Helpful information on the home buying process including full MLS property search

There was a time, early in my real estate career, when I would take buyers out “window shopping”, testing the waters to get a feel for what my clients liked, before they had talked to a lender. More seasoned agents would scoff, “I don’t let a buyer in my car if they’re not pre-qualified!” I felt this was harsh. After all, loans were easy to come by and “pre-qualified” lender letters weren’t worth much. (It’s a pre-approval you’re looking for, anyway.)
Those days are over.
Though interest rates are still at historic lows, loan approval is harder to get. Even those who think their ducks are all lined up may find something sneaky lurking in their credit report: that Victoria Secret card you forgot to pay in the rush to the alter, the seventeen applications you filled out to finance the wedding, the car you had to buy last month when you blew a gasket on the Civic and that FreeCreditReport.com service you’re paying for is not the same as the credit score your lender pulls. Other factors, like your debt-to-income ratio may be working against you if your credit card balances are high. Now that the market is hot, don’t let the numbers leave you out in the cold.
So when your agent tells you to talk to a lender and get pre-approved before you go house-hunting, assume she knows what she’s talking about. It will not only give you a pretty accurate assessment of how much house you can afford and what your payment will be, it will save you (and her) valuable time. I’ve found many buyers their dream home, watched them fall in love, and witnessed the heartbreak when what they thought was pre-approval didn’t pan out. Some lenders have you fill out online applications (a drag, I know) and zip out a BING! YOU’RE APPROVED! message without having enough information to be sure. Best practice is to set up an appointment, have an in-depth phone call, or follow-up on that online application with the necessary paperwork (tax returns, pay stubs, etc.) your lender asks for. Real estate agents are your best resource for mortgage brokers and lenders because we work with them all day long. We know who answers their cellphone at five o’clock on a Saturday, guides the loan through underwriting and shows up at the closing table. And we know who doesn’t.
These days, before I put a buyer in my car, I want them pre-approved. I also want them to schedule a clear window of time to look at houses and be prepared to write an offer on the first one they fall in love with, because by some miracle, in 2012 that house may not be there tomorrow.

Well, look who’s coming back around. With all due respect for the “Respected Media”, it looks as if they finally got the memo. Though real estate, like the weather, is hyper-local the mainstream types reporting on the national outlook finally figured out that the housing market is growing again.
Both The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times said this week that “it would appear that housing is making a comeback”. Of course, REAL Trends has reported eight consecutive months of increased housing sales and three months of increasing housing prices, while NAR reports increased unit sales during the same time frame and that prices are firming.
Until Case Shiller said that prices were turning around, neither of these news organizations would report such a thing; perhaps that’s just as well. It took them 12 months to report that housing was headed downward. In fact, they still report the downturn as occurring in the spring/summer of 2006 when in reality the beginning of the slide was in fall 2005. That is when unit sales began to slump on an annual basis. Yes, I’m being picky…
The media may not always be fair or accurate in their reporting on the housing market. Recent years of staff cutbacks across the nation’s newspapers have left researchers and reporters without the time or (perhaps the inclination) to really research any sources that don’t fit their preconceptions.
Overreliance on Case Shiller tend to mask a real turnaround in most housing markets. Thanks to consumers and investors alike, housing is starting the long road back to health. Those of us “on the ground” have witnessed six months of solid grown in the Denver housing market, with homes selling quickly at or above asking price.
Though I’m not ready to start the parade (my calves are still sore from today’s Independence festivities) or predict a huge breakout of double digit appreciation, the evidence is overwhelming that housing is on the way back. Could it be time to strike up the band?

I grew up in a Dream House; a California Contemporary, resting in the shadow of a graceful Fredrick L Roehrig home, built for publisher Andrew McNally in 1893. This home gave birth to the future Spanish Colonial Revivalist master, Wallace Neff, and was his childhood home. You can see from the picture where he took his inspiration. My home inspired me as well as I trace time, I see its watermark upon my life. Maybe it was the land, a Spanish grant called Rancho Los Coyote, or the publisher who purchased it and planted the 500 acres of olive trees, or the proximity to Disneyland that made me who I am today; writer/ dreamer/Realtor. It all begins at home.
Long summer days were spent in the ‘cement pond’ or playing Barbies on the warm deck coping. Is it any wonder I love Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, David Hockney and Dream House Acres? Check the vid and you’ll see what I mean. xoxo

Are you a first-time homebuyer but missed that big tax credit? Are you tired of paying rent or is your rent being raised to astronomical limits? So let me ask you this… If you thought you could get a good deal and a $2000 tax credit, would you like to own a house in Denver? Good news.
The City and County of Denver announced a new Mortgage Credit Certificate program that enables qualified borrowers to receive an annual federal income tax credit equal to 30 percent of the yearly interest paid on their mortgage loan, up to $2,000 annually, the city announced Tuesday.
“For many families, home ownership is a primary method of asset building and saving for the future,” says Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “We’re providing a financial boost to individuals and families while increasing home ownership opportunities and the overall strength and vitality of Denver neighborhoods.” Lenders can use the estimated amount of the credit on a monthly basis as additional income to help a potential borrower qualify for a loan, the city said.
There are stipulations to the program. To qualify, borrowers must purchase a residence in the City and County of Denver and income restrictions apply ($79,300 for one or two persons and $91,195 for three or more). The maximum allowable purchase price for a home is $370,252, although higher income and purchase price limits are available in targeted areas. Participants cannot have owned a home in the past three years, except in targeted areas and for qualifying veterans.
Only certain lenders are approved to participate in Denver’s Mortgage Credit Certificate program and Paul Orrell at Megastar Financial, one of my favorites, is among them. Click here if you’d like more information about the Denver Mortgage Credit Certificate program, then shoot me an email. I’d be glad to go over your options.

Looking for to the warming weekends but not quite ready to head to the high country? Here’s a “Honey-do” list that will slough off those winter blues and spring you into the season. Whether you are preparing to put your home on the market or just want to lighten your spirits without breaking the bank, the first 4 simple home improvement tips will put you on the right track.
Closets- You’ve heard this a million times and you’ve probably done it only once. Cleaning out your closets can feel great, once you get over the idea that your favorite dress will ever come back in style or that you’ll really get back into a 2. (And if you did, wouldn’t you want to buy all new clothes?!) One by one, take your clothes out of your closet and toss what you don’t wear. Seriously. I’ve hauled things up and down from the cedar closet for years before I ever fessed up to the truth. YOU WON’T MISS IT. And the two things I regretted tossing, I forgot about. Now wipe down the baseboards inside and re-paint your closet white! Purchase plastic hangers (all the same color) and re-hang all of your clothes white to black facing left. Okay, there’s a bit of my control freakish mentality peeking out here but, this is like Virgo crack!
Baseboards- The lowly baseboard. Easy to scuff, last to get painted. Brighten up the whole house by washing and repainting these once a year. It’s one of those secrets that make a home feel bright and fresh. Personally, I assign this task to my children for any number of reasons. They like to make $$, they need to learn to do things other than shoot virtual zombies, and they’re already closer to the floor.
Garage- This one is especially important if you’re listing your home to sell. Clean out your garage! Ditch the rollerblades your kids have outgrown and the ones you bought to blade with them. I mean, those have only been worn once or twice, right? Once you’re clean, it’s time to paint. That white you used in the closets would look great, adding sparkle to the most under-improved part of the house. Power-wash the floors, hang your tools, rakes on that new pegboard and throw the skis up into the rafters. Now it’s time to shake out the camping gear, pump up the bike tires and you’re ready for summer activities!
Windows- One thing that I always notice about a new house is that all of the windows and window sills are spotless. Windows shine and make your home look the kind of clean that makes buyers bite. There are many products you can attach to your garden hose to spray the winter off of the outside and if you have a good squeegee, they’ll turn out squeaky clean. Now it’s time to tackle the inside glass and the sills. Those sills, by the way, need to be more than wiped down. Take your window cleaning solution, a towel and some cotton swabs to make sure you remove all traces of dirt from the crevices. It really makes a difference. If you’ve got an older home with wooden windows, try to make sure they all open safely and easily. Many times they’re painted shut or the ropes are broken: Buyers will find this out on inspection. And though it’s not normally a deal breaker, it will reduce your offer when a buyer calculates the cost of new windows throughout the house. There are companies who will come and make minor repairs or replacements and you can give them a new coat of paint once they’re gone. Just be sure you don’t paint the window shut again.
Okay, I’m going to leave you alone for now, I’m sure you’ve got enough to keep you busy. Remember, as your back is aching and you pop open that day’s end beer, that it’s the little things that make a home stand out in the market. Clean is one of them. Make that SUPER clean.

Saying The Denver real estate market is hot is like saying that the U.S Congress works together in perfect harmony…except, the first statement is true. It will take a while before Denver home buyers believe it, but it is a Seller’s market…and a buyer’s market, too. Huh?
It sounds like a paradox but in fact it perfectly describes our current Denver Metro real estate market. Here’s how:
In the market below $300k where 80% of the homes are sold it’s a blistering seller’s market. You heard it right, a seller’s market! There are only three months of inventory sitting on the market right now, where six months is considered a normal, balanced market. There are simply more buyers than sellers right now and this is translating into multiple offers on listings, sales prices often well above asking prices, and marketing times plummeting.

Particularly hot is the market below $225k, which has only two months of inventory. It’s not uncommon for a listing to have 10 showings and a full price offer in the first week. There are a number of factors that have caused this dynamic, one of which is the dramatic reduction in the number of bank-owned and short sale properties on the market. This reduction in distressed inventory has left regular home sellers in a great position and contributed to the sizzling seller’s market.

Ok, so we know it’s a seller’s market. Then, how can it also be a fantastic buyer’s market at the same time? It is, because according to the National Association of Realtors the Home Affordability Index is at its highest recording ever. Just like it sounds, the HAI is a measure of how affordable homes are in a given area. It’s calculated by comparing the median price of a home in the Metro Denver market to the median worker’s income level, taking into account the current interest rate for a 30-year fixed rate loan. What this means is that the median income earner can buy more house today than ever before. Why? Because home prices, while rising quickly, are still well below their peak prices of 5-6 years ago and interest rates are at never-before-seen historic lows. Take it all together and the average home on the market HAS NEVER BEEN MORE AFFORDABLE.

So, while it seems like a paradox that it can be both a great time to sell and a great time to buy, it’s actually quite true. Call me and I’d be happy to explain more how we got to this state in the market and how you can take advantage of it.

Denver Metro Housing Stats.
Single Family:
Active Listings: 8,082 • Down 40% from Feb. ‘11
Under Contracts: 3,329 • Up 13% from Feb. ‘11
Solds: 1,978 • Up 12% from Feb. ‘11
Average Price: $270,821 • Up 2% from Feb. ‘11
Average Days on Market: 106 • Down 14% from Feb. ‘11
Condos:
Active Listings: 2,004 • Down 49% from Feb. ‘11
Under Contracts: 821 • Up 11% from Feb. ‘11
Solds: 517 • Up 13% from Feb. ‘11
Average Price: $161,143 • Up 4% from Feb. ‘11
Average Days on Market: 101 • Down 22% from Feb. ‘11

…with all due respect to the Staples Singers
You’ve found the perfect house! Redone tip-to-toe! That kitchen with the gleaming stainless and the leathered granite is perfect, the master suite, divine, and the water feature will provide a soothing soundtrack for starlit summer nights on the back patio. It’s your dream house… until you see the Inspection Report.
Part “honey-do” list, part diagnosis, a home inspection is the best way to make sure your dream house isn’t a nightmare with a fresh coat of paint. No one wants to shell out $300-$600 to have someone crawl up in the attic and scope your sewer line, but believe me it may be the best money you spend in your home-buying (or selling) process. Last week, I thought for sure we’d fall out of contract once I delivered the Inspection Objection—it was the BIG LIST, and it had to be done by the seller if my buyer was going to go through with the purchase.

1. New roof
2. Sewer line offset repaired
3. Radon mitigation system installed
4. Electrical work on aluminum wiring
5. We overlooked the aging water heater.
So… now you know. What’s next? She had beaten the competing offers so she was paying a fair price, market value, certainly no bargain. With little room for $15-20k worth of repairs, especially on items which are considered “health and safety” issues, which can hold up the loan if left unattended, the buyer has some decisions to make. And I have some questions to ask, the one that tops the list…
Whose problem is it?
Thinking we might be at risk of losing the house, I sat with my client over coffee and asked her how she felt about all of this.
1. Do you love this house enough to stay in the deal?
2. Are you willing to do the work yourself?
3. What on this list is most important to you?
We worked our way through her options, she made her decisions, and I sent over the “final four” on our list of objections to the listing agent. “Do you think they’ll go for it?” my buyer asked, uncertain. “We know what you want, all we can do is ask“ (And I love the ask).
If a seller is motivated, your requests are not unreasonable, and the agents are good at what they do, chances are you can find a solution that suits all. In our case, that’s just what happened, but it ain’t always the case. So… how do you avoid the less harmonious outcome to this situation?
Sellers usually have a pretty good idea about what is wrong with their homes. The problem is they are used to living with that squeak in the floor, the drip in the downstairs bathroom and that little flicker in the dining room light fixture when the kids are on the computer. Many times, they’ll spend time and money preparing to put their house on the market, only to find a slew of hidden problems upon the Buyer’s inspection and a bucket of resentment along with them. It might be a good idea to have a home inspection BEFORE you list your property; that way, you’re able to make pre-market repairs or price accordingly if you choose not to. Buyers write offers based upon their emotional response to a home, but they walk away from contracts based upon practical matters. Chances are, they’ll feel better about a coat of paint or buying a new refrigerator than installing a radon system or a sewer repair. For Sellers, it’s “Be Prepared” and for Buyers “Beware”. In either case you will forget about the $300 check soon enough, but there will be that night at 2 a.m. when you’ll remember the mold report and wonder if it’s growing in your drywall… and if your buyer’s going to find it.

It took Dr. Richard Alpert, Timothy Leary and countless hits of LSD to learn one simple truth: Be Here Now. So what can the psychologist-turned-spiritual guru, Baba Ram Dass, teach you about today’s Denver real estate market? BUY. HERE. NOW.
With nary a trace of mind-altering substance in sight, I can honestly tell you that the time to list your home for sale in the Denver metro area is NOW.
“How now” you say?
• Because EVERYONE else IS WAITING until spring.
• Because buyers ARE out looking.
• Because SHOWINGS ARE UP and inventory is down.
• Because all FOUR OFFERS I wrote in January created a BIDDING WAR.
Now, we all know war is not the answer but in real estate, a competitive market results in sellers driving their purchase price above their asking price. At this point (Jan/Feb, so I’m being here this quarter) the demand exceeds supply and buyers are flying out to snatch up well-priced properties like savvy shoppers after Christmas at Filene’s Basement. There is simply not enough out there. And I’m not just talking of the under-$200-first-time-buyer/investor end of the market. A home priced at or around $300k is likely to move well, despite the common seasonal perception, the Super Bowl or the weather. On Friday, as constant snow flurries were rapidly accumulating inches, agents were rushing out to show homes in order to present their offer s before the “Highest & Best” deadline. (I know this, I was one of them.) Today I submitted an offer for a buyer on a property, sight unseen. The home fit his criterion and he’d been beaten out three other times, so today we take no prisoners.
If you are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the winter storm to pass before you list your house, remember… you could be pushing up daisies before the crocus pushes through the frosty ground. Now, I don’t mean that in the literal sense of the metaphor, but in the BE HERE NOW spirit.
If you’d like more information on the value of your house, trends in your neighborhood, or a yoga class near you, send me a vibe, a text or find me on Facebook. As the guru said…“We’re all just walking each other home.”
― Ram Dass

I tend toward optimism. The New Year is always quite appealing. It’s not that I believe there will be a sudden, magical turn in the way life works, ushered in by a herd of unicorns; I like the New Year in the same way I like clean, white sheets.
January is filled with energy, coming off of the seasonal rest we call the holidays. Things are wrapped up with shiny bows; gifts and year-end spread sheets. There is an ending, the ball drops, you rest, wake up and begin all over again. I love it. For many 2011 was a rough year; a devastating tsunami, a lingering doubt over the debt ceiling and our jobs. For others it was glorious; oppressive regimes were overthrown and the taste of freedom filled the air. The global economic uncertainty of the day can stop you in your tracks if you let it, but even Chicken Little eventually realized it was not the sky that was falling, but the rain.
Here in Denver, 2011 was not the worst year in the housing market. Though families still struggle to keep their homes, those numbers are receding and we are well beyond the “crisis”. Investors have stepped up (or rushed in) to purchase distressed homes, gentrifying neighborhoods and flipping them for first time buyers or building their portfolios with buy and hold strategies. Vacancy rates in Denver are under 2%, making landlords very happy. This is all good news as the housing market recovers from the ground up.
We begin 2012 with the standard economic indicators up; consumer confidence, GDP, retail sales, housing starts and existing home sales, while the unemployment is slightly down. The good news kibble:
• Pending Home Sales index from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) went UP 7.3% in November, hitting its highest level since April 2010!
• NAR’s chief economist commented, “Housing affordability conditions are at a record high and there is pent-up demand from buyers who’ve been on the sidelines. The sustained rise in contract activity suggests that closed existing-home sales should continue to improve in the months ahead.”
• The S&P Case-Shiller index for October showed minor price drops in 19 of the 20 surveyed metro areas, but the index was UP 1.9% from its post-crisis low in March 2011.
I am a news junkie, constantly scanning cable news shows and internet sources to see what the ‘experts’ have to say and to learn both sides of the issue. Lately, where real estate is concerned, everything I watch says yes. Even the “con” side says “yes with caution”, which makes perfect sense to me.
As we head full gallop into an election cycle, we can expect to be pummeled for the next ten months with tales of silver linings, predictions of doom. That’s their job. Mine is to help people buy, sell and invest in real estate, creating wealth in the process. Cue the Unicorns.

You can’t make anybody do anything they don’t want to do. If you’ve ever had a toddler or a teen, a sibling, a parent or friend, if you’ve been married or had the crazy ex crashing ‘temporarily’ in the basement you know this is true. Some things you just have to want to do, like diet… or… go out with this guy.

Even when what you want to do is what you’d like to do, what you should do, nobody can make you do it. Knowing that smoking is bad and vegetables are good has little bearing on our choice to do one and avoid the other. Doing the good thing actually doubles its positive effect as it tends to steer us away from the bad thing, though I do know some smokers who eat their broccoli. When it comes to other people, nothing is accomplished by force, even if it’s “well-meaning”.
I see this daily as a Realtor. Even though eating broccoli and buying a house are both good ideas to insure a healthy future, no matter how marketing I do on a listing or how market data I present to a buyer, I cannot make someone purchase a home. The Denver market is stable; prices have been slashed from their 2006 highs, leveled out and are slightly up for the first half of the year. More of cool neighborhoods, the ones you were priced out of in the bubble? Well, they’ve become affordable. In short, EVERYTHING IS ON SALE! Including the money.
So why aren’t buyers jumping? Because no one can make you do anything. If you are worried about your job, you may be afraid of transferring your low-interest savings account or CD into a down payment on a home, I get that. Cash on hand is a good thing, in fact I recommend it, but what is your return over the next ten years? Spending money every month on rent and passing an opportunity to invest in yourself makes as much sense as smoking broccoli. Smart buyers are building wealth by paying themselves first and getting more house for their money. Buy and hold and fix ‘n flip investment strategies are helping clients create cash flow.
Even as Irene raged to ravish the East Coast, many chose to stay put and ride it out. Is that the right strategy for you in today’s economy? How will you feel in five or ten years knowing you missed best real estate market for home buyers in your lifetime?