Tag Archives: Pikes Peak Urban Living

Epi Central: Co-Work arrives in Downtown Colorado Springs, and of course, it took Hannah to do it

A quick, but big, kudo to business partner Hannah Parsons.

Hannah Parsons

Hannah was just featured this week in the Colorado Springs Business Journal for her entrepreneurship, and practical action of opening the downtown’s first co-working space. They do offer advanced degrees in entrepreneurship, and that was Hannah’s MBA focus. A participating member of our unique and charming downtown, Hannah is consistently looking for opportunities to take “quaint” and make that “thrive”. Next week, the “downtown offices of Pikes Peak Urban Living” become official, as we join other entrepreneurs at Hannah’s Co-Work Venture, Epi Central in the 400 block of Tejon. To the jealousy of the real estate community, Epi Central is across the street from PPAR.

Part of the real estate future shock is that money is rarely in the brokerage. The money isn’t even in the dirt. The money is in the ideas. The money is in the process. The money is in the relationship. The money is in the tribal leadership. Yep, real estate needs to start acting like something buzz-worthy. I have many times referred back to Seth Godin, from Purple Cow to his address to the National Association of REALTORS in 2007. Seth saw the end of business as REALTORS knew it in a single cursory glance and seeing all the frailties, and all of the unimaginative reinventions it was avoiding. Among Seth’s best pieces of advice was to start a blog. That probably made the majority of the old guard real estate practitioners in attendance roll the eyes, but that’s because they missed the sentence that came after “start a blog”. That sentence was “in order to organize your tribe.” You can’t glaze over that sentence. You can run like hell away from it, but you can’t glaze over it.

In other words, you can blog about real estate. You can regurgitate facts. You can do “market reports”. You can showcase the trim on a house. You can talk about the walkability of a neighborhood. You can check in with Foursquare. You can become the mayor of a coffee shop. It’s all nice. It might be helpful. But what about being a thought-leader? What about building a permission asset?

At the core of it, that’s what Co-Working is all about. That’s why Hannah is so cool. Hannah is about building permission assets. She is about sharing. She’s about strange bedfellows. She’s about attorneys sharing space and white board with social media marketers, putting designers and architects and gardeners in the same room, and giving them lots of fun seats and flex space to spur on their creativity. She’s about being lean, but not mean, practical while still encouraging depth.

Entrepreneurs don’t take instructions very well. They’re too damn inquisitive. They learn by doing and sometimes, that means ignoring the instruction manual. It doesn’t mean throwing out the rules or bypassing ethics, in fact, on the contrary. It just means that business as usual should always be questioned. Co-work is kind of like a thoughtfully inexpensive Montessori for professionals. Coming from me, who has given five years to Giving Tree Montessori (yes, the Indy’s best childcare/preschool two-years running), that’s a compliment.

Hannah: way to go. Thanks for questioning business as usual. Again.

Our First Year at Selley Group: Pikes Peak Urban Living @ 1

This time last year, we were buying new signs, sending proofs to Santa Fe for new business cards, and in my case, cleaning out an office that had way too much stuff in it until 11:30 at night. The first “day in the office” was November 2nd, but Hannah Parsons and Benjamin Day joined the tribe at Selley Group one year ago today on November 1st, 2010.

I could have Photoshopped a candle onto the tree...

Both of us have experienced our best year ever. Hannah is closing five sides in six days right now. She has already had her best year ever, and I’m having my most profitable. But the signature of our first year together, which started with a lot of audacious, “we’ll do this better and that better” sorts of strategic planning is this: being.

Good writing isn’t supposed to use the passive voice in American English. You’re not supposed to get introspective and Shakespearean with your “to be’s and not to be’s”. The Bard was a deep thinker and what was going on beneath the surface – be it torment or motivation – was as important as what was going on above the surface. But American English doesn’t like the “passive” inner voice. It likes action verbs. It likes moving forward. The most American of presidents was Teddy Roosevelt, and he embodied everything American by constantly rushing forward in a whir. He was the Rough-Rider who took San Juan Hill for crying out loud.

Constantly rushing forward in a whir is tempting. Real Estate succumbs to 24/7 action-verb life pretty easily. On the surface, our production numbers this year are tangible metrics for what we’ve accomplished. They don’t even begin to tell the story however. The story starts in the passive voice of being.

This year has been a journey for both Hannah and I. Real Estate as an industry is in tumult. The failings of our industry caused the Great Recession and the continued sputtering in this enormous sector are continuing the malaise. We are surrounded constantly by the grouchy, the upside-down, the burned-out, the flighty and the burned. Real Estate for decades has embodied the American Dream for both practitioners and owners: start your own small business and be self-directed; enjoy the fruits, benefits and pride of home-ownership. Today, it embodies American Angst: live in fear of your business failing, act out of lack of trust, scheme, plot and scratch to keep your head above water; make all your decisions out of a spreadsheet, and allow the mistakes of the past to carry-over into the present and future where they are destined to reappear. We have begun year six of a less-than-thriving industry. The number of agents practicing in our business is down 40% from October 2007.

The origins of our partnership came from the problems of going 24/7 into American Angst, and the hope for something a bit better and more humane. There should be a little happiness in your work. You should have peers and allies. There should be a thoughtful perspective to share the results of a well test. There should be an empathetic listener when buyers’ choose to default. There should be a way to have a life for four or seven or fourteen days at a time without cell coverage. There should be a way to be a spouse and a parent without worrying about a transaction. There should be a way to not have to bring home the weight of so many burdens, every evening, every day.

Pikes Peak Urban Living is a joint marketing venture. Sometimes we share clients where I will do a listing and Hannah the buy side, and presently, behind the scenes, we are creating a fantastic, online, client-resource as a shared project. But what we’ve accomplished in our first year is a little more balance, a little more space, a little more focus, a little more perspective, and a little more presence. The culture of our business does not typically brag about increasing  value per hour or being able to stay at home with a sick child or carving pumpkins on the front lawn on a 65 degree Sunday afternoon, but that’s what we wanted to be about when we started this 365 days ago, and that’s what we are becoming.

And there is that passive verb, yet again. It’s a journey. It’s not defined by actions and activities and  metrics achieved and other metrics unfulfilled; instead, it is defined by Hannah being able and wanting to rush out  to cover an appraisal appointment for me last Friday night when an appraiser scheduled an appraisal on a vacant house on 2 hours notice (instead of the usual 1-2 days) and I had Trunk or Treating with the kids and Amy was in Virginia. Or me covering for Hannah tonight at an appointment with an architect because she’s supposed to be at a closing that got delayed, and Bob can be home at that hour to be home with sick kids.

If this sounds to you like it’s all about us, well you bet it is. And if you’re wondering how this benefits you, ask yourself this: do you want an agent that’s tired, burned-out, making short-cuts in life and has no money in their bank account and therefore cannot give you advice without personal sacrifice or compromise? Or do you want someone that has an ally, a larger perspective and is making sustainable business decisions with constant accountability?

After one year, we can’t say at all “Mission Accomplished.” We’re on a journey. We’re trying to live a better story. We’re embracing the “be”. We can say we have cut superfluous chatter, reduced distractions, given it our all, and been happier with our business than we have in years.

Thanks for journeying with us as we embark on year two.

Pikes Peak Urban Living at ONE: How Aeschylus birthed The Stat Pack

Imagine 32,  19 and 20 year olds learning (in some cases literally) at the feet of two professors who are married to each other in a class that covers everything in Western culture from The Bacchanalia to Freudian libido. It’s a large, sunny family room of a Victorian, mining-era home with wing chairs, chaise lounges, dreadlocked freshmen in thermarest loungers, towering first-line hockey players and a half dozen people who easily could have gone to Williams or Yale but thought the winters in New England would suck and therefore, came west to be intellectually fabulous and a mere two hour drive from Breck in their late model 4Runner. Everyone in the room is smarter than you. In the classroom are several future attorneys, surgeons, human rights activists, an individual that to this day is one of the brilliant political puppeteers in all of Colorado and yours truly. It’s the 1994 edition of Colorado College’s Greek History and Philosophy.

To keep it simple, here’s a Wikipedia synopsis of Aeschylus’ amazing Orestia, specifically Agamemnon.

The play Agamemnon (Ἀγαμέμνων, Agamemnōn) details the homecoming of Agamemnon, King of Argos, from the Trojan War. Waiting at home for him is his wife, Clytemnestra, who has been planning his murder, partly as revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia, and partly because in the ten years of Agamemnon’s absence Clytemnestra has entered into an adulterous relationship with Aegisthus, Agamemnon’s cousin and the sole survivor of a dispossessed branch of the family, who is determined to regain the throne he believes should rightfully belong to him.

You wonder why the Greeks are rioting. They used to be great.  Clytemnestra is a 2600 year-old example that life is not resolved in a P&L. Agamemnon just won the flipping Trojan War people… he’s the conquering hero of the age. Clytemnestra, if motivated by a profit-motivation, is in the proverbial catbird seat. Her man is home, and her man owes. Instead, cause does not equal a neat and tidy effect, and she murders him. You really have to read Aeschylus (preferably out-loud with others, make some spanikopita, get some grape leaves and wine, it’s fun) to get the full effect of this early heroine of feminism’s motivation. Let’s just say it is timeless because life doesn’t work in mechanical input-equals-output ways. It is timeless because it is eerily true in a way that surprises us with it’s unpredictable familiarity. To accelerate the gamut of emotions, it’s something like this: “Wait… she did what? That way? Wow. Yeah. I could see that. Wow.”

Fast forward two decades and Aeschylus is as relevant as he was 2600 years ago. My advisor at CC said “there is truth, and then there is the meta-truth”. She was talking about the dot and the dot and the dot that people see as life’s datapoints… and then the artistry that was woven between those dots. To use math language, what if the dot and the dot and the dot that we see from a distance on one plain as a triangle are actually being influenced by poles on two additional planes… how will we know to even look for those poles? Well, immersion in the Classics (and Philosophy, and Political Theory and Ancient Language and all four major epochs of western history) has a way of getting one’s brain past simple face value. We read the Orestia in a night, then read large chunks in the round with assigned parts, and debated and tore it apart for three hours straight with two phenomenal teachers who usually didn’t agree with each other. Sure, knowing the facts and details is important for the bucket list of education; but knowing why it all worked the way it did, and how other examples can later unfold, that’s something else entirely different and far more potent.

People who buy their residence based on Excel are usually the same ones selling a year later. They came to a vital decision in what academia calls STEM-thinking (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). STEM-thinking allows you to see  clearly all the objective pieces (the dots), even all the objective pieces interacting on the board. But it doesn’t tell you how they might interact on the board, why they interact, why things are not always mechanical or systematic… and it also doesn’t tell you to look for outside influences that can break down the relational structures. Mechanical STEM-thinking hates things like “personality”.

And if this all sounds like high-minded, ivory-tower horse pucky, well, it is horse pucky, but it ain’t ivory tower. A social psychology professor friend (CC ’97, represent!) posted this great article from The Economist today on Facebook, the need for more anthropologists on Wall Street. The Economist, an international standard-bearer of rational, empirical thought, is puffing up a colleague over at The Financial Times, another standard-bearer of the left-brain P&L crowd. And one of the sharpest tacks out there is a Cambridge educated Ph.D in… anthropology. Gillian Tett predicted a credit-default-fueled implosion in 2005, largely because she understood inter-personal relationships. To quote: “But the other thing is, if you come from an anthropology background, you also try and put finance in a cultural context. Bankers like to imagine that money and the profit motive is as universal as gravity. They think it’s basically a given and they think it’s completely apersonal. And it’s not. What they do in finance is all about culture and interaction.” This line of thought sees financial crises before they happen. It explains why banks, who are in the money of usury, are not lending money to suitable borrowers (inventing metrics for trust and relationships). It explains the political ramifications and vendettas of our present day.

What Hannah and I do in real estate, finance, economics, is far more about culture and interaction then it is about a gravitational attraction to profit. Today I got to speak to someone that was looking for 500 acres to lease for wild horse habitat. There is, let’s see, exactly no money to be made in this project if I’m thinking like a banker. Like, um, nothing. And since most 500 acre land owners in eastern Colorado subscribe to the theory of highest and best use (see Banning-Lewis Ranch and it’s dangerous infatuation with gas leases of late) putting a very small number of horses that need huge range on an oversized property is what economists call “a sunk cost”. How do Hannah and I see that? First, educate on the prevailing winds of sunk cost, but then flush out the angle of what the opportunity cost looks like: Good will. Story-telling. Common hearts. Who are the players. How do we get Catamount Institute involved? Who in CC’s Environmental Science Department might be a catalyst? Can we get media, the visuals are superb, but media will likely have to pay for a night’s lodging with the day long drive to Montana so we really need to craft a home run here to get them on-board… etc.  What will Hannah and/or I make on this? Are you serious? Anything? Probably nothing. In the short-term.

Will we learn something? In the short and long-term, we will.

We don’t have it nailed. Goodness no, we don’t. That’s why we don’t do this blog for SEO. We do it for a finite audience that wants something different, who doesn’t trust easy answers and wants to make lasting decisions of value.

The Stat Pack is well into it’s sixth year, bigger, fuller, richer with more data than ever. About 85% of the Stat Pack is data and charts. What we do differently is that 15% of subjective. It allows us to craft lessons and strategies that are not as universal as gravity and are completely personal.


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.


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

Tim Duvall
Academy Mortgage

Marcy Langlois
Residential Mortgage of Colorado

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.

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):
Cheyenne Mountain D12 (southwest city, small and generally elite):
Academy D20 (second largest, northern city):
Falcon D49 (eastern city):
Harrison D2 (southern city near Ft. Carson and Peterson AFB):
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!

The Redfin Agent Scouting Report

"Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword" indeed...

Sometimes, someone else’s blogpost is so much more salient than anything I can write.

Other times, you have to head off the train. The Redfin Agent Scouting Report is such a train, and some agents will hate/be terrified/jump out of the way of this train.

In a nutshell, the Agent Scouting Report extracts MLS data on agents and maps it. Think about that for a second. Just like Congressman have to disclose who gives campaign donations, just like Fantasty Football uses Moneyball-style Sabermetrics, just like publicly-traded companies have to disclose their financial reporting, a private company (Redfin) extracts MLS information (constructed for and by local dues-paying members) on those practicing it and displays it in a mapped format showing who sold how much and where.

Glenn Kelman said (in)famously in the 60 Minutes piece 4.5 years ago “I work in the most screwed up industry in America”, and most of institutional real estate is going to hate Redfin all the more. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the Agent Scouting Report, but some of that has to do with my entrepreneurial-side saying, “Why didn’t I think of that first?”, and the other part is “I really don’t care.” I would have no fear that this information will show my occasional sales in BRI, N/E and TRI (I use the passive “would” because Redfin presently serves the Denver Metro Area, but not Colorado Springs, and I doubt they’ll enter our market anytime soon for economy-of-scale reasons) and I would like the fact that it shows how much I sell in N/W, and it actually really pleases me when it shows which listings I had that didn’t sell (strangely… they were overpriced!). I don’t think this information in the public’s hands would have any negative impact on my business model and can see how it would have a positive impact. But I’m practical like that, and I don’t get bent on polemics behind MLS data being used in ways that don’t support the monster-brokerage business model of 1999.

The major reason why The Agent Scouting Report won’t effect us much (for good or for bad) is that Pikes Peak Urban Living uses a word-of-mouth business model, not a production-centric business model. The Agent Scouting Report is another one of those attempts to distill everything down to a quantifiable, economic datapoint, and funny, I’ve never had a buyer buy a property due to overwhelming, quantifiable, economic datapoints, and thank goodness, I can’t think of a single client that worked with me for overwhelming, quantifiable, datapoint reasons. Hannah likely seconds this. The people who end up talking to Hannah and I end up talking to us because there is something “other” about us that they want access to. It could be that we don’t pretend to be smart about areas where we know nothing (um, Falcon. Park County. Southeast Colorado Springs. Broadmoor Resort Community). It could be that we use a defined system that sellers and buyers both readily understand carries a benefit for them (The Home-Selling Catalyst with pre-sale inspections, professional staging, professional photography, custom sites, social media distribution, use of Postlets and Zillow; Our Home-Buying System which calculates probability of sale, previews properties and leans on the knowledge of The Stat Pack to help facilitate a smart buy of a perfect property). It could be that we are accountable, honest, accessible, and like our employing broker Cherise Selley, tenacious on behalf of our people.

Hannah and I are both having our best ever financial years, with Hannah already at her highest-ever sales volume, and I’m on pace to have my 2nd highest year ever in terms of sales volume and units (better than 2005). Yesterday’s closing put me ahead of last year’s units. I have four more under contract and I’m working ten buyers that want to close in 2011. So the Redfin Agent Scouting Report is fine by us. Here is something else that’s fine by us: the “Why” behind why Glenn Kelman decided this was in Redfin’s best interests (from The Redfin blog, but courtesy of the brilliant lads at 1000WattConsulting):

In some cases, what you’ll see is that an agent at another brokerage is a better fit for that neighborhood, an inevitability that has been a source of great controversy within Redfin. Why would we ever help anyone realize that a Coldwell Banker agent is her best choice?

But once you ask that question, you’ve already framed the debate in terms of short-term consequences rather than long-term principles. It leads you down a path where every market analysis concludes that it’s a good time to buy, and every review of a Redfin agent is five-stars.

The world doesn’t need more brokers like that. It needs a broker who will just tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We’ll win more clients that way than we’ll lose — and we’ll win everyone’s trust.

The Stat Pack after the Downgrade

This post rated AA+.

From the subjective analysis that concludes the forthcoming August 2011 Stat Pack.

Advice for market participants:
SELLERS: You are right to believe that absolutely everything favors buyers right now including the price tag on your house. The question you must ask yourself is this: if you were a buyer in this market and this was the first-time you encountered your house, would you buy it? Would you buy your house during a time when the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is questionable? When the US lost it’s AAA credit-rating? When job security was so tenuous? Yes, this is made up for by the fact that values are depressed, interest rates are incredibly low, and there are 20% fewer homes to choose from then just one-year ago. While all the data is positive as far as “the deal” is concerned, buyers are taxed with everyday concerns that make ANY compelling decision to buy your home  or someone else’s, extremely difficult. Whatever you can do to mitigate those concerns: do it.
BUYERS: This is the very definition of a kick-yourself market. Will you kick yourself for buying in this market? Or will you kick yourself for missing the boat and not buying? EITHER could be true. YOU are the only one that can answer that question, and it must be answered based on your personal situation. In the last 40 years, housing has not been this affordable. And at the same time, the perceived risk of making any major financial investment due to multiple circumstances beyond your control has never appeared greater. If you are in it for the long-haul, and that is defined as a period of time longer than five years of occupancy and ownership, then this is a brilliant market of markets to buy into. If you have any degree of uncertainty about five years of ownership, you best act quick on any decent rental, because there is only 1 – 3% occupancy out there in single-family rental properties.
A memory from my time studying history at Colorado College: freshmen regularly observed that “we learn from history” and “history repeats itself”. These comments would then be thrown out like fresh meat to a pack of starved lions, also known as the upperclassmen, who would pepper the room with their Aristotelian intellect, essentially rehearsing their law school application interview with startling logical brilliance. Of course we learn from history. Of course it repeats itself. But the implications of x and variables y and z will later cause the following courses of action, either action A or action B. It was simple. We were post-Cold War, Clinton-era wunderkids. We had it all figured out. Here was an orderly, systematized world that was easily understood and readily grasped.

Fast forward 15 years…
Standard and Poors just downgraded America’s credit rating to AA+. And the historical precedent for this is what exactly? Beyond that, the administration of this variable onto the system known as global finance will cause what future courses of action? A, B… Z?  Why did Standard and Poors downgrade Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac this past Monday, and not in 2009? Why is France with a substantially larger percentage of debt to GDP still rated AAA? Why can’t I defend away $2 trillion mathematical errors? Does it matter?
The bizarro land of real estate invokes the immortal words of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson (which strangely becomes more relevant with each passing year) “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”. There is no editorial accident in constructing a SWOT analysis to lead-off this month’s Stat Pack that shows all strengths and all opportunities as the present condition of the real estate market. Without getting too subjective, it is pretty safe to say that everything out there in the real estate market is really good right now: prices are mostly stable, inventory levels are down substantially, foreclosures are down by over 30% from a year ago (which was down off of 2009), interest rates are microscopic at 4.25% as of this writing, prepaid PMI programs give buyers with high credit, real income and the knowledge to buy in good areas incredible opportunities right now and quite a few sellers want/need to make a deal. Everyone of those statements is objectively, measurably accurate.
The problem has to do with everything else that is beyond the consumer’s ability to control. When you buy real estate you participate in world finance, like it or not. All those subprime mortgages were tied to Mexican banana farms which were tied to Thai import/export companies which were tied to Korean manufacturing which were tied to Irish discount airlines. The series of dominoes from one man’s excessive spending in 2005 and subsequent foreclosure in 2007 ended up carrying global implications because bits and pieces of his mortgage and hundreds of other defaulting mortgages were scattered around the globe to investors in all corners. Everybody, everywhere owned just a little bit of everyone else’s little debts. No problem, until a bunch of those (ahem, AAA-rated) debts start to go bad. In the thunderclap that followed this meltdown, the economy of trust was broken. Banks slammed the doors of trust shut in late August 2007 and have barely cracked them back open. Now ten years removed from 9/11 and the beginnings of a war that has seen the sacrifices of a volunteer armed forces, we live in a society that suffers from disaster-fatigue, where meltdowns are increasingly common and increasingly expected. What’s the next order of magnitude to steal away the headlines? Just when you think you have seen it all, something new happens. And the backdrop for this is an ever-more-toxic political climate, where civil discord is a relic of the past.
Why this matters: Sellers more often than not bought in a feel-good era. Buyers today are buying in a feel-worse era. When sellers bought, their motivations were very different than today’s buyers. More likely, the reasons to not buy were not nearly as pronounced as they are today. This makes a seller’s job of marketing their property to a cynical, distrustful audience extremely difficult. This makes buyers more resistant to making decisions that are based on feeling good. People make real estate decisions electively for one of two reasons: pleasure or pain. It is easier now to market with language like: “pain-free”, “move-in ready”, “all-set”; rather than “luxurious”, “masterpiece”, “incredible views”. The first set of phrases use language that dominates the mind of the buyer: pain; inconvenience; problems; doubt; it then overcomes these fears and pains. A seller must speak the day-to-day language of the buyer in order to demonstrate value in today’s market.
This is all talk about the emotional climate of real estate and the difficulty of gauging cause and effect in today’s economy. The day after the S&P downgrade that basically discounted America’s ability to repay it’s debt, what happened? Wall Street went into shock, losing more than 5% and treasuries – the repayment of which was the very thing S&P was calling into question – saw a surge of money, propelling 30 year mortgage rates down. In the midst of all this chaos, the real estate side of the ledger improved yet again.
Year to date, Colorado Springs Real Estate is having a decent year that no one seems to know about. It is all relative and all compared to the last several years which have not been the rosiest of real estate sales years. This year, there will be about as many sales as 2008, more than 2010, slightly fewer than 2009. But what is most intriguing is that the number of listed properties, while still high based on the last ten years of inventory, is lower than at anytime since 2005. For six consecutive months, inventory has been at 6.1 months or less, a stable balance between supply and demand. Because there are fewer homes for sale and slightly higher demand than this time last year, the earlier drops in average sale price will probably balance out as the year finishes because buyers that are buying are less likely to see new listings come on the market and are more likely to try and make a deal with what is out there now, thus stretching slightly upward in price.
The best advice we can give: if you’re participating in a real estate decision for long-term reasons, ignore the toxicity of the present.

Mid-Year Review: July 2011 Market Stats

Click Here for Mid-Year Review Market Report

The Summer Viewing at Pikes Peak Urban Living is on the cat fight between two market metrics: Average Sales Price and Months of Inventory.

Months of Inventory is a handy-dandy metric to forecast, predict or… guess… what the market will do next. The barometer that has traditionally held sway is a 6 month supply of housing equals a neutral market. Get below six months and stay there and the market should see appreciation and increased seller-control. Go above six months, and that much to choose from sways control to buyers and prices drop. The majority of the last four years have been in excess of 6 months with a few brief months in 2009 under 6 months supply. July 1 showed a reading of 5.5 months. After three previous months from 5.9 to 6.1 months of inventory, that should be a predictor of prices going up.

Yet they haven’t done that.

Average price year to date is off 4% from a year ago. A lot of this was the post-tax-credit malaise that wrecked the market last spring. REALTORS went from running their engines at 110% in April to idling them in May, and never really getting them out of neutral the rest of the year. This year has been somewhat spastic, but overall, prices are steady to down then they’re showing appreciation.

Most everyone has an easier time understanding what has happened as opposed to grasping at what might happen, and correspondingly average price gets a lot of press. But as I spoke about last week, the relationship between units for sale and units sold is pointing to possible to likely improvements. The market has crested in inventory and is in the six to seven month cycle of fewer, not greater listings. There will be new listings each month, but not at the rate that they were before, and many good new listings will be recognized more readily as valuable by active buyers because buyers operating in the second half of summer and early fall generally have to make quick decisions. These are general conditions that don’t always hold, but with fewer than 4800 listings for sale, and two more months under 6 month’s supply likely… it will be interesting to see what happens to pricing over the next six months.

To see the active market numbers, Click Here for the Stat Pack.