Choosing the Right High School

student-1647136_1280

Well, I am about to enter completely unknown territory!!!!  My only child, my son, will start his 8th-grade year and subsequently his last one in middle school.  Time to get down to business and start thinking about what high school he will be entering this time next year. (Uh, YIKES)!  Time to start preparing a checklist, or at the very least, a guideline, for what his Daddy and I will use to help make this next big step in our son's life that much easier.  I thought I would share my family's personal checklist for choosing the high school our son will attend. (Disclaimer, this list is prioritized first to last in what we determined, as a family, was most important for our own son).

Are any of his closest friends attending the same high school? 

As our son has gotten older, we have realized that the quantity of friends is not as important to him as the quality.  He has three or four close friends, but he has always put one particular friend above the rest. If he can have this type of strong, loyal, intense friendship with this other boy all the way through high school, he will have more than most.  (I am actually friends with the Vice Principal of one of the two schools we are considering, and I ran this sentiment by her.  It was a relief to receive her affirmation of how important this type of friendship will be, for both my son and his best friend, during their final four years as a child).

What kind of academic programs are offered

We like the idea of schools that offer both AP (Advanced Placement) and IB (International Baccalaureate) course work.  Since his Father and I both took Advanced Placement courses in high school, ourselves, we are more familiar with them and love the way these courses focus relatively intensively on one particular subject. But with IB courses, we were also intrigued with the more holistic approach that a particular subject may be given.  In the end, both schools we are considering offer a beautiful mix of classes that use the IB and AP curriculums together, which will hopefully allow our son to benefit and grow from the strengths of both programs.

What extracurricular activities are offered

For my son, his most important extracurricular activity is sports, so we made sure that both schools we are considering have programs for the three sports he has played since starting elementary school.  Other programs we looked for the schools to have include arts, volunteer work and community service, music, governance, and clubs.  It is very important to us for our son to be involved in character building activities outside of the classroom, and regardless of his first passion, it is very important to us for him to have the opportunity to explore other extracurricular options BESIDES sports.  Diversity is definitely key, here.

What is the overall school culture

After speaking with parents of high school graduates and teachers and administrative staff, the consensus was that the only way to really get a feel for a school's culture was to "get in the trenches", to actually go to each school and physically walk the halls while a school day was in session, and do this as many times as necessary, with and without our son present.  The goal is to get a feel for what we expect the school to teach our son about life beyond academics and the classroom, itself.  The goal is to see how students and teachers interact with one another in the classroom setting, to see if students and teachers greet each other personally, to see if students and teachers greet parents, to get a feel for student mood and how students treat each other whether they know each other or not.  The goal is to just get a sense of if the school has an overall feeling of joy and hope and happiness.  No science or numbers or stats involved here....just going to give it a go and trust that Mama intuition!

What is the graduation rate and what is the college attendance rate of the school

This was our last priority as a family as we are not the kind of family to base our decision on what high school our kid attends based on numbers alone, but, alas, numbers DO (kind of) matter! Plus, certain stats can suggest how successful a particular school has been at bringing our children to the next most important stage of their life....adulthood. 

This list is not inclusive, obviously, and may not even be any of your own priorities, but hopefully, it can at least serve as a jumping point for your family's own list if you, too, have a son or daughter who will be entering high school next year. This list for us, though welcomes balance, a concept we try to practice and live by routinely and day to day. We simply hope that addressing these five issues, as we choose a high school with our son, will create the ultimate opportunity for balance for him.  

Good luck and Happy High School shopping to you all!  See you in the trenches!

One final note:  It is too cliche' to even think about, much less type into words, but when I was growing up, I do not remember my mother having the option of choosing where I went to high school. Oh, you live in Hixson, Tennessee?  Yes.  Okay, your child will go to Hixson Junior High School and then Hixson High School.  And so, I did.  Regardless, I am grateful that, in this day and age, parents have the luxury to live in a certain area of Colorado Springs, (a city I have now called home for 25+ years) and choose for their children to go to school in a completely different area!!!!     

 

Continue reading
298 Hits

Things to Do in Colorado Springs this Weekend (July 29-July 30)

july2930
July is going to go out with a bang as we have many music and food fests happening this weekend in Colorado Springs! Get out with the family or plan a date night. Enjoy your weekend! 

Things to Do This Weekend

Colorado Grown Family Fun Day - Sat July 29, 10:00am-2:00pmColorado Springs Pioneers Museum

Admission: Free. A family day at the museum where you can explor local Colordo history through food, demonstrations, art, crafts, gardening, and more! RSVP online. For more info, visit: Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum.


Art & Wine - Sat July 29, 2:00pm-3:00pmPPLD - Cheyenne Mountain Library

2

Admission: Free. Enjoy an artist talk and walk to G44 Gallery. After visiting the gallery, meetup at Sovereignty Wines for a tasting. For more info, visit: PPLD.


Blues Under the Bridge - Sat July 29, 1:30pm-10:00pm218 W Colorado Avenue

3

Admission: $50 general public. 91.5 KRCC brings us the 11th annual blues festival that is held under the Colorado Avenue bridge. Food and beverage vendors will be there serving up the best local fare for you to enjoy while listening to a variety of talent blues musicians. For more info, visit: Blues Under the Bridge.


The Movie Marathon That Shall Not Be Named - Sat July 29 and Sun July 30, times vary, Tim Gill Center for Public Media

2

Admission: $10/day, advance purchase online, $15/day at the door. Calling all witches, wizards, and muggles! Food trucks, local beer, door prizes, and all 8 Harry Potty movies will be shown over Saturday and Sunday. For more info, visit: Tim Gill Center.


Fiddles, Vittles, & Vino - Sun July 22, 3:00pm - 8:00pm, Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site​ 30th Street & Gateway Road

Admission: $50/adult, $20/Children under 13. Sample food and wine while enjoy bluegrass music at Rock Ledge Ranch. For more info, visit: Fiddles, Vittles, & Vino.

Continue reading
418 Hits

Tips on Buying a House

Tips on Buying a House

In Residential Real Estate a Seller's market is defined as having less than six months of available inventory, and this means that sellers have the advantage. I don't know what you call a market where inventories are measured in weeks not months.

If you are trying to buy a house, you already understand the frustration this type of market creates. To have success in this kind of market, you need to have a solid strategy. These “Tips on buying a house”, apply to any kind of market but are more pertinent in the type red hot seller's market we are currently experiencing.

Having said this, no matter what the condition of the market it's a good idea to have a plan. Here is an overview of how we approach the home-buying process at springs homes. 

Choose a Realtor

You can certainly try to do this on your own, but frankly, it's just a bad idea. Every listing agent will see you as a potential buyer prospect, doing this dance is going to waste an incredible amount of your time.

The smartest move you can make is to pick a good realtor and stick with them. A good Realtor is someone that has experience, ethics and a genuine interest in you. Consider this, the end game here is to buy a house you are really excited to own. This house will most likely be listed for sale by another Realtor (a.k.a. listing agent). That Realtor’s goal is to sell the home for a price the seller is happy with to the buyer that is most likely to close with the fewest hassles.

When an offer comes in on that house the listing agent cannot help but consider who brought that offer People are people and as hard as they try to overlook their biases they cannot. It's a good thing to work with a realtor that has an excellent reputation in the real estate community. Let's say you are the "Listing Agent" and "Home Seller". You have four identical offers and you know you're going to spend the next 30 days working with someone. Wouldn't you rather work with someone that's a real professional? Realtors want to do this as well nobody messes up a transaction like an inexperienced non-professional.

Realtors are supposed to adhere to a strict “Code of Ethics, ” and a good Realtor will take this code seriously. It’s a good idea to read through this “Code of Ethics” to get a sense of what you should be looking for in a Realtor. At the end of the day, you are trying to find someone you trust that knows what they are doing.

Once you choose this realtor, you need to help them understand what your goals. They need to do a “Needs Assessment” to get a sense for what and where you should be focused.

Springs Homes Realtor Maggie Turner, tells us about her recent experience with a buyer. I just closed on a property with buyers that were super easy to work with, and they were clear on their non-negotiable needs versus their flexible wants and desires in a house. That helped us to be decisive in the process of eliminating houses that were not a fit, quickly determining what houses met the criteria and which ones didn't. This also came in handy when ranking their options. And in a market where decisions have to be made quickly, it helped us move on the house that was their close second choice after the offer on their first choice house was not accepted.

If you still need convincing, here's a great article by Mark Brian on, Why You Need to Work with a Realtor

Pick an Area

Once you have done a needs assessment and looked at some areas and neighborhoods, you and your Realtor should be able to narrow down the scope of your search. At this point, it’s a good idea actually to look at homes in this neighborhood. Be direct with your Realtor about what you think about the homes you see, and this helps them realistically assess the likelihood of finding something you will be excited about.

It’s a good idea to drive through the neighborhood frequently when you are in the home buying process. You’ll quickly get a feel for prices and availability. When new listings go on the market, you’ll see the signs in the yards, usually before they hit the MLS.

It doesn’t hurt to meet the people that live in the neighborhood. Letting them know you are looking for a home there will often elicit suggestions about possible availability.

Use The Web

Understanding the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is essential to success in the house hunting process.

By definition, the MLS is a database with information about for sale and for rent real estate. Listing Broker's offer compensation for cooperation by other real estate brokers. In other words, if you have a buyer for this house, we will pay you if you sell it.

MLS’s now aggregate their listing data to “Portals” Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia are examples of Real Estate portals.

The MLS also aggregates its data to its members through something called an IDX feed. The members then display those listings on their website with the stipulation that the listing brokers name and company appear on their listings.

It’s important to note that any listing data not found directly on the MLS requires aggregation and this requires time. Each entity sets its own download schedule, this is why you often find a listing on one site but not another.

SpringsHomes.com downloads every 3 hours we have found that this interval keeps our data up to date and our buyers on top of the market.

Not all portal receive data from the MLS. For example, Zillow the real estate portal giant relies on agreements with individual brands and private aggregators to receive their data. If you are aggressively looking for a house, Zillow will be among the last to receive the listing data. Your Realtor can help with this as well.

Setup Alerts

Most MLS’s have the ability for Realtors to setup email alerts for clients. This is a type of reverse prospecting method. The Realtor sets up a search using the prospective buyer's criteria. Any time a listing agent enters a new listing that meets the buyer's criteria, the buyer gets an e-mail notification.

In the event you have yet to choose a Realtor, you can usually set these types of alerts up on many Realtor websites.

Go Social

Don’t ignore social media. Many Realtors will use social media to advertise their upcoming listings. You can use this as an opportunity to get a jump on the competition. The best way to handle this is to forward the post to your Realtor. This allows them to verify the details of the listing to make sure it’s legitimate.

Don’t Ignore FSBO’s

For Sale by Owner properties are another option you should explore. These sellers are usually willing to pay the buyer's agents commission. In the rare instances when they are not, you will need to assess if you are willing to work with the owner yourself or if you are willing and able to pay your own agents commission.

In our experience, the For Sale by Owner that isn’t willing to pay a Buyer's Agent is determined to maximize their net on the sale. This means an unwillingness to deal with inspection items or appraisal issues. Sometimes the home is so spectacular, you can overlook this but this is generally not the case.

Get Pre-Approved

We have talked at great length on this site about getting pre qualified and preapproved, there is a difference. Pre-qualification means the lender thinks you can buy a house. Pre-approval says that based on your loan application, income, and debts, they are willing to lend you the money, you just need to find a house.

Springs Homes Realtors Kelly Moriarty and Maggie Turner share this about pre-qualification vs. pre-approval; Maggie Turner-I recently worked with buyers in a competing offers situation. We had a strong pre-approval letter, not just a pre-qualification letter. I later found out the listing agent knew and respected the (local) lender that wrote the letter, that ultimately ended up being the assurance the sellers needed to take our offer. A pre qualification letter might be good enough when making an offer in a slower market, but right now some listing agents are only accepting offers with a pre-approval. I'm encouraging my buyers to go ahead and get that step out of the way if you want to bring a strong offer and eliminate the questions of your financial position. Kelly Moriarty-I totally agree with Maggie, pre approval vs. pre qualification. That just helped me get a home under contract. When the listing agent called to tell me they were taking our offer, and she said you were the only one with a pre-approval, that kind of shocked me.

Be Available

In hot markets, Realtors scan the MLS for new listings in an obsessive compulsive manner. When properties do hit the market that meets a buyer’s criteria, the realtor will do one of two things either go preview that property or contact the buyer to meet them at the property, depending on market conditions and potential of the property. There's nothing more frustrating for a realtor then not being able to get ahold of their buyers when a great property hits the market.

Make sure that you and your realtor set up some guidelines about how and when you can be contacted about properties.

Make a Strong Offer

So you have done everything we've suggested above and you found the house, now it's time to make an offer. This is when your Realtor should really show their value. The first thing they should do is prepare a CMA (competitive market analysis). This analysis will essentially show you what the home you're getting ready to make an offer on is really worth. The analysis we'll approach the home's price based on comparable sales in the neighborhood. This is what the appraiser will do at a much more detailed level later on.

From this analysis, you will be able to get an idea of what the home is truly worth. The next part is how much to offer and this question can only really be answered by you. Your realtor can give you guidance but since you're going to have to live with the number you need to pick it.

Once you've decided on a price there are a multitude of things you can do to make your offer stronger. Remember, the goal of the listing agent and the seller is to get the property closed for the highest price and the fewest road bumps because road bumps cost money.

Here are some tips from springs homes agents Brooke Mitchell and Courtney Gilmore:

Brooke Mitchell-As, the listing agent I really like agents I know are good...and dependable lenders (preferably local).

Courtney Gilmore- Right now in our market, buyers are putting homes under contract and then continuing to look in hopes of finding something better. If they do find something better, they just cancel the contract on the inspection or other contingency. This is a big problem for sellers because they have essentially taken their home off the market. The buyer who has no real skin in the game just walks away with their earnest money intact. Listing agents have gotten wise to this game and are now looking for contracts that get the buyer invested in the deal much earlier. I have started asking my buyers to instruct their lender to order the appraisal within three days of going under contract. Additionally, we schedule the inspection to be completed and any objection submitted to Seller within 7 days of going under contract, this is difficult to pull off and sometimes it’s not possible, but it sends the seller the message that we are serious about buying your home.

Cash is King

In a hot market home sellers aren't so concerned about getting their house sold as much as they are with the timing and hassles associated with the process. Additionally, sellers worry about appraisal issues that might affect their bottom line. This is why cash sales are very popular with home sellers. Cash buyers will often waive the appraisal contingency that way they reduce the seller's concern about potential appraisal issues.

From the buyer's perspective paying cash is a good idea if you can do it but you also need to look at the value of the property you want to buy. You don't want to overpay for a home that won't appreciate, especially if you want to resell it in a couple of years.

Debbie DrummondWrites about Cash Sales in This Article: Should I Pay Cash For My Home?

Add an Escalation Clause

There are some instances where you find a house that you must have. These types of properties are usually involved in multiple offer situations. The Escalation Clause can come in handy in these situations.

Brooke Mitchell shares a real world example of how this works-On a modular home out in the county, there were competing offers. My buyers wanted to offer $5,000-9,000 over list price, draining all of their savings & parental gift funds to make this purchase. I advised them to write a strong offer (at list) and include an “escalation clause”... This would give them the opportunity to offer more in the event competing offers started to push the price up. This clause meant they would have the opportunity to raise their price and could be willing to pay more, but may not have to.

Here is a very detailed article about the escalation clause by Kyle Hiscock:What is an Escalation Clause?

Offer to Lease Back

We have seen some success with seller leasebacks. In this scenario the buyer allows the seller to rent the home after closing until the seller figures out where they're going. This is a big incentive for a lot of home sellers for the next closing ready is and their cash to find a new place because it means they're not rushed, and they have proceeds from their home sale to put towards the next purchase thereby eliminating a double move.

From the buyer side, depending on the timing of your move this may or may not be an inconvenience.

Write a Letter

In a market where we see multiple offers, the offers start to look the same in terms of closing dates prices terms and conditions. One thing that can separate an offer from a slew of similar offers is a little touch of personalization. We have seen agents have success with writing personal letters to the home sellers to be presented at the time of offer. Here Nicole Happel and Brooke Mitchell share some experiences they've had with letters.

Nicole Happel-Recently I had a listing which received two offers. Both were a good price and from well-qualified buyers. But surprisingly sellers did not accept the highest offer. Instead, they accepted the slightly lower one, and all because those buyers took the time to write a very personal note to the sellers explaining how much the house would mean to their family. They went on to say how the teenage boy would enjoy the basement area for his personal “man cave” space. The wife loved to cook and would appreciate doing so in the gourmet kitchen. They even said they had been married for 20 years and would enjoy their children’s last years in this house. The picture they painted was heartfelt and endearing. It worked. My sellers were sold!

Brooke Mitchell- The buyer I discussed in the escalation clause section also decided to write a letter to accompany the offer, about how he had been raised in the area and these newlyweds couldn't wait to buy a home outside of town and start their family. Oh, and her husband loved the shop the guy built!! That was the tipping point for the agent and seller. They did not have the pay more than their original offer, saving them $$thousands. The agent was also the buyer's bus driver when he was much younger, it's a small world!

Inspection

The property inspection negotiation is difficult in any market. Sellers feel like the inspection is petty nitpicking and a chance for the buyer to negotiate the contract. Buyers, on the other hand, feel the need to make sure they're not buying somebody else's deferred maintenance issues and undisclosed problems.

If you're buying you should definitely do an inspection. Once you know the condition of the property you'll be able to decide what to ask for versus what to accept based on the condition of the market.

It's important to note that you can write a contract for a property in as-is condition and still cancel the contract based on an inspection. If the inspection reveals serious defects that weren’t documented in the “Seller's Property Disclosure” you can walk away. As is, simply means that based on what you currently know about the property, you aren’t planning on asking the Sellers for any repairs.

Don’t Lose Your Pre-Approval

Home buyers often forget that once they are under contract on a property any kind of change in their financial situation can get their pre-approval revoked. Every Realtor has heard the stories of a home buyer pulling up to the inspection in a new vehicle. The bottom line is, make no changes in your financial situation until after you close on the property.

Bill Gassett has written a great article about 14 Ways to Get Your Mortgage Preapproval Revoked.

KeIly Moriarty Summarizes it best when she says- The escalation clause has helped me, the 60-day close option helped, being available and showing buyers the day a home is listed is a must as well. These are all great tools, but at the end of the day, I think this is a time where you depend on Realtor relationships and being respectful and most importantly working together to help our clients. Remember that markets go up and down and people remember how you treat them in this business. Treat them fairly and respectfully when you don't have to and they will most likely return the favor. Real estate sales success is a long game.

Continue reading
Tags:
1848 Hits

Things to Do in Colorado Springs this Weekend (July 22-July 23)

july2223
Only a few more weekends left before school starts. Take advantage of the sunny weather this weekend at these events around Colorado Springs and the surrounding area. 

Things to Do This Weekend

East Texas Blues with Jake Loggins, Lobo Loggins, & Scott McGill - Sat July 22, 7:00pmStargazers Theatre & Event Center

Admission: $10+. Lobo Loggins, Jake Loggins, an Scott McGill bring a night of east Texas blues to the Stargazers Theatre. With a local following this one-night event will be a hit.  For more info, visit: Stargazer Theatre.


Plant Walk at Bear Creek Nature Center - Sat July 22, 9:00amBear Creek Nature Center

2

Admission: $3/member, $4/non-memeber. If you're a plant enthusiast, then you'll want to check out this plant walk where you'll learn all about navtive plants on this 1 mile hike. For more info, visit: El Paso County Colorado.


Carnival & Craft Show​ - Sat July 22, 9:00amAga Park​ El Paso St. & Alabama Ave

3

Admission: 5 for $1. Christmas in July at this fun, family event in Fountain, Colorado. Start your holiday shopping and let the kids have fun with games and bounce houses. For more info, visit: Facebook Event.


2017 ROAR in the City - Sat July 22, 9:00am, Lincoln Center​ 2727 N. Cascade Ave

2

Admission: $50/person. 4th annual "Really Outrageous Adventure Race" is happening this weekend! Combining physical and mental activies, you and your team will work together through the course in downtown Colorado Springs. For more info, visit: Eventbrite.


Pikes Peak "N" Gineers - Sat July 22, 10:00am - 4:00 pm and Sun July 23, 11:00am - 3:00pm, Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center

2

Admission: Included with museum admission. Learn about trains and Colorado history at this traveling layout exhibition.  For more info, visit: Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center.

Continue reading
447 Hits

14910 Spiritwood Loop - Black Forest Home

spiritwood-exterior-1_2_3_4_5-Edit

After years of living in Black Forest ourselves, there are normally two personality types:

  1. I have always lived in the City, want some space & trees/views, still like people
  2. I want to live in seclusion and never see anyone again 

I'm kidding of course, because there are all sorts of people here, but some do tend to lean one way or the other. 

If you are looking for a community in the Forest... this IS IT!! Seriously, I know 4 families on the cozy Spiritwood Loop and there is a strong sense of community! What you find here (if you choose):

  • Neighbors who care about one another 
  • Common spaces for annual gatherings
  • kickball / baseball back stop
  • Equestrian easements for the horse-back-riders
  • variety of home ages/styles/sizes
  • Low HOA dues to keep the neighborhood nice
  • not overly strict covenants so you can enjoy your home and land the way you'd like

My new listing at 14910 Spiritwood Loop exists in this lovely community, and has also been nicely kept up and updated itself! Enjoy--  

  • fun outdoor spaces to include a gathering fire pit and welcoming "southern" front porch 
  • hardwoods throughout the main level
  • peaked main level ceilings 
  • Quartz kitchen counters, huge pantry, open living
  • Fireplace at family room, adjoining dining space
  • walk-outs to separate patios off kitchen and master
  • updated master bath and huge walk-in closet
  • 2 basement bedrooms, one it huge! & with nearby 4-pace bath has almost on-suite feel 
  • abundance of trees
  • winding driveway (owners will leave you the snow-blower!)
  • Spacious 3-car garage with workshop space
  • tremendous lower level rec room with versatile space for office, TV, gaming, exercise, theater potential

There is so much to this sweet neighborhood and home. Please take a look, and feel free to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | 719-229-8143 if you don't have a Realtor to show you this lovely home! For more photos, video, 3D tour and so much more, please check out http://www.spiritwoodloop.com/ !! 

Continue reading
601 Hits