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

Who doesn’t want to make some improvements on a home they have just purchased?  Here are some of my personal favorites.

Energy efficiency is very important to Rita and me, so the first thing we do is pay for an energy audit by someone like Andrew Sams of Alpine Building Performance to identify opportunities for making the home more air-tight. This would likely include blowing more insulation into walls or ceilings and caulking around windows. It might also include installing an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to bring fresh air into the home. This device warms cold outside air in the winter and cools hot outside air in the summer by means of a heat exchanger.

I love bringing sunlight into a home, not with traditional skylights but with sun tunnels. Most people are familiar with the Solatube brand, but I prefer the Velux brand. I had Mark Lundquist of Design Skylights install a 22-inch Velux sun tunnel in my windowless garage and a 14-inch sun tunnel in my windowless laundry room — and four large Velux sun tunnels in the Golden Real Estate office. Ah, sunlight!

Speaking of sunlight, we replaced every light bulb is our house with LEDs which are “daylight” color (like sunlight), not cool white or warm white. CFLs and incandescent bulbs are so 2010!

Installing solar photovoltaic panels is a no-brainer for us, especially now that the cost has dropped so much. Your roof doesn’t have to face due south. Southeast and southwest are good enough. (That’s our situation.) Since you might be driving an electric car someday, install as much PV as Xcel Energy allows to cover that future load.  If you have just purchased an EV, Xcel will allow you to install more panels based on anticipated future use.

Don’t you hate climbing a curb to enter your driveway? Developers install those mountable curbs the entire length of the streets in new subdivisions, not knowing exactly where each driveway will be. One of the first things I would do (and have done) is to hire a concrete company to replace the mountable curb with a smooth entrance. It cost over $2,000 for our 3-car-wide driveway, but I love it every time I enter from the street! Caution: the sidewalk will now be sloped slightly and pedestrians could more easily slip on ice, so be prepared to salt your sidewalk to eliminate icing!

When your gas forced air furnace needs replacing, consider replacing it with a heat-pump furnace or mini-splits. And when your gas water heater needs replacing, I suggest buying a heat-pump water heater. The cost is about the same, and, by converting to electricity for both, you will have eliminated the most common sources of carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.

Other improvements I’d consider include: Replacing carpeting with  tile in bathrooms; and replacing regular glass with Low-E glass on south-facing windows to reduce the harmful effects of sunlight on furniture, hardwood floors and artwork.

Price Reduced on Veritable Mansion in Arvada’s Alkire Estates

   No expense was spared in the construction of this 4,937-square-foot home at 12996 W. 81st Place. The price was just reduced to $1,850,000. The roof, for example, is Italian Ludowici tile. The 18’x20’ kitchen has two Corian double sinks and two dishwashers, a Sub Zero refrigerator and a 2-drawer Sub Zero wine refrigerator. The master bedroom features two master bathrooms (each with a deep whirlpool tub and a bidet) and his-and-her master closets. There are also his-and-her offices.  There’s a wall fresco water fountain in the foyer and three domed ceiling frescoes that were hand-painted by a local artist. Ceiling heights are 10 feet in the basement and 12 to 14 feet on the main level. There are two oversized garages, each with epoxy floors, radiant floor heat, floor drains, bright fluorescent lighting, and abundant electrical power. The basement garage alone measures over 2,000 square feet and could accommodate at least 5 or 6 cars, but is designed to include a large workshop and man cave. Three boilers provide radiant floor heating not only to the house but to both driveways, patios and decks for snow melting.

At left is a picture of the basement patio. The basement and garage concrete slabs are 8” thick, poured over 5 feet of imported compacted fill dirt. The structure itself is built on approximately 48 concrete caissons. An elevator suitable for a wheelchair connects the two levels. A 10-camera security system is monitored from the master bedroom where there are two wall-safes, one suitable for long guns. A 22-zone sprinkler system serves the home’s grounds, including an herb garden and two vegetable gardens, as well as the well-manicured greenbelt below the property. All in all, this is one amazing home that is unmatched in the number of luxury features and quality construction details. My narrated video tour (with drone footage) at www.ArvadaMansion.info covers all this and much more! Call your agent or Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 for a showing!

Golden CO Horse Property Back on Market

   The 0.92-acre horse property at 16826 W. 57th Avenue is active again. The contract fell when the contract on the buyer’s own home fell through. If you’re looking for a great home that is also a horse property, check out www. JeffcoHorseProperties.com. Then call your agent or Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 to set a showing.

Just Listed: 1867 Home and Lot in Downtown Golden

This house and lot on Jackson Street between 14th and 15th Streets in downtown Golden represents a terrific development opportunity, whether you improve or scrape the 2-story, 1,940-square-foot historic building on the corner (barely visible through the trees in this aerial photograph).  It was just listed for $996,000. There are two lots to this listing, a rectangular lot with the building that is zoned commercial, and a triangular lot behind it and the brown home with solar panels. That brown home is owned by the same individual and will be available for purchase in 2+ years. The vacant land has a wind turbine and an electric vehicle charging station on it. This property has a storied history in the development of renewable energy and would make a great national renewable energy sustainability plaza. However, that is not a requirement for the buyer. What is required is to maintain access via easement through the vacant lot to the garage and carport of the adjoining brown home. View a narrated video tour and drone footage at www.HistoricGoldenHome.com, then call 303-525-1851 for a showing.

Video Is Finding Its Way Into Buyer Inspection Reports to Illustrate Issues

Video has been a great listing tool at Golden Real Estate for a decade, but it is finding its way into other aspects of real estate, too. For example, we will often shoot a rough-cut video tour of a listing for an out-of-town buyer who has asked us to preview a property for them.

At a closing last Wednesday, the wife of the out-of-state buyer told me that she saw the listing for the first time in person during the final walk-through. The husband had seen it in person, but she said our narrated video tour was enough for her to agree with her husband to submit an offer..

So, yes, narrated videos like ours are a great listing and selling tool.

But last week, a home inspector came to our office seeking our patronage and said he includes videos in his inspection reports.  What a great idea!

I had been so used to getting printed inspection reports (PDFs) that it hadn’t occurred to me that reports could include video.  But an increasingly common delivery method for inspection reports is to have the report “in the cloud” and provide a link to it.  That approach opens up the possibility of having video clips and not just still photos.  I will recommend that inspector to a future buyer, but you can be sure that I also got on the phone and shared that idea with the inspectors I’ve been referring heretofore, some of them for over a decade.

I’ve received inspection reports that were in the cloud before, but none of them contained links to video clips, which could really help to illustrate some of the defects which inspectors uncover.

I hope this idea takes off and becomes a standard in the inspection industry.  Now that every cell phone and every digital camera has video capability, it would require no additional hardware for an inspector to shoot video instead of still photos when a video would do a better job of illustrating the issue or defect being described.

One of the advantages of videos is that they include sound. It’s a great way, for example, to illustrate an overly noisy fan motor or garage door opener or the sound as well as the motion of water under a plastic vapor barrier.

With narration by the inspector, a video can also provide more context to a problem, such as its location.

Digital Editions & Email Newsletters Are the Future of Newspapers

Are you taking advantage of the “Digital Replica Edition” of the Denver Post? You will not only be able to page through today’s paper, including every YourHub section, but also 30 days of past issues. 

As you page through the digital replica of each section, you can single click on any article or ad to make it larger, or double-click on it for more features including printing. On articles, you can enlarge type size for readability.

As subscription prices rise and the circulation of newspapers keeps declining, digital editions are becoming more and more popular. The Denver Post, like other daily newspapers and magazines (and the Denver Business Journal), charges for access to its digital edition, but it is free with any print subscription, even if you pay for less than 7-day home delivery.

Email newsletters and alerts are another digital frontier for newspapers. They contain links that take you to the full articles on their websites. Digital is increasingly how news will be delivered and how newspapers will survive.

If you’re dropping your print subscriptions to newspapers, remember that you can receive my “Real Estate Today” column by email, too.  Send your request to me at Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com!

Renovate Your Home for Your Own Enjoyment, Not to Help It Sell Better

Sellers often ask whether they should renovate prior to putting their home on the market. The short answer is “no.”  Unless you’re fixing an eyesore, you will be wasting your money.

So, what’s an “eyesore”?  I use the term to define something that draws a buyer’s immediate attention in a negative way — a torn carpet, a damaged countertop, a broken window, a weathered and peeling front door, etc.

The closer an eyesore is to the home’s entrance, the more important it will be to fix. If the eyesore is in a far-flung bedroom or the basement, I’m less concerned, so long as the main part of the house is really attractive. By the time a buyer gets to that eyesore, they will either have fallen in love with the house or not. If they have fallen in love by then, the buyer’s response will be more forgiving — “Oh, that’s easy to fix.”

Eliminating eyesores is worth every penny. Other improvements, such as updating a bathroom or kitchen that’s not an eyesore, may return some or much of what you spend, but probably not all. On such improvements, consider the condition of the real estate market.  If there’s a shortage of homes like yours — say, a ranch-style home in a desirable neighborhood — then you could probably minimize even the eyesore fixes. If your home will have lots of competition, fixing those eyesores becomes far more important. This is a topic on which you benefit from speaking with a Realtor, given our ready access to such data. 

Committed as we at Golden Real Estate are to sustainability, I hate to say it, but installing solar panels produces about the lowest return on investment when it comes to selling your home. You should only invest in solar if you intend to stay in your home for at least five years. You will get your return on investment from the reduced energy bills, not in a higher sale price for your home. In our case, we installed 10 kilowatts of solar at our home, but that was seven years ago, and we don’t plan to sell anytime soon.  If you make the same decision, please buy solar instead of leasing. Selling a home with a leased solar system is not as attractive to buyers.

As stated in the headline, make improvements that you want to live with and enjoy, and make them nownot when you’re about to sell.  It matters little to Rita and me whether our wonderful new kitchen will return the $40,000 we spent on renovating it, since we will have enjoyed it ourselves for many years. And if you know you’re going to sell eventually, but not soon, spend the money now and enjoy the improvement!

Some of the other improvements Rita and I made soon after buying our home and continue to appreciate over 7 years later include installing Solatubes (to bring sunlight into our windowless garage and laundry room) and an energy audit followed by weatherization improvements. We had acacia hardwood flooring installed, and retrofitted the south-facing windows with Low-E glass. A hybrid gas furnace/heat pump system heats and cools our home.  We also installed a hot water recirculation line to provide instant hot water at all faucets.