Statistics Show a Slowing Real Estate Market — But Not at Golden Real Estate

The 4½-year-long seller’s market is clearly transitioning into a “balanced” market and may be moving toward a buyer’s market by 2020, judging from statistics garnered from REcolorado, the Denver MLS.

In December, for example, the median days on market for City & County of Denver sales was 20, the highest since Feb. 2014, and the ratio of sold price to listing price was 98.5%, up from 98.3% in November, but otherwise the lowest since Feb. 2012 — nearly seven years ago.

January statistics won’t be available until early February, but a study of the 403 homes sold in the first 21 days of January shows that the median days on market is even higher — 28 days — and that the ratio of sold price to listing price has dropped to 97.2%.

The number of sold listings in December was 783, the lowest for a December since 2011. This compares to more than 1,000 sales in every December from 2014 to 2017. The number of active listings for this December was 1,605, the highest for any December since 2013.

Now let’s look at Jefferson County statistics.

In December the median days on market for Jeffco sales was 24, and the ratio of sold price to listing price was 98.6%. Both stats were the worst (relatively speaking)  since February 2014, nearby five years ago.

As with Denver, a study of the Jefferson County homes sold thus far in January shows that the median days on market will remain above 20 and that the ratio of sold price to listing price will dip even further. With 307 sales thus far and another 308 listings under contract over 20 days, I predict that the number of sold listings will be the same as or higher than January 2018, when 553 Jeffco homes were sold.  The median sold price will continue to climb, though less quickly.

Given these statistics, you can imagine our surprise at how well our own listings have performed this month. 

For example, broker associate Kristi Brunel listed a home on a busy street (usually not a good selling point) for $520,000, which was above what neighborhood comps suggested. She got it under contract for 13% more in four days. There were 60 showings and 13 offers, but there were 20 or more other offers which weren’t submitted once buyers knew how high the bidding had gone. Saturday’s open house, just hours after Friday’s big snow storm, was so busy and with so many cars parked on the street that one neighbor asked Kristi if it was a church function!

I had a similar experience with another listing. I got multiple offers which bid up the home to 7% over its listing price within four days, and the open house was the busiest I can recall. A Golden listing of mine which didn’t sell in December sold readily in January for nearly its listing price, and a $1.1 million listing of mine in downtown Golden sold in less than a week with multiple offers driving the price up by $75,000 following an open house where I needed help to accommodate the flow of buyers. 

So you can understand why I don’t quite know what to make of the current real estate market — except perhaps that Golden Real Estate knows how to sell homes better than other brokerages!

What we do know with certainty is that there are many disappointed buyers who did not win the bidding wars on these Jeffco listings and that homeowners who think they should wait until spring to put their home on the market should consider doing so now — and with us!

As I’ve written in the past, there are multiple reasons why winter is a good time to list a home, but our experience with these few listings is surprising even me. But beware — the reason that the MLS statistics are not as good as our own experience at Golden Real Estate may be that other brokerages are not listing their homes at the right price and not providing the kind of marketing for which Golden Real Estate is famous.

Buyers are definitely getting wiser and not making offers on homes that are overpriced. Give me or one of our broker associates a call and ask us what we consider the right price to list your home. 

The Realtor Code of Ethics Exists to Protect You

You’ve probably seen the advertising, “Make Sure Your Agent Is a Realtor.” That’s because not all licensed real estate agents are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and only members of NAR can call themselves “Realtors.” And only Realtors must swear obedience to the Realtor Code of Ethics and are required to take 4-hour biennial refresher classes about the Code.  (Note: All Golden Real Estate agents are Realtors.) The Realtor Code of Ethics has 17 articles that are divided into three categories. They are as follows.

DUTIES TO CLIENTS AND CUSTOMERS:

Article 1
Realtors protect and promote their clients’ interests while treating all parties honestly.

Article 2
Realtors refrain from exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts related to property or transactions.

Article 3
Realtors cooperate with other real estate professionals to advance their clients’ best interests.

Article 4
When buying or selling on their own account or for their families or firms, Realtors make their true position or interest known.

Article 5
Realtors do not provide professional services where they have any present or contemplated interest in property without disclosing that interest to all affected parties.

Article 6
Realtors disclose any fee or financial benefit they may receive from recommending related real estate products or services.

Article 7
Realtors accept compensation from only one party, except where they make full disclosure to all parties and receive informed consent from their client.

Article 8
Realtors keep the funds of clients and customers in a separate escrow account.

Article 9
Realtors make sure that details of agreements are spelled out in writing whenever possible and that parties receive copies.

DUTIES TO THE PUBLIC:

Article 10
Realtors give equal professional service to all clients and customers irrespective of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Realtors do not discriminate in their employment practices.

Article 11
Realtors are knowledgeable and competent in the fields of practice in which they engage or they get assistance from a knowledgeable professional, or disclose any lack of expertise to their client.

Article 12
Realtors are honest and truthful in their communications and present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and in other public representations.

Article 13
Realtors do not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.

Article 14
Realtors willingly participate in ethics investigations and enforcement actions.

DUTIES TO REALTORS:

Article 15
Realtors make only truthful, not misleading, comments about other real estate professionals.

Article 16
Realtors respect the exclusive representation or exclusive brokerage relationship agreements that other Realtors have with their clients.

Article 17
Realtors arbitrate and mediate financial disagreements with other Realtors and with their clients.

Life’s Transitions Are at the Heart of Most Real Estate Needs

In my 17 years as a Realtor, I have learned that most people’s real estate needs arise from life’s many and varied transitions.  These can include relationship changes such as marriage and divorce, a birth or death in the family, health changes, and other reasons for upsizing or downsizing, as well as job relocation, job loss, and changes in income. People also relocate to be closer to grandchildren or other family members.

Clients have come to us because of most or all of these “transitions,” but perhaps the most common is, sadly, divorce. When couples divorce, one option is for one spouse to buy out the other, and al-though the court (in a non-amicable divorce) might require a valuation by a licensed appraiser, often we’ll be called upon to give a “Broker Price Opinion” of the home’s value. I don’t charge for this service, nor do I think most agents would. If a sale of the home is necessary, of course we’re available to assist in that, and the proceeds can be disbursed as the couple or the court dictates.

Medical changes or uncertainty, which can affect people of all ages, often necessitate a home sale. We can help the seller of a multi-level home find a wheelchair accessible home or simply one with fewer stairs, and discount the commission on the sale of their current home when we earn a commission on their purchase. If the seller is moving to a rental such as in a senior community, we can refer them to a specialist in that field.

Marriage or simply the combining of two households is a happier transition, and, again, look for your agent to discount the fee, as we do, for selling your current homes in return for earning a commission on your new home together.

Empty nesters (and others) come to us on occasion wanting to downsize. They may want to use their new-found freedom to travel, and ask us to find them a “lock-and-leave” home such as a condo or patio home, where you have no maintenance responsibilities and it’s not obvious when you’re away.

Relocation is a big area of need, too. This is a good time to “sell high and buy low,” by moving from Denver to, say, Goodland, Kansas, where a recent client of mine was able to buy a bigger house using only the equity from the sale of their Arvada home.  Now they have no mortgage!

Have You Owned Your Home a Long Time? Here Are Some Tips for Avoiding Capital Gains Tax

If you bought your primary residence back in the 1960s or 1970s, there’s a good chance that you’ll be pushing the limits of the capital gains tax exemption when it comes time to sell.

There is an exemption of capital gains tax of $250,000 (single) or $500,000 (married) for a home that was your principal residence for at least two of the five years preceding the sale. If you bought your house for, say, $30,000, in the 1960s, it’s quite possible that it’s worth 10 or 20 times that amount now, resulting in the possibility of capital gains taxation.

If one of a married couple moves out, the $500,000 exemption is preserved by the other spouse as long as the absent spouse is still alive, providing the couple sells the house within 3 years of both moving out.

Do not add your heirs to the title of your home as a “joint tenant” with right of survivorship.  That’s because your heirs inherit your original purchase price as their cost basis, whereas if they inherit the property through your will, the basis for them is stepped up to the fair market value of the home at the time of the inheritance, which will help them avoid capital gains tax when they sell it.

I am not a tax advisor, and am only recounting what I have been told by tax and estate-planning professionals. Consult your own tax professional before acting on anything I have written here.

Seniors: Learn What You Need to Know About Real Estate

Last month’s column was about the risk seniors face of being scammed or conned out of their homes.

Let’s face it — seniors need to be careful and knowledgeable about real estate as they age. There are issues of downsizing as well as inheritance. And you need to know how real estate works, how to choose the best Realtor and know that he or she is working in your best interest.

At Golden Real Estate we have two agents who have earned the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation as a result of special training on a multitude of issues facing seniors. One of them is David Dlugasch, shown at right during his PowerPoint presentation to a group of seniors. The other is Kristi Brunel.  If you belong to a senior group that welcomes outside speakers, please consider calling David at 303-908-4835 or Kristi at 303-525-2520 and arranging for a live presentation.  You may learn something that could help you in the future.

Sustainability Series Session #1: The Many Facets of Insulating a Home

This Thursday, January 17th, is the first of Golden Real Estate’s 6-part Sustainability Series. The topic this week is home insulation. Allow me to introduce the presenters and to share some of what I myself have learned from insulating my own homes and office, and from 17 years of selling homes and being active in the sustainability arena.

We have two great presenters at this month’s session. One is Steve Stevens, whose passion since retiring from Bell Labs has been the conversion of an energy-wasting 1970s brick ranch into a showpiece of sustainability through solar power, energy efficiency and super insulation. In addition to having insulation blown into his attic and walls, he had layers of poly-iso and structural insulated panels added to his exterior walls.  Then he went so far as to dig out and expose his home’s foundation walls so poly-iso insulation could be applied to them. He also constructed “air locks” on all entrances, and built a greenhouse on his south-facing exposure — both extremely effective insulating techniques.

Several years ago when Steve’s home was on the Golden Solar Tour, I shot a 40-minute video in which Steve described his home’s sustainability features — by far the longest of all the videos I have ever created for homes on that annual tour. A link to the video is at JimSmithColumns.com

The other presenter is Dennis Brachfield of About Saving Heat. I’ve known Dennis for over 25 years. His company insulated an office building I owned in Denver as well as a couple homes I have owned.  Dennis is bringing a blower door to this evening’s session in order to demonstrate its function. Using a fan to depressurize a home, a blower door helps to identify the location and extent of air leaks in a building.  Another tool Dennis will illustrate is an infrared camera. By pointing it toward ceilings and exterior walls, the camera shows the difference in surface temperatures, indicating areas that could benefit from air sealing and/or additional insulation. 

I’ll never forget the time 15 years ago when Dennis blew insulation into the exterior walls of a 1945 wood-frame bungalow I had purchased. The home’s gas forced-air furnace kept the ambient temperature at 70 degrees easily enough, but occupants still felt cold.  Dennis pointed out that even if there was insulation in the walls, voids surely existed, due to a combination of sub-par installation and years of settling. I was amazed at how much more comfortable the house was after having insulation blown in to fill all those voids. What I learned from that experience was that cold walls radiate coldness just as effectively as warm walls radiate warmth. Thus, a room with 70-degree air but cold walls feels cold in comparison to a room with the same air temperature but with walls that aren’t cold.

My current home was super-insulated by Bill Lucas-Brown of GB3 Energy.  I invited Bill to join us tonight, but he had a previous commitment. On www.GB3Energy.com, you can watch a Golden Solar Tour video I shot in which Bill describes his weatherization work, which included insulating the crawl space and the rim joist area. It’s very informative.

Here’s a simple way to determine how well insulated your home is.  When you go to bed on a cold winter night and turn your thermostat down — let’s say from 71 to 67 — look to see how quickly the home cools to that lower setting, triggering the furnace.  If it’s less than a couple of hours, you could probably benefit from improved insulation of your home. I’ve started turning our thermostat down an hour or more before bedtime and I’ve found that the temperature doesn’t drop enough to trigger the furnace until 3 a.m. or later.

When your home is that “tight” it’s important to ensure the introduction of enough fresh air to maintain good indoor air quality. For that, consider installing an “energy recovery ventilator,” or ERV. This device replaces a standard vent fan with a heat exchanger that warms incoming fresh air by extracting heat from the interior air that is being exhausted.

The ERV’s function will be explained in our session — or you can Google “energy recovery ventilation.”