What Makes a Neighborhood Great?

I recently watched an interesting clip of Mr. Rogers testifying before Congress way-back-when to request additional funding for public television and it got me thinking about the many wonderful neighborhoods I work in around Metro Denver.

Charming Cherry Trees

What commonalities do great neighborhoods share? It isn’t about fancy cars parked in every driveway – not that a certain level of wealth can’t contribute to positive aspects of a neighborhood. Established trees and historic homes are wonderful, but nearly-new suburban neighborhoods can be charming, too. The factors that influence the relative character of a neighborhood go deeper than material wealth or history. Let’s take a closer look.

Great neighborhoods share the following factors:

  • Pride in Ownership. This factor goes beyond curb appeal. Whether a neighborhood is affluent, middle class or quite modest, pride of ownership is witnessed from every street corner in front and backyards and in everyday interactions between neighbors. The privilege of living in a great neighborhood brings a smile to residents’ faces and a feeling of, “C’mon in,” to passersby.  
  • Family Friendly. For the right person, a hi-rise condo downtown is the ultimate place to live, and certainly offers its own unique “neighborhood” feel for the people who live there. If you hop in your car and cruise the streets of Metro Denver, one key to neighborhood greatness is whether the area is family friendly. This includes the demeanor of residents and is characterized by a willingness to shovel Mrs. Hansen’s driveway when the snow flies because you respect your elders, and an open mind toward activities like lemonade stands and school fundraisers. Sidewalks and streets wide enough to ride a bicycle past parked cars helps, too.
  • Excellent Schools. Phenomenal schools tend to attract families who are interested in their children’s educational success, and Colorado is no exception. Visit this site or others like it to determine the quality of schools in a neighborhood you are considering, or to find out if your school is making the grade. Even if you don’t have children, buying in a neighborhood attached to an excellent school district will help your home maintain and grow in value at a higher rate than a home in a poorly performing school district, and education is a strongly held value for Denver buyers.
  • Low Crime Rates. One aspect of crime rates in your own neighborhood or a desired neighborhood to pay attention to is historical trends. If crime has been on the decline for the past few years, the state of the neighborhood is likely on the upswing and residents are actively tuned in to making it a better, safer place to live. If, on the other hand, a neighborhood has seen an increase in crimes like break ins and auto theft over a period of time, this may be a neighborhood worth avoiding.
  • Convenient Distance to Necessities, Public Transit and Medical Care. Choosy buyers want convenience when they settle into a home, and for most people this means a quick drive to the grocery store and other need-based shopping, easy access to public transit like the city bus or Light Rail, and a reasonable drive to the hospital in case of emergencies or even access to one or more urgent care facilities, which have skyrocketed in popularity in the past 5-10 years. If these things matter to you, start in your desired neighborhood and drive to each of the places that matter most to you – everything from a particular brand of salon to a gas station to your favorite grocery store to the local hospital. This is one of the best ways to find out not only driving distance to the amenities that matter most to you, but what traffic patterns are like on the way there.
  • Proximity to Culture. Does your area of town boast art museums or antique shops? Are there other unique shops or restaurants to be found in your suburb’s downtown, or do you have to drive into Denver proper or another nearby city for great grub? Are you as close to sporting events or music and theatrical opportunities as you’d like to be? Proximity to culture can add to or even define a great neighborhood. If cultural influence is a priority for your lifestyle or family, you should consider this factor in landing on the ideal neighborhood to call home.
  • Close to Nature. This is a big factor for many Coloradans! You don’t have to call Red Rocks home or build a log cabin on the side of a mountain to embrace the natural wonder of our state, but the ability to hop on a bike or walking path within a few steps out your front or back door is a big deal. If your family spends every possible weekend in the Rockies hiking, camping, fly fishing… you should live as close to this outdoor playground as you possibly can. If a morning jog or an evening stroll are part of your routine, find a neighborhood adjacent to the Cherry Creek Trail or even Cherry Creek State Park. Metro Denver has many neighborhoods with idyllic settings and opportunities to get back to nature in your own neighborhood.

Are you wondering what kind of prices homes in your neighborhood are commanding, or what it would cost you to get into the neighborhood of your dreams? I’ve been helping people buy and sell homes across Denver for many years, and I would love the opportunity to help you score a deal in your favorite neighborhood or sell your current property for top dollar.

Give me a call!

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

The One that Got Away

I’d like to share a story with you of some friends and clients of mine who bought a house… almost. 

Except their journey to home ownership took a detour along the way. And with permission, I’m sharing what happened to them so you can avoid the same frustrating fate.

Pouty Face

Like many clients I’ve helped to buy a home, my friends were hit hard in the last recession. They bought their most recent suburban Denver home when the market was high, and when the bottom dropped out of the economy, their income was hit hard and they struggled to make ends meet. They missed a few mortgage payments while times were tough and the rest of their credit took a hit as they set aside credit cards and other bills in an attempt to keep their home afloat; after several months of writing letters, filling out forms, telling (and proving) their story to their lender, they were able to secure a loan modification and keep their home.

Fast forward to now.

They sold their suburban home a year and a half ago and after renting a property in their new hometown in another state during that time, they are sick of the rental game and ready to buy a home. Much to their surprise, despite having so-so credit, their stable career history and the down payment they’d carefully saved up were on their side, and they qualified for a mortgage. On the downside, the interest rate was higher than ideal, which meant monthly payments would be a bit higher than the conservative amount they budgeted for; after all – these folks have learned from their struggles, and didn’t want to end up house poor. Wise thinking!

Although they qualified for a loan, they decided to proactively seek better lending terms – particularly a more attractive interest rate – and based on the advice of credit repair professionals they consulted (and input from the credit team at the mortgage company they worked with) they began working on outstanding items like collections that were dragging their credit scores down in preparation for a rescore – an additional credit pull made by the mortgage company in order to obtain a more favorable interest rate, if credit has improved significantly enough.

The good news: their credit scores improved!

The bad news: along with the change to their credit scores, a credit card collection account on file with the credit bureaus is now listed as “Disputed,” and this single item has put their formerly-approved home loan in jeopardy, therefore their planned home purchase.

OUCH.

My friends certainly didn’t expect to lose the home they’ve been working toward as they made moves to improve their credit – especially after having an approval in hand. This story is ongoing and it’s not over yet – you’ll have to stay tuned to find out what happens next. I’m waiting to hear, too.

I’ve shared their story here, anonymously and with permission, because there is a lesson to be learned. The economy is stronger than it was a few years ago and the Real Estate market is robust and thriving in most of the nation, but because of questionable lending practices in the past, qualifying for a mortgage is not a walk in the park, and it is not always a simple or straightforward process – especially if you have snafus in your current credit history and reporting. You owe it to yourself, and your family if you have one, to attempt to secure the best financing you can when purchasing a home. That said, interest rates are incredible right now – historically low if you look at rates over the past many years, and if your credit is iffy and you are able to qualify for a home loan with a decent interest rate – take it and run! You can always work to improve your credit and refinance later, but as long as the payments are affordable and the home you’ve chosen meets your needs, don’t lose the opportunity to own a home because you believe your terms could be just a little better. You could end up watching your almost-home deal die on the vine over a quarter of a point in interest and a few bucks a month.

Fingers (and toes) are crossed, and I’ll let you know what happens with my friends.

I’m here to help,

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

Alienate a Seller in 5 Easy Steps

Etiquette… in our fast paced, paperless, I-saw-it-online-in-real-time world, a “Post-Emily-Post” world, if you will, some people believe manners are a lost art. That the nuances of behavior we once treasured: thank you notes, the opening of doors, good old fashioned common courtesy – are a thing of the past. Call me old fashioned, but I want to believe that in an industry like Real Estate, where the commodity is property of all types but the parties to every transaction are feeling, thinking human beings, manners still matter.

Jerk Store

In an effort to encourage a state of civility among the patrons of this industry, I’d like to point out a few behaviors you can avoid as a home purchaser when dealing with a home seller. None of what I’m about to share is revolutionary; most of it is, in fact, the commonest of common sense. But sometimes, in the midst of one of the biggest potential purchases people can make, emotions get the better of us and we say or do things we’d never utter or enact under cooler circumstances. This information is designed to help you avoid being “that guy.”

Without further adieu, here are 5 of my favorite ways Home Buyers can Alienate Sellers:

  1. Insult the Seller’s decor or personal property. It’s one thing to ask your agent to point out, tactfully, to the Seller’s agent that the decor is dated and you’ll be investing in updates to the home, and to make an offer reflecting this investment. It is quite another thing to point out the embarrassing proliferation of cat posters, grandma’s doilies or an egregious over-use of animal print fabrics. You aren’t buying the doilies – you’re buying the house. And if you make snarky comments about the decor that get back to the Seller – you might not be buying the house, after all.
  2. Assume your offer will be accepted because it’s all cash. A colleague of mine has a saying, “If it ain’t in writing – it ain’t.” I’ve had Sellers who accepted a lower offer on their property because a personal letter from the potential Buyer appealed to them and this extra tug on their heartstrings sealed the deal. No matter the terms of your offer or even the state of the market, don’t kid yourself. No offer is guaranteed to be accepted, and the posture you have when bringing an offer should be one of humility. Walking in with a big head and the belief you can bully a Seller into accepting your terms won’t bring you a win. It’ll just turn them off.
  3. Point out the competition in an effort to cast shade on the Seller’s property. Your agent should definitely point out comparable properties in the neighborhood that have sold for less than the Seller is asking when submitting your offer. That’s part of our job as your representative. It is not cool, however, to talk down the Seller’s property in a negative way. One house has a finished basement and one does not? A fair comparable to bring up. One house has stainless appliances and one house has a kitchen you, the potential Buyer, deem “disgusting” and unworthy of your high style? Keep it to yourself. There are ways to compare and contrast property listings without insulting the Seller.
  4. Move things around or leave messy footprints while on your Showing. Just ugh. You’d never track mud into a friend’s house if you were a guest – don’t do it in a Seller’s home. And if you do – clean up after yourself. Don’t move anything around, don’t open dresser drawers or medicine cabinets – this is not your house yet, and these are not your things. Side note – it is okay to use a Seller’s bathroom if you must – especially if you have small children in tow who simply can’t hold it – but make sure you leave the space tidy and looking like it did when you arrive.
  5. Show up at the Open House – with or without your Realtor – and talk smack. When you are in the market to buy a home, there IS such a thing as bad publicity – and spouting off a string of criticisms at an Open House will leave a bad taste in the agents mouth, and maybe even the Seller’s. Sometimes Sellers are present at the Open House – something I don’t recommend, but it happens. Some Sellers place a Nanny Cam on a bookshelf to record the action. A home owner may work from home or be home with a sick child and could be sequestered in a room where you don’t see them, but they may be able to hear every word you say. You are entitled to your opinions, but discussing your distaste about a particular property should wait until you are outside of the home – like in the car. Talking smack in the driveway while the neighbors listen in is not a good alternative.

You’ll come across many items worthy of comment while searching for your next home: avocado wallpaper circle 1971; stained carpets that appear to have played host to a Sasquatch; curb appeal that makes you want to head for the hills. These things and more will give you something to talk about in the car, back at the office or at home. Just don’t talk about them in the Seller’s house, in your offer or anywhere else in writing that will be presented to the Seller. Kindness and courtesy will contribute to successful negotiation over the course of your Real Estate transaction, and when you get to the closing table, you’ll be glad you played it fair and friendly.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate