Life in the west includes booms and busts, monsoons and dust, hailstorms, lightning and drought, and sometime all of the above in 30 days. We may bend conservative out here, but life sure isn’t static.
The Waldo Canyon Fire is a great example. We’re hosting evacuees and have a couple of “quick, get-out!” Rubbermaid tubs packed and at the ready. We live in Pinecliff, and according to Google Maps, we are about 4500 feet (can you tell I’ve been obsessing online) from the eastern boundary of the evacuation lines. At this writing, the Colorado Springs Wildland Fire Division is re-enforcing it’s firefighting rock stars reputation, successfully defending against property loss for two straight days. Their chances of batting 1.000 are going to be stretched today with more wind and the promised aerial support delayed. It is not uncommon to hear people say things like “I can’t ever remember it being this hot”, but guess what? It never has been this hot, and this dry, for this long, ever in Colorado Springs, and we have at least three more days of it. Saturday we tied the all-time record high (100) and it’s gonna be pushing that again today.
Collateral fall out from this is that my professional business is looking a bit different this week. We’re calling it #businessunusual. I’m not just utilizing my Epi Central membership, but this is now my office for an indefinite amount of time:
It’s a little inconvenient, my commute time is a bit longer and that 10% of my business that requires a PC is kind of compromised, but other than that, things are going to plug on. Our broker, Cherise, had to evacuate, and will be periodically joining Hannah and I (and possibly Kim Schultz) down here this week.
The big “but” in all of this is showing properties. Like the veil of smoke hanging around the city, it feels like the city is in a collective fog. Traffic is notably lighter than usual. Ridgelines with views west are parking lots as folks gather during daylight and evening hours both to watch the advance. On top of that, a lot of the region’s most unique, sought-after, and unusual properties (Cedar Heights, Garden of the Gods, Pleasant Valley, Mountain Shadows, Peregrine, Pinon Valley, Oak Valley Ranch, Crystal Hills, Crystal Park, Woodmen Valley, Northern Rockrimmon, Chipita Park, Cascade, Green Mountain Falls) are in the crosshairs of this event. All of the above areas are mandatory evacuations or voluntary evacuations. This is the heart of my summer business most years. Adding to the unusual nature of it all, a lot of the city’s prominent agents and real estate facilitators live on the westside. Their lives are displaced and up in the air. It’s taken on this effect: I apologized for sending across an inspection notice last night “in light of all the other stuff going on this weekend” because the agent lives in Woodland Park, where the fire seems to be advancing more aggressively. I meant it. I didn’t mean it “just to be nice”, it was genuine. I received an inspection notice this morning, and that agent did the same thing. “I’m sorry to ask to have the fireplace serviced, we just couldn’t get it on, and yeah, the buyer and I spoke this morning, there are much bigger things in life right now than this.” The third inspection notice I’m working on, that agent lives in Peregrine, which is in voluntary evacuation.
All of these are pretty lightweight inspection objections, nothing hard or unexpected for the sellers to remedy. But there is a sense of guilt asking for accommodation, when others are quite literally accommodating others for indefinite duration of time.
It also means that property showings in general are going to be harder, and frankly, if it isn’t urgent or bank-owned, it might just be better to let it wait. This is not a good time to be impatient, nor is it a good time to be a “shopper”. If you’re going to do something, be committed to it. A buyer loses negotiating power when they create inconvenience. Property transactions are hard enough to put together, and when you add the unprecedented elements of unknown/fear, likely insurance hang-ups (if you were an insurance company, would you insure something in the path of an advancing wildfire with a week of 90-100 degree temperatures on the horizon?) and possibly unexpected company camping out, a lot of sellers have a lot of inconvenience right now. It’s summer vacation, and with the temperatures blazing hot and air quality miserable, and parents constantly checking their smartphones and TV for the latest updates on the fire’s progress, showing a property with children is going to be pretty flippin’ difficult. Sure, properties east of I-25 don’t have to think about if they’ll evacuate, but it’s still 100 degrees out and an asthmatic’s nightmare for those “after work showings”. But the constant visual reminder on the horizon looks like it will be sticking around for a while.
It’s a good time to gather a perspective on things. We gave ourselves five tubs for important stuff, and that’s it. We marveled at our friends that have evacuated and their beautiful simplicity. I’m only concerned about a fire in my neighborhood if some fool lights Ute Valley Park on fire or dry lightning strikes, so the threat is real, but not nearly as tangible for us as it is for many others in our personal community. And this shall pass. In 95% of the world, something like this wouldn’t even get attention. I deliberately used hyperbole in my title, because our good friend Major Heather Yun visited us last week. She just completed a six month tour in Bagram, Afghanistan, and she used the analogy of Mordor to describe every day in the summer there, where the sun set like the evil, hostile eye of Sauron, and that’s when there were no fires, and the daily land was lifeless, producing nothing but exploding IED’s. Our local iconic backdrop, the image from so many wedding shoots and business cards, is battered and scarred, but lifeless it is not.