We Can Save You Thousands of Dollars on Moving Costs  

Even if you’re moving locally, the cost of hiring two men and a truck or a bigger moving company can run into the thousands of dollars.

At Golden Real Estate, we have offered our free moving truck to buyers and sellers for almost two decades (this is our second truck), saving our clients hundreds of thousands of dollars. Throughout those years we have also provided free moving boxes, packing paper and bubble wrap, saving them additional money.

We have also helped buyers win bidding wars by offering the seller totally free local moving using our truck, movers, boxes and packing materials.  They just “pack and unpack”!  We call it Golden’s “Free Community Truck” because we also make it available free to local non-profit and community organizations such as BGoldN, Family Promise, Christian Action Guild, Lions Club, Habitat for Humanity, and others.

Reflections 7 Weeks After Selling Our Home and Moving into a 55+ Rental Community  

In my March 10 column (read it at www.JimSmithColumns.com), I announced that Rita and I had decided to sell our Golden home and become renters for the first time in 50 or so years for both of us. A year ago, I could not have predicted such a decision so early in our youthful 70s. I thought you’d like to know how that has worked out for us, in case I got you thinking about a similar move yourself.

Our reasoning was simple. We felt that our home, which we could (and did) sell for 2½ times what we paid for it ten years ago, was unlikely to keep appreciating, and the money we would pocket from selling could more than support us for the rest of our lives. Since I’ll continue making a good income as a Realtor for several more years, we could pay all our living expenses without touching the principal, which we have since invested half in equity stocks and half in a Transamerica annuity with downside protection. (Ask me if you’d like references to our two advisors.)

Zillow and other valuation models show our former home continuing to appreciate, which is good news for our buyer, but it’s hard to predict how much longer that will be true.  I feel we may be at or near the peak of the market. The experience with other listings in the past month suggests that, yes, the market is softening, triggered primarily by the rapid rise in mortgage rates.

So, are Rita and I happy in our new 2-bedroom/2-bath rental? The answer is a qualified “yes.” It definitely was an exercise in “letting go” to move from a 2,639-sq.-ft. home with its 3-car garage and its 2,281-sq.-ft. basement full of “stuff” into our 1,096-sq.-ft. apartment.  I made countless trips to Goodwill, plus targeted donations elsewhere. We gave three unused bicycles plus accessories to the Golden Optimists’ Bicycle Recycle program, gave our gas generator to a Habitat for Humanity group, gave our air compressor to our handyman who uses it to blow out sprinkler systems, and, most helpful of all, included virtually all our furniture in the sale of our home.

It was, in short, quite a process of letting go, not just of miscellaneous possessions accumulated over the years, but also of family heirlooms which had been passed down over the years from our two families.

We had boxes and boxes of artifacts and papers in our basement which we spent many hours culling, recycling most of it. (I didn’t quite finish and have a few boxes in storage that I will get to “sometime.”)

Yes, we rented storage space — both a long-term unit at Public Storage and two small cages in our apartment building a short distance from our apartment for short-term storage — stuff that might otherwise go in a pantry or closet if we had a larger unit.

Long before we had decided to sell and downsize, Rita and I had purchased a week-long cruise of the Mediterranean, which began three weeks after our move into the apartment. We had barely settled in by that time, and the cruise allowed us to experience living in 200 square feet for long enough to make our 1,096-sq.-ft. apartment feel rather spacious when we returned.

As I write this, another 16 days have passed, and we are finally settled in and enjoying our new digs. We spend a lot of time on our south-facing balcony with its view of Green Mountain and the foothills. We watch less TV, having “cut the cord” and subscribed to YouTube TV. We watch much less news and more Netflix movies and programs.

We are also beginning to take advantage of the many programs at Avenida Lakewood, although the press of business is keeping me from taking the yoga and fitness classes which are offered. Shown here is a picture of the sign in our elevator listing the various facilities in the building, to give you an idea of what’s offered. A recent census reported by our community manager said that 70% of the 266 residents in Avenida’s 207 occupied apartments have participated in 9 or more activities, and that 57% of February’s programs were created and led by a resident. There were 314 programs on the March calendar.  Talk about “active living”!

Continental breakfast is served daily except Sunday on the main floor and is one of many opportunities to meet fellow residents. Being on the 4th floor, we also meet people in the elevator, and everyone is super friendly. Residents don’t pass each other, indoors or on the sidewalk, without saying “hello.” This is a contrast from our single-family subdivision, where there were few opportunities to meet our neighbors. I already know more neighbors in this building than I knew in that subdivision.

Rita has made use of the full-service salon, where I have already had a haircut. Rita joined a card game and a Mahjong group, meeting additional neighbors that way. I attended the men’s group where we discussed possible events. I will be driving up Mt. Evans with some of the men after that road opens.

At this time, 95% of the apartments at Avenida Lakewood have been leased. (It was only opened in the summer of 2019.) Soon they will start creating a waiting list. Call me if you’d like to know more or be introduced to the sales staff. Don’t call me if you smoke, however. It’s not permitted anywhere in the building or on the grounds — even within your apartment or on your balcony.

In conclusion, Rita and I feel that we made the right decision. Thanks to the nest egg we created by selling our home, plus Medicare and our long-term care policies, we feel that our future is secure and we can even splurge on more vacations.

I don’t know how many communities there are like Avenida, which charges rent with no “buy-in” that would tie up capital that could otherwise be producing income. Jenn Gomer of CarePatrol told us about Avenida and we didn’t look further. I recommend calling her at 720-788-2364 if you want to know other options.

For Rita and me, we like the flexibility of our one-year lease which gives us the freedom to stay or move a year from now.

Homes Built of Concrete Garner Increased Interest in Wake of the Marshall Fire  

Last week’s column focused on ways that homes can be made more fire-resistant, but there’s only so much you can do to protect wood frame homes from wildfires that are driven by hurricane force winds. Looking at neighborhoods where every home was reduced to its concrete foundation, it’s not hard to question that common method of construction.

Reader Peter Deem made me aware of the use of insulated concrete forms (ICFs) to construct the entire “envelope” of a house and pointed me to Don Clem of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, which has a local office in Denver. That organization, along with its Colorado affiliate and several concrete companies, sponsored an 18-townhome project in Woodland Park for Habitat for Humanity of Teller County last summer. Here’s a picture of those townhomes under construction:

Photo by Sara Vestal, Teller County HFH

I was first introduced to the use of ICFs when I participated in the 1994 Jimmy Carter Work Project on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in Eagle Butte SD. The 28 homes in that project were conventional wood frame (“stick-built”) homes, but the concrete foundations were poured into ICFs. An ICF replaces more common wood forms which have to be removed from the foundation after it cures. The ICF provides insulation in the form of two inches of expanded polystyrene (EPS) both inside and outside the foundation. After seeing it there, I was surprised not to see ICFs in widespread use for foundations by production builders over the past 27 years.

The ICFs being promoted now are for above-ground use for exterior walls, and there are even ICFs for pouring concrete flat roofs. (More commonly, there are concrete tile sloped roofs, including one on the house Rita and I once owned on Parfet Estates Drive in Golden.)

While concrete is a non-combustible material, the EPS insulating layers will melt with direct flame, but it does not act as a fuel source, will not promote flame spread, and will not release harmful gases. In addition, the ICF would be protected on the outside of a home by siding — for example, a fiber cement siding like Hardieboard, which is not combustible, and the flames would probably only be present briefly during a passing wildfire. The interior would be covered by drywall, as with a stick-built house.

Speaking of that, there is still the question of combustible vegetation such as juniper bushes that are close to your house. Another reader made me aware of Phos-Chek, the same fire retardant that you see used by aerial tankers to attack wildfires. While that chemical is red, it’s available in a colorless concentrate that you mix with water and apply using an ordinary sprayer to the vegetation around your home.  A single bottle of Phos-Chek sufficient to make 5 gallons costs $59.99.  You will need 5 to 20 gallons depending on the amount of vegetation you want to cover. Click here to view a KNBC news segment about a Malibu homeowner who saved her home from the Woolsey fire in November 2018 thanks to an application of Phos-Chek to the grounds around her house three months earlier.

In last week’s column I also mentioned that the soffit vents typical of homes with unconditioned attics can allow embers to enter the attic, igniting an interior fire, but I neglected to mention that there are ways to fireproof soffit vents to keep that from happening.

Another way that concrete homes are being built is using 3D printing pioneered by Icon, an Austin TX-based company which is currently building a 100-home Texas subdivision in partnership with Lennar using that process. Icon built its first 3D-printed home in 2018 as a proof of concept, following which they built a community of 3D-printed homes in Tabasco, Mexico. Here’s a picture of a Habitat for Humanity 3D-printed home in Virginia:

Just as desktop 3D printers work by applying multiple layers of material following a computerized template, Icon’s huge 3D printers apply multiple layers of concrete. See www.IconBuild.com for more information about this company, which, by the way, has NASA contracts to build 3D-printed structures on the moon and on Mars. Their primary mission, however, is “to re-imagine the approach to homebuilding and construction to make affordable, dignified housing available to everyone throughout the world.”

Their home page goes on to say, “the audacious mission of Icon is to revolutionize homebuilding, and our team’s expertise and determination have already made this dream a reality. Our team has a passion for design, engineering, and elegant software. We have decades of experience in sustainable technology and construction innovation.”

Building with concrete is both less labor intensive, less expensive and more sustainable than building with lumber. It’s significant that one of America’s biggest builders, Lennar, is working with Icon to build those 100 concrete homes in Texas. That project should provide facts and figures about the practicality and economy of building with concrete that could be a powerful influence on the rest of the home-building industry.

Support Habitat for Humanity at the Pumpkin Patch at Garrison & Alameda  

    Every October, Jeffco Interfaith Partners raises $25,000 or more by selling pumpkins at its Lakewood Pumpkin Patch. The pumpkins are grown by a native American tribe in the Four Corners area, which gets 60% of the proceeds. That leaves 40% of the proceeds to fund the building of a Habitat home in the Denver metro area. Buying a pumpkin from this patch is a great way to support Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver as well as our native-American partners.

    Jeffco Interfaith Partners operates a second pumpkin patch on Wadsworth Blvd. at 78th Avenue, previously on the grounds of the Arvada Center for the Arts one mile south. Both patches are open from 10 a.m. to dusk every day. 40% of your purchase is tax deductible.

Manufactured and Modular vs. ‘Stick-Built’ Homes: Here Are My Thoughts

There has been some confusion in the real estate world over the term “manufactured” homes. Most recently the term has been applied to mobile homes — also referred to as single-wide or double-wide homes, which are transported fully finished to mobile home parks.

But “manufactured,” as I understand it, can be applied to a home whose walls, trusses and other components are put together in a warehouse, then shipped on flatbed trailers to a construction site where they are assembled and installed on a standard concrete foundation.

A “modular” home goes a step further, in that entire rooms might be assembled in a warehouse, transported to a work site and then assembled with other modules to make a complete house.

The first home I bought in Colorado was a ranch with walk-out basement in Golden’s Mesa Meadows subdivision. Only after I had moved in did a neighbor share with me how my home was put together in a day or two. Its components were manufactured in Fort Morgan and delivered to Golden only after the concrete foundation was ready to receive them. Anyone looking at the home would think it was a  “stick-built” home like the other homes in the neighborhood. When I bought it and when I later sold it, it wasn’t listed on the MLS as “manufactured,” because that would have felt like a misrepresentation, given the type of home it was.

The neighbor who explained that my home was actually built in Fort Morgan and assembled on site, explained how that process made for a better home. The exterior walls were 2×6 construction (to withstand the rigors of shipment) and they were fully insulated on the factory floor rather than on-site, resulting in better quality control. It made sense to me. It also made me wonder why more homes aren’t built that way.

I remember learning that an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity in Minnesota or Wisconsin constructs homes that way during the cold winter months — having volunteers assemble entire wall units in heated warehouses during cold spells, then delivering them to the site later on.

Every conventionally built home uses roof trusses that are made to order on factory floors and shipped to work sites on flatbed trailers, so why not have wall units made to order as well?

From 1933 to 1940 Sears Roebuck sold mail-order “Kit Homes” that were “pre-cut and fitted.” A 2-story colonial-style home called the “Martha Washington” was sold by Sears for $3,727. Other kit homes had names like the Cape Cod, the Ridgeland, the Franklin, the Dayton, and the Collingwood. See below for that model’s description from the Sears catalog. Many homes in Denver were built from Sears kits, but you’d never know it. Original owners of those homes are long gone, and the current owners of them probably have no idea.

There are definite economies to building homes that are “pre-cut” and partially pre-assembled off-site. For one thing, the factory workers can work every day regardless of the weather and even in multiple shifts. They can be more productive in a heated warehouse. There will be more efficient use of materials and more recycling and reuse as well.

Right now, the growing “tiny home” market is doing such construction and delivering modules or even entire homes to work sites, enjoying great economies in doing so. There is no reason that more elements of larger homes couldn’t be built off-site and delivered to construction sites for final assembly.

One example of off-site modular construction utilized in the building of sustainable homes is Structural Insulated Panels or “SIPs,” shown here.  Two sheets of sheathing have 4 to 5 inches of foam insulation between them. SIPs can replace walls built with wood framing and provide superior insulation.

Impresa Modular is a West Virginia company with a great website (www.ImpresaModular.com) describing the many kinds of off-site home construction methodologies they employ and sell.

There is so much innovation happening in home construction, much of which can not only reduce construction costs but can result in better insulated homes.

Here’s a picture of the manufactured home belonging to Butch Roberts of Salida, who sent the comment below:

Support Habitat for Humanity — Buy a Pumpkin

    Golden Real Estate is happy once again to support the pumpkin patches at Garrison & Alameda in Lakewood and at 78th Avenue & Wadsworth in Arvada. Operated each year by Jeffco Interfaith Partners, a coalition of a dozen local faith groups, the profits from these two volunteer-manned patches have funded 15+ Habitat for Humanity homes over the past two decades. The pumpkins are grown on a Navajo reservation in the Four Corners area, so the sales also benefit that community.

    Yes, the pumpkins sold at our two patches may be more expensive than at your local supermarket, but you have the satisfaction of making a difference with every purchase, and 40% of your purchase is tax-deductible. Our thanks go out to Mile Hi Church and to Trinity Presbyterian Church for providing these two great venues each October.

Habitat for Humanity – Turning Pumpkins Into Houses

The annual pumpkin patches benefiting Habitat for Humanity are just about here. The pumpkin patch at Garrison & Alameda opens this Saturday, Oct. 5th, and operates from 10 a.m. to dusk every day until Halloween. The patch at 77th Ave & Wadsworth operates from Thursday, Oct. 10th, through Halloween from 10 a.m. to dusk. Buy your pumpkins at either site and 40% of the purchase price goes toward building a Habitat home — and is tax deductible, for which you’ll get a receipt.

    If you’d like to volunteer at the patches, you can sign up at www.WestMetroPartners.org.

What Makes for Success in Real Estate? Here’s What Golden Real Estate Does

Real_Estate_Today_bylineLast week I mentioned how Golden Real Estate was honored for coming in third among metro brokerages of our size in the number of transactions completed in 2016.

In this week’s column, I’d like to share my personal strategy for success in real estate, which has evolved into a company-wide strategy serving all agents — and benefiting clients.

Decades ago I adopted what I thought was a quote by Confucius. My sister had it posted on her refrigerator. Thanks to Google, I discovered that it wasn’t a quote by Confucius, but it could have been. “Concentrate on giving, and the getting will take care of itself.”  That philosophy underlies this column and its success in attracting clients for me and our agents. The time most real estate agents spend prospecting, I spend coming up with topics on which I can educate myself and then share that knowledge with my readers.

That’s how journalism works. A reporter is given an assignment, learns all he can about it, and then reduces it to a concise article that summarizes what he learned. That’s what I do every week — learn more than I already know about a given topic, then share what I have learned.

I never run out of topics to write about which educate the public — and thereby myself — regarding some aspect of real estate. Sometimes, I’m able to clarify or contradict statistics or statements which I see in the press or on TV.  For example, is the market cooling down or heating up? Are we in another bubble? As a Realtor, I have access to raw data that allows me to address such topics in a way that general assignment reporters can’t.

Giving back is important. Golden Real Estate is a member of two chambers of commerce (Golden & the West Chamber) and one business association. Rita and I are active members the Rotary Club of Golden, and I’m also a member of the Golden Lions Club. Serving in this way is satisfying in itself, and demonstrates our values.  [We are also big supporters of Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver (through Jeffco Interfaith Partners, now called West Metro Interfaith Partners) and Family Promise of Greater Denver.  Two of our agents are big-time volunteers with Golden’s Christian Action Guild.  Myself, I’m a long-time member of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society, Golden Solar Tour (now called the Metro Denver Green Home Tour), and the Denver Electric Vehicle Council.]

Another business principle that underlies my practice of real estate is authenticity. Misrepresenting one’s level of success, for example, is not only a violation of the Realtor Code of Ethics, it is not good salesmanship. I consider myself a lifelong learner and don’t “know it all.”

That principle expresses itself in me by being a news and public affairs sponge. I love listening to music as much as the next person, but my car radio is always tuned to the only all-news radio network we have — NPR.   I often hear local real estate stories, since it’s a popular topic these days, but being well informed on other national and world affairs is also important to me.

On the other hand, I have little patience for talk radio, whether conservative or liberal. I’ll listen to analysis and hard news, but I consider opinions a waste of my attention.

In terms of the day-to-day practice of real estate, I know I can’t do it all, so I surround myself with a support team. That team includes, among oTeam picture on bridge 2016thers, a transaction coordinator, a stager, a photographer, a drone pilot, several lenders, inspectors, and a handyman (who works only for our clients). That said, I don’t over-delegate. I like to get my hands dirty. I’ll put signs in the ground and do my own narrated video tours of each listing, including for my broker associates. Our office manager, Kim Taylor, helps with every aspect of listing and selling homes, but I’m happy to show listings, hold open houses, enter listings on the MLS, create websites for each listing, etc. I don’t just have a team, I’m part of the team.

Another factor in my personal success is surely my full-time accessibility. My cell phone (303-525-1851) is never turned off. I was in Puerta Vallarta all last week, which may come as a surprise to those clients and future clients who reached me on my cell phone and made appointments to meet with me this week. (I also submitted last week’s column from Mexico and will be submitting next week’s column from a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.)

Experience has taught me that “to make money, you need to spend money,” and I never forget that. One example of an expenditure that paid off was our moving truck. I bought our first one at a convention in 2004 and it has been so useful to clients and has built so IMG_1256much goodwill for us among non-profits and community organizations, that I bought a second one last year. In 2008 I also invested in a storage shed for the moving boxes and packing materials that we provide free to clients.

Another “investment” was the purchase of a 10’x20’ chain link enclosure for collecting polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) for recycling. We take at least one truckload per month to a reprocessing facility in Denver, keeping over 200 cubic yards of that material out of landfills every year. Our investment in 20kW of solar panels not only powers our electric cars and our office, it allows us to provide free EV charging to the general public. Both these expenditures send a statement about our values that resonates with our clients and prospective clients.

Back to real estate, we have been early adopters in sometimes expensive ways to improve the quality and exposure of our listings. Years before they were adopted by other brokerages, we invested in drones to take aerial photos and videos of our listings. We also were early adopters of HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology for still photographs of our listings. This produces magazine quality photographs in which every element of a picture, including the view out each window, is perfectly exposed.

By now, you may be thinking I’m a workaholic, but Rita and I do enjoy a personal life, going to the theatre, traveling often, and watching many entertainment programs at home. But when my phone rings (except in a theatre!), I answer it.  I feel my clients deserve that.

Some listing agents put under “broker remarks” (which their sellers don’t see) that “Seller requests no Sunday deadlines.” What they’re really saying is that they don’t work on Sunday.  That’s not us!

Published April 20, 2017, in the Denver Post’s YourHub section and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers.