5-BR Littleton Ranch Has a Finished Basement

This 2,963-sq.-ft. brick ranch at 8006 S. Vance Court is in the Columbine Knolls South subdivision, north of Chatfield Ave. between Wadsworth & Pierce. It was just listed for $498,000.

It has four bedrooms and 2½ baths on the main floor, plus a 5th bedroom and 3/4 bath in the basement, along with a rec room and plenty of unfinished storage. It’s a super quiet location, as you’ll observe on the narrated video that you can view at www.ColumbineKnollsHome.info.  Some features that caught my attention include the three Solatubes and one skylight bringing natural light into the home’s interior spaces, including the kitchen, plus the beautiful family room with rock fireplace and vaulted ceiling. Watch that video tour, then call your agent or me for a private showing — or come to our open house this Saturday, May 18th, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Updated Golden Tri-Level Home Backs to Greenbelt

This 3-bedroom, 2½-bath home at 491 Somerset Drive is in the Lakota Hills subdivision, also known as Eagle Ridge. It was just listed for $638,000.

It sits on top of a ridge overlooking Rooney Gulch and offering unobstructed views of Lookout Mountain.  It has been beautifully updated with slab granite countertops, new stainless steel appliances, new carpeting and paint throughout. The sellers purchased it earlier this year, but personal developments make it necessary for them to sell it.  Their loss is your gain. Take a narrated video tour, including drone footage, at www.SouthGoldenHome.com, then ask for a private showing. I’ll be holding it open this coming Sunday, May 19th, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Or call me at 303-525-1851 for a private showing.

Here’s What You Need to Know About Appealing the Assessor’s Valuation of Your Home

By the time this column appears in print, all Denver and Jefferson County homeowners will have received in the mail a letter from their County Assessor declaring the “Actual Value” of their real estate holdings. The same is happening in all Colorado counties. The letters give taxpayers until June 3rd to file an appeal of that valuation which, if successful, could lower the “Assessed Value” (explained below) against which taxes will be levied for 2019 and 2020.

Property taxes in Colorado are paid in arrears, which means that the property tax for 2019 isn’t payable until April 2020, and the property taxes for 2020 will be payable in 2021. The valuation you just received in the mail, however, is not a statement of your home’s current value.  Rather, it is a statement of your home’s market (or “Actual”) value as of June 30, 2018, based on its condition on January 1, 2019.

In other words, if your house was significantly improved between June 30, 2018 and January 1, 2019, the assigned value should be what your home in its new condition would have been able to sell for on June 30, 2018, based on what comparable homes did sell for prior to that date. (You may need to read these two paragraphs a few times!)

The good news is that even though your home’s value has continued to increase since last June and will likely continue to rise for the next year or two, you will only pay property taxes for the next two years based on what it might have sold for in June of last year.

Nevertheless, many of us (me included) are going to be shocked at how much the assessor claims our homes have increased in value.

Additional good news for homeowners is that, because of both TABOR and the Gallagher Amendment — too complicated for me to explain here — the percentage of “Actual Value” against which your local mill levy will be applied keeps going down—from 21% of actual value in 1982 to 7.15% today. That percentage creates the “Assessed Value.”

To keep it simple, here’s an example using round numbers. If the assessor said the market value of your home as of June 30, 2014 was $500,000, your “Assessed Value” was 7.96% of that, which equaled $39,800.  If your mill levy was 100, then your tax bill was $3,980 (100 x 39.8).  Let’s say your home’s “Actual Value” as of June 30, 2018 rose to $600,000, a 20% increase. Your new “Assessed Value” is 7.15% of that, or $42,900. Thus, your tax bill, at 100 mills, will be $4,290, a 7.8% increase in your property taxes despite a 20% increase in market value. That’s only $90 more than if your home was worth $200,000 in 1982 when the assessment rate was 21%!

And it gets even better. Unless the voters in a particular tax district voted to “de-Bruce” the mill levy, that tax district must lower its mill levy as much as necessary to keep its revenue from increasing beyond TABOR limits based on population growth plus any increase in the cost of living.

Nevertheless, since your property taxes are the sum of multiple mill levies from various districts, that hypothetical rate of 100 mills that I used above might actually be lower this year, further reducing your property tax bill.

Here are two key points you must keep in mind when appealing the valuation assigned to your home by the Denver assessor:

1) You can only appeal the assessor’s valuation by citing comparable sales during the 24 months prior to June 30, 2018. Unless your home was mischaracterized (wrong neighborhood, style, etc.), all eligible comps are listed under “Comparables” on the assessor’s web page for your home.

2) You must “age” every comp you cite in your appeal by about 1% per month, since the median increase in our residential property values was about 24% over that 24-month period.  Thus, if a comp sold in January 2018 for $500,000, you can’t cite it as a comp at that price, but must increase that price by 6% to obtain its value as of June 30, 2018.

To find your home on the Denver assessor’s website, visit http://www.denvergov.org/property and enter your address. When your property is displayed, then click on the address and you’ll be able to click on a “Comparables” tab where you’ll be able to see exactly how the value of your home (the “Subject” property) was determined against three or more comparable sales identified by address. If you feel that those comps are not truly comparable to your home, you can click on the “Neighborhood Sales” tab and choose three or more other comparable sales and cite those in your appeal. You have to file your appeal by June 3rd.  Over the years, I’ve found in-person appeals to be most successful.

To find your home on the Jefferson County assessor’s website, visit http://assessor.jeffco.us and click on “Prop-erty Records Search” in the lower middle of the screen, then click on “Address” on the left of the screen.  “Sales” is on the top center. This is all explained on a website that I created for Jefferson County appeals, www.HowtoAppealValuations.info.

Just Listed: Southwestern Themed Home in the Meadowlake Subdivision

In this 3-bedroom, 2½-bath home at 6033 Alkire Court, Arvada, the switch plates have Kokopelli designs, and terracotta and turquoise colors predominate. The large yard backs to a greenbelt. Listed at $483,000, it is three blocks from Meadowlake Park with its tennis courts and playground, and around the corner from a trail leading into Wyndham Park. It’s evident as you walk through the home that the sellers, who bought it new in 1993, have been diligent in their care and maintenance of this home. Best of all, there’s no homeowners association!  Enjoy a narrated walk-through of the property (with drone footage) at www.ArvadaHome.info, then call your agent or Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 for a private showing.  Open Saturday, May 11th, from 1 to 4 pm.

Fabulous Applewood Ranch-Style Home on a Quiet Street

This brick ranch at 3240 Arbutus Street, Golden, is in the Applewood Lane subdivision on the north side of 32nd Avenue across from the Manning and Maple Grove Schools. It’s a self-managed HOA with annual dues of only $120 to cover common area maintenance. I call it a “cul-de-sac” neighborhood because there is no through traffic, just neighbors getting to and from their homes. This home, just listed for $695,000, has 3 bedrooms plus a study that could be a 4th bedroom and 2½ baths on the main floor. The basement is unfinished except for the fully installed and working 4th bathroom. It is so ready-to-finish that there are framed walls and 25 sheets of drywall waiting to be installed! The sellers are the original owners of this 1993 home. Find more details, photographs and a narrated walk-through plus drone footage of this home at www.ApplewoodHome.infoOpen Sunday, May 12th, 11am-2pm.

2-BR Townhome Close to the Link Rec Center & Belmar Just Listed by Andrew Lesko

This updated end unit at 1230 S. Reed St #6 in Lakewood — just listed for $220,000 — features vaulted ceilings and spacious living areas including a roomy kitchen, large dining area and expansive master bedroom. Additional features include a main-level laundry and a private fenced courtyard! The finished basement has a non-conforming bedroom, abundant storage spaces and roughed in plumbing for a 3rd bathroom. Includes 2 parking spots. The Lakewood Link Rec Center is across Reed Street and Belmar shopping and entertainment in less than a mile to the north!  For a private showing, call Andrew Lesko at 720-710-1000. You can find more details, photographs and a narrated video tour with drone footage at LakewoodTownhome.info.  Open Sat., May 11th, 11am-3pm.

Many Renters Are Unaware of Programs That Make Homeownership a Possibility

Last week I wrote about the challenges facing buyers who must sell their current home in order to buy a new home and are not sure how to accomplish that.

This week, I’m going to address the different challenges facing renters, including first-time home buyers.

There are many programs for first-time home buyers, but did you know that anyone can qualify as a first-time home buyer if he or she hasn’t owned a home for at least three years? You could have owned many homes in your lifetime, but if you haven’t owned one in the past three years, you can take advantage of these special programs.

A common misconception among people who want to buy a home is that a 20% down payment is required, but that is simply not true. Another misconception is that if you put down less than 20%, you’d be required to pay for mortgage insurance. There are conventional loans available with as little as 3% down that don’t require mortgage insurance. That differs from the 3.5% minimum down payment required for FHA loans which do require mortgage insurance which continues for the life of the loan.

One of our preferred lenders, Scott Lagge of Movement Mortgage, compares the low costs of available programs to what renters pay when they lease a condo or home. Typically, renters need to come up with the first and last month’s rent plus a damage deposit.  Some first-time home buyer programs have out-of-pocket costs as low as $500.  Moreover, your partially tax-deductible mortgage payments could be as low or lower than what you’d pay in totally non-deductible rent.  

When I bought my first home in Golden in 1997, I was single but I had a good friend (also renting) who agreed to rent a room from me if I bought a suitable home. I found a ranch-style home with a walk-out basement that worked perfectly. He lived in the basement, I had a main-floor master suite, and he had access to the kitchen. We both saved money over renting, and I was building equity in my home. This is a formula that can work for anyone – if they have someone they’d like to have living in their basement!

There are programs from CHFA (the Colorado Housing & Finance Authority) that offer a grant of up to a 3% of the first mortgage loan amount, or up to 4% through a “silent” second mortgage that accrues no interest and requires no payment until the first mortgage is paid off, either at maturity, refinance or resale.

Scott claims that the best first-time homebuyer program of all is his company’s Dream to Own Loan.  This loan includes a silent second of 4% of the purchase price to be used for down payment and closing costs. This is the closest thing to a no-money-down loan that Scott’s aware of for first-time buyers.  There’s no mortgage insurance and the rates are competitive.  Call Scott at 303-944-8552 for more details.

Another great option for renters is a rent-with-option-to-buy program which you can read about at www.HomePartners.com.  The way it works is that you only have to qualify to rent a home which that company then purchases so you can rent it.  They’ll pay up to $500,000 for almost any home (except a condo) that’s on the MLS once you agree to rent it at a pre-determined rental amount based on the purchase price.  You can rent the home for up to five years, knowing in advance what your rent will be for all five years, but at any time you can buy that home at a price that is also agreed to in advance. Call Golden Real Estate to apply for this program.

That program is also a good option when your credit isn’t strong enough to buy right away but you know it will be better within five years. You can also use the program for the peace of mind that comes from knowing what you’ll pay in rent for five years and that you won’t have to move.

It’s also a good program for people relocating to our area who see a home they may want to buy but feel better renting it with an option to buy it later on if they like it — but they don’t have to.