Conscious Real Estate Partners with Elephant Energy


I love helping people create their homes and I love giving back.  Not only does it keep me happy, (YES, contributing a consistent portion of my income makes me HAPPY), I receive constant inspiration from witnessing the problems of our world and seeing the creative changes that nonprofits enact in our local and global community.  Elephant Energy is such an organization who has sought to implement creative solutions to problems they have identified in the world.

Over 1.3 billion people in the world have no access to electricity. Elephant Energy works to solve this problem by empowering local entrepreneurs to supply affordable, clean, and practical energy technologies to their communities. With operations in Namibia, Africa and on the Navajo Nation in the United States (under the name Eagle Energy), their technologies help reduce household expenditures and health risks associated with traditional lighting and enable children to study after dark, businesses to stay open later, and people to stay connected to news and their families.  So, what does this look like in practice?


Meme Felicia smiles, cooking fresh cuts of meat and preparing chips in Oshikango market. She adds another cut of beef to the grill. Customers wait in line and point to the pieces of meat they want, and grab a piece of tripe to chew on while they wait for Felicia to prepare their order. Felicia serves up a plate full of food to a hungry customer, and he pays his bill and begins feasting.

What’s strange about this scene? Its hours after dark. A month ago, Meme Felicia would close her business at sunset because she didn’t have access to light.

Meme Felicia has prepared and sold food in Oshikango market for 4 years. There was no electricity at her business location, so she used candles to keep her business lit. The candles were placed above her so she could illuminate her working area, but wax from the candles would drip on the meat and customers complained. Even with the use of the candles, she would close her business around sunset because the candles could not provide enough light to operate during the night.

Last month, Felicia attended a solar light demonstration in Oshikango hosted by Elephant Energy. At the demonstration, Felicia learned about Elephant Energy’s solar product offerings, including the popular Sun King Pro. As the name suggests, Sun King Pro is powered by the sun. During the day, the Sun King Pro soaks up energy from the sun, and at night, it provides light and also charges cellphones. To those without light at night, it also provides an opportunity to extend activities after dark. And since all of Elephant Energy’s solar products come with a 1-year warranty, including the Sun King Pro, quality is guaranteed. “It didn’t take long for me to decide that this solar light would help my business,” said Felicia. She purchased the Sun King Pro from Elephant Energy a few days later.

She’s now been using the Sun King Pro for a month and in that month, she’s seen dramatic positive changes in her business. Because she no longer uses candles, she saves money on candle costs. The meat she sells is now wax-free and customers compliment her on the quality of the product. Felicia now graciously offers free cellphone-charging services for neighboring business owners. But most importantly, because her business area is now illuminated by the Sun King Pro’s light, she has been able to extend her operating hours so she can sell food to hungry customers hours after the sun has set. “Thanks to my new solar light and extended hours, I have tripled my daily profits,” Felicia exclaims.

I’m inspired.  You are too?  To learn more about Elephant Energy, take a look at their website.  Follow Elephant Energy on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.  Or DONATE.

Remember, Conscious Real Estate contributes 10% of all commissions to the nonprofit of our clients’ choice and we would love to give a boatload of money to Elephant Energy.  So, give us a call at 303-908-9873 when you buy or sell your next home, tell your friends, tell your mom.  We are ready to make some change in the world!

Love for the Mile High City for Super Bowl 2014! Go Denver!


A few days out from the Super Bowl, Denver is feeling the love.  United in Orange!  Of course, I absolutely want to crush the Seahawks, because seriously, WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?  But what I appreciate even more is a feeling of unity in the city that has made itself my home… So now is a great time to show some love for our city.

We are really so lucky to live here.  We can drive an hour from our home and be surrounded by truly majestic nature.  The “purple mountain majesties” is NOT an exaggeration.  We have maintained our economy whereas many other parts of the United States been struggling.  We have fantastic sports teams to watch and a plethora of sports we can engage in on our own and WE DO.  We have developed a ton of local businesses that are a delight to support, so we make the friendly faces behind the businesses our friends.  We have no shortage of beautiful historic homes – granted, I do real estate, but I can drive down Curtis St and applaud out loud for the colorful Victorians that were built by the people who started this city and I never get sick of it.  My father taught me to appreciate craftmanship and quality and our homes have it!

So, here is a visual love poem to Denver called “Breathless,” created by Air Ball Creative for TedxMileHigh.  I don’t know these guys, but they are welcome to come over for coffee any time!  I always have at least a couple of tears by the end of this video and I have seen it at least 8 times.  If you like Ted, check out this love letter to the Mile High City written by TedxMileHigh fellow Sam Faktorow.

And here is a mashup video of the “Orchestra Show Down” made for the 2014 Super Bowl, with the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra playing against the Seattle Philharmonic.  Denver is playing “Rocky Mountain High,” versus Seattle’s “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”

And finally, a bit of my own “art.”  (Do NOT quit your day job, Allison.)  I attended an event for Project Valentine, which is a local organization which makes Valentine’s Day care packages for people receiving chemotherapy on Valentine’s Day.  A GREAT nonprofit organization – click here if you would like to get involved. (The event was at The Art Salon in City Park West – also a place worth checking out!)


I love you, Denver.  Thank you for supporting me.


Denver Receives 7th Place in “Quirky City Ratings”


Photo of Sandy Root

The good people at the Movoto Real Estate Blog would appear to have a lot of time on their hands, as they decided to embark upon a meta-analysis of city rankings which included categories such as “Smartest Cities,” “Best Cities for Movie Lovers,” “Funniest Cities,” “Most Steampunk Cities,” and “Best Cities for Meat Lovers.”  (A meta-analysis utilizes statistical methods to reanalyze existing statistics to find new interpretations.)

In some categories, points were awarded for the cities who were the “losers,” such as “Worst-Dressed Cities” and “Most Unhealthy Cities.”  (I don’t mind being a loser in those categories.)  50 cities were considered across 15 categories.

Denver actually ranked highest in the “Meat Lovers” category, receiving 5th Place.  Denver placed 6th in “Funniest” and “Steampunk,” 9th in “Healthiest” and “Smartest,” 14th for “Most Exciting,” 22nd for “Hardest Working,” 23rd for “Most Saintly,” 39th for “Family Friendly,” and 45th for “Home Buyers.”

To expound upon our low score on home-buying in Denver, I agree that the last year’s real estate market in Denver was competitive and sometimes frustrating for home-buyers in Denver.  Even now, we still seem to not have enough sellers to bring us to what would be considered “a balanced market.”  However, we have historically and consistently enjoyed higher real estate appreciation rates than many cities.  (I will take an increase in home values any day over a little extra work!)  And sure, you can purchase a home for less money in many other cities, but will that city boast a strong economy to launch and maintain your career?  Plus, once you buy a home, you want your home’s value to rise.  After all, your home is one of the greatest investments you will ever make!

If you would like further amusement, check out Movoto’s blog for America’s 10 Most Sinful Cities.  Hint: Denver is NOT on the list and Las Vegas is NOT #1.

Are Denver’s Globeville and Elyria-Swansea Neighborhoods Headed for Change?

I-70 East Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Project - Visual Simulation of the Partial Covered Lowered Alternative

I-70 East Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Project – Visual Simulation of the Partial Covered Lowered Alternative

Many people living in Denver have never heard of the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods, although these neighborhoods are almost as close to downtown as the Highlands.  These neighborhoods are north of downtown Denver and are dissected by the junction of I-70 and I-25.  Globeville and Elyria-Swansea consists mostly of smaller Victorian homes built in the late 1800’s which housed the workers of the Globe Smelting and Refining Company which processed raw minerals brought from the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

The Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods have faced many problems in the past, due to a lack of urban planning in the neighborhood as well as environmental issues caused by the nearby industries of what is now Denver’s River North or RiNo area.  However, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver City Councilwoman Judy Montero seek to transform the area into a “Corridor of Opportunity.”  “This part of the city has been long avoided by planners, mostly because there were easier projects to tackle,” states Kelly Leid, project manager.

This project, the “North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative,” seeks to provide sidewalks, new drainage, new roads, and new infrastructure including vertical buildings to bring jobs and investment to the area.  A total of four new light-rail stations will be constructed in the neighborhood and the East Commuter Rail Line will cut through on its way to Denver International Airport.  Another project could remove the aging interstate viaduct over the neighborhood, burying it underground and replacing it with a sprawling park, which is a $1.8 billion dollar proposal.

Even if the projects come to fruition in their current form, it will take at least a decade before they’re all fully realized.  In that time, multiple administrations could come and go.  Major improvements have been announced for these areas in the past and then simply did not happen.  In addition to lack of follow-through on past promises, KUNC, a community radio station for Northern Colorado, interviewed several residents in the area and found that area residents are concerned about the gentrification of the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods which occurred in the Denver Highlands neighborhoods. 

Mayor Hancock is pushing for change – to turn what has been called the back door of Denver into the new front door.

Mortgage Credit Certificate Program of Denver

Home finance concept: residential house, office calculator, colorful bar graph and color pie chart isolated on white background

Getting ready to buy a home and want to get 30% of your interest payments back?  Keep reading.

The City and County of Denver 2012 Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program allows qualifying borrowers to receive an annual federal income tax credit equal to 30% of the annual interest they pay on their mortgage loan. The tax credit enables a taxpayer to subtract the amount of credit from his or her annual total federal income taxes. Borrowers may choose to adjust their W-4 withholding to account for the tax-credit benefit and receive a higher net monthly income. Any excess credit from the MCC may be carried forward for up to three subsequent tax years.

This program will run from April 2012 to December 31, 2014.  Homeowners must keep their first mortgage and occupy the home as their primary residence.  The homeowner must not have owned another home in the past three years (unless they have purchased their home in a “targeted area.”)  Furthermore, the allowable maximum family income for families of 2 or fewer is $79,300 in a non-targeted area and $91,195 for a family of 3 or more, while the maximum family income is $95,160 for a family of 2 or less in a targeted area and  $111,020 for a family of 3 or more in a targeted area.  Click here for a list of targeted areas.

Note:  You must contact the appropriate government agency about getting an MCC before you get a mortgage and buy your home.

For a list of lenders who participate in the MCC program of Denver, please call us to get started at 303-908-9873.

Posner Center for International Development


On one of my adventures through my neighborhood, The 80205, I saw the horse barn a couple years ago and thought, “Someone should really develop this.  It would make great condos.”  Thankfully, someone did develop this building and they had a much better idea than condos!

Denver’s Historic Horse Barn in Curtis Park has been renovated into a hub for local and international development.  The Horse Barn was built in 1882 at 33rd and Arapahoe to house the horses and horse cars used for transportation at that time.  In 2008, this was the last building standing of its kind, was in major disrepair, and had been vacant for years.  The Denver Housing Authority purchased this building intending to scrape it and build housing.  Joe Noble of the Curtis Park Neighborhood Association argued that the building has historic value and should not be destroyed – Thank you, Joe!


The barn was developed into the Posner Center for International Development by tres birds design/build firm, which houses over 40 international development organizations, such as Elephant Energy and PowerMundo, as well as the local nonprofit, Denver Urban Gardens.  The design accommodates both private and shared work spaces, including former horse stalls transformed into private rooms, and sports an open modern kitchen for fundraisers and Urban Garden cooking classes.  The Posner Center also hosts the Curtis Park Neighborhood Association meetings.


Energy Loans for Your Denver Business Offered Through Certifiably Green Denver


Through Certifiably Green Denver, the City and County of Denver offers low-cost financing for Denver businesses who wish to implement energy-efficient upgrades.  If you’re planning to implement energy projects, but lack the upfront capital, a Sustainability Adviser through Certifiably Green Denver can help you determine if a low-cost energy loan through the program is right for you.  Over 40 measures have been approved with interest rates as low as 3.75%.

Business energy loans can be used for variety of upgrades, including:

-Lighting Upgrades

-Energy Audit ASHRAE Level 2 or 3

-Energy Management

-Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

-Office Equipment

-Laundry Equipment

-Motors and Drives

-Refrigeration, Food Service, and Grocery

-Walls and Roofing

-Water Heaters

-Renewable Energy (Solar)

To see if this loan is right for your business, contact a sustainability advisor.

Different Types of Mortgages – Which One is Right For You?

New house buyers concept for mortgage, home loan

FHA Loan – This is a great program for first-time home-buyers, though you do not need to be a first-time buyer to qualify for this loan.  FHA loans usually require a middle credit score of 640 and tends to have more lenient guidelines than most other mortgages.

The Guidelines:

-Bankruptcies must be discharged at least two years ago

-Foreclosures and Short Sales must be at least three years ago

-Debt to income ratios are allowed up to 55%

-3.5% is required for a down payment

-Co-signers are allowed, as well as gift funds for a down-payment

CHFA Loan – This is another great program for first-time home-buyers offered by the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority.  CHFA is a organization that provides down payment assistance for FHA loans.

The Guidelines are the same as FHA Loan Guidelines except:

-Only a .5% down payment is required or a minimum of $1,000 down, whichever is more

-Buyers must complete a Homebuyer Education class that can be done in person or online

VA Loan – This is a great loan program for any veteran with VA loan eligibility.  Similar to FHA loans, this loan has very lenient underwriting guidelines.

The Guidelines are the same as FHA Loan Guidelines except:

-No down payment is required

-No mortgage insurance is required

Conventional Loan – This is the preferred program for any buyer with a higher credit score (at least 650) and can afford at least a 5% down payment.  Ideally, a buyer would need to put 20% down for a conventional loan.  However, buyers can now put as little a 5% down with various options for mortgage insurance.  (Generally, a higher credit score will gain the buyer a lower price on mortgage insurance.)

The Facts:

-Bankruptcies must be discharged at least 4 years ago

-Foreclosures and short sales must be at least 7 years ago

-Debt to income ratios allowed up to 45%

-At least 5% is required for a down payment

-Co-signers are allowed in most cases, as are gift funds

-With a slightly higher credit score and a slightly larger down payment than an FHA loan, a conventional loan ends up being a much cheaper option than an FHA loan

On a final note, buyers be aware that a conventional loan is often required when purchasing a condo.  If you have more in depth questions about which loan is right for you, give us a call or email and we will point you in the direction of a great loan officer!  Also, if funds for your down payment are a problem, look into the Denver Mortgage Assistance Program to see if grant money is still available for home-buyers who qualify for a home, but need assistance with a down payment.

How Will Legal Marijuana Affect the Colorado Real Estate Market?

Marijuana Questions

Whether you voted to legalize marijuana in the state of Colorado or not, it happened – and the business of legal marijuana is a large enough industry to affect our local real estate market.  This blog is not intended to be political, I simply consider it my job to stay on top of all aspects of real estate and our local economy.  So, how can we expect legal weed to affect our local real estate market?

All in all, marijuana equals more money.  In Colorado, 5 million dollars was generated in sales tax from medical marijuana in 2011.  The state of Washington estimates that legalizing marijuana will create $1.9 billion in additional revenue in the next five years.  The city of Oakland raised $1.3 million in tax revenue in 2011, which accounted for 3% of the city’s total business tax revenue.

Those numbers aren’t bad.

CNN Money quotes Alec Rhodes, managing director at Cassidy Turley Commercial Real Estate Services in Denver, estimates that marijuana growing operations occupy at least 1.5 million square feet of commercial real estate, which contributed to the local economy to get us through the recession.

So, if someone were relocating to a new city, what might they look for?  Strong economy.  Good schools. Colorado governmental regulations seek on the legal marijuana industry seek to provide this.  In fact, the first $40 million of sales and excise taxes on newly legalized recreational marijuana has been earmarked as revenue for public schools.

All in all, it is likely that the legal marijuana industry will positively affect the Colorado housing market over the next ten years; home prices probably wouldn’t skyrocket due to the industry, but the additional reinforcement to our local economy will likely add benefit.  The revenue generated from marijuana will redistribute into other local non-marijuana related businesses.  Folks who work in the legal marijuana industry will need to buy homes, eat dinner at local restaurants, acquire legal counsel, hire employees, and so forth.  With our nation’s economy still not up to full recovery, we can remain optimistic about maintaining our economic strength in the state of Colorado.

How To Choose a Home That is Likely to Increase in Value

house and money on scales. Isolated 3D image

A lot of people have expressed concerns to me about buying a home in the Denver market, as the rapidly increasing prices have raised concerns about a housing market bubble.  If you would like to learn more about current economic trends affecting the Denver market, click here.  For now, let’s consider some good maxims for buying a home in any city and any market.

Your home is one of your greatest investments.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying the home you like, wherever you like, BUT if you prioritize your home increasing its value, consider these following tips:

1)  Seek homes in walkable neighborhoods.  Walkable neighborhoods are becoming a high priority for home-buyers.  With increases in gas prices, people are moving back in from the suburbs and finding that its often more pleasant to walk to work, to the store, and to dinner.  A home in a walkable neighborhood will be more likely to maintain and increase in value.

If you are looking for a home in a new city, check the walk score.  Neighborhoods are rated from 0-100, with 100 meaning that multiple neighborhood businesses and parks will be within a stone’s throw.  The Riverfront neighborhood in Denver boasts some of the higher home prices in Denver and has a walk score of 98.

2)  Look for homes near parks and public transportation.  Homes that are near parks and public transportation are more likely to maintain or increase in value.  Once again, it’s where people want to be.  Location, location, location.

In Denver, an area which will likely increase considerably in value in the future is near the future lightrail extension by 38th and Blake.  If one were to purchase a home in this area now, in 3-10 years after construction is completed, the home value would likely have increased significantly.  Note:  choosing a location based ONLY on projected increases can be risky.  I recommend that you appreciate the location you choose as it is, in case projected improvements to the area never happen.

3)  Stay abreast of new developments that will make a location more desirable.  Glendale is already a desirable neighborhood to many, but when the Riverwalk is completed, homes near this development will likely increase in value because the neighborhood will be even more enjoyable.

4)  Learn a bit about the rental market in your area.   If rents on comparable properties are going for equal to or higher than your mortgage, this is good. If the vacancy rate for rentals in your city is low, this is good.  So, if, in the words of Kurt Vonnegut, the excrement hits the air conditioning and you no longer can afford your mortgage, you could likely cover your mortgage (and maybe even make money) by renting out your home and keep yourself out of foreclosure.  This could also benefit you if you have a job transfer to another city, while your current city is in a down market.  You could cover the mortgage (and maybe even make money) by renting out your property until the market improves so you don’t lose money when you sell your home.

Renting out your home may not be for everyone… Being a landlord contains its share of headaches, but if remaining financially strong is your primary goal, the ability to rent out your home can be a major asset.  Real estate markets aren’t so different from stock markets, and the mistake a lot of people make in stocks is selling when the prices are dropping.  Sometimes this can save you, but most markets will rebound and make their way back up.  Do what you have to do to weather the storm and wait it out.

5)  The home that is generally the best investment is the worst or smallest one on the block.  The home that is generally the worst investment is the biggest and best one on the block.  There can be some wiggle room on this… If , for instance, someone famous once lived in the biggest home on the block, that will be intriguing to future buyers.  If the worst home on the block needs major foundation work, a roof, and windows and would cost a great deal to get it up to snuff, it might not be the best investment.  If you are savvy about finding good contractors and can do some work yourself, consider purchasing and renovating the icky house in a great neighborhood!

6)  Choose a home that has eco-friendly features and make eco-friendly renovations.  From the tree huggers to the penny pinchers, home-buyers are increasingly desiring green homes.  Green homes sell for more than conventional homes; they sell more quickly and closer to asking price.  So, if you view your home as an investment, greening your investment will likely get you more green (money) when you sell, as well as saving you money while you live in your home.

If you are ready to buy a home and want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck and security in your financial future, let Conscious Real Estate guide you through the home-buying process. Call 303-908-9873 to reach one of our agents or email our owner, Allison Parks, at [email protected].