Denver housing market, news and trends.

Recently I got a call from a gal I’d worked with on One Book, One Denver. “I’m getting married, relocating, and I need to sell my condo. Can you come meet me?” Of course. We met for a post-work beverage and talked about her marriage plans, the condo and then she popped the question, “Can you sell it for me?” Well, don’t you know how much I love to hear that question? Two days later I met Gina at her Mayfair townhome, a beautifully remodeled, two-bedroom, single story corner unit. We talked about timing her sale with the wedding and the move to Atlanta. All I could focus on is the fact that with so much big life stuff going on, I wanted to make sure the sale would go off without a hitch. Not always easy but always the goal, real estate transactions are an intense mix of business and personal and I consider it my duty to make sure your stress level is as low as possible.
Next we discussed price (usually where sellers feel a bit of an upsurge in their blood pressure) and settled on an opening list price smack in the middle of the competition with the agreement that we’d revisit the subject after a week on the market.
Now, it already looked like a shiny penny, “Pottery Barn Perfect” in Realtor parlance, but being a smart cookie she asked what needed to be done before we put it on the market. And then she did an amazing thing; she took notes and had all the polishing done within a week! I scheduled the photos for the virtual tour, put my marketing strategy in place and blasted it out to the market. After Sunday’s open house, I called Gina to tell her that I wasn’t excited about the showing activity in the first week and we decided to make a slight price adjustment. Monday we had three showings and an offer, lower than what we wanted but certainly high enough to open the conversation. Gina had shared with me the dollar amount she wanted for her home, which was reasonable, so it was very clear going into the negotiations what I was after. And they took it! Ten days, desired price, 30 days to a successful close.
Market data consistently shows that well-priced homes sell faster and for more money than homes which start high and chip away at the list price, especially true in this market. When a seller goes into the relationship with high motivation, reasonable expectations and trusts the advice of their Realtor®, things have a good chance of going smoothly. So what do I consider reasonable? As a seller, you have to be able to wrap your head around a few things.
• Your house is a commodity, not a product. A commodity is worth what the buyer is willing to pay for it. A product, like a hamburger, can be sold with the right marketing, like photos with enough glycerin on the patty to make it look really juicy. No matter how pretty your pictures are, your home is an emotional commodity.
• Just because you added the deck five years ago doesn’t mean you get to add that on to the price. Home improvement is tricky when it comes to selling your home. If you’re fixing it up to sell it, you’re putting that money in to make sure you get the highest amount of its fair market value. If your improvements have happened over time, they have most likely increased the value of your property, and you’ve had the pleasure of living with them. There is no guarantee that the $20k you shelled out for that sparkly new kitchen will result in a $20k return on your investment. I always tell my clients to make the changes they’d enjoy living with and deal with the rest when you want to sell it.
• Expect to pay for some pre-market repairs. You’ve been looking at that paint chip on the threshold, or the gold fixtures in the bathroom for so long you don’t even see it anymore. Buy your buyer will. And the little things mean a lot; new paint, bath fixtures, maybe some lighting and a professional cleaning will do wonders for your home’s appeal. You’re up against a lot of sellers who are doing their best so you gotta bring you’re A game!
• Buyers buy either from emotion, practicality, or a mix of both. If your goal is to sell your home for the most money in the least amount of time, make sure you keep this point in mind. You want them to fall in love with the home and you want them to write an offer. I can look at the MLS and tell you which homes in your neighborhood are going to be the next to go under contract. They’re the ones who hit either or both points. Make your house shine and price it well!
• Choose a good Realtor® and then listen to her. If you’ve chosen wisely, you’ve got an expert in your local market working as your advocate. Market conditions are what they are and they’re changing on a daily basis. You may have bought or sold a few homes over the years but there’s a good chance your agent has closed a few last month. That’s what we do and we don’t want to fire sale your house, quite the opposite. Happy clients refer business.

Hey, it worked for Gina!

Creativity is the strongest force on earth; artists, visionaries and innovators lead us into the future. We’ve got some mad skills that actualize potential where others may only see what is possible.  Be sure to click on the Thriving Artist Alliance page above and I’ve created a lovely video to inspire you. CLICK HERE TO WATCH

Because it’s boring. Because any schmo can do that. Because if I want to be generic, I might as well mail Bronco’s schedules to a neighborhood of strangers. Throwing a bunch of stats and market predictions up on the Internet works for some agents, I’m sure. It just doesn’t work for me. Every transaction is a human transaction as well as a business transaction, every purchase or sale is personal. Real estate is first and foremost about my community and the people in it. I write about the things they love to do, and the things they do that I love: art, music, theatre, social and philanthropic events, neighborhoods, gatherings. These are the things that interest me because they are the stories of people’s lives.
In the six years I’ve been in the real estate business I’ve found a few things to be true. No matter what the market data says on any given day, most people buy and sell homes because there lives are in transition. They are either creating change in their lives or their lives are changing them. A new job, job loss, new partner, a marriage, a baby, a second child, more space, less space, taking on a new adventure, making the decision to own vs rent, downsizing, downsized, death, divorce, illness, relocation; these are the reasons people buy and sell homes. I’ve only had one client who bought a home because they wanted more closet space…for their new baby.
Market conditions factor in to these changes, inform decisions and how they may play out, but I am in the people business not in sales… at least that’s what I tell myself.
Your home a lot more to you than a financial investment, it is an emotional one as well. This is where you laugh, you cry, plant seeds and break bread, so whether you are looking to buy or looking to sell, I get that. No matter what is happening in the “market”, houses hold our stories, neighborhoods ground us in community and when there are children and schools to be considered, it is critical to find the right fit. When my son entered school and joined the local soccer team, I remember sitting on the congress Park practice field one autumn afternoon chatting with the other moms and thinking…I’m going to spend the next twelve years with these women, we will share our lives. And we have.
So… you will get stories of the things I love about living and sharing our lives together in Denver. You will hear about what’s going on in your neighborhood, learn about what I like about neighborhoods around town, and find out about some cool things to do on a Sunday afternoon. And yes, you will also get market data in the mix or served up solo. I’ll curate, aggregate and create information I think you will find useful, helpful, and occasionally humorous. We’ll share stories, okay?

As an actor, the most common question is “How do you memorize all those lines?” As a Realtor© it goes something like this… “How come your comps say my house is worth X when Zillow says Y? “
I’ll tell you why. Real estate websites have transformed the consumer experience when buying or selling, bringing to the public the listing and sales info that used to be private and difficult to get to. Some of this consumer info sharing has been good for all. A buyer, for example, can reduce our power-shopping trips by searching for homes that suit their needs, send a list of what they want to see and off we go. Well… after I double check the listing information, as much of it is out of date; homes sold but still listed as active, short sales if my client has a move in time frame, homes that have been on the market for a year… these get scratched from the shopping list. But for sellers it can be a different story.
These sites appeal to the savvy seller, empowered by access to the information provided, They try hard to do a lot of the work for you, grabbing recent sales, public record and homes listed in your neighborhood, then running them through a computer program and, in some cases, going so far as to create an estimated value on your property. Here’s where it gets tricky. Computer programs have no discernment.
I recently got on Zillow to double check one of my listings to make sure the information was correct. What I found was a massive error stating that according to public record the home had sold in 1997 for $150,000, a “fact” I cannot find anywhere. With a price point over $600,000, this is a costly mistake and one my sellers were understandably unhappy about. I’ve contacted them numerous times to correct, but so far nothing. I checked back yesterday and the website’s value of the property had gone up $17k in one week for no apparent reason. In my own neighborhood, Zillow has deemed my home worth nearly 40k less than what I can sell it for, largely due to a few foreclosures nearby, and this is happening all over the city.

A computer takes the description of your home from the public records, or from a recent listing, determines the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and square footage, and pulls out the closest homes to yours that have sold recently that have similar data on record. The computer can’t necessarily distinguish nuances in a property’s condition or aesthetics, nor does it always correct for whether the house two blocks over was a short sale or a foreclosure. Depending on where you live, how similar homes are to each other in your area, the level of sales activity near your home and the level of accuracy found in the public records for your house and nearby homes, these sites can offer very comparable “comps” — or comparables that aren’t really comparable at all. If you live in a fairly cookie-cutter subdivision where several homes just like yours have sold very recently, you’re likely to get a good set of comparables, and a value estimate that’s at least in the ballpark. But in many areas, lots of fairly common scenarios can come between you and a good comp/bad comp:

Your home is older and has had a lot of improvements and even additions that are not in the county records.
Homes in your area are very different from each other.
You live in a neighborhood very nearby another neighborhood where homes have a much higher or lower value than your area , say, because they belong in a better school district or even on the other side of the city limits.
Your home is in an area where homes are dense, the algorithm might jump over many very nearby properties to get to a relatively dissimilar one even a half-mile away, and that can give you bad comps.

The listings provided by the sites can be very useful for homeowners trying to stay on top of what homes around theirs are selling for — not listed for, but actually selling for. They are less useful, in my opinion, at placing values on properties; the sites that do this usually have their accuracy rates listed somewhere on the site, and I haven’t yet seen one that’s impressive.
But when it’s time to actually list your home, or figure out what it is worth, no computer — no algorithm — is as accurate as a living, breathing local real estate professional who sees and sells all the different specimens of homes in your neighborhood and sees firsthand what ready, willing, qualified buyers actually pay for them, day in and day out.
I think it’s important for sellers interviewing listing agents to discuss the online comparables with prospective listing agents, but not as a counterargument to what the listing agents recommends you list your home for. Rather, it’s a smart way to see some of what the agents know, and what you can learn about the other properties in your area. If you’d like a detailed estimate of home values in your neighborhood or a comparative market analysis of your home, give me a ring, I’d be glad to help.

It’s been more than ten years since the evening I spent in heated conversation with a small group of theatrical dreamers. Actor/Director, Warren Sherrill, had just dragged me back onto the boards, directing me in a production of “Marvin’s Room” at the Denver Civic where I was blessed to share the stage with the lovely, talented and wittily acerbic Carolyn Valentine. That’s what put me in the room. The first meeting took place around a dining room table in southeast Denver; me, Warren, Lisa Rucker (Moon for the Misbegotten), and if I had more memory I’d recall who else was there (apologies, it’s been ten years;). Michael Stricker and Barbra Andrews were en route from Chicago after a bit of time working with Steppenwolf, but their praises were sung loud and clear. The result of this and subsequent meetings was what we now know at the Paragon Theatre Ensemble.
From a dining room table, to a dream, Paragon has built one of Denver’s premiere theater companies, growing their work season after season, maturing into perhaps the most consistent mid-sized company in Denver. When they began, our theater scene was quite different. Stalwarts of the day have closed, upstarts who planted seeds were blown away as many well intentioned theater groups found the artistic soil far too rocky to take firm root.
Paragon began with a clear vision, a modest business plan, and a high work ethic, then set out to produce quality theater which allowed them to carve out a niche for themselves in Denver theater. They saw a need and the over-filled it. The level of talent in the acting and producing company and the detailed professionalism in their planning and rehearsal process, the careful way they’ve cultivated their acting and directing pool have put the fun and the function into the dysfunctional family that is a theatre company.
Paragon is the only Denver company to present staged readings of works by Colorado/Wyoming playwrights in their Trench series, and they go a step further by considering these plays for full production. Two of my scripts, (w)hole, Saints & Hysterics, have been produced by Paragon through this process, as well as a play by Ellen K Graham. It takes guts to produce new works; it takes balls to produce new work by local playwrights.
Paragon has continued to build momentum by offering a blend of classic plays and edgy new pieces. Over the past few seasons, they’ve included a Equity guest artist contract in their season, bringing Denver Center fav, Sam Gregory, some of the most delicious roles. Hopefully the Equity idea will continue and expand.
On Saturday the 25th, Paragon will be holding their 10th Anniversary with a ‘gala’ (love that word) celebration at the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Part presentation, part profit, and all party, that’s my take on what the night will bring. Perhaps the hardest working, most fun to play with group of theater artists in the metro area, the Galleria may be the place to be come Saturday night.
Personally, I plan on moving from that dining room table straight up to the bar in celebration of a great decade of theatre. I’m a sucker for a success story. Hats off to you, Paragon Theatre Ensemble, congratulations on a decade of great work. Now put your lips together and blow~
tickets available at www.paragontheatre.org

Perhaps you’ve heard of Prudence Mabhena, read about her in the Sunday paper, heard the story on NPR, caught the film about her at the Telluride Film Festival, or saw her beaming at the Oscars when Music by Prudence won Best Documentary.
There is a lot to know about Prudence Mabhena, a lot to learn from her as well. Born with a disfiguring congenital disorder called arthrogryposis, her twisted limbs meant she’d never walk, and so they were amputated below the knees. Her journey from Zimbabwe to the global stage has been told in many forms, a tragedy-to-triumph in a tale that lifts our spirits to the realm of possibility and teaches us to just get over ourselves. But where we really have an opportunity to learn from Prudence is by hearing her sing. That is possible for Denver this Sunday as Prudence joins jazz concept band Zuri at the Mercury Cafe for a 2:00 benefit concert. Wednesday night’s higher priced film screening and meet ‘n greet with Prudence at the Denver Film Center promises to be a moving and inspiring event. The $30 ticket for the Mercury gig promises to be a blow-the-roof-off-the- house experience! Both raise money for King of Kindness, Noel Cunningham’s foundation. Should be amazing, Grace.
Prudence Sings Amazing Grace at Kennedy Center

American in Hiding, a bracing new play by Tracy Shaffer, will be presented as part of the 2011 Telluride Playwrights Festival “American in Hiding”, says Shaffer “is the story of an America family, taking refuge with friends in Amsterdam after Thom slips on the soapbox of his professorial profession. Unable to contain his ego, he sets himself up in Dam Square, ranting the hypocrisies of his homeland and how far she’s come from the Utopian dreams of her Founding Fathers, without realizing that his actions dictate a risky future.”
This year marks a departure for the Festival. Rather than soliciting submissions from a national pool of writers, Festival Director, Jennie Franks shifts her focus to ‘growing local’, nurturing the talents of Rocky Mountain writers and dipping into the Denver talent pool for her lead actors. TPF will mix it up a bit this year: Ms Shaffer’s script receives a week of rehearsals & revisions with a public staged reading at week’s end with audience feedback. Acclaimed playwrights, Judy GeBauer, Ellen K Graham and Gary Leon Hill (who joins after a week at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference) work their scripts in open workshop (public welcome), salon readings and read excerpts in the evening Play Slam at the Steaming Bean. The Telluride Playwrights Festival will become a producing/presenting entity this season as it brings a fully staged production of William Missouri Downs’ “Forgiving John Lennon” into town from the University of Wyoming where Downs is a professor. Telluride Playwrights Festival takes place July 12-18.
Telluride Inside writer, Susan Viebrock, described it this way.

The Telluride Playwright Festival operates like grow dome for fruits and veggies: brand new plays are watered and tended in a safe environment. After they grow and flourish, they are sent out into the world to be enjoyed. Larimore’s “Out of Askja” is one of a number of fine plays that were transplanted from Telluride to fertile soil around the country. Tracy Shaffer’s (W)Hole, also a Playwright Festival alum from 2008, received raves from The Denver Post critic and other rags when it was produced this past fall at Denver’s Paragon Theatre. Next spring, James Still’s play “Love Me Some Amnesia,” one of Playwright Festival’s picks for a 2010 staged reading is scheduled to be produced in Chicago at the American Blues Theatre. And so on.

Today an unusual thing happened, I received two offers on two different listings. That in itself would not be unusual in the Denver real estate market, but it’s what came with the offer I found odd and amusing. This morning, two emails hit my inbox. One was the offer, $110k below the list price, and the other was a letter from the potential buyer to the seller. This afternoon, the same thing happened: 20k under a list price that had a generous price reduction on Wednesday, and a lovely card to the seller. Now I am the queen of the hand-written note and I know it’s value, but in both of these instances it was as if the “I really love your house, we are the perfect buyers” missive was going to somehow cover the insulting offer. If you really love the house, you should pay what the house is worth. A letter that says in essence, “I found the house I love, now can you please give it to me?” does little to sway the seller away from his or her profits.
Buyers buy homes with their emotion first and practicality second, sellers are just the opposite. I know this is a sweeping generalization, but most of the time it holds true. A home is an emotional commodity and yes, most sellers would love to see their home go to that sweet young couple of lovebirds with the 20% down, the golden retriever and th 850 credit score. Chances are very good that the seller has had his own emotional roller coaster ride long before you set your showing. Ready to make that move, they’ve called their Realtor, had the listing appointment and swallowed hard when their agent told them what they could expect to sell their beautiful home for in today’s market. When they’ve lowered their price twice in 60 days, is it realistic to expect them to take another 20 or 100k off the top because you love their home? I’d love a new Mercedes for the price of my used Saab, too.
In short, be reasonable. Be fair. Don’t believe everything you read about the “Buyer’s Market”, assuming every home is on the clearance rack. And save your letters. We know you love the home and felt all warm and fuzzy when you walked into it, that’s what writing an offer means. Now write the offer that will match that value, and don’t expect the seller to pay for your dreams out of their retirement.