Category Archives: Colorado Springs

Top Ten Rejected Mottos for Colorado Springs: Live it Up!

10.Higher than Denver (oops, people might think we have more MMJ per square mile, too)

9. Unparalleled Command and Control!

Apparently, the newest civic embarrassment is the $111,000 spent on the city’s new branded logo and motto: Live it Up!

The popular consensus seems to be that the logo reminds people of a softball team sponsored by either an ambitious dentist or perhaps a Dairy Queen competitor. In fact, do a tour of social media today, and what you’ll find is an ever-increasing degree of bile and one-up-man-ship as people try to come up with new ways of describing how much they DISLIKE both the logo and the video.

8. Worship 6025′!

7. Worship 14,110′!

The message here is pretty clear: you need to align your brand with your product; therefore, branding only works when you know what your product is. Considering that this was commissioned by the Convention and Tourism Bureau, it’s not that surprising to see a lot of imagery about the outdoors, specifically Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. But from my editorial perspective, what is unbelievably distressing is that the CVB also thought that this would work for creating jobs and appealing to younger professionals. If that’s the audience, how pray-tell does this video appeal to them?

6. Drive To, Over and Through Us!

5. AEROSPACE! Hell, Yeah!

The arts and culture are reduced to sloganeering cheerleaders and exactly 1 second and two images out of almost four minutes.  Most “average citizen” shots appear contrived and forced and possibly done on a single take. There is a single image of the Air Force Academy, and it appears randomly disassociated from everything else. Poor Ralph Routen, editor of the Indy is reduced to talking about driving to the top of Pike’s Peak. Colorado College and UCCS do not make a single appearance in the video. Nor does The Old North End. But there is a guy holding a generic cup of coffee on Canon Ave. complimenting Colorado Springs… except Canon Ave. is in Manitou.

4. Right next door to Manitou!

What’s really missing? A narrative. A story. Check this out:

Downtown COS Highlight Video from Timothy Dumais on Vimeo.

Which one instills civic pride? Which one shows a wide-variety of reasons to visit, maybe even plan a weekend or vacation around? Which one looks welcoming?

Why is narrative important? It engages the audience. Showing is better than telling. It makes it easy to remember. Narrative is worth talking about. Narrative is Benefit, not Feature-Driven. The CVB video spends a great deal of time telling the audience what to think about Colorado Springs, and a lot of them border on hyperbole. No one trusts hyperbole. The Downtown Development Authority’s video shows the audience downtown, and engages them with visual images that are more easily communicated as factual, not someone’s particular opinion.

3. Only 50 minutes from Park Meadows!

2. Come Get Your Monies Worth!

There is a standard that a Vimeo “film” needs to have a much higher production quality than a Youtube “video”. But considering that the Downtown Development video was made for a fraction of the cost and has a considerably higher production quality, the question quickly becomes: “if we’re actually any good, why not make a film?”

1. Like Tulsa, But Different.

Right now on Facebook, Hannah and I are taking a poll as to what people say. It’s terribly scientific in the way that all social media is, responses are volunteered and once critical mass of an opinion’s direction is determined, you’re not likely going to see any variance from that opinion. But look at the reaction to this on The Gazette (90% dislike at this writing), The CSBJ (24-0 dislike right now), and The CSIndy (5-0) and you have to wonder who the committee was that screened this production. Look at the voting on Youtube, where there are Zero Likes, and Nine Dislikes, and only mocking comments.

The reality of the city is much better demonstrated in the Downtown Colorado Springs. When Chris Carmichael talks about the Pro Cycling Challenge, the images anchor his words. When he mentions collaborative efforts by the city, organizations, individuals and businesses, you can see the reality.

What speaks loudest in the CVB video are the people chosen to participate. The video is much more about people speaking and their opinions then it is about the city. But the CVB is supposed to be about creating tourism, conventions, visitors and jobs. It is highly unlikely any of the people in the video would be visited personally or hired for an event. That’s not a ding on the people at all. That’s a strategic problem with the video and the company that created it completely missed the angle of branding.

The Downtown Colorado Springs film uses far more elegant images, cinematography, transitions, modern music… but also captures the product, Colorado Springs. The images are exclusive to downtown. They show people enjoying themselves out and about. Again, back to some scientific polling, but I showed my 8 year old and my twin five year olds both videos. My kids walked away disinterested from the CVB. They came back for the Downtown Colorado Springs film, and what got them excited? Everything. They know Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak first hand. But the Pikes Peak Center? That gets them excited because they’ve seen the symphony there. The rodeo parade is just fun. “There’s Poor Richard’s, brothers!” yelled Andrew. One is someone’s else’s idea of whatever everyone else ought to like. The other is turn-key door opening, a “let me show you…” with a grin.

Successful marketing needs a hook and a narrative. I’m sorry if this post offends, but I’m offended that the city decided to make a video and not a film, to provide opinions rather than show facts, to shout rather than show. As citizens, we deserve better. We’re worth a film. I can show you an example…

Resource Email (October 2011 Update)

<UPDATED OCTOBER 11, 2011> Hannah and I combined are going to end up around $16 to $18 million in sales this year… without an assistant. The shared web of resources we have cultivated (not to mention the peer support through one of the craziest years of our lives) has made this possible. Because we have consistently refined our system, we felt it necessary to update this post from February.

And yes… it grew by 600 words. Hee hee.

Part of utilizing 19 years of combined experience is a depth of allies. Hannah and I use several of the same people for several of the same functions, but have each introduced the other to new resources that deepen our clients’ experience. From REALTOR.com to Harris Interactive to REAL Trends, studies typically report that 90% of all consumers who buy a home start their home-buying experience online; with our client base being slightly younger than average, we know our numbers are 95% to 99%. So one of the things we do as a way of introduction is introduce our new people to resources that are online, and our resources that are local, so they can begin their process from a position of strategic strength.

I’m cheating of course, and creating a blog post out of a sent email. It’s been a couple years, and Rob, I’m sure you’re thrilled to see that I’m back at it; but here goes: The Resource Email BlogPost. Bookmark for your next friend that you refer our way. 🙂

This resource email is a bit of a boilerplate and isn’t terribly personal. But a bit of our story and why these resources are important to us is reflected in the email.

www.BenjaminDay.com or www.HannahParsons.com.

BenjaminDay.com

Content-wise, everything is up and ready on our sites. These sites host a lot of information that you can use before, during and after a transaction. There is an IDX-search site, a term that means that you can search the live MLS. Our monthly market report, the Stat Pack is archived here (and found quickly at http://www.cosrealestate.com). Additionally, the 2011 Annual Report and Forecast is here. I can provide you with a hard copy if you would like one. Our buying process is summarized here and our recommended vendors can be found here. The underpinnings of our business approach are to educate our clients with measurable, objective data when they enter the market (buyers and sellers, both). We believe that it is important that our clients have as deep an education as they can handle in how the market works because the market rules how the game is played. Other companies flatter us with their imitation of the Stat Pack (one company uses the same name), but this is the original report, originating in April 2006 (ironically, the month the market tipped). We are also the only real estate organization that has produced annual reports for each of the last four years, and have projected the single-family sales numbers with 95% accuracy each of the last three years. This is a bit geeky, but it’s also user-friendly. It has charts, it has graphs, it has numbers, it has analysis, it has bottomline answers, it has national perspective, local perspective and micro-market perspective. It’s eight pages of goodness and we want you to at least skim through it. Please. Pretty please.

REALTOR.com: the behemoth of real estate, this is supposed to be current within 15 minutes of MLS listing and is the best place to see photos of properties. I say supposed to be because that is not our experience. We find it up to five days out of date. It is not the best place to get great mapping information or anything that is more personal, or connecting. But it is a good place to see photos and which homes stand out. Remember, REALTOR.com is not an even playing field, even though the name sort of implies that it is all REALTORS collaboratively working together to disseminate listings: I personally pay for premium positioning and add features for my listings. Just because a property is not displayed well (even over a million with only 16 photos and no additional text descriptions, a common occurrence), this should not be a reflection of the property. If you see something here that you want more information about, cross check it at www.PikesPeakUrbanLiving.com or simply text or email us.

<UPDATED!> Yahoo and Zillow.com merged this past March, and now they are the number one site for search. Yahoo is great for syndication purposes (putting real estate on many different web channels) and is outstanding for REALTORS to market their services. Zillow is where our consumers are increasingly spending a lot of their time.

Zillow.com: has become the go-to site for most of our clients, young and old. We are rare in the industry in that we’re big fans. It now showcases most of the listings for sale, and is data-rich. Zillow zestimates are heavily subjective, and that is why most agents pan the site critically. The truth is, we have seen firsthand that Zestimates can be very accurate in any part of town. It also more often than not is a good projector of final selling price. Saying that, it is far less accurate when there is greater price elasticity in a neighborhood (something Hannah and I are big fans of as a concept, it’s where you make your money in any investment, especially real estate). Example: one 3000 square foot home could cost 25% more (or less) than another 3000 square foot home in the same or similar area. That’s pretty elastic. Or, one 3000 square foot home could cost 8% more (or less) than another 3000 square foot home in the same area. That is not very elastic. Most of the nicer neighborhoods built in the 1970’s through 2000 on the westside fall are elastic to heavily elastic, and then there is our historic downtown and The Broadmoor. Zillow is only as good as the data input, and it occasionally misreads the assessor’s site in terms of square footage or floorplan, which is the primary and most critical factor in determining price.

Not everyone uses Trulia.com but we like it for demographic information and trend-spotting. It is best known as a site where there can be all sorts of Q&A between prospective homeowners, lenders, REALTORS, and people who are bored and like to get 100 email alerts a day to answer questions about high-tension powerlines in Dubuque. It’s also a great site to mine for ethics violations, but that’s a REALTOR joke. Moving on: this is a very interactive site, and that’s their niche. The problem for consumers with highly interactive real estate websites is that other agents use these as lead generators, and truthfully, agents love to respond with general, non-specific information about all sorts of things they don’t know much about. So it’s not at all uncommon to ask a question about Colorado Springs and have some one from Laguna Beach answer it. Trulia is a true social site because it is about starting conversations, and if you wanted to ask subjective questions about a neighborhood, this is a good place to do it, because fair-housing should be followed and it’s free. I should note that Zillow has a similar Q&A feature, but you’re less likely to get consumer feedback, and very likely to get broker feedback.

www.pprbd.org:  showcases permit history for the county. This is a great place to see if that roof was really replaced after that hailstorm, or if the homeowner replaced that water heater with a buddy and a six-pack or if they hired a licensed trade. No one is really sure where the gap is, but it appears that online permit history is sketchy 1997 to 2002 on this site. You just don’t see a lot of permits for those years. I still advocate using it.

www.springsgov.com: is technically, the most accurate demographic site, crime site, interactive site. The city provides a lot of information for public perusal. You can link to Trails and Open Space and almost every other entity in the city from here.

http://land.elpasoco.com: is the assessor site and the mapping on it is superb. I use this all the time. Not much in our city government works as well as this site. It’s a very good place for instance to go and pull a plat map on a property and see if that advertisement for open space is actually city-owned open space, or something Jeanine Richardson bought and intended to develop into office condos. How you would do this is input the address you’re looking for, when it pops up select the map, and then simply click on any of the surrounding parcels to find out who owns it. Probably way too much information for buyers just looking online right now, but hopefully it comes with the peace of mind that we will be able to drill down onto some of the specific use issues quickly when you’re looking at property here.

Wanna look for foreclosures? Like the assessor’s site, our trustee’s site is impressive. Call it a nice consumer-centric response to a whiny populace, but in a city where people are constantly appealing their low tax valuations (Assessor) and where we were in the national vanguard of major foreclosures (leading the nation in ’87 & ’88, Top Ten counties nationwide in 2007 and early 2008, that would be the Trustee’s job), the county got smart and made a slick site. You can find ANY foreclosure action on a property in the calendar year on this site. You can search by name, zip code, street, neighborhood, and go back in time with date ranges. It’s great. If you’re a buyer and you’re worried about foreclosures in the townhome complex you like… pay this site a visit.

While we are talking foreclosures, let’s cut to the chase on where to find those suckers. Yeah, that’s right, we said suckers.

Our favorite is www.Homepath.com. That’s because we like getting paid for our work, and these are Fannie Mae foreclosures. Fannie Mae prices their properties right, they’re usually not criminal in their condition, they winterize them before stuff explodes, they pay to de-winterize when you inspect them, and they don’t blink at closing costs. Conventional buyers can buy them with as little as 3% down (inflated rate, but not much) and no mortgage insurance. We almost like www.HomeSteps.com as much, this is the sister quasi-government entity, Freddie Mac’s way of wholesaling properties. Freddie Mac offers some weird two-year home warranty and usually takes more steps to improve property condition before reselling. They don’t price them as well and they’re laborious as all get out in getting deals closed. In both cases, they offer programs in the initial offering for primary resident purchasers only. Investors can come in after 15 days usually. After about 30 days and no contract, Homepath especially will make an aggressive price cut.

Way down the list of foreclosure sites is www.HUDHomestore.com. You can read more about Ben’s personal sentiments of HUD properties in this post which is one of my five most popular posts all time. The new site is a lot better, but HUD homes are a bit more of an adventure and they’re a lot more expensive to inspect for buyers. They also lack the cool $100 down program these days. They still do offer Good-Neighbor Next Door programs for primary resident Teachers and First-Responders.

VA, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and small, local or Colorado bank-owned properties? These list in the MLS. That’s where a custom automated search from us to you is likely necessary. All our clients, once seasoned online, get custom searches, as many as they need (one client this year had 16 different automated searches going on at once).

www.spotcrime.com and www.familywatchdog.us are two “popular” sites for researching crime statistics and other nasty information about areas. Like anything, these sites are only as good as their data, and we don’t endorse either site or any crime-related research site and recommend you use as you choose. We cannot and will not advise you on whether or not a neighborhood is safe. Please keep this in mind about any site that has the intention of showing crime information: it is a lens into the past, not an oracle of the future. As the stock guys say, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. It is very important
that you clearly communicate your impressions of neighborhoods to us as we
cannot enforce our own subjectivities on your lifestyle.

If you would like to see a copy of the Colorado Contract to Buy and Sell Real Estate, a Residential Listing Contract for a Residential Property or Brokerage Relationship (Buyer), we would be happy to send you one via E-Contracts along with the Definitions of Real Estate Relationships. E-contracts is a life-saver for agents, but is usually seen at first as a nuisance by buyers and sellers because the signatures are so shaky-looking. But they usually end up being a great time reducer and have become the standard in our community among agents. We usually like to meet and strategize for 30 to 60 minutes with buyers before showing properties, then show a sample of properties that represent the width and breadth of opportunities for the customers. If this process goes well, at that point we ask for a Buyer Agency contract. This contract is a two-way street and we are a good bit more selective in who we work with; we are talented at what we do, and we offer several very unique services that most brokers do not. We are
strategic negotiators, effective communicators and our personal name and
brokerage have high credibility with real estate peers. Correspondingly, we work with clients that want those skills and reputation working for them, and are willing to work within some of the “constraints” that system provides in order to
reap the privileges and benefits it produces.

Lenders: Colorado went from the least regulated state in the nation for
lending to one of the most severely regulated in 2009. We were in “the
vanguard” of criminal lending activity and the number of licensed lenders
has been sliced in half by these regulations. Correspondingly, it is
critical that a buyer have an ally in the lending process.

We have a number one… and a number one… and a number one. You’re in
great hands with one of these three:
Jim Harmelink
ERA Mortgage
(719) 535-7405
jim.harmelink@mortgagefamily.com
http://jimharmelink.eramortgage.com

Tim Duvall
Academy Mortgage
tim.duvall@academy.cc
http://academymortgage.com/TimDuvall/

Marcy Langlois
Residential Mortgage of Colorado
719.265.5147
mlanglois@rmcolo.com
www.applywithmarcylanglois.com

We encourage you to contact AT LEAST TWO LENDERS EARLY IN YOUR HOME-BUYING PROCESS and do not be afraid to let them know you are shopping around. Each of our recommended lenders have attributes and skills that are unique and we want you to find a good fit. Every one of these lenders has pulled deals out of the fire that should have died and got them to the closing table. Quiz these individuals with your personal questions, your strengths and weaknesses and see what loan they recommend for you. We believe in helping clients make sustainable financial decisions, so do not worry about being over-qualified with any of these lenders; they respect the way we do business and are long-term minded, not transaction-minded. If it’s a toss up and you’re looking for the best loan, it is a good idea to request the same size loan at the same rate on the same day among lenders. Analyze the Good Faith Estimate that they will provide you with the same day, and compare the APR. Mortgage rates are volatile and you need to find out how and when you can lock your loan with each lender. Please allow 15 to 20 minutes per phone conversation when obtaining pre-approval. Hannah and I require Pre-approval in order to look at home (the only exception are cash buyers); it is completely in your best interest to look only at homes you can afford and be able to pull the trigger on an offer that represents you as a solid and straight-forward buyer if you find the right home. Pre-approval dramatically benefits your negotiating position; it requires a credit check and analysis of your assets and income verification. The better picture you present to a seller, the
better you are. If you are a VA customer, it’s a good idea to ask what fees are charged to sellers that are buyer non-allowables. This essentially is a cost of doing business, and it’s good to know as you have to make that request in the initial contract. Each of these individuals are EXTREMELY well-regarded locally. The value to you is that in this day and age no one in the real estate industry likes uncertainty. If a listing agent can tell their seller “this is a lender of strong regard and reputation” that buys you a couple thousand dollars in negotiating. Local agents are generally less enthusiastic about offers from several lenders not mentioned here, and they may convey that to their seller when presenting an offer. By the way, you should know that Hannah and I both authorize these lenders to be “jerks” in the pre-approval stage with the sheer number of questions they ask you. What that means: it is your responsibility to give them everything they ask for, and if you don’t have 100% certainty in an answer, please tell them that. This is not something you can skate through. If it can go wrong, it will. It is much better to get it all out on the table immediately and at the very beginning so you don’t end up finding out three days before closing that your loan is denied, you’ve lost your earnest money, you’ve moved out of your rental and you might have taxes on that fat check Mom and Dad gave you to buy your home. Seriously: please cooperate. Getting a loan stinks with any lender. These three really have your best interests at heart, so no matter how invasive it feels, it’s kind of like a surgery: everyone has a scalpel. Go with the person most skilled in using it who makes the smallest scar. We think we have three that fit that description.

A last note on lenders, many buyers have concerns about having multiple
credit inquiries. This is understandable. The reality is that you are allowed
multiple credit inquiries without it substantially impacting your credit (a dozen points or so) because your multiple inquiries are for the same purpose: primary residence home financing. It’s not a good idea to get a new American Express or check out car financing at the same time, as those are multiple inquiries for different intentions.

Inspectors:
Colorado does not license or certify home inspectors in anyway shape or form. It’s terrible. It’s stupid. Apparently there are more pressing legislative matters as there is no timeline for this to happen.

Since the state doesn’t regulate inspector actions, real estate brokers have the responsibility of policing inspectors and promoting the best.

Lance Heyward
A Precise Home Inspection
(719) 272-0100

Mark McCafferty
Criterium-McCafferty Engineering
(719) 685-2285

Dan Parillo
Housemaster Home Inspector
(719) 799-6409

We also regularly recommend a structural engineer. This is the guy who can tell you if the building is falling down, or in one case “no Ben, this is actually built like a parking garage. This thing is safe in an earthquake. Be afraid of the asbestos in the ceiling, instead.” He’s also a home inspector listed above, Mark McCafferty. Criterium-McCafferty is a trusted name in the engineering world, and if something looks like a big problem, or you have a little problem that will lead to a big problem (a sump pump that chronically won’t work), Mark’s your guy.

After all this information, you will notice that there is something
surprisingly missing: schools. If ever there was a place that sending
information online was suspect or lead to inaccurate information or quite
simply, problems, it’s online. Put simply, both Hannah and I are parents and
pretty involved with our kids’ education. The variety of things that are
important to parents are so wildly subjective and the information that is
promulgated online is intended to be as neutral and objective as possible,
that it becomes very difficult to find exactly what you are looking for. The
last thing we want is to make the process more frustrating. So we recommend
that you actually find out what you can using the sites school districts provide for general information, and then make phone contact with schools directly for more specific information. It never ceases to surprise out of town buyers how open and friendly and accessible the administrations are for many of the schools in the Pikes Peak Region. School choice deadlines are looming, so it’s a good idea to research that process (it is standardized and not subjective) at both school district websites.

Colorado Springs District 11 (central city, largest school district):
http://www.d11.org
Cheyenne Mountain D12 (southwest city, small and generally elite):
http://www.cmsd.k12.co.us/
Academy D20 (second largest, northern city):
http://www.asd20.org
Falcon D49 (eastern city):
http://www.d49.org
Harrison D2 (southern city near Ft. Carson and Peterson AFB):
http://www.harrison.k12.co.us/
Widefield D3 (southern city, near Ft. Carson): http://www.wsd3.org
Fountain/Ft. Carson D8 (on post): http://www.ffc8.org
Lewis-Palmer D38 (Monument, northern county): http://lewispalmer.org/
Manitou Springs D14 (Manitou and Ute Pass, tiny): http://www.mssd14.org/
Woodland Park DRE2 (Rural, west of COS): http://www.wpsdk12.org/

Our business. Hannah Parsons and I teamed up in
November, 2010 under the name Pikes Peak Urban Living. Combined, we have 19 years of experience in helping customers achieve financial stability through
sound real estate decisions. I have been in the real estate business for 12 years after spending three years in the fly-tackle industry helping a company build it’s brand entirely around best-in-industry customer service. Hannah’s prior career was in financial services and when she says that she likes Profit and Loss Statements and Spreadsheets, that’s her MBA speaking. We do not work the entire city, but together specialize and share resources, marketing collateral, vendors, processes and time to optimize our own business practices and personal well-being. Put it this way, there are a lot of burned-out real estate agents going around being all things to all people. Our structure is designed to keep us fresh,
rejuvenated and smarter than our competition. We both are married with
elementary school-age children. I live in D20 and Hannah’s
kids are in D11. We encourage one another and our families share time
together. In business, we look at significantly more property firsthand than
our peers. We construct detailed market reports to help individuals see
clearly what is going on in the market. We take more educational
opportunities than are required to deepen our knowledge. We ask lots of
questions. We are bloggers and social media pioneers that operate in a
transparent, consumer-centric way. We are active participants on multiple
boards and organizations in our community. The majority of our clients
recommend us to a friend or peer within 12 months, something we deeply
appreciate, but also something that is consistent with the framework of our
business: we show our appreciation for our clients by working hard in a
uniquely advantageous way for them, and many of them feel obliged to share
that story with those they trust. This is not an instruction  to start recommending us to your friends and family. But we don’t mind when you do, and that’s the gold-standard in our business: are we worth referring? Honestly, we better be. You deserve that care. That referrability is earned.

We are instructing you to have lots of questions and high expectations. And hopefully after reading a 4000 word blog post, you’ll see that we operate in a strategic fashion rather than a reactionary fashion. We have plans, systems and processes to enhance the home-buying experience with the intention of maximizing the benefit for our clients. That might limit certain hours that we see properties, or it might force us to substantiate plans with specific, actionable data. Our job is to make this process as smooth and as easy as possible, to mitigate risk and maximize opportunity.

Hannah’s contact is (719) 338-2755, hannah@hannahparsons.com. Ben’s is (719) 331-9170, benjamin@benjaminday.com. Each of us have our specialties and there might be questions better suited for a male agent, others for a female agent. You have access to us both. And feel free to text us.

A quick blurb about Selley Group: Hannah and I are enthusiastic to be at this
high-powered boutique brokerage. Cherise Selley is our broker. Cherise has as great a reputation as you can find in the city and happens to be a superb agent and a top producer. The three rarely mix in our culture, and that’s a big reason we are where we are. Cherise and her husband Gordon are internet pioneers in real estate and represent the new generation of consumer-centric business. There are only five licensed agents at the company, but all produce multiples more per year than the average agent, and all of us conduct ourselves with professionalism and respect for our peers. If for any reason you need to contact Cherise or Selley Group, the number is (719) 598-5101.

All our best to you, and we look forward to starting the journey together!

Free Friday Special Edition: Carmageddon… or Blues Under the Bridge?

Here’s a quick example of a PSA circulating throughout Los Angeles this weekend.

Thanks, Ponch. Interesting pitch at the end there. “Just stay home”.

Colorado Springs Residents have some grand options and reasons to NOT STAY HOME this weekend. Here’s one. This is video from 2008 when the legendary Koko Taylor headlined Blues Under the Bridge.

That’s right, we not only have roads you can drive on around here, but you can also hold rockin’ blues concert underneath them. I don’t think you’d dare to that in LA.

For more fun in the sun, Check Out (AND SUBSCRIBE!) to PeakRadar… constantly scanning to keep you from boredom at home in the Rockies.

What Happens to Roadkill in Colorado Springs?

One of the fun things about showing properties in Colorado Springs are mule deer encounters. It’s especially fun when buyers from more “urban” environments who are startled by bucky and Bambi lounging on lawns.

 

A common problem in 80919: Deer that don't even use the grass

But there’s a bit of a problem afoot. Number one, according to the Division of Wildlife, there are too many deer in town. While there are some in-town predators (more on that later), the number one cause of death of a mule deer in the city is an encounter with an automobile. There is no definitive number for the number of mule deer in the city limits of Colorado Springs, but their sheer numbers show how likely an automobile and deer encounter is. A few years ago, the Division of Wildlife conducted a study just in 80905 and 80906, and they found more than 1000 animals ranging from Cheyenne Mountain Park to Skyway. It’s estimated that at least that many live in 80919 up against the Pike National Forest and Air Force Academy. The DOW also estimates that there are 460,000 mule deer in the state. That’s about ten people per mule deer. It probably would not be a stretch to say that there are 3000 to 4000 deer west of I-25 up the pass to Cascade from the Broadmoor to the Academy. Now add to that drought. One of the only places a deer can find water in this super-dry spring is in a gutter. One of the only places the grass is succulent is the suburbs on the lawn of someone that has kept after it all winter. The foothills may look like their appropriate range, but deer are mobile and go to where the pickings are easy and the water is available. In other words, if you live west of I-25, just about anything you plant in your yard is ice cream to a mulie.

 

Now, what I have linked here is not for everyone. You’ll note, I’m not embedding it, because the facts might be interesting, but the video… unappealing to your tastes. It depicts a deer after it has been killed by a car and is turned into… um… burger… in my friend’s garage. In this case, this deer died instantly. Other friends saw it get hit by an SUV. In a time of budget cuts and in a time of most citizenry being completely detached from their food source if it doesn’t come on styrofoam and wrapped in celophane, the sight of a dead or dying animal is a problem, because there is no money in the government budget to clean it up and no one wants to look at it. There is no abundance of CDOT or CDOW workers and trucks to pick up every animal, and remember, we let parks’ lawns burn and die and dim our streetlights around here. Correspondingly, there is no proper way governmental way to dispose of a deer carcass for most citizenry.

There are a few folks though that like the concept of “deputizing” themselves, and ridding the sidewalks and boulevards of dead deer. My friend Morgan is one. He has a state issued tag allowing him to clean up the animal. He shows how to butcher it (field-dress sounds better), and gives a deer anatomy lesson to his two children and my three (I’m the guy in the REALTOR “costume”, the striped shirt, and I hurriedly left showing a million dollar property in Black Forest for the honor of being with my kids at this educational event. Morgan’s the dude in the bloody Carhartts). Here is the video.

The DOW does not give out the number of animals roadkilled every year, but they do give out stats on the number that are “harvested” by hunters statewide. Last year it was 34,750. Considering that they sold 78,600 tags, therefore, almost 4 in 10 hunters got an animal. Yes, I say this as a way of defending the harvesting of a roadkill animal. I don’t hunt, but a lot of my friends do. Almost 35,000 deer were killed by hunters in 2010. The vast majority of those were killed by rifle. A lot of those were taken out of the woods by a truck or an ATV, not by backpack. Very few were taken by archers, my little bully-pulpit of sportsmanship’s preferred method because it seems to be the most equal playing field (a playing field I’m pretty sure the deer still doesn’t agree with).

All that is to say: this deer was already dead. My friend didn’t hit it, he was 15 minutes away when a friend saw it happened and texted him when he got to lunch at Chik-Fil-A. Instead of the animal occupying landfill, it became, well, backstrap and bratwurst. The point is, it was dead, and rather than allowing the resource to rot and go to waste, something productive was made of it.

And yes, I ate some of it. It was fantastic. No, I’m not getting a cattle-grate for the front of the Mercedes, but yes, I can now say I made gourmet roadkill. Here’s the recipe:

Venison Backstrap Peppersteak Filets

  • One Venison Backstrap sliced into two inch medallions (cleaned to remove any deer hair)
  • 3 T Butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 T mixed peppercorns (prefer pink and green to go with black)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cube beef bouillon
  • Herbs de Provence and Salt to taste

After making medallions, press in peppercorns on all sides of the meat and allow it to sit at room temperature covered. Season with salt to taste. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Heat a large cast iron skillet to medium high and melt butter. Add beef bouillon to wine and stir rapidly, set aside. Add garlic and stir frequently to keep from burning. Cook for 30 to 45 seconds until just golden. Add meat. Cook three minutes a side until just firm. Add wine and bouillon mixture and add Herbs de Provence to taste. Allow sauce to thicken and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for about one minute. Plate and serve.

One final note on Living with Wildlife: The DOW is anticipating a terrible bear season. Bears are a reality in the foothills and so are mountain lions to a degree. The foothills of Colorado Springs are packed with scrub oak and they produce an abundance of protein-rich acorns that bears love. Just with the scrub oak alone, the city’s westside is incredible bear habitat. Now add to that garbage. Bears have an uncanny memory for food sources. The DOW had to euthanize more than a half dozen bears in the metro area last year (in fact, when I asked if it was a “half dozen” the terrestrial biologist chuckled and said “oh, it was a good bit more than that”. We’ll stick with a half dozen). So if you live in the foothills, or are heading up the pass, drive a little more carefully. And if you live in the foothills and are planning your summer garden, consider what the deer will eat and won’t eat, and for crying out loud: don’t put your garbage out the night before pick-up. Bears are cool, but a garbage-eating bear is a dead-bear: once it has imprinted trash as tasty, a bear is addicted to trash as a food-source. Often this imprinting happens within one visit to a dumpster or can.

Resource Email

<UPDATED OCTOBER 11, 2011>

Part of utilizing 19 years of combined experience is a depth of allies. Hannah and I use several of the same people for several of the same functions, but have each introduced the other to new resources that deepen our clients’ experience. From REALTOR.com to Harris Interactive to REAL Trends, studies typically report that 90% of all consumers who buy a home start their home-buying experience online; with our client base being slightly younger than average, we know our numbers are 95% to 99%. So one of the things we do as a way of introduction is introduce our new people to resources that are online, and our resources that are local, so they can begin their process from a position of strategic strength.

I’m cheating of course, and creating a blog post out of a sent email. It’s been a couple years, and Rob, I’m sure you’re thrilled to see that I’m back at it; but here goes: The Resource Email BlogPost. Bookmark for your next friend that you refer our way. 🙂

This resource email is a bit of a boilerplate and isn’t terribly personal. But a bit of our story and why these resources are important to us is reflected in the email.

www.BenjaminDay.com or www.HannahParsons.com.

BenjaminDay.com

Content-wise, everything is up and ready on our sites. These sites host a lot of information that you can use before, during and after a transaction. There is an IDX-search site, a term that means that you can search the live MLS. Our monthly market report, the Stat Pack is archived here (and found quickly at http://www.cosrealestate.com). Additionally, the 2011 Annual Report and Forecast is here. I can provide you with a hard copy if you would like one. Our buying process is summarized here and our recommended vendors can be found here. The underpinnings of our business approach are to educate our clients with measurable, objective data when they enter the market (buyers and sellers, both). We believe that it is important that our clients have as deep an education as they can handle in how the market works because the market rules how the game is played. Other companies flatter us with their imitation of the Stat Pack (one company uses the same name), but this is the original report, originating in April 2006 (ironically, the month the market tipped). We are also the only real estate organization that has produced annual reports for each of the last four years, and have projected the single-family sales numbers with 95% accuracy each of the last three years. This is a bit geeky, but it’s also user-friendly. It has charts, it has graphs, it has numbers, it has analysis, it has bottomline answers, it has national perspective, local perspective and micro-market perspective. It’s eight pages of goodness and we want you to at least skim through it. Please. Pretty please.

REALTOR.com: the behemoth of real estate, this is supposed to be current within 15 minutes of MLS listing and is the best place to see photos of properties. I say supposed to be because that is not our experience. We find it up to five days out of date. It is not the best place to get great mapping information or anything that is more personal, or connecting. But it is a good place to see photos and which homes stand out. Remember, REALTOR.com is not an even playing field, even though the name sort of implies that it is all REALTORS collaboratively working together to disseminate listings: I personally pay for premium positioning and add features for my listings. Just because a property is not displayed well (even over a million with only 16 photos and no additional text descriptions, a common occurrence), this should not be a reflection of the property. If you see something here that you want more information about, cross check it at www.PikesPeakUrbanLiving.com or simply text or email us.

<UPDATED!> Yahoo and Zillow.com merged this past March, and now they are the number one site for search. Yahoo is great for syndication purposes (putting real estate on many different web channels) and is outstanding for REALTORS to market their services. Zillow is where our consumers are increasingly spending a lot of their time.

Zillow.com: has become the go-to site for most of our clients, young and old. We are rare in the industry in that we’re big fans. It now showcases most of the listings for sale, and is data-rich. Zillow zestimates are heavily subjective, and that is why most agents pan the site critically. The truth is, we have seen firsthand that Zestimates can be very accurate in any part of town. It also more often than not is a good projector of final selling price. Saying that, it is far less accurate when there is greater price elasticity in a neighborhood (something Hannah and I are big fans of as a concept, it’s where you make your money in any investment, especially real estate). Example: one 3000 square foot home could cost 25% more (or less) than another 3000 square foot home in the same or similar area. That’s pretty elastic. Or, one 3000 square foot home could cost 8% more (or less) than another 3000 square foot home in the same area. That is not very elastic. Most of the nicer neighborhoods built in the 1970’s through 2000 on the westside fall are elastic to heavily elastic, and then there is our historic downtown and The Broadmoor. Zillow is only as good as the data input, and it occasionally misreads the assessor’s site in terms of square footage or floorplan, which is the primary and most critical factor in determining price.

Not everyone uses Trulia.com but we like it for demographic information and trend-spotting. It is best known as a site where there can be all sorts of Q&A between prospective homeowners, lenders, REALTORS, and people who are bored and like to get 100 email alerts a day to answer questions about high-tension powerlines in Dubuque. It’s also a great site to mine for ethics violations, but that’s a REALTOR joke. Moving on: this is a very interactive site, and that’s their niche. The problem for consumers with highly interactive real estate websites is that other agents use these as lead generators, and truthfully, agents love to respond with general, non-specific information about all sorts of things they don’t know much about. So it’s not at all uncommon to ask a question about Colorado Springs and have some one from Laguna Beach answer it. Trulia is a true social site because it is about starting conversations, and if you wanted to ask subjective questions about a neighborhood, this is a good place to do it, because fair-housing should be followed and it’s free. I should note that Zillow has a similar Q&A feature, but you’re less likely to get consumer feedback, and very likely to get broker feedback.

www.pprbd.org:  showcases permit history for the county. This is a great place to see if that roof was really replaced after that hailstorm, or if the homeowner replaced that water heater with a buddy and a six-pack or if they hired a licensed trade. No one is really sure where the gap is, but it appears that online permit history is sketchy 1997 to 2002 on this site. You just don’t see a lot of permits for those years. I still advocate using it.

www.springsgov.com: is technically, the most accurate demographic site, crime site, interactive site. The city provides a lot of information for public perusal. You can link to Trails and Open Space and almost every other entity in the city from here.

http://land.elpasoco.com: is the assessor site and the mapping on it is superb. I use this all the time. Not much in our city government works as well as this site. It’s a very good place for instance to go and pull a plat map on a property and see if that advertisement for open space is actually city-owned open space, or something Jeanine Richardson bought and intended to develop into office condos. How you would do this is input the address you’re looking for, when it pops up select the map, and then simply click on any of the surrounding parcels to find out who owns it. Probably way too much information for buyers just looking online right now, but hopefully it comes with the peace of mind that we will be able to drill down onto some of the specific use issues quickly when you’re looking at property here.

Wanna look for foreclosures? Like the assessor’s site, our trustee’s site is impressive. Call it a nice consumer-centric response to a whiny populace, but in a city where people are constantly appealing their low tax valuations (Assessor) and where we were in the national vanguard of major foreclosures (leading the nation in ’87 & ’88, Top Ten counties nationwide in 2007 and early 2008, that would be the Trustee’s job), the county got smart and made a slick site. You can find ANY foreclosure action on a property in the calendar year on this site. You can search by name, zip code, street, neighborhood, and go back in time with date ranges. It’s great. If you’re a buyer and you’re worried about foreclosures in the townhome complex you like… pay this site a visit.

While we are talking foreclosures, let’s cut to the chase on where to find those suckers. Yeah, that’s right, we said suckers.

Our favorite is www.Homepath.com. That’s because we like getting paid for our work, and these are Fannie Mae foreclosures. Fannie Mae prices their properties right, they’re usually not criminal in their condition, they winterize them before stuff explodes, they pay to de-winterize when you inspect them, and they don’t blink at closing costs. Conventional buyers can buy them with as little as 3% down (inflated rate, but not much) and no mortgage insurance. We almost like www.HomeSteps.com as much, this is the sister quasi-government entity, Freddie Mac’s way of wholesaling properties. Freddie Mac offers some weird two-year home warranty and usually takes more steps to improve property condition before reselling. They don’t price them as well and they’re laborious as all get out in getting deals closed. In both cases, they offer programs in the initial offering for primary resident purchasers only. Investors can come in after 15 days usually. After about 30 days and no contract, Homepath especially will make an aggressive price cut.

Way down the list of foreclosure sites is www.HUDHomestore.com. You can read more about Ben’s personal sentiments of HUD properties in this post which is one of my five most popular posts all time. The new site is a lot better, but HUD homes are a bit more of an adventure and they’re a lot more expensive to inspect for buyers. They also lack the cool $100 down program these days. They still do offer Good-Neighbor Next Door programs for primary resident Teachers and First-Responders.

VA, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and small, local or Colorado bank-owned properties? These list in the MLS. That’s where a custom automated search from us to you is likely necessary. All our clients, once seasoned online, get custom searches, as many as they need (one client this year had 16 different automated searches going on at once).

www.spotcrime.com and www.familywatchdog.us are two “popular” sites for researching crime statistics and other nasty information about areas. Like anything, these sites are only as good as their data, and we don’t endorse either site or any crime-related research site and recommend you use as you choose. We cannot and will not advise you on whether or not a neighborhood is safe. Please keep this in mind about any site that has the intention of showing crime information: it is a lens into the past, not an oracle of the future. As the stock guys say, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. It is very important
that you clearly communicate your impressions of neighborhoods to us as we
cannot enforce our own subjectivities on your lifestyle.

If you would like to see a copy of the Colorado Contract to Buy and Sell Real Estate, a Residential Listing Contract for a Residential Property or Brokerage Relationship (Buyer), we would be happy to send you one via E-Contracts along with the Definitions of Real Estate Relationships. E-contracts is a life-saver for agents, but is usually seen at first as a nuisance by buyers and sellers because the signatures are so shaky-looking. But they usually end up being a great time reducer and have become the standard in our community among agents. We usually like to meet and strategize for 30 to 60 minutes with buyers before showing properties, then show a sample of properties that represent the width and breadth of opportunities for the customers. If this process goes well, at that point we ask for a Buyer Agency contract. This contract is a two-way street and we are a good bit more selective in who we work with; we are talented at what we do, and we offer several very unique services that most brokers do not. We are
strategic negotiators, effective communicators and our personal name and
brokerage have high credibility with real estate peers. Correspondingly, we work with clients that want those skills and reputation working for them, and are willing to work within some of the “constraints” that system provides in order to
reap the privileges and benefits it produces.

Lenders: Colorado went from the least regulated state in the nation for
lending to one of the most severely regulated in 2009. We were in “the
vanguard” of criminal lending activity and the number of licensed lenders
has been sliced in half by these regulations. Correspondingly, it is
critical that a buyer have an ally in the lending process.

We have a number one… and a number one… and a number one. You’re in
great hands with one of these three:
Jim Harmelink
ERA Mortgage
(719) 535-7405
jim.harmelink@mortgagefamily.com
http://jimharmelink.eramortgage.com

Tim Duvall
Academy Mortgage
tim.duvall@academy.cc
http://academymortgage.com/TimDuvall/

Marcy Langlois
Residential Mortgage of Colorado
719.265.5147
mlanglois@rmcolo.com
www.applywithmarcylanglois.com

We encourage you to contact AT LEAST TWO LENDERS EARLY IN YOUR HOME-BUYING PROCESS and do not be afraid to let them know you are shopping around. Each of our recommended lenders have attributes and skills that are unique and we want you to find a good fit. Every one of these lenders has pulled deals out of the fire that should have died and got them to the closing table. Quiz these individuals with your personal questions, your strengths and weaknesses and see what loan they recommend for you. We believe in helping clients make sustainable financial decisions, so do not worry about being over-qualified with any of these lenders; they respect the way we do business and are long-term minded, not transaction-minded. If it’s a toss up and you’re looking for the best loan, it is a good idea to request the same size loan at the same rate on the same day among lenders. Analyze the Good Faith Estimate that they will provide you with the same day, and compare the APR. Mortgage rates are volatile and you need to find out how and when you can lock your loan with each lender. Please allow 15 to 20 minutes per phone conversation when obtaining pre-approval. Hannah and I require Pre-approval in order to look at home (the only exception are cash buyers); it is completely in your best interest to look only at homes you can afford and be able to pull the trigger on an offer that represents you as a solid and straight-forward buyer if you find the right home. Pre-approval dramatically benefits your negotiating position; it requires a credit check and analysis of your assets and income verification. The better picture you present to a seller, the
better you are. If you are a VA customer, it’s a good idea to ask what fees are charged to sellers that are buyer non-allowables. This essentially is a cost of doing business, and it’s good to know as you have to make that request in the initial contract. Each of these individuals are EXTREMELY well-regarded locally. The value to you is that in this day and age no one in the real estate industry likes uncertainty. If a listing agent can tell their seller “this is a lender of strong regard and reputation” that buys you a couple thousand dollars in negotiating. Local agents are generally less enthusiastic about offers from several lenders not mentioned here, and they may convey that to their seller when presenting an offer. By the way, you should know that Hannah and I both authorize these lenders to be “jerks” in the pre-approval stage with the sheer number of questions they ask you. What that means: it is your responsibility to give them everything they ask for, and if you don’t have 100% certainty in an answer, please tell them that. This is not something you can skate through. If it can go wrong, it will. It is much better to get it all out on the table immediately and at the very beginning so you don’t end up finding out three days before closing that your loan is denied, you’ve lost your earnest money, you’ve moved out of your rental and you might have taxes on that fat check Mom and Dad gave you to buy your home. Seriously: please cooperate. Getting a loan stinks with any lender. These three really have your best interests at heart, so no matter how invasive it feels, it’s kind of like a surgery: everyone has a scalpel. Go with the person most skilled in using it who makes the smallest scar. We think we have three that fit that description.

A last note on lenders, many buyers have concerns about having multiple
credit inquiries. This is understandable. The reality is that you are allowed
multiple credit inquiries without it substantially impacting your credit (a dozen points or so) because your multiple inquiries are for the same purpose: primary residence home financing. It’s not a good idea to get a new American Express or check out car financing at the same time, as those are multiple inquiries for different intentions.

Inspectors:
Colorado does not license or certify home inspectors in anyway shape or form. It’s terrible. It’s stupid. Apparently there are more pressing legislative matters as there is no timeline for this to happen.

Since the state doesn’t regulate inspector actions, real estate brokers have the responsibility of policing inspectors and promoting the best.

Lance Heyward
A Precise Home Inspection
(719) 272-0100

Mark McCafferty
Criterium-McCafferty Engineering
(719) 685-2285

Dan Parillo
Housemaster Home Inspector
(719) 799-6409

We also regularly recommend a structural engineer. This is the guy who can tell you if the building is falling down, or in one case “no Ben, this is actually built like a parking garage. This thing is safe in an earthquake. Be afraid of the asbestos in the ceiling, instead.” He’s also a home inspector listed above, Mark McCafferty. Criterium-McCafferty is a trusted name in the engineering world, and if something looks like a big problem, or you have a little problem that will lead to a big problem (a sump pump that chronically won’t work), Mark’s your guy.

After all this information, you will notice that there is something
surprisingly missing: schools. If ever there was a place that sending
information online was suspect or lead to inaccurate information or quite
simply, problems, it’s online. Put simply, both Hannah and I are parents and
pretty involved with our kids’ education. The variety of things that are
important to parents are so wildly subjective and the information that is
promulgated online is intended to be as neutral and objective as possible,
that it becomes very difficult to find exactly what you are looking for. The
last thing we want is to make the process more frustrating. So we recommend
that you actually find out what you can using the sites school districts provide for general information, and then make phone contact with schools directly for more specific information. It never ceases to surprise out of town buyers how open and friendly and accessible the administrations are for many of the schools in the Pikes Peak Region. School choice deadlines are looming, so it’s a good idea to research that process (it is standardized and not subjective) at both school district websites.

Colorado Springs District 11 (central city, largest school district):
http://www.d11.org
Cheyenne Mountain D12 (southwest city, small and generally elite):
http://www.cmsd.k12.co.us/
Academy D20 (second largest, northern city):
http://www.asd20.org
Falcon D49 (eastern city):
http://www.d49.org
Harrison D2 (southern city near Ft. Carson and Peterson AFB):
http://www.harrison.k12.co.us/
Widefield D3 (southern city, near Ft. Carson): http://www.wsd3.org
Fountain/Ft. Carson D8 (on post): http://www.ffc8.org
Lewis-Palmer D38 (Monument, northern county): http://lewispalmer.org/
Manitou Springs D14 (Manitou and Ute Pass, tiny): http://www.mssd14.org/
Woodland Park DRE2 (Rural, west of COS): http://www.wpsdk12.org/

Our business. Hannah Parsons and I teamed up in
November, 2010 under the name Pikes Peak Urban Living. Combined, we have 19 years of experience in helping customers achieve financial stability through
sound real estate decisions. I have been in the real estate business for 12 years after spending three years in the fly-tackle industry helping a company build it’s brand entirely around best-in-industry customer service. Hannah’s prior career was in financial services and when she says that she likes Profit and Loss Statements and Spreadsheets, that’s her MBA speaking. We do not work the entire city, but together specialize and share resources, marketing collateral, vendors, processes and time to optimize our own business practices and personal well-being. Put it this way, there are a lot of burned-out real estate agents going around being all things to all people. Our structure is designed to keep us fresh,
rejuvenated and smarter than our competition. We both are married with
elementary school-age children. I live in D20 and Hannah’s
kids are in D11. We encourage one another and our families share time
together. In business, we look at significantly more property firsthand than
our peers. We construct detailed market reports to help individuals see
clearly what is going on in the market. We take more educational
opportunities than are required to deepen our knowledge. We ask lots of
questions. We are bloggers and social media pioneers that operate in a
transparent, consumer-centric way. We are active participants on multiple
boards and organizations in our community. The majority of our clients
recommend us to a friend or peer within 12 months, something we deeply
appreciate, but also something that is consistent with the framework of our
business: we show our appreciation for our clients by working hard in a
uniquely advantageous way for them, and many of them feel obliged to share
that story with those they trust. This is not an instruction  to start recommending us to your friends and family. But we don’t mind when you do, and that’s the gold-standard in our business: are we worth referring? Honestly, we better be. You deserve that care. That referrability is earned.

We are instructing you to have lots of questions and high expectations. And hopefully after reading a 4000 word blog post, you’ll see that we operate in a strategic fashion rather than a reactionary fashion. We have plans, systems and processes to enhance the home-buying experience with the intention of maximizing the benefit for our clients. That might limit certain hours that we see properties, or it might force us to substantiate plans with specific, actionable data. Our job is to make this process as smooth and as easy as possible, to mitigate risk and maximize opportunity.

Hannah’s contact is (719) 338-2755, hannah@hannahparsons.com. Ben’s is (719) 331-9170, benjamin@benjaminday.com. Each of us have our specialties and there might be questions better suited for a male agent, others for a female agent. You have access to us both. And feel free to text us.

A quick blurb about Selley Group: Hannah and I are enthusiastic to be at this
high-powered boutique brokerage. Cherise Selley is our broker. Cherise has as great a reputation as you can find in the city and happens to be a superb agent and a top producer. The three rarely mix in our culture, and that’s a big reason we are where we are. Cherise and her husband Gordon are internet pioneers in real estate and represent the new generation of consumer-centric business. There are only five licensed agents at the company, but all produce multiples more per year than the average agent, and all of us conduct ourselves with professionalism and respect for our peers. If for any reason you need to contact Cherise or Selley Group, the number is (719) 598-5101.

All our best to you, and we look forward to starting the journey together!

2011 Annual Forecast: Part I

How is the market?

I love the question, but have to prep anyone I know that I’m as big a windbag as anyone they’ll ever meet in real estate. I can talk the pros and cons and opportunities and pitfalls like anyone.

For the sake of everyone’s oxygen-supply, I’ve found it’s better to show how the market is rather then tell.

Page 2 of the 2011 Annual Report and Forecast

This is Page 2 of the 2011 Annual Report and Forecast.

This page tells everything that is going on in the macro-market. It doesn’t tell you much about what’s going on down the street from your home, but it does tell you what sellers are feeling and what buyers are seeing. This is the pulse of the market.

This page shows four different trends in graph form: Monthly Listing and Sale trends for the last six years; units listed versus units sold for the last six years; months of inventory (sales-rate) for the last six years; and pricing comparisons (all listings, new listings and solds) for the last six years.

As many people know and acknowledge, 2005 was the peak boom year nationally and locally for the real estate market. That is the baseline for comparison for 2010 sold data in all six graphs.

The relationship between monthly listing inventory and monthly sales was most of out whack in Summer 2005 and Winter 2008. The 2005 sales year was characterized by high purchasing and low inventory; 2008 was characterized by high inventory and low purchasing. But in 2009, inventory started to return to more normal levels. Demand picked up. This lead to a more balanced market. This lead to declarations that maybe the end of the slump was at hand (yours truly: guilty).

What few anticipated was the rapid build-up in listing inventory in the first six months of 2010. Inventory increased from just under 4000 to 6000 in less than 180 days. This spike in inventory actually out-paced the massive listing build-ups (on a percentage basis) in 2006 and 2007. Following the expiration of the tax credits June 30th, the lid was coming off of inventory while demand disappeared. July 2010 was the worst summer sales month in decades. It was then eclipsed by August. Quarter 3 sales were off 26.9% from 2009.

The massive drop in Quarter 3 explains why 2010 ended up as the worst performing year for sales in the last decade. Sales began to pick up moderately in November and December, but the four to five month echo behind the expiration of the tax credits radically changed the game. For the year, it was more probable your home listed for sale would not sell, then sell.

Six months is considered a balanced market. That means prices are not likely to go up or down, but stay flat. Less then six months sustained gives pressure to rising prices; over six months gives credibility to falling prices. Again, this is the market as a whole. There are neighborhoods in the $300K’s with 4 months inventory today; there are neighborhoods in the low $200K’s with 10 months inventory today. But 2010 looked more like 2007 and 2008 then 2009 when the year ended with less than six months on the board. It is worth noting that months of inventory has actually declined through the fall into winter on a monthly basis, after peaking at over 10 months in August. But this graph indicates further threats to pricing in 2011.

For my money, this is the craziest graph of them all, and it doesn’t have to do with my color scheme. It’s all lines merging towards some sort of magnetic pole. Since February 2009, average price has steadily increased. Since approximately the same time, new listings coming to market have moderated their expectations. At the start of Summer, 2009, total listing price began to drop. The average list price in the market has dropped by more than 20% in the last 20 months, while average price has risen to 2004/2005 levels again. In the last four months, when listing volume has slackened notably, sellers that are coming on are increasingly coming on in lower price ranges and/or are coming on closer to in-line with price expectations. If you’re looking for a new listing in the $500K’s, keep waiting; not many have hit the market lately. But if you’re hoping that sellers would quit over-pricing their homes, start looking at inventory again. Right now, new to market average asking price and average selling price are identical as 2011 begins.

So what to make of all this?

We’ll keep un-packing the story later this week. This is some of the data. I’d love to make a neat and tidy explanation of all this, but that would be 1.) cheating and 2.) inaccurate. There’s more data to share to complete the picture and generate the forecast.

What you Focus on Expands: Lousy Data Collection Proves Nothing

It isn’t simply right-brain holistic woo-woo Tony Robbins-loving people that can channel energy into a result.

REALTORS can do it.

HOA’s can do it.

As proof in the new Que, Economists can do it, too.

Take a look at this photo.

If you have access to a pen and pencil (it doesn’t work well on an iPad), scratch out one of these for yourself.

Take a length of twine, maybe 18″ long and tie a lightweight metal washer to it. Prop your elbow up on a table and suspend the washer over the crossed lines in the middle of the diagram, and feel free to use your fingers to stabilize it for a moment. Then focus on only the washer.

Start thinking in your mind:

1. 3. 1. 3. 1. 3.

What just happened?

Now tell the washer “stop. Stop. Stop.”

Mmhmmm…

Now start thinking in your mind, focusing on the washer, “2. 4. 2. 4. 2. 4.”

Now tell the washer “stop. Stop. Stop.”

Tell it to go “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4…” Tell it to go in reverse.

It obeys. Brain energy can move the washer. Four year olds can do this. What you focus on expands.

I say all of this because an issue of economic concern has arisen in Colorado Springs: A Public Perception of Renewable Energy. The results of the survey were just published in Southern Colorado Economic Forum’s Que, Volume 8, No 4, 2010, and it concludes: people don’t want renewable energy and won’t pay for it. Upon closer examination, I question their findings under the same premise as a washer, some twine and a numeric pie sketch: what you focus on expands. The demographic sought to answer these questions was overwhelmingly older (almost half over 60) and overwhelmingly wealthy (just under 70% made more than $125,000.

Here is a graphic that shows the age breakdown: “The greatest proportion of responses were obtained from people who are over 60 (60-64, 24.6% and 65 or older 21.8%). Young adults were not part of the target audience. Homeowners were targeted.”

Young adults are not homeowners? Why did the tax credit work? What is especially amazing is the disconnect between “homeowners” and “homebuyers”. According to the National Association of REALTORS Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, only 17% of all buyers in 2008 through 2009 (latest data that is available) were older than 55 years old. But 46.4% of the respondents were over 60 for this survey… AND… considered the proper target audience? As far as who owns a home, perhaps the better question about whether or not people will pay for renewable energy are people thinking about paying for a home: in other words, not homeowners, but homebuyers.

In 2008/09, the same number of people 18 to 24 bought homes as were 65 to 74 (6%). In fact, 62% of all buyers were under 44, with one in three (34%) 25 to 34. In the Que’s Renewable Energy study, one in four respondents was born between 1945 and 1950. These people were definitely likely homeowners; but they were not likely homebuyers. Correspondingly, they can form answers in a theoretical bubble: they probably won’t be impacted by the answers like a majority of a population whose answers went unsolicited.

Yet what did the survey want to know? Questions that effect homebuyers just as much (if not more) than homeowners.

  • Are wind farms aesthetic?
  • Would you buy a house with solar panels?
  • Would you pay a premium for a house with solar panels?
  • Would you install renewable energy on your home?

These are all questions that are valid of an audience or segment that:

  1. is planning on buying a home in the next 3 to 5 years
  2. might need to buy a home in the next 5 to 10 years
  3. is concerned about resource use for the next 30 to 50 years and
  4. would be an end-user benefactor/opponent of such resources/expenses

My problem with this might come across as intolerant, youthfully naive, even punkish. I can live that. But 60 years and older with a household income of over $125,000 at least needs to be defended as the target audience for something as audacious and planning intensive as renewable energy use. Would not a far better demographic  have been the individuals that at least would theoretically pay for it, not even willingly, but as utility subscribers of the future?

We are two decades away from a society that claims half the energy use from non-fossil fuels… at the earliest. That 46% of the audience over 60 years old is very likely concerned with their daily expenses, and rightly so. Ask their opinion of any municipal infrastructure improvement, and you will probably see a pattern of answers at least somewhat similar to how they answered about renewable energy. Almost 70% of the respondents made more than $125,000 a year (69.6%), clearly a number that does not match at all with the voting demographic patterns of El Paso County. Similarly, it does not represent the majority of homebuyers, nor does it represent even the majority of homeowners. Here is a breakdown of home income among buyers in 2008/09:

So to see that only 43.6% would “maybe” pay a premium for renewable energy and 34.5% said that they would not… well… let’s consider the audience. These same individuals statistically speaking probably would not favor increased taxes: they have more to lose. They probably would be less likely to approve school construction expenditures: they don’t have elementary or secondary-aged children.

The survey makes a statement that says “a naive expectation suggested well-educated, high-income homeowners would be willing to pay more for renewable energy.” Anyone with any insight into human behaviors, even Freakeconomics-lovers, understands the fallacy of that statement. There is a big difference between well-educated, high income homeowners that are over 60 and those that are under 50, and especially those that are under 40. Are their fewer high-income, high-educated homeowners under 40 than above 60? Yes. But if the defense of the question being asked is really “does renewable energy improve public perceptions about property and property values”… don’t ask a homeowner. Ask a buyer. In this case, the 92% of the audience (93% in the West) that was younger than 65. Perhaps the answers would be the same. Nothing says they must be different. But to isolate the audience as neatly as this survey leaves a lot of the validity of the answers, and how well they truly represent public opinion, in question.

Afterall… what you focus on, expands.