3-Bedroom Townhome in Westminster Just Listed by Ty Scrable

You’ll love this 3-bedroom, 2½-bath townhome at 8758 Allison Drive, Unit C, located in the heart of Westminster. It was just listed by Ty Scrable for $375,000. Downtown Westminster is just to the east and Standley Lake is just to the west. This unit includes an updated kitchen and bathrooms. The main bedroom includes a full bath with double vanity. The attached two-car garage is quite spacious. The large loft makes for a fine office space. The community has a great pool. We just listed and sold another unit in this complex in less than a week, so you can expect that this one will not last long!  View a narrated video tour at www.WestminsterHome.info, then call your agent or Ty at 720-281-6783 for a private showing.  Open Saturday, April 3, from 10 to noon.

‘Deed’ or ‘Title’ — Homeowners Are Confused About Ownership Instruments

You can blame “Monopoly” for some of the confusion. That board game taught us all that there is such as thing as a “deed” to a property. With a “deed” to Boardwalk and some houses or a hotel on it, you could charge rent to those who landed on it — and hopefully win the game.

Meanwhile, the Department of Motor Vehicles has taught us that there is such a thing as a “title.” Meanwhile, when you purchase a home, you receive a “title policy” which guarantees “clear title” to your property.

But surprise! There is no such document as a “title” to your home the way there is a title to your car. There is a document called a “deed” but that is the document which transfers ownership, it is not proof of ownership. Sorry, I know this is confusing!

So where is the proof that you own your home? It is held by the Clerk & Recorder of your county, and it’s based on the most recent deed recorded with the county. The only proof that Rita and I own our home in Golden is that the most recently recorded deed transferred the property to us. There is no other document which we have or can produce to prove we own our home.

Last year the state-mandated contract for the purchase and sale of real property changed the way deeds are specified. The agent preparing the contract specifies whether the buyer wants to obtain ownership through one of several deeds.

First is the “Special Warranty Deed,” by which the seller warrants that he is transferring ownership of his property free of any known lien or claim of ownership during the time he/she or they owned the property. That is the most limited type of deed.

The buyer might, however, demand a “General Warranty Deed,” by which the seller is warranting that there is no other claim of ownership (or lien against the property) going back to the beginning of time. 

What you need to know, however, is that, regardless of which type of deed is used to transfer ownership, the buyer should receive an “owner’s title policy” (typically paid for by the seller) guaranteeing free and clear title to the buyer. In other words, it hardly matters which type of deed is used to transfer the property. You’re still protected.

Title insurance differs from other kinds of insurance because it has no term. It is a one-time purchase that covers the new owner of the property forever. It never has to be renewed.

Prior to issuing the title policy, the title company does a “title search” looking for any recorded claim of ownership or lien against the property in question. If a claim or lien is not recorded with the county in which the property is located, it can’t be enforced.

It is possible, of course, that a claim or lien might be overlooked during the title search, but it’s pretty rare. I recall once in 1991 I purchased an older (1905) office building in Denver, receiving a title policy from Land Title Guaranty Company. Within a year or so, I was notified of a lis pendens against the property, but the lawyers for Land Title did whatever they had to do in order to clear it, costing me nothing. Since that time I can’t think of any claims against any title policy held by me or any of my clients — and I’ve had quite a few!

There are other types of deeds beside Special Warranty and General Warranty. If the property is owned by the estate of a deceased person, the property is transferred by a “Personal Representative’s Deed.”  If the property is purchased at a foreclosure auction, it is transferred by a “Public Trustee’s Deed.” If a property is purchased out of bankruptcy, it is transferred via a “Trustee’s Deed.” 

A “Quit Claim Deed” is used when real estate is transferred without being sold for money.  For example, if John Doe were to marry Jane Doe and wanted to put a home he owned in both their names, he could “quit claim” it from John Doe (as “grantor”) to John & Jane Doe (as “grantees”). If they divorce later on, John & Jane Doe might quit claim the house to either John or Jane, with or without a monetary settlement on the side.

With such examples, I hope you now understand that a “deed” is in fact an instrument of transfer, and not a title to property.

Because there is no physical title to real estate, the first thing that a title company does when asked to execute a contract to sell a parcel of real estate is to issue a “title commitment,” which is a document asserting who the recorded owner of the property is and to whom it is to be transferred.

There is one other use of the word “deed,” and that’s for the “Deed of Trust” which a mortgage or other lender has you sign when you take out a loan of any kind which is secured by your home. That document is recorded with the County Clerk & Recorder and is the basis for that official to hold a foreclosure auction if you default on the loan.

I am not a lawyer, and I am providing this information as I understand it from real estate classes and from my experience as a real estate licensee. You’ll want to engage a lawyer if you require further explanation, and I, like any real estate licensee, can refer you to one.

Just Listed: 7-Bedroom, 5-Bath Ranch With Walkout Basement

17889 W. 95th Pl., Arvada – Just Listed at $879,000 by David Dlugasch

This ranch home is one of a kind! The 4,500-sq-ft home boasts 2 family rooms, 2 full kitchens, 2 master suites, and a flex room for an office/studio. The main level kitchen has upgraded stainless steel appliances and a gas stove. The main level has four bedrooms and a master suite with a large walk-in closet and 5-piece bathroom. Downstairs is a second master suite with an en-suite bathroom and walk-in closet. There is a large bright walk-out family room, two other bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a full second kitchen with stainless steel appliances. The 3-car garage has 240V power. This one-year-old home borders open space with walking and bike trails, two health clubs, two swimming pools, tennis courts, and many parks, including a dog park. Take the narrated video tour below, then visit www.CandelasHome.info, for more details and still photos. Then call your agent or David Dlugasch at 303-908-4835 for a private showing.

Here’s a Postscript to My Earlier Post About All-Electric Homes

Some readers were surprised to read my column promoting the all-electric home as a cost-effective contribution to the mitigation of climate change.

If you’re thinking of 20th Century home construction, promoting the all-electric home would make little sense. Electric baseboard heating has its place, but no longer as a whole house solution. One advantage of it is that each room can have its own thermostat, so you’re only heating rooms when you use them. For the heat it produces, however, it is many times more expensive than using a mini-split heat pump solution. Recently I showed a home where a heat pump mini-split was used to heat a detached and insulated garage which doubled as a workshop. That’s a great application for that kind of heating — also because the mini-split can cool the garage in the summer, not just heat it in the winter.

There has been a revolution in the development of electric appliances, too. The induction cooktop, for example, is a highly efficient replacement for earlier electric ranges or cooktops which used resistance-based cooking elements.

Another change from the 20th Century: you can now generate your own electricity with highly affordable roof-top solar photovoltaic installations.

Help Us Find a Denver Home for Our Wheelchair-Bound Buyer!

NIck and Barb Fowler

We have a wheelchair-bound buyer looking to purchase a home in the East Denver/Aurora area. Call Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 if you can help us find a ranch-style home that is already accessible or could be made accessible. Thank you!

Just Listed: 2-Bedroom Condo in Downtown Golden

Washington Station, at 722 Washington Avenue on the corner of 8th Street, is a mixed use building, with businesses on the ground floor and part of the 2nd floor, with secure residences on the rest of the 2nd floor and the 3rd floor. This unit, #302, comes with 2 parking spaces in the ground-level garage. It has newly installed carpeting and engineered hardwood floors. The kitchen, which is open to the living room/dining room, features slab granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a breakfast bar, and the same hardwood flooring. You’ll enjoy the mountain views from the living room windows and the 6’x11’ balcony overlooking Church ditch. A storage closet in the unit is big enough to hold bicycles, skis, snowboard, a kayak, etc. Take a narrated video tour online at www.GoldenCondo.info, then call your agent or Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 to see it!

Slab granite countertops, breakfast bar and hardwood floor in kitchen
Kitchen is open to dining room/living room with hardwood floor
Mountain view from dining room/living room window
6’x11′ balcony overlooks Church Ditch, with view of North Table Mountain
Two deeded parking spaces in ground floor garage are included

Zillow’s Offer to Buy Your Home for Its ‘Zestimate’ Price Is a Brilliant But Devious Strategy

I’ve written in the past about various “iBuyer” players — look for my August 22, 2019, and January 2, 2020, columns archived online at www.JimSmithColumns. com.

Basically, iBuyers such as Opendoor and Zillow Offers attempt to lure homeowners in-to selling their home for what appears to be a good price but which is literally intended to net the seller less than if they exposed their home to the full universe of potential buyers.

Literally intended? Yes, all you need to know is that if a company wants to buy your home in order to resell it, it’s because they will make a profit from doing so. Wouldn’t  you want to keep that profit for yourself?

Now Zillow has weaponized its much criticized “Zestimate” for the purpose of getting their “foot in the door” with you. Let me share with you a few points to ponder before responding to Zillow’s pitch.

First of all, you and I both know that the Zestimate is a computer-generated number that is by definition not particularly accurate. (Zillow’s estimate on my own home is at least $100,000 over its true value.)

To facilitate their iBuyer program in Colorado and elsewhere, Zillow made big news recently when they opened brokerages and started hiring brokers. They have opened an office in Centennial and, as of this week, have 15 broker associates, 12 of them members of the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. The others belong to an out-of-state Realtor association.  So far that brokerage has put zero listings on REcolorado, our MLS, whether active, pending or closed. Presumably those 15 broker associates are busy responding to homeowners who responded to Zillow’s pitch about buying their home for the Zestimate price. How will those meetings go?

First, the broker associate will do a true market analysis and explain that the Zestimate was computer generated and overstated their home’s value. “Here’s what we will offer you, now that we know the true value.”

If the seller accepts the lowered price and signs a Zillow purchase contract, it will have the following provisions, assuming it’s similar to the contract from Opendoor that I was able to study.

First of all, the seller will have accepted a 7½% “service fee” in lieu of a commission. Next, they will have agreed to an inspection or  “assessment” of the property, which will be followed by “adjustments” to the purchase price based on “needed repairs,” including, for example, a new roof, a new furnace or water heater based on age — whatever can be justified. The example I cited in my August 2019 column mentioned $38,563 worth of “repairs found in assessment.” 

That contract had an escape clause for the seller, which Zillow’s contract probably does too, allowing the seller to terminate at any time, which is what that buyer did.  The combination of the “service fee” and the reductions to cover supposed “repairs” was so great that they called me. I listed their home for the right price and sold it above asking price due to multiple offers, netting the seller more than they would have netted under their contract with Opendoor.

I got the seller more money, because, as I said above, the only reason for Opendoor or any iBuyer to purchase a home is to sell it at the market, which requires them to purchase the home below its market value.

In the iBuyer marketplace, Zillow clearly has the advantage, because virtually every homeowner is already being dazzled by the Zestimates they get routinely by email, whereas Opendoor and other iBuyer competitors have to canvass and cold-cold homeowners about selling their home “without putting it on the market or paying a commission.”  Zillow enjoys what every brokerage wants — sellers calling them! All the Zillow brokerage has to do is employ enough agents to answer the phone and arrange those in-home “selling” appointments, which are really for the purpose of listing the home for sale once it is owned by Zillow.

It’s a great business model — for Zillow, but not necessarily for the homeowner. That is, unless the homeowner is willing to give up thousands of dollars in proceeds in return for the “convenience” of selling without any showings or other intrusions.

For some homeowners, that convenience is worth the loss of proceeds, and there are probably enough such homeowners to make the iBuyer model successful. What bothers me is that for some it will feel like a “bait and switch” situation. After all those “adjustments” have been made, they might be un-able or unwilling to exercise their right to terminate the contract because they have made life plans based on the expectation of selling their home for an acceptable price. 

Some will have already signed contracts for a new home or at a senior community. They will have already packed some of their belongings or put them in storage, and they may have told their friends that they are selling and moving. For these persons, it may be psychologically difficult or financially costly to reverse course when they discover they have been fooled into selling their home for less than its worth.

If you have responded to the Zillow pitch and would be willing to share your experience, I’d like to hear from you. My email address is Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com.  I’ll share what I learn in a future column.  Subscribe to this blog to get alerts about future postings on this or another topic of interest.

Updated 4-BR North Golden Bungalow with 2-Car Garage

1110 5th Street – Just listed at $595,000

This 1940 bungalow at 1110 5th Street is a short walk from downtown Golden, Clear Creek, a city park and numerous hiking and biking trails on the hills and mountains that encircle downtown Golden. The home has been beautifully updated, with a kitchen that is open to the living room and dining room. There are two bedrooms and a full bathroom on the main floor, plus two more bedrooms and a 3/4 bath in the basement. Unlike many Golden bungalows, this one has a detached 2-car garage with an electrical subpanel and water that is accessed from an alley behind the home. You’ll also appreciate the established low-water gardens. Find lots of pictures and a narrated video tour at www.NorthGoldenHome.com, then call your agent or Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 to see it in person. We’ll have an open house this Saturday, March 20th, 11-1.

Kitchen – all appliances are included!
Dining room has gas fireplace and door to covered patio
Living room
Primary bedroom with hardwood floor, ceiling fan and windows facing front & side yards.
West-facing covered patio with sun screens. Picnic table is included.
Backyard and Oversized 2-Car Garage

Want to Avoid Bidding Wars?

   Sellers love bidding wars. Buyers not so much. If you’re a buyer and want to avoid a bidding war, simply ask one of our agents (below) to set up an MLS alert including this criterion: Days in MLS >9. As I write this, there are 1,021 listings that have been active on REcolorado 1 to 9 days on MLS, but 4,044 that have been active over 9 days. A listing that has been on the MLS 10 days or longer is far less likely to have multiple offers (unless it just posted a big price drop).

Jim Smith, 303-525-1851

Jim Swanson, 303-929-2727

Chuck Brown, 303-885-7855

David Dlugasch, 303-908-4835

Ty Scrable, 720-281-6783

Andrea Cox, 720-446-8674

All-Electric Homes (and Buildings) Are Central to Mitigating Climate Change

As much as we Americans love our gas fireplaces, gas ranges and gas grills, we need to recognize that the move to an all-electric home, with the electricity being generated using minimal fossil fuels, is central to the goal of mitigating the effects of climate change.

And it can be a good future, especially if you’re able to generate all the electricity that your home and cars use.

That’s the future Rita and I have created for ourselves. We have 10 kW of solar panels on our Golden home, enough to heat and cool our home and charge our two electric cars. Our forced air furnace only burns gas when the outside temp dips below freezing. Otherwise, a heat pump provides all the heat we need. And recently we replaced our gas water heater with a hybrid water heater that heats all the water we need using its built-in heat pump. It has a standard electric heater coil in case we need faster recovery.  (We never have needed faster recovery.)

Yes, we still have a gas cooktop and gas fireplace, and our BBQ grill is plumbed with gas. I can picture us moving to an induction electric cooktop, electric fireplace and electric grill, but for now we comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we have drastically reduced our carbon footprint and our monthly energy bills with the use of heat pumps for heating, cooling and water heating, as well as by driving EVs.

A December article on axios.com reported that some progressive jurisdictions are now banning gas hookups in new residential and commercial construction. According the article, 40 California municipalities, starting with Berkeley in 2019, have banned the installation of natural gas service in new construction.

The most common argument against this anti-natural gas trend relates to the cost of electric heating vs. gas heating, but the people who make that argument are probably thinking of conventional resistance heating, such as baseboard electric heating.

Resistance heating is similar to your kitchen toaster, sending electricity to a coil causing it to generate heat.  There is a more efficient way to heat, however, which is to use a heat pump. A heat pump moves heat instead of generating heat, and the cost is as little at one quarter that of resistance heating for the same BTU (heat) output. Here’s a article comparing the two kinds of electric heating.

Moreover, a heat pump can provide both heating and cooling, merely by reversing the direction in which it moves heat, replacing both the gas furnace and electric air conditioning unit which most of us have in our homes.

Another argument against increased electrification is that electricity is itself created by the burning of coal and natural gas. The current fuel mix of Xcel Energy in Colorado is 36% natural gas, 32.5% coal, and the rest renewable energy (mostly wind). The company’s goal is 55% renewable by 2026 and 100% “carbon-free” by 2050, so it makes sense to start now replacing gas appliances with high efficiency electric ones such as heat pumps.

Keep in mind, too, that we can generate our own electricity at home and on our office buildings, taking advantage of “net metering,” paying only to be connected to the electric grid. With net metering, Xcel’s grid functions like a battery, taking excess electricity from our solar installations during the day and delivering it back to us when the sun goes away — or when our solar panels are covered with snow!