The Real Estate Market Is Still Active, Meeting the Needs of Both Buyers and Sellers

The Denver real estate market, based on my own analysis of REcolorado listings, showed continued strength last week, despite the imposition of a statewide stay-at-home order by Gov. Jared Polis that Tuesday.

To my surprise, despite the growing COVID-19 threat with all its expected economic impacts, a total of 1,799 listings went “active” on REcolorado last week — that is, between Sunday the 22nd and Saturday the 28th.

Although 53 of those new listings were taken off the market the same week — likely because of the stay-at-home order — and 24 of them were entered as “sold” without ever being active, that left 1,722 new listings on the market, and 387 or 22.5% of them were under contract by week’s end. That does not sound to me like a real estate market that is stalling because of the COVID-19 virus. 

It makes me wonder about those 53 listings that were pulled off the MLS because of the stay-at-home order. How many of them would have been under contract by now had the sellers and their listing agents not been overly cautious?

The homes that went under contract within their first week on the MLS ranged from a 2-bedroom, 1-bath condo for $100,000 in the Windsor Gardens senior community south of Lowry to a 4-bedroom, 4-bath home for $1.3 million in the foothills northwest of Boulder. The median price of those homes was $425,000.

To see how last week compared to “normal,” I researched the listings that were first entered on REcolorado during the same seven days in 2019.

Surprisingly, slightly fewer homes were entered on Denver’s MLS during the same 7 days a year ago — 1,727.  Of those, only 12 were taken off the MLS that same week. Another 73 were entered as “sold” that week. Of the remaining 1,642 listings, 670 or 40.8% went under contract within a week. That’s much higher than the 22.5% this year, but consistent with the slowing of the market which we saw before the advent of the virus. Those 670 listings which went under contract within 7 days last year ranged from a $95,000 condo in Aurora to a $1.5 million dollar 6-bedroom home in South Boulder. The median listing price was $395,000.

As you might guess, I was concerned about whether the new Lakewood ranch listed by me last Wednesday would get any showings, since showings didn’t begin until Friday, three days after Gov. Polis instituted the stay-at-home order. I needn’t have worried. We had five showings by Sunday, with one agent calling to ask if we had any offers yet because his buyer was interested in submitting an offer.

Also on Sunday, a buyer I hadn’t heard from in months called about seeing a new listing.  I set a showing for that afternoon, and the buyer is considering making an offer.

All in all, then, this market continues to surprise me. While it is slower in terms of activity, there are still many serious buyers willing and able to make offers on new listings.  Those buyers who are unable or afraid to make an offer, whether for economic or health reasons, are not calling us. Agents might appreciate the fact that only serious and qualified buyers are going to call about seeing homes for sale.

Meanwhile, sellers who want to sell should recognize that there are serious and qualified buyers out there and consider putting their home on the market. Just make sure you use an agent like us at Golden Real Estate who does narrated video tours of listings.

How Golden Real Estate Is Coping With COVID-19 Guidelines

We and our partners in real estate continue to work while adapting to the COVID-19 guidelines for physical distancing, minimized travel, and more. Inspectors are still inspecting, but they don’t want buyers or agents in the house with them. Title companies are still doing their title searches and conducting closings, albeit with attention to sanitizing rooms and some physical distancing. Mortgage companies are still doing their jobs, as are the appraisers they hire.

Meanwhile, real estate brokers like us are still showing homes, writing contracts, negotiating inspection issues just as we always have — that is, by phone and email — and going to closings, although even that could be more virtual, now that Gov. Polis has issued an executive order saying that Notaries can work virtually.

What’s different is the cancelation of all kinds of meetings, open houses, and in-person continuing education classes (which are still available online). 

That keeps us all at home, which is where most brokers work anyway, but with fewer reasons to leave.  I’m walking the dog more than ever.  My Apple watch tells me that I completed all three activity rings last week.  Woohoo!

Bottom line: I’m sort of liking this, although I do look forward to getting back to normal.

The Narrated Video Tours of Our Listings Allow You to Visit Them From Home

For over decade, Golden Real Estate has created narrated video tours of its listings. You can find examples at www.GREListings.com. If all brokerages did this, it would greatly reduce the need for open houses and in-person showings.

Here’s the video tour from this week’s featured listing in Lakewood:

Just Listed: 4-Bedroom Lakewood Ranch with Finished Basement

1957 S. Taft Street — Just Listed for $475,000

This 4-bedroom, 3½-bath brick ranch in Lakewood’s Green Mountain Village offers a solid home with main-floor living in a quiet neighborhood just north of Bear Creek Golf Club and Hutchinson Park. Green Mountain’s network of bike and hiking trails is also close by.  One trail is just 100 yards away at the end of the street! With its finished garden-level basement, there’s 2,498 sq. ft. of living space.  The backyard is special, with a dozen or more lichen-covered boulders, brick flower beds, included hot tub, wood deck (outside the master bedroom) with pergola, and two storage sheds!  The 2-car garage is extra long, accommodating the included work bench and wall cabinets. With our narrated video tour at www.LakewoodHome.info you only need to set a showing if you know you’re interested in it. It’s just like an in-person showing. Call your agent or listing agent Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 to see it.

Our Newest Listing Is a Case Study on How to Achieve Net Zero Energy at Home

6187 Terry Way in Arvada’s Sunrise Ridge Subdivision – Just listed at $450,000

By JIM SMITH, Realtor

Regular readers of this column know my commitment to sustainability. Our office is Net Zero Energy, with our 20-kilowatt solar PV system providing all the energy to heat, cool and power our office plus charge our four electric cars, while also providing free charging to the public. My home is also solar powered, satisfying all our electrical needs, although we still have natural gas service.

Readers may also recall me saying that the most affordable way to invest in sustainable features is to buy a home which already has them, since the investment in sustainability pays for itself over time but rarely returns what you paid for it in the resale value of your home.

The home I just listed at 6187 Terry Way in Arvada’s Sunrise Ridge subdivision is a good example of that. The seller, like me, is fanatical about sustainability and has invested over $80,000 in solar power, insulation, daylighting, and other improvements, but the listing price of $450,000, while higher than for a comparable home with a higher monthly energy bill, recovers for the seller only a fraction of her investment.

Meanwhile, whether or not you are interested in purchasing a terrific 2-bed-room patio home, let me use it as an example of the ways you can invest in sustainable features for your own home.

I’ve written in the past about Steve Steven’s 1970s brick ranch which he took beyond Net Zero. I did a narrated video tour of it when it was on the annual tour of solar homes, and it took over 40 minutes to describe all its sustainable features!

This home, however, is a 2002 frame-built tract home that was constructed with above-average but below-optimum energy and insulation features, leaving plenty of room for improvement.  And improve it the seller did!  (You’ll understand why, knowing that she is Steve Stevens’ significant other!)

What follows is a run-down of the improvements which brought this home’s electrical bill down to the cost of its connection to Xcel Energy’s grid. In fact, the home is beyond Net Zero Energy to Net Carbon Positive, meaning that its excess electrical generation more than compensates for the natural gas being used for cooking and heating. On top of that, the seller charges her electric car in the home’s 2-car garage.

Here are the sustainability highlights:

First, of course, a 4.4-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system was installed on the roof. Having done that, the next tasks involved reducing electrical demand so that 4.4kW of solar PV would be sufficient.

Of course, all incandescent, fluorescent and CFL light bulbs were replaced with LED bulbs and fixtures. That alone reduced the electrical load substantially.

Next, five 14- and 22-inch diameter Velux sun tunnels were installed, bringing natural light into all the rooms, nearly eliminating the need for artificial lighting except at night.

Next, all the appliances, including the central A/C unit, were replaced with high efficiency Energy Star-rated models. In the case of the kitchen appliances, they are all stainless steel.

At this point, the electrical efficiency was pretty much maxed out, so attention was given to reducing the natural gas load for heating the home.

Additional cellulose insulation was blown into the attic, bringing it up to an R-100 rating — more than twice what you’ll find in the typical production home. We have a picture of this home after a snow storm, showing the snow melted off the roofs of neighboring homes but not off this home’s roof — clear evidence of good attic insulation.

The rim joist (accessible because the basement is unfinished) was insulated to R-50. This area of the house, I’ve found, is the most neglected area of any house when it comes to insulation. It’s where the joists for the main floor sit on the home’s foundation. Most home builders stuff some fiberglass insulation between the joists, but they don’t enclose that fiberglass in plastic. Cold winter air easily infiltrates through loose fiberglass insulation. It’s the plastic sheeting which stops that air.  And closed-cell foam sprayed between the joists further inhibits air infiltration.

Next, the windows and patio door were replaced with Energy Star-rated Champion products. Improving the windows further was the installation of insulating Hunter Douglas blinds.

Those are the improvements which made the home more energy efficient, bringing it past New Zero Energy. Other improvements worth noting which add value to this home are the large deck with seating on the sunny south side of the house, the beautiful oak Murphy bed with wall storage in the guest bedroom which allows the bedroom to be used as an office, and the 240-Volt wiring in the garage to provide EV charging.

Since this is a “paired home,” the  party wall already had double-wall construction with insulation which reduced the transmission of noise between the units, but my seller added a third wall which consumed 5 inches on the her side of the party wall, into which cellulose insulation was blown, creating an even better sound barrier.

I hope this article has inspired you to improve the energy efficiency of your own home, even if it hasn’t inspired you to call your agent or me at 303-525-1851 to arrange a private showing!

You can view a video tour of this  listing at http://www.ArvadaPatioHome.info narrated by me. It’s just like an actual showing!

NOTE: Showings begin on Monday, March 23rd.

Price Reduced on Fabulous 5-BR Arvada Ranch

11948 W. 66th Lane, Arvade – Now listed at $950,000

You’ll appreciate the quality features of this luxurious ranch home, from the fabulous living room with invisible surround sound speakers, to the gourmet kitchen, the elegant master suite with fireplace and sunroom, and the finished garage with epoxy floor. The location is super quiet, too, yet convenient to old town Arvada, downtown Denver and I-70 into the mountains. Call your agent or Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 for a private showing! You can also appreciate this home by visiting www.ArvadaRanch.info where you can view a video tour of the home narrated by Jim.  Our tours simulate an actual showing — much better than a slideshow of still photos with music.

What Does ‘Open and Transparent’ Look Like in Real Estate?

For some reason I’ve never understood, most listing agents believe that they should not be open and transparent with buyers’ agents regarding the disclosure of offers in hand when there’s a bidding war for their listing.

At Golden Real Estate, we believe in being open and transparent. Here’s what that looks like.

Rule number one is to always tell the truth. We never mislead a colleague about offers in hand. If we don’t have competing offers, we’ll never represent that we do. This is a matter of ethics. The Realtor Code of Ethics, to which every Realtor swears allegiance, requires no misrepresentation about anything, whether it’s how successful we are or whether we have competing offers.

Agents from other brokerages, however, typically won’t disclose the price or nature of the offers they have for their listings. At Golden Real Estate, we not only disclose the price and terms of offers received, but we will let each agent know if their offer is surpassed by a better offer. We don’t want any buyer or their agent to have the experience of being blindsided.

This is good for both buyer and seller, and buyers’ agents invariably thank me when I explain this policy. After all, how would you as a buyer like to learn later that if you had only offered $2,000 more (which you were willing to do), you would have won that bidding war?

Similarly, how would you as a seller, like to learn that you could have gotten $2,000 more for your house?

Although this process essentially operates like an auction, where everyone in the room knows what they’re bidding against and chooses on their own when to drop out of the bidding, it doesn’t mean that we let the bidding go on forever.

After the buyers have raised their bids twice, it’s time to ask for a final bid, without offering to return if it’s not the winning bid. While this is our policy, the seller, of course, is the final authority on how long to continue the back and forth. By that time, however, they tend to be quite happy with the highest bid and agree to cut it off. To do otherwise risks antagonizing the buyers and their agents.

It’s important to us as professionals that we leave each party in a bidding war happy that we were transparent enough that they felt they had a fair chance to win a coveted listing.

This approach takes more work on our part than doing what other agents typically do when multiple offer situations arise, which is to inform agents that they have multiple offers and ask buyers’ agents to submit their “highest and best.” Then the seller accepts the best offer and other buyers are upset and angry that they weren’t allowed to raise their offer.

We feel, however, that our approach is not only fairer to buyers’ agents but also produces the best price for our sellers.  We wish that other listing agents would adopt this practice.

Transparency, however, does not extend to disclosing the price at which a home is under contract prior to closing. The reason for that is that if the contract falls, we don’t want the next buyer to know what the seller was willing to accept. That’s because we have an ethical and legal obligation to work in our seller’s best interest.

The only time I would disclose the price at which one of my listings is under contract is when an appraiser needing comps calls me. If we are cleared to close — past inspection, appraisal and other contingencies — I’m willing to help that appraiser know the price so he can do his or her job in appraising a comparable listing for a different seller.

Thanks to this practice, Golden Real Estate has a better-than-average track record when it comes to closing price vs. listing price. In some cases this has resulted in our sellers netting their full listing price even after subtracting commissions and the other costs of selling.

Call me or one of our broker associates at 303-302-3636 if you like how we operate and would like a no-obligation market analysis of your home.