Indoor Air Quality Is a Subject of Growing Concern  

As America moves away from the use of natural gas and propane for home heating and cooking, the danger of carbon monoxide will disappear, but there are many other pollutants that are getting homeowners’ and builders’ attention.

It’s rare that a home buyer doesn’t order a radon measurement and demand that the level of radon gas be reduced through mitigation to below the EPA action level.

Also of concern are “volatile organic compounds,” which come from carpeting, particle board and other construction materials and furnishings.

Exhausting these gases and bringing fresh air into a home is just as important as filtering the air that is in your home. A new appliance that you’ll hear more and more about and begin seeing alongside furnaces and water heaters in your utility room is the Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) or the Conditioning Energy Recovery Ventilator (CERV), which monitors air quality and responds accordingly. Google it to learn more about it.

You Might Want to Reconsider Gas Cooking  

Upgraded kitchens are among every buyer’s top selling points, and a great gas range such as a Viking or Wolf can draw raves and offers.

A February 2022 article in Smithsonian Magazine carries the revealing title, “Gas Stoves Are Worse for Climate and Health Than Previously Thought.”

The article states that 40 million American homes have a gas range or cooktop. These appliances can emit formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and nitric oxides, and they could be leaking even when turned off.

Rita and I had a gas cooktop in our Golden home (now sold), and we were advised to always turn on the exhaust fan above the stove (vented to the outside, not recirculating like some fans) whenever we cooked, not just when your cooking is creating smoke.

We’ve all heard that methane is a greenhouse gas, 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. You may not know that natural gas is really methane under a nicer sounding name. The methane emitted by cooking with gas has health implications that are a more immediate and personal cause for concern.

The smart alternative to cooking with gas is cooking on induction electric surfaces. I purchased a single countertop induction unit for about $50 and was impressed by its performance — and by its low 110V electric usage. I found that an equivalent amount of water took less than half as long to reach a boil on the induction cooktop as it did on the biggest burner of our gas cooktop. I suggest you familiarize yourself with induction cooking using one of those $50 units before making the switch to a full-size induction cooktop.

How to Alert Residents About Approaching Wildfires  

Clearly many lives were saved in the Marshall Fire because it started in the morning and residents were awake and alert to the danger. Imagine if the fire had begun at 2 a.m.  How many more people might have died in their homes?

A reader suggested that community-based sirens could help to save lives, and that does sound like a good idea.

NextDoor is a great resource for alerting residents about all kinds of dangers, but it would not wake anyone up. Something like the Amber alert which makes a deafening alarm on cell phones could be effective. (I leave my cell phone on at night but it is purposely out of earshot for phone calls and text messages. I would, however, hear the loud alarm used for Amber alerts.)

The Amber alert should not itself be utilized for such a warning, because it can be silenced.  If there were a separate alert for fire danger, it’s unlikely that people would silence that alert or turn off their cell phones at night.

There are, I’ve found, many seniors who have held off buying cell phones, but the existence of such an alert might inspire them to purchase one. In addition to the low-cost providers, there is a program called Lifeline that provides free cell phones to households that are on various programs such as SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, etc. Learn more at www.AssuranceWireless.com. If you are currently paying for a landline telephone, you could get rid of it and port your phone number to the free cell phone that you get with this program. The cellphone can also provide you with free internet service via a “hotspot,” allowing you to save money on broadband, too.

Last Week’s Fire Disaster Is a Wakeup Call for Building More Fire-Resistant Homes  

My column on Nov. 29, 2018, followed the wildfire that took out the entire town of Paradise, California.

Last week we experienced a similar tragedy in our northern suburbs of Superior and Louisville. The difference was that this fire was driven by hurricane force winds that are all too common along the foothills.

Those winds weren’t limited to that area, and it was clear to Rita and me that a spark on Lookout Mountain (to which our home backs) might well have led to a similar catastrophe for the city of Golden. There’s no way to stop a fire driven by such winds.

You probably noticed, as I did, that the fire spared some houses while completely consuming adjoining houses, so perhaps it’s possible to increase the chances of being one of those skipped houses in a future wind-driven wildfire. Was it just luck, or did those homes have any features that may have helped spare them?

Today I’ll describe some features that might increase the chances of a home being skipped.

In high wind or low, it’s important to recognize that fires spread from home to home primarily by wind-blown embers. You’ve probably heard of insurance companies requiring homes in the “wildland urban interface” to create a “defensible space” around them by removing trees and other combustibles within, say, 20 to 30 feet of the home.

Useful as that might be, it’s more important that burning embers from further away not land on combustible material such as dead leaves, shrubbery, a wood deck, or a shingle roof.

There’s a useful website on this topic, www.DisasterSafety.org/wildfire. One of the links on that website that you’ll find useful is “What to do if a wildfire is approaching your home.”

California is, understandably, a leader in researching and rating building materials based on their fire resistance. Cal-Fire’s 48-page handbook dated Dec. 14, 2021, lists construction materials in 7 categories: decking; exterior windows; exterior wall siding and sheathing; exterior doors; under-eave protection; vents; and non-wood roof covering/assemblies.

If I were to invest in making my own home more fire resistant (which I am seriously considering in the wake of last week’s fires), here are some of the things I would investigate;

Metal roofing: I like the look of what is called “stone-coated steel” roofing. It looks from a distance like wood shake roofing. There’s an HOA in south Jeffco which requires wood shake roofing, but it will allow this kind of metal roofing. (It does not allow the more commonly used composition shingle roofing.)

Roof sprinklers: I have often thought it would make sense to install sprinkler heads at strategic locations on my roof to wet the roof if a fire is approaching. I’m going to ask a plumber about this concept. Sprinklers that douse the exterior walls might also be a good idea. I found on Amazon a kit of 2 roof sprinklers with gutter, wall or fence mounting and 50 feet of hose for $179.95, but I   like the idea of permanent sprinkler heads with through-the-roof plumbing, which I think my HOA would find less objectionable.

Motorized rolling metal shutters: I have seen these installed on a few Jeffco homes. They’re marketed for privacy and security, but they completely cover the windows when lowered and would surely help protect against fire. Some such systems allow the shutters to be operated via an app on your smartphone. One vendor is www.SomfySystems.com. Think of this as another reason for having a home battery backup system (which we have ordered) in case of power failure.

Non-combustible siding: The most common siding being installed by local builders is “HardieBoard” from James Hardie. Although it can be mistaken for wood siding, it is actually a non-combustible fiber cement product. It’s only 1/4 inch thick, however, so it only provides short-term protection and does not qualify as fire resistant, so it matters what is underneath it. (Refer to that Cal-Fire handbook of siding products.)

Special attention should be paid to the underside of roof overhangs, balconies and decks, where flames can be trapped. Roof soffits in most homes have vents which combine with vents on the roof to circulate outside air through the attic.  Unfortunately, this design can also allow the introduction of wind-blown embers into the attic. One way to eliminate these vents is to do what Meritage Homes did in building Arvada’s Richards Farm subdivision. The insulation of those homes is closed-cell foam sprayed onto the underside of the roofs, rather than the more typical blown-in cellulose or fiberglass batts resting on the floor of the attic, as is found in most homes. The attic in such homes becomes conditioned (i.e., heated) space, eliminating the need for soffit and roof vents. Meritage probably didn’t consider that making the homes more energy efficient in this way had the added benefit of making them more resistant to ember intrusion in a wildfire.

In past columns, I have promoted the all-electric home for sustainability and health reasons, but last week’s fires have provided another reason for doing away with natural gas. A large number of homes that were not destroyed are nevertheless enduring days and possibly weeks without natural gas for heating during some bitterly cold days. If any of those homeowners had switched to heat pumps for space heating and for hot water (as I have recommended), they would not be affected by the long delay involved in restoring gas service to their neighborhood. That might be an additional inducement to make the switch away from natural gas.

Homeowners in that area are being urged to boil water, so they might consider buying a countertop induction burner, which can boil water in one or two minutes, versus 10 or more minutes on a conventional range. I found 110V models online for $49-79.

It is not uncommon for homes to have “safe rooms” to which homeowners can retreat in case of a home invasion. If such a room were constructed in a basement with cinderblock walls, a metal door, and a concrete-and-metal ceiling, it might double as a survival room in the event of a wildfire when evacuation is a risky alternative. Given the increase in tornadoes due to climate change, it could also serve as a tornado shelter.

Although I have not researched it, I would guess that taking some of these precautions — especially metal roofing and the rolling metal shutters — might help to reduce your insurance premiums, as well as to possibly save your life and property in case of wildfire. 

Free Vaccination Clinic Happening NOW at Golden Real Estate

Golden Real Estate is pleased to be hosting a free Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic in our parking lot today, Saturday, July 3, 2021, during the monthly SuperCruise event. The clinic closes at 7 pm. If you haven’t been fully vaccinated yet, please come by! It’s free!

Improving Your Home’s Ventilation Can Reduce the Spread of Covid-19

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:

https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-ventilation-and-air-filtration-to-prevent-the-spread-of-coronavirus-indoors-143732

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.

The Real Estate Market Is Still Active, Meeting the Needs of Both Buyers and Sellers

The Denver real estate market, based on my own analysis of REcolorado listings, showed continued strength last week, despite the imposition of a statewide stay-at-home order by Gov. Jared Polis that Tuesday.

To my surprise, despite the growing COVID-19 threat with all its expected economic impacts, a total of 1,799 listings went “active” on REcolorado last week — that is, between Sunday the 22nd and Saturday the 28th.

Although 53 of those new listings were taken off the market the same week — likely because of the stay-at-home order — and 24 of them were entered as “sold” without ever being active, that left 1,722 new listings on the market, and 387 or 22.5% of them were under contract by week’s end. That does not sound to me like a real estate market that is stalling because of the COVID-19 virus. 

It makes me wonder about those 53 listings that were pulled off the MLS because of the stay-at-home order. How many of them would have been under contract by now had the sellers and their listing agents not been overly cautious?

The homes that went under contract within their first week on the MLS ranged from a 2-bedroom, 1-bath condo for $100,000 in the Windsor Gardens senior community south of Lowry to a 4-bedroom, 4-bath home for $1.3 million in the foothills northwest of Boulder. The median price of those homes was $425,000.

To see how last week compared to “normal,” I researched the listings that were first entered on REcolorado during the same seven days in 2019.

Surprisingly, slightly fewer homes were entered on Denver’s MLS during the same 7 days a year ago — 1,727.  Of those, only 12 were taken off the MLS that same week. Another 73 were entered as “sold” that week. Of the remaining 1,642 listings, 670 or 40.8% went under contract within a week. That’s much higher than the 22.5% this year, but consistent with the slowing of the market which we saw before the advent of the virus. Those 670 listings which went under contract within 7 days last year ranged from a $95,000 condo in Aurora to a $1.5 million dollar 6-bedroom home in South Boulder. The median listing price was $395,000.

As you might guess, I was concerned about whether the new Lakewood ranch listed by me last Wednesday would get any showings, since showings didn’t begin until Friday, three days after Gov. Polis instituted the stay-at-home order. I needn’t have worried. We had five showings by Sunday, with one agent calling to ask if we had any offers yet because his buyer was interested in submitting an offer.

Also on Sunday, a buyer I hadn’t heard from in months called about seeing a new listing.  I set a showing for that afternoon, and the buyer is considering making an offer.

All in all, then, this market continues to surprise me. While it is slower in terms of activity, there are still many serious buyers willing and able to make offers on new listings.  Those buyers who are unable or afraid to make an offer, whether for economic or health reasons, are not calling us. Agents might appreciate the fact that only serious and qualified buyers are going to call about seeing homes for sale.

Meanwhile, sellers who want to sell should recognize that there are serious and qualified buyers out there and consider putting their home on the market. Just make sure you use an agent like us at Golden Real Estate who does narrated video tours of listings.

How Golden Real Estate Is Coping With COVID-19 Guidelines

We and our partners in real estate continue to work while adapting to the COVID-19 guidelines for physical distancing, minimized travel, and more. Inspectors are still inspecting, but they don’t want buyers or agents in the house with them. Title companies are still doing their title searches and conducting closings, albeit with attention to sanitizing rooms and some physical distancing. Mortgage companies are still doing their jobs, as are the appraisers they hire.

Meanwhile, real estate brokers like us are still showing homes, writing contracts, negotiating inspection issues just as we always have — that is, by phone and email — and going to closings, although even that could be more virtual, now that Gov. Polis has issued an executive order saying that Notaries can work virtually.

What’s different is the cancelation of all kinds of meetings, open houses, and in-person continuing education classes (which are still available online). 

That keeps us all at home, which is where most brokers work anyway, but with fewer reasons to leave.  I’m walking the dog more than ever.  My Apple watch tells me that I completed all three activity rings last week.  Woohoo!

Bottom line: I’m sort of liking this, although I do look forward to getting back to normal.

COVID-19 Will Certainly Impact the Real Estate Market, but By How Much?

By JIM SMITH, Realtor®

We Realtors are keenly aware that the COVID-19 outbreak will affect the real estate market, but we’re all waiting to see that happen in a more measurable way. We’ve seen a reduction in showing activity, but homes are still being listed and keep going under contract, especially in the higher price brackets.

I dropped in on an open house Sunday and spoke with the agent on duty. This was a million-dollar listing on Easley Road, north of Golden. I showed up two hours into the open house, and he said that he had already had about 10 sets of visitors. Indeed one visitor was in the house when I arrived.

Two Saturdays ago, I had my best open house ever at a $580,000 listing in Golden proper, and 18 agent showings had been set for that same day. Two days later, the home was under contract for $620,000. Other than bumping elbows instead of shaking hands, it was pretty much business as usual.

I’m under no illusion that the market won’t slow down as more potential home buyers are unable to get mortgages because they were laid off. Cash buyers may be less willing to sell depreciated stocks to buy a home. But that’s not happening a lot yet.  A local TV news program had a segment Saturday evening in which a local real estate agent gave a similar account of a busier-than-ever real estate market.

My broker associates have seen some impact.  One of them told me a buyer had terminated a million-dollar purchase because they were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to sell their current home.

Another broker associate reported that his buyers are moving forward with their contract on a home, but only because they have stable jobs — one a physician and the other a public defender.

A third broker associate has a vacant land listing that had failed to sell for three years but suddenly has multiple buyers talking to her about submitting offers for it.

Another broker associate has a buyer from Connecticut who is retiring and wants to move to Colorado but had to cancel her flight because of COVID-19. Her state has instituted a stay-at-home order. Meanwhile, she told our agent that she’s now thinking more about looking outside the metro area where there’s “more space.” Maybe she’d like Kim Taylor’s Cedaredge listing featured this week!

The same broker associate said that a buyer from Chicago had been planning to make a non-contingent offer on a home but now wants to make it contingent on the sale of his current home because of concerns that it may not sell as readily now.

Yet another agent has a client who was ready to list their current home and buy another but is a physician concerned about getting infected herself, so she is holding off on those plans.

Source: REcolorado

The MLS statistics above show that life goes on across our industry. Homes are still being listed, going under contract and selling. However, the 21 withdrawn listings and the 25 back-on-market listings are likely homes where a contract fell, perhaps because of COVID-19.

Like any business, Golden Real Estate is adjusting to the situation with new practices and procedures. We carry disinfectant wipes and rubber gloves in our cars, and we have buyers meet us at listings instead of carpooling.  At our office, we have disinfectant wipes handy for wiping down hard surfaces after we or visitors touch them.  When it’s warm outside, we keep our front door open so that visitors (and we ourselves) don’t have to touch the handles at all.

Title companies are adapting, too. I attended closings recently at which the closer handed out only new pens and wore blue gloves herself, and the rest of us were spaced out more than before around the closing table.  One title company is doing “drive-through” closings, in which the documents were passed through the car window for signing!

The real estate industry will survive and people will still buy and sell homes, but we expect the volume of sales to decline.  How much we can’t be sure.

Stay-at-home orders and the closing of businesses, as implemented this week, could have a big effect, but real estate was exempted from that ruling as an “essential professional service.”

For over decade, Golden Real Estate has created narrated video tours of its listings. For an example, click on any of the listings at www.GREListings.com. If all brokerages did this, it would greatly reduce the need for open houses and in-person showings.

The 14th Colorado Environmental Film Festival Is Feb. 20-23

With our area’s historic reputation for environmental responsibility, it’s not surprising that Golden is the birthplace and home of the nation’s leading film festival focused on environmental issues. And it won’t surprise you that Golden Real Estate has been a sponsor of CEFF for most of the festival’s life.

I love how this festival is structured, combining local, national and international films — including by children — in both short and feature-length formats. The festival’s opening reception and award ceremony (with film screening) on Thursday, February 20th, is free to attend, as is the reception and Eco Expo on Saturday, Feb. 22nd, where you can enjoy free food and beverages as you visit 20 or so exhibitors of environmentally friendly products from home hydroponic towers to solar panels, to companies which can make your home more energy efficient. We’re sharing Golden Real Estate’s booth with Good Business Colorado, whose membership includes over 210 like-minded businesses committed to sustainability.

You can peruse the 60 films being screened at www.CEFF.net. The films are bundled into four screening sessions on Friday and Saturday — 10 a.m. (10:30 on Saturday), 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. — plus the 7:30 p.m. free session on Thursday and two afternoon sessions on Sunday that will feature the films which won awards. The website lists and describes the films included in each session. You can purchase tickets on the website. Prices range from $9 for a single session ($4 for children under 12) up to $20 or $25 for a day pass and $65 for an all-access pass.

There are two theaters for each session, and each session includes 2 to 5 films, depending on length. The Friday morning session (CEFF 4 Kids) is limited to students, including those who are home-schooled, by advance reservation.

The films explore the undeniable and inescapable interconnection of Earth’s ecology, societies and economies. Audiences will be entertained and will leave inspired, surprised, motivated and transformed through events that will involve audience members and filmmakers in thought-provoking dialogues and forums about the films.

Still photography is a big part of each year’s festival, too, with environmentally themed photographs adorning the walls of the American Mountaineering Center, where the festival takes place. On Friday at 5 p.m. there is a photography reception, with a keynote address at 6:30 by photographer Cheryl Opperman on “The art of communication through photographs.”

The Eco Expo opens at noon on Friday and Saturday only.  Look for us at our booth!