Traditional style coffee shop in central London

Boxcar Coffee Roasters:  With two locations (at Boulder gourmet shop Cured and The Source in Denver’s RiNo district), Boxcar richly deserves the strong buzz it generates for its roasting expertise and high-altitude brewing methods, showcased in every last espresso blend and single-origin coffee.  Also, The Source is freaking awesome.

3350 Brighton Blvd.; 1825 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-527-1300 

Crema Coffee House: This is a true coffee connoisseur’s cafe, using only the French Press or lever espresso machine, they see the brewing of the brown stuff as a craft and art form that deserves great appreciation.

2862 Larimer; 720-235-2995

Denver Bicycle Cafe: This coffee shop in uptown is a bike-repair shop, a coffeehouse, and a craft-beer bar – all the things Denverites cherish most under one roof, complete with a fierce commitment to local vendors.

1308 E. 17th Ave.; 720-446-8029

 Gypsy House Café: So authentically Mediterranean in its décor and atmosphere, guests will feel like they’ve walked out of Denver and into Istanbul. Enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee, take a pull from their hookahs, listen to music, or get your tarot cards read.

1279 Marion St.; 303-830-1112

Hooked On Colfax: This hipster hangout on Colfax, (imagine that…) pours hot, simple and delicious coffee and espressos, as well as offering free wi-fi and hosting monthly local art shows.

3213 E. Colfax Ave.; 303-398-2665

Pablo’s Coffee:  A pioneer in the local roasting movement, this Alamo Placita coffee shop has it all.  (Ok, actually, they don’t have wifi.)  Well-worn space bedecked with mini-chandeliers, check; messenger bag-toting regulars, check; house blends accompanied by the requisite pastries. If you buy their reusable cup, the drink is free with additional discounts on future drinks when you bring your cup.

630 E. Sixth Ave., 303-744-3323; 1300 Pennsylvania St. Ste. 102, 303-832-1688

St. Mark’s CoffeehouseOk, I’ll be honest.  This is not the best coffee in Denver… and the food isn’t that great… but the ambiance has kept me going back for over a decade.  It just has an unparalleled charm.  If you want a similar ambiance without the coffee, go next door to the Thin Man, a bar under the same ownership.

2019 E. 17th Ave; 303-322-8384

Wash Perk: Tucked into the historic Wash Park neighborhood three blocks west of the park, this coffee shop boasts free wi-fi, lots of room for your laptop, a book and magazine library, and amazing pastries, both traditional and gluten-free.

853 E. Ohio Ave.; 720-542-9202

falene-and-i

As with all relationships, communication is key and this is certainly the case when you choose a realtor.  Your home is one of your most important investments.   Buying or selling a home is a complicated process –some deals go smoothly and some have difficulties.  Your realtor should strive to make the process as easy going as possible for you – I personally aim to make the process fun for my clients.

1)  It should be obvious that a realtor should return all your emails and phone calls in a timely manner, but I hear people complain often that their realtors do not do so.  Your realtor works for you and while realtors cannot be accessible 24/7, you shouldn’t have to wait too long with your important questions and concerns.

My stepmother was working with a realtor in Las Vegas when the realtor went on vacation.  If I go on vacation and will not be accessible by phone, I would email all my clients to let them know that I would be leaving, have an assistant ready to handle my client load in my absence, and have a voicemail recording outlining how to reach my assistant and my dates of absence.  I would also have a way to check in daily with my assistant if there are any questions that needed to be answered.  This realtor just left for two weeks.  No voicemail.  No email.  No notification.  Just left.  I told her to find a new realtor – that’s unacceptable.  Sure, we all want to run away sometimes and “disconnect,” but not at the price of someone who trusts and relies on you.

2)  Your realtor should be educating you about the home buying or selling process.  The Colorado Contract to Buy and Sell Real Estate is 17 pages long.  You should understand exactly what you’re signing, because it is a legally binding contract, so your realtor should be taking the time to educate you adequately.

Buying and selling is a very involved process, and you should be comfortable with everything that happens during the process.  Of course, stay realistic… we can’t sell your $400,000 home for $500,000, but you should understand why your home is being listed for a certain price.  Similarly, if you’re buying, beware of a realtor who seems too “salesy.”  Every now and then, if I see a great deal, I will stress this to my clients, but I’m not the one who will be living in the home and paying the mortgage.  I want my clients to be happy with the home they have selected, so I point out the potential problems that I see in a home or neighborhood as often as I point out the positives.  No property is perfect, but I want my clients to be aware of any concerns, so if they make a choice, they do so with eyes wide open.

3)  You should like your realtor.  You may potentially have to spend a lot of time with this person;  at times, I have taken clients to see 50 plus properties before they found the right one.  The time you spend with your realtor shouldn’t be annoying or awkward – it should be enjoyable!

Note:  You, as a home buyer or home seller, should also seek to communicate well with your realtor.  Your realtor may be fantastic, but if you don’t clearly define your needs and priorities, your realtor probably can’t read your mind.  Don’t let your experience suffer because you aren’t being proactive about getting what you want and need from your real estate transaction.

As your home is one of your greatest investments, let’s face it – you probably worked really hard to earn your home!  A realtor should respect that and hold their relationships with their clients in utmost regard.  Without our clients, our business cannot survive.   Beyond my desire to have a thriving business, I enjoy the opportunity to be a positive element in my clients’ lives.  I find it to be a great honor to help people with their homes – our homes are our safe zone, our sacred space.  I enjoy attending my clients’ house-warming parties, meeting their families, and watching everyone move forward in their lives.  My clients have brought a lot of joy to my life and every person deserves a realtor who really has their best interests at heart.

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”  So, if you’re a realtor… BE A GOOD ONE.  Scratch that… be GREAT.

generation-y

Generation Y,  the folks born between 1980 to 1994 have entirely different expectations from their parents.  “They will be the first generation that is not going to be better off than their parents were,” says Melanie Reuter, director of research for the Real Estate Investment Network.

This generation carries a lot of debt, largely from student loans, but also has more credit card debt than previous generations.  Additionally, Generation Y tends to be more of “spenders” than “savers.”  Generation Y tends to move around more, whether it be from job to job, or city to city.  These folks eschew mortgage payments, jobs with benefits, and homes which reuire ongoing maintenance.  Gen Y takes pride in not needing a vehicle.

So, what does Generation Y look for in home ownership, if they do choose to take that route?

Condos – Less Space and Less Maintenance

Central Locations – Close to work, play, and transit hubs, as Gen Y is less likely to own a vehicle.  Don’t expect to see Generation Y in the suburbs, once they can afford to move out of mom and dad’s house.

Stylish Features – Generation Y favors aesthetics

Eco-Friendly Features – Generation Y has a much higher rate of choosing eco-friendly products.  They grew up in the era of global warming, greenhouse effect, and so forth, and they are choosing to save money and hopefully, the environment.

Proximity to Public Amenities – Generation Y wants coffee shops, parks, art galleries, dog wash stations.  If it’s not in their home, they want it in a public area.

The marijuana state, Colorado grunge rubber stamp, vector illustration

Many homeowners have feared that the introduction of marijuana dispensaries and stores would place neighborhoods at risk by contributing to higher crime rates and nuisance factors.  This is a valid concern – I notice everything in my neighborhood that could affect my home value, even if it’s as minute as a neighbor getting a new roof.  Homeowners SHOULD consider their home as an investment.

However, a study from the University of Colorado at Denver, one of my alma maters, has shown that pot shops do not negatively affect local neighborhoods, cause higher crime rates, or create other undesirable outcomes.  The study focused on 275 marijuana distribution facilities in 75 Denver area neighborhoods, comparing 2010 census data to data from the 2000 census before dispensaries were legal in Denver.  This study sought to discover whether dispensaries qualify as “locally undesirable land uses,” evaluating whether or not these types of businesses contributed to higher crime rates, economic injustice, etc.

The study authors expected to see inequalities especially with shops located in poorer neighborhoods.  However, the research showed no relationship between marijuana store locations with poverty rates or ethnicity, as recreational pot shops are dispersed widely throughout the Denver area.

“Everybody is saying that [marijuana stores] are undesirable.  If that’s the case, it’s certainly not showing up in the data,” said Paul Stretsky, co-author of the study and professor at University of Colorado at Denver’s School of Public Affairs.

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!