A licensed Colorado Real Estate Broker since 1996, Nicole works with both buyers and sellers. In 2009, she was ranked #21 out of 214 ERA agents state wide, for volume sold. She proudly supports our local military and is happy to offer our military appreciation program to active duty clients. http://www.springshomes.com/military-assistance-program. In addition to real estate, Nicole’s passions include running, ballroom dancing, cooking and playing piano. With a strong background in new home construction and accounting, she has a sharp eye for detail.

Preparing Your Teen for Driving

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Back when I was a teen getting a driver's license was pretty simple. We enrolled in driver's education offered in public schools and at the end of the course we took an exam and upon passing were eligible for a learner's permit. The permit was obtained at the local DMV where you fill out an application and maybe showed them your birth certificate (if you even had one). You had to be 15 1/2 years old to get this permit and then your parents would take you out and teach you how to drive. You didn't log your hours on the road.  It wasn't that formal. We just drove with adults until turning 16, at which point we could go get our actual driver's license. There wasn't a lot of regulation to it.

Well, times have changed. Today it's quite different than that. My daughter recently went through the process, so it's fresh in my mind. Allow me to enlighten you about obtaining a Colorado driver's permit and license today.

Start with Driver's Education

First, driver's education is no longer offered in the public schools. So you have to find a private driving school and enroll them in it. In Colorado Springs we have many options for schools like Academy School of Driving, 1st Drive or Master Drive. I opted for Master Drive since they have a great reputation here. The student must be at least 14 years old in order to enroll. They must take 30 hours of classroom training. Additional behind-the-wheel training is available through each school but is not mandatory. Upon completion of the 30-hour class, the student takes a written exam, but he can only do that after turning 15. This exam can be taken at the driving school or at the local DMV. In order to pass the exam, the student cannot miss more than five answers. Otherwise, they must re-take the exam.  After passing the student can now apply for a learner's permit.  

Obtain the Learner's Permit

In order to get the permit the student must meet the following requirements:

1. They must be at least 15 years of age

2. They must show proof of 30 hours of driver training school

3. They must show proof that they passed the written exam or be prepared to take the exam at the DMV

4. They must have a valid birth certificate

5. They must have a valid social security card

6. They must show two written proofs of their current Colorado address (which I found a bit challenging because my 15-year-old doesn't receive a lot of official mail at the house yet)

7. They/you must pay a fee of $17

8. They must have a parent or guardian with them at the time of application so that person can sign as the responsible party for the minor behind the wheel (basically, if your kid crashes and does any harm or damage to another it's your liability).

Once you've done all this the applicant is issued their learner's permit. The student driver must have that permit for one year before they can obtain an actual driver's license. During that year the student driver must log at least 50 hours behind the wheel with an adult who is at least 21 years old. Those driving hours are written on a form provided by the DMV, and that form must be signed by the parent or guardian. 

Finally the Driver's License

After the year is up and the student driver has logged the required hours, they can then go to the DMV and get their driver's license.  There they will have to pass a written exam and actual evaluation behind the wheel. 

I know it sounds like a lot to go through, and at first, I was slightly overwhelmed by the regulation involved here. But I have concluded that it's all good. Requiring kids to spend more time learning how to drive is a plus, not only for their own safety but for the safety of all drivers on the road. Requiring more documentation at the time of application is a plus because driving is a privilege for US residents, and proving proof is a small price to pay. And requiring kids to drive for at least one year before obtaining a license is a plus because it's more supervised time behind the wheel. Thank you, Colorado, for holding us to this higher standard!

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How Do You Determine Market Value?

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As a Realtor people often ask me how market value is determined. Sellers want to know their market value so they can decide on a fair asking price. Buyers want to know the market value of their home so they can see that the price of the home is justified. Here is the advice that I usually I give them.

Factors that Influence Market Value

Back in school, they taught us that market value is "what a willing buyer will pay and a willing seller will accept". That's definitely true. Here are some factors that influence market value.

1. Inventory - In a competitive market like we're in now, there aren't as many homes for sale. Supply is low and demand is high, creating bidding wars. A willing buyer will pay more for a property now than they would have a few years ago. Many people are desperate to secure the sale and they are willing to pay a higher price to beat out the competition. Market value is redefined each time buyers write an offer.  

2. Home Sales - Recent home sales in the area also influence market value. You may have heard the term "comparable properties". The definition of comparable properties is homes nearby which are similar in size, age and condition to the subject property. These comparable homes will definitely be used to establish a home's market value. Buyers will look to see what homes have been selling for lately and will often base their offers on such. And appraisers will use these comparable sales to justify the current contract price.

Factors that Do NOT Influence Market Value

1. What a seller originally paid for the property does not determine it's current market value. It doesn't matter if they got a screaming deal on it just two years ago. It doesn't matter if they paid a crazy low price when they bought the home. They could have paid five dollars for the property. You are not going to benefit from the great deal they once got.

2. What your relatives in another state think the price "should be" doesn't determine market value. If your parents live in Texas, chances are they paid less for their 4,000 square foot, all brick rancher on 2 acres of land than you're going to pay for that 1,700 square foot 2-story home in Colorado Springs. Conversely, your sister in California paid more for her $925,000 townhome in Santa Barbara than you will pay for a spacious single family home in Colorado. An accurate estimate of market value needs to compare apples to apples, and we all know that home prices can really vary across different regions.

3. The public assessor's site property valuation is not actual market value. I don't know why, but the assessor's estimate is always under market value. And really, that's a good thing. Our property taxes are calculated on this, and if the county assessor thinks a home is worth less, then our property taxes are lower. Hooray!

4. Public internet sites are not always accurate with their valuations. For example, Zillow posts home values on their site and call these valuations "Zestimates". I constantly tell buyers and sellers not to believe the Zillow Zestimate they have seen. They are always low. To prove my point, NBC News recently reported a class action lawsuit was filed against Zillow for undervaluing properties. It turns out they are obtaining these valuations from the county assessors site. Interesting!

Realtors, the Best Resource for Market Value

Anyone can give you an idea of what they think your home will sell for, but they won't always be right, and it won't always be supported by data and facts. The only way to get an accurate determination of the market value of your home is to call a professional. Realtors live and breathe the housing market, and giving homeowners a market value on their home is a regular part of our job. When I meet with a homeowner to do a market value analysis, I will not only give you a value based on data and my many years of experience, but I will tell you how I arrived at the market value and all of the factors that were considered.

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The Importance of a Buyer's Walk Through!

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As a Realtor, I have learned many lessons through the ins and outs of closing so many home sales over the years. This story is a recent one, which will stay with me for a long time and I thought that it was important to share in hopes that potential home buyers or home sellers might avoid this pitfall by taking some good real estate advice. 

In the Colorado residential purchase contract for real estate, it states in paragraph 19.4 that the buyer has the right to a final walk-through of the property to verify condition before closing. This story demonstrates why a walk through after a home purchase is so important and why after this incident I NEVER allow my buyer to close without one!

Meet my home buyer, David

It was summer of 2006, a warm sunny day in Colorado Springs and I had a closing to attend that afternoon. My buyer, David, lived in California and would not be present for his closing.  So I offered to drive to his new house and do a quick walk through on his behalf. I pulled up to the large 2-story home, which had been vacant for five days. I opened the front door and walked through the grand entryway into the large living room. All seemed fine so far. I past through the dining room which had wall to wall hardwood floors, and I stepped into the kitchen.

Funny, I noticed a large puddle of water sat on the kitchen floor right around the refrigerator. I thought it seemed strange that the sellers didn't clean that up! I grabbed some nearby paper towels and bent down to blot up the standing water. The towels quickly absorbed the water, taking in much more than I had estimated. In fact, the floors were soaked. The entire kitchen floor, all hardwood was completely drenched. I could feel the ripples of the warped wood beneath my hands as I crawled around trying to assess the damage. The water had traveled through the kitchen and into the dining room whose wood floors were also rippled. Carpets in the nearby living room and family rooms were all soaked. Water was everywhere. 

Could it get any worse?!

But the problem didn't stop there. Underneath me was a finished basement, complete with rec room, bedroom, and a finished bathroom. That included carpet and drywall and paint and light fixtures and baseboards and doors, etc. I walked my way downstairs, not knowing what to expect . By now I could hear running water. As my foot finally touched the bottom step, my feet were submerged in a good two inches of standing water. It was everywhere. It was pouring from the ceiling, from that main level upstairs. Large sections of wet sheetrock dangled from the floor joists above. Water was even running through the light fixtures. 

I waded through the damaged remains of this finished basement until I could find the mechanical room. I opened that door only to find more standing water, puddling around the furnace and the water heater. I went to every shut off valve I could find and turned off every bit of water in the home. Gradually that stopped some of the leaking. I then proceeded to call my buyer and let him know that he would not be closing today. I called the seller's agent and informed her of the bad news. Closing would be postponed.

The Damage Assessment

The Selling Agent and the sellers were very good about getting the appropriate contractors and trades to the house right away. They assessed the damage and determined it would cost $26,000 to repair and restore the home. The source of our problem? A small water line to the refrigerator which had burst after the sellers had vacated. It had been pouring water into the house for days.

The Lesson Learned

Had I not spent that extra bit of time and done a walk through, David would have owned that damage and all the costs involved in fixing it. As a new homeowner, this type of responsibility is both financially and emotionally devastating. So I pass this lesson on to you. ALWAYS do a final walk through. ALWAYS!!! Read more about final walkthroughs and let me know if you have any follow-up questions.

 

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Colorado Springs Bike Trails: Pikes Peak Greenway Trail

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With the warmer weather, I have been excited to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. With my bike, I have been exploring some of the great Colorado Springs Bike Trails and I stumbled upon another one. The Pikes Peak Greenway Trail is one of the most popular bike trails in Colorado Springs.  I like it because it's paved, located in the heart of town and is gently sloping.  It winds through the city, but you'd never know you were in one.  The trail parallels streams, rock formations and even crosses over some old, wooden bridges.  At certain points, you can even see a train which runs daily.

Pikes Peak Greenway Trail II

The Greenway Trail is multi-use and runs north to south across the whole city of Colorado Springs. It connects to a number of other trails with multiple trailheads and is easily accessible. You can decide how far you want to go and how much time you want to spend on the trail. 

On the north side of Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Greenway is connected to the New Santa Fe Trail which runs through the Air Force Academy, through the town of Monument and ending up in Palmer Lake. Unlike the Greenway, the New Santa Fe Trail is a gravel surface.

On its southern end, the Pikes Peak Greenway continues on to the Fountain Creek Regional Trail at the El Pomar Youth Sports Park. The trail follows the Fountain Creek all the way to the city of Fountain and is mostly paved the entire way.

If you combine all three trails you can ride one way 40 miles from Palmer Lake to Fountain - mostly downhill!  How you get home is up to you. If you want some more tips on where to ride your bike, !

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Scenic Colorado Springs bike trails: Biking USAFA

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Colorado Springs is unique in that we're a sprawling city at the base of the mountains. Nature and wildlife are abundant here, and the mountains are our backyard. Woven throughout the city are trails for biking, hiking and running. And it's easy to lose yourself in the outdoors. To really capture such beauty I highly recommend visiting the Air Force Academy.  Located near the Northgate area of Colorado Springs, the Academy was built right in the mountains and occupies 18,000 acres of land.

This weekend I took my new road bike to the Academy for a scenic ride. Minutes from my house I was immersed in pine trees, riding the gently curving roads which weave through the mountain. I passed some wild deer grazing, which is common for our town.  In fact you can often see deer, wild turkeys or herds of antelope at any given time. The Air Force fighter jets known as the Thunderbirds were practicing this weekend, in preparation for their upcoming air show for the graduation ceremony next month. I could see them flying in formation then splitting off into various directions. It's fun to hear their jet engines as they speed by the backdrop of majestic mountains. 

No wonder Katherine Lee Bates wrote the lyrics to America the Beautiful while in Colorado Springs. It's by far the most scenic, beautiful place to be. I wouldn't trade it for any other city! Want to know some of my other favorite places to go? Give me a call and I would be happy to share them!

View biking on USAFA

View while biking on USAFA

 

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