Housing Trends Reflect Pandemic’s Influence  

The effect of pandemic lockdowns has triggered more interest in working at home, a trend that will be long-lasting and possibly permanent.

Early in the pandemic we saw a surge in real estate activity as buyers sought more space for working from home. Compounding that was a desire for more at-home entertainment and exercise. People want not only a home office, but a home theater and a home workout facility. These are features that will, in my opinion, dominate home design and buyer demands for at least the coming decade.

People feel safer at home, but they don’t want to feel cloistered. They want elbow-room.

Lockdowns also triggered more separations and divorces as couples who weren’t really in love found that being cloistered together at home didn’t work for their relationship. This also contributed to the real estate boom of 2020 and into 2021.

Real estate was considered an “essential service” in the early days of Covid-19 lockdowns, and we Realtors certainly relished the lack of traffic and traffic jams on local highways.  Those days of free-flowing traffic may be gone, but there is still a widespread appreciation of working from home and doing less commuting. This means continued buyer activity focused on finding additional home office space.

Some homeowners are finding that additional space at home instead of trading up to a bigger home. There’s increased interest, for example, in building ADUs over detached garages, not to create rental income (a great idea) but for the homeowner’s own use as a studio or office away from family distractions.

An attached garage can offer great potential for additional living space, not just as a workshop, but as a home office, art studio, workout room or even a bedroom if necessary. Heating and cooling, on top of improved insulation, will be job #1 before improving the flooring, walls and ceiling. Rather than extending your home forced-air furnace ductwork, consider installing a single-unit heat pump mini-split system.  I saw this on a garage in north Golden—a perfect application of this technology.

Click here for the Realtor Magazine article which inspired this article.

BONUS FEATURE:

Here’s an article submitted by Tina Martin about transforming your garage into a great work space:

Work-from-home jobs have become much more prevalent in recent years, with many people looking for remote opportunities or even starting their own businesses from the comfort of their houses. If you’ve just started working from home or are planning to in the near future, you’ll need a quiet, dedicated space for an office, and one place you may not have thought of to create a setup is your garage. With a few simple changes, you can transform this area into another room that comes with plenty of benefits–including more privacy and fewer distractions. You can also look for ways to make the transition to working from home a little easier at the same time.

Come prepared

If you’re going to be working from home at your own business, it’s a good idea to be as prepared and organized as possible to make the process a smooth one. This means taking steps to ensure that your company has all its bases covered legally, including creating an LLC so you can keep track of your tax responsibilities and remain in good standing with the IRS. A limited liability company comes with less paperwork and more flexibility than a corporation, so you can stay on top of things and run your business the way you want. Every state has its own rules for formation, so look up the steps for creating a Colorado LLC before jumping in.

Set up your workspace

Once you have the details figured out, it’s time to think about how to turn your garage into a room you can work in throughout the seasons. Of course, you’ll need access to wi-fi and electricity, but never try to handle electrical work on your own–hire a pro if you have to add wiring to your garage. If you already have wi-fi in your home, a simple and affordable signal extender could help you bring service to your new workspace. You’ll also want to make sure you have access to cool and warm air for the different seasons and that the garage is well-ventilated. Add shelving and a desk so you can keep things neat, and don’t forget to bring in a comfortable, supportive chair.

Let some light in

Once you know where your desk will be, think about how to make sure you have the right light for your needs. Many garages have overhead fluorescent lighting, which can be tiresome to your eyes for long periods of time. Look for a small lamp or two that will provide task lighting to the right areas and diffuse the overheads for your comfort. If your garage has a window, even better! Natural light is beneficial for working in an office because it can help to prevent disruptions in the circadian rhythm and boost your mood. If you don’t have a window, take breaks throughout the day and step outside for some fresh air.

Keep distractions out

Once you have your office space set up, it’s time to keep the distractions to a minimum. There are several ways you can achieve this, but you might start by replacing the garage door with a regular one that locks. Keep your new office space dedicated to business-only; the more it looks and feels like home, the easier it will be for you to put off work. It’s also a good idea to keep devices out of the space unless they’re necessary for your job.

Creating a home office out of a garage doesn’t have to be time-consuming or costly. With a few simple moves, you can turn this space into an entirely new room and give yourself the workspace you’ve always wanted in the process.

Must Read: ‘From Homes to Cars, It’s Now Time to Electrify Everything’  

Every now and then I read an article that I am compelled to share, because it simply “nails it.”

Such was the article by Saul Griffith, published Oct. 19, 2021, on the Yale School of the Environment website, http://www.e360.yale.edu, and re-posted Nov 30, 2021, on GreenBuildingAdvisor.com.

Here’s a link to the full article: https://e360.yale.edu/features/from-homes-to-cars-its-now-time-to-electrify-everything.

The thesis of that article is summarized as follows: “The key to shifting away from fossil fuels is for consumers to begin replacing their home appliances, heating systems, and cars with electric versions powered by clean electricity. The challenges are daunting, but the politics will change when the economic benefits are widely felt.”

The diagram above right shows what can be electrified in a home. Rita and I are most of the way there. This fall I purchased an electric snow blower to complement our electric lawn mower, weed eater, leaf blower and automobiles. Earlier this year I purchased a heat pump water heater to complement our heat pump hybrid furnace. (Hybrid, because it still burns natural gas when the outdoor temperature dips below 30° F.)

All these electric devices are powered by the sun, thanks to our 10-kW solar PV system installed when we bought our home in 2012.  Because we still cook with gas and occasionally burn gas in our furnace and fireplace, our Xcel bill is still around $35-40 per month, but we’re doing our part to “electrify everything.”

You can do that, too.

The central thesis of Saul Griffith’s article is that we have little control over the supply side of energy, although there are encouraging signs of it becoming less dependent on fossil fuels.  But we have total control over the demand side of energy:

“We don’t have a lot of choice on the supply side, but we have all of the choice on the demand side. For the most part, we decide what we drive, how we heat our water, what heats our homes, what cooks our food, what dries our laundry, and even what cuts our grass. This constitutes our ‘personal infrastructure,’ and it is swapping out that infrastructure that will be a key driver of the global transition from fossil fuels to green energy.”

According to Griffith, who co-founded the non-profit Rewiring America, there are 280 million cars and trucks in America, 70 million fossil-fueled furnaces, 60 million fossil-fueled water heaters, 20 million gas dryers, and 50 million gas stoves, ovens and cooktops. Until now, the conversation has been about making each of those fossil-fueled appliances more efficient, earning “Energy Star” ratings.

But the real goal should be to replace them with electric appliances burning the increasingly green electricity which is being generated by our electric utilities.

A common refrain from people regarding electric cars is that they are not really zero emissions because of how the electricity is generated. I myself was originally reluctant to buy an EV because I didn’t want to “switch from burning gas to burning coal.”

However, that argument overlooks the relative efficiency of electric motors.  In a fossil-fueled car, only 20% of the energy in the fuel is propelling the car. The rest is waste energy, primarily creating heat which then requires more fuel to cool it. In an EV, 90% of the energy from the battery propels the car. There’s almost no waste energy.

An suitable analogy to the gas-powered car is an incandescent light bulb, in which light is a byproduct of heating the filament. It’s no surprise that the LED light bulb uses about 20% of the electricity of an incandescent light bulb for the same amount of light, because light is the primary product of the LED, not a by-product of waste energy.

Because of its relative efficiency, even if an EV is charged from electricity created entirely by coal, its carbon footprint is far below that of a fossil-fuelel vehicle. The same applies to today’s highly efficient heat pumps for both space heating (and cooling) and for water heating.

Griffith’s point is that more efficient fossil-fueled appliances won’t get us where we need to be to save the planet from catastrophic climate change. We need to get to zero emissions, which is only possible by going all-electric in our homes and vehicles as our electric utilities make their inevitable transition — whether incentivized by government or simply by the economies of renewable energy — to clean energy.

You, like me, will love the effects of this transition to all-electric living. Imagine a future where carbon dioxide is not a household poison; where motorcycles don’t disturb the peace and quiet of our streets and canyons; where semis slow down quietly because they are putting energy back into their batteries instead of using loud and polluting engine braking; where our neighbors aren’t disturbed by loud lawn mowers, snow blowers and leaf blowers; and where children no longer suffer health problems from their own school buses or playgrounds next to highways.

You, like me, will appreciate the ease of use and near-zero maintenance of electric devices. My snow blower, lawn mower, and leaf blower start by pushing a button or pulling a lever and never need a tune-up, refueling or oil change.

Griffith is not arguing that everyone should immediately swap out their fossil-fueled cars or appliances but rather avoid replacing them with newer ones. Cars, for example, can last for 20 years, and gas furnaces for 15 years. When they need replacing, make the smart choice and replace them with their electric counterparts. You’ll be glad you did five or ten years later when their resale value has evaporated due to public recognition that they became obsolete before you purchased them.

Recommended Video: Are We in a Housing Bubble?  

This is a question that seems to be on everyone’s mind, especially after a year which has seen double digit appreciation in home prices.

Finally, I found a focused discussion on this topic by highly knowledgeable persons that I can recommend. Here’s a YouTube link for that discussion. The panelists are Nick Bailey, president of Re/Max, LLC, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, and Ward Morrison, president of a mortgage franchising frim. The consensus of these experts is that 2022 will see most appreciation (3 to 5%, says Yun) but no crash. The main reason is the imbalance of supply and demand and mortgage rates projected to be no higher than 4%, which is still quite low.

The record job growth is also a critical factor. Foreclosures will remain low because only 2% of homeowners have negative equity. Watch the 28-minute video on our blog. You’ll learn a lot, as I did.

Come Visit Us at Our New Downtown Golden Office, 1214 Washington Ave.  

The broker associates at Golden Real Estate and I are truly excited about our new office in the heart of downtown Golden. It has been over 14 years since we launched Golden Real Estate in the former restaurant building at 17695 S. Golden Road.  We would have liked to be in downtown Golden, but we needed a place to park our free moving truck where it could be seen by passersby as our “billboard on wheels.” 

When Rita and I bought that building, I was a broker associate at RE/MAX Alliance, and I wanted it to be a satellite office for that brokerage, but RE/MAX International wouldn’t allow us to display a RE/MAX sign because of the other franchises in the area. I liked the building more than the brand, however, so that’s when I decided to create Golden Real Estate, securing the corporate name and the URL www.GoldenRealEstate.com for our website. And, as they say, “the rest is history.”

A downtown storefront has the advantage of more walk-by and walk-in traffic. Before signing the lease on our storefront, I checked the transaction volume of the other real estate brokerage on the street and discovered that their ratio of buyer sides to listing sides was 2:1, whereas our ratio on S. Golden Road was 1:2.  We look forward to increasing our buyer representation in our new location.

The left half of the picture above is a visualization of the TouchPoint Systems display that will be installed this week. It is a through-the-glass touchscreen unit which allows passersby to  search the MLS real-time, featuring Golden and Jefferson County listings in a slide-show format when not being actively used. The closest similar installation is in the window of an Olde Town Arvada brokerage.

Sharing our office is Wendy Renee, a loan officer with Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation. Would-be buyers will appreciate being able to meet with a lender in conjunction with their home search without leaving our office.

Although we can’t park it downtown, we’ll still be offering our free moving truck to buyers and sellers and to local non-profits such as BGoldN, the Christian Action Guild, and the Golden Chamber of Commerce, of which we’re a long-time member. It will still be parked at our former office on South Golden Road, which Rita and I still own, and which we’re converting into a one-stop shop for “all things sustainable” under the name The Net Zero Store.

Several readers, upon learning of our move downtown, called me last week to ask if we’re still accepting Styrofoam for recycling. I assured them that nothing has changed in that regard.  As a matter of fact, we took a truckload of the material to the recycling center just this week and expect to continue doing so twice a month from the “Styrofoam Corral” behind our former office,

Aside from this column, which I have been publishing on page 3 of this newspaper for over a decade, we are best known, perhaps, for the live-action narrated video tours and drone videos which we create for each of our listings. I enjoy creating the narrated videos so much, I offer to do them for our broker associates, although some of them choose to do their own. They are so effective that we have sold listings to out-of-town buyers who only saw the home in-person when they flew in for the inspection.

For out-of-town buyers interested in homes listed by other brokerages, we have shot video tours for their eyes only, often resulting in a signed contract without those buyers seeing the home in person prior to inspection.

For sellers, we provide a free staging consultation to help their home show its best. We also have an in-house handyman to work on those things that need to be handled before going on the market.

My Favorite Home Improvements When Purchasing a New-to-Me Home  

This column is adapted from my July 18, 2019, column on this topic.

Energy efficiency is very important to Rita and me, so the first thing we did when we purchased our current home was to pay for an energy audit to identify opportunities for making the home more air-tight. One result of that test was to blow additional cellulose insulation into walls and ceilings and to caulk around windows. We considered installing an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to bring fresh air into the home using a heat exchanger that warms outside air in the winter and cools outside air in the summer. Instead we installed a fan in our powder room that runs 24/7 at a very low volume, but higher when occupied.

I love bringing sunlight into a home, with sun tunnels. Rita and I had Mark Lundquist of Design Skylights install a Velux sun tunnel in our garage and another one in our laundry room. (He installed four more at Golden Real Estate.)

Speaking of sunlight, we replaced every light bulb in our home with LEDs which are “daylight” color.

Installing solar photovoltaic panels is a no-brainer now that the cost has dropped so much. Your roof doesn’t have to face due south. Southeast and southwest are good enough. Since everyone will be driving an electric car eventually, install as much solar PV as Xcel Energy allows to cover that future load.

Don’t you hate climbing a curb to enter your driveway? Developers install mountable curbs the entire length of residential streets, because they can’t know where each driveway will be. One of the first things we did at our home was to remove the mountable curb in front of our driveway.  It cost about $2,000 for our 3-car-wide driveway, but we love it every time we enter from the street!

When your gas forced air furnace needs replacing, consider replacing it with a heat-pump or hybrid furnace. And when your gas water heater needs replacing, I recommend buying a heat-pump water heater. We bought a 50-gallon Rheem unit for $1,200, but it came with a $400 rebate. Once you’ve replaced both, you will have eliminated the most common sources of carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. 

Other improvements I’d recommend: Replacing any bathroom carpeting with ceramic or porcelain tile; replacing regular double-pane windows with Low-E windows on south-facing windows; replacing fluorescent fixtures (as we did in our garage) with flush-mount LED panels sold at Lowes for about $100.  Love ’em!

Electric Cars Are Your Best Cold Weather Choice  

It’s that time of year when I like to remind readers about the advantages of electric vehicles (EVs) in cold weather. Here’s what you need to know.

1)  No warming up is needed. Put the car in Drive and go! Also, the cabin will be warm within 1/2 mile because it doesn’t require an engine to warm up first. In my Tesla I can turn on the heat with my phone app a few minutes earlier so the cabin, steering wheel and seat are all warm when I get in the car. Also, I can leave the heater on when I park the car so it’s warm when I return, if I am just going into a store for a short time. (I do the same thing on hot summer days, so it stays cool!)

2)  Your car will never break down, stranding you in a freezing car on the side of the road. The only time you see an EV on the side of the road is if there’s a flat tire or an accident. Stuck in a snow drift? The EV’s heater will keep you warm as long as you need, consuming only 3 to 5 miles of range per hour — and producing no carbon monoxide!

3)  Because of its low center of gravity, an EV handles snow-covered (and dry) roads great — better than any car I’ve owned.

4)  Used EVs are your best buy. The older (pre-2018) Tesla Models S & X are a great buy because most come with transferrable lifetime free supercharging coast-to-coast when purchased privately, not as Certified Pre-Owned from Tesla. Ask before buying.

5)  There are federal and state tax credits and various rebates to be had. See the following website for a full list: www.electricforall.org/rebates-incentives

Here’s More About Our Planned ‘Net Zero Store’  

By the time you read this article, Golden Real Estate’s move from 17695 S. Golden Road to 1214 Washington Avenue will be well underway.

Last week I announced that we will be transforming our old office space (which Rita and I own personally) into the home of a new venture Ty Scrable and I are calling The Net Zero Store.  It will be a one-stop shop for “all things sustainable,” selling and/or brokering products and services designed to reduce your home’s carbon footprint.

Among the products we will be selling or promoting are the following:

Solar Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal Systems

Sun Tunnels

Heat Pump HVAC Systems

Heat Pump Water Heaters

High-Efficiency Windows

Various Kinds of Home Insulation

HRVs and CERVs for Home Ventilation and Air Quality

Induction Cooktops

Condensing Clothes Dryers

Sustainable Countertop Choices

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

 Among the services we will offer directly or through vendors are the following:

In-Home Consultations With a Sustainability Coach

Energy Audits

Blower Door Testing

Testing and Mitigation for Mold, Radon, Asbestos

Advice Regarding Electric Vehicles

ADUs and Tiny Homes

Webinars and In-Person Events on All Aspects of Sustainability

Reading/Video Lists for Further Study

Styrofoam Recycling

Unlike other stores, everyone you encounter at The Net Zero Store will be knowledgeable in all these areas. Ty and I are in the process of creating partnerships with vendors of these products and services. If you have a product or service you think should be featured in our store, please call Ty at 720-281-6783.

We are also recruiting volunteers to serve as sustainability coaches.

Happy Thanksgiving! Here Are Some Things That We’re Grateful for This Year  

2021 has been a difficult year for everyone, but it has also been a year of growth for Golden Real Estate and for me personally. Fortunately, Rita and I have escaped infection by Covid-19. We are all fully vaccinated, and Rita and I plus a couple broker associates have received our booster shots.

We’ll be closing out 2021 with over $50 million in closed sales volume, compared to less than $32 million in 2020.

So we have a lot to be thankful for at Golden Real Estate, most especially the patronage of buyers and sellers who chose us to serve their real estate needs.    I know for a fact that many of this year’s clients chose us not only because of the real estate reputation we have built through this weekly column but also because of the political stands I have taken regarding our former president and his followers. We gained far more clients than we lost because of my political writing.

And we are not alone politically. While fellow agents and brokerages have not spoken out as we have for fear of losing clients, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has taken some courageous stands demonstrating alignment with our own values. For example, last fall the incoming president of NAR apologized for the past policies of the association which reinforced systemic racism, such as redlining and steering buyers to minority areas instead of showing them all listings they were financially qualified to buy. I’m grateful for the attention paid by NAR to social justice issues, but also for its effort, albeit unsuccessful so far, to eliminate the practice of off-MLS (“pocket”) listings.

I’m also grateful for the progress being made by REcolorado, Denver’s MLS. I have seen this progress from the inside as a member of the Rules & Regulations Committee as well as from being a user of REcolorado’s services. I appreciate REcolorado for adopting some of my suggestions, such as creating a field for closing notes.

At the top of my gratitude list is the fact that we were able to rent a storefront in downtown Golden. In early December, Golden Real Estate will be moving to 1214 Washington Avenue, the former location of Laurel Property Services. We look forward to benefiting from the pedestrian traffic of that prime location. We have ordered a WindoVision unit from TouchPoint Systems to capitalize on that traffic. Below is an artist’s rendering of it installed in our storefront. It allows passersby to search the MLS live using a through-the-window touch screen.

What’s really exciting about our move to downtown Golden is what it allows us to do with our current building on South Golden Road. As you know by now, we are a showplace of “net zero energy,” so I am partnering with broker associate Ty Scrable, who is super-committed and knowledgeable about sustainability, to create a new business we are calling The Net Zero Store. Our goal is to bring under one roof and into one showroom the various products and services that allow homeowners and businesses to “go net zero.”

Ty and I will be presenting our plans for this new venture at the Nov. 30th, 7pm, meeting of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society at the Jefferson Unitarian Church, 14350 W. 32nd AveHere’s a link if you’d like to attend.

Don’t Wait Until Spring to Sell Your Home; There Are Many Advantages to Putting It on the MLS in Winter  

Each year at this time, I like to remind readers that the real estate business is not as seasonal as it once was. It used to be that spring and summer were considered the time to put a home on the market, based primarily on the school calendar. But that is old-school thinking.

Nowadays, with buyers and their agents setting up automated MLS searches based on the buyers’ needs and wants, homes are selling year round. What makes winter a particularly good time to list a home is that most sellers continue to think the old way and keep their homes off the market until spring.

As a result, those sellers who do put their home on the market enjoy two advantages. The first is less competition from other listings, and the second is the large number of buyers who will get the automated alert when a new listing matches their search criteria. (Over 850 buyers got alerts for this week’s featured listing.)

As I write this on Tuesday morning, Nov. 23rd, there is only one active listing in the entire City of Golden. How would you like your home to be   the only home for sale in a city of 20,000 people and 7,500 homes?

I myself have nearly 100 buyers with MLS alerts matching their search criteria. When a new listing is entered on the MLS which matches a buyer’s search criteria, that buyer gets an email alert with all the photos and details about that particular listing.

Perhaps you recall the DTC condo I featured last week. In the first day that it became active on the MLS, over 500 buyers received email alerts about it, four of whom tagged it a “favorite” and six tagged it a “possibility.” When a client tags a listing, their agent gets an email letting him or her know, likely triggering an in-person showing. That listing is already under contract for 10% over listing.

My $725,000 Littleton listing featured two weeks ago triggered email alerts to over 650 buyers, 18 of whom tagged it a favorite and 8 of whom tagged it as a possibility. It went under contract in five days for 20% over listing price.

Don’t wait for spring to list your home if you’d just as well sell it now. This is a great time to list!

NAR’s chief economist predicts a hotter-than-normal real estate market this winter. Click here. And realtor.com published an article on this same topic on November 15th:  “Should You Wait Until Spring to Sell Your Home? No Way! Why Winter Listings Rule Today.” 

Affordable Townhome Near Olde Town Arvada

This 3-bedroom, 2-bath single-family attached home at 5258 Estes Circle is conveniently located in a quiet subdivision within walking or biking distance of Olde Town Arvada, a couple blocks east of Garrison Street north of 52nd Avenue. It was just listed for $425,000. All bedrooms are upstairs, and there is a fenced yard in the back. There is no basement. Built in 1987, it is being sold by its original owner, who has taken good care of it. Sunflower Townhomes is the subdivision’s name. It consists of 51 attached homes like this one. It’s what I call a “cul-de-sac neighborhood,” because the only traffic you’ll see is from fellow homeowners. With this home at the far end, that means almost no traffic passing by. To fully appreciate this home, visit www.ArvadaPatioHome.info (or click on the thumbnail below) to take a narrated video tour, then come to our open house on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, from 11 am to 1 p.m.

https://youtu.be/W_f01haLIGs