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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sellers Ask Themselves: Should I Sell Now or Wait Until Summer?

[Published Mar. 27, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

We tend to think of real estate as seasonal — the “selling season” begins in May when school gets out and parents can move without disrupting their children’s education.

Just this Monday I had a listing appointment where we discussed the pros and cons of listing a home now vs. in May.

In this seller’s case, he was single with no children, but he couldn’t move until June because of a job commitment. (He’s moving out of the area.) Since homes are selling quickly now, he was afraid to list now and have to move before June.  Also, he knew his home would look better once the trees in his yard leafed out, looking more beautiful and giving his home more privacy.

Those are good points, but here are some arguments I offered him for listing now instead of waiting.

(1)  We don’t know when this hot market will cool off.  Will the supply of listings explode in May and the crazy multiple-offer dynamic we are witnessing now dissolve?

(2) Interest rates are known to be rising. It’s a major motivation for today’s competing buyers.

(3) You don’t have to accept a buyer’s proposed closing date. Every aspect of a contract can be countered, including closing and possession dates. If a buyer must close before June 1st for financial reasons (e.g., an interest rate lock is about to expire), you can close in May and lease back the property until June.

(4) If you have nice summer-time pictures of your yard, they can be scanned and used on the MLS.

(5)  January and February proved to us that there is no “selling season” nowadays. People are buying homes year round — and they always have.  It’s just more pronounced now because of pent-up demand, rising interest rates and low inventory.

Are Multiple Fare Zones for Light Rail Self-Defeating?

[Published Mar. 27, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section]

Why is it that RTD lets a Golden resident pay $2.25 to ride the 16L Bus to downtown Denver but asks $4.00 to ride the light rail train to the same destination?  Shouldn’t we be encouraging light rail?

It pains me to see light rail trains pull into and leave the Golden terminus with few if any passengers on board.  If RTD implemented a flat fare for light rail equal to its flat fare for buses, RTD would probably make more money from the increased ridership.
The New York City subway, spanning 232 route miles, has a single fare of $2.50.

There is a societal benefit to increasing public transit usage.  That’s the reason behind our RTD sales tax, after all. Here’s an idea for RTD: Our SCFD sales tax brings us “free days” at places that receive those funds. How about free days on the buses and/or light rail?


First-Time Buyer Seminar at Our Office Saturday, 10am to Noon

[Published Mar. 27, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

Broker associates Jim Swanson and Suzi Nicholson are hosting an informative seminar for first-time home buyers this Saturday, March 29, 10am to noon, at our office on South Golden Road. Topics include the many low-down payment options including FHA loans and grant programs.  Refreshments will be served, including cookies, lattes and espresso. I will be there to share my insights.
Because seating is limited in our office, we ask that you call or email Suzi to reserve your place(s) at the seminar.  Her number is 303-908-4873 and her email is

Follow-Up on Exec’s Defection to Zillow

[Published Mar. 27, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section]

My lead topic last week was about Zillow’s raid on’s executive suite, specifically Errol Samuelson’s move from NAR’s flagship website to up-and-coming

This past Saturday, Inman News released a 16-minute video interview with Samuelson in which he explained his motivation for making that move. What he said made a lot of sense to me. In essence, he seemed to be saying that Zillow is more dynamic, more innovative, more responsive to new ideas than, and that’s what drew him to make the move.  I see that difference, too.

Samuelson described an environment at Zillow where young programmers in their 20’s are in meetings with top executives and promote ideas which can and often are implemented or at least tested after the meeting ends. They can test a new idea on “one or two million visitors” to their website and quickly see whether it’s a good idea and either scrap, modify or expand it. He said it’s great to have a team that can implement new ideas quickly.

Here's the video...

Mesa Meadows Ranch with Finished Walk-Out & Foothills Views

[Published Mar. 27, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

701 Ridge Road, Golden
This is former Golden Mayor Chuck Baroch and his wife Carol's home at 701 Ridge Road, overlooking the town he once governed. It is a ranch-style home with main-floor master suite and three guest bedrooms in the walk-out basement, along with a family room, wet bar, office and plenty of storage! The south-facing deck outside the eat-in kitchen is a great place for that morning cup of coffee not only during the summer but on those warmer days of winter. The oversized 2-car garage provides extra space for your workshop and second refrigerator or freezer. Act quickly -- this is the only home for sale currently in Mesa Meadows, and we already are getting offers. There are no covenants and no HOA dues associated with this home. Take my narrated video tour of it at, then come to our open house this Saturday, 1-4pm — if it’s not already sold!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Zillow Raids’s Executive Suite, Drawing Legal Action

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

This is an industry topic, more interesting perhaps to us in the real estate business, but since everyone is interested in real estate, it is also very much a consumer story.
As recently as five years ago, was the dominant real estate website. It also powered many broker websites, such as  That has all changed.

Nowadays, is the third or possibly fourth most popular real estate website among consumers, behind Zillow and Trulia. Yet we as Realtors — i.e., members of a Realtor association — are told that we must protect the Realtor brand and stop the wholesale syndication (that is, giveaway) of our listing data to companies like Zillow and Trulia, which then use our data to sell buyer leads to agents, including to us agents who created the data.

Four weeks ago, on Feb. 20th, the Denver Metro Association of Realtors sponsored a large event in the Renaissance Hotel ballroom.  On the stage were representatives of Trulia, Zillow, and Metrolist (Denver‘s MLS).  It was a huge waste of time and resources, as the moderator (who admitted he doesn’t use a computer to search for listings) pushed an anti-syndication agenda. Talking with fellow Realtors afterwards, we agreed that what we really needed was to recognize the reality of Trulia and Zillow as a new paradigm and learn how to work with them instead of swimming upstream trying to suppress them.

Now we find that two top executives have been lured away from’s operator (Move, Inc.) by Zillow — one on March 5th and the other this Monday. 

Members of the National Association of Realtors (which owns realtor. com and hires Move, Inc. to operate it) will see some of their dues money spent on suing Zillow and their former top executive for “misappropri-ation of trade secrets.”

Zillow and Trulia are indeed taking “our” listing data and using it for their profit. They are successful at this because they produce a better consumer experience.  We need to accept this new reality instead of fighting it.

Jeffco School Board's Dysfunction Can Be Attributed to the At Large Election of Board Members

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

You may recall from previous columns that we at Golden Real Estate are supporting the Jeffco5 campaign to enlarge the Board of County Commissioner from 3 to 5 members and — most importantly — to have the commissioners elected by district instead of at large, as at present.

The Jeffco School Board has five members, each of whom theoretically represents a “district” equal to one-fifth of Jeffco’s population. But all five members are elected by all Jeffco voters, not by the voters within their theoretical districts.

Because of this arrangement, it is possible for a single block of candidates from one ideological camp to win a majority of seats in a single election — in fact, that’s quite likely to happen.  And it is what happened this past November.  This time the political balance shifted to the right.  In a future election, it could just as easily shift to the left.

If each board position were elected solely by its district voters, such radical swings would be far less likely. Just as important, the 100,000 residents of each district deserve to have one board member who is responsive and responsible solely to them.  That can’t happen with at large election of all members.  I wish there was a campaign to make that change for the school board as well as for the Board of County Commissioners.


How Hot In the Real Estate Market? Here's an Extreme Example

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

Here’s how hot: A 1920’s bungalow with no garage and on a noisy thoroughfare was entered on the MLS recently. It was listed significantly above what I think it would appraise for.  Within 24 hours it had 30 agent showings, 40 sets of open house visitors, garnered 6 offers and went under contract for $14,000 over listing pricewaiving appraisal.

Featured New Listing: 20 Buildable Acres 6.3 Miles up Golden Gate Canyon

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

4300 Daydream Road, Golden
This parcel is ready for you to build your dream home!  The well has been drilled, electricity has been brought to the property line, and a build site with 360ยบ views including both mountains and downtown Denver has been staked out! The best part of all is that while you are definitely in the mountains, it’s not heavily wooded and it is just 15 minutes (8 miles) from downtown Golden.  Take a video tour of this parcel at

Featured New Listing: Stapleton 2-Story Home With Main-Floor Master Suite

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

3538 Akron Court, Denver
People love Stapleton, and the area north of Central Park is a favorite with its new urbanism style of single family homes with attached 2-car garages facing an alley. Built in 2011, this KB Home is bound to sell quickly. All three bedrooms have private bathrooms. The buyer gets free architectural plans for finishing the basement with a 4th bedroom and 2 more bathrooms. Take a narrated video tour at

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

With Supply of Active Listings at Record Low, Buyers Look to New Homes

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

By JIM SMITH, Realtor ®

As the chart below shows, there are fewer active listings than at any time in the last five years.  In fact, the number of active listings is one-half the number of active listings five years ago, when inventory was considered very low.
Although this chart is for Jefferson County only, the chart for the MLS as a whole and for individual sections of Jeffco looks the same, with current inventory about 50% of five years ago. The only exception is Evergreen and the foothills as a whole, where inventory is only slightly lower than 2009.

Taking note of this lack of existing homes for sale, new home builders such as KB Homes and Century Communities are gearing up as quickly as they can and drawing lots of interest from buyers who can’t find what they want in existing homes.

The builders are no longer offering incentives like they were last year, either — they don’t need to.

Last week I visited a “broker open house” at KB Homes’ new subdivision called Westwoods Mesa.  It’s at 69th & Indiana in Arvada. They are offering single-family as well as paired homes. KB is also building at Lyons Ridge in the Willow Springs area where Belleview Avenue passes through the hogbacks of Morrison.  The former orchard east of McIntyre Street north of 50th Avenue is being prepared for a new subdivision, and Leyden Rock and Candelas are seeing brisk traffic.

If you’re looking at buying a new home, here’s some advice for you.

First, don’t be unrepresented. The home builders will not give you a discount if they don’t have to pay your agent, so there’s no reason not to have professional representation. And if you register as not having an agent, they won’t let you bring an agent into the transaction later on. These builders do not use the buyer-friendly state-approved contracts required for all resale homes. Their lawyers create their own contracts which are not at all buyer-friendly, and you’ll want your agent to recommend a real estate lawyer to interpret the terms of that contract. You will not have the protections you have in resale transactions. For example, your “deposit” with the builder is not the same as the “earnest money” for a resale transaction. It is not escrowed for your protection and typically is not returned if you terminate.

Also, you’ll want to see whether a “metropolitan tax district” was created to build the infrastructure for the subdivision, which can add as much as 40% to your property tax bill for the next 30 years. The builder is not paying for those streets and sewers — you’ll pay in your property taxes.

Lastly, you’ll want to hire an inspector, just as you would for a resale purchase.  The inspectors I recommend are willing to make multiple visits during various stages of construction — very important!

Huge Price Reduction on Genesee Home

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

 2195 Foothills Drive South, Golden
Listed by Karon Hesse.
The kids in this house are now grown, and that means it’s your turn for a chance to own this open, casual and light-filled home. Enjoy the convenience of being 30 minutes from downtown, yet within an hour of major ski areas and other recreational opportunities. You will enjoy living in this wonderful home on 1.2 acres, affording privacy, easy access to hiking and biking trails, and a short walk to the community clubhouse with state-of-the-art fitness equipment, lap pool, meeting room and library! Sign the kids up for the award-winning swim team, join special interest clubs, play tennis and enjoy the playground. Select from various Mt. Vernon Country Club activities open to Genesee residents. The hot tub on the redwood deck beckons you to relax and watch the wildlife! 
Take a narrated video tour of this home at

Golden Real Estate Polishes Its ‘Green’ Image With Purchase of a Tesla Model S Electric Car

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

Golden Real Estate is well known for its sustainable practices. In fact, we were awarded the Golden Sustainability Award for Business in 2010 for several of our “green” practices, including having a solar-powered office.  In 2012, broker/owner Jim Smith traded his Lexus hybrid for a Chevy Volt, and last Saturday he moved up to the Tesla Model S, shown above. Jim looks forward to driving buyers around in the car and even letting them experience driving it.

Another broker who made the switch from Chevy Volt to Tesla is Chris Mygatt of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage — Jim’s boss when he was first licensed in real estate 11 years ago. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sure, You Can Sell Your House Now, But Can You Find a New One?

[Published March 6, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers, Text in italics was not in the printed version due to space limitations.]

The hardest part about today’s tight real estate market can be coordinating the sale of your current home with the purchase of your replacement home.
Most of us can’t buy our replacement home without selling our current home, and we can’t expect to get a contract on that replacement home if our current home isn’t at least under contract and past the all-important inspection objection deadline.
None of us wants to end up homeless as a result of selling our current house without finding a home to buy. With good rentals nearly as hard to find as homes for sale, that could be a real possibility!
So, how do you make it work for you?  Over the years, I have guided clients through exactly this kind of dilemma, and here are some of the ways we have made it work.
First of all, I make sure the seller is willing to price their current home so that it will sell. An overpriced home can fail to sell, even in a seller’s market.
With that understanding in place, we make sure that the house is ready to sell — that any deferred maintenance items are handled, the house is de-cluttered, and the family situation allows for easy showing. 
Then, before putting their home on the market, we set about finding the house to buy.  Sometimes the seller has already identified the house they want to buy. The trick is getting it under contract before it sells to someone else. With homes selling quickly, it may not be possible to find a house and get your current house under contract in time to submit a contract on the new home.
If, however, you can find a house that is for sale but not on the market — for example, a home that was withdrawn without selling last year — then it’s possible that the seller would accept an offer contingent on the sale of your current home.  Your agent, with access to the MLS, can search for "withdrawn" and "expired" listings using your search criteria.  If any of them appeal to you, your agent could approach the former listing agent (if it's withdrawn) or the seller directly (if it's expired).
That’s exactly the scenario which played out successfully last month for one of my clients. The seller was planning to put their home back on the MLS in May, and that gave my buyers the time they needed for me to list their home and get it under contract.  By getting their current home under contract before May, we had no competing buyers and the seller was willing to accept our contingent offer.  Mission accomplished!
Another of my buyers wanted to sell their home first, but was able to make a non-contingent offer on their replacement home by using IRA and other resources as “proof of funds” for a cash offer. Once under contract for their new home, we put their current home on the market and got it under contract in time to use the proceeds from that sale to buy the new home without using those other funds. (If my buyer had needed to withdraw funds from his IRA, I learned that he could have redeposited them without penalty if he did so within 60 days, by which time he would have surely sold his current home.)
You’d think that no seller would accept an offer contingent on the sale of a home that isn’t even on the market yet, but last year I proved that wrong for three buyers — and I was on the seller’s side of the transaction. In each case, I was able to determine that the buyer’s house would sell right away, and I was right. Before accepting the offer, I studied the buyer's current home and neighborhood, even visiting the home to see how well it showed.  Once I was convinced that their home would sell quickly at the price the agent was planning to list it, I was able to recommend to my seller that he accept the contingent offer.  In each case, both transactions proceeded to a successful closing.  As predicted, all three of the buyers' homes sold in less than a week.

Just Listed: Fabulous West Woods Home Backs to Golf Course

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

6969 Poppy Court, Arvada
Open Sunday, March 16, 2-4 PM
There are some fine homes backing to the West Woods Golf Course, and this home is one of them, backing to the 17th green. In this picture, notice the sand trap in the foreground. The Ralston Creek Trail meanders through the golf course behind this home, extending 14 miles from Highway 93 in the west to the Clear Creek Trail in the east. You will enjoy entertaining or just relaxing on the Trex deck with it retractable awning overlooking the creek and golf course. The home’s 3,302 sq. ft. of finished space includes 3 bedrooms and 3½ bathrooms. The insulated 3-car garage has 220-volt service. The home is at the end of a short cul-de-sac across from a nature preserve.
Listed by Karon Hesse. 


Here’s Why All Traffic Is Stopped at RTD Intersection in Golden for 80 Minutes/Day

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

There are 80 arrivals and 80 departures of light rail trains from the Golden terminus every weekday.  Each of those 160 crossings of Johnson Road is preceded by a 30-second period in which traffic is stopped in all directions to allow any cars that may be on the tracks to get out of the way of a coming train.  That's almost 1.5 hours each weekday that traffic is stopped in all directions before the gates come down!  In the past year of light rail operations, however, I have never seen a single car that was stopped on or past the tracks.

The requirement to have this “flushing” time came about because of train collisions with cars, trucks and school buses in other locations where a rail line closely parallels a highway. However, trains in those locations are very long and traveling at high speeds — unable to stop if the conductor sees a vehicle on the tracks.

Even if there were a car on the tracks after the gates come down, light rail trains are traveling 10 mph at this crossing and could stop quickly. It is not right to apply the 30-second rule at this intersection. It only causes unnecessary traffic back-ups, especially on northbound Johnson Road and eastbound 6th Avenue. 
If CDOT/RTD are going to preserve that function, they should reduce that time from 30 seconds to 5 seconds.

Here's a 1.4-minute YouTube video showing the 30-second "flushing" period at 5:00 p.m. on March 13, 2014: