Come to Golden for Our Annual Community Garage Sales May 12

Each spring we sponsor a community garage sale in two of Golden’s high-end neighborhoods — the Village at Mountain Ridge west of Hwy. 93 in north Golden and Stonebridge at Eagle Ridge off Heritage Road in south Golden. Together there are 540 homes, and about 40 of them will be participating. See their addresses and a description of what each is selling at www.GoldenGarageSale.com. Directions to each subdivision are on that website. It all happens this Saturday, May 12th, 8 a.m. to noon. The rain date is next Saturday, May 19th.

 

As Warm Weather Arrives, What Are the Different Ways to Cool a Home?

Real_Estate_Today_byline      I’m not in the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) business but I do have a pretty good understanding of the different methods of cooling a home, so I thought I’d review them this week.  I welcome input from HVAC experts, so maybe I’ll have an update/correction for you next week.

The most widely adopted method of cooling — what everyone calls “air conditioning” — involves a compressor-based system of refrigeration using the same technology as your kitchen refrigerator. A refrigerant (formerly Freon, before it was outlawed by the EPA) circulates within tubing from inside the home to outside and back again, absorbing and releasing heat in the process. Outdoors, the refrigerant cools and then re-enters the home, and the cycle repeats.

In a typical installation, the chiller (or “evaporator”) is positioned within a forced air furnace which functions as the air handler to move household air across the coils containing the refrigerant. As the refrigerant cools the air, it absorbs heat and then flows to the outdoor compressor where the refrigerant is forced back into its chilled state, releasing that heat to the outdoors. This is similar to your kitchen refrigerator, except that your refrigerator releases the heat into the kitchen (behind the refrigerator) instead of outdoors.

In homes without a forced air furnace, the A/C system requires its own air handler to take in air from the house, chill it, then distribute it, usually via its own ductwork. One such application would be a home with hot water heat and, thus, no ductwork that could be used for air conditioning. In such a home, the A/C compressor might be roof-mounted, with the air handler and ductwork located in the attic.  Some ducts distribute the chilled air to one or more rooms, while other ductwork returns air to the air handler. The cooled air will naturally settle downward, cooling lower floor(s) without ductwork.

A/C compressors, however, require a lot of electricity, making this the most expensive method of cooling. In a dry climate like Colorado, an economical option is evaporative cooling. It requires no compressor, just a fan, a membrane through which to pass water and a water pump. You may know this as “swamp cooling.”

If you’ve noticed how even a slight breeze cools you off when you’re sweating you’ve experienced evaporative cooling. Water, it turns out, is a good refrigerant, absorbing heat as it evaporates, but it can only evaporate effectively when the humidity is low. That’s why you don’t hear of evaporative cooling being used in Houston, New York, or any other locale where high humidity makes it harder for air to absorb additional water through evaporation.

A swamp cooler, which is usually roof or window mounted, draws in hot outdoor air and passes it through a water-saturated membrane.  It then directs that cooled air into the house. For a swamp cooler to be effective, one or more windows have to be opened a few inches to allow air to escape, because, unlike with a compressor-based air conditioner, the swamp cooler is pumping air into the house instead of recirculating air that is already in the house. If leaving windows open makes you feel insecure, there are ways to secure a window so that it is open the optimal four inches but can’t be opened any further.

On the negative side, an evaporative cooler requires more maintenance than standard A/C and uses lots of water. Those membranes absorb dirt and dust and need to be rinsed or replaced twice a season or more, which can be tricky when the unit is  roof-mounted. Also, you have to winterize and de-winterize the outdoor units. On the positive side, it is healthier for you (and your wood furniture) to live with the 30% or higher humidity created through evaporative cooling than the 10% or lower humidity created by air conditioning.

A whole house fan is a great complement to either method of cooling.  Before turning on the A/C or swamp cooler when returning to a very hot house, you can use a whole house fan to quickly flush that heat out of your house by leaving a lower door or window open and turning on the whole house fan located in your uppermost ceiling, such as a second floor hallway. You might also use the whole house fan (on a low setting) at night instead of air conditioning when the outside temperature is below, say, 65 degrees, leaving a window cracked to bring in that cool, fresh air.

A third method of cooling is the heat pump or  mini-split system.   We installed such a system at Golden Real Estate, which I described in detail in my January 4th column.  You can find that column online at www.JimSmithColumns.com.

Mini-split systems combine the low maintenance of a compressor-based air conditioning system with the energy savings of a swamp cooler (but without the swamp cooler’s water consumption). Like A/C compressors, mini-splits have SEER ratings but, whereas high-efficiency A/C systems have SEER ratings under 20 at most, you can find mini-splits with SEER ratings of 30 or higher. And a mini-split also functions as a ductless heating system during cold weather.

 

 

Hardwood Floors Are Popular, But Some Condo Owners Are Having Second Thoughts

A client of mine fell in love with a condo, in part because of its hardwood flooring.  But within weeks of moving in, he’s now thinking of selling.  Why? Because the hardwood flooring in the unit above him appears overly effective at transmitting the sound of both human and canine footfalls.  Apparently the neighbor below him has noticed the same thing and has complained about the sound my client makes when he and his dog move about on their hardwood floors.

This raises an interesting question: Is there a reasonable way to construct a building’s floors so as to mitigate the transmission of sound from hardwood flooring?

 

 

Lakewood Townhome Just Listed by Andrew Lesko

Pheasant Ridge Ad Photo - smallerLocated at 10456 W. Dartmouth Ave. in the highly sought-after townhouse community of Pheasant Creek, this is a great opportunity for first-time home buyers! Bring your design ideas and make this home yours. This is currently the lowest priced Lakewood townhouse with a garage! Features include a main-level living room with wood burning fireplace, dining area and a smart kitchen space that accesses the deck — great for summertime BBQ’s! The two spacious bedrooms upstairs share a full bath. The basement has an 80-sq.ft. unfinished room behind the garage with included washer and dryer (and furnace and water heater). This townhome is move-in ready. Community amenities include a pool and basketball court. Close to trails, parks, restaurants and shopping. This is a great starter home in a great location and is priced to sell quickly! View the narrated video tour online at www.LakewoodTownhome.info, then call your agent or Andrew Lesko at 720-710-1000 for a private showing. He’ll be holding an open house on Saturday, May 5th, 11 am to 3 pm.  See also www.GoldenTownhomes.com.

 

Just in Time: A Breakthrough in ‘Rent-to-Own’ for Those Who Can’t Buy Now

Real_Estate_Today_byline      It’s not uncommon for us to get a phone call or drop-in from someone who would like to buy but who might not be in a position do so at this time. They are looking for a rental, and for that we refer them to trusted companies that specialize in rentals. Sometimes the caller or visitor will inquire about rent-to-own, but we explain that it is nearly impossible to find a seller in this market who would consider rent-to-own when they can sell now for top dollar.

I’m happy to announce a breakthrough. Last week our office was presented with a new business model that could fill this gap in the real estate market. The way it works is this: we submit the prospect’s name to a company which, upon approving the person as a tenant, agrees to purchase a house, which that pre-approved tenant can rent.

Once approved, the prospect goes on the company’s website which contains all the MLS listings (sub-ject to company approval) that qualify for this program. The homes can range in price from $100,000 to $550,000. Only townhomes and single family homes qualify for this program — condos do not.

If you’ve looked online for rentals, you are familiar with the limited inventory of rental homes.

The fact that the sellers and listing agents of the qualified MLS listings are offering their homes for sale, not for rent, doesn’t matter. If a prospective tenant finds a for-sale home they’d like to rent, our partner company can offer a lease for that home which states what the rent will be for the next five years, and which also provides a pre-determined purchase price for that home over the same 5-year period.

Let’s say you find a $500,000 home you’d like to rent.  If you click on that listing, you’ll find the following grid of rental and purchase prices:

Rent_to_own_grid As you might expect, these figures are subject to adjustment, since (1) the listed price may not be the final sale price, (2) the home may need renovation work, and (3) there may be other costs associated with purchasing and owning the property. These and other conditions are spelled out in the lease agreement that is signed by the prospective tenant.

At that point, we represent the rent-to-own company in negotiating a purchase of the identified property. To the seller and to us as a buyer’s agent, it’s an ordinary transaction by an investor.   In this case, however, the investor has already identified a qualified tenant for the property.

Although the landlord is bound by the specified rents and purchase prices for five years, the tenant is only locked into a one-year renewable lease and can choose to purchase the home at any time.  They can also choose to not renew the lease and simply walk away.

This flexibility will be particularly attractive, I expect, to people relocating to our area who may be able to buy immediately, but don’t want to lock themselves into purchasing the first home they find. They can rent a home they think they might want to buy, then buy another house after the first 1-year lease period is up.  They can also opt to exercise their option to buy the house for a pre-determined price — an increase over what their landlord paid for it.

Home_Partners_screen_shot  At right is how an MLS listing appears when displayed on the company’s website, showing the listing price on the right and the estimated initial rent on the left.

Although the prospective tenant is not our client — the landlord is — we set up showings for that tenant just like we would for any buyer. When the tenant identifies the home they’re interested in, we tell the company and together we go about buying the property so that tenant can rent it.

If you or someone you know can’t (or doesn’t want to) buy at this time, have them call any Golden Real Estate agent at 303-302-3636 or send an email to info@GoldenRealEstate.com.

 

What Is an ‘Escalation Clause’ and How Should Sellers Respond to One?

In our competitive seller’s market where a listing might attract five, ten or more competing offers, submitted contracts often include something called an “escalation clause.”

An escalation clause is an additional provision worded something like this: “In the event Seller receives a competing contract with a purchase price, net of concessions, in excess of the Purchase Price in this Contract, Buyer agrees to increase the Purchase Price of this Contract to $1,000 in excess of the purchase price of said competing contract, up to a maximum of $______.” I have seen contracts offering as much as $5,000 over a competing contract.

Two things you need to know about this strategy. Most importantly, the seller is completely free to ignore the escalation clause and does not even have to accept the best offer. Secondly, when it’s you submitting the contract with an escalation clause, I recommend not inserting a maximum price. That makes it more likely you’ll receive a call from the seller’s agent telling you what that higher offer is.