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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I am moving to a WordPress blog

Until recently, I posted all my "Real Estate Today" content to this blog on 

The URL, until now, has been forwarded to this blog, whose "real" URL is

As of today, I am forwarding to a WordPress blog whose "real" URL  is

This blog will stay live for archival purposes, but all future posts will be on the WordPress blog, and people who click on will go to that blog instead of here.  

Thanks for reading my posts!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

When It Comes to Real Estate Statistics, We Should Think “Median” not “Average”

Excuse me for getting a little nerdy here, but it’s important to know the difference between “median” and “average” when studying the real estate market, and here’s why.

Let’s say an area has five home sales: one at $300,000, a second at $325,000, a third at $330,000, a fourth at $400,000 and a fifth at $1.2 million.  The average sale price would be $511,000, a huge increase over the previous year when all the sales were under $400,000. The median sale price would be $330,000, because half the sales were under that price and half were over.

Now let’s look at “Days on Market.” Let’s say those five homes took 1, 2, 5, 7, and 150 days to go under contract. The average days on market would have been 33, while the median would have been only 5 days. Which is more useful?

These two hypothetical scenarios are precisely what we’re seeing in the real estate market. Luxury homes are selling much more quickly than they have in years past,  inflating the average sales price, whereas the median sales price by definition discards both the lowest and highest data points, providing a more accurate picture of what’s happening in the market.

At right is a chart comparing 2017 average days on market to median days on market.   Homes that take a long time to sell -- particularly in the current market -- are almost invariably overpriced.  The amount of time these homes languish on the market artificially increases the average days on market. The median days on market is a much better reflection of the market.

Despite this, statisticians and market analysts keep reporting changes in the average sales price or the average days on market instead of giving us the more meaningful median statistics.

It's Thanksgiving, and I'm Thankful for Many Things and Many People

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – a non-denominational opportunity to reflect on the past year and our current situation.

I subscribe to the teaching that what we dwell on affects what we draw unto ourselves. For example, if we think we might fail at a task, we are more likely to fail, but if we think we’ll succeed, we’re more likely to succeed. Some people refer to this as the “law of attraction.”

That’s why I like Thanksgiving, because it causes me to dwell on what I’m thankful for – not my regrets, not my failures, not what went wrong, but what went right and the good people in my life.

Well, I have a lot to be thankful for!

First of all, I’m thankful to be married to Rita, who always thinks positively and now shares her positive energy with me and the broker associates at Golden Real Estate as our office manager.  Her positive orientation is evident in our house, where she has such phrases as “How Does It Get Any Better Than This?” and “What Else is Possible?” printed on our family room wall.  How did I get so lucky as to attract this woman into my life?  I’m forever grateful for that!

Rita and I have no children together, but we have three “adopted daughters” — three women who consider us “Mama Ri” and “Papa Jim.”  Thank you, Kristin in Kansas City, Ashley in Centennial, and Benedikte in Seattle, for honoring us with your love.

Secondly, I’m thankful for our great broker associates at Golden Real Estate.  In order of seniority, they are:

JimSwansonJim Swanson, who worked beside me at Coldwell Banker and RE/Max Alliance before joining Golden Real Estate when Rita and I founded it in 2007.  He’s our native Goldenite, living ½ mile from our office.

web_smallCarrie Lovingier lived in Golden when she joined us as Carrie Ackley soon after our founding. She married a high school sweetheart, Brady, and lives with him and his sons in Evergreen now – she’s our foothills anchor.

Cropped 2016 pictureKristi Brunel is from Wisconsin but met her soul mate, Kenny, on the ski slopes of Colorado, marrying into that legendary “old Golden” family. Kristi and I met through Leadership Golden, and I was honored that she wanted to begin her real estate career with us.  As an owner, along with Kenny and her father-in-law, of numerous rentals, she’s a resource to me and her clients as an expert in buying investment properties.

Leo_Face_Shot_with_Glasses_-_04-17-2016_1668_1_25Leo Swoyer came to us as a new Realtor after a long career as a licensed appraiser specializing in mountain properties. His expertise in valuing properties and his knowledge of mountain properties has benefited us on many occasions.

photoChuck Brown was an independent broker with Metro Brokers in Denver, but he lives on Lookout Mountain, so he was attracted to joining Golden Real Estate as a broker associate. He is our Denver specialist and continues to list many Denver homes and serve Denver buyers as well as here in Jeffco.

David's head shots 003David Dlugasch was broker/owner of his own real estate company in Crested Butte, but chose to join Golden Real Estate when he moved to Arvada to be closer to his daughter’s family in the Village of Five Parks. He says that reading my newspaper columns was a factor is deciding to join us. Thanks for the compliment, David!

Susan DixonI met Susan Dixon at the Colorado Environment Film Festival. Her commitment to sustainability drew her to leave her previous brokerage and join Golden Real Estate. She lives in Arvada.

Andrew LeskoAndrew Lesko transferred to Golden Real Estate so he could specialize in Golden area condos and townhomes. We were so impressed by his research on this topic and his creation of that it was a no-brainer to welcome him into our fold!

NormKowitzNorm Kowitz serves with Kristi Brunel on the board of directors of the Christian Action Guild, and I met him when he represented a buyer for one of my listings. He, too, was attracted by this newspaper column and before long he became a great copy editor for me. Thanks, Norm, for joining us!

These broker associates provide a depth and breadth of expertise, but they all share a commitment to our values of integrity, service and sustainability, and I couldn’t be prouder to be associated with them.

Next, I am thankful for you, our readers, who turn to us every week for advice, which we are happy to provide, whether or not you hire us for the sale and/or purchase of real estate.  Thank you for your confidence in us.

Realtor pinNext, I’m thankful for the National Association of Realtors and our local association, the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. Not all licensed agents choose to join NAR and DMAR, but they all benefit from these organizations’ work to protect home ownership and our industry. I’m proud to say that Golden Real Estate is a Realtor brokerage, and all our agents are Realtors.

I’m also thankful for our local MLS and its CEO, Kirby Slunaker, who has shepherded the organization to a level of service and effectiveness which I couldn’t have imagined just five years ago. Our MLS has a great website, and now we are about to merge with the northern Colorado MLS, called IRES, to create an even stronger and better MLS. I’m proud to serve on the Rules & Regulations Committee of REcolorado.

Regular readers know of my commitment not just to sustainability but also to the adoption of electric vehicles.  I am so thankful that EVs are going mainstream and that multiple countries (France, China, Norway and the UK, among others) are speeding the end of internal combustion-powered automobiles. I predicted this revolution a couple years ago, but this year’s developments in that regard surprised even me.

Rotary Club of Golden Logo
We should all be thankful for the various service organizations which contribute so much to society— Rotary, Lions, Sertoma, Optimists, Kiwanis, and others. Rotary, for example, is singularly responsible for the eradication of polio. The Lions Clubs, inspired in 1925 by Helen Keller, have worked on projects to prevent blindness, restore eyesight and improve eye care for millions of people worldwide. The Optimists are all about serving youth. Here in Golden, they have a “bicycle recycle” program that has provided free or inexpensive bicycles to those who couldn’t afford them. Sertoma (short for “Service to Mankind”) is devoted to serving those at risk of hearing loss.

Service clubs in America are in decline, although I’m pleased to report that both the Golden Rotary Club and Golden Lions Club are experiencing a surge in membership this year. (Rita and I are Rotarians, and I’m a Lion.) If voluntarism is in your heart, I urge you to check into one of these clubs in your community, all of which welcome you as their guest at one of their meetings.

I don’t have room to mention all of the organizations or people for whom I am thankful, but let me mention one more — our local chambers of commerce. Golden Real Estate is pleased to be a member of the West Chamber serving Jefferson County and the Golden Chamber of Commerce, on whose board of directors I serve. These organizations play an important role is promoting a healthy business environment in the communities they serve. Legislators benefit from their advice and feedback regarding bills affecting business. All businesses should consider joining their local chamber and participate in their events.

8WWLogo copyLastly, on a personal note, Rita and I are eternally thankful to have connected with Body in Balance Wellness Center, where our health and fitness benefited from their “8 Weeks to Wellness” program — a real life changer!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

If You’re Into Horses, You’ll Like This Book — About My Brother

My brother, Pete Smith, was a highly respected and greatly loved veterinarian who built his own big-animal practice and clinic in Athens County, Ohio, but he earned his DVM degree in Fort Collins, at CSU in 1961.

I thought I knew Pete well, but my respect and admiration for him grew tremendously from reading this biography by Gina McKnight.

When it was announced that this book was being written, I thought it was a nice memorial to my brother, but after reading the stories of his service to clients, I realized this book would be of interest to a much wider audience — in particular anyone who loves horses and values the work of a remarkable veterinarian.
Pete’s love of horses was matched by his love of logging and sawmills. In addition to building his own clinic on his Milliron farm, he also built a lumber mill, and used the sawmill to process logs that he cut on his expansive land holdings north of Athens, Ohio. It was while he was logging by himself that he misjudged how to cut a big tree and was critically injured by it. After a month or two in intensive care, his heart gave out.

Pete had had so many near-death experiences that family members like myself didn’t take the news of his accident as seriously as we should have, but we traveled from Colorado, Sweden and Maine to attend his standing room-only memorial service. That, too, is documented in this well researched and well written book that you can buy (in paperback, $15) at It’s a worthy tribute to my brother, but also a great read for horse lovers.

Why Do We Refer to 110-Volt and 220-Volt Electricity, When It’s Actually 120 and 240?

I’m not an electrician, although I’ve done my share of DIY home wiring over the years. Ever since I started driving electric cars, which utilize  240-Volt charging stations, I’ve been curious why REcolorado (Denver’s MLS) refers to 110-Volt and 220-Volt service instead of 120-Volt and 240-Volt service. And they’re not alone in doing so.

Recently I asked someone at Xcel Energy to explain this dichotomy. What I was told was that 120 volts became the standard as a result of the Rural Electrification Act in 1930.  As for how you get  240-volt service, it’s created when two 120-volt lines of opposite phase are combined.

Nevertheless, most Americans continue to refer to electricity as being 110 or 220 volts, even though those voltages no longer exist and haven’t for nearly a century in the United States.

Using a voltmeter, I verified that my own home’s outlets are running 120 volts and 240 volts.

What Due Diligence Should You Do When Buying a Home?

Here’s some advice I give to buyers I work with:

1) Do the home inspection immediately, so that you have time to do secondary inspections. These could relate to electrical, mold or plumbing issues identified by your inspector. Ask about our trusted inspectors.

2) Order a sewer scope, even for a newer home. It’s $100 well spent, because it could identify issues that cost thousands to fix.

3) If buying a home with an HOA, read the minutes of the board meetings, looking for controversies or recurring issues. We have agents with special expertise in studying HOA financials for our buyers.

4) Look for neighbors — they can tell you a lot!

Broomfield Condo Just Listed by David Dlugasch

1158 Opal St. #102, Broomfield
Narrated video tour at

This lovely first floor, end-unit condo features two large bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and a great location that faces open space with walking trails. It has new carpet, new laminate wood floors, and two decks. The master suite has a large walk-in closet. In addition to this unit’s 1-car detached garage with opener, there is plenty of other open parking. Enjoy the clubhouse with fitness room and outdoor pool. The Miramonte Ranch complex is within walking distance of shopping and bike trails and benefits from top-rated schools. Take a narrated video tour at the website above, then call David Dlugasch at 303-908-4835 for a private showing.

Downtown Englewood Home Just Listed by Chuck Brown

490 W. Nassau Avenue, Englewood
Narrated Video Tour at

Looking for an affordable starter home in a terrific neighborhood? Be sure to take a look at this cute two-story house in Englewood’s Broadway Heights neighborhood. The home sits on a quiet street located on a corner lot with sweeping seasonal views of the Front Range. On the main floor you’ll find a nice sized kitchen, living room, laundry room and full bathroom. Upstairs you’ll find two bedrooms and a 3/4 bathroom.  For storing your stuff you can choose either the old bomb shelter located under the house or the Tuff Shed outside. The large yard comes alive during the growing season with flower gardens, lilacs that provide privacy, shrubs, perennial flowers and raspberry bushes. This is a great Englewood location close to light rail, the Platte River trail, shopping, Riverpoint and all of the hot new food and culture spots popping up along Broadway. This is a fun home, you’ll love it. Call your agent or Chuck Brown at 303-885-7855 for a showing. He’ll be holding an open house on Saturday, Nov. 18th, 1-3 pm.

North Golden Townhome on Quiet Cul-de-Sac With Views

537 High Point Drive, Golden

Located at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac with- in walking distance of Mitchell Elementary School, a city park, Clear Creek and downtown Golden, this home has the best location in Canyon Point Villas — away from the noise of Highway 58, yet with an expansive view of the foothills and Clear Creek Canyon! The owner has made some changes to the main-floor plan that other owners here might want to emulate — the sliding glass door to the patio was moved from the living room to the dining room, making the living room effectively much bigger. Also the kitchen was nearby doubled in size by expanding it to include part of the foyer and all of the laundry/mud room. Other improvements include maple hardwood throughout the main floor as well as the stairs and the loft. Bathrooms are tiled and only the bedrooms have carpeting. The flagstone patio measures over 250 sq. ft., 80 of that covered by a retractable awning. The covered porch is private, out of view from the street, with mature trees providing additional privacy. Take a narrated video tour at the website above, then come to my open house on Saturday, Nov.18, 1-3 p.m.

GOP’s Proposals Favor Homeowners in States Without an Income Tax

The seven states without an income tax are obviously less impacted by the GOP’s proposed elimination of deductibility for state and local income tax. But what is less evident is how it actually helps homeowners in those states. Homeowners in those states benefit from eliminating that deduction because property taxes —  which remain deductible — tend to be much higher in states without an income tax.

Texas is a good example. People who move to states like Texas because they don’t have an income tax are fooling themselves, because state government has to get its money from somewhere, and property tax is a common replacement for funds that an income tax would generate.

Colorado’s property taxes on residential properties are quite low compared to other states, and one reason is that our state has an income tax in addition to state and local sales taxes. Coloradans were hurt when the deductibility of sales tax was eliminated, and elimination of the income tax deduction would add to that hurt. Meanwhile, homeowners in states that get most of their general funds through property taxes would hardly feel it at all. 

It doesn’t seem fair, does it? Of course, a large number of Congress members, including Republicans, are from states with income taxes, making passage of the GOP tax bill as written difficult at best.

Overlooked in most discussions of tax reform is the progressive nature of the mortgage interest deduction, and I’m heartened that, under the GOP plan, it would remain in place for mortgages under $1 million. Another tax proposal that is not getting as much coverage as it should is the proposed elimination of the estate tax. Currently, estates under $5 million are exempt from estate tax. Instead of entirely eliminating this tax, how about raising the exemption to, say, $10 million? This would preserve the intent of the current law, which is to provide relief for family farmers and others who may have a large non-cash estate which would have to be liquidated by heirs to pay the inheritance tax. At the same time, exempting only the first $10 million would mean that billionaires could not pass their entire fortune to their children without those children paying a single penny on their inheritance. I disagree with those who refer to this as a death tax. Instead, I view it as a tax on unearned income (on a grand scale) and believe that it is quite reasonable to require the beneficiaries of such windfalls to pay taxes on it.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

For Baby Boomers It’s Decision Time: Aging in Place vs. Other Options

It’s been reported that 10,000 Baby Boomers go on Social Security and Medicare every day. It’s understandable that with that milestone come thoughts of how they will manage their remaining years as aging adults. If they live in a home with stairs, for example, they might start thinking about moving to a single-story home with few or no stairs so they’re prepared when and if climbing stairs becomes a challenge.

Although it does have its limitations, “aging in place” is a popular trend. You can have stair elevators installed and hire out yard maintenance, and maybe even count on home nursing care when needed. Of course, the proximity of family, and their ability or willingness to assist could also factor into your decision.
For aging in place, a reverse mortgage might be an effective financial strategy. It allows you to stop making mortgage payments and even draw cash against your home’s equity for as long as you stay there. Our agents recently participated in an office-wide continuing education class about when and how a reverse mortgage might work for people age 62 and over. We have no loan officers at Golden Real Estate, but can refer clients to quality lenders knowledgeable about the various loan programs available, including reverse mortgages.
Of course, aging in place isn’t for everyone. For example, I have a client who is planning to sell their single-story home in Lakewood and move into the new Vita senior apartments in Littleton, which is nearing completion. I joined the couple at a Vita presentation and was really impressed at Vita’s concept, which includes having a garage with parking spaces outside each apartment’s door, no matter which floor it’s on. Call me if you’d like more information about Vita.

Below you can read about one of our agents, Kristi Brunel, who has received extra training in serving the real estate needs of seniors. If selling your current home and replacing it with one more suitable for seniors is in your plans, she can help you. But who’s going to help if you choose to move into a retirement community and pay rent, versus purchasing a different home?  For that, we refer prospective sellers to CarePatrol, a company which assists seniors in choosing the senior community best suited to their needs.
The best time for seniors to make their move, whether to a better home or a senior community, is before they physically need to. Moving can be strenuous and stressful, and it’s best to do it while you are physically, emotionally and mentally able to deal with such a major life change. The brokers at Golden Real Estate are equipped to make such a move easier.  We provide our own moving trucks, boxes and packing materials for your use (free), and we can connect you with movers for loading and unloading at reasonable rates. You just pack and unpack. Invite one of us to meet with you in your home and we’ll give you free advice and information to help you make the right decision.

Broker Associate Kristi Brunel recently earned the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation. While Kristi is committed to all of her clients, earning the SRES designation demonstrates her desire to provide specialized service to those over 50 years old. If you are considering modifying your home to age in place, downsizing and selling your home, exploring housing options, or just have a question, call her at 303-525-2520. Her email address is She will be working with her colleagues at Golden Real Estate to serve that market, including giving educational presentations to senior organizations. Call her if you’d like us to make a presentation to your organization. Early next year, Kristi will begin leading monthly walks with seniors.