Touring Homes and Neighborhoods

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Difference Between Short Sales & Foreclosures?

There is a big difference between a foreclosure and a short sale.

What is a Foreclosure?

A foreclosure is where the property is already owned by the bank, and the bank is now the seller. The former owner couldn’t make his house payments, so the bank (his mortgage lender) took the house back. The good thing about a foreclosure is the bank/seller has already determined what their bottom line price is.  They already know what they can or cannot accept. Typically, they will negotiate some, and can usually close within 45-60 days.  Generally speaking, foreclosures are the less risky and less painful of the two.

What is a Short Sale?

A short sale is where the property is in danger of foreclosure, but it hasn’t happened yet.  The homeowner cannot make his house payments.  He is behind at least 30 days.  He may still be living in the home.  He plans to go to his bank and ask “will you take a payoff SHORT of what I actually owe?”  Hence, the term Short Sale.

Short sales can be difficult.  Mr. Homeowner always doesn’t know IF his bank will accept a payoff short of what he owes.  So, his advertised price may not even be what his bank will allow it to sell for.  Another challenge; will the bank allow a closing to happen anytime soon?  I’ve heard of short sales taking up to 11 MONTHS to close. Ouch!  Banks are notorious for taking a long time to negotiate these deals.

What I tell Buyers is if you can stomach the uncertainty of price, the long wait to close, and not knowing until the last minute if this transaction will even close, then go for the short sale!  But prepare yourself for frustration and possible disappointment.  If you want a good deal without that hassle and risk, stick to the foreclosed properties.

House Hunting: Viewing Properties

House Hunting: Viewing Properties

The actual act of going out and looking at houses seems pretty fun, especially when you watch buyers and Realtors on TV. Usually, it’s some of the most rewarding time we get to spend as Agents. It’s the time when you truly get to know your buyers, what they like, and – more importantly – who they really are. Unfortunately, what TV doesn’t show and the public doesn’t see is all the preparation that occurs before getting to the point where you’re actually at a house and unlocking the door.

In a previous article, we talked about buyer needs assessment; that article gives you an inkling of the type of homework that needs to happen before going out and looking at houses. Everything from mortgage pre-qualification and area tours to getting ready to show houses takes time, preparation, and knowledge. Once the Realtor and client have an understanding of what they’re looking for it’s time to get out and see some houses, but even that step requires significant preparation.

Preparing to show

Once your search parameters are established and we’ve found the homes that match them, the process of setting up or scheduling the showings of the homes you’d like to tour begins. Setting up showings is a process that makes our tours as efficient as possible for all parties involved, and most certainly for you, our buyer.

We first determine what the listing agent has allowed for us to gain access to the Seller’s home, via the Seller’s instructions in the MLS. For instance, which days and times the Seller is willing to show the home, and what, if any, showing restrictions the Seller has placed on the home for viewing. For example, is a pet present at the home, and will it need to be removed before allowing a showing? Or is there a small child who lives in the home who has a sleeping schedule that will need to be honored?

At this point, we sit down and map out the most efficient route in conjunction with seller restrictions. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to go from house to house in the most efficient manner in terms of distance if a seller won’t allow showings within a certain time frame, so we will often need to double back around and see that house at a later time. These types of hurdles require organization, especially in combination with the homebuyer’s schedule.

Hitting The Road

Once the trip is planned, there are still more options based on the buyer’s preferences. For instance, would you rather drive in your own car, or ride in a car with one of the real estate brokers on our team? We can either agree to meet at the first home, or meet at a mutually agreed upon location where you can hop in the car with one of us, and we’ll drive you to your first showing. Our personal preference is that you ride with us. There are several reasons behind this preference. First off, it’s just more efficient: there’s no getting separated, no awkward U-Turns, etc. This also allows us to use the time in between seeing houses to discuss what the buyers liked, and – more importantly – disliked about the previous house. Additionally, while driving around we get a better sense of what aspects of a neighborhood appeal to you.

What to Look for When Touring a House

Once we arrive at the first home, we go to the front door and knock a ‘courtesy knock’ to make sure the Seller is not home, or if they are, that we aren’t walking in on them unexpectedly. Ask any Realtor – seriously, ask any Realtor that has shown a significant number of homes about their walking in on a seller story, we all have one. Once that is confirmed, we will use a designated lockbox, with the key to the home inside the box, to gain access to the home. We then enter the house and begin your private tour. It’s important to note that we are actually in someone’s home, and it’s pertinent that we treat the home with the appropriate level of respect; the home is there to be viewed. In other words, don’t let your children play with toys, pound on the piano, etc… We are there to see the house, not to try out the owner’s stuff.

It’s important for you, the buyer, to communicate your thoughts about the home to your agent while you are on the tour. This is a key step for several reasons; we learn more about what you are looking for from what you don’t like about a house than what you do like. Learning what you dislike helps us hone in on what you really want.

Another reason to give input is that after we complete our showings, your Realtor will be bombarded with a stream of requests for feedback from the seller’s agents. The more input the agent receives, the more honest feedback they can provide, which is important for the sellers. This feedback helps them with pricing as well as staging, and it lets them know if there are issues outside of the things they’ve noticed that are keeping their house from selling.

Although it would be nice to find your ideal home on the first trip out, that is certainly not our expectation or experience. Each trip out to look at houses helps us narrow into the home that best suits your needs.We will continue this process until we find you a home in which you would like to make an offer.

Giving Feedback After The Showing

After any showing, the listing agent will request both your feedback as the Buyer and our feedback as the real estate professional. This feedback is vital to the Seller and to the current real estate market, as it allows the Seller to make changes to the home itself, or adjust the list price of the home to one in which the current market supports. Typically we will ask your opinion of the home, whether it’s positive or negative, as we are leaving. Positive feedback could indicate a potential interest in the home, and negative feedback will allow the Seller to make any changes to the home or price of the home to help it sell to another Buyer. This feedback also has the potential to open up a dialogue with the seller’s agent. For example, let’s say you do have an interest in a home but hesitate given its price in conjunction with the improvements you’d have to make. That kind of feedback sometimes elicits a response from the seller to “Make an offer.” As you can see, giving honest feedback is important. The more transparent you are with your agent, the better we can do to meet your expectations.

In Summary

It’s fitting to think about showings like an iceberg. The small part the public sees is fun and interesting. The larger part they don’t see is time-consuming, laborious and methodical. Having said that, the difficult part of showing properties is usually overshadowed by the satisfaction we find in helping good people find great homes.

Additional Resources:

Lynn Pineda wrote a great article entitled, 8 Things a Realtor Does Behind Your Back? This is a great read.

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Buying a Home with a Pikes Peak View

People come to the Colorado Springs area from all over the country… the world for that matter. They move here primarily because of our military and technology companies, but also just for the sheer beauty and reasonable cost of living. The Pikes Peak region is a popular place. One of the first things people ask for (especially from the midwest or south) is for a Pikes Peak view! “America’s mountain” sometimes feels like she’s right on top of our beautiful city! Since the angle and view of Pikes Peak can vary so much, it can be a big factor in determining where you should buy a house.

I frequently tell incoming clients that there is a trade-off between the view versus the feeling of living in the mountains. Once you get pretty far west, it’s actually more difficult to see Pikes Peak because the other mountains stand in the way. So, I just wanted to give you a little perspective on our beautiful mountain from various angles. As you look through them, I’m sure you can hear “for purple mountain majesty, above the fruited plains..” playing in your head. Katherine Lee Bates wrote America the Beautiful lyrics, inspired by Pikes Peak, actually originated as a poem called “Pikes Peak”; later it was put to music with Samuel A. Ward of Grace Episcopal Church in NJ.

This beauty was taken from eastern El Paso County in the Calhan/Peyton area as I headed back into town after showing houses. As you can see, Pikes Peak looks like a lone, towering peak from this distance, the rest of the mountain range hardly discernable. Note the cows and wide open spaces… if you’re looking for this type of land and view, maybe this is the area for you!

Head just a bit further west into Colorado Springs. This shot it taken from the Briargate area. Obviously, a recent snowfall helps define the lines on the mountains, but it’s also just a little more clear the closer you are.

This one is on the way up Ute Pass. This might be the type of “peek-a-boo view” you might expect if you land in a home on the west side of town (west side is pretty much west of I-25, our major interstate… but the further west the better for most with this preference).

Not sure I will call this saving the best for last, but I have a strong opinion on the beauty in Woodland Park… our mountain town, just 20-30 minutes “up the pass” west of Colorado Springs. The perspective on Pikes Peak is completely different. The mountain is far deeper than it seems from the Colorado Springs area. I’ve hiked the Crags from this backside and you can see to the west for miles.

Needless to say, , the weather, the friendliness, and so much more… but Pikes Peak is probably our most notable landmark, with Garden of the Gods, the United States Air Force Academy and the Broadmoor hotel as other major draws to the area. I’m not sure if this helps you make a decision about where you will end up buying a home, but in any case, I’m sure you’ll love the area and our mountains almost as much as I do!

Condos vs Townhouses - What's the difference?

Condos vs Townhouses – What’s the difference?

There is a lot of confusion about the differences between condos vs townhouses. They share many similarities, and this seems to be the source of this confusion. Even amongst real estate professionals we often hear more opinions than facts. If you are considering buying a condo or a townhouse, it is important for you to understand the different real estate terms.

So, let’s start by clarifying, condominiums or condos are a type of real estate ownership. Whereas, a townhouse is an actual style of building.

A condominium is best described as “the concept of ownership of a single unit of air space within a multi-unit dwelling, along with co- ownership of any common amenities (recreation centers, pools, etc…) and common areas of the structures and land among all unit owners.”

Townhouses are generally attached structures of 2 or more stories with common walls. These are a version of the old “Brownstones or “Row Houses” made popular on the east coast.

Let’s Review the Similarities:

Townhouse ownership means you own the structure along with any associated land. So the owner of a townhouse can have absolute ownership, like a single family home.

Here’s where things get a little confusing. It is not unusual to have “condominium ownership” of a townhouse. In other words, the structure is a “townhouse” while the ownership is “condominium”.

Let’s Compare the Differences:

Ownership and common areas are the primary differences between condos and townhouses. You can actually have absolute ownership of a townhouse as well as the land (yard) associated with it. In a Condominium you only own the “air-space” inside of your particular unit.

The owners of a condominium development each own an equal share of the “General Common Elements”. This includes the structural elements of the building roof, walls, halls, clubhouse, pool, etc…

In a townhouse community, any common elements are deeded to the Home Owners Association (HOA). The townhouse owners are a part of the HOA but don’t own an interest in these elements.

“Limited Common Elements” are where we see a departure between townhomes and condos. Limited Common Elements are only seen in condo ownership. These are things that are intended for the use on the individual unit owners. Parking spaces, garages, balconies and patios are examples of Limited Common Elements. Although these are owned by all of the unit owners, they are limited to the use of specific owner/s.

In a townhouse, the balcony and garage are actually owned by the townhouse owner. The exception to this would be if a “townhouse” style home is owned as a “condominium”.

Summary:

Both condos and townhouses are what is known as “Common Interest Communities”. A “Common Interest Community” is one where common real estate is maintained through assessments and dues.

Because of the Common Interest Community designation, we see a lot of confusion. The easiest way to remember the differences is this: A condominium is a form of real estate ownership and a townhouse is an architectural style.

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Cookie Cutter Neighborhoods

Colorado Springs is filled with all sorts of neighborhoods, many developers have come into areas with the idea to divide property as tight as possible to build as many homes as possible. Profit, obviously their goal. There is the benefit of having neighbors nearby, and smaller lots to maintain and water in this dry climate!! I have many a story! Here’s a funny about one such cookie cutter neighborhood.

A friend had moved from the Colorado Springs area to the south for job relocation. They asked another mutual friend to meet their vehicle delivery service at their home on a Saturday following their departure. Said friend called me that morning, unable to get in. It went something like this:

Me: Hey Matt, how’s it going?

Matt: Brooke, I’m at the house to meet the vehicle delivery crew, and I can’t get the garage code to work.

Me: Okay, I’ll come over and open the house with our electronic lockbox, be there in about 15-20 minutes.

Matt: thanks.

… some 20 minutes later…

Me at house, no Matt in sight… calls Matt…

Me: Matt, I’m at the house to open up for you.

Matt: I’m here too, parked in front.

Me: I’m in front of the house, I don’t see you…. uh… what street are you on?

Matt: (says name of street, not the right street), oops…

We meet up at the right house and have a good laugh. In this instance the house that we were meeting at was at one end of the street just to the south, faced the same way, were the same floor plan (at least visibly from exterior) and were the same exterior color.

Thankfully our friend, Matt, didn’t awake the owner where he was mistakenly trying to open the garage.. ha!!

Again, there are some great benefits to having similar homes in neighborhoods… for one, if a buyer likes a floor plan but not the decor or finishes of the one I showed them, I might be able to peruse the MLS quickly for that same style. In the case of the story above, John Laing was the builder, one of my favorites, who unfortunately left Colorado Springs during the economic decline a few years ago. Even though one of the things I loved about them was their bold color choices, many in that specific neighborhood were still very similar!

Similar homes nearby also make for easier market analysis research… for both buyers and sellers. We can find similar or exact square footage in most cases, making upgrade adjustments minimal, and providing strong comparable sales for making offers.

If you’ve been in the business as long as many of us as Springs Homes, then you often know who the builder is walking into a neighborhood or even a specific home… by the decal above the entry, the decorative quoins along the garage, the floor plan, the porch rails… we just have a base of knowledge that helps us help our clients all the more! We have watched this beautiful city grow for years!

Is there a moral to the story?! Pay attention to the details maybe… and also just to remind us to laugh along the way! If you are looking to buy or sell your home, feel free to give me a call.

 

Cookie Cutter Neighborhoods

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Showing Homes Up the Pass

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To Pikes Peak Region Realtors, “up the pass” means up Ute Pass west of Manitou into Woodland Park. This beautiful little mountain town is also known as the City Above the Clouds. I got to experience the full meaning of that years ago after showing a couple Black Forest on a chilly, foggy day, we pulled up into Woodland Park, CO in the afternoon, up out of the clouds. What a pleasant moment… And viewing Pikes Peak from a whole different angle! 

Woodland Park is a great mountain town, with local shops, breweries, and more recently a Wal-mart (clearly the mark that Woodland Park has “made it” as an American town 😉 ) PLUS a modern medical facility. Including Walmart, there are 3 large-name grocery stores. Locals also know there is plenty of Mexican food options, plus the famous “Donut Mill” Restaurant… So much more than just donuts for breakfast, they make breakfast burritos and more!

Let’s get back to the showings!!.. I love showing up here particularly in the summer and fall. In the summer, it’s a comfortable 5-10 degrees cooler than Colorado Springs, so on those blistering days, if you had to WP and homes in the trees, a nice breeze will also help keep it cool. With these particular clients, we had a little chuckle because one owner came back home during our showing and was complaining about the 75-degree heat. The fall is nice because while the trees are primarily Ponderosa pine, the scattered aspens make for a beautiful view all around. Not everyone has a view of Pikes Peak from their deck, but most lots outside the city center will have some nice trees to make you feel oh-so-Colorado!

The houses I showed over the past week have been in the $275-350,000 range and 1700-3300 sq ft, most with .5-1 acre. Some are updated, some carry the rustic decor of 20-30 years ago. I was very surprised at the high percentage of split-level style homes. The poor husband of this couple I showed couldn’t keep them separate in his head. After 3 days and 18 showings, he was “lost”. So we head back out tomorrow to see the “favorites” again, so he can remember what they’re buying before they head back home before moving here. The split-level style comes mostly out of necessity, a mountain town means, most homes are built on a hillside and the tuck-under garage is fairly common.

I wish I had taken more pictures, but let me know if you or your friends/family want to move this way, I’d love to show up in Woodland Park again soon!! I often say, if we didn’t daily commute to Colorado Springs, we’d strongly consider Woodland Park!!

Find Your Dream Home

Find your Dream Home as soon as it hits the market!

Page 7, page 8, page 9….if you have been searching for a home your eyes might glaze over as you get lost in looking at page after page of listings. All of the listings start looking alike and you can’t tell which ones you have seen before or not.

SpringsHomes.com has created a new tool to help you find your Dream Home as soon as it hits the market. Using our Advanced Search, you can now select the “Latest” listings by entering in how many days old you want the listings to be.

Just started searching for a home? Enter 30 under the field “Latest” to return listings that were entered into the MLS in the last 30 days. Do you look for a home every day during your lunch hour? Enter 1 under the field “Latest” to return listings that were entered in the MLS within the last 1 day. It is that easy.

Using this criteria along with the other criteria in our Advanced Search, makes it easy to narrow down your search and only find the homes that you haven’t already seen.

This is just one more way that SpringsHomes.com helps you find your Dream Home before it gets snatched up by someone else.

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Where to Choose to Live? A Guide to Choosing a Neighborhood

What do home buyers look for in a neighborhood? The National Association of Realtors polled recent home buyers regarding what they were looking for when choosing a neighborhood. These results are rolled up across all demographics. Some of the results were surprising, while others were pretty predictable. This list should inspire you to think about what ultimately is most important to you in your home search. Try our checklist to help you define your wants and needs.

Quality of Neighborhood

61% of respondents said that quality of neighborhood was the most important factor when choosing a neighborhood. No matter where they ended up, this was the winner.

Convenient to Job

43% of respondents said that convenience to their job was of utmost importance. We generally hear buyers request a commute time of 15 minutes or less.

Overall Affordability

39% said that overall affordability was most important when deciding on a neighborhood. This makes sense as 39% of home buyers were first-time homebuyers.

Convenient to Friends and Family

35% of respondents were focused on the social aspects of life. These people moved to communities based on who was already living there.

Design of Neighborhood

26% of people polled chose the design of the neighborhood as being important. Fans of master planned communities fell into this category.

Convenient to Shopping

25% of respondents stated that convenience to shopping was their primary factor in choosing a neighborhood. This one surprised us as we hear schools being a higher priority most of the time.

Quality of School District

25% of people chose the quality of school district as their main focus when choosing a neighborhood. It is not surprising that resort and retirement communities often rank this a low factor.

Convenient to Schools

22% of people cited closeness to schools as being very important. This makes sense, especially for large families.

Convenient to Arts & Entertainment

19% of respondents said that being close to arts and entertainment was of primary concern to them. Not surprising only 8% of rural communities felt that this was important.

Convenient to Parks & Recreation

18% of people responding wanted to be close to parks and recreation while 29% of resort communities felt this was important.

Availability of Larger Lots and Acreage

16% of people focused on larger lots and acreage. 45% of rural respondents felt that this was important while only 4% of resort community people listed this as a factor.

Convenient to Health Facilities

Only 10% of people felt that being close to doctors and hospitals were important while 9% of rural people felt that this was a priority.

Home in a planned community

8% of people surveyed were looking for a home in an established community and 29% of resort community residents felt that this was of primary importance.

Convenient to Public Transportation

6% of people listed public transportation as their primary focus while 21% of urban dwellers felt that this was a priority.

Convenient to Airport

Only 5% of respondents listed being close to an airport as their primary concern, while 14% of resort residents felt this was important.

 

Neighborhood choice factors

Buying a Colorado Springs area house for $250,000

I saw this funny comic on one of the real estate groups I follow on social media. Lots of people were getting some chuckles from it, but it got me thinking. I am fairly certain the average sale price in the greater Colorado Springs area is around $244,000. Can you find the house this couple in the comic is looking for in Colorado Springs….? 

So I went on a hunt for “close to downtown” (I chose what I thought would be 30 minutes or less) houses with 4+ bedrooms, good size lots (.2+ acres) and safe neighborhood (now that could be up for negotiation, but I think in general this is a VERY safe city overall and people should investigate crime if concerned… sexual offenders, violent crimes, etc… weren’t not immune to crime, but it’s really a great city!).  And here is what I found…. 

currently available – 76

under contract – 82

sold in the past 6 months – 262

Inventory generally starts slowing down here August (school starts) through about February…. so summer months will provide more inventory. While we have a cost of living higher than many parts of the south and midwest, it’s nice to know it’s pretty reasonable to live here. 

So, here’s a little summary of what that $250,000 will cost you monthly… with 3.5% down (FHA minimum), borrowing $241,250 at a 4.166% interest rate and estimated tax, insurance, and mortgage insurance in your payment, you’re looking at $1737/month payment. If you are VA and put nothing down, you’d be borrowing $257,875 because you rolled in your VA funding fee) looking at a $1556/month payment. Obviously all of those payments will be lower the more you are able to put down. 

Want to be close to downtown… like walking distance…? Well, that is a little tougher to find, plus you’re looking at older homes (be prepared for a bit more maintenance). There is nothing with 4 bedrooms, 2 houses with 3 bedrooms are under contract withing walking distance of downtown. NOW…. add in the Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City areas, plus remove the .2 acre lot requirement and there are 37 houses. 

Okay, I know that was a lot, but there are many things we can do to help tailor a search in the MLS… especially when those large national sites are sometimes out-of-date. Let us know how we can help in your home search! I know from experience this summer, the nice ones under $250,000 disappear quickly or have competing offers…. it’s a good price range! 

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