Friday, November 30, 2012

The Homebuying Process: Step 2

So you've already talked with a mortgage lender and have gotten that magic number indicating how much house you can shop for.  You've looked at your own budget, considered all of your monthly expenses, and decided how much of a monthly payment you'd be comfortable with.  Be smart - don't stretch yourself too far; emergencies always happen and you want to have some wiggle room in your finances so you can make your mortgage payments on time.

The next step would be to make a list of the features you'd like in your new home.  Imagine your dream home, and jot down everything you can think of that you would love to have.  Then split the list into two columns - things you would like to have, and things you MUST have.  Add a third column of things that you absolutely do not want.
Making a list will help you clarify your priorities
Now walk away from the list for a while.  Go read a book or play a game of tennis or hit happy hour with some friends.  When you look at the list again, imagine you walk into a home that has most of the things you want but not everything.  Is everything on your "must have" list really a deal breaker?  Is there anything on your "do not want" list that you could live with if the house was otherwise ideal?

Don't worry about perfecting the list too much at this point; you will likely move things around as you begin to learn what features are available in your price range and in the area you want to live in.  But having thought through your wish list will enable you to eliminate properties right away and make your search more productive.

Now call me.  Together we can discuss your needs for both the property and your time frame.  Depending on financing, your family situation, whether you have to sell another property, etc., we'll set a timeline for when certain things need to happen.  One thing I always recommend to clients who aren't sure what they want is to let me set up a listing alert.  I collect basic information - which town, how many bedrooms, budget - and the client will receive emails on a daily basis of properties currently for sale that fit their criteria.  It's a great way to see what your dollar can buy in a particular neighborhood, and begin to eliminate properties that just don't fit.

If you're living out of town, or local but short on time, I am happy to preview properties before showing them.  Together we create a list of possibilities, noting questions or concerns about each property, and I take notes and more pictures of the houses and neighborhoods that I upload to the internet for your further evaluation.  This narrows the search down even further, leaving only the most appropriate houses to view.

While you're sifting through all of your choices, there are a few things to keep in mind besides your features list.  Most people will eventually decide to move again at some point, so resale value is a consideration.  Is the area you are considering appreciating?  Are there plans for development that might positively or negatively affect property values?  Are you near a busy, loud street, or maybe you back to a park or trail?  Is the school district rated well?  Is it easy to get to public transportation or major commuting arteries?  Not everything on this list may be applicable to your situation, but they will be considered by future potential buyers.  Also, think about the amount of maintenance or repairs that need to be done to the home and whether your budget and your patience will be able to live with what comes up.  If someone else has recently done renovations, try to assess the quality of the work and contact the city inspector to verify that appropriate permits have been pulled.  If they haven't, you could be asking for a lot of trouble.  Shoddy workmanship or unsafe practices can cost a lot of money to redo and could even be life-threatening.

Drive the commute during rush hour to see how long it REALLY takes
Once you've found one or two serious prospects, some further investigation is a good idea if there is time.  If there are questions about noise or traffic, visit the property at various times of the day to evaluate the effect.  Tour the neighborhood to get an idea of the character and look for pride of ownership.  Talk to a neighbor about their experiences with the HOA.  While you're doing those things, I will find you information on the property's sales and listing history, what the current competition is doing, as well as comparable properties to begin to evaluate the asking price.

Do your homework, but don't worry about catching or evaluating every little thing at this point.  Once you have an accepted offer, you will have time to thoroughly inspect the property and the structure, collect documents and ask questions of the professionals involved.  Colorado contracts offer protection to buyers should you find that the property was misrepresented or there is some issue on which the buyer and seller just cannot come to agreeable terms.  Even so, noticing apparent, important issues up front will prevent you from wasting time and money.

images:  lisaclarke, MSVG

I would love to help you with your real estate journey. 
Please contact me at 303-917-7143 or

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Homebuying Process: Step 1

I was in a real estate class the other day with an agent who works in a mountain ski town - tourists, second homes, big bucks.  She said she doesn't take a prospective buyer out at all until they have spoken to a lender and are reasonably sure they can purchase a property.  She does this in part because some folks from out of state may be surprised by the price tags they see and not know if they can afford the area, but mostly because it's become a favorite hobby of visitors - call up an agent on the weekend and have them drive you around to see all the fantastic houses.  Like your own personal tour of homes, driver and lunch included.

Don't fall in love just yet...
I know quite a few agents who won't schedule showings until the buyer has been pre-qualified.  This ensures that everyone's time is spent productively, seeing homes in a range that the buyers can afford.  It's hard to recover if you find that you must reduce your budget by $30,000 after you've already set your sights on a particular house.  Also, sellers these days tend not to look twice at an offer if it isn't accompanied by a pre-qualification letter.  This indicates that, at the very least, the buyer has begun a financing conversation with someone.

It's also important to talk to a professional and not get too discouraged by media stories about the industry.  Markets are hyper-local these days, and national statistics will often not apply to your area.  In addition, there are many financing programs available that buyers may not be aware of.  Recent changes to underwriting standards may loosen up mortgage lending and help the pendulum begin its swing back toward equilibrium.

In other words, don't let media hype discourage you from investigating your options.  It is never too early to have a conversation with a mortgage lender.  Even if you are still in the surfing-the-internet-for-properties stage, your expectations will be more realistic and your search will be more productive.  Often, a lender can take some basic information from you over the phone, pull your credit, and let you know that day the amount you can likely get approved for.  They can also alert you to any problems in your credit report that you need to address.  This doesn't obligate you to work with one lender in particular; I always encourage clients to talk to at least two to be sure that they find someone they are comfortable working with.  I have relationships with some great people in the area that I really trust - give me a call if you'd like a few names.

images:  Triumph Mountain Properties

I would love to help you with your real estate journey. 
Please contact me at 303-917-7143 or

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Tour of Downtown Lafayette

Not every city has a downtown area.  While they may have a good location and a lot of housing options, they lack a town center where people can eat, shop and enjoy community events.  Boulder's Pearl Street pedestrian mall is the heart of the city, and Louisville's old town area has undergone some phenomenal improvements over the past decade.  The City of Lafayette does not want to be left behind.

In 1999, the city council established the Lafayette Urban Renewal Authority (LURA).  The mission of LURA is "to encourage revitalization and redevelopment in the Downtown Urban Renewal Area and the South Boulder Road Urban Renewal Area by working in partnership with property owners to improve existing structures, fostering new development, and preventing deterioration of properties within the urban renewal districts."

One of the initiatives is to realize the potential of the downtown area.  The desire is to develop the Old Town identity by enhancing the diversity of it's businesses and pedestrian lifestyle.  That's good news for the local homeowners as well as the business owners and residents.  I thought it might be time to take a look at a few of the properties for sale near the downtown area.

105 W. Cannon Street - $239,900
The description leads with, "Eccentric Artists Welcome!"  Does this speak to the inspirational quality of the home or imply that you must be creative to see potential?  Not even a block off of Public Road, the ability to walk to shops is a plus, but with only 2 beds, 1 bath and 972 finished sqft this ranch may be on the small side for some.

406 E. Emma Street - $248,000
This property is actually two lots, totaling almost a half acre.  Built in 1905, the 2 bed, 1 bath property has a root cellar and alley access to a 1 car detached garage.  Somewhere along the way it's been updated with central air and a sprinkler system.  This may be a great property to subdivide and sell, or live in one house while you build another.

509 E. Simpson Street - $283,900
This listing says the property is zoned for a duplex, so possibly a good investment for someone who wants to take on a renter.  It boasts over 3000 sqft with 5 beds, 2 baths and a 4 car detached garage with shop.  Not many pictures on the internet; I'll be curious to see both what this house and the block its on looks like.

504 E. Geneseo Street - $349,900
This listing is a duplex built in 1943 with a 2 car detached garage plus 4 parking spaces off of the alley.  There's a total of 3014 sqft with 6 beds and 3 baths, but it's hard to tell how those rooms are divided between the two units.  Another opportunity for someone who would like to take on a renter, or perhaps put up their recently returned college graduate.

Depending on your situation, these properties could be a great investment for the future.  Whether you renovate the current houses or start from scratch, the area is on the cusp of some brilliant changes which should positively affect property values.  Take a drive around the downtown area sometime, and give me a call if you want some sales stats and history.

I would love to help you with your real estate journey. 
Please contact me at 303-917-7143 or

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Warming Up to the Idea

The HVAC energy efficiency standards set by the Department of Energy will require regional changes as of May 1, 2013.  In the northern region, which includes Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, residential gas furnace replacements will need to be 90% efficient or greater.

While most homeowners will see this increased installation cost offset by energy savings on their utility bill, that may be of small comfort to homeowners or sellers who are not expecting to put in the extra money up front.  The Department of Energy has stated that they will allow exemptions for hardship cases, but they've set no guidelines yet for who might qualify.

In addition to the units themselves costing more, there could be additional installation costs.  For instance, many standard furnaces of 80% efficiency or less are vented through metal B vent, while 90% plus furnaces use PVC pipes.  Also, previously installed furnaces may share their chimney vent with the water heater.  Changing the location could leave the chimney half-empty, leading to condensation and draft problems.  A new chimney liner or another type of solution may be necessary in order not to lose the gains made by the higher efficiency furnace.

It may be that, looking at the lifetime of the furnace and how long you remain in the home, it's well worth it to purchase the 90% high efficiency furnace.  But if you're not sure which way to go you may want to start your research  sooner rather than later to ensure that all of the options are still open to you.

I would love to help you with your real estate journey. 
Please contact me at 303-917-7143 or