home. One company’s 3-tier listing commission was described in detail (with on-screen graphics): $1,995 to do only the paperwork on a transaction, $2,995 to provide services without putting the home on the MLS (what a waste!), and an additional 2.8% to put the listing on the MLS so everyone can know about the home. No other agent or brokerage was interviewed in the segment.

There is certainly a place in our industry for brokerages which cater to the belief that full-service brokerages are overpaid for listing and selling homes, but it’s painful to see the media overstate the commissions such brokerages earn and to portray that the only difference is the amount of commission charged.

Neither side, however, will "win" this argument.  Enough people will sell either "by owner" or with a discount brokerage to support the argument that you don't need to pay a “higher” commission. At the same time, it should be noted that such sellers will never know what they might have gotten had they hired a full-service brokerage that does extensive marketing and so much more.

In my opinion, the CBS4 piece is faulty. The stronger a seller’s market is, the more important it is to have the home listed on the MLS to increase exposure and the chance of getting multiple offers. For example, our brokerage listed a home for $249,000 that went under contract for $282,000 cash with back-up offers in place in case the winning bidder had buyer’s remorse — which he did!  Because of the back-up contract which our agent negotiated, it was not necessary to put the home back on the market when that contract fell. I can’t imagine a seller without representation or with limited representation by a discount broker achieving the same result.

It's in situations like this that you really need a full-time and experienced listing agent. And you need help after going under contract fighting off unreasonable inspection demands or an appraisal that comes in below the contract price.

Lastly, discount brokerages like to feed the misconception that a 6% listing commission is "standard" -- 3% for each side of the transaction. In fact, the national average is under 5.5%, and many agents, like me, discount our commission when we sell a listing ourselves and will give an additional discount if we get to earn a commission on the purchase of the seller’s replacement home.  With these discounts, I have myself listed a home for as little as 3.5% -- quite competitive with the 2.8% plus $2,995 quoted by the discount brokerage. 

Here's the link for the CBS4 segment referred to above:
http://denver.cbslocal.com/tag/assist-2-sell/

Coming Soon: Updated Mountain Ridge 2-Story With Views

[Published Nov. 6, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]


275 Washington Street, Golden
$580,000

Golden is hot — only 11 active listings in the entire city, and 12 that are under contract — so this home in the Village at Mountain Ridge will probably sell quickly, especially when buyers see the view from the home’s fabulous new Trex deck and master suite. The home is currently being prepared for sale, including refinished hardwood floors and new carpeting. You’ll love the gourmet kitchen with its slab granite countertops, 5-burner gas cooktop with professional hood, unique tile backsplash, and hardwood flooring. Upstairs are four bedrooms, with a fifth bedroom in the finished basement. All 5 bathrooms feature travertine tile.

Showings begin in late November, but call me at 303-525-1851 if you’d like more information or are willing to see it before it is completely ready for showing.

Denver’s MLS Stops Using Its Corporate Name; Now It’s ‘REcolorado’

[Published Nov. 6, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section]

On September 22, 2014, Metrolist, Inc. filed a trade name form with the Colorado Secretary of State claiming the name “REcolorado” as a trade name. The corporate name remains “Metrolist, Inc.” but the trade name filing allows the company to use only the name “REcolorado” to identify itself. Golden Real Estate, Inc. filed the same form back in 2007 claiming the trade name “Golden Real Estate” so that we could use it without “Inc.” to identify ourself and, more importantly, to prevent any other entity from so identifying itself. 

This was a smart and somewhat inevitable move for Metrolist, which had already encountered conflicts with companies which used the name “Metrolist” in other states. The move also makes sense now that the company’s sole website is www.recolorado.com.  This had, until earlier this year, been Metrolist’s public-facing website only, which downloaded data from a separate website used by brokers and agents. Merging both functions into a single website using CoreLogic’s “Matrix” platform was a powerful and revolutionary change which I have written about previously.