energy-efficient

Although Americans are constantly increasing their electricity usage, homes, appliances, and electronics have become more energy-efficient, leading to a decrease in kilowatt-hours for three years in a row.  As a result, the average amount of electricity consumed has fallen to levels not seen since more than a decade ago.  Following the financial crisis, billions of dollars in Recovery Act funding was directed toward home-efficiency programs.

-In the early 2000’s, as a response to rising energy prices, more states toughened building codes to force developers to better seal homes, so newer homes waste less energy.

-Insulated windows have dropped in price, making retrofits of existing homes more affordable.

-Appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners have become more efficient, due to stricter federal energy standards.

-Many 40-inch LED televisions today use 80 percent less power than the cathode-ray tube televisions of the past.

-Incandescent light bulbs are being replaced with CFL and LED bulbs which use 70-80 percent less power.  According to the Energy Department, widespread use of LED bulbs could save output equivalent to that of 44 large power plants by 2027.

-Many consumers have switched from computers to tablets.  The Electric Power Research Institute reports that it only costs $1.36 to power an iPad for a year, versus $28.21 for a desktop computer.

vail-real-estate

The Vail real estate market hasn’t recovered as quickly as the Denver metro area.  Land Title recently released its 2013 numbers for Eagle county’s real estate market:  the 2013 numbers are similar to 2012 — a few more transactions made, a bit less sales volume. That’s a welcome change from the swings seen in the years since the national economic slump first hit the High Country.

The steadiness in the market means we could be ready for positive changes, as the numbers for 2013 may not reflect the strength in demand.  Certainly, there’s more demand for than homes available in some areas.

The demand is increasing and is just starting to be reflected in price, which may prompt potential sellers who have been waiting to finally bring their property to market.  It may also spur a bit of construction.

While prices are beginning to rise, values remain fairly low, particularly when measured against the highs from 2007 and earlier, with values remaining around 25 to 30 percent below 2007 values.

bianca-chicken

1)  Chickens Lay Eggs.  Not just any eggs, but the most flavorful eggs you will ever eat.  The recent health benefits  from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient date suggests that eggs from hens on a pasture may contain: 1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat,  2⁄3 more Vitamin A, 2 times more Omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene.

2)  Chickens don’t require a great deal of space.  One should allow for 4 square feet of space per hen in their house and 10 square feet of space in an outdoor run.

3)  Chickens are easy to care for.  Chickens need food and water and safe exercise space.  It takes a few minutes to feed them, collect eggs and clean up bedding.

4)  Chickens are fun and educational for children.  Children can experience firsthand where food comes from and learn how to be responsible with care and feeding.

5)  Chickens produce manure, which is an ideal fertilizer for flower and vegetable gardens.  Chicken manure provides more nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to plants than horse or cow manure.  Note:  chicken manure is too strong to be used raw on your flowers or vegetables, but it can be composted and converted to “black gold”.

6)  Chickens are an all-in-one yard service, resolving most insect and weed problems. If you have a section of yard with problems – forget the pesticide and let them scratch it up. Within a couple of days, it’s tilled and ready for planting.

Local ordinances for urban chicken farming in Colorado vary considerably.  Currently, backyard chickens are allowed in Alamosa, Arvada, Boulder, Denver, Colorado, Springs, Greeley, Longmont, and most recently, Aurora.  You will need to investigate in your city to determine local ordinances.  There is a $50 fee for urban chicken farming in Denver.  You may only have chickens and hens; no roosters.

Talk with your neighbors and make sure they are comfortable with your backyard flock.  Make sure your chickens have a safe coop, as many Colorado areas have predators, such as foxes, raccoons, and coyotes.  Without a protective roof, they could even be prey for hawks.

Light Rail Station Right sign

The Aurora light rail along I-225 is expected to be completed in 2016.  City officials hope this 10 mile stretch will become Aurora’s main street, hosting shops, restaurants, residential, and office buildings near the light rail stops.  Many of the plans are expecting vertical development including high-end condos and office buildings.  Aurora Mayor, Steve Hogan, says “It’s an opportunity for Aurora to stop accepting average and start shooting for the stars.”

Critics believe this goal may be difficult to attain.  Aurora City Councilman Bob LeGare says that the market for rentals isn’t realistic.  Commercial space in Aurora usually sits around $17-18 per square foot at the high end, while plans for the development are aiming for office space at $25 per square foot.  The higher price required for developers to make a profit is largely due to zoning is transit-oriented developments.  A development of four stories or higher must have a parking structure and elevators, so the cost is passed on the tenant.

Development around Littleton’s light rail system has had moderate success, while Lakewood’s light rail line has been open for 10 months and has not yet seen transit-oriented development.

Mayor Hogan admits, “Maybe we are expecting too much or aiming too high.  But if you never try, then he’s [Councilman LeGare] right.”

five-points

I was wondering when Welton Street was going to see some action – the heart of the historic Five Points neighborhood is right next to downtown and is surrounded by historic Victorian homes!  But as of last year, the commercial spaces were largely vacant.

Attempting to lure new commercial and mixed-use residential development to the Welton Street corridor, last fall, Mayor Michael Hancock offered as much as $500,000 in grants to cover pre-development planning and design in the Welton Design/Development Challenge.  This project was intended to fund projects on Welton between 20th and 30th streets; each project could receive as much as $175,000 to cover expenses including architecture, engineering, financial planning, environmental review and market research.

Funded by federal Community Development Block Grants through Denver’s Office of Economic Development, the community-based selection committee chose to fund the top five.

The project winners are:

1) The Arcade & Rosenberg’s Bagels at 2714 Welton Street received $75,000.  The historic arcade building is to be transformed into a 2,400 sq. ft. space of retail featuring Rosenberg’s Bagels and Delicatessen, with equally sized residential space on the upper floor to provide 2-4 residential units.

2) nuROOT Innovative Office Space received $75,000 for 2942-2944 Welton Street.  This space is designed for emerging businesses and will feature 4,710 sq. ft. of office space, plus 2,310 sq. ft. for an eating and drinking establishment.

3) Palisade Partners at 2460 Welton Street received $100,000 to develop two adjacent vacant parcels at 25th and Welton into 82 apartments, 14 townhomes, and 3000+ sq. ft. of ground-floor retail.

4) The Rossonian Development was awarded $150,000 to renovate and restore the historic Rossonian hotel into 64 residential units, office space, shopping, dining, and venue options.

5) Saint Bernard Properties received $75,000 to develop the vacant lot at 2950 Welton Street into a three-story, mixed-use building including four apartment units.

 

denver-golden-skyline

I attended Mayor Michael Hancock’s 2014 Denver Economic Development Update, with speakers Paul Washington, the Director of Denver’s Office of Economic Development and Kelly Leid, the project manager of the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative, so that you don’t have to!  2014 is looking pretty strong, but let’s review what Denver has already accomplished…

-Unemployment is down in to pre-recession levels

-We have experienced record-breaking home prices

-Forbes listed Denver as a Top City for Economic Momentum and a Top City for Job Seekers!

-Nonstop international flights to Denver have been increased to increase our competitiveness as an international economic contender

-We have gained 80,000 new residents since 2001

-New construction has hit the highest levels in over a decade

-Denver Public School attendance is up from 72,000 to 90,000 students

-Denver has added 15,000 jobs over the last two years

Not too shabby!  So, what are we looking forward to in 2014?

Mayor Hancock is focusing strongly on building up North Denver, including the improving the RiNo district, redevelopment of Brighton Boulevard, increasing access, transit, and services to the long neglected Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods.  (To learn about Globeville and Elyria Swansea initiative, click here.)  Interstate 70 is also looking to receive improvements to move the highway underground and place a park above ground, similar to the Klyde Warren Park of Dallas, which has been described as “a green space arising out of thin air.”

denver-mayor

Efforts are also being made to redevelop the National Western Stock Complex and Denver Coliseum, to turn them into a year-round destination for out-of-towners.  The Welton Corridor in Five Points is also receiving grant money for mixed-use improvements.  The Mayor is also focused on adding affordable housing, as well as mixed-income developments in lower income neighborhoods.

One of my personal favorites as an real estate agent who advocates for community building and eco-concerns is that the Mayor has recognized that many of Denver’s new residents are aged 18-34.  He acknowledged that these folks wants to live, work, and play in the same area, often eschewing vehicles for public transit.  To accommodate this, our transit system is being expanded and strengthened.

All in all, the future looks bright!

Skyscrapers in Downtown Denver, Colorado.

After some controversy, the Sloans development is coming to realization.  The former St. Anthony Central Hospital located at West 16th Ave and Raleigh in the West Colfax neighborhood has been scraped and will be redeveloped as Denver’s newest urban infill.  Infrastructure will be built this spring with construction expected to begin by summer.

EnviroFinance Group has placed four of the blocks under contract with local developers who will build a mixed-use area of apartments, restaurants, shops, and a hotel across West 17th Avenue from Sloan’s Lake.  The Denver Post has recently reported that an 8-screen Alamo Drafthouse Theater will be added to the development as well.

There have been opponents to this development, including neighborhood groups who are concerned with density issues.  Around 1,200 residential units are expected with building heights rising to 20 stories.  With this potential influx of new residents to the area, questions have been raised as to whether the area can handle the additional traffic.

Developers believe the project will be a strong addition to the neighborhood.  Most Denverites would agree that West Colfax could use some work… will the Sloans development be the answer?

A scale house on some forms for a deed to conceptualize on the financial investment.

What the heck is title insurance? Why should you buy it?

Well… unless you are paying for your home entirely in cash, lenders will not let you purchase a home without title insurance.  Title insurance ensures that the sellers truly own the property and that there aren’t any problems with the title.

Common Problems with Titles:

1) A previous owner had some construction done on the home and never paid the contractor.  The contractor can place a mechanic’s lien on the title.  You didn’t have that work done, so you shouldn’t have to pay for it.

2)  A previous owner skipped out on paying their property taxes, which resulted in a lien being placed on the title.  Liens are placed on the property, not on the individuals, so new owners need to protect themselves against the antics of previous owners.  T

3)  Forgery! There have been cases of forgery where scam artists search public records to find homeowners who reside out of state and attempt to sell the property as their own on the internet!  (There are so many creative honest ways to make money in this world, it always blows my mind when people do things like this to try to make a buck, but… it happens.)

4)  There are sometimes cases of missing heirs… maybe a child was left in the will and became estranged from their family… years later, the prodigal son or daughter returns and technically has claim to the property. Should this be your problem if you bought the house fair and square?  Of course not!

Title insurance protects home buyers against all of these potential issues and more.

3D render Depicting Declining Property Prices

1)  Home sellers want to put the home on the market before it’s ready.  Sellers become impatient, OR procrastinate and push themselves too close to the moving deadline without getting the pre-sale work done. So they list their home with the horrible carpet or they are painting it while it goes on the market. Presentation is everything — so get the work done before marketing the property.  Every realtor has had a buyer refuse to purchase a home because they didn’t like the paint, even though it’s a super easy fix!

 2)  Home Sellers over-improve the home for the neighborhood. This happens with additions, bump outs, and upgrades that make the home stick out from among its competitors so much that it’s an anomaly, instead of a nice addition to the community.  In less desirable neighborhoods, most buyers won’t care about the custom kitchen and hottub.  They want the desirable location, and will install their own features.

 3)  Home Sellers want to price the home based on what they wish to net. This pricing strategy usually ends in failure. Sellers can control the asking price, but they cannot control the sale price. The market does. It doesn’t matter what the seller wants, the price is determined by the black-and-white, matter-of-fact reality of the market.

 4)  Home Sellers may hire an agent based on non-business factors. Make sure you’re hiring a professional with a proven track record or at least is genuinely passionate to help you!  It might be nice to hand over your largest asset to your nephew who just got his license, but make sure his employing broker works closely with him to keep your deal from going south.

 5)  Home Sellers become emotionally involved in the sale of their home. This is one of the biggest challenges home sellers face when putting their house on the market. Once you decide to sell your house, it’s no longer your home, but a commodity. It needs to be prepared as a commodity, marketed as a commodity, and priced as a commodity. It doesn’t matter what you “want,” only what the market can bear on pricing. People are going to come in to kick the tires, so to speak, and you can’t take it personally if they don’t appreciate the charms that you have enjoyed in your home.

 6)  Home Sellers try to cover up problems, or not disclose them. Most states have a property disclosure/disclaimer form — use it wisely. Just because you disclaim doesn’t mean you cannot be sued for the leaky basement or the problematic plumbing system that’s discovered 30 days after settlement.

 7)  Home Sellers fail to get their ducks in a row before trying to sell. This could involve financing issues, not reading the fine print on your current mortgage to ensure no pre-payment penalties, not investigating their local market, etc.  If your local market is dictating lower home prices, then lower the price early, not later — it will cost you more. 

Avoid these seller mistakes and many others by choosing to work with a Conscious Real Estate agent when you sell your home. To contact one of our agents, call 303-908-9873 or email our owner, Allison Parks, at allison@theconsciousgroup.com.

Housing market price drop concept vector illustration

1) Home Buyers don’t consider resale before they buy.  Every house will be resold at some time in the future.  Granted, you cannot predict all future changes; the area or the economy could improve or decline.  Even so, the future value of the home should be a priority.

2)  Home Buyers base their decisions on what they hear in the national news. They need to remember that real estate is local; not national.  Several times when I tell people I do real estate, they look at me sympathetically and say, “Oh, I bet things are really tough right now.”  Well, they are… in Florida, in Nevada… even Chicago.  Denver is doing just fine.  Home prices have met and exceeded pre-recession prices.

 3) Home Buyers only talk to one lender. You need to shop for a loan, just like they shop for a house.  First, interest rates can vary from lender to lender.  Second, not all lenders offer all types of mortgage products, especially major banks.  I had a client who strongly preferred a condo to a home, but was told that he would have to make a 20% down payment on a condo.  I sent him to my preferred lender and within a day, he was qualified to purchase a condo with a 5% down payment.  So, we found him a great condo!

4) Home Buyers don’t read and understand the contract.  Colorado Real Estate Contracts are over 16 pages long, and your agent should  explain the contract to you.  Second, read over the contract carefully before signing.  I have seen realtors make mistakes on important details – like dollar amounts! 

5) Home Buyers don’t get prequalified with a lender before they start looking for a home.  Consequently they may be looking for houses in the wrong price range.  I have seen clients err on both sides – some think they will be able to afford something much higher than what they qualify for; others think they will only qualify for $150,000 when they qualify for $300,000.  (Note:  You shouldn’t necessarily purchase a home at the top dollar amount for which you qualify.  It’s good to give yourself some wiggle room in case of an unexpected financial event.)

6) Home Buyers don’t do their due diligence before buying, including checking on the crime statistics, checking out the schools, and checking out the neighborhood.  Buyers should also visit a neighborhood during different times of the day and different days of week; talk to the neighbors. 

7) Home Buyers buy the most expensive house in the neighborhood.  The most expensive home in the neighborhood is never the best investment, unless an ex-President lived in the home or unless they scrape all the other houses and build new homes larger than yours.  

To avoid these buyer pitfalls, among others, let us guide you through the home-buying process. Whether you are a seasoned home-buyer or a first-time home-buyer, we will have your back every step of the day. To contact one of our brokers, call Conscious Real Estate at 303-908-9873 or email our owner, Allison Parks, at allison@theconsciousgroup.com.