Email Alerts of New Listings Provide a Good Reason for Listing Your Home on the MLS

Yes, it’s a seller’s market, and maybe you think you don’t need to hire an agent to put your home on the MLS, but the opposite is true. Take, for example, the listing which was featured in this space last week. For 7 days it was listed as “Coming Soon” on our MLS, REcolorado, during which time it was not visible to non-mem-bers of the MLS (i.e., buyers). But that listing was emailed to over 250 buyers who had email alerts set up by their agents. One of those buyers tagged the listing as a “favorite” and another six tagged it as a “possibility.”

Those numbers, however, only reflect buyers who had included “coming soon” among the criteria that would trigger an alert. After the listing changed from “coming soon” to “active” on the MLS, the number of buyers who were alerted jumped to 720 and two more buyers tagged it as a “favorite.”  When a buyer tags a listing as either a “favorite” or a “possibility,” the buyer’s agent gets an email letting him or her know which client liked the listing and may want to see it when it’s “active” and showings are allowed.

These numbers don’t include the buyers who set up their own alerts on Zillow or other consumer-facing sites, including Redfin. Also, those websites don’t display “coming soon” listings until they have been changed to “active.” Thus, buyers who had agents include “coming soon” as a criterion benefited from a 1-week earlier notice of that listing than did any of those buyers who were setting up alerts on their own.

For buyers wanting the earliest alerts of new listings matching their search criteria, please make this a reason to have an agent set up alerts for you instead of setting up alerts on your own.

Knowing the power of MLS alerts should cause any seller to have second thoughts about selling without an agent. It used to be that sellers could hire a “limited service” agent who would put their home on the MLS for a flat fee (say, $300) without performing any other service, but that is now illegal. The Colorado Real Estate Commission has ruled that there are certain minimum services which must be performed by all listing agents. Those services include exercising “reasonable skill and care,” receiving and presenting all offers, disclosing any known material facts about the buyer (such as their ability to close), referring their client to legal and other specialists on topics about which the agent is not qualified, accounting for the receipt of earnest money, and keeping the seller fully informed throughout the transaction. 

Failure to perform those minimum services could subject the agent to discipline up to and including loss of license, which has caused “limited service” listings to disappear. If an agent offers such service to you, you should report them to the Division of Real Estate.

By the way, the Colorado Real Estate Commission has also ruled that it is the duty of all licensees to report known wrong-doing by other licensees, which their competitors are happy to do. We can be disciplined for not performing that duty.

Studies have shown that homes which are listed “for sale by owner” (FSBO) sell for less than ones which are listed by an agent on the MLS, and you can see why, because the more exposure your home has to prospective buyers, the more showings and offers you are likely to receive. And that difference in bottom line proceeds can far exceed the commission you are likely to pay.

Consider this: whether or not you hire a listing agent, you’re still likely to pay the “co-op” commission to the buyer’s agent, which is typically 2.8%. The  average listing commission (which includes that co-op commission) is now around 5.5%, not the 6% everyone tells you. As a result, the savings you might experience from not hiring a listing agent could be about 2.7%, and that is likely less than the increased selling price you might get from listing your home on the MLS with a true “full-service” agent such as my broker associates and myself.

Note: Some brokerages mislead you by promoting a 1% listing commission, but when they get into your home to sign you up, they disclose that the 1% is in addition to the 2.8% that they recommend as the  co-op commission and is increased further if they don’t earn a co-op commission on the purchase of your replacement home. It is also increased if they double-end the sale of your home, meaning that they don’t have to pay that 2.8% co-op commission to the buyer’s agent.

Such deceptive advertising, to me, is reason enough not to hire such a brokerage, but it may be hard for some people to say “no” to an agent they invited into their home with contract in hand.

Unlike such a brokerage, Golden Real Estate tells you upfront that we reduce our listing commission when we double-end the transaction, and we discount it further when you allow us to earn a commission on the purchase of your replacement home.

That said, our final commission might be only 1% or so higher than what you might pay to a discount brokerage, and our version of “full service” is much more complete than theirs.  For starters, we produce narrated videos tours on every listing. Our video tours are not just slideshows with music or un-narrated interactive tours which can be dizzying and annoying. Our narrated tours resemble an actual showing, where the listing agent is walking you through the house, talking all the time, pointing out this or that feature which may not be obvious otherwise. Are those quartz countertops? Are there slide-outs in those base cabinets?  Is that a wood-burning or gas fireplace? We have sold listings to out-of-towners who only “toured” the home on video, not seeing it in person until they flew into town for the inspection. That’s the power of narrated video tours.

Our Commitment: Keeping Styrofoam Out of Landfills

One element of Golden Real Estate’s commitment to sustainability is our acceptance of polystyrene in the Styrofoam Corral behind our office on South Golden Road. Perhaps you have wondered what we do with all that Styrofoam.

At least twice every month we fill our truck with what everyone (including us) calls Styrofoam, but that’s a brand name. The generic term is expanded polystyrene foam, or EPS. We take each truckload to Centennial Containers southeast of Peoria Street and I-70. There the material, which is 95% air, is “densified,” compressed into those foot-square bars shown at right, which are then stacked on pallets each weighing over 1,000 pounds. One of our truck loads might make just one of those bars of compressed material! Eventually a semi trailer filled with those pallets is taken to an American company which recycles those bars into new polystyrene or other plastic-based products.

We used to take our loads to Alpine Waste’s recycling facility located northwest of the I-70/I-25 interchange, but they ship their densified polystyrene to China. When China cut down on accepting plastic waste from the United States, we switched to Centennial Containers and have found them easier to work with, too.

Our polystyrene recycling is only one part of Golden Real Estate’s commitment to sustainability which won us our second Sustainability Award from the City of Golden in 2020. Since receiving our first award in 2010, we transitioned our building to Net Zero Energy in 2017 by removing our natural gas meter and installing a heat pump mini-split system to heat and cool our office electrically. Our 20-kW solar photovoltaic system provides all the electricity for powering our office as well as charging our five Tesla vehicles and providing free EV charging to the general public in our parking lot.

Films Sought for 2022 Colorado Environmental Film Festival

Golden Real Estate is a long-time corporate sponsor of the leading film festival. If you or someone you know wants to submit their film for this juried event, here’s some information for them:

The deadline for submissions is Oct. 22, but the submission fee goes up on Sept. 1st. Get submission information at ceff.net/submit.

Sellers Who Value Their Privacy & Security Can Make Their Home Visible Only to Agents

A recent email newsletter from our Denver MLS, REcolorado, to us members explained how sellers, through their listing agents, can literally sell their homes without their neighbors knowing about it — although your neighbors may ask why so many people are visiting your home, one after another!

To quote that newsletter article, “Whether they are a celebrity, in witness protection, or simply concerned for their safety, protecting the seller’s privacy is the primary concern.”

Although not mentioned in that article, it starts with the yard sign. There’s no requirement that you have a real estate sign in your front yard.

As you probably know, Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, NextDoor and virtually every real estate website downloads its listings from the MLS, but your listing agent can opt out of such syndication, which also keeps it off REcolorado.com except for its logged-in members. However, the listing will still be emailed to buyers who have alerts set up by their agent.

There are lesser degrees of privacy available.  For example, a seller may be okay with displaying their home on public-facing websites, but only allow logged-in agents to see their address. That’s another option available to agents when they enter a listing on REcolorado.

Sellers also, of course, can dictate what interior pictures are shown of their home — or ask their agent to have no interior pictures at all.

As you probably know, it is recommended that sellers leave their home during showings and inspections, but I’ve had sellers who insisted on staying home during showings.

Recently, I had a husband and wife who insisted on being present for my open house. That’s okay, although unusual. The husband worked from home and insisted on keeping his home office locked to all visitors. We had a picture of his office on the MLS, and it was included in my video tour, but during showings a picture of the room’s interior was posted on the locked door to his office.

If you have video cameras installed inside and outside your home, that’s okay, too. To comply with privacy laws, you only need to post a warning sign visible to all visitors that video and audio surveillance is in use at this property. Adding that warning to the “broker remarks” on the MLS provides proof that you did notify all visitors, through their agent, of the video and audio monitoring present in your home. (The MLS system keeps a record of each and every change to the MLS listing, allowing you to prove that the warning was there from the beginning and not added later.)

If you don’t want your agent to install a lockbox containing the key to your home, that can be arranged. Just have the showing instructions say, “Seller will let you in and then step outside during the showing.”

Speaking of lockboxes, I recommend against the kind of lockboxes with dials, because anyone can look at the lockbox while it is open and see what the code is. That’s why we only use lockboxes with push buttons.

Electronic lockboxes are becoming more common in our market. The most common brand is SentriLock. Electronic lockboxes record the time when each agent enters and leaves the home, and showing agents can only use their access code for the approved date, not come back a second time without asking for a second showing.

Normally, we don’t tell the seller the code to the lockbox, because we don’t want the seller to give that code to a friend or cleaning person without our knowledge. However, I have on occasion given that code to a seller who wants to remove the key overnight.

I don’t want readers to get the impression that security is a big problem in our market. In two decades of listing homes, I have never had an incident where a visitor (including at open houses) stole something from one of my listings. Every licensed real estate agent has been fingerprinted and had a criminal background check done on them when they were licensed. They could lose their license and livelihood if they were later convicted of a felony. They would also put their license in jeopardy if they were to give a lockbox code to a buyer.

It should be noted that our showing service, ShowingTime, makes sure that no unlicensed person is able to get showing instructions for our listings. When an agent calls to set a showing using their own phone, ShowingTime knows from Caller ID which agent it is so they don’t have to check if they’re licensed. (They greet me by name when answering my calls.)

ShowingTime offers several options for allowing showings of your home. You can specify what hours you want to block showings, and these rule can vary by date or day of the week. 

You can also specify lead time for showing requests. One hour is a common lead time requirement, but some listings require prior day notice. In other words, your listing agent can pretty much set any rule you want regarding showings, and that rule is computer enforced, meaning the rules will not be violated due to human error.

Do you have other concerns?

Most Agents Are in Sales, Primarily of Themselves

Some real estate professionals may take offense at that statement, but I don’t say it to demean them in any way. I myself once had a “real estate coach” and I’ve been to a couple “superstar summits,” and the focus was always on prospecting and marketing and getting clients to hire you, not someone else.

In fact, I owe my facial appearance to one such coach, Tom Ferry, who said at his Palm Springs superstar event in 2003 that “people don’t trust agents with facial hair.”  I didn’t believe him, but the next week I asked a seller why he chose another agent to list his home, and he said, “Frankly, I didn’t trust you.” My mustache was gone that evening!

It makes absolute sense that agents, especially new ones, need to be coached on how to sell themselves as the “right” agent for buyers and sellers. I don’t disagree. But for most agents, that’s 90% of their selling effort. Once hired, they really don’t “sell” real estate, they advise, consult and coach buyers on the relative merits of the homes they choose to see.

The buyer counts on us to share our expertise, to identify features or defects that they might not notice, and to construct a winning offer, coach them on inspection issues, and guide them through to a successful closing.

The agents at Golden Real Estate don’t expend their time or money on prospecting. Yes, we network when we’re at the gym or elsewhere, but we don’t do mailings, cold calling and such because most of our clients have been reading this column for a decade or longer and are pre-sold on hiring us.

It’s a luxury we relish — spending most of our time on developing expertise instead of on selling ourselves to people who haven’t heard of us.

Just Listed: Ranch on 0.41 Acres Backs to Lakewood Gulch

This 1961 brick ranch at 705 Dudley Street in Lakewood backs to Lakewood Gulch. It is listed at $714,000. Actually, the stream runs through the back of the property, which includes both sides of the gulch. There are several great features of this home, including the 15’x32’ covered patio behind the garage with a built-in gas grill with chimney. There’s a gas fireplace in the kitchen and a wood-burning fireplace in the family room — and enough trees on the property to provide firewood! A trail to Holbrook Park (which straddles the same gulch and includes a playground) is just 100 feet west of this home! You can take a narrated video tour at www.LakewoodHome.info or by clicking on the thumbnail picture below. My broker associate, David Dlugasch, 303-908-4835, will be holding it open Saturday, Aug. 28th, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Homeowners Ask About the Tax Implications of Selling Their Homes

Taxpayers (like me) appreciate the  capital gains exemption on the sale of one’s primary residence, but not everyone is familiar with how it works. A single person enjoys a $250,000 exemption and married couples (filing jointly) enjoy a $500,000 exemption on the profit they make on the sale of their home, providing they have owned and occupied it for two of the five years preceding its date of sale.

Given the runaway appreciation of homes that you and I have seen in 2020 and 2021, more homeowners are thinking of “cashing out” and wondering how much capital gains tax they may have to pay on the sale of their home.

The exemption applies to the gain over your home’s “basis,” not to the sales price. That basis begins with what you paid for your home but is increased by the amount of any improvements you have made to the home as well as the cost of selling it.

Thus, if you paid $200,000 for your home but you made, say, $50,000 in improvements (not repairs), your basis jumps to $250,000. Then add the cost of selling your home (commissions plus title insurance and other closing costs), which should amount to 5 or 6% of the sales price. If you sell your house for, say, $500,000, your basis would be increased by another $25-30,000.

Because your gain, in that example, would be under $250,000, your entire proceeds on the sale of your home would be tax-free, whether you’re single or married. For many sellers, however, the taxable gain could be well in excess of $250,000 or even $500,000.

If your spouse died less than two years prior to the closing and you haven’t remarried, you can still enjoy the full $500,000 tax exemption. Also, your basis is “stepped up” for your spouse’s half of the home, whether or not you owned your home as “joint tenants.” 

Also, if you were deployed at least 50 miles from your home, you can pause the 2-out-of-the-last-5-years rule by up to 10 years.

As with any IRS rule, it’s complicated, so you’ll want to visit www.irs.gov/publications/p523 to read IRS Publication 523. Reading it will be worth your time.

Moving Industry Struggles to Keep Up With Demand

A recent survey of the moving industry (at www.movebuddha.com) found the following:

71% of moving companies report experiencing delays in 2021 that exceed what is normal for the peak moving season.

67% of moving companies do not have enough drivers to cover demand, which many attribute at least partially to pandemic-related job loss.

Nearly half of moving companies are booked out at least three weeks further than in previous seasons.

Customer complaints about cancellations have risen 250% this season compared with 2019.

The survey dealt with both in-state and interstate moves. While we can’t help you with interstate, we can help you with in-state moves. If you buy or sell a home using one of Golden Real Estate’s agents, you get free use of our moving truck (similar to a large U-Haul) and access to our moving personnel at $25/man-hour. And if you use Golden Real Estate to sell your current home and buy your new home, we will even cover the labor and fuel costs. In either case, we provide free moving boxes (including those expensive wardrobe boxes), packing paper and bubble wrap.  You just pack and unpack!

Prior to listing sellers appreciate having the use of our truck for transporting stuff to relatives, storage, charities or the dump.

Apparently U-Haul is having trouble meeting demand, too. I know because recently a non-client asked to rent our truck.

Two Lakewood Homes Listed by Jim Swanson

This lovely 3-bedroom, 2-bath home at 5710 W. 3rd Ave. was built in 1985 by the current owner. It was just listed for $499,000. It has been recently painted inside and is in move-in condition. Enjoy the wrap-around patio and the large private lot, great for urban gardening. The main floor features a living room and dining space, as well as a large bedroom and full bath. Upstairs has 2 large bedrooms and another full bath. The full unfinished basement has egress windows. The detached garage measures 20’x22′. Click here to visit this home’s website with still photos and a narrated video tour. The adjacent 7,200-square-foot lot is available for $125,000. Open Sunday, 11am-2pm.

The charming home above adjoins the above property (same owner) at 5720 W. 3rd Ave. It was just listed at $415,000. It was originally a farm house and was tastefully added onto years ago. Deceptively large, this house has a lot of space, including a huge 29’x12′ living room. It also has a 15’x19′ kitchen. There are two bedrooms upstairs and one in the basement (with egress window) with its own full bath. There is a bonus room (without closet) upstairs that could be a fourth bedroom, plus a huge family room in the basement. New paint, refinished hardwood floors, newer roof, enclosed porch, gravel driveway and private fenced backyard. This is a quiet area of mostly single family homes and great access to Denver and Lakewood. Click here to visit this home’s website with still photos and a narrated video tour. Open house simultaneously with the above listing, Sunday, Aug. 22nd, 11-2.

Beautiful Arvada Ranch Listed by Chuck Brown

Are you looking for a move-in ready home in Arvada?  Be sure to check out this 1,764-sq-ft., 4-bedroom, 3-bath fully remodeled brick ranch with finished basement at 6679 Quay St. in the Lamar Heights neighborhood. It was just listed for $525,000. This home has beautiful finishes throughout! The main floor features an open concept kitchen that makes entertaining a joy, a master bedroom with a 4-piece en suite bathroom that includes dual sinks and a large walk-in shower, barn doors and a walk-in closet, and a guest room that can easily be used as an office. Downstairs you’ll be wowed by the fully finished basement with a large family/rec room and wet bar with fridge, 2 bedrooms, a 3/4 bath, and a closed off laundry room. The backyard is an oasis with multiple zones to entertain: enjoy the patio with shaded pergola, relax in the hot tub, roast marshmallows over the fire pit, or meditate by the water fountain. To top it off, there’s a large 2-car detached garage to store your toys! Take a narrated video tour at www.ArvadaRanch.info or by clicking on the photo thumbnail below. Open house this Saturday, Aug. 21, 11am-3pm. Call your agent or Chuck at 303-885-7855 for a showing.