Here’s an Affordable Fixer-Upper in Golden!

This townhome at 1945 Yank Street is a great opportunity to do a fix-and-flip, or a great home for the handyman. It was just listed at only $250,000. There is a newer furnace, nice bay window, new roof and French doors leading out to a fenced in yard. The home needs work, however, and is priced well below market value for quick sale. This must be a cash sale and close on or before December 6th. It is sold as is. Seller will require a post-closing occupancy agreement through January 9, 2020, at no charge. There is also a carport. This location is great for shopping and access to I-70. Showings begin on Nov. 20th.  Call listing agent David Dlugasch at 303-908-4835 for more information on this opportunity, or visit www.ApplewoodHome.info. There is no open house.

My Cable News Viewing Recommendations

As a follow-up to last week’s item about our “Post-Factual Era” coming to an end, I have two cable viewing recommendations for readers wanting to understand current political events.

1)   Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.  Although CNN is my weekday viewing choice, I record this show for viewing on Sunday. I’m impressed with Chris’s fair questioning of guests from both parties and his choice of panelists for political discussions.

2)  Reliable Sources. This Sunday morning program on CNN is all about the media and is essential viewing in this error of “fake news” claims from both sides of the political divide. I recommend subscribing to this program’s daily email newsletter, which you can do at www.ReliableSources.com

Real Estate Buyers & Sellers Have Become Prime Targets of Cyber Criminals

A couple weeks ago, Jaxzann Riggs (right) of The Mortgage Network was the guest speaker at our weekly office meeting, educating us on the important subject of cyber security.  Here are some of the things we learned from her.

As we move into an increasingly digital age, cyber crime is rapidly becoming a major part of fraud. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center estimates that there was an 11-fold increase in real estate email phishing scams between 2015 and 2017. Moreover, 2018 saw a 166% increase in the amount of money lost to real estate wire fraud compared to 2017.  As these crimes become more and more prevalent, what can you do to ensure that you do not become a victim?

Cyber crime can take many different forms, but one of the most common is something referred to as EAC, or “email account compromise.” The FBI estimated that this type of fraud accounted for $1.2 billion in losses in 2018—just under half of all reported losses for 2018. In real estate transactions, this typically occurs as wire fraud. There are many different variations of this scam, but the basic idea is the same: just before closing, a borrower receives an email with instructions from what appears to be their title agent/lender/Realtor, informing them that their closing funds should be wired to a different account. The information about their property is correct; the name on the email signature is identical to the person the borrower had previously been communicating with. The borrower, having no reason not to believe the request, sends the money to the new account. In reality, however, a criminal has hacked or spoofed the email address—meaning that the funds meant to be sent to the title company for closing have now wound up in the fraudster’s account. Although there are occasionally “success” stories of money being recovered, oftentimes, the money is gone for good.

If you are going to be involved in a real estate transaction, an easy step you can take to protect yourself is to create a physical list of phone numbers for those involved in your transaction: this can include lenders, Realtors, title agents and more. If you receive a change in wiring instructions, you should always call the sender to verify that the instructions are real. If the instructions came via email, do not refer to the phone number listed in the email signature or reply to the email— if it is a fraudulent email address, your reply will divert back to the criminal, and it will almost certainly contain a fraudulent phone number that does the same. Because phone numbers can easily be spoofed to appear as a different number, do not immediately assume a phone call you receive with a change in wiring instructions is legitimate, either: before wiring anything to a different location, you should always call back the number on your list to verify that the instructions are real. Although this may seem tedious and repetitive, as the old adage goes, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Unfortunately, even when taking steps to protect yourself, wire fraud does happen. If you realize that you have fallen victim to a wiring fraud scheme, the first thing to do is immediately contact your bank and ask them to attempt a wire recall. Criminals will often have the funds transferred into a bank account in the U.S. before transferring them to a foreign account. If the money has not left the United States, there is a much higher chance your bank can stop the transfer and that the money can be recovered. Be sure to contact your local FBI and Attorney General in addition to filing a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Though wire fraud is scary, the best thing you can do is stay aware and prepared. By working with a trusted professional and taking precautions, you can minimize your risk. Are you looking for more tips on staying safe in our digital world?  Give Jaxzann Riggs a call at 303-320-3400.

What’s a ‘Smart Home,’ and What Elements of a ‘Smart Home’ Make Sense for You?

Home automation is now mainstream, thanks to a strong internet and widespread use of WiFi routers in our homes. Perhaps you’ve heard the term “smart home” used to describe a home with devices that can be monitored and/or controlled from your smartphone.

The most widely adopted such device is probably the Ring doorbell. You may have one on your own home. Rita and I do, plus one on the door of Golden Real Estate. If you ring our home doorbell, Rita gets an alert on her iPhone and can see and converse with whoever is there. The visitor wouldn’t know if Rita is home or not as they converse, and, even if the visitor doesn’t ring the doorbell, Rita’s alerted to “motion at the front door” and a video of it is archived in the “cloud” for later viewing — great for identifying “porch pirates.”

If you ring the doorbell at Golden Real Estate, I get the notification on my iPhone and can converse with you and perhaps arrange to have an agent meet you there shortly.

There are countless other examples of “smart” devices. For example, we have a car wash closet on the back of our office building, and I’m concerned about the pipes freezing if it gets really cold, so I installed a WiFi connected device which tells me on an app both the outdoor temperature and the temperature inside the closet. And it alerts me when the inside temperature drops below 35 degrees.

We also have security cameras inside and outside our building which I can view on my smartphone or in the office, allowing me to go back in time to capture suspicious events, such as when a snowblower was stolen last year. I have a similar system at home.

If you subscribe to Dish Network or DirecTV, you have a smart device there, able to schedule and even watch DVR recordings on your smartphone or tablet. My Samsung TV is itself “smart” which is what makes it possible to stream Netflix shows and movies.

Even our refrigerator is “smart.”  Rita and I can actually look inside the refrigerator on our smartphones while shopping!

A client of mine has an internet-connected garage door opener that alerts him when the door opens and closes, and he can open or close it from his smartphone — very useful since his detached garage faces the alley and he has no way of knowing if it is open or closed without leaving his house and walking around the garage to the alley.

WiFi-enabled (i.e., wireless) security cameras make it possible to have cameras in places not previously possible. The cameras are powered by lithium-ion batteries that last 4 to 6 months between charges and can be mounted up to 300 feet from their base station. One such application is the wireless camera on the EV charging station in our parking lot, which was once vandalized. Next time, I’ll be able to identify the culprit.

Other applications you might consider are WiFi-connected moisture detectors and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Baby monitors are a no-brainer, too. As long as you have your phone with you, you’ll be able to see and talk to your baby in his room.

WiFi-connected electric shades, especially on your out-of-reach windows, could help you save energy and money by opening and closing based on indoor temperature.

My solar PV system at home is internet connected, not only so I can monitor it but so the leasing company which has guaranteed a certain level of production can know when it has not produced as promised and can automatically send me a check for the under-production. (I have received two such checks.)

Nest is a big provider of smart devices, best known for their thermostat, which not only senses occupancy but can be adjusted remotely.

An alternative to lockboxes that is now widely available is the WiFi connected electric deadbolt. When someone rings your video doorbell and you want to let them into your house, you can unlock your door on your smartphone to let the person in and lock it when they go.

There are devices to make electric outlets “smart” so any device plugged into them can be powered on or off from your smartphone. A variation on that is one with dimming capability. As you can see, there’s no end to what you can do to make your home a “smart” home.

If you want to check out other devices for your home, Google is your friend, or simply go to www.SmartHome.com, which sells smart home devices from a multitude of manufacturers, including Ring, Next, Amazon, and others.

Alexa and other “smart speakers” are also “smart listeners” and, like all internet-connected devices, can be hacked, so it is important that you have strong passwords and take other precautions.

You’re Invited to a ‘Climate Reality’ Event Next Wednesday, Nov. 20th, 6-8 pm

Next Wednesday, Nov. 20th, from 6 to 8 p.m., Golden Real Estate is hosting a Climate Reality Project event called  “24 Hours of Reality: Truth in Action.”

Think of it as a “teach-in” where you can deepen your knowledge of climate facts. About 1,000 of these presentations are taking place within a 24-hour period across the globe. Fifteen of them are within the Denver metro area alone.

Our Net Zero Energy office at 17695 S. Golden Road in Golden is a suitable venue for this presentation. Think of it as an example of steps you can take at home or work to participate in the mitigation of climate change’s impacts on our planet.

Our presenter is Owen Perkins, who, like all Climate Reality Project presenters, has been personally trained by former vice president Al Gore on the topic of climate change.

Register for this event by emailing Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com or by texting Jim Smith at 303-525-1851. Refreshments will be provided. Reservations are essential, since space is limited.

Here’s some more information from ClimateRealityProject.org:Truth in Action  is a daylong global conversation on the climate crisis and how we solve it.  You want to know the truth of what’s happening to our climate. But you also want to know what we can do to solve this crisis before it’s too late. You want to know what you personally can do to make a difference… 

“Research suggests that one of the most critical things you can do right now is talk to others about the climate crisis. When we have conversations about the crisis, we shine a light on its importance in our own communities, and make it clear to our friends, families, and neighbors that this is something serious enough to talk about. In this way, we can shift public perception and increase support for taking swift action.”

Sellers Ask: Should I Wait Until Spring to Put My Home on the Market?

About this time of year I like to remind readers why winter can be the best time of year to put their home on the market.

First of all, there is less competition because, frankly, most sellers don’t know that homes sell well year-round. If your agent says you should wait until spring, get an agent who understands this!

Second, buyers continue to get alerts of new listings year-round.  You know this yourself if you’ve been looking at listings. Nowadays every serious home buyer has asked their agent to set up an MLS alert matching their search criteria, or done it themselves on Zillow, and these alerts are generated 24/7/365 — even on Christmas morning!

This is a change from years past, when buyers depended on their agent to monitor the market and find listings that matched their buyers’ needs and wants. No more! Buyers do their own searching, even if it’s on Zillow, and call their agent when they want to see a listing which appears to meet their needs and wants.

Third, you won’t be bothered by lookie-loos.  Only serious buyers, ready to make an offer, will be asking to see your home in the winter. The buyers who just like looking at other peoples’ homes are less inclined to go out at this time of year.

Fourth, you’ll have your agent’s and mortgage broker’s full attention.  With less traffic in the winter, these professionals can give you their undivided attention.  Others, including title officers and home inspectors, are also less busy in the winter, which is to your advantage.

Fifth, you can light your fireplace. I love going into a warm, cozy home when it’s cold outside. Unless your home is drafty and cold, this makes for great staging!  And if you have a wood-burning fireplace, it’s even better. I love the smell of a wood-burning fireplace, don’t you?  Also, put some cider on the stove, with cinnamon sticks in it and have a ladle and cups next to it with freshly baked cookies, and you’ve made my day! Your visitors will feel like they are in their new home!

Sixth, holiday decorations are good staging, too.  Most stagers will urge you to depersonalize your home, including removal of crucifixes or other religious symbols, but this is Colorado, and people of all religions enjoy our Christmas holiday decorations. Again, like the fireplace and hot cider, holiday decorations can add a welcoming, homey feeling to your home.

Remember, buyers need to move year round. The concept of selling during the children’s summer vacation may be valid for a limited segment of the population, but even in that case many families move locally, and the MLS allows us to set up searches based on school district or even specific elementary, middle or high school service areas. Other moves are triggered by job changes, health changes or seniors moving to be closer to grandchildren, and these needs arise year-round.

Call any of us at Golden Real Estate — our phone numbers are below — if you’d like a free market analysis of your home or for any other reason.

Jim Smith, Broker/Owner –  303-525-1851

Jim Swanson — 303-929-2727

Carrie Lovingier — 303-907-1278

Kristi Brunel — 303-525-2520

Chuck Brown — 303-885-7855

David Dlugasch — 303-908-4835

Andrew Lesko — 720-710-1000

Carol Milan — 720-982-4941

Winter Is When Electric Vehicles Really Shine

You may think this claim is counterintuitive, but consider the following:

Electric cars never need to warm up. Get in, put it in drive and go! (In Teslas, there’s not even a “Start” button.) Moreover, your cabin will be warm in less than 1/2 mile, because it doesn’t depend on an engine warming up.

You’ll never break down.  There is hardly anything to fail. Remember, it’s just a battery and a motor (or two).  You’ll never stall and you’ll never need a boost. There are only 50 moving parts in an electric car. What can fail? I like to tell people that the only time you’ll see an EV on the side of the road is if there’s an accident or a flat tire or the driver needs to duck behind a bush.

With their low center of gravity and 50/50 front-to-back weight distribution, electric cars handle better and more safely on wet or snow-covered roads. The battery in most EVs is mounted underneath the cabin. My AWD Teslas perform better in snow than my AWD 2009 Lexus RX 400h did. Here’s a 11-minute YouTube video of all three Tesla models being test-driven on Tesla’s Alaska test-track:

Imagine the worst winter scenario, where you get stranded in the snow and need to survive overnight or longer in your car. An EV is perfect for that situation, because you won’t have to stop and start your gas engine to keep warm and worry about carbon monoxide poisoning. The EV will lose less than 5 miles of range per hour to keep you warm. And it won’t matter if your car is upside down. If you charged your car beforehand, you’ll have long-term warmth.

One of my favorite EV features is the ability to leave the climate system on when I go into a store or meeting on a frigid (or super hot) day. When I return to the car, it will be at 70 degrees.  If I’m going to be in a long meeting, I can turn on the heat or A/C using my smartphone app as I’m leaving the meeting room and know that the car will be comfortable by the time I get in it.

As I wrote last month, the best deal in electric cars is a used one. According to Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com), my good-as-new 2015 Tesla Model S 70D has a private resale value of $33,402. That is crazy.  I paid $93,000 for it new.