THE TROUBLE WITH FSBO.

There are a million real estate stories in the Mile High City; this is one of them. The story you are about to read is true, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. This is a story of one girl’s nightmare. Me. I’m a REALTOR®. But I’ll try not to let that get in my way.

It was a hot summer in cool real estate market. The rolling boil of winter’s tax incentives had simmered into springtime and left the pot dry. Houses sat for weeks without a showing. Sweaty listing agents tied balloons to open house signs as potential buyers rolled by on fat-tired bicycles. My phone rang. It was the clients I’d put into a downtown duplex some years before; cute couple, new baby, good debt-to-income ratio and a spanking clean credit score. They were smart enough to see it was time for a move up, down to the bucolic suburbs. Interest rates hadn’t been this low since… well, ever.

We set out shopping, searching for nothing less than the dream home: that elusive slice of Americana where you know your neighbors, raise a family. And we found it, love at first sight, a bit like Bedford Falls but in Technicolor. The drawback? It was a FSBO. *bum-bum-bum-bummm*.

Now I’m a kind of do-it-yourself type dame, within reason. I don’t mind doing my nails or washing the dog but I have to draw the line at what I don’t know, like removing a kidney or my taxes. It’s not that I couldn’t do it if I had to, but it wouldn’t be in my best interest. Some folks get all DIY when it comes to selling a house, I mean, how hard could it be, ey? Stick a sign in the yard, a couple snapshots on the Internet, throw some poor schmuck a few clams for an MLS input, then sit back and watch that baby sell.

As my old pal, Joe Friday, once said, “Ah, sure, but just like every other foaming, rabid psycho in this city with a foolproof plan, you’ve forgotten you’re facing the single finest fighting force ever assembled.” REALTORS®

The problem here stemmed from a lack of access to accurate data. Zillow, Trulia and the CMA done by the affable agent who sent the Broncos schedule doesn’t give a true representation of home value. My hunch is that they took the range provided by the neighborhood expert, added 20 to it for ‘negotiation’ and called it a day. They missed the mark in this game of real estate pricing horseshoes. By 35k . When our offer came in at market value and the appraisal backed it up, they went into a tailspin. See, they lacked the two most important things in the real estate process: accurate information and an advocate. Without those two things you’re left vulnerable. Very vulnerable. Just like performing that kidney transplant with a Swiss Army knife and a yard of dental floss, it seems like a good idea at the time, but then you get in there and realize how much you don’t know.

Statistics show that 81% of FSBOs sign with an agent within 30 days, at least the smart ones. Because not only do you reduce your headache and legal liability with a REALTOR®, you actually make more money. Have I made my point? So if you’re considering a move in this hairy market, do yourself a favor and call a Realtor®, hopefully me, and ask a few questions. Just stay away from ones like “Ma’am, what is the approximate dry weight of the average Madagascan fruit tree bat” … ah that Joe Friday.

Friend and actor, Paul Page, and me high in the San Juan Mts


This is the question discussed today at the Telluride Playwrights Festival Open House and a conversation that circulates through the theatre community like a five dollar bill. I’ve popped this and a few other questions to some of the TPF participants. Grabbing a post-rehearsal snack at Smugglers with director/playwright William Missouri Downs, in from Wyoming to direct Telluride Rep actors in Phillip Gerson’s This Isn’t What It Looks Like. A prolific author and playwright, Bill has eight upcoming productions around the country and just closed the Denver hit, Books on Tape.

T- “Why do you think we keep asking this question?”

B- “To justify our existence.”

T- “Do we ask if new songs should be written, or if fashion should be recreated seasonally?”

B- “Good point. There’s been so much talk over the past few decades about theatre being dead or irrelevant. And with the Internet, we’ve got so many forms of public dialogue and expression.”

T- “Yes, but it’s not in 3-D.”

B- “We’re the original 3-D. If for no other reason than the disconnect of the internet, we’ve become more relevant. Those who want to participate in the intimate reflection of life that only theatre offers crave it. We are like books printed on paper, and campfire stories; not commonplace as the world changes, but essential nonetheless.”

T- “Like art museums. People still go to them but now they take a picture of the art and move on to the next masterpiece. We exist for those who actually stand there and look at the painting.”

B- “Theatre has got to tell stories which are universal, I believe that more and more. When your medium is about being physically in a room with a group of people for a shared experience, the observational story is less effective. Save that for film and television. Just the fact that you can’t talk in the theatre changes things.”

T-“Really, you’re not supposed to talk? What about texting?”

On the gondola with Denver actor Paul Page. “What do you like about being in Telluride?” I asked.

P-“It’s really exciting to be involved in the thought process of a new play. I’ve done many world premieres with script tweaks and changes before opening, but this is a much more raw discovery of the characters as the playwright is solidifying them. The festival really gives the script and the artists a chance to incubate.”

T-“How do you like the play you’re working on?”

P-“Oh god, it’s fascinating. James Still has created these really interesting characters and put them in a highly charged situation. We’re working through the script slowly, moment-to-moment, asking questions of each other in a process of discovering what the play is.”

T- “Plays do write themselves at some point. If you let them.”

P-“And James is so open, so talented. It’s great to work with artists from other markets. After New York I’ve spent the past twenty years in Denver.”

T-“Working constantly.”

P- “Well, yes. But it’s nice to shake it up a bit.”

We’re only a third of the way through the Festival and the energy is building steadily. Hunkered down in our rewrites and rehearsals, meeting up for dinners graciously hosted by TPF supporters, eyeing the mountains for a chance to hike, my experience of Telluride is always a balance of risk and safety. I feel held, which gives me the power to create. And I feel that is terribly important.

I’ve just listed the most beautiful home in Berkeley, one of Denver’s most sought after neighborhoods. This one is an artist’s dream, a gardener’s paradise. Click here, check out the video I made and let me know what you think.

Step into the garden


Spring fever hit Colorado, creating the perfect opportunity to stroll away a sunny afternoon with virtuoso chef and Foodswings owner, Brian T. Jacobson. First stop, coffee at Paris on the Platte; Brian swinging in with his energy as fresh and delicious as the food he cooks. Dipping biscotti into double espresso, we talk food, spices and the five essentials I must have in my kitchen. Brian leads me down the spice trade routes and into my very own culinary Age of Discovery. We speak of Dutch West Indies Trading Company, talk of blends, balance and the culture of cardamom. Trading the secrets of pepper and hanging on his every word, and armed with my vintage parasol, I’m restless to sojourn in the sunshine. Under the umbrella of a turquoise floral print, I link my arm in Brian’s and saunter up Little Raven to the Savory Spice Shop.

Savory is the love child of Mike and Janet Johnston, who in 2004, opened their hearts and their spice cabinet to bring some big flavor to downtown Denver. More than 140 original recipe seasonings, small-batch-blended on-site, bear names like Pikes Peak Lemon Pepper and Lodo Red Adobo. Sidled up next to the blends are rows of exotic and common (like me) spices from around the world. Freshly ground and sold in large or small amounts, you can buy just what you need or as much as you like. Brian’s current favs are Berbere Ethiopian Style Seasoning and an Italian Black Truffle Sea Salt that smells of an earthy heaven. Whispering together about the mixes and the meats to rub them on, Brian leads me to a wall of infused sugars in flavors like lavender and vanilla bean. My mind was racing with my taste buds chasing after in a flush of excitement I rarely feel… the urge to cook. Following that urge just got easier as Savory premieres their new Food Network TV show, “Spice & Easy” this month.

On advice from the chef, which is close to doctor’s orders, I throw some Herbs de Provence Sea Salt, Bohemian Forest European Style Rub and Cherry Creek Seafood Seasoning into my canvas bag, pay the winsome clerk and we breeze out the door. Heading south on 15th Street toward Market, and feeling oh so European, Brian stops mid-step in a brain-storm, cooking up ideas for the Biennial of the Americas. Heading up the cuisine committee for the July event, he’s alive with ideas on whom and what should be included in month long celebration.

When Telluride Inside… and Out editor Susan Viebrock told me about Evoo Marketplace I didn’t get it. A store that only sells oil and vinegar? I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea… until I walked through the door. Located in one of Denver’s oldest buildings at 15th & Market, light streams in the high, arched windows, bouncing off the polished steel canisters called “fusti.” These rows of fusti hold some of the finest extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from across America and around the world. The concept is try before you buy. We made our way around the shop mixing flavor infused oils with complementary vinegars and dipping delicious bits of bread from The Denver Bread Company to taste our creations. Each combo delivers excitement, both in flavor and the things you choose to blend. I particularly liked the Roasted Garlic oil with a Meyer Lemon balsamic, and the Blood Orange oil with Dark Chocolate vinegar. EVOO owner, Mick, is very customer-centered, sharing his passion and hospitality with ease. I think the only words that came out of my mouth that half hour were “OMG”.

The perfect finish to our lovely day was a stop at Tag Restaurant on Larimer Square for “Social Hour”, with Baja Tacos, Da Bomb Sliders and the Mojito of the Day.

With the grill heating up and the fresh summer produce headed your way, I’m thinking a trip around our Culinary Wonderland makes parking in Lodo worth it!

I have a feeling that except for my inner circle, most of the people who know me will learn of my death on Facebook. I’ve heard of two such loses this week as the Denver theatre community bids farewell to two beloveds. First it was Renye, a much loved artist who fell to cancer and days later the death knell of the National Theatre Conservatory. The one is inexplicable, the other begs for answers and I, the optimist, believe there is re-birth at hand.
The NTC was former Denver Center Artistic Director Donovan Marley’s baby; his vision for sustaining the future of the American Theatre through the impeccable training of the actor. It brought much to the then fledgling Theatre Company and far more through the years. Having bright young talent in our midst has kept us young and connected to why we began our own journeys in this profession. The impact the alumni have had on the world of and beyond Denver is impressive; I’m blessed to have known so many of them.
From the outside this feels like a drastic step. But in the post 911 years I’ve watched the adjustments made to production budgets, the job cuts and their duties consolidated in an effort to keep the Conservatory alive within a difficult economic climate. Though I cannot explain their decision, I am certain that the “Powers That Be” within the DCPA considered the options carefully before slashing this jewel. Like many have noted and all of us hope, perhaps with the National Charter, it may find rebirth.
As a Realtor in this market, I know that change is constant and things in the Denver theatre community have changed. Under the vision of Artistic Director Kent Thompson a new nurturance of artistic talent is taking place at the DCTC as the New Play Summit bears witness. I am not sure it’s fair to say that the future of the American Theatre is enriched more by investing in acting talent than in writing talent, for the nurturance of artistic voice and vision further our society regardless of the medium. God knows I’m not in favor of closing the NTC, but let’s not take our eyes off of the good that IS happening here. A fearless and risky commitment to the development of new plays is nothing to sniff at. In fact, finding new stories and discovering new ways to tell them is surely the best way to ensure the health of the theatre and the employment of all of its artists.
For years I heard an endless drone of white noise grousing about how the Denver Center was hermetically sealed to local talent, but that too has changed. Through the efforts of Mr. Thompson, Bruce Sevy and former DCTC casting director Sylvia Gregory among others, many talented Denver actors have been seen in plays and employed by the Center in the past few years. A great deal more interest has been paid to our talent pool and I believe that we’ll see more.
So rather than seeing only loss and feeling anger, perhaps we should stay focused on the gifts we’ve been given and the rebirth ahead; for Renye, and for the NTC. And if you hear of my untimely demise via Facebook, keep the wise cracks to a minimum. Or better yet, keep ‘em comin’.

Regarding the nudity, or lack of it, in the Aurora Fox’s production of “The Graduate”, John Moore’s mention of it in the Sunday Denver Post and the current dialogue… The decision about the nudity was made before I signed on to do the show. I was aware that the script called for it when I auditioned and as a professional actress and playwright, I would have bucked up (or should I say ‘buffed up’?) and done it. Frankly, I am not a fan of alterations to theatre (that’s for you John) scripts, and I’m not sure of a playwright who is. I find additions, subtractions and ‘improvements’ to plays by other theatre artists disrespectful at the least, hubris if I’m being dramatic. As an actress/playwright I must remember which hat is on my head to avoid conflict, though we writers actually have unions and guilds to prevent these decisions from being made and recourse for them when they are. But that’s a discussion for another column, another blog.
Basically, disregarding the author’s intent is equal to the actor not honoring the director’s directorial notes, or the costume designer blowing off the agreed upon color palette, you get the idea. It says that you may have your job, but I know better. What if, for example, playing Mrs. Robinson I chose to take the same liberty and come out one evening stark naked? The hierarchy of theatre has always been skewed. We claim to serve the play and mouth that the playwright is king or queen, then make changes as suits our needs. Happens in film, happens in TV… where there’s a writer, there’s an editor. The line of demarcation here is in intent. Does deleting the stage direction of her nudity alter the action of the scene or the impact on the characters? Does it make my Mrs. Robinson more or less seductive, powerful or desperate? I don’t think so. Would it be more shocking and intimate if I were standing naked in front of Jack Wefso as my Benjamin? Yes. But the real vulnerability would have happened between us, in rehearsal, long before the audience filed in. I’m sure there are many theaters in Aurora and in Glendale for that matter, where the nudity of the woman on stage would be critical to the quality of the show. I don’t think that would apply in this case. Theatre ethics and theatrical risk aside, the real and most important question here is this: would the show receive more stars if I showed my tits?

I help people buy and sell houses in the Denver metro area, many of which are a hundred years old or more. As I help my clients prepare to list or to move, we find some interesting things in the attics and basements of these storied homes. My recent discovery was page 11 & 12 of the Sunday Denver Post dated December 27, 1931. It was a time of high unemployment and economic anxiety. Here’s a bit of the what’s up two days after Christmas nearly 78 years ago:
*Pasco Santana, called the PLATTE RIVER HERMIT took residence in a cardboard house near the Sixteenth Street viaduct. With his “Back to Nature” attitude he chose this location, feeling the city dwellers were the ones missing out. “The river is my best friend, even tho it doesn’t say anything and just keeps rolling along” (The neighborhood would be too crowded for Mr. Santana’s liking today, even among the cardboard crowd.)
*500 SALESMEN ATTEND MEETING- Sponsored by the market development committee of the Chamber of Commerce in an effort to acquaint Denver wholesale and manufacturing firms of their “Buy-it-in this-Market” program. (Just like mama said, everything comes in style again).
*JONES OPPOSES PLAN FOR JOB RELIEF- Senator Attacks Proposal of Direct Federal Aid to Feed Needy.
*POPE APPEALS FOR UNIFICATION OF CHRISTIANS- Seeks United Front for Fight Against Unbelief and Immorality.
*BATTLE IS OPENED ON SULLIVAN LAW- A bitter attack on the recent amendment to the Sullivan law requiring all persons carrying a revolver to be fingerprinted and photographed. The National Riffle Association went on record as favoring a repeal of the Sullivan law.
*DECLINE REPORTED IN FARM MORTGAGES
*FARM WASTES TOTAL 250 MILLION TONS…and so it goes.

Business meetings, battles over government funding of social programs, religions striving to reconcile, gun control, mortgage declines. A lot has changed in America, but this makes me wonder if we’re really just swimming in circles. For the readers of these pages in 1931 times were really, really tough. World War I had shown the atrocities of which modern man is capable, the economy was in the toilet, confidence in our government was shaky at best. But somehow, though those years and all that followed we have prevailed. We’ve taken small steps forward and “giant leaps for mankind”, getting better every day. If you don’t retain your sense of reason and a bit of the Pollyanna perspective, it certainly never will.
Today the Stock Market is up and the housing market is showing signs of return. Denver is rated #3 among the nation’s best cities to work and Gov. Ritter announced that REpower USA was relocating their headquarters from Oregon reinforcing Denver’s growth as an epicenter of renewable energy. Interest rates are low and banks are still lending to qualified buyers, there’s an $8000 tax credit for first-time buyers and down payment assistance programs have revamped and restarted. But many of us are still struggling. For those experiencing job loss, soaring medical bills, upside down mortgages of a pending foreclosure, the Pollyanna attitude is surely put to the test. Focus on the good in your life, get yourself back on good footing, call in help if you need it.
Today’s headlines are experienced differently by each of us. Whether you’re feeling like you’re headed for the cardboard box by the river, or you’re looking for a home overlooking it, as a real estate consultant I can guide you through these changing times. For however the economic moment is treating you… this too shall pass.