Golden Real Estate Wants to Earn Your Business

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

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

Jim Smith, Broker/Owner303-525-1851

Jim Swanson — 303-929-2727

Carrie Lovingier — 303-907-1278

Chuck Brown — 303-885-7855

David Dlugasch — 303-908-4835

Andrew Lesko — 720-710-1000

Carol Milan — 720-982-4941

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessory Dwelling Units Are Gaining in Popularity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADU above a garage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Golden Real Estate Has an Opening for a Broker Associate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Fair Housing Violation Could Ruin a Real Estate Professional’s Career

From my first classes in real estate, back in 2002, I was made aware of our obligation under law as well as under the Realtor Code of Ethics, to avoid even the hint of racial and other discrimination, including “steering” buyers to or from neighborhoods based on race or other criteria.

We continue to be warned about “testers” from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development who pose as buyers to see whether we are in fact engaging in steering or other discriminatory practices.

I am reminded of this topic by an article in the current issue of Realtor Magazine about “The Gentrification Conversation.”  You are probably familiar with this term, which refers to the upscaling of traditionally poor and usually minority neighborhoods, resulting in the displacement of minority homeowners and tenants as they are priced out of their long-time neighborhoods.

While we don’t see a lot of gentrification in our suburban counties, it has been and remains an issue in inner cities such as Denver, and I see it a lot in West Denver, between Sheridan Blvd and I-25.

The Realtor Magazine article talked about the large-scale gentrification taking place in Detroit and about the deployment of HUD testers:

“An investigation by Newsday [a Long Island daily newspaper] published in November found disparate treatment and evidence of fair housing violations when undercover testers posing as home buyers visited real estate agents throughout Long Island, N.Y. A total of 93 agents were tested over three years, and the probe found unequal treatment occurred 49% of the time with black testers, 39% with Hispanic testers, and 19% with Asian testers. Unequal treatment included showing minority testers fewer properties, steering testers toward certain neighborhoods, and refusing to serve minority testers who weren’t preapproved for financing but not requiring the same for white testers. Agents also used euphemisms to communicate the racial makeup of an area and imply racial bias.

“[National Association of Realtors] President Vince Malta says he was deeply troubled by Newsday’s findings…. ‘NAR maintains its strong support of fair housing testing to unmask housing discrimination and hold our industry to the highest standard,’ he says.”

It should be noted that race is only one of several “protected classes” under both state and federal laws.  The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 also prohibits discrimination based on sex, color, religion or creed, national origin and disability. Colorado law goes further, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation (including transgender), gender identity, and familial status (single, married, having children under 18, being pregnant, etc.).

Avoiding fair housing violations can be tricky. Did you know that hoarding and peanut allergies are classified as disabilities?  Or that age discrimination is not prohibited in Colorado?  Or that drug addiction is protected as a disability, but illegal drug activity isn’t?  Or that you can’t discriminate based on how a person earns their income?  Or that you can be held liable for violating the Fair Housing Act even if you did not intend to discriminate?

The Realtor Magazine article provides guidance on how to avoid committing a fair housing violation.  For example, we cannot answer questions about a neighborhood’s demographics, but we can provide a neighborhood report from Realtor Property Resource (RPR) which does provide such information. We cannot characterize a neighborhood’s level of crime, but must refer the buyer to the local police department.

We can avoid “steering” by entering the buyer’s search criteria into the MLS and letting the computer pull all listings matching those search criteria.  We can enter geographical criteria such as city or draw an area on a map, as long as we are following the buyer’s request and are not knowingly avoiding one area or another based on discriminatory preferences.

If a buyer asks us to help them identify areas based on discriminatory criteria, we are advised to decline to serve that buyer. Since I have never had a buyer make such a request, I would suspect such a buyer to be a HUD tester.

The trickiest conversation to navigate would be one asking about the trends in a given neighborhood.  Is it “going up” or “going down”?  All we should do is provide actual statistics about the past few years, just giving the numbers, but no interpretation of them that could include demographic changes.

I can’t recall dealing with a buyer who presented a fair housing challenge, and I make an effort to stay aware of fair housing laws and understand the importance of non-discrimination.  However, it can be a challenge keeping up with current housing laws, as suggested by those questions I posed above.

Interested in Net Zero Living? Discover Arvada’s Geos Community!

I love showing homes in Arvada’s Geos Community to buyers individually, but there’s a live Zoom presentation sponsored by First Universalist Church of Denver next week which will teach you all you need to know about this great community.

Register for that meeting (Tuesday, May 26, at 7pm) by going to https://bit.ly/FirstU_GEOS.

The homes and townhouses in this community are not only “net zero,” they are “net positive,” creating more energy than the homeowners use, including when they charge an electric car. The homes are so well insulated that they need no furnace, only a CERV, which also monitors and maintains indoor air quality.

Most Feedback Requests Ask Unproductive Questions

Just a few years ago, there were several services which handled showings of homes for sale so that listing agents and their offices didn’t have to handle showing requests themselves.  Each of those showing services would send email feedback requests to the showing agent beginning right after the showing.

Last year, a company called ShowingTime bought Centralized Showing Service (which we used) and now virtually all brokers are utilizing that one company to send feedback requests to showing agents and to forward responses to listing agents and their sellers.

As I’ve written in the past, the best feedback request is one which asks a single question — “What’s your buyer’s feedback on this listing?” — and provides an open text area for the response.

Instead, ShowingTime’s default email asks a few stock questions such as rating the showing “experience” and saying whether the listing price is high or low. It looks like this:

Asking the buyer’s opinion of the price is useless and not smart — if I were submitting a contract I’d say it was high even if it’s not. If I were previewing the house before listing a competing home for sale, I might say it’s too low. Here’s the custom feedback template I created for all my listings:

Agents can change the default to one question with open text, but it’s not easy to do.  I had to ask support how to do it.

Here are the instructions for readers who are agents using ShowingTime: 1) Log in to ShowingTime. 2) On the left, expand “Feedback” 3) Below “My Feedback,” click on “Form Design & Settings.” 4) Enter name of your template. 5) After making any changes to the Settings, click on the tab “Feedback Form.” 6) Click on “Add Free Text Question.” (You can enter more than one.) 7) Click “Save Changes” 8) Click on Preview Survey to make sure the form you designed is the one that will be sent to all showing agents.