Just Listed: Patio Home in a Friendly 55+ Lakewood Community

2677 S. Johnson Circle – Just listed at $475,000

If you are 55 or older, this home in the Village at McCoy Jensen is meant for you. The subdivision’s 41 patio homes form a close-knit community built around a single circular street with a wide common area and gazebo in the middle. Come in the morning and meet many of the neighbors taking their morning walk around the circle. Afternoon get togethers are also common! Each homeowner gets a hand-out with everyone’s name and the phone numbers of those willing to share it! This home is perfectly located at the far right corner of the subdivision with an expansive back yard (maintained by the HOA, of course). It has three bedrooms and three full or 3/4 bathrooms and 2,195 finished square feet of living space, plus 678 unfinished square feet in the basement. To fully appreciate this great home, see more pictures and watch a 7½-minute narrated video tour at www.LakewoodPatioHome.info, then call your agent or Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 to arrange a private showing. More pictures below…

Eat-in Kitchen – all appliances include, even washer and dryer
Living room and dining room – Open floor plan
Master suite with vaulter ceiling overlooks large greenbelt
Covered patio overlooks expansive greenbelt maintained by the HOA
Gatehouse on Yale Avenue. Notice the gazebo and greenbelt beyond

Buyers Benefit From Having an Agent Who Knows Home Systems and Sustainability

One of the reasons I enjoy showing homes to buyers is that I get to educate them about home systems and how they work, as well as identify the sustainable and not-so-sustainable features of each home.

The agents at Golden Real Estate have a thorough understanding of home systems as a result of our combined decades of experience and hundreds of transactions. In addition, we have taken classes on energy efficiency, insulation, solar power and home construction which allow us to serve buyers better when we show them homes.

Together, for example, we toured the model homes at Richards Farms when they were under construction, where we learned, among other things, about that builder’s foam insulation process.

There are so many aspects of energy efficiency and sustainability. Everyone by now knows about solar photovoltaics — creating electricity from the sun. Our office has 20 kW of solar panels, but having solar power is only the beginning. It’s how efficiently you use that power that makes the difference.

Heating and cooling is the biggest user of energy in any home, and the number and variety of HVAC systems have become more extensive and more complicated, and we understand and can explain them. They include: gas forced air heating and compressor-based air conditioning (most common in Colorado and much of the country), hot water baseboard heat, hot water radiant floor heating, wall-mounted heating panels or strips, heat pump mini-splits for both heating and cooling, hybrid heat-pump with gas forced air (which Rita and I have in our home), ground-source heat pump for both heating and cooling (the “gold standard” of efficient heating and cooling) — and let’s not forget heating with wood or wood pellets!

Windows can vary greatly. Double-pane windows may be standard now, but a Colorado company, Alpen, has made a name for itself with triple-pane windows and now quadruple-pane windows.  Recently I wrote about John Avenson’s Westminster home, in which some of his south-facing Alpen windows have micro-etching to divert sunlight toward the ceiling of his kitchen, a high-tech alternative to reflective window shelving, which we saw when we toured a newer building at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Skylights are so 20th Century. Today’s modern replacement are sun tunnels (Solatube is a leading brand), which are great for illuminating interior rooms. Just last week I showed a home with five Solatubes in it, lighting up the living room and an interior bathroom amazingly well from the mid-day sun. My buyer didn’t realize they weren’t ceiling light fixtures until I pointed them out. (We have two sun tunnels in our home illuminating our windowless garage and laundry room, and we have four sun tunnels in the Golden Real Estate office. We don’t have to turn on any lights on sunny days!)

A knowledgeable agent can also point out passive solar features of a home, which others might not recognize. These include proper window configuration, wide overhangs above south-facing windows, thermal masses in south-facing sunrooms, and deciduous trees providing strategically positioned shade in the summer but allowing more sunlight in the winter. I like to see (and point out) cellular shades, especially vertical ones covering patio doors for cold-weather insulation.

Often I notice that the listing agent didn’t mention the features (such as the Solatubes) that my buyers and I recognize as selling points. Of course, when doing the narrated video tours of our own listings, my broker associates and I don’t miss the opportunity to point out those features. And, of course, we are sure to mention those features in the MLS listing.

Many agents miss the opportunity to write a separate description on the MLS for each individual room. It’s not a mandatory field, but it’s the best place to mention a room’s Solatube, heated floor, porcelain tile, hardwood or other feature.

Here Are Some Things You Should Expect to Learn From a Professional Home Inspection

A home inspection is the best investment that any home buyer can make, providing you base your decision on the qualifications of the inspector and not by cost alone. In Colorado, home inspectors are not licensed, so look for one like Jim Camp of Metropolitan Home Inspections, who is ASHI-certified. Not only might you find a problem that you could get the seller to fix, but you’ll also learn things you need to know about as the future owner of that home.

The inspector will also show you where the utility shut-offs are located and how to operate them, which can be important during an emergency.

The cost of an inspection varies from one inspector to the next and depends on the size of the home or possibly the purchase price.  Expect to spend between $300 and $500 for the basic or standard inspection. Add-on services which I recommend include a test for radon gas ($100 to $150) and a sewer scope (also $100 to $150).

If a high level of radon gas (over 4.0 picocuries per liter) is detected, the buyer should demand that it be mitigated, which costs a minimum of $900 and as much as $2,000 if there is both a basement and a crawl space.

A sewer scope involves sending a camera through the piping from the house to where it enters the sewer line under your street.  Sewer lines in older homes were built with clay pipes which are prone to root intrusion and collapse.  If root intrusion is discovered, the seller will usually agree to have the sewer line cleaned and rescoped, and if there is a collapse or other break, the repair could cost several thousand dollars, so both tests are money well spent.

The general inspection should be scheduled as soon as possible to allow time for additional inspections as indicated. For example, the inspector may discover evidence of mold or mildew, termite infestation or structural issues, and you’ll need time to arrange those inspections. 

In older (pre-1985) homes, it’s common to encounter a Federal Pacific Electric or Zinsco panel, which can cost $1,500 or more to replace. The inspector should recommend further evaluation and certification by a licensed electrician and recommend its replacement since FPE and Zinsco lost their UL endorsement due to breaker failures resulting in electrical fires. An inspector will test electrical outlets for correct polarity and will also check for ground-fault protection on outlets located within six feet of any water source, such as kitchens, bathrooms, unfinished basements, outdoors or in the garage, etc.

He (or she) will walk the roof if possible (even though it’s not required) to look for hail damage as well as proper sealing around chimneys, etc.

In this article, I have touched on only some of the many tests and inspections which make the money a buyer spends on professional inspection the best money he or she will spend.

Bidding Wars Are Back, According to Redfin

You’ve got maybe 5 seconds to read the small print…

Nothing has surprised us real estate professionals quite as much as how hot the market has been during the Covid-19 pandemic. Redfin, the brokerage with what I consider misleading TV ads, did an analysis of offers written by their own agents on MLS listings and found that over half of those offers faced competing offers from other agents.

Nationwide, the percentage of Redfin offers facing competition was 53.7% in June, up from 51.8% in May and 44% in April. Boston led the pack with 72.4% of offers facing competition during June, up from 67.2% in May.

The Denver market came in 12th nationally in terms of bidding wars, with 53% of offers facing competition, down from 55.6% in May.  Of the top 12 metro areas, only Denver and Portland had lower percentages in June than in May.

After Dreadful March & April, Denver’s Real Estate Market Surged in June

If you’ve been wondering how Denver’s real estate market would make it through the pandemic, here’s an early answer: it’s doing great.

The chart below shows the record surge in contracts and sales. Contracts, which surged in May, surged further in June, along with a large jump in closings. (Statistics are for listings within a 25-mile radius of the state capitol building.)

The following table shows how the first six months of the past five years compare with each other in several key metrics, demonstrating among other things that the median days on the MLS has dropped as it has done in previous years from January through June, and that the average price per finished square foot has continued to rise year over year.

At Golden Real Estate, we have detected increased interest in relocating to Colorado from both coasts. The pandemic put apartment dwellers, in particular, in more fear of catching the virus, especially those dependent on elevators. Of course, we have apartment buildings in Denver, too, and we’re seeing people from there as well wanting to be “on the ground,” able to get outside without coming in close contact with others.

Not content with simply buying a detached single-family home, some buyers are looking to buy homes on acreage. Some are moving to the western slope. 

All the after-effects of the pandemic are yet to be fully understood, so it should be an interesting rest of 2020. For example, permanent implementation of working from home could trigger an increased migration from city to countryside.

One thing is clear for now — that the real estate market is going to stay active and that it will be a seller’s market, although we have observed that overpriced homes are sitting on the market more than ever. When a home doesn’t sell within the first week, it’s important to lower the price right away instead of letting the listing languish on the MLS at its original listing price.

If You Oppose Taxation Without Representation, Support D.C. Statehood

Perhaps you heard that the House of Representatives passed and sent to the Senate a bill making the District of Columbia the 51st State.  It will die in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The United States is likely the only country in the developed world where residents of its capital city have no voting representation in their government. It was only 60 years ago that D.C. was given 3 votes in the Electoral College, and it still has no voting representation in Congress. Republicans will never accept that because the District is overwhelming Democratic. (Trump got 4% of the vote in 2016.)  In 2000, the District added the phrase “Taxation Without Representation” to its license plates, and newly elected President George W. Bush responded by ordering that US Government plates replace the D.C. plates on all White House vehicles. Since then, the verb “End” was added to the controversial phrase.

As a compromise, I suggest that the residential areas of D.C. be annexed into Maryland, giving that state another seat or two (based on population) in the House of Representatives. Perhaps Republicans could accept this approach since it wouldn’t produce two Democratic U.S. Senators, just one or two Democratic representatives.

Houston’s Realtor Association Bars Use of ‘Master’

With the new reckoning about systemic racism in America, the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) decided that “master bedroom” should be replaced with “primary bedroom,” according to a CNN report.

So long as guest bedrooms aren’t called “slave bedrooms,” I see nothing wrong with the term “master bedroom.”  (And what slaveowner ever had his enslaved workers sleeping in adjoining bedrooms under the same roof?)

I checked with REcolorado, our local MLS (which is separate from but owned by our local Realtor associations), and I was assured that there is no plan here to follow HAR’s initiative, and I suspect frankly that HAR will have second thoughts about that change. I agree with John Legend, whose response was to ridicule the change and tell them to concentrate instead on the very real issue of discrimination in real estate.

Affordable Condo in Denver’s Capitol Hill Just Listed by Chuck Brown

1045 Pennsylvania Street #403 — Just listed for $219,000

Broker Associate Chuck Brown just listed Unit #403 in the Penn Condos building at 1045 Pennsylvania Street.  This 1-bedroom, 1-bath condo has been completely remodeled. All appliances and fixtures are brand new, the honey colored oak flooring has been refinished, the kitchen and bath have new tile and cabinetry, and the unit has been repainted throughout. The building is solid, clean, secure and well managed, featuring off-street parking, mature landscaping and views of downtown Denver from the unit.  Located within a block of two historic districts in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, this condominium is central, quiet and convenient, within easy walking distance of shops, entertainment, the State Capitol, Denver Public Library and the Colorado History Museum, as well as downtown Denver. You can view a narrated video walkthrough of this condo at www.CapitolHillCondo.info, then call your agent or Chuck Brown at 303-885-7855 for a private showing!

Discover Arvada’s Geos Community, Where the Homes’ Energy Costs Are Essentially Zero

That’s what it’s like for Jim & Patty Horan, who bought their 3-bedroom, 3-bath, 2,135-sq.-ft. home at 15062 W. 69th Place in Arvada’s Geos Community. They paid $525,000 for it three years ago (July 2017). 

Like all Geos homes, this one has no gas service. With only 6kW of solar panels on the roof, the home is heated by a ground source heat pump. It draws heat from the earth via a 300-foot-deep loop under the home. The heat pump uses very little electricity during the summer to further cool the 55° fluid in that loop, and not much more energy during heating season to heat that fluid to 100 degrees.

On Saturday, June 27th, Jim Horan gave me a tour of his home which I recorded for this fall’s Metro Denver Green Homes Tour. You can view the video at YouTube.com/jimsmith145.

Geos Community’s website describes it as “Colorado’s first geosolar development” and is the only subdivision I know that’s built entirely “net zero energy.” There are developers building solar-powered communities like KB Home’s subdivision on the northeast corner of Hwy 93 and 58th Ave., but they don’t come close to being net zero.

There’s a term for such homes — “greenwashing,” which Wikipedia defines at “a form of marketing spin in which green PR and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organization’s products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly.” I’ve always marveled that those KB Homes were built with many of the solar panels installed on north-facing roof surfaces.

Getting back to the Horans’ home, there’s more to going net zero than having solar panels and a ground-source heat pump. Those features must be coupled with energy saving features so that the limited number of solar panels are enough to meet the home’s energy needs — with energy left over to charge an electric car.

Here are some of those features which I covered in my video tour with Jim Horan.

First and foremost is the passive solar orientation of the building with lots of south-facing windows and a south-facing roof for solar panels. Also, there are overhangs above each south-facing window designed to shade it from the sun during the summer while allow full sun in the winter when the sun is lower in the southern sky.

Next, the building’s “envelope” has to be very tight. That starts with foam insulation blown onto the interior surfaces of the roof and exterior walls, replacing the blown-in cellulose and fiberglass batting typical of tract homes built by other developers. The windows are Alpen triple-pane windows which also have foam-insulated fiberglass framing. (Fiberglass is better for window framing than vinyl – not as prone to aging and warping.)

Those elements make a house too air-tight for healthy living, so an energy recovery ventilator is installed which constantly brings in fresh air, using a heat exchanger designed so that the heat (or coolness) of the air being exhausted is used to heat or cool the fresh air being brought into the house. A heat pump within this device, called a CERV, provides further heating or cooling of that fresh air as needed.

In the townhomes at the Geos Community, the CERV works with an air-source heat pump mini-split instead of a ground-source heat  pump to heat and cool the home year-round.

Have you heard the term “indoor air quality” or “sick building syndrome”?  It refers to high levels of CO2 or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can build up in a home, especially in a home as air-tight as the Geos homes.

The CERV monitors both CO2 and VOC levels in the house and will bring in additional fresh air when those gases exceed the level set by the homeowner. (The Horans have the level for each gas set at 950 parts per million, or ppm.)

What are VOCs?  If you can smell it, it’s probably a volatile organic compound. Examples include new carpet smell and, worst of all, cat litter smells.

Two appliances in Geos homes also contribute to their low energy load. One is the Bosch condensation clothes dryer, which pulls in cool, dry air from the room. The air is heated and passed through the clothes; but instead of being vented outdoors, the air travels through a stainless steel cooling device or heat exchanger. It does heat the room it is in, so the Horans choose to dry their clothes on an outdoor line during the summer, even though their heat pump could handle the additional cooling load if they didn’t do that. Home Depot sells the Bosch 300 “ventless” dryer for $989.

The other appliance is the heat-pump water heater. It has a heat pump above the tank which transfers the heat from the room into the water. I’ve written about this product before. Home Depot sells a 50-gallon Rheem model for $1,299 which earns a $400 rebate from Xcel Energy and another $300 in federal tax credit if purchased by December 31, 2020. Because this appliance emits cold air, it’s in a pantry which the Horans keep closed in the winter and open in the summer. (I would put it in a wine cellar or in a room with a freezer, which emits hot air — a symbiotic arrangement within one room.)

As you are beginning to gather, building a net zero energy home is best done from scratch, when the additional cost is less than retrofitting a home. (My home is net zero in terms of electricity, but we still burn $30 to $50 of natural gas each month, and it takes twice as many solar panels for my home, which has about the same square footage as the Horans’.)

You may be wondering how much more it cost to build the Horans’ house, which they bought new in July 2017. To answer that, I searched all the comparable homes (2– or 3-story, between 1,500 and 2,500 square feet within 1 mile radius) sold during the summer months of 2017, and I found that the $246 per finished square foot paid by the Horans was actually below the median price ($253 per finished square foot) for the seven comparable sales. And those homes probably pay thousands of dollars per year more for electricity (and gas) than the Horans.

If you want to learn more about Geos community, give me a call at 303-525-1851 or visit the Geos website, www.DiscoverGeos.com.

Cohousing Community Coming to Arvada’s Geos Community

Cohousing communities have been built in Golden and Boulder, and one will be built in the Geos net-zero energy neighborhood on 69th Avenue, west of Indiana Street, incorporating the same net zero energy design elements described in today’s other post about Geos. Ten members are already signed up, including Norbert Klebl, the developer of Geos. When there are 12, design and construction work will begin.

At www.RalstonCreekCohousing.org you can watch some useful videos and learn about their monthly video chats and events. The community will consist of 20 or so units in a U-shaped condo-style building with main-floor common spaces and a courtyard facing Ralston Creek.

If you like the idea of cohousing, check out this one, which has the additional feature of being net zero energy.