Golden Real Estate is a prominent member of the Denver/Jefferson County real estate scene. Based in Golden, we service both Denver and Jeffco, representing both buyers and sellers. We're well known for Broker Jim Smith's weekly "Real Estate Today" column published in the Denver and Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section each Thursday. The column also appears in several weekly newspapers and is archived at www.JimSmithColumns.com. We have nine agents, all of whom are Realtors and EcoBrokers. Our office is Net Zero Energy since December 2017, and several of us drive electrics cars. Known for our sustainable practices, we accept polystyrene (aka "Styrofoam") for recycling, keeping 200 cubic yards per year out of area landfills.
This townhome has been updated inside and out. It has all new Hardie-Plank siding, new windows and skylights, a 3-year-old roof, a new wraparound deck that’s great for entertaining, two patio areas with lots of planter boxes, and a Juliet balcony off the master bedroom. The interior is loaded with upgraded stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, along with granite countertops and an eat-in kitchen. There are new hardwood floors throughout the main level. All the bathrooms are new with beautiful tile, granite and glass. All the bedrooms have en suite bathrooms and California Closets. On those cold winter nights, cozy up to the gas fireplace in the living room. The sunroom (used as an office) has all new skylights with a tile floor. The dining room has double sliding doors that lead out to the large wraparound deck. Best of all, while nestled in the woods of Kinney Run, it’s within walking distance of the Colorado School of Mines and downtown Golden! The listing price includes all furniture. See interior pictures and take a video tour at www.GoldenTownhome.com, then call your agent or David Dlugasch at 303-908-4835 to set a showing!
Looking for space to make your dreams come true? How does 9.96 acres with irrigation water, a custom built home with attached 2-car garage, and a finished garage/shop sound? This property is ideally located just minutes from Delta with easy access to shopping, work, rec center and hospital, close to the Gunnison River for fishing and Fruit Growers Reservoir for bird watching, and just down the hill from the Grand Mesa with all its beauty and recreation! This quality home with central A/C was custom built for comfortable entertaining and rivals off grid efficiency. With patios on the east and west sides and solid wood doors and windows, you can enjoy views and nature from inside or out. The high ceilings, hardwood floors and tile as well as the deep slate window sills are all high end and finished with custom window coverings and contemporary fixtures and ceiling fans. The 2-story shop/garage is insulated and finished, and has electricity and water. The property comes with water rights to fill the pond on the property or use as you choose. More at www.OrchardCityHome.info. Call listing agent Kim Taylor at 303-304-6678 to see it.
An article I just read in the Colorado Sun, written by Shelly Miller, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at CU-Boulder, tells us something really important — that keeping the concentration of CO2 (generated by human breathing) under 600 ppm in indoor spaces has been shown to dramatically reduce the spread of Covid-19. Here’s a link to the source article:
Prof. Miller receives funding from the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, and additional nonprofit organizations. She is affiliated with American Association of Aerosol Research and the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate.
Thanks to reader Jen Grauer for bringing this to my attention, and I’m happy to bring it to yours!
At Golden Real Estate it has been our practice since the beginning of the virus to keep our front doors open so that we and our visitors don’t have to touch them, but now we realize that this practice also makes our indoor air safer. We also have a CO2 monitor, which we’ll now plug in and display prominently in our office.
As I write this, I have just completed shooting videos of the 15 homes on this year’s Metro Denver Green Homes Tour.
The tour, currently in its 25th year, takes place on the first Saturday in October. Normally, you would register for $10 and get a book describing the homes, along with a map. Armed with that, you create a self-guided tour of the homes which interest you. You’d have to complete your tour by 4pm that day, followed by a reception and expo.
Because of the pandemic, this year’s tour will be totally virtual, which is actually better because you’ll get a link to view detailed videos of every home on the tour and not miss any of them due to time constraints. We won’t release the URL for the tour until October, but when we do you’ll be able to take your time to view all 15 — and the virtual tour is free! I’ll publish that URL in my October 1st column.
Meanwhile, let me share one particular lesson that you will learn from viewing the 15 videos: that gas forced air furnaces, no matter how efficient, are obsolete.
One thing you learn really quickly in the sustainability arena is that America is far behind other countries when it comes to energy-efficient technology. That’s because our fossil fuel costs have always been lower than in Europe and Asia, specifically Germany and Japan, where you’ll find the most innovation and product development. Just look at this chart from statista.com of electricity costs in different countries:
With our cheap energy, higher standard of living and higher incomes, Americans have long been able to waste money and energy with abandon. The result has been to leave it to other countries to create more energy efficient and less costly products.
Since home heating and transportation are the most energy-intensive aspects of modern life, that’s where we have seen the greatest innovation abroad. We in America continue to play catch-up and hang on to old technology. Our continued use of gas furnaces is an example of hanging on to old technology.
For a long time, I thought that higher efficiency gas forced air furnaces was the direction we should go to reduce our carbon footprint. However, after viewing the videos of highly efficient net zero energy and even energy positive/carbon negative homes, I think you’ll agree that it is time to abandon altogether that method of heating our homes.
When Rita and I purchased our current home in 2012 and installed the maximum solar photovoltaic system allowed by Xcel Energy (10 kW), we looked into how we might heat our home using the free energy we were creating from the sun. That’s when we learned about and purchased the Carrier Hybrid Heat®system, which uses an air source heat pump paired with a gas furnace to heat our home in the winter and cool it in the summer. It looks just like a gas forced air furnace, but the gas flame only comes on when the outside air is below the temperature at which the heat pump can generate heat from outside air.
Although Carrier still sells its hybrid system, heat pump technology has advanced far enough that gas back-up is no longer needed in our region. However, since our hybrid furnace uses natural gas so seldom, we won’t replace it anytime soon.
When your gas forced air furnace needs replacing, don’t make the mistake of replacing it with a newer and better gas forced air furnace. Instead, look into the many alternative ways of heating your home, which you’ll learn about when those 15 video tours are released in October. (If you can’t wait, Google “heat pumps” and investigate the options.)
Solar thermal (Wikipedia link), using both flat panels and evacuated tubes, is another technology, typically augmented by electric and heat pump units, which can provide heating as well as domestic hot water. A few of the homes on this year’s tour have solar thermal systems.
Geothermal heating (link to vendor),present in other homes on the tour, takes advantage of the earth’s temperature below the surface. In our latitude that subsurface temperature is about 55°F year-round. It is extracted by running a liquid-filled loop 300 feet or so into the earth and using a heat pump to heat that 55-degree liquid for radiant floor or forced air heating, or using it at 55 degrees for cooling in the summer. That takes less energy than our air source heat pumps, which take much colder air from outside and extract heat from it in the winter, and can then cool your house (like A/C) in the summer.
The thing to remember about heat pumps is that they don’t create heat (such as from burning fossil fuels), they move heat. The difference between a traditional A/C system and a heat pump system is that a heat pump moves heat in two directions, not just one.
There is so much more to learn about efficient heating and cooling of your home. But first, to provide the highest return on investment (and lowest heating cost), you will want to improve your home’s insulation. A blower-door test (energy.gov link), conducted by an energy efficiency professional, identifies where the leaks are in your home, so they can be sealed. A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) (Wikipedia link) can then help you bring in fresh air without losing your home’s heat. (A heat exchanger within the HRV transfers the temperature of the outgoing air to the incoming air.)
Thermal mass (Wikipedia link) can play a big role in reducing the energy needed to heat a home. You’ll see thermal mass applications in many of this year’s videos. Concrete, brick, water and even dirt can function as a thermal mass to accumulate heat from the sun and then release it slowly after dark. (There is an example of a “climate battery” (vendor link) using dirt on this year’s tour.) With the proper roof overhang on south-facing windows, your thermal mass is shaded from the sun during summer months but exposed to the sun in the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky.
The best way to heat and cool your home may be different than the best way to heat and cool someone else’s home, and it’s hard to do justice to this subject in a single article.
Here are a couple vendors I’ve used who would, I’m sure, be happy to give you some free advice about the best heating system for your home.
Bill Lucas-Brown, owner, GB3 Energy – www.GB3energy.com, 970-846-4766 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He sells and installs heat pump systems, but also does energy audits, including blower-door tests and will super-insulate your home as he did for my current home and for the Golden Real Estate office.
Dennis Brachfield, owner, About Saving Heat – 303-378-2348 or email@example.com. Dennis does blower-door tests and will super-insulate your home, based on what the test reveals. He does not sell or install heat pumps or mini-splits, but he can refer you to someone and probably give you good advice about their applicability to your home. I have known Dennis for 30 years, and he has tested and insulation several homes for me.
Note: HomeAdvisors would be a reasonable choice for such a project. I have not used them, but I am impressed at their quality control regarding the vendors they work with. Did you know this national company is actually based in Golden? Originally called ServiceMagic. (888) 921-3034
For geothermal heating, see the link in the paragraph about geothermal heating for a vendor who sounds great to me, but whom I haven’t used.
Readers have asked me how I manage to come up with new topics to write about each week, so this week I’d like to share my sources of ideas, information, and inspiration.
My primary source of topics is from my daily work with buyers and sellers and answering their questions about the market, contracts, and other topics. I frequently take a moment and enter a topic that just occurred to me on my iPhone’s Sunday calendar. When I sit down to write my column on Sunday, I look there.
This week I was inspired, as I often am, by the narrated video tours I made of the 15 homes on this year’s Metro Denver Green Homes Tour.
I also get email newsletters from Realtor.com, REcolorado (our MLS), my Realtor association, the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and Realtor Magazine, as well as from Zillow, Redfin, Re/Max, and other real estate entities. I also subscribe to Inman News Service, which has a daily newsletter. Lenders, inspectors and other industry partners have their own newsletters which often spark a topic idea for me. I have also attended multiple national NAR and Inman conventions/expos, as well as a couple Re/Max conventions when I was at Re/Max Alliance, which generated lots of topics for columns.
It’s also important to stay informed on local and national issues and current events, including politics. Real estate (especially real estate statistics) is a common topic of interest in those non-real estate media. I subscribe to email newsletters from the Denver Post, Colorado Sun, Colorado Public Radio, New York Times, Washington Post, Atlantic Magazine, and The New Yorker. (I love the daily satire emails from Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker!)
My radio diet is limited to Colorado Public Radio (90.1 FM), which suddenly has the biggest Colorado news staff thanks to its merger with The Denverite and KRCC. I do, however, switch to KUNC (91.5 FM) when CPR has its overly long pledge drives. Both stations carry National Public Radio and other public radio programs. I even listen to CPR programs (mostly Morning Edition and Colorado Matters) during my daily dog walks! As much as I love music, I don’t spend my free time listening to music with all that’s happening in our world. Yes, I’m a “news junkie.”
When it comes to television, 9News, (especially Next with Kyle Clark) is the station Rita and I favor for early evening news, although we watch Channel 4 News at 10 since 9News at 10 often repeats segments from earlier news programs. For humor and insight we like to catch Steven Colbert’s monologue and usually watch The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
For national news we watch the both CBS Evening News with Nora O’Donnell and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. It’s interesting how many secondary stories are unique to one or the other. (We fast forward through the common ones.) We watch CBS This Morning six days a week, and our Sunday morning viewing includes CBS Sunday Morning,Reliable Sources and Fareed Zakaria GPS (both on CNN), and Fox News Sundaywith Chris Wallace. Also, of course, 60 Minutes in the evening. I record Meet the Press and Face the Nation to see if there’s a guest I want to see interviewed. CNN has some really great Special Reports which I always record and frequently watch.
Evenings are largely reserved for relaxation and entertainment, except Sunday and Monday evenings, when I write my columns. Our prime-time viewing is mostly limited to the reality TV shows, although we also watch movies on Netflix. We love to watch the competition shows – The Voice, America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, American Ninja Warrior, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, etc. That’s a pretty heavy diet when combined with the news programs we follow, but everything we watch is recorded on a DVR, so we can skip through all the commercials.
We get home delivery of the Denver Post Thursday through Sunday, but only to get a hard copy of YourHub containing our ads. Any subscription to the Post includes access 7 days a week to their Replica Digital Edition, which is easier to read than the printed paper. For that reason, I wish I could just subscribe to Thursday’s paper. Also, the newspaper’s email newsletters alert me to stories I would want to read without having to look for them in the printed paper.
Book reading (on iPad or Kindle) is reserved for bedtime. It’s usually a book about current events/politics. Rita prefers novels.
While residential real estate is booming, the prognosis for commercial real estate must be pretty bad, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic has inspired many companies, big and small, to let their employees keep working at home permanently. And, of course, many companies, especially in the hospitality industry, have called it quits. Also, the oil and gas industry, a big part of Colorado’s economy, has suffered greatly from the reduced value of oil on the world market and we’re seeing big cut-backs in their operations. BP, for example, recently announced a 15% cut in personnel by year’s end.
This means that there will be a lot of vacant office space, and many commercial landlords, seeing a shrinking demand for commercial space and a rising demand for residential units, are thinking of converting their buildings to residential use.
This trend could “free up a lot of commercial space, which can be converted to affordable housing,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson told Fox News in a June interview.
An Aug. 12 article by Clare Trapasso on realtor.com is headlined “As the Pandemic Empties Office Buildings, Can Those Spaces Help Solve the Housing Crisis?” The article quotes realtor.com senior economist George Ratiu as saying, “Office-to-residential conversions would be a win-win solution in some cities where you’re seeing declining lease renewals and a massive shortage of housing.” The building shown here, which once housed the office of East Ohio Gas, is now an apartment building.
I have witnessed such conversions — in both directions — first-hand, long before Covid-19. Back in 1991 I purchased a building that had been built in 1905 as a 28-unit apartment house. It had been converted to an office building before I bought it, but after I sold it in 2007, it was converted back to apartments.
During Denver’s 1980s oil bust there were many vacant office buildings in Denver and elsewhere, but they weren’t converted to residential use because the residential real estate market at that time was also depressed. Now, with the residential real estate market booming more than ever, I fully expect to see some of those high-rise office buildings converted to apartments or condos in coming years, some of them as mixed use (only partly residential).
Homelessness is an increasing problem in Denver and around the world, thanks in part to the financial effects of Covid-19, including rising unemployment. Like me, you have probably seen news reports about homeless encampments in Denver, wondering what can be done to address what appears to be an intractable problem.
That article was inspired by the Rapid Shelter Innovation Showcase,“a clearinghouse for smart ideas on how to lower construction times for cities in need of new housing for people living on the street or after a disaster.” You’ll find the showcase on the website of The Housing Innovation Collaborative, created in 2019 by several Los Angeles non-profits committed to addressing homelessness in L.A. and around the world.
The cost per bed of the 45 concepts, many of which are described as “in stock,” ranges from under $1,000 to over $100,000. Others are described as “con-ceptual ideas only” or “nearly ready.” with days required to set up each product ranging from 1 to 90 days. Eleven were described as ”built prototypes only.” Each has a link to its own web page with complete information.
Previously I have written about the “tiny home” movement, and I’ve visited several tiny homes, including one on the annual Boulder Green Home Tour. A few years ago, several tiny homes were displayed in the parking lot next to the Golden Public Library, and last year there was a display of them (which I missed) on open land off Pena Boulevard.
Tiny homes are intended to be permanent housing. They have complete kitchens and bathrooms, requiring hook-ups to water and sewer, although some are available as trailers requiring only the occasional RV hook-up. But most of the solutions displayed on the collaborative’s showcase are intended to get homeless people out of tents.
It’s hard to describe the variety of technologies and styles in the showcase, so I’ll show just a few of them here, but each picture below is a link to that entry’s web page.
Not mentioned in the showcase is a British charity called ShelterBox, which I learned about as a Rotarian. Their containers, easily carried by two persons, are warehoused around the world, ready to be deployed quickly to disaster locations. They contain a tent and other aid items such as mosquito nets, water filters, water carriers, solar lights, cooking sets, blankets and mats. It is a charity worthy of your support. Learn more at www.ShelterBoxUSA.org.
On July 28th, Realtor.com published an article by Clare Trapasso (link) with surprising statistics about a surge in homeownership during the 2nd quarter of this year.
According to her article, which was based on a U.S. Census Bureau report (link), the homeownership rate surged to 67.9%, the highest it has been since the Great Recession of 2008. (See chart below.) That rate was 3.8 percentage points higher than the same quarter of 2019 and 2.6 percentage points over the first quarter of this year. Covid-19 arose during the last month of the first quarter, but it dominated the entire second quarter.
The homeownership rate in this century peaked at 69.2% during the second and fourth quarters of 2004.
As you’d expect, the homeownership rate varies among different age groups, currently 40.6% for adults under 35 and 80.4% of persons 65 and older. The rate has been rising in each age group. In 2015 (2nd quarter) it was 38.4% for the under-35 age group, and it was 78.5% for the 65-and-over group. The greatest increase was in the 35-44 age group, which increased from 58.0% to 64.3% during the same 5-year period.
Homeownership surged in every race and ethnic group in the second quarter from last year to this year. For Non-Hispanic Whites, the rate increased from 73.1% to 76.0%. For Blacks it surged from 40.6% to 47.0%, and for Hispanics of any race, it surged from 46.6% to 51.4%.
The Census report came with a caveat that its data collection methodology was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, shifting from a mix of in-person and phone interviews to entirely phone interviews, which resulted in a reduced response rate, declining from 70% in April to only 65% in June, compared to an average response rate of 82.7% during the second quarter of 2019.
Realtor.com’s chief economist, Danielle Hale, believes the increase in homeownership was distorted by the change in methodology. “It’s likely the homeownership rate rose, but I don’t think it’s likely that it rose that much,” she said.
According to the article on realtor.com, “After a pause during stay-at-home orders, the housing market has rebounded — and then some. The lack of homes on the market hasn’t discouraged the hordes of buyers from descending en masse, seeking to escape small, city apartments and cramped starter homes while taking advantage of record-low mortgage interest rates. (Rates dipped just below 3% for the first time ever earlier this month.)”
As an example, Rita and I just locked in an interest rate of 2.5% for refinancing our home’s mortgage with Jaxzann Riggs of The Mortgage Network. A buyer I’m working with was quoted a 2.25% rate.
“People still want to own homes, and with mortgage rates low, a lot of people are taking advantage of that even though there are lots of scary things going on in the economy,” says realtor.com’s Hale.
The article continues, “This has led median home prices to shoot up 9.1% year over year in the week ending July 18. That’s despite a recession and the most widespread unemployment since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, the number of homes for sale is down 33% compared with the previous year, when the nation was already experiencing a housing shortage.”
In today’s seller’s market, it is common for a new listing to attract multiple offers. There are three ways for a listing agent to deal with competing offers. Above all, it is important that the method chosen is in the seller’s interest, since that’s the listing agent’s legal obligation.
The first approach, of course, is to do nothing — not advise buyers that you have multiple offers and simply accept the best one. This approach, however, assures that the seller won’t get the most money he or she could get for their home.
The more common approach is to inform buyer agents that there are multiple offers and instruct them to submit their “highest and best” offer by a particular deadline. Sometimes the listing agent will add that the seller “reserves the right to sell the home prior to that deadline.”
When I’m functioning as the buyer’s agent, I dislike that approach. Why? Because it could inspire my client, shooting in the dark, to offer more than he needs to in order to win the bidding war, but, worse, we could learn later that my buyer could have won the bidding war if he or she had only offered a little bit more.
The third approach is our approach at Golden Real Estate — to function like an auctioneer. If you’ve been to an auction, you know how it works. Everyone knows what the highest bid is, and no one is blindsided. As I explain to buyers and agents, “The only way you will lose out is if you drop out.” They universally appreciate this approach.
Using this approach, I got my 6th Avenue West listing featured in last week’s column under contract for $41,000 over the listing price. It’s unlikely that asking for “highest and best” would have produced an offer for that amount. The winning bidder’s agent had submitted a full-price offer initially, but, being updated on competing offers, she won the bidding war with her third submission. The other agents had the opportunity to win the bidding war, but they chose when to drop out. The result was that the winner was happy, the seller was very happy, and no one was angry or blindsided in the process. Disappointed, yet, but not angry.
In a bidding war on my other new listing, the price was bid up by about $16,000. In that case, the seller chose not to take the highest bidder (but not by much) because that buyer was an investor, and she preferred an owner occupant. That reflects an important point when handling multiple offers: The seller is always in charge.
I have the best assignment on the steering committee of the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour — shooting video tours of the homes we choose to feature. Because of Covid, I’m taking that assignment more seriously than ever, because we may not have an in-person tour this year. (The tour is on October 3rd.)
I post these tours (along with the video tours of our listings) on my YouTube channel. Go there to check out some of the more recent tours.
Those videos, however, are limited in what they can convey in 7 to 10 minutes, so I must leave out a lot of what I learn during the lengthy orientation I get from each homeowner prior to shooting the video.
A good example was my tour last Saturday of Jen Grauer and Josh Renkin’s house in Denver. They scraped a house and built from scratch the best example of a “high performance home” I have come across yet — and I’ve seen a lot of high performance homes.
My 7½-minute tour of the house that Jen completed three years ago could not include a lot of what makes it such a good example of sustainability, so I’ll add to it here.
To be “net zero energy,” a solar-powered home like Jen’s has to be super insulated and super efficient in its use of energy. When a home is that tight, indoor air quality has to be addressed to make the home safe. That job is performed by anEnergy Recovery Ventilator (ERV).
The ERV’s job is to bring in fresh air from the outside and to expel bad air while maintaining a healthy indoor humidity level. In the typical home, exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms exhaust air to the outside, thereby drawing fresh air into the house only through whatever leaks exist around doors, windows and other penetrations of the home’s “envelope.” An ERV has one dedicated duct to exhaust air and another to bring in fresh, filtered air. This air is circulated through the house via multiple exhaust and fresh air vents around the home. In addition to maintaining indoor air quality, the ERV transfers some of the temperature (and humidity) of the outgoing air to the incoming air when there is a differential between the two.
Let’s say your home is 70 degrees inside, but it’s 100 degrees outside. The temperature of that incoming air can be reduced to, say, 75 degrees by passing it through a heat exchanger where it doesn’t mix with the outgoing air but acquires some of its temperature. Similarly if the outdoor air is below freezing, the ERV might raise that incoming air to, say, 50 degrees. (I could be way off on these numbers. I’m just trying to convey the concept.)
A conditioning ERV (or CERV) monitors the level of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the outgoing air. You can set a level that is acceptable (say, 900 ppm maximum) and the CERV will increase the flow of air when those levels are exceeded to bring them back to the acceptable range. Whereas an ERV runs 24/7, the CERV only needs to turn on to bring the levels of CO2, VOCs and humidity down to set acceptable levels. A CERV also has an internal heat pump to add heat or cooling. (See my videos of John Avenson’s and Jim Horan’s homes.)
In Jen’s case, in addition to an ERV, she made sure that the home was built with low-VOC products. For example, instead of using high-VOC particle board, her cabinets are made with zero-formaldehyde birch plywood and her island is solid maple and waterproofed with a zero-VOC oil. Her home has no wall-to-wall carpeting, which typically has VOCs in it. (These items are mentioned in the video of Jen’s house.)
Radon is another pollutant which seeps into every home through their concrete foundation walls and slab-on-dirt. To further improve air quality, Jen installed a radon mitigation system.
In summary, a high performance home can not only save you money in the long run (it costs more to build but nearly eliminates monthly utility bills), it can also create a home than extends your life through improved indoor air quality.