All-Electric Homes Are Practical Now, and Can Help Mitigate Climate Change

The typical American home is powered electrically but heated by natural gas, propane or other fossil fuels. You and I can generate our own electricity with solar panels, but there’s no way for us to generate natural gas or other fossil fuel energy, so the transition to a “net zero energy” lifestyle necessitates turning away from fossil fuels and going all-electric.

Fortunately, technology has advanced — just in the last decade — to the point where going all-electric is totally practical, affordable, and a way you and I can mitigate climate change

At Golden Real Estate, our office was heated with natural gas until November 2017, when we installed a heat pump “mini-split” system and had our natural gas meter removed. With 20 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic panels, we were able to eliminate our natural gas bill but not increase our electric bill. We continue to pay just $11 per month to be connected to the electric grid (which functions as our “battery” thanks to net metering), but we are generating all the electricity needed to power, heat and cool our office building. We even have enough electricity from the solar panels to power our four electric cars without buying any net electricity from Xcel Energy. We hope other businesses will follow our lead.

Making the switch to all-electric at home is still in our future, because — like you, I suspect — we prefer gas cooking, gas grilling, and having a gas fireplace.

If, however, we can get beyond those preferences, it is possible now to heat our home and domestic hot water using heat pump appliances, and to cook our food with electric or induction cooktops and ovens.  Electric grilling is also available, although not as attractive from a taste standpoint to most of us.

All-electric homes was the subject of a talk by architect Peter Ewers at last week’s meeting of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society’s Jeffco chapter.  You can view an archived video of Peter’s talk at www.cres-energy.org/video.

Once we have removed gas service from our homes (and gas cars from our garages), we will have also eliminated the risks of explosion and carbon monoxide poisoning, too.  Wouldn’t that be great?

Price Reductions on 3 Golden Real Estate Listings

    This Tudor-style home at 3415 Quail St. is unlike any we have listed before.  It has its own electric remote-controlled gate to its driveway and has a beautifully landscaped 0.4-acre lot. There are four bedrooms upstairs, including a master suite with its own deck with a partial mountain view past a mature pine tree. There is an expansive flagstone patio with stucco privacy walls to the left and right outside an enclosed sunroom. Built in 1977, it has 2,502 above-ground square feet plus a full basement which is 50% finished. It’s located on a quiet cul-de-sac with only the playing field of an elementary school across the street. Located half-way between I-70 and Kipling Street, just north of 32nd Avenue, it is convenient both to downtown Denver and the mountains. Take a video tour at www.WheatRidgeHome.info. Call me for a showing.

   You’ll love this rare ranch-style home at 9379 S. Jellison Way in Trailmark! The gourmet kitchen features slab granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood flooring that extends throughout the main level except for the carpeted bedrooms and tiled bathrooms and laundry room. The backyard features a pergola and stamped concrete which extends around both sides of the house. The master bath features a walk-in shower, slab granite double vanity, and a porcelain tile floor. In the basement is a 4th bedroom with an ensuite bathroom and laundry hook-ups, plus a second family room with a kitchenette, making it suitable for a mother-in-law apartment. View a narrated walk-through plus drone video at www.TrailmarkHome.info describing in detail the features of this home, then call your agent or me at 303-525-1851 for a private showing!  I’ll be holding it open this Sunday, Sept. 1st, 11am to 2pm.

    This luxurious mountain retreat at 26202 Golden Gate Canyon Road is located just west of Golden! Featuring a gourmet kitchen, open floor plan, stone fireplaces, modern lighting, workshop and amazing views, this home is a must see.  The property features a shooting range (could also be a pasture for horses), a 10,000-gallon cistern, multiple outbuildings and an additional building site. Words cannot describe this wonderful 11.84-acre property listed by Kristi Brunel, who can be reached for a showing at 303-525-2520. Visit www.FoothillsHome.info for a narrated video and aerial tour.

I Think I May Have Purchased My Last Car

We all know that a vehicle is “totaled” when the cost of repair is higher than its value after making the repair.

With electric cars such as Rita’s and my Teslas, the math changes rather dramatically. Except for collision damage (which is less likely because of the cars’ advanced driver assistance features), it’s hard to imagine a repair that would not be worth making.

The typical car with an internal combustion engine is often totaled because a new engine or transmission, like many other drive-train related repairs, can easily cost more than the resale value of the car. Not so with an all-electric car such as our Teslas.

Only 3% of the metal in a Tesla is steel — the body and frame are aluminum — so rust is not an issue.  The two electric motors, which are not prone to failure anyway, could be replaced in 15 minutes. There is no transmission, timing belt, fuel pump, exhaust system, etc. In fact there are reportedly fewer than 50 moving parts in the entire car. 

The battery, which barely degrades at all, can also be replaced in minutes, not hours, and, like the two motors, is warranted for eight years, unlimited miles. For me that equates to a 250,000-mile drive-train warranty. If, say, the battery needs replacing 10 years from now, the cost will probably be $5,000 or less by then — well worth the expense.

As you probably know, the operating system of the car is regularly updated by Tesla “over the air” for free. Our two cars have many features and functions that they didn’t have when they were built years ago and will have even more features in 2047, when I turn 100.

So, whereas one can speculate on the useful life of a traditional gas-powered car with a steel body, you really can’t speculate on the life expectancy of an all-electric car.

If you buy a Tesla, you may want to put it in your will, because it may outlive you.

Would you like to learn more about electric cars? On Sat., Sept. 14, from 10 am to 3pm, we’re hosting an EV round-up in our 17695 South Golden Road parking lot. Get more info at www.DriveElectricWeek.info

New Report Reveals the True Cost of Selling Your Home to an ‘iBuyer’

Perhaps you’ve heard about the new concept in home selling called iBuyers. Open Door, Zillow Offers and OfferPad are offering this way of selling your home. Basically, these firms use their own cash to buy your home and then re-sell it for a profit.

If you’re a seller who needs to sell quickly and you’re not worried about getting top dollar (or paying less in fees), the iBuyer model is an option that may not otherwise be available to you. You avoid the uncertainty of not knowing how long your home will sit on the market — or whether it will sell at all.

A company called Collateral Analytics has published a study of 4,000 iBuyer transactions in Phoenix which outlines the costs to sellers and the earnings vs. risks for these iBuyer companies. The report’s title is “iBuyers: A new choice for home sellers, but at what cost?”  It was released two weeks ago. To read the full report, click on this link.

   The last paragraph in the report is a good summary of their findings: “These preliminary empirical results suggest that sellers are paying not just the difference in fees of 2% to 5% more than with traditional agencies, and a generous repair allowance, but another 3% to 5% or more to compensate the iBuyer for liquidity risks and carrying costs. In all, the typical cost to a seller appears to be in the range of 13% to 15% depending on the iBuyer vendor. For some sellers, needing to move or requiring quick extraction of equity, this is certainly worthwhile, but what percentage of the market will want this service remains to be seen.”

In May I got a call from a couple which was under contract with OpenDoor for $548,500, but with a 7% “service charge” and $38,563 for “repairs found in assessment.” This way of doing business annoyed them enough that they terminated with OpenDoor and listed with me at $498,000, selling for $507,000, which netted them more.

Above is one of 3 charts in  the report. The analysis is from Phoenix, where OpenDoor began buying homes in 2016, because they didn’t come to Denver until 2018.

I’ve written in the past about companies which will buy your home “as is” for cash without putting it on the MLS. Then they flip the property to a new buyer for a profit — profit that you gave up  by doing business with them. The same is also true with iBuyers.

Bottom line: Unless money is no object for you, you’ll do better listing your home with a full-service traditional brokerage like Golden Real Estate. Call any of us at the phone numbers below!

Further Price Reduction on Fully-Equipped Horse Property Near Downtown Golden

How does this sound?  A fully-equipped 0.92-acre horse property, 4 miles from downtown Golden, with 3-stall horse barn and 5-bedroom home with 3-car garage, now only $741,000. See pix & details at JeffcoHorseProperties.com.

Just Listed: Rare Patio Home Near the Arvada Center

This 2-bedroom patio home at 8242 W. 67th Drive is in the Meadow Ridge patio home community just a few blocks west and one block south of the Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities. It was just listed for $595,000. There are only 41 patio homes in the community, which was built by Designer Homes LLC, which has a 99 score from BuildZoom. And this is a fabulous home with high-end finishes. Every light fixture, for example, is a work of art, not the typical tract home builder light fixture. Be sure to look for them! Even the garage is beautifully painted and super clean! If you’re like me, you’ll also appreciate the full unfinished basement. Overall, I was super impressed, and I know you will be, too! True patio homes like this with zero outside maintenance are hard to find these days. View my narrated video tour at www.ArvadaHome.info, then come to the open house on Saturday, August 24th, 11am to 2pm or call Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 for a private showing.

LED Lighting Has Some Health & Vision Side Effects Worth Considering

In my July 18th column, online at www.JimSmithColumns.com, I wrote about my favorite home improvements, including the adoption of LED lighting, which I prefer to CFL lighting and is far more energy efficient than incandescent lighting. In particular, I wrote glowingly, so to speak, about “daylight” LEDs — the whitest light available, so well-named for how it matches the color of bright sunlight.

In our office, I replaced all our “soft white” LEDs with “daylight” LEDs to match the color of sunlight coming through our four Velux sun tunnels.

A reader of that column alerted me to some recent research which showed “daylight” LEDs to be harmful to vision, exacerbating macular degeneration, and disruptive of our circadian rhythm (important for good sleep) specifically because it simulates full natural sunlight.

I urge you to Google “daylight LEDs and health,” as I did, and you’ll find that one of the top links is for a June 2016 American Medical Association policy statement (adopted unanimously at their annual meeting) warning about health and safety problems associated with white LED lighting, so common now in the lighting of American streets.

It was right after learning of this research that I bought a new HP laptop computer and noticed that it offers a “nightlight” setting which automatically changes the screen lighting from white to yellow LED light at sunset.  It made me wonder why I was so late to learn about this issue!

The reader who alerted me to this topic suffers from early stage macular degeneration. He said he has replaced all the LED lights in his home with incandescent bulbs. I’m satisfied that changing back to the lower “color temperature” LEDs will be enough. I have noticed that some LED fixtures (like the ones I installed in our conference room) have a switch allowing you to choose between “soft white,” “warm white” and “daylight” temperature settings.

$250,000 Price Reduction on 4-BR Arvada Mansion

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This fabulous listing at 12996 W. 81st Place in Arvada was originally listed at $1,875,000 and was worth every penny when you learn its features. Now it’s just $1,600,000.

See all 46 magazine-quality photos and a 21-minute narrated video walk-through at www.ArvadaMansion.info. It takes that long to show this home’s many features such as its ceiling frescos, his-and-her master bathrooms (including bidets), his-and-her master closets, two fully-finished garages that could hold up to 10 cars, and three boilers providing radiant floor heating to the home, its garages, driveways, patios, and even an exterior walkway for snow melting!  Really, even if you’re not in the market for this veritable mansion, you should view the narrated video tour to see how the 1% lives! For a private showing, call your agent or Jim Smith  at 303-525-1851.

Rare Ranch-Style Home in Trailmark Back on Market

Ranch homes are rare in Trailmark. This one at 9379 S. Jellison Way went under contract in 10 days but the contract fell when the buyer’s home failed to sell.  It is back on the market at $630,000.

You’ll love this home with its 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, vaulted ceilings on the main floor, and 3,670 finished square feet. The gourmet kitchen features slab granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood flooring that extends throughout the main level except for the bedrooms. The backyard features a pergola and stamped concrete which extends around both sides of the house. The master bath features a walk-in shower, slab granite double vanity, and a porcelain tile floor. In the basement is a 4th bedroom with a similar bathroom, plus a second family room with a kitchenette, making it suitable for a mother-in-law apartment. Take a narrated walk-thru (with drone video) at www.TrailmarkHome.info, then come to our open house Sunday, August 18th, 11 am to 2 pm.  Or call Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 for a private showing.

What Requires a Permit, & Does Unpermitted Work Affect Your Ability to Sell?

My July 25th column described how a seller got into a legal dispute from not having disclosed an unpermitted basement finish done decades earlier. That story raised a question common among homeowners — what work requires a permit, and does failure to obtain a permit make it harder to sell a home?

Incorporated cities like Denver, Arvada, Lakewood and Golden issue the permits within their jurisdiction, but residents of unincorporated areas must get permits from their county’s planning and zoning office. 

Each jurisdiction has slightly different requirements. For example, Golden lets you install a backyard fence up to 7’ without a permit (unless on a corner lot or in an historic district), but Jeffco requires a permit for any fence over 42 inches tall.  Denver is more generous, exempting “posthole-dug fences” up to 8 feet high.

When it comes to structures, whether habitable or not, the requirements are fairly consistent. There is an International Residential Code (IRC) which is updated regularly, and most jurisdictions adopt the updated code with only minor adjustments.

I found only one jurisdiction, Golden, which provides a simple one-page PDF listing what does and does not require a permit. Click here for a link to that PDF.  If you are in another city or unincorporated area, you can still expect that document to reflect what your jurisdiction might require of you.

Basically, any modifications to the walls, windows, roof, plumbing or electrical system of a home requires a permit, and it’s a good idea to obtain one, even though you can sell a home which had unpermitted work done, so long as you disclose that fact to your buyer.

Call or visit your jurisdiction’s planning department to find out what permits are and are not required for your home. You’ll find that most jurisdictions don’t require a permit for replacing cabinets, countertops, light fixtures, ceiling fans or plumbing fixtures in existing locations, or for roof or siding repairs/replacement (10% or less).

Denver exempts oil derricks, which I found to be a strange inclusion in its list of exemptions.

As mentioned in my earlier column, the standard Seller’s Property Disclosure form provided in the course of a real estate transaction asks the seller to disclose any work done without the required permit in the previous 12 months.  If so, the seller should check “Yes” and use the space provided on the form to describe what was done.

If, however, the seller had work done more than 12 months prior to completing that disclosure form, I recommend that he or she use the comments column to describe the work done without a permit and when it was done.

    Typically, this disclosure form is provided to the buyer prior to hiring a professional inspector to conduct a thorough inspection of all the home’s components. That way, the disclosure  can be given to the inspector, which would cause him or her to pay special attention to the area of unpermitted work to determine if the work was done “to code” and without defects that the buyer might then ask the seller to fix.

   By disclosing all unpermitted work in that document, the seller can forestall any claim after closing such as I described in my July 25th column. Listing agents should ask that question about older unpermitted work and handle it in this manner.  I certainly will from now on!

If you’re in an HOA, you probably will need to get approval for repainting the outside of your house, concrete repairs, landscaping changes or even the location and color of exterior radon mitigation equipment — things that don’t typically require a city or county permit.

The reasons that permits are required make sense. Consider, for example, replacing a water heater or furnace. If they are gas appliances, today’s code requires that outside combustion air be provided so that the appliances don’t deplete the oxygen in your home, and gas-fired devices emit deadly carbon monoxide, so it’s important that they be installed correctly. It is only by getting a permit that you ensure the work is inspected by the city or county, which is a good thing, especially when it comes to health and safety.

In those cases, you’re probably hiring a contractor to do the work, and the contractor should be licensed with the city or county where the work is being done and should obtain the permit for you.  If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can get the permit as a homeowner, but the city or county may have you take a written test to show that you’re competent at the work being done — and it will be inspected. (I remember taking such a test when applying for an electrical permit in Denver — I failed the test…)

Permitting fees and requirements cause some homeowners to do work without getting a permit and hope they’re not caught. If the city or county catches you mid-project without a permit — something that happened to me in Denver in the 1990’s — expect them to issue a stop-work order and to double the permit fee. 

At least in Golden (speaking again from experience), you can turn yourself in and get a post-facto permit without paying a penalty, but you’ll need to show that the work was done to code and have it inspected.

Property taxes are based on a market valuation of your home by the county assessor, and getting a permit for your finished basement, new deck or detached garage, etc. could result in a higher valuation and therefore higher property taxes for your home, but that’s not a good reason to avoid going through the permitting process.  How much will your taxes go up?  Let’s say your basement finish cost $50,000. It’s unlikely your home’s value will increase by the full amount of any renovation, but even if it did, the assessment rate is now 7.15%, which means your assessed valuation would only increase by $3,575. If your mill levy rate is, say, 100 mills, that means your annual property taxes would increase by only $357.  But it won’t. And if you were to spend the same $50,000 on a kitchen or bathroom remodel, it might not increase the assessor’s valuation of your home at all, even though it was permitted, because it didn’t add any finished square footage to your home.

What the assessor values your home at is not based on what you paid for it, and neither is it based on what you spend to improve it. Your home’s valuation is based on the sale of comparable homes to determine what your home might have sold for on June 30th of the most recent even numbered year. Thus, even if you purchased your home on June 30, 2018 (the valuation date), the assessor won’t use what you paid for your home as the value of your home.

Theoretically, the county assessor’s office could monitor MLS listings and compare the description of your home with what their records show. But I have never heard of anyone’s assessor records being changed based solely on an MLS listing of their house.

If you have any questions that this column did not answer, please feel free to call me or any of our agents at the phone numbers below. I’m always happy to hear from my readers, and all of us are happy to answer your real estate questions.

Jim Smith, Broker/Owner,  303-525-1851

Broker Associates:

  • Carol Milan — 720-982-4941
  • Norm Kowitz — 303-229-3891
  • Andrew Lesko — 720-710-1000
  • David Dlugasch — 303-908-4835
  • Chuck Brown — 303-885-7855
  • Kristi Brunel — 303-525-2520
  • Carrie Lovingier — 303-907-1278
  • Jim Swanson — 303-929-2727