Open Spaces and Border Wars

May 20th, 2016

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
― R. Buckminster Fuller

Lafayette and Erie haven’t been getting along lately over the planned development of some Open Space for a shopping center at US 287 and Arapahoe. Eire plans to widen their tax base by building this shopping center, Lafayette wants to keep the Open Space the way it is. In response to Erie’s plans to develop, Lafayette has hired lawyers to block development of the Nine Mile corner at all costs – up to and including eminent domain.
At the heart of this conflict is the omnipresent issue of Open Space vying with the need for development and an increasing tax base. Erie wants financial security and Lafayette wants clear boundaries and to maintain their identity as a historical town. This has caused quite a bit of consternation not only among the two city councils, but also the people of both towns and it’s easy to see why.

The idea of open space and that “good fences make good neighbors” is key to the identity of the west. The people of both these towns will not let that identity go without a fight. Alongside this, however, there is the very progressive and forward thinking mentality which has moved Colorado up as a leader and frontrunner on a national scale. These are both valuable and praiseworthy ideals, the question is, how to resolve the situation when the two come into conflict?

While we’re not here to judge one way or the other, this issue demands a clear head both on the micro and macro level. When does greed become necessary development and progress for the good of the citizenry? When does environmental zealotry and regressionism become a desire to defend nature, open space and quality of life for locals? As Real Estate agents, it’s a tough question – we would love to see more homes being built to stem a housing inventory crisis, but not at the expense of others’ quality of life. Far be it from us to decide, as these types of politics are not just regional; we see this played out on the national stage every day.

It all comes down to “the greater good” and an ability to see the big picture. Erie and Lafayette have found themselves at odds, we’re all hoping they can come to a conclusion that both parties can find agreeable and has the needs of local people at heart. It’s going to take clear heads, an open mind, and forward thinking. And if that seems impossible, think harder.

 

 

Good data is hard to find.

May 12th, 2016

Every day, people rely on Data. You don’t need us to tell you that. You also don’t need us to tell you that the source and summit of all data is the internet; and that you most definitely cannot trust everything you read on the internet. This brings us to a somewhat old discussion, but one that bears further discussion if only for the fact that potential home owners and sellers are continually being led astray resulting in real damage and misinformation.

Have you ever wondered how websites like Trulia and Zillow are able to give “zestimates” on nearly every home in the country or considered the repercussions if these estimates are inaccurate? Sure, it’s really easy to search tons of homes and make a wish-list and start dreaming of owning a new home, but it makes you wonder, who is the commodity for these websites?

Well, the commodity is YOU. Zillow and other similar companies take you and sells you as a lead to Real Estate agents who then pay out the nose for the opportunity to help you buy a home. Unfortunately, Zillow is not interested in accuracy when it comes to the information they post on their website, and it does real damage. A quick look at reviews for Zillow is rife with people who are losing bidders on their home because the actual verified value of the home is higher than the estimate from these giant websites. This does real damage – not only for sellers, but also buyers who are given unrealistic expectations when it comes to buying a home.

It’s very clear that without an accurate appraisal of the value of your home, you are at risk of a variety of issues: your home may linger on the market too long by overpricing it, you may miss out on your dream home by bidding too low etc. The potential problems are varied and could be devastating.

What can you do to avoid all these troubles? For a start, depend on local knowledge and people who are in the area and understand the market. Someone who cares about accuracy and can tell you what items are improving or detracting from the value of your home. Once you have that accurate valuation of your home, mortgages become easier, the buyer and seller agree on the price of the home and in short, homes get bought and sold without issues and financial loss.

Again, why trust impartial conglomerates with your most prized asset? Just because something is free doesn’t mean that you won’t pay. We have the search engines that link directly to the MLS, local knowledge and decades of experience which ensure accurate information; information that is vital for your success. Let us help you start out on the right foot and give Cobalt Realty a call today!

 

 

Winning the Bidding War

April 18th, 2016

It’s no secret that the Housing Market in Boulder County is reaching stratospheric heights. Homes are being bought, sight unseen, as-is, with escalation clauses up to $30,000 above asking price. In our own experience, the last couple of homes we have sold have had multiple offers within 24 hours, all above asking price with buyers desperately trying to edge out the competition for a new home. In this market, this brings up the question: “Who even needs a Real Estate agent? Don’t the homes just sell themselves? Easy right?”

Not so fast. In today’s market, buyers are going to all lengths to nudge out other buyers and are using unconventional tactics to make their offer the best that they can look. But looks can be deceiving. The highest offer is not always the best, and the way things are written in the contract may lend themselves to seem like the best deal but might have repercussions that the seller may not be able to foresee. In order to properly understand a contract, you have to take into consideration the type of loan, how much of a down payment, inspection clauses, prequalification documentation, contingency clauses and additional requirements. Any one of these may wind up costing the seller more and yielding a smaller net profit than a lower alternate bid. Additionally, the way that the contracts are worded may be confusing – and they usually are for someone who has little experience with such documents.

This is what a good real estate agent is for. You need someone who can crunch the numbers and give advice as to certain pitfalls or difficulties that may occur in the home transaction process with any given contract. To neglect these would be to court the disaster of a contract falling through which leads to a lot of time, effort and money wasted on the deal. These are all very easily avoidable when you have someone who has seen every trick in the book and can make sure you have all the information to make the best decision possible.

Any home that comes out on the market at this time with be met will many offers – the trick is to accept the right one. It is perhaps more important to have back-up in what can be a very stressful and high-stakes environment. But it doesn’t have to be. Invest in your success by giving us a call today!

 

 

Why are mortgage rates dropping?!

April 12th, 2016

The average rate for a fixed rate 30 year loan hit 3.59% – the lowest of the year for a historically low year. This is following the minuscule rate hike by the fed in December – where there was concern that this might negatively affect residential mortgage rates – but those worries have not only been unfounded, but since then the rates have gone down.

What we do know is that the Mortgage rates will allow a larger quantity of buyers to be able to afford a home – and that buyers are competing and buying homes faster than ever. In the last month, the available inventory is going down even with an increase of people putting their homes on the market – they are simply selling faster and faster and the pent up demand of people who lost their homes in the housing crisis and millennials coupled with these low interest rates and forming a perfect storm for a literal feeding frenzy in the housing market.

Does this mean that there is a bubble forming? Does this mean that it is an unwise time to buy at the very top of the market? The New York Post seems to think so, but there is a ton of disagreement on the topic. What we do know is that will most likely not find a better time to place your home on the market. There is little chance you will not get you home sold quickly and at, if not above, asking price. The difficulty for many potential sellers is: “then what?”

The answer to that could very well be new construction. Builders have been quickly building quality new homes trying to meet demand all over Boulder County. As someone who already has a home or has recently sold, you should have enough capital to make a winning offer on these homes. We are always looking for new builders, have formed relationships with veteran builders and understand how to negotiate you into a new home. Give us a call today to see how we can help you!

 

 

Breaking Ground: New Boulder County Developments

March 29th, 2016

In the last year, low inventory and high sales have spurred city and government officials to act quickly to find home for the influx of people moving to Colorado. Home prices are rising and, until the bottle neck of inventory frees up the market, they will continue to do so. Residential Development plans, like the one going on near Whispering Meadows in Lafayette, or at the southeast corner of Nelson Road and 75th Street in Longmont, are starting to be built.

While this will help to relieve a portion of this high pressure market, it does leave current home owners and environmental activists concerned over the value of the homes and the damage it might do to native wildlife and fauna. The concerns are being heard by city planners, and it does seem like local leaders are very interested in maintaining the environmental integrity of Boulder County and to work with local homes owners to come to a conclusion that will prove beneficial decision for all involved.

For the new Longmont development, the concern was over a local water way that the development would be encroaching within the 100 feet required by law. In a 5-2 vote, the planning and zoning commission gave the plan the go-ahead. The majority deemed that three residential homes would be worth the risk of possibly endangering the “secondary” water way, as planner Ben Ortiz noted. The dissent wanted to install a raised bank to further protect the area and did not accept the justification that the minimum 100 foot buffer zone ought to be disregarded for the sake of just three homes.

In Lafayette, the concern was more in consideration of population density and loss of home value which might be incurred by the construction of more homes. As Whitney Bryn writes in the Colorado Hometown Weekly, the Mayor pleaded the case for growing concerns about the development by quoting Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” in which the enigmatic neighbor repeats “good fences make good neighbors.” To try and cram too many homes into an area would be terrible for the community and for its relationships with neighboring towns. The question is: how can you balance the values that many in this area hold, namely a love for the outdoors and space, while being able to accommodate the people who are trying to live in the area and keep home and living expenses affordable?

This will be a question that will be argued for every new development that is proposed. For the time being, it is important to keep an eye on these new developments in order to make a wise decision when looking to buy or sell your home. Is the open space you are next to – or would like to be next to, permanent? Is there a chance that a development right in the view you’ve paid a premium for? It’s a tall task, but here at Cobalt Realty, we have our thumb on the pulse of Boulder County real estate and can set you up for success, give us a call today!

 

 

Cold weather and hot markets

March 25th, 2016

The recent snowstorms won’t be able to cool off the red hot Boulder County Housing Market. According to a recent study from realtytrac.com, Denver is the top area marked “least affordable by historic standards.” This is really scary for a first time or even veteran home buyer or investor, but may be less so after a closer look.

A typical rule of thumb to tell if a market is “healthy,” or a good balance between supply and demand, is tracked by what is known as “months of inventory.” 4-6 months of inventory is considered healthy; any less and the market is considered a “sellers market” and any higher it is considered a “buyers market.” If there are four times as many homes for sale and are being bought in any given month, you have a good balance of supply and demand and will get a fairer value on a home.

Why is this so important? You can begin to see why when you calculating this “months of inventory” in different areas. The current inventory for Boulder County is approximately 434 homes with 232 homes being sold in the last 30 days. The rate at which homes are sold is 53 percent, meaning the months’ supply, will be consumed in 1.87 months. These are scary numbers leading one to believe that prices are going to skyrocket and you will be able to afford less home for the same money.

While this is true, you have to carefully consider the supply and demand not only in the area, but also at the price of home you are looking to buy. This is a consideration many home buyers overlook. Let’s look at homes that are priced at $250,000 or less. There are 13, just 13, homes for sale in all of Boulder County for less than $250,000 and 21 homes closed in the last 30 days. This is a miniscule .62 months of inventory and understandably you see the results – 400 square foot apartments going for $200,000 plus.

The higher the price point where you calculate, however, you start seeing big changes. For homes $300,000 and up, it’s a 2.19 month inventory and at properties at $400,000 and up you see the 4 month inventory mark. This means if you are able to increase your buying power, you are moving into price-points which are more buyer-friendly. Since you will be running into less competition, putting a bid on a more expensive home will allow you to get a larger return on investment-you will be getting more ”home” for your money.

The next question you will have to answer will inevitable be: “but can I afford these prices?” That is a question that you will have to answer, but you have to take in account the interest rates. Simply comparing prices of homes now and 20 years ago is comparing apples and oranges due to the near record low interest rates we are seeing today. In an ordinary market, interest rates would be closer to 7% on a typical 30 year loan with 20 percent down. Rates now are closer to the 4 percent mark. How would this calculate over the long terms and how much more buying power will that afford a potential buyer?

Take into consideration a $300,000 home with 7 percent interest an 20% down. Your monthly mortgage would be about $1,963 and you would pay about $334,809 in interest. Now look at a $400,000 home with today’s interest rate of 4 percent with 20 percent down. The monthly payment would be $1,994 and the interest paid would be $229,967. In essence, since money costs much less, homes can cost more and could place you in a position to find, and afford, the home of your dreams – a home that is a great investment for you and your family. If you have any questions on this blog or wish to further discuss your options please give Cobalt Realty a call today!

 

 

Low sales but high prices, what does it mean for you?

March 21, 2016

The big news today in real estate is the slumping home sales nationwide in February after a very strong start to the year. Across the country, sales dropped over 7 percent with as much as a 17 percent drop in the northeast. According to many economists and Realty professionals, this drop in sales is closely tied with the number of available listings – especially in highly desirable places such as Boulder County. The fact that prices are remaining high while inventory is staying low in the face of sinking sales indicates that demand is as great as ever. This means competition is heating up and driving up the price for what homes there are for sale.

There are a whole range of factors which are depressing the listing numbers, but competition will remain fierce for the foreseeable future due to the desirability, booming economy and amenities in beautiful Boulder County. There is no evidence that demand for homes will change anytime soon; which leads us all to ask the question – how the heck does one buy a home in today’s market?

The first answer to this question to be as prepared a buyer as possible: ready to make your move as soon as the opportunity appears. For example, sellers are not even considering offers that do not include proof that the buyer is prequalified. Next, you need to stop using websites such as Trulia or Zillow for your home search. A quick google search will fill you in on the details, but in short, you are the commodity. The information is inaccurate, unprofessional, and only 80% of homes for sale are ever on the website at any given time.

The best way to proceed and be able to act informed and prepared is to use MLS searches. Our website has an MLS search engine in which you are able to narrow down your search to keep abreast of this rapidly changing Real Estate landscape. Homes are selling in days, not weeks, so you will need to continue to monitor your search.

These are all things you can do on your own to learn the going rate for homes and prepare yourself for how much a home will cost going forward. In order to take the next step, you’ll need to bring in a ringer and do what other buyers aren’t. The vast majority of people searching for homes do not have the experience or dedication to find the perfect home and secure the deal. They do not have rapport with sellers who are considering selling their home and just need the perfect buyer to pull the trigger. They don’t have a network of professionals that will guide you through the paperwork and make your offer as strong as possible. We do.

To find and keep a home that suits your needs in the area where you want to live is not only difficult in Boulder County, but the entire nation. You don’t need us to tell you that. What you do need is to take the extra step if you are a serious buyer and give Cobalt Realty a call to discuss your options. There is no catch, and we only have great advice and a helping hand even if you choose not to buy through one of our qualified agents. Give us a call today and see how we can give you the edge in today’s competitive market.

 

 

What’s going on in Gunbarrel?

Sept. 29th 14

What is going on in Gunbarrel?  Or should I say east Boulder because the city of Gunbarrel doesn’t even have it’s own name on the address.  If you live in Gunbarrel your address says Boulder, Longmont, or Niwot.  It is mostly considered Boulder and if that is what’s expanding then you can believe that whatever is going on is going to be very expensive when it gets finished.  Since the early 1980’s Boulder has had very high home prices as well as other things, high education level, high income level, and high percentage of very fit patrons.  The housing market in Boulder is one of the best in the country and has never really dipped in either of the last two recessions.

So where can you live in Boulder that is still affordable? The answer is the eastern part, the unincorporated city called Gunbarrel.  Gunbarrel is rural borough in between the city Boulder and Longmont/Niwot. You may have noticed a lot of construction going down the diagonal heading into Boulder.  Gunbarrel appears to be expanding both out and up.  Many residents are concerned that their small quaint neighborhood will not be quaint anymore.  Some are excited to see some life breathed into that part of town and others hate the idea of losing the small town aspects of it.

Whats going on in Gunbarrel is a project that is 12 years in the making.  The first step is putting up 251 apartments on the side of town closest to the diagonal.  They will be for rent as early as 2015.  Developers will then build a main street in Gunbarrel with shopping, restaurants and free standing art.  This is a 50 million dollar project that is expected to end within 2 years.  The 100 room Hampton Inn already finished last year and a brewery and restaurant will be completed by February of 2015.

The plan is to bring Gunbarrel up to the 21st century with a full and colorful downtown.  Gunbarrel will still remain unincorporated with most parts belonging to Boulder so this change is sure to bring housing prices and economic growth up.

 

 

Boulder County Area Home Sales

Sept 22nd 2014

When looking at statistics, it is sometimes hard to determine if you are living in a seller’s market or a buyer’s market.  How do you know if it’s better or worse than last month?  We have taken the guess work out of it and put together a comprehensive market analysis on whether you are living in a buyer’s or seller’s market.  This may give you the edge you need to either list your home or buy a new property.  Look below at the stats for your area of interest and call 303-447-7171 with any questions you may have.

The last two years have been great in Boulder, Broomfield and Denver Counties  The rapid increase in sales prices and the low inventory have been a blessing for sellers.  While to the untrained eye it looks like we are in a boom for prices and they may fall any day, we at Cobalt Realty see things differently.  Prices appear to be high due to the 2008-2012 low sale prices.  We are actually right on the line for 6 percent growth rate over the last 40 years.  So while your neighbor might be worrying about another crash, it is likely that prices will continue to rise.  Inventory is at an all time low this year which defines our market analysis below.

You can click the image to make it bigger.

August-Stats-SFR

 

 

Putting Up Solar Power Panels On Your Home

Sept 15th 2014

We are blessed with 300 days of sunshine in the Boulder County area and we need to take advantage of it.  Putting up solar panels on your roof can be costly, but the rewards are well worth it.  Between the government rebate and the break on your monthly energy spending, it can save you money in the 15-20 year range.  This may be the best option for you if your bill is over 80 dollars a month.  The tax credit is 30 percent if you chose to purchase your system.  For more information about government tax breaks click below.  http://www.bouldercounty.org/property/build/pages/solar.aspx

A number of people are choosing to lease a system which comes with a no money down option.  To find out more information about leasing, please visit this website –  http://www.solarcity.com/residential/states/colorado-solar  This may be for you if you don’t care about owning your panels, but you just want to do the right thing for the environment.

I have installed solar panels in Washington State and I can tell you that they are very easy to install.

 

 

Longmont Homes Built in 1910 and the Fire

Sept 8th 2014

I have always liked looking at old homes and Boulder County has tons of turn of the century homes.  You have probably seen a substantial amount of homes in Longmont built in the year 1910.  Not very many were built before then and not many after then.  The Chicago-Colorado Colony was founded in 1871 by men from Chicago, Illinois.  If the town was founded in 1871, why were so many homes built in 1910?  Is that when most of the people moved here?  Was there an economic boom?  What you didn’t know is that most of those homes weren’t built in 1910.

The reason that so many homes say they were built in 1910 is because there was a fire at the hall of records that burnt down all the property records in 1910.  From then on, unless they knew the age of the house through other sources, they just called all the homes built in the same year.  Many homes in Longmont were built prior to 1910 but they didn’t have sufficient history to prove it.

If you are lucky enough to own a home “built” in 1910, then try looking in the walls to find the year it was built, sometimes they would use old newspapers as insulation and you can read the date on them.  For more questions about the history in Longmont call Jack Zagunis (303) 263-7142 or e-mail jackzagunis@gmail.com

 

 

Difference between a broker and an agent

Sept 2 2014

This blog was written to explain the different types of agents in real estate.  Selling or buying your home is probably the biggest financial transaction you are going to have in your lifetime.  One of the best parts of working with a real estate agent rather than selling a home on your own is oversight.  Broker associates and real estate agents have oversight from their managing brokers and they have oversight from the real estate commission. It is also important to know who you are working with and the level of knowledge they have in real estate.  Many times I have seen people call a broker a salesman or a salesman a broker.  I am here to set the record straight and distinguish the differences between those two and other types of real estate professionals.

A real estate agent, also called a real estate salesman, is a special agent in real estate who can buy and sell homes for a client.  A salesman is always under a broker who has oversight on all their flies.  A salesman has limited schooling compared to a broker and typically splits the commission with a broker.  Salesmen are common in other states, but you won’t find one in the State of Colorado.

A broker associate is also a real estate agent, but has more schooling and is held to higher standards of knowledge than an agent.  A broker associate can be on their own without oversight from a managing broker after just two years.  A broker requires more schooling and testing then a salesman and should be called “broker” and not agent or salesman whenever possible.  In Colorado, they have done away with the salesman distinction and made everyone brokers to stop the confusion.  The real estate commission in Colorado decided that for the public good, all real estate agents need the extra schooling to become brokers.

A Realtor is a trademark and a real estate agent that belongs to a national association.  This association has a standard of ethics and lobbyist fighting for Realtors in Washington, DC.  Only half of licensed real estate agents are Realtors.  Many real estate agents are often incorrectly called Realtors, but those people are only right about half the time.

In some states a real estate attorney is required to be at the closing table to help aid in the deal.  In Colorado real estate attorneys are rare due to the Conway-Bouge decision.  Real estate professionals are not attorneys, but this decision says that as long as brokers use real estate commission approved contracts they can practice a limited scope of law.  They must recommend legal counsel to the client but for the most part this keeps the attorneys out of real estate.  If something needs to be drawn up outside of a commission approved contract, then a lawyer needs write that.  That is why when you move to Colorado you will only see two brokers, a lender, and a closing agent at the closing table and often not an attorney.

A managing broker is someone who has been a broker for at least two years and had completed extra schooling to become a managing broker.  He or she will often have Broker Associates under them and is responsible for all files and oversight for 4 years after a transaction is completed.  In our company we have two managing brokers, Joe Bennell and Bob Luna.  They make sure that all our contracts are perfect and no dates and deadlines are missed.

An independent broker has practiced real estate for two years and is not under a managing broker or has broker associates under them.  The only oversight an independent broker gets is with the commission.  Next time you are working with a Real Estate Professional ask him or her if they are a Managing Broker, Broker Associate, Independent Broker, or Real Estate Salesperson.

 

 

Colorado Flood 2013 and It’s Impact on Homes in the Area

Aug 25 2014

Northern Colorado received record breaking rains followed by a massive flood in September of 2013. Nearly 10 inches of rain fell on September 12 and by the 15th, over 16 inches of rain had fallen in the foothills near Boulder, Colorado. Boulder County only gets about 20 inches of rain a year so this was a massive drenching. The flood waters reached about 200 square miles and by the 15th, 17 counties received federal emergency declarations.

It was a very scary time for me and my family. I live in Boulder County which was the worst hit county in the disaster and my in-laws live in Larimer County which was also terribly hit. The town I was living in, Longmont, was cut in half by the flood. To the North of the St. Vrain where we lived, and to the south of the St. Vrain river. No one from the South could come to the North and vice versa. I tried to get out and work in Northglenn that day, but I-25 was closed on and off throughout the crisis from Thornton to the Wyoming border. Highway 119 was also closed for weeks after the flood hit Longmont.

We were lucky in that our home did not have any damage. Several homes for miles around the St. Vrain sustained terrible flood damage. Flood insurance is not required in most homes in Boulder County and can be very expensive if purchased separately. Most homeowners did not have flood insurance and lost their homes in the tragedy. Owners can buy flood insurance separately by going to http://www.bouldercounty.org/property/flood/pages/nfipcrs.aspx and purchasing federally backed insurance. Some homeowners who had insurance found out it only covered the clean up and not the replacement of items.

People relied on FEMA, Red Cross, Save the Children, United Way, Air Land Emergency Resource Team, and Boulder Flood Relief to get back to some level of habitability in their home. I remember people purchasing furniture with vouchers from the Red Cross and FEMA. These organizations really helped people in need during the flood.

For more information about the flood please contact Jack Zagunis at (303) 263-7142 or go to jackzagunis.com.  Jack is a Colorado real estate blogger and member of Cobalt Realty, Ltd.

FAQ

What is the current flood plain in Boulder County?

Click below for maps of the flood pain in Boulder county.

http://www.bouldercounty.org/flood/pages/default.aspx

http://gisweb.ci.boulder.co.us/agswebsites/pds/floodmap/

Can we get a mold test? How much is it?

If the home was flooded then you need to do a mold test. Mold can continue to grow for years after moisture gets into the home. This can make you very ill and even cause death. A mold test cost nearly $500 and it is worth it. If your home does have mold it can cost 10,000-30,000 dollars in repairs and replacement. Here is a PDF link about mold damage and its possible extents in the home.

https://www.utexas.edu/safety/ehs/air/mold9803.pdf