We Support Andrew Romanoff

Rita and I have known Andrew for many years and have the highest respect for him. We agree with the policy positions he has adopted. We heartily endorse him for U.S. Senate. 

Andrew’s performance in debates with his opponent has been really impressive. He has such a command of the facts and speaks so easily about issues and about his policies without hemming and hawing. We liked him before, but now we like him even more!

It Seems That We All Have Racism on Our Minds. Here Are My Thoughts.

It has certainly been an interesting and emotional two weeks since the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Rita and I have been happy to add our voices, and are impressed at the longevity and the worldwide spread of the demonstrations.

On Sunday afternoon, there was an event in downtown Golden, which the two of us attended.  (See the picture  by Chris Davell of Goldentoday.com below.) It was followed by a march through downtown Golden, although Rita and I didn’t stay for that.

The event was organized by a group called Golden United. I have attended several prior events by this wonderful organization, headed by Golden resident Ron Benioff. You will probably read about it elsewhere in this newspaper since I met the reporter covering it. Several hundred people attended the event in Parfet Park, most of them wearing masks and all socially distanced.

It was, of course, very peaceful. After all, this is Golden, a college town that is majority liberal, majority white, and my home for the past 23 years. A city councilor, JJ Trout, emceed the event, giving a very thoughtful speech of her own. Mayor Laura Weinberg also spoke.  Both displayed great introspection and deep thought on the topic of racism. Ron Benioff spoke, stressing that being non-racist is no longer enough. We all have to be anti-racist.

The police chief, Bill Kilpatrick, was there with one other officer and received generous applause at the mention of his sensitive letter to the community which he wrote shortly after the death of George Floyd. (That was followed this week by a lengthy posting on the city’s website outlining police practices and training related to implicit bias, the use of force and other topics raised following George Floyd death.)

I have a couple thoughts to share beyond my sincere appreciation for Golden United and our city’s political leaders.

First of all, I feel that we are overlooking anti-Hispanic racism, which is just as pervasive as anti-black racism. It was the first and remains the greatest expression of racism by our current president, who opposes even legal immigration from people of any color other than white. (Remember his comment about Norwegians being more desirable than Hispanics?)

It’s my perception, and perhaps yours, that whites and the police are not as fearful of Hispanics as they are of African-Americans, but they still don’t view Hispanics as equally valuable human beings.

I certainly value and appreciate our Hispanic population and especially the Mexican-Amercans and their undocumented cousins who work tirelessly and with seeming contentment at so many jobs which other Americans are unwilling to perform — picking our vegetables and fruits, repairing or replacing our roofs, and collecting our trash alongside African-Americans.  (It was heart-warming last week to read a post on NextDoor urging neighbors to tape dollar bills to the lids of our trash carts as a way of thanking our trash collectors.)

Not only do we as a white society insufficiently appreciate our black and Hispanic population, our regressive laws work to keep that population impoverished. We need to address our anti-poor policies — which are really pro-wealthy policies, such as the Trump tax bill of 2017 — which have widened the gap between rich and poor in America.

Real estate, at least in the Denver market, is a majority white industry, not representative of the racial diversity of the metro area. I can say with confidence that it’s not reflective of any anti-black discrimination in hiring.  My first partner in real estate with whom I co-listed properties was an African-American woman who I miss working with. She remained with Coldwell Banker when I moved to RE/MAX Alliance before starting Golden Real Estate.

My seven broker associates are all white, but they and I would welcome with open arms one or more African-American and Hispanic agents to join our ranks.  It is hard to say why our industry has not attracted more African-Ameri-can brokers, but I’ve noticed a large contingent of Hispanic agents, who even have a highly active association.  I’ve attended their events.

For this column, I interviewed two of the three blacks who serve on the 18-member board of directors of the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. That ratio, it should be noted, is better than the ratio of blacks who are members of DMAR.

Milford Adams, managing broker of Lyons Realty Group LLC in southeast Denver, told me that economics are the primary reason there aren’t more blacks in the industry, since it’s hard for a new agent to get established in the business without significant cash reserves. (I know this personally, since it was two years of expenses exceeding income before I myself started making a living in real estate.)  And, yes, he said he has experienced discrimination, much of it subtle, at every turn as he himself rose through the profession.

Lori Pace, of Kentwood Real Estate in the City Properties office in downtown Denver, has been an activist within the profession and operates a strategic consulting business, offering training to real estate brokerages (see her website, www.LoriPace.com) in the area of recruitment and diversity training.  On that website you can also watch her TEDx talk “Philanthroperty,” which was about inspiring women, not just minority women, to invest in “real estate, not purses,” to grow in wealth and power.

The following was submitted by Lori Pace regarding the program she teaches on diversity:

Everyone’s experience matters and how we live, make a living, and lose lives. There is no such thing as a stupid white question, but there is certainly are intellectual black answers. The Diversity Difference is an essential wellness program illustrating how real estate and health equity impact everyone’s ability to breathe or exhale. 

The Diversity Tool Kit is THE ventilator allowing everyone the opportunity and right to exist and not resist.  It is designed to develop a multicultural, multi-generational mindset. The live and virtual keynote address combines a training series with first-hand accounts and stories on doing business while being Black in America.  It is more than a call to action. It is a collaborative, result-driven process tackling multi-layers of problems and resolutions examining metrics, business strategies, and tools for real-life situations.  Passive conversations become proactive actions.

This is a resource to ensure strategic, proactive, and sustainable ACTIONS that can be implemented immediately.  The agenda is based on an inspirational and REAL approach providing new perspectives for all industries, organizations, and institutions ready to implement a blueprint from a black perspective.

Participants gain a new outlook and opportunity to breakdown and understand how systematic racism in businesses and communities continues to be influenced by the power of segregation and money. Transparency and trusting safe cultures are non-negotiable in order to move forward. The experiential learning deals with Fair Housing and intentional and unintentional Unfair Business Practices. It is time to invest in business, social and emotional “Black and Blue Print” to change your PACE unapologetically with a high return on your investment.

The Real Estate industry and brokerages are major players influencing ALL communities, neighborhoods, business, and institutions.  There is a new demand for answers to awkward questions and circumstances requiring a no-judgment solution. Now more than ever, the world is aware of the negative impacts of silence and ignoring the blinders that have been abruptly removed.

Golden Real Estate Wants to Earn Your Business

The brokers of Golden Real Estate, who are listed below, are among the most knowledgeable and experienced Realtors in the business.  Each of us has our own area of expertise and geographic area of service covering the Denver metro area, both in listing homes and helping clients to buy homes. We also have a unique “Lease With a Right to Purchase Program.”  In addition, we can refer you to property management and commercial Realtors, since our exclusive focus is on residential real estate.

We welcome the opportunity to earn your business. We have many exclusive services, such as our free moving truck (with free moving boxes) and our live action narrated video tours of every listing, not just unnarrated slideshows or 3D virtual tours. And our commission rates are competitive.  Give one of us a no-obligation call!

Jim Smith, Broker/Owner303-525-1851

Jim Swanson — 303-929-2727

Carrie Lovingier — 303-907-1278

Chuck Brown — 303-885-7855

David Dlugasch — 303-908-4835

Andrew Lesko — 720-710-1000

Carol Milan — 720-982-4941

More Metro Area Homes Went Under Contract in May 2020 Than Ever Before

Yes, the Covid-19 pandemic hurt the real estate market in April, but it sure made a rebound in May!  The 13-month chart below is for Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties.

Last week and this, you probably heard or read about how bad the real estate market was in April, and that was true here in the Denver Metro area, as it was throughout the country.

Pending sales of new and existing homes in April were roughly half the pending sales of April 2019. But pending sales in May surged to a number that was greater than the number for any month since before 2010, which is as far back as REcolorado’s statistics application goes.

The number of closings in May was somewhat low because of the low number of homes that went under contract in April.  The number of closings in any given month is always within range of the number of pending transactions the previous month.

(Note: The number of pending and closed sales for May is from June 1st, It could go up as additional May contracts are reported on June 2nd & 3rd.)

It should be noted that, despite the lower number of pending and closed listings in April compared to 2019, the median sold price was much higher — $435,000 vs. $415,000 in April 2019. The median sold price for May was also higher than the median sold price that month in 2019.

It’s also worth noting how quickly listings went under contract in April and in May. April listings went under contract in 5 days (median figure), which was even faster than last year, while May listings went under contract in 8 days (median) vs. 7 days last year.

These statistics may come as a surprise to those who think that the real estate market is on a downturn because of Covid-19.  I am as surprised as anyone at the resilience of our real estate market.

Driving the market is the fact that there is still a low supply of homes for sale and an over-supply of people needing or wanting to buy a home. That explains the low “Days in MLS” figure for April when the number of homes for sale was so low. Because so many sellers postponed putting their homes on the market during the lockdown, it became more of a seller’s market than before. That meant that the homes that were on the market had less competition for the large number of buyers.

Given what we’re seeing now, it’s hard to be pessimistic about the future of our real estate market, however pessimistic we might be about the country as a whole, given the rioting in multiple cities around the country, including Denver. We’ll see in June how much impact that may have.

Another wildcard is the possible resurgence of the coronavirus, given how our state, like others, has yielded to pressure to reopen earlier than CDC guidelines recommended. A resurgence could result in another stay-at-home order.

Accessory Dwelling Units Are Gaining in Popularity

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have been around for a long time. Fonzie lived in one (above the Cunningham’s garage), but they fell out of favor with local governments. Recently, local governments have warmed up to ADUs, promulgating zoning regulations encouraging them, especially detached units in a backyard or above a garage.

You may have heard ADUs referred to as backyard bungalows, micro homes, retirement cottages, guest houses, mancaves, she-sheds, or mi casita. They are created for many reasons: independent living for relatives (aging parents, 20- somethings), rental income/investment property, home office, studio, etc. These days it could be quarantine quarters.

Local governments like them as one way to address the pressing issue of affordable housing in a way that is sustainable, is a compliment to the neighborhood, and provides more affordable housing. People hardly realize they are there, and when they do, often want one.

ADUs have been approved by the state of California, where affordable housing is a crisis throughout the state.

The tiny house movement has popularized the idea of radical downsizing and the concept that living in a small space has many positives. ADU’s are not tiny houses, as the term is used today. ADUs are something more. Although small, they are a complete living unit with a full kitchen and bathroom, with a comfortable living area suitable for entertaining. They have a foundation and meet all code requirements. ADUs are more expensive than tiny homes, but they can be worth it.

How much do they cost? Pre-designed manufactured (built off-site) units can be less than $200,000, and even less depending on the characteristics of the site and choices made by the owner.

Would you like to know more? A good resource is at www.AccessoryDwellings.org, created by Kol Peterson. Peterson lives in Portland, Oregon (an early adopter of ADUs), has built many himself, and conducts workshops on all aspects of the process. 

ADU above a garage

Locally, a company called Verdant Living sells manufactured ADUs, not ones that are “stick-built” on-site, so if that works for you, you can email them at bungalow@verdantliving.us for more information.  They can refer you to other companies which build ADUs, whether free-standing, over your garage, or in a walk-out basement.

Personally, I have sold homes which have ADUs. Having a rentable unit can make a home more affordable to many buyers.

Last Week’s Column About Seniors Being Cheated Out of Their Home’s Equity Got Lots of Reader Response

One reader said they were offered a quick sale of $120,000 cash, but called me before agreeing to the transaction.  My research showed their home could sell for twice that amount.

I wasn’t contacted in time to save an elderly Arvada couple from being coerced into selling their home for half its worth by a developer who made a point of telling the couple not to tell anyone about their transaction. The couple actually felt threatened, not just coerced. Indeed it was a neighbor who told me about the transaction, because the couple still felt obliged not to reveal anything.

Call me if you have been approached by an investor urging you to sell your home for what sounds like a good price. I’ll tell you if it really is — or if you should get more money for it. Write to me at Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com or call me at 303-525-1851.

Investors Target Seniors & Others, Buying Homes Below Their True Value

As a long-time Realtor serving the Denver metro area, I am committed to protecting homeowners and especially seniors from being cheated out of their home’s true worth by investors who offer to buy homes for cash without putting them on the market.

Unsolicited offers in the mail or by phone should be a red flag for you. These people know what they are doing and depend on you not knowing the true value of your home.

I want to uncover people who seek to cheat you. If you get such a solicitation, call me at 303-525-1851, and I’ll tell you what you’re home is really worth. Keep in mind that investors will only make an offer that leaves room to make a big profit — at your expense.

It’s easy for any investor to go online and identify homeowners who purchased their home 30 or 40 years ago for a fraction of what it’s worth now.  It’s a sure bet that such an owner is a senior and would be impressed by a cash offer of, say, $300,000. But how will you feel a month later when that investor sells your home for $100,000 more without making any significant improvements to it? You’d feel “ripped off” — and rightly so.  Don’t let this happen to you!

You may not even want to sell your home, but the offer of a quick $300,000 could lure you into a sale which you would only regret later.

Seniors in particular can’t afford to be cheated out of their home’s equity. The money they receive needs to last through their remaining lifetime. As a senior myself, I make those same calculations about how much money I need to support Rita and me for as long as we both live.

Don’t feel that you’re imposing on me to ask for my advice, which I give free over the phone. Using my computer, I can tell you within a few minutes whether an unsolicited offer you receive is close to what your home is really worth. My computer is always on, and unless I’m away from it when you call, I can enter your address in two different programs and tell you during the same phone call what those programs say your home is worth.  If you actually do want to sell, I can refine those valuations by looking at your home’s condition and location and studying the sales of comparable homes in your immediate neighborhood. With my years of experience, this is easy for me, so please feel free to ask!

I promise that I won’t ask you to list your home with me. You’d have to raise that subject. I just want to save you from being cheated or scammed. 

In my 18 years of practicing real estate in the metro area, I have come across many scams perpetrated against homeowners of all ages, but especially against seniors.

For example, I remember how one caregiver in Lakewood convinced her elderly client with dementia to add her name to his checking account and to the title of his car and even made her a co-owner of his home. When he passed, this man’s relatives couldn’t do anything about it because all those acts were ruled legal despite the man’s dementia. That “caregiver” drained his checking account, sold the house after his death, and his relatives didn’t get a dime.

If you’re a senior, beware of people who befriend and pretend to love you. They may have ulterior motives. If you are not a senior but have a relative who is elderly and lives alone, keep in touch with him or her and ask questions. Don’t let your relative be scammed — or feel ignored by you. That only plays into the scammer’s hand.

Now, if it is time for you to give up owning a home and move into a senior community where you have no maintenance worries and enjoy the company of others your age, I have a colleague who specializes in helping seniors find the right facility. She will listen to your needs and wants and even take you to visit facilities which best meet your needs. She knows their services and their histories, both good and bad. She’ll keep you from choosing a facility that you’ll regret later. She’s motivated to find you a facility that you like, because the facility only pays her a commission if you stay there for at least 90 days.  She’s a sweet, caring person, and you pay nothing for her services.

Or perhaps you’d just like to downsize into a smaller home or one with the master bedroom, kitchen, living room  and laundry all on the main floor. That’s where I can be of service personally.  I can send you listings like that and show you ones that sound appealing.

Call my cell phone anytime at 303-525-1851.  I answer it day or evening.

Golden Real Estate Has an Opening for a Broker Associate

If you or someone you know is a full-time, experienced Realtor who shares our values of integrity and sustainability, then consider applying to be a broker associate at Golden Real Estate.

Our commission splits are very attractive and we offer many benefits — free showing service, free moving truck to offer clients, free leads, free Office 365 software, free promotion of your listings in our weekly “Real Estate Today” column published in the Denver Post and four weekly newspapers, and more.

Call Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 to discuss.

Sometimes when our buyer is in a bidding war, we even offer free moving to the seller, even though the seller is not our client! It has helped our buyer win the house they’re bidding on.

Beware of Brokerages That Offer to List Your Home for 1%

Perhaps you’ve seen the ads from a real estate company promoting a 1% listing fee. Some would consider this deceptive advertising, since the details are buried in fine print. In Colorado, you’ll pay an additional 2.8% fee to compensate the agent representing the buyer. That alone brings the fee up to 3.8%.  Also, the advertised rate requires that you buy your replacement home with the company. It’s all in the fine print.

Read the fine print! (You have 1 second to do so on this TV commercial.)

Would you really want to do business with a company that tricks you into granting an appointment by misrepresenting what they charge to sell your home?  We charge a little more, but you get far better marketing and, if we sell it ourselves, you could pay as little at 3.6% and get free moving to your new home.  Call Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 for details.

Note: Technically, the commission paid to the buyer’s agent is part of the listing commission even though it is paid by the seller at closing. Therefore advertising a 1% listing fee is in itself a lie. The listing contract would show 3.8%, not 1%. The fine print in the commercial also states that the 1% “listing fee” is increased if no commission is owed to the buyer’s agent. Therefore, 1% is not obtainable under any circumstance, although a listing agreement could be modified by the listing agent since commissions are always negotiable. I’m just referring to their “standard” commission arrangement as they are advertising it.

Here’s Why the Public Will Not Accept Driverless Cars

I have written before about why I think driverless cars should never be allowed, but this time I’m going to suggest why the public — you — would likely reject the idea.

During the transition to a driverless car, you’ll get to experience, as I already do, some of the features required for a car to drive itself. Those features include traffic-aware cruise control and lane management dependent on multiple cameras, radar and numerous sensors. I have been using those features on my Tesla for quite a while. 

The first thing to recognize is that a self-driving car will always err on the side of caution. Here are just three examples: Let’s say you’re driving a city street with parked cars but no line between the travel lane and the parking lane. Every now and then your car will mistake a parked car for a stopped car and simply stop.

Or you’ll be driving along and a car coming the other direction with make a left turn in front of you. Erring on the side of caution, your car will abruptly apply the brakes even though it’s clear to you that braking was not needed.

John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, introduces driverless car

Or you’re driving on a road with no bike lane, but there’s a cyclist cruising along at 10 mph and no room to pass without crossing the yellow line, which your car won’t do. You car slows to 10 mph.

My Tesla knows the speed limit on all roads based on GPS information, but 1) sometimes the GPS information is wrong, and 2) sometimes there’s a lower speed limit in effect for school zones or construction. Your self-driving car will plow through those areas, totally oblivious!

Wildlife poses a special problem. As a human, you know to slow down if an unpredictable deer is next to the roadway. You driverless car doesn’t have that judgment.

Think of all the times you depended on exchanging eye contact or body language with another driver to know whether to yield or not yield. Think about two lanes merging into one, or about another car being driven erratically. Think about going off road. Think about anything other than driving on a dedicated highway with other driverless cars.

Think about seeing someone in distress on the side of the road or within sight of you. Think about witnessing an accident. Your car will want to leave the scene of the accident rather than stop.

Think of when the painted lanes have disappeared due to wear and only a human could figure out where to go. Or lines that have not been removed completely when new lines were painted.

Red light runner hits Waymo van in Arizona (ABC 15 photo)

In Golden, where Hwy 6 crosses Colfax Avenue, it’s not a 90-degree intersection. If I’m in the left lane traveling west through that intersection, my Tesla consistently misinterprets the dashed guide lines for the left-turn lane next to me and swerves into eastbound traffic thinking that it’s a left curve. Fortunately, I have my hand on the wheel and make the immediate correction.

I hope by now you have gotten the impression that self-driving software can not anticipate every conceivable (or inconceivable) situation and could lead a driverless car into desparate situations.