Friday, January 31, 2014

Geothermal Explained

Heating and cooling expenses are the largest part of most homeowners' budgets.  High-efficiency methods such as solar roof tiles and tankless water heaters will continue to become more commonplace, and buyers who get familiar with the newest technologies will be able to select the best performing systems and homes.

One technology that is spreading is geothermal heating and cooling.  In most parts of the world, the top 10 feet of the Earth's surface maintains a constant temperature between 50° and 60° F.  A geothermal system circulates water through a continuous loop of pipes with wells buried below the frost line.  A heat exchanger extracts the thermal energy to heat or cool the home through conventional ducts.  In the summer, the heat removed from the indoor air can also be used to heat water for the home.  Industrial systems can access heat from deeper underground and power turbines to generate electricity.

Geothermal radiant heat floor being installed
While it's obviously easier to install geothermal in new construction, retrofits to existing heating systems can be done.  The easiest system to adapt is hydro-air - replace the boiler with a heat pump and the rest of the system just needs minor adjustments.  Electric baseboard heat is more difficult, especially if there is no central air conditioning.  In this case, new ductwork will also have to be installed throughout the home.  Installing the underground pipes is not difficult, and while your grass will need some time to recover, the system will not interfere with trees or any other plants.

The US Department of Energy estimates that about 50,000 geothermal systems are installed in the US each year, and most of those are in the western states, Alaska and Hawaii.  The average savings over a conventional air conditioning system result in a return on investment in about 5 years.  For more information on geothermal technology, visit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory website.

I found a ball park savings calculator here, and after digging out some old utility bills I went through the couple dozen questions about my home and yearly energy usage.  While it's only an estimate, it seems that it would take about 30 years for me to recoup my investment.  Keep in mind, though, that I have a small home and we've worked to keep our energy consumption down.  It's also cooled by evaporative cooling, and there isn't a field to enter that factor, so I don't know how much of an effect that would have.  There is a 30% federal tax credit for installing one of these systems, however, which may not be around forever, so it might be worthwhile for you to take a few minutes with the calculator to see if geothermal would benefit your home.

image: VIUDeepBay

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

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dutch Creek Update

Last week my sellers closed on 208 S Jefferson Avenue in Louisville.  With a selling price of $350,000 and no seller concessions, it was the highest dollar per square foot amount for Dutch Creek going back to at least 2008, likely farther.  (This excepts ranches, as the above- and below-ground square footage are valued differently than a 2-story or bilevel without a basement.)

Leading the Pack

Between 7 and 10 homes have sold per year in Dutch Creek since 2009 - that's out of 290 total homes in the subdivision.  Inventory in general is expected to continue to be low in 2014, so sellers in the area can expect to sell quickly and likely get multiple offers.

Why the dearth of listings?  There's several reasons, none of which are expected to change much over the next couple of years.  For one, new construction starts decreased during the recession, and with the population continuing to increase we are looking at a national shortfall of 14 million housing units over the next decade!  

Locally, the flooding last fall paused some sales and potential listings in Boulder and surrounding areas.  Houses had to be rescued and repaired and, in a few cases, taken off the market for an extended period of time.  Additionally, while home prices are starting to rise again, there are still some sellers who are waiting for their home's value to fully recover before they sell.

Another factor that is increasing demand and creating a sellers' market are the "boomerang" buyers.  These are people that lost their homes during the recession and have been working on repairing their credit and saving money and are now re-entering the market to purchase.  Louisville is a popular city with it's charming downtown area and great school system, and interested buyers are hovering over their favorite neighborhoods, anticipating new spring listings.  If you've been thinking about selling your home, contact me for a free market evaluation and neighborhood sales.  Preparing yourself with local historical data (not to mention this Real Estate Professional's expertise) will enable you to pick the best strategy to prepare your home for sale and negotiate with hungry buyers.

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

Friday, January 17, 2014

Evaluating the Districts

One factor which comes into play with most home buying decisions is the performance of the school district.  Even if a buyer does not have any school-aged children, the rating of the local schools becomes a consideration when they decide to sell once again.

I always refer my clients to a great tool at the Colorado Department of Education's website called SchoolView.  SchoolView offers a lot of data and resources to help residents determine which school would be best for them.

The Colorado Growth Model provides a comparative approach on how schools are progressing toward state standards.  The graph allows you to compare schools and districts at the elementary, middle and high school levels in math, reading and writing performance over several years.

It will also give access to Growth Summary Reports, whose data is fed by the CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program) and TCAP (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) results over the past three years.  There's controversy about the effectiveness of these tests in measuring performance, as well as advising the educational system's future initiatives, but it's one of many tools to be consulted.

The Data Center reports on four key performance indicators:  achievement, growth, extent of gaps and postsecondary and workforce readiness.  Assessment of these indicators determines what kind of an improvement plan will be implemented at that particular school.  The reports also break down the qualification of the teachers, the sources of revenue and the health and wellness programs operating.

As one would hope, there is a plethora of educational resources at the Department of Education's website.  If you would also like to hear from families already enrolled at a particular school to help you make your decision, give me a call and I'll put you in touch with someone who can speak directly to your questions.

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

Friday, January 3, 2014

Thornton Under $200,000

The City of Thornton has some good deals if you've got the time to weed through the listings on the market under $200,000.  For some, the location and price are the only deciding factors, as they are willing and able to put in some sweat equity.  But even if you aren't handy or don't have the budget for extensive repairs, you can find a solid - if basic - house in a good neighborhood to start your real estate journey.

12587 3rd Street - $150,000
This 1936 home sits on 4 lots in west Thornton.  It's near both older and newer homes and is across the street from a pocket park.  With only 572sqft but a new water and sewer line, this could be a great opportunity for someone to scrape the existing structures and develop the over half acre property.

9755 Elizabeth Street - $189,900
With 1728sqft, 4 beds and 2 baths, this house is clean and shows nicely.  The kitchen could use some updating but is functional and bright.  The carpet is showing it's age but replacement could be postponed.  The features are basic but the yard is large and the house boasts a new sump pump, triple glazed vinyl windows and central air.

10947 Grape Way - $199,000
Located on a cul-de-sac, this 3 bed, 2 bath property has some updating with tile floors, newer windows and a heated addition.  The kitchen needs renovating and the large yard has potential.  The tri-level layout can be a challenge for some folks, especially with only two of the bedrooms upstairs.

11249 Madison Street - $200,000
This 1700sqft home has a full, finished basement and sits on a bumped-out cul-de-sac, it's large front and side yard buffering it some from traffic.  It's a stone's throw from the city's rec center, skate park and pond.  The kitchen and baths have been renovated, but there is some work to do in the other living spaces.

I'm out every Friday touring homes, checking out new inventory and getting a feel for value is this fast-paced market.  If you'd ever like to join me, just give me a shout and let me know what you'd like to see!

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