Rare Ranch-Style Home in Trailmark Back on Market

Ranch homes are rare in Trailmark. This one at 9379 S. Jellison Way went under contract in 10 days but the contract fell when the buyer’s home failed to sell.  It is back on the market at $630,000.

You’ll love this home with its 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, vaulted ceilings on the main floor, and 3,670 finished square feet. The gourmet kitchen features slab granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood flooring that extends throughout the main level except for the bedrooms. The backyard features a pergola and stamped concrete which extends around both sides of the house. The master bath features a walk-in shower, slab granite double vanity, and a porcelain tile floor. In the basement is a 4th bedroom with a similar bathroom, plus a second family room with a kitchenette, making it suitable for a mother-in-law apartment. Take a narrated walk-thru (with drone video) at www.TrailmarkHome.info, then come to our open house Sunday, August 18th, 11 am to 2 pm.  Or call Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 for a private showing.

What Requires a Permit, & Does Unpermitted Work Affect Your Ability to Sell?

My July 25th column described how a seller got into a legal dispute from not having disclosed an unpermitted basement finish done decades earlier. That story raised a question common among homeowners — what work requires a permit, and does failure to obtain a permit make it harder to sell a home?

Incorporated cities like Denver, Arvada, Lakewood and Golden issue the permits within their jurisdiction, but residents of unincorporated areas must get permits from their county’s planning and zoning office. 

Each jurisdiction has slightly different requirements. For example, Golden lets you install a backyard fence up to 7’ without a permit (unless on a corner lot or in an historic district), but Jeffco requires a permit for any fence over 42 inches tall.  Denver is more generous, exempting “posthole-dug fences” up to 8 feet high.

When it comes to structures, whether habitable or not, the requirements are fairly consistent. There is an International Residential Code (IRC) which is updated regularly, and most jurisdictions adopt the updated code with only minor adjustments.

I found only one jurisdiction, Golden, which provides a simple one-page PDF listing what does and does not require a permit. Click here for a link to that PDF.  If you are in another city or unincorporated area, you can still expect that document to reflect what your jurisdiction might require of you.

Basically, any modifications to the walls, windows, roof, plumbing or electrical system of a home requires a permit, and it’s a good idea to obtain one, even though you can sell a home which had unpermitted work done, so long as you disclose that fact to your buyer.

Call or visit your jurisdiction’s planning department to find out what permits are and are not required for your home. You’ll find that most jurisdictions don’t require a permit for replacing cabinets, countertops, light fixtures, ceiling fans or plumbing fixtures in existing locations, or for roof or siding repairs/replacement (10% or less).

Denver exempts oil derricks, which I found to be a strange inclusion in its list of exemptions.

As mentioned in my earlier column, the standard Seller’s Property Disclosure form provided in the course of a real estate transaction asks the seller to disclose any work done without the required permit in the previous 12 months.  If so, the seller should check “Yes” and use the space provided on the form to describe what was done.

If, however, the seller had work done more than 12 months prior to completing that disclosure form, I recommend that he or she use the comments column to describe the work done without a permit and when it was done.

    Typically, this disclosure form is provided to the buyer prior to hiring a professional inspector to conduct a thorough inspection of all the home’s components. That way, the disclosure  can be given to the inspector, which would cause him or her to pay special attention to the area of unpermitted work to determine if the work was done “to code” and without defects that the buyer might then ask the seller to fix.

   By disclosing all unpermitted work in that document, the seller can forestall any claim after closing such as I described in my July 25th column. Listing agents should ask that question about older unpermitted work and handle it in this manner.  I certainly will from now on!

If you’re in an HOA, you probably will need to get approval for repainting the outside of your house, concrete repairs, landscaping changes or even the location and color of exterior radon mitigation equipment — things that don’t typically require a city or county permit.

The reasons that permits are required make sense. Consider, for example, replacing a water heater or furnace. If they are gas appliances, today’s code requires that outside combustion air be provided so that the appliances don’t deplete the oxygen in your home, and gas-fired devices emit deadly carbon monoxide, so it’s important that they be installed correctly. It is only by getting a permit that you ensure the work is inspected by the city or county, which is a good thing, especially when it comes to health and safety.

In those cases, you’re probably hiring a contractor to do the work, and the contractor should be licensed with the city or county where the work is being done and should obtain the permit for you.  If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can get the permit as a homeowner, but the city or county may have you take a written test to show that you’re competent at the work being done — and it will be inspected. (I remember taking such a test when applying for an electrical permit in Denver — I failed the test…)

Permitting fees and requirements cause some homeowners to do work without getting a permit and hope they’re not caught. If the city or county catches you mid-project without a permit — something that happened to me in Denver in the 1990’s — expect them to issue a stop-work order and to double the permit fee. 

At least in Golden (speaking again from experience), you can turn yourself in and get a post-facto permit without paying a penalty, but you’ll need to show that the work was done to code and have it inspected.

Property taxes are based on a market valuation of your home by the county assessor, and getting a permit for your finished basement, new deck or detached garage, etc. could result in a higher valuation and therefore higher property taxes for your home, but that’s not a good reason to avoid going through the permitting process.  How much will your taxes go up?  Let’s say your basement finish cost $50,000. It’s unlikely your home’s value will increase by the full amount of any renovation, but even if it did, the assessment rate is now 7.15%, which means your assessed valuation would only increase by $3,575. If your mill levy rate is, say, 100 mills, that means your annual property taxes would increase by only $357.  But it won’t. And if you were to spend the same $50,000 on a kitchen or bathroom remodel, it might not increase the assessor’s valuation of your home at all, even though it was permitted, because it didn’t add any finished square footage to your home.

What the assessor values your home at is not based on what you paid for it, and neither is it based on what you spend to improve it. Your home’s valuation is based on the sale of comparable homes to determine what your home might have sold for on June 30th of the most recent even numbered year. Thus, even if you purchased your home on June 30, 2018 (the valuation date), the assessor won’t use what you paid for your home as the value of your home.

Theoretically, the county assessor’s office could monitor MLS listings and compare the description of your home with what their records show. But I have never heard of anyone’s assessor records being changed based solely on an MLS listing of their house.

If you have any questions that this column did not answer, please feel free to call me or any of our agents at the phone numbers below. I’m always happy to hear from my readers, and all of us are happy to answer your real estate questions.

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

Broker Associates:

  • Carol Milan — 720-982-4941
  • Norm Kowitz — 303-229-3891
  • Andrew Lesko — 720-710-1000
  • David Dlugasch — 303-908-4835
  • Chuck Brown — 303-885-7855
  • Kristi Brunel — 303-525-2520
  • Carrie Lovingier — 303-907-1278
  • Jim Swanson — 303-929-2727

Quarter-Million-Dollar Price Reduction on Arvada Mansion!

This fabulous listing at 12996 W. 81st Place in Arvada was originally listed at $1,875,000 and was worth every penny when you learn its features.  Now it’s priced at just $1,600,000. See all 46 magazine-quality photos and a 21-minute narrated video walk-through (plus drone video) at www.ArvadaMansion.info.

Amazon’s Deal With Real Estate Megafirm Realogy Could Be a Game Changer

Maybe you’ve heard about the recent deal between Amazon and Realogy in which they give buyers $1,000 to $5,000 in smart-home products if you let them assign you an agent.

Unless you’re in real estate, you probably never heard of Realogy. They’re a holding company which owns multiple real estate franchisers that you have heard of — Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate, Sotheby’s International Realty and ERA Real Estate.

Denver is one of 15 markets where Amazon’s “Turnkey” program is being rolled out, with the intention of making it nationwide.

Putting on my journalist hat, I pretended to be a home buyer and went to Amazon’s website for this program. I filled in my name, my non-Realtor email address, and cell number, and within a minute received a screening call from a man at Realogy affiliate OJO Labs, who asked me where I was looking (Golden & Arvada), price range ($500,000), and whether I owned and would be selling my current home. (I said yes.)  Note: Since many or most buyers have homes to sell, this program is effective at generating seller leads, too.

Then he explained (because I asked) that he was sending a text message to all the participating agents in my market and the first agent who responded to the text would be my agent. I would not be able to select the agent.

Before he connected me to that agent, I asked her name and Googled it. She’s with a brokerage in Longmont, 45 miles by car from Golden. Of course, she didn’t tell me that herself, hoping I’d hire her to buy a home and probably to sell my current home. She also overstated her experience, which I was able to check online.

After saying I wouldn’t work with her, I received a call from a second agent. This one was from a Denver office of the same brokerage and knew me, so my pretense ended with her, but I was able to interview her about the program.

She confirmed that the program is run through Realogy’s relocation business called Cartus and that the  participating agents are the ones who already get relocation leads. This program will be a windfall for those agents because the leads could result in both a listing and a purchase, whereas relocation leads are only for a either a listing or a purchase. It will be a windfall for Cartus, too, since, like all relocation companies, they take 30% or more of the agent’s commission. Amazon must be getting a big fee, too, which ultimately comes from the commission paid by sellers to the participating agents.

As I told Aldo Svaldi of the Denver Post when he interviewed me, this is a really smart move for Amazon and a great deal for Realogy, and I suppose companies like Golden Real Estate could lose market share, even though we do offer other advantages to using us, including free use of our own moving trucks, boxes and packing materials. And when a buyer also lists his or her home with us, we also provide free labor, saving our clients thousands of dollars.

Price Reduced on Horse Property North of Golden

This beautiful home at 16826 W. 57th Ave. is on the eastern slope of North Table Mountain, just four miles from downtown Golden.  The price was just reduced to $745,000. It has 5 bedrooms, including a master bedroom with vaulted ceiling that has its own deck with an unobstructed mountain view. The lower level has a 25’x27’ family room with stone wood-burning fireplace and access to both the garage and a large dog run. An impact-resistant roof, gutters and downspout were just installed. The 24’x28’ horse barn has a tack room and 3 stalls, one with its own outside run, separate from the half-acre pasture. Whether or not you have or want horses (you could generate a great income from boarding other people’s horses) you will love this country home so close to Golden, Denver and the mountains. There’s lots of space for your RV and other toys, too! See more pix and view my narrated video walk-thru at www.JeffcoHorseProperties.com. Open Sunday, Aug. 4, 11 to 2.

Tri-Level Arvada Home Just Listed by Andrew Lesko

This custom 1950’s tri-level home at 6315 Pierce Street features wood-beamed, vaulted ceilings, beautiful hardwood flooring and mahogany woodwork throughout. It was just listed for $455,000. This 3-bedroom, 2-bath home also features a lower-level family room, an extra-large patio sunroom with wood burning fireplace and a great deck area for outdoor entertainment. The backyard is large, private and comes with a large garden shed. There is an attached 1-car garage and a detached 2-car garage. This home has been beautifully maintained by the same owner for the last 40 years. It is located just two blocks from  Secrest Park and Recreation Center, one block from Secrest Elementary School and about a mile from Old Town Arvada. View a narrated walk-through of the home at www.ArvadaHome.info.  For a private showing, call your agent or listing agent Andrew Lesko at 720-710-1000. Open Saturday, August 3, 11 am – 3 pm. 

Coming Soon: Gated 2-Story Home in Wheat Ridge

This Tudor-style home at 3415 Quail St. is unlike any I have listed before.  It was just listed for $695,000. It has its own electric remote-controlled gate to its driveway and has a beautifully landscaped 0.4-acre lot. There are four bedrooms upstairs, including a master suite with its own deck with a partial mountain view past a mature pine tree. There is an expansive flagstone patio with stucco privacy walls to the left and right outside an enclosed sunroom. Built in 1977, it has 2,502 above-ground square feet plus a full basement which is 50% finished. It’s located on a quiet cul-de-sac with only the playing field of an elementary school across the street. Located half-way between I-70 and Kipling Street, just north of 32nd Avenue, it is convenient both to downtown Denver and the mountains. It should be ready for showing this weekend. Check out its website, www.WheatRidgeHome.info for more pictures, a video tour and open house information.

In Real Estate, Truth Matters, Unlike in Politics and the Legal Profession

I was brought up to respect the truth by always telling the truth and expecting others to tell the truth. My father drummed this into me, as did the private schools that I attended. My boarding school, Choate, had an honor code (and still does) that required students to handwrite on every test or paper submitted, “I pledge this paper on my honor,” which we knew was shorthand for the following longer statement, “I pledge upon my honor as a gentleman that I have neither given nor received help on this paper.” (The phrasing has changed a little since the school went coed, but I’m told by the school that it’s still used and is, in fact, framed on the wall in every classroom and academic space: “On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid.” In language classes, it’s posted in the language being taught – even in Latin!)

To this day, it upsets me when someone knowingly lies, and it pains me that some of America’s leaders, who serve as role models, have made lying in the face of clear evidence acceptable instead of condemned, as it should be.

So, I’m glad that I ended up in the real estate profession, where truth is important and is still honored. The National Association of Realtors, to which we agents are required to belong if we join any major and most minor brokerages, has a Code of Ethics to which we swear allegiance upon induction as members. In the preamble to the Code, the word “integrity” appears twice, including in this paragraph:

“The term REALTOR® has come to connote competency, fairness, and high integrity resulting from adherence to a lofty ideal of moral conduct in business relations. No inducement of profit and no instruction from clients ever can justify departure from this ideal.”

The Code of Ethics even commands Realtors to take action when they find another Realtor violating the Code. I myself have filed (and won) an ethics complaint against another Realtor who advertised that he was selling “4 homes every week,” violating the article which says members shall not misrepresent their level of success. That agent was ordered to stop making that claim in his advertising.

With the bidding wars of recent years, buyer clients have understandably wondered whether other agents were telling the truth when claiming multiple above-listing-price offers on a listing. I am pleased to tell them, and to state here, that I don’t recall ever being lied to by another Realtor, although I do worry on occasion when the agent on the other side of a transaction is a non-Realtor. Agents who are not NAR members don’t have a code of ethics to which they subscribe, which is why NAR advertising has often urged consumers to “make sure your agent is a Realtor.”

State laws regarding real estate do impose requirements of an ethical nature that aren’t imposed on other professions such as car sales. When you buy a used car (or anything else), it’s usually without any disclosure of past or current defects, but state law, like the Realtor Code of Ethics, requires that sellers of existing homes disclose all known past or current defects, and we can be disciplined even to the extent of losing our real estate license if we, as listing agents, fail to disclose a defect, past or present, of which we are aware.

Since every brokerage is also responsible for the actions of its agents (another term for the managing broker is “responsible broker”), every brokerage should instruct its broker associates to refuse to list any property where the owner is unwilling to fully disclose all problems or defects with the home. I’m happy to report that I have never had a seller who didn’t recognize and accept his or her obligation to disclose known defects. 

One of the standard forms for every listing is the “Seller’s Property Disclosure” (SPD). The document itself is voluntary, but (1) I’ve never had a seller who refused to complete it, and (2) failure to complete it does not relieve the seller and his/her listing agent of their responsibility to disclose all known defects or problems.

The SPD is very thorough in the questions it asks, but one shortcoming is when it asks about unpermitted renovations. It only asks the seller to disclose renovations done without a permit in the last 12 months. This creates a loophole which can be exploited by an unscrupulous buyer after closing.

Consider the following scenario: the seller does not disclose a basement that was finished decades earlier because it was done professionally — and the SPD didn’t ask about it. A few weeks after closing there’s a plumbing leak in the renovation. The buyer hires a lawyer who takes the seller into mediation (required by the contract), where the lawyer asserts that the seller told a neighbor, “There’s a plumbing problem, but we’ll let the buyer take care of it.” The lawyer had requested separate rooms for the mediation, so there is no way to confront the buyer or lawyer on what the seller knows is a totally bogus assertion. The seller would have to reject mediation and go to trial, at great expense, to make the buyer produce the false claim from a neighbor. So the seller agrees to settle for a 5-figure amount, plus his already high legal fees.

To me, this is legal bullying, but such tactics are sadly a tool that some lawyers are willing to utilize.

Just Listed: Golden Gate Canyon Home on 12 Acres

This spectacular 4-bedroom, 3-bath mountain retreat is located just 5 miles or 10 minutes from Downtown Golden and is perched upon an 11.83-acre lot! The address is 26202 Golden Gate Canyon Road. It was just listed by Kristi Brunel for $985,000. As you walk through the front door you will be impressed with the vaulted ceilings, open floor plan, stone fireplaces, gourmet kitchen, modern lighting and amazing views through every window.  Enjoy the spacious master suite, complete with gas fireplace, and the living room which is currently a study and trophy room.  The gourmet kitchen features a 6-burner gas stove, granite  countertops and 12-ft. ceilings.  The finished basement, with 10-ft ceilings, is a great place to watch a movie in surround sound or walk out to enjoy the expansive views after fixing your bike in the workshop. Exterior features include a shooting range (could also be a pasture for horses), a 10,000-gallon cistern, multiple outbuildings and an old building site with two wells (not permitted). See Foothills Home.info for more info and pictures. Or call Kristi Brunel, 303-525-2520.

Minneapolis Ends Single-Family Zoning — But Why?

I was surprised to read that Minneapolis has “become the first major U.S. city to end single-family zoning, a policy that has done as much as any to entrench segregation, high housing costs, and sprawl as the American urban paradigm over the past century.”

The premise that single-family zoning was actually intended as a tool of de jure racial segregation was news to me, but that’s what the article said.

Influencing the Minneapolis action was a 2017 book, The Color of Law, by Richard Rosenstein. The book’s subtitle is “A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.”

I’m not saying that I agree with the premise, but I find the argument both interesting and somewhat compelling.

The Dec. 7, 2018, article in Slate said, “Opening up Minneapolis’ wealthiest, most exclusive districts to triplexes, the theory goes, will create new opportunities for people to move for schools or a job, provide a way for aging residents to downsize without leaving their neighborhoods, help ease the affordability crunch citywide, and stem the displacement of lower-income residents in gentrifying areas.”

Slate describes Minneapolis as a “staunchly liberal” city, so this may be an isolated action, not likely to be replicated elsewhere, including here.