Real Estate Information Archive


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8 things to know about buying a home today

by Allison Simson

Question:  Allison, we are interested in buying property in Summit County, CO.  What should we be on the lookout for?

Answer:  The home-sale market is showing signs of life. More buyers are confident now than they were a year ago that now might be a good time to buy. Interest rates are near all-time lows and home prices in some areas nationally are back to 2002-2003 levels.  In Summit County, the prices are back to 2005-06 levels in many areas.

According to Dianne Hymer, with Inman News some analysts are finally suggesting that we may be headed for recovery. If you have a secure job, plan to stay put and feel this is the right time for you to buy a home, consider the following.

In most places in the country, home prices are still declining. It has only been recently that the market picked up and it's too soon to know if this will result in a sustainable increase in prices.

The recent home sales in areas around California's Silicon Valley defy the norm. Significant job growth in the area combined with a low inventory of good homes for sale has resulted in multiple offers with buyers bidding the price up sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars over the asking price.

In other high-demand, low-inventory areas, you may find yourself bidding against other buyers, perhaps even more than once. This doesn't necessarily mean that the price will be bid up significantly over the asking price. This will vary from one listing to the next depending on property location, condition and price.

It's important to research the local community where you want to buy. Find out what homes are selling for, if multiple offers are common and if listings are selling for more than the asking price. This will help you make a realistic offer that might be accepted when you find a home you'd really like to buy. It helps to work with an experienced local real estate agent.

Some sellers in high-demand niche markets intentionally list their home at a low price hoping to stimulate multiple offers. If you see such a listing and there are a lot of buyers wanting to make offers, you will be better able to know how high your offer would need to be to win the contest if you have done your due diligence.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Whether you're anticipating competition or not, you should be preapproved for the mortgage you'll need to complete the purchase before you write an offer. In competition, this will make a big difference, particularly if everyone else who is offering is preapproved. It also lets you know what you can afford. And, it puts you in a good bargaining position with the seller.

Buyers aren't the only participants in the housing market that have heard the news that the market has improved. Some sellers are putting their homes on the market because they've been waiting for a better time to sell. This is good news for buyers looking in low-inventory markets.

You should expect that you will have to negotiate. Many of today's sellers are selling for less than they paid. Even though the market has improved a bit, sellers may be disappointed with the current market value of their home. Be prepared to negotiate, not just the initial price, but after inspections are completed if items come up that you hadn't anticipated.

Include realistic contingency time frames in your purchase contract for loan and appraisal approval if you're applying for a mortgage. The recent uptick in the market means that lenders are suddenly overwhelmed.

THE CLOSING: Underwriters could require that additional conditions be met before you can be approved. Act quickly to avoid further delay.



For answers to your real estate questions, call Allison at 970-468-6800. Email - [email protected]. Her philosophy is simple, whether buying or selling, she understands that the most important real estate transaction is yours.  Want to know the value of your Summit County property? Visit  

Question:  Allison, we have had our Silverthorne, CO home on the market for several months with lots of showings, but no offers.  We feel like our price is right – do you have any other ideas for us?

Answer:  Thanks for asking…of course, correct pricing is the #1 thing you can do to increase the likelihood of a sale, but here’s another idea that I have been using recently with good results:  Write a love letter to you buyers!

According to Tara Nicolle with Inman news, recent reports suggest that the real estate market might be picking up in the nation.  While we do tend to lag behind the national market by 12-18 months and our prices are still declining slightly, we are seeing some good energy here in the mountains.  That said, sellers from coast to coast are still doing everything within their power to differentiate their home from the scads of other competitive listings.

As someone who has been inside probably thousands of homes with buyers over the years, I've always thought there was one super-simple, vastly underrated marketing technique for homes that are having a hard time standing out from the rest of the market: the seller love letter.

A seller love letter is a note, personally written or typed up by the home's seller. Among other things, it expresses the love the seller's family has had for the home, and explains the facts and events underlying that sentiment.

I've seen these be as short as a single page, and as long as a binder containing a 10-page letter and a collection of supporting pictures and other documents.

If the power of staging lies in depersonalizing the property so buyers can picture their own family living out their own lives in the home, the power of a seller love letter is that it leaves buyers with a warm feeling that the home has a positive energy and history, which is especially desirable on today's distressed property-riddled market.

Here are six things smart sellers should consider including in their love letters about their homes to their buyers:

1. Fond family memories. Now, there's no reason to get all "TMI" (too much information) about it, but the fact is that buyers do love to hear sweet, fond family memories about a property. I've watched with my own two eyes as buyers who liked a 100-year-old home fell desperately in love with it as they read about the seller's parents' building the home, and then raising a flourishing family there.

Even much newer homes can have their own endearing stories, whether they be about a hard-charging professional bachelor who is moving out of a loft to start a family; about retirees who raised their kids there and are now moving to downsize and be near their grandkids; or about a smart, single woman who was the first person in her family to own a home.

The goal here is to create warm fuzzies while you satisfy the buyer's craving to know why on earth anyone would want to move from such a lovely place. And if you can tell a happy story, you can kill another bird with a single stone – distinguishing your place from all the tragic stories and sadness surrounding the short sales and foreclosures with which your home is competing.

2. Favorite neighborhood vendors and local businesses. One reason people dread moving so much is that it forces them to find new vendors for everything, especially for the practicalities and minutiae that can derail our schedules and lives if they don't run well. If you have neighborhood businesses you love, making a list of them and including them with your love letter is very much appreciated by buyers.

Take care to include things like: dry cleaners, house cleaners, landscapers, carpet cleaners, produce markets and butchers, and especially restaurants that have great take-out and delivery services.

You get extra points if you know the proprietor and authorize the buyer to drop your name, or you include menus with your list of restaurants that deliver to the property address.

3. Lifestyle amenities that map to local buyer wish lists. Give some thought to the sorts of things people looking to buy a home like yours might be looking for, from a lifestyle perspective, and include notes about any of those amenities in the neighborhood that you and your family or housemates have especially enjoyed. Things like favorite ski runs, playgrounds, running trails, yoga studios, libraries and bookstores, sailing and outdoor recreational opportunities make great fodder for this list.

4. History of upgrades. Of course, your state-required disclosure forms will include a pithy section for relating the repairs and upgrades you've done in the time you owned the property, but you can take that to a new level in your seller love letter with a free-form description of the work, color commentary (if it makes sense) around why and how you had it done, and a little appendix that includes any relevant plans, permits warranties, receipts, service contracts and the like.

(Obviously, you don't want to include the originals of these items if this love letter document will be left out in the property during showings.)

If there are any issues or repairs that are likely to come up in the buyer's inspection reports that you want to explain in more detail, the love letter can give you your chance to do just that.

5. Property details and tricks. If you have a detailed landscape plan that identifies all the plants and trees in your yards, tricks for how to work the heating and cooling timer or the tricky downstairs doors, details on when the neighborhood trash pickup happens, or info about your alarm, termite or other service contracts, prospective buyers will feel well taken care of if you compile and include all this information with your love letter and let them see it before they even make an offer.

6. Neighbors. If you have particularly close and friendly relationships with any specific neighbors, or there are block parties, online or email groups, homeowners association (HOA) or neighborhood watch meetings or other favorites, ones with kids, block party, watch meetings, other things being planned/organized, let the buyers know.

You see, a good seller love letter is equal parts lovey-dovey and logistical, but the care that goes into preparing it and the love that is evident in its content can be a significant selling point to buyers weary of dealing with bank sellers or stressful short-sale situations.

Whatever you do, if you decide to write a seller love letter for your home, review your plans and thoughts about what to include with your real estate Broker first. You want to make sure not to run afoul of any equal opportunity housing laws or disclosure laws.

As well, waxing rhapsodic about all the weekends you invested in the terrible mural on the wall might be more concerning than compelling to buyers who think they could live in your home easily -- assuming they paint over the mural on day one as the new owners.

Let the buyers know why you love the place and they might fall in love with it, too!


For answers to your real estate questions, call Allison at 970-468-6800. Email - [email protected]. Her philosophy is simple, whether buying or selling, she understands that the most important real estate transaction is yours.  Want to know the value of your Summit County property? Visit  

Top reasons to sell home in winter

by Allison Simson

Aside from less competition, low borrowing costs give buyers incentive

Question: Allison, We’re contemplating putting our Frisco home on the market and we’re wondering if there is anyone out there buying property right now?

Answer: Good question.  I hear this question a lot and can provide your with some specific information about your particular segment of the market, but in general, according to Dianne Hymer, Inman news, we are getting close to the end of the year, which begs the question of whether it's worthwhile trying to sell your home now. Is it a waste of time? Will it sit on the market and become shopworn? Should I take my house off the market for the holidays? Will the home-sale market be better for sellers in 2012?

The first question you need to ask yourself is: Are you emotionally prepared to sell? Selling is a challenge for most sellers, although some markets are better than others. Unless you bought more than eight to 10 years ago and preserved your equity, you may not be able to sell for enough to pay off the mortgages secured against the property and the other costs of selling.

Sellers who have the resources to make up the difference between the sale price and the amount they owe need to ask themselves if they are willing to pay the additional cash in order to sell and move on.

There are two reasons why you might prefer bringing cash to closing. One is that your credit will not be negatively impacted, as would be the case with a short sale or foreclosure. The second is that many buyers shy away from short sales because of the lengthy and uncertain process involved.

The next thing to consider is the condition of your home. Is it ready for the market? The most salable homes are those that are in move-in condition.

Before racing to the hardware store, ask your Realtor about how much competition there would be for your home if you put it on the market before the holidays. Some areas are shy on inventory of good homes on the market. If so, now could be a good time to sell.

The supply/demand ratio plays a significant role in the health of a local real estate market. No matter what is said about the housing market nationally, it's the local picture that tells the tale in terms of the possibility of selling your home at any given time.

Most sellers don't put their homes on the market during the last or first couple of months of the year. The inventory of homes for sale tends to dwindle during the winter months. Interest rates are low. So, if there are buyers in your local market, you may be at an advantage selling when most sellers are waiting.

Some sellers feel that if they've waited this long to sell, they should put the process on hold until spring and get the house ready in the meantime. Certainly, it's not a good idea to put your house on the market until it looks great. But if you and your house are ready to sell, move ahead.

The market in general tends to slow down over the holidays. But rather than pull your house off the market and miss a likely prospect, change the showing procedure to require advance notice. And enjoy your holidays. A sale before year end could be a great holiday gift.

There is a lot of pent-up demand, on both the buyer and seller sides. Sellers have been waiting for a better time to sell. Buyers have been waiting for more quality inventory and a sense that prices have bottomed or are close to it.

In closing, recent projections call for another five or so years of bouncing along close to the bottom of this market cycle. Many experts believe that the big price declines are behind us.  I sure hope they are right!  Remember that Summit County tends to lag behind the national economy by anywhere from 18-24 months.  Inman News. 


For answers to your real estate questions, call Allison at 970-468-6800. Email - [email protected]. Her philosophy is simple, whether buying or selling, she understands that the most important real estate transaction is yours.  Want to know the value of your Summit County property? Visit  

6 must-haves for mortgage approval

by Allison Simson

Even trade-up buyers, owners of multiple properties hit roadblocks

Question:  Allison, we’re looking at trading up from our condo in Wildernest to a single family home in Silverthorne, CO, but we’ve heard that it’s impossible to get a loan.  Any suggestions?

Answer: Despite what you may have heard, the lending business  in Summit County is alive and well!  Is it as easy to get any type of loan under the sun like it was during the boom days? No.  Are there some great options out there?  Absolutely!  According to Diane Hymer at Inman News, interest rates fell to new lows in October. Low interest rates increase affordability and should make it easier for buyers to qualify. Yet stories of buyers waiting months to gain loan approval and home purchase transactions not closing on time due to lender's strict underwriting are all too common.

Some buyers are turned down for illogical reasons. For instance, if you have investments -- even if they're performing well -- an underwriter might deny the mortgage because your portfolio doesn't fall into the underwriter's risk assessment model.

One couple was turned down because the husband had worked at his current job for less than a year -- even though he was making more money at the new job than he was before.

These buyers were well-qualified. The wife had worked several years for one employer and was able to qualify for the loan on her own. So, the transaction closed, although two months late.

Generally, it's more difficult to qualify now than it was a year ago- but don’t be discouraged! Most conventional lenders require a 20-25 percent down payment. For the lowest interest rates, your credit scores need to be in the 700 range. You need to have verifiable income and cash reserves in addition to your down payment and closing costs.

You could run into underwriting problems if you're self-employed, as W-2 income is much easier to verify. Other hurdles are lapses in employment and owning a lot of property. Some lenders won't lend to buyers who have more than three or four residential properties.

If you're buying a new home before selling your current home, you'll need to have 30 percent equity in your current home. This needs to be verified by the lender's appraiser. Also, the lender will want to see a copy of the cashed check from the tenant for the first month's rent to verify rental income if needed to qualify.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: As soon as you're serious about buying a home, find the best mortgage broker or loan agent you can to assist you. Don't make your selection based on interest rates alone. A good track record counts for a lot.  A local lender familiar with doing loans in Summit County is your best bet.

Closing the deal should be your primary goal. If you have to pay 0.25 percent more to assure your transaction closes on time and that you're not turned down at the last minute, it's worth it.

Be candid with your loan professional about anything in your financial picture that might impact loan qualification. A good loan agent or broker will be able to assess your financial situation and anticipate what you'll need to do to satisfy the underwriter.

Be aware that appraisal issues can impact your loan approval. For example, if a previous owner added square footage without a building permit, the additional square footage probably won't be included as livable square feet.

If the appraisal comes in for less than the purchase price, the lender might not lend you enough to close the deal. Include an appraisal contingency in your contract.

As of Oct. 1, the conforming jumbo mortgage limit for expensive housing markets like New York City and San Francisco dropped from $729,750 to $625,500. In some cases, conforming jumbo lenders have moved into the market to pick up some slack. You can expect to pay about 0.25 percent more for a 30-year fixed-rate conventional jumbo loan, in some cases. However, today's lower interest rates will help boost affordability.

There are more jumbo financing options available now. Adjustable-rate mortgages that are fixed for 10 years and then revert to an adjustable have a starting rate about 0.25 percent less than a 30-year fixed jumbo. A five-year fixed starts about 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent lower, but is riskier.

We have some of the finest mortgage brokers and lenders around right here in Summit County.  If you’d like a list of our preferred lenders,  just ask.



For answers to your real estate questions, call Allison at 970-468-6800. Email - [email protected]. Her philosophy is simple, whether buying or selling, she understands that the most important real estate transaction is yours.  Want to know the value of your Summit County property? Visit  

IRS's top 10 tax tips for home sellers

by Allison Simson

Question:  Allison, we’re selling our home in Breckenridge, CO and wonder what changes our sale will have on our taxes from a real estate perspective.

Answer:  Good question! I’m FAR from being a tax expert, but from time to time the IRS releases tips designed to help people with their taxes. Some of these are quite useful.

According to Stephen Fishman, Inman News, last week the agency released "Ten Tax Tips for Individuals Selling Their Home," (IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2011-15).

Here are the IRS's top 10 tax tips for home sellers:

1. In general, you are eligible to exclude the gain from income if you have owned and used your home as your main home for two years out of the five years prior to the date of its sale.

2. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).

3. You are not eligible for the exclusion if you excluded the gain from the sale of another home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.

4. If you can exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale on your tax return.

5. If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.

6. You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.

7. Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude.

8. If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is ordinarily the one you live in most of the time.

9. If you received the first-time homebuyer credit and within 36 months of the date of purchase, the property is no longer used as your principal residence, you are required to repay the credit. Repayment of the full credit is due with the income tax return for the year the home ceased to be your principal residence, using Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit. The full amount of the credit is reflected as additional tax on that year's tax return.

10. When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive refunds or correspondence from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.

Best to speak with your Accountant to keep on all the minor and major changes that can affect you! 


For answers to your real estate questions, call Allison at 970-468-6800. Email - [email protected]. Her philosophy is simple, whether buying or selling, she understands that the most important real estate transaction is yours.  Want to know the value of your Summit County property? Visit  

6 tips for timing a real estate purchase

by Allison Simson

How fence-sitters can get a jump on the competition

Question:  Allison, we are considering buying a townhome in Wildernest, but have been unable to “pull the trigger!”  Do you have any suggestions about timing the market? 

Answer:  That’s the million dollar question!  First, you won’t know when the market has hit bottom until it starts to go up, so timing is difficult at best.  According to Dianne Hymer of  Inman News, in mid-June, interest rates on home loans were lower than they were a year ago. However, this failed to ignite the housing market. Many buyers and homeowners would like to make a move, but some find it impossible to make a decision. They are commonly referred to as fence-sitters, poised to make a move when the time seems right.

The housing market is unlikely to make a quick turn-around anytime soon, but this doesn't mean that now is not a good time to buy or sell. It depends on your personal situation and market conditions in the area where you plan to buy or sell.

Become an expert on your local market. Knowing a good deal when you see it or what price to ask if you decide to sell depends on having a good understanding of how much properties are selling for in your neighborhood.

While you're trying to decide what to do, line up a team that can help you accomplish your goal when you decide to move ahead. You can do this by researching online, attending open houses in the area and asking a real estate agent to keep you on top of market fluctuations.

Your decision to buy should be based on your personal financial situation, not on the national or global economy. For example, if you bought during the bubble market and are now getting divorced, you'll probably sell for less than you paid.

But, if the house is too expensive for one to support, it may be cheaper in the long run to cut your losses and sell now. No one knows how long the housing downturn will last. Prices could move lower before rebounding. This is not an ordinary recession.

Don't get caught up following the herd. Just because most people in your area aren't buying or are having difficulty selling doesn't mean that you shouldn't make a move. Just make sure if you're a buyer that you have job security, a relatively healthy economy in your local area and a plan to stay put for at least 10 years.

The housing market will be volatile going forward. Good economic news will help fence-sitters make the decision to get serious about moving. Bad news of any sort can cause the market to stall. To take advantage of the upticks in the market, you need to be prepared in advance.

Find a good local real estate agent to work with who understands your needs, and wait to buy or sell until the time is right for you. It could take you a year or so to make the final decision. Some agents don't have the patience to stick it out.

Select an agent who will educate you about the market and the idiosyncrasies of the home-sale business in your area. Ask to be kept informed about sales in the area. Many agents are set up to do this electronically, which is an easy way to keep you informed without taking up a lot of the agent's time.

One of the most difficult aspects of the current home-sale business is financing the transaction. Find a loan agent or mortgage broker who is a real professional, has been in the business for years and who understands what current underwriters will require from you to process your loan.

Assemble all the financial documents you'll need for loan approval even before you start looking. Ask your agent or broker to have your loan package previewed by an underwriter so that you know beforehand if there are any problems.

Remedy these in advance so that they don't cause last-minute delays in closing. Copyright Inman News.



For answers to your real estate questions, call Allison at 970-468-6800. Email - [email protected]. Her philosophy is simple, whether buying or selling, she understands that the most important real estate transaction is yours.  Want to know the value of your Summit County property? Visit  

Question:  We recently heard that the mortgage interest deduction may be eliminated.  What’s the scoop?

Answer:  Well, there is no easy answer to this question…here is what Stephen Fishman of Inman News has to say:  The federal tax law encourages homeownership in a big way by allowing homeowners to deduct from their income taxes the interest they pay on home mortgages.

The deduction may be used for mortgage debt totaling $1 million, and up to $100,000 in home-equity loans or lines of credit, for a principal and second home.

One study estimates that the mortgage interest deduction lowers the cost of capital for owner-occupied housing by 7 percent. Also, by allowing taxpayers to deduct mortgage interest from their taxable income, but not rental payments, the tax code creates a strong financial incentive to buy rather than rent a home.

In 2009, about 35 million households claimed the deduction, and more than 75 percent of homeowners have used the deduction at least once.

As you might expect, the mortgage interest deduction is expensive. Indeed, it's one of the largest tax breaks in the tax code, costing about $80 billion per year. That's why the so-called “Gang of Six” a bipartisan group of six senators that has been drafting a deficit reduction plan, has called for changes in the deduction.

The six senators' draft plan states Congress should "reform, not eliminate ... tax expenditures for homeownership."

The group has not provided any concrete proposals on how the home interest deduction should be changed, but many are already on the table.

For example, the Obama administration has proposed limiting the value of the deduction for taxpayers in the top two tax brackets: 33 percent and 35 percent. These taxpayers would not be allowed to use the deduction to reduce their income in the top two brackets.

In effect, this converts the deduction to a 28 percent tax credit for these upper-income homeowners. Homeowners with incomes below $250,000 would generally not be directly affected by this proposal.

Other proposals call for limiting the deduction to homes worth $500,000 or less, rather than the current $1 million limit, and eliminating it entirely for second homes. Others contend that the deduction should be phased out entirely in return for lower tax rates for everyone.

What happens if the mortgage interest deduction is "reformed"? The National Association of Realtors says eliminating the deduction entirely would cause a 15 percent decline in the value of homes across the nation.

In high-cost areas, that impact would be greater, while in lower-cost areas the effect would be less. Obviously, the impact would be less severe if reform short of total elimination of the deduction is enacted.

On the other hand, some claim that reforming the deduction wouldn't be such a big deal. After all, the average home interest deduction is only about $2,000 per return. It's primarily upper-income taxpayers who would be affected.

Households earning more than $200,000 a year account for less than 10 percent of all returns filed, but account for 30 percent of all the tax savings from the home interest deduction. Households earning more than $100,000 a year get 69 percent of all the tax benefits from the deduction.

The mortgage interest deduction was adopted more or less by accident back in the 1890s. Since that time it has become one of America's best-loved tax breaks. Anyone looking to greatly change it will be in for a fight


For answers to your real estate questions, call Allison at 970-468-6800. Email - [email protected]. Her philosophy is simple, whether buying or selling, she understands that the most important real estate transaction is yours.  Want to know the value of your Summit County property? Visit  

Prioritize trade-offs in house vs.condo decision

by Allison Simson

Q: Allison:  We are looking to buy property in Summit County, which  is better to buy - a house or condo/townhouse?

A: Good question!  According to Tara Nicholle Nelson of Inman News, in the house vs. condo or townhouse battle, the analysis of which type to buy is not as simple as "better" or "worse," per se.  However, there are trade-offs to each, and in the final analysis of which property type to buy, own and live in, your decision boils down to a matter of fit between your lifestyle, personality and finances, and the key characteristics of the property type you select.

The most common concern homebuyers bring up when making the "condo or no" decision are around homeowners associations: the monthly dues they charge, and the restrictions they impose.

While many people think paying any sort of monthly dues on top of your mortgage and property taxes is nuts, these dues often cover expenses that a single-family homeowner would have to pay out as individual line items to various vendors, like garbage collection, hazard insurance and maintenance of the building(s) over time.

Another common "pros and cons" comparison when it comes to the house-vs.-condo debate involves the commonly cited advantage of attached, HOA-style housing, in that it eliminates the biggest portion of the home maintenance single-family homeowners have to do. This is especially true when it comes to the buildings' exterior, landscaping, and maintaining big ticket items like foundations, boilers, roofs and windows.

Unit owners don't have to do that sort of work, but the trade-off is a different set of responsibilities that owners of non-HOA properties don't have: the work of participating in an HOA. That means attending board meetings, reading meeting minutes, staying informed about HOA issues, and voting. If you don't participate, you can't be surprised when the HOA levies surprise fees and assessments because expenses weren't appropriately anticipated or budgeted.

And here's another set of trade-offs: privacy vs. communal living. In a detached home, you have as much privacy from your neighbors as possible in light of the architecture and lot situation of the property you choose. In an HOA situation, you might share walls, ceilings, floors, parking areas and yards -- and, depending on the construction standards of the property, possibly also smells and sounds -- with your neighbors; as well, you definitely share some financial interests with your neighbors in a condo scenario.

Along with owning and living in a communal setting comes the obligation to abide by its rules. It is precisely the extensive covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) and community rules and regulations that make a community of relative strangers run smoothly, which makes some prospective buyers bristle at the potential loss of autonomy and ability to freely choose your own home improvements, among other things.

It's not bizarre for condo rules to limit things like your flooring choice (because hard floors can create noise pollution for lower units); what you can put out on your patio; and the size, number and type of pets you can own.

The flip side? The community, together, possesses economies of scale and can collectively afford property amenities you could never afford to have in your own private property, from doormen to parking garages, pools to community centers, and even including business centers and parks.

So, my answer is: You decide. Do you value privacy over amenities? Ease of maintenance over independence? Ask yourself what your priorities are, and go see both detached homes and condo/townhouse properties in your area. The right personal choice becomes clear to most buyers very early in their house hunts.

With that said, I do have one caveat about condos and townhomes: There are a number of HOAs that are experiencing deep financial crises, post-recession, from the dues they charge being viewed as a low-priority obligation by homeowners struggling to pay their bills. As a result, some HOAs are increasing dues on all homeowners to cover their expenses, and levying special assessments to cover high-priced upgrades and repairs that urgently need doing.

Increasingly, in a large number of HOAs across the country, the units are unable to be resold due to the HOA's financial issues, rendering it impossible for prospective buyers to obtain mortgage financing -- when buyers can't buy, home values plummet.

If you decide you like condo living, talk with your real estate broker or agent about finding a unit in a healthy HOA -- buying into one that is struggling can dramatically impact the value of your home and the ability to resell it over the long term.  Inman News 2011.

For answers to your real estate questions, call Allison at 970-468-6800. Email - [email protected]. Allison is a long time local in Summit County. Summit Real Estate – The Simson/Nenninger Team is located at the Dillon Ridge Marketplace. Allison’s long-time residency and years of real estate experience can help you make the most of any buying or selling situation. She’s a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), the highest designation awarded to a Realtor in the residential sales field.  Her philosophy is simple, whether buying or selling, she understands that the most important real estate transaction is yours.  Want to know the value of your Summit County property? Visit   

Should we remodel before we sell?

by Allison Simson

We are always asked by many sellers whether they should remodel their homes or condos before they sell.  According to the annual Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling Magazine, and Inman News it still pays to remodel.  Their survey identifies most cost-effective home improvements

The home-sale market has taken a beating throughout the nation in the last few years, which begs the question: Does it makes sense financially to invest in home improvements? According to Diane Hymer of Inman News and Remodeling Magazine's annual Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report for 2009-10, published in agreement with the National Association of Realtors, indicates that remodeling still pays off, but more so on less expensive projects.
Most high-end remodeling projects don't return dollar for dollar on the investment even in a good market. That is, unless homes are appreciating at a fast clip. In this case, you might get your money back due to appreciation. But the profit on the sale might not be as much as it would have been if you hadn't done a high-end renovation.
Just as today's homebuyers are making pragmatic decisions, so are today's homeowners when it comes to making improvements.

These projects returned from 71 to 83 percent nationally depending on the materials used. The project that paid back the highest return was a midrange front-door replacement that cost approximately $1,200 and returned an average 128.9 percent nationally.
Sellers may wonder why it would make sense to invest in an improvement just for the sake of selling if it won't repay the amount invested. In today's challenging home-sale market, these improvements may be warranted for the home sell at all if there is a lot of inventory in your neighborhood. Buyers expect more for their money and gravitate to listings that are in the best condition for the price.
HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Be judicious about how you spend your money fixing your home up for sale. For example, if your kitchen is a disaster, it makes more sense to do a midrange than an upscale renovation. According to the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, a midrange minor kitchen upgrade will return an average of 78.3 percent nationally. A major upscale kitchen remodel will pay back only 63.2 percent
The Cost vs. Value Report recommends the following cost-effective improvements you might consider to prepare your home for the market: tidying up the kitchen cabinets using organizers will make your cabinets roomy; add an inexpensive tile backsplash to a tired kitchen, and use inexpensive tile to give an old bathroom a new look; add a breakfast bar by cutting an opening between the kitchen and family room; and install granite tile rather than slab.
Other suggestions include: replacing outdated light fixtures; freshening up the basement; giving the kitchen cabinets a new look by reconditioning and adding new knobs or having cabinet doors and drawers replaced; updating a bathroom without replacing tile by changing the medicine cabinet, light fixtures, vanity, cleaning the grout or replacing it and adding glass shower doors.
THE CLOSING: Before starting any fix-up-for-sale projects, seek your real estate agent's advice so that you don't waste money on improvements that won't pay back much in your area.

If you have specific questions about fixing up your place, please don't hesitate to call.  Or, if you'd like a copy of our special report "Staging Your Home", just let us know and we'll send it to you. We're here to help! 

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Summit Real Estate
The Bright Choice
330 Dillon Ridge Way, Suite 10
Dillon CO 80435
Fax: 970-468-2195

Allison Simson, Owner/Broker, is a licensed Colorado Real Estate Broker