Friday, July 25, 2014

A Plumber Strikes Out [Referrals]

by Osman Parvez

Story time. 

I closed a deal this week that needed several inspection issues addressed.   I was the listing agent (i.e. represented the seller) and we had to replace an old hot water heater per the inspection resolution.

What you will say when you get the bill
My client has a very busy schedule including international travel, so I obtained estimates on his behalf, selected contractors, and attended the repairs.  He's a repeat client and he trusts me.   I work hard to ensure the trust stays strong.   Pretty simple, right?

By the way - I don't know if other agents do this sort of stuff, but taking care of what my client is too busy to handle is what full service means.   It just requires a little trust (and a multi-page agreement... just kidding).

WTF Plumbing
I haven't had a good plumber on my referral list for some time so I called one I've used a few times with average (meh) results.   I won't disclose their name publicly, but they pride themselves on providing free estimates.  You know who they are.    I also called a new plumber - Len from J&L Plumbing.   I hadn't used J&L before but they came with a strong recommendation by someone I trust. 

Guess what?  The free estimate plumber came in at an outrageous number.   J&L?  Less than half the price!    J&L got the job.  Here's the final invoice. 


I know what you're thinking...  J&L must be new and undercutting to get business, right?   Wrong.   J&L has 30+ years of experience and Len is a master plumber.   His invoice was also reasonable and clearly laid out with time and materials.   

I was on the job site, I watched him work.   I like watching contractors work.  You can get a real sense over how much they care (or not).    I could tell Len cared about doing a good job and his approach was like a craftsman, not a hack.   

So.. guess who will be getting my referrals from now on?   

Guess who already did?   

Here's Len installing an RO system in my house shortly after the hot water heater.    

Pardon the kitchen from 1972, it's a recent purchase.   I'm just glad I have a dish washer. 


Here's what the finished product looks like.  


Do you see the neat hand written labels below the stickers?    He did that because he didn't think the stickers would last.   I didn't ask him to do that, he just did it.   He cares about his work. 

Was it cheap?   No.   Was it fair and did Len care about his work?  Absolutely!

As for the free estimate plumber?   They will never get another referral from me - ever.  They failed my one strike out policy.    

Len?  He'll probably get dozens of referrals from me in the coming years not to mention this very public recommendation.    There is no financial incentive.  I'm recommending him because he does a great job at a fair price.  

image:  Tim Ballas
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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bidding Wars and Overpaying - Brutal

by Osman Parvez

I represented buyers in two intense bidding wars this past week, both of which went significantly over asking.   In both cases, my buyers were disciplined.  They were willing to let the houses go when it came to paying too much or giving away too much in contingencies.  Ultimately, you've got to know when to walk away and have the confidence to do so. 


Understanding valuation is the key to having confidence in these sort of negotiations.   It can be tricky with certain types of property - especially when comparables are thin to none.   

Won the Bidding War, Lost the DEAL
Take a moment to think about the mindset of buyers making decisions under intense pressure. In my last listing, there were multiple offers coming in so I intentionally slowed down the process, communicated clearly to all interested parties, and encouraged second (if not third) showings.    That deal is through inspection and appraisal.  It's headed to closing.  

As for this week's bidding wars - it won't surprise us to see the houses come back to market. If so, my buyers may take a second look but in general, it sucks for the seller when buyer's remorse takes hold and a deal falls apart. It's also much more likely when a buyer felt rushed. 

Why is this bad for the seller? Let's face it, property that has been under contract and returned to market is tainted.  Not only did the seller lose valuable marketing time and incur very real holding costs, future buyers always want to know what's wrong with it.   Rather than feeling a sense of scarcity (and mild urgency), if feels like they're sifting through the returned goods bin at a department store.  

Sing it Kenny.

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

- Kenny Rogers, "The Gambler." 






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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

How Not to Sell It - Business Card Edition [Stage This]

by Osman Parvez

I love it when I take buyers to see a freshly listed house and we're the very first ones in the door.  The excited look on their faces.  The possibility that this will be the one.

Oh, but how do you think buyers react when they see this?  



Sellers and listing agents, unless you are trying to remind buyers that every Realtor in town has seen the place and it's STILL on the market, I suggest putting away the business card displays. This is the last thing you want potential buyers to see when they walk into your listing.   

And while we're on this topic, the only reason to carry business cards is to leave them at showings.   This is at the request of the listing agent, by the way.   The result is often moldering piles of business cards left behind to signal to buyers that they're looking at a stale listing.  

These days, if you need to exchange contact info, it's easy to do so - instantly.  Pretty much everyone is carrying a mobile phone.  The old fashioned business card?  It's a relic. 

Ooh, but that font.
  

 

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Boulder Market Update [Analyze This]

by Osman Parvez

Put a fork in it. The first half of 2014 is done.    

I'm still crunching the data, but as hinted in previous posts, the Boulder real estate market is not as overheated as last year.   While it's still a seller's market, the preliminary numbers show volume dropped about 10%, year over year. 

I'm putting together my half year report. In the interim, here's some useful information for active buyers and sellers in Boulder.    

Take a look at the following chart. 


You're looking at a snapshot of current market conditions for traditional, detached homes in Boulder.    81 properties sold in the last 30 days, 133 are pending, and 168 remain available (not under contract). 



For condos and town homes, 87 properties closed during the last 30 days, 152 are pending, and 141 are available for purchase (not under contract). 

Here's where the rubber meets the road.   Take closing over the last 30 days and add it to pending sales.  Compare that to what's available.  There's only one conclusion:  inventory (and thus selection) remains sparse. 

This means intense competition among buyers for attractive properties - especially in certain price ranges and locations (talk to your agent for details). 

Case in point, I worked late last night and submitted an offer on behalf of my buyers for a house in Table Mesa.    Apparently, one other offer came in after hours last night and another one this morning.   There are now THREE offers at play for a house priced below $600,000 in S. Boulder.    I wouldn't be surprised if yet another offer materializes.  Meanwhile, several other houses on the market at similar price points aren't getting any offers.   

p.s. I'm playing around with new visual formats.  Feedback on these charts are appreciated. 

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Eye Candy and Boulder Sales Volume - Analyze This

by Osman Parvez
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Ready for more analysis of Boulder real estate?    Check out the following. 

You're looking at sales volume for the period January 1 to June 15 for the past several years.     Houses are green, town homes and condos are orange (a nice peas and carrots effect, don't you think?)

Real estate closings have slowed.   Condos and town home sales have dropped about 4% but home sales have fallen far more.  Sales volume is down nearly 21%.   Don't trust one of my competitors telling you differently.   They're selling you something (or clueless).   

It's not a one month aberration either.  April was the only month with sales higher than last year.   Take a look at the table on the right showing a break down of monthly sales volume for houses (click for a larger image).  The % change only refers to 2014/2013.    

A good part of this is driven by a lack of selection.   As of this writing, there are only 179 houses and 147 condos/town homes on the market (not under contract).  

What Choice Do You Have?

Available houses start at $60K (for a double wide on Valmont) to $6.8MM for a 9,000+ SF of mind blowing trophy home on nearly an acre at 5th and Kalmia.  The median asking price is $920K with an average ask of $1.3MM.   Here's the full list of what's available

Condos start at $108K and stretch to $3.9MM.   The median price is $347K the average is $517K.    Here's what currently available

Note the skew between median and average.    It's another big factor slowing down sales in Boulder.   If you're limited to the lower end of the market in price, your options are slim to none.  

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Ready to buy or sell? Make a smarter real estate decision.  Call me at 303.746.6896. As always, your referrals are deeply appreciated.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

MORE Bad Data (Inventory in Boulder and Louisville)

by Osman Parvez

Time for a quick look at inventory in Boulder and Louisville.   

First a couple of details.   I'll explain why these distinctions are important in a moment. 

Available inventory = all property not under contract + property with a first right of refusal.   The vast majority of first right properties will not sell to the party who retains that right of purchase, so I'm treating it as available (and so should you).

Under contract = property that is under contract with a buyer (i.e. listed as active/backup) + pending status listings.  Pending usually means the property is about to change status, from either active -> under contract or (less commonly) under contract -> sold. 

One of the reasons I started this blog was to better educate my clients on market conditions.  Clients, of course, come first which is why my blogging has slowed.  If you're a client (or prospective client),  call or email me directly with your questions about market conditions.  Don't wait for me to blog about it...

Boulder Inventory


There are currently 318 houses on the market in the City of Boulder.  179 are available for purchase (i.e. not under contract or pending). 


305 condos and town homes are on the market in Boulder as of this writing.   146 of these properties are available for purchase (not under contract).   

Louisville Inventory


In Louisville, only 81 houses are listed for sale.    Just 31 of these listings are not under contract or pending (38%).    Not much selection, sorry Louisville home buyers.   Better get yourself a good buyer's agent.   

By the way, this is one of the reasons you can't trust an computerized estimate of your home's value.  There is far too little inventory (or sales) for Zillow/Trulia/Redfin's estimate of value to be remotely accurate. 

Always Question Assumptions

Story time.     This is for the Realtors who read this blog (shout out to my colleagues and competitors).

I was crunching data for the monthly House Einstein report and noticed an alarming trend.    Inventory in every market appeared to fall off a cliff in May.  How was it possible that inventory would suddenly drop 26% to 59% in Boulder, Lafayette, Longmont, Louisvile, Erie, and Superior?    And yet when I checked current (June) inventory, it appeared to have rebounded.  

If you're a regular reader or a client, you know that I draw data from a variety of sources including the Boulder Realtor Association (BARA).    BARA, in turn pulls data from the MLS and other sources to compile its monthly data reports.  The error appears to be in BARA's data and I suspect the direct cause was a change at IRESIS (the MLS, for you non Boulder Realtors).     

   Here's the email I whipped off a few minutes ago. 
Ken and J, 
I started working on my monthly report and I noticed a strange trend in the May data.  Inventory across our metro markets dropped massively in May.   I started digging further and when I checked current inventory, it appears to have rebounded.   
This is what I think happened. 
The process for looking up inventory in IRES has changed.    Previously, when you searched under "active" it automatically included "active/backup".  If you wanted to exclude "active/backup", that was a choice you had to make separately.   Now in order to include property that is under contract, you have to actively select both "active" and "active/backup" to get the full inventory.    
I'm pretty sure that the MAY data needs to be corrected, at least as far as inventory is concerned.    It appears to be missing active/backup listings.     
Could you confirm?   Thanks!

In short, don't trust any data or analysis unless you understand the methodology.    And right now, I don't trust the data coming from BARA without independent verification.  I'm also shocked that the data was released weeks ago but the error persists.   Did anyone else notice?

Additional Resources
Another Data Issue with BARA

   
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Monday, June 02, 2014

The Market is Hot for $1MM Boulder Condos, Right? WRONG [Analyze This]

by Osman Parvez

Sorry, it's been a while since I last posted.  Clients are my #1 priority and we're now in the busy season for real estate in Boulder.   Expect blog postings to remain slim during the summer.  If you want me  to represent you (buying or selling), just call me at 303.746.6896.   I'll give you the straight talk, no hand waving or pushy sales pitch.  

The Boulder Condo and Town Home Market
Google your way around the net. You won't often find much in the way of analysis on market conditions for Boulder condos and town homes (except my old posts on this blog).   Let's shine a little light in the darkness.  

Here's an up to date inventory analysis for attached dwellings.

Note:  The following analysis applies to the City of Boulder only.   The data source is the regional MLS.   The effective date fro this analysis is June 2, 2014.


There are 300 units on currently on the market today.  More than half are under contract with a buyer.   This shouldn't surprise you.  The market is experiencing record low inventory levels, the economy is improving, and rates remain near historic lows.  

Negotiation tip:   if you're absolutely in love with a property, go ahead and write a backup offer but keep in mind the vast majority of property closes with the first buyer under contract.    When you submit a backup offer, smart listing agents will just use it for negotiation leverage against issues found during the first buyer's property inspection.

   
As you can see from the chart above, a quick analysis shows you the market varies dramatically by price.    The median asking price for all attached dwellings is $300,000 but the median for property under contract is quite a bit lower.   Properties actually available for purchase (not under contract) have a median price of $345,000.

Let's dig deeper. 


This chart breaks out the percentage of units under contract by price range.   From the entry level (which includes affordable housing) to the mid range of the market, 50% to 75% of the market is under contract.   Notable tightness exists in the 150 to 200K tranche (65% UC), 250 to 300K tranche (68% UC), and the 350 to 400K tranche (76% UC).   In the 700 to 800K tranche, everything is under contract (100%).   Look higher than 800K and very little is under contract. 

Negotiation Tip:  When you're contemplating what price to offer, it's critical to know how the market varies by price range, property type, and location.   You should know how many homes are on the market in your price range and how many are likely to come on market in the near future.   A good buyer's agent educates his clients.

Take a look. 


The chart above shows how many condos and town homes remain at each price tranche (i.e. not under contract).   For example; 65% of units in the 150K to 200K tranche may be under contract with a buyer, but you still have 22 units to choose from.   If you're shopping in the 350K to 400K range, you have nearly 20 units to choose from.  Now check out the $1MM+ category.  What do you see?  Tons of selection and very little buyer competition.    


Negotiation Tip:  Study the percentage under contract in your price range and compare it to selection.  This should give you a sense of the competition among buyers for desirable property.  If there is high selection and a high percentage under contract, you should go in strong with your offer but if you miss it, there will probably be anther option on the market soon.  Do your homework, understand the market, don't let the listing agent tell you differently. 

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Boulder Development Update [Pics]

by Osman Parvez

I snapped a few quick pics of large development projects in Boulder this morning.    Take a look (click for a larger photo). 

Talk about a looming wall, check out Boulder Junction's parking garage.


After last year's floods, you have to wonder about all the below grade infrastructure.



The units in this corner should have impressive views.



Some of us actually pedal to properties. 




The Branding Iron, 69 Affordable Housing Units going in next to Chez Thuy


Additional Resources: 
House Einstein's Boulder Development  Map
Boulder Junction Photo Set
Branding Iron Details


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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Boulder Real Estate Sizzles and It's Not Even Summer [Market Update]

by Osman Parvez

Here's a quick glance at market conditions for the City of Boulder.

The following charts show absorption for traditional single family houses and for condos and town homes (attached dwellings).   Absorption is simply sales volume expressed as a percentage of the preceding month's inventory - a measure of liquidity.


The chart above is for single family houses.   Absorption spiked to 38.4%, a 10+ year high.     This is slightly more than 2x the long term average for the month of April.  


This next chart is for town homes and condos (attached dwellings).   Last month, absorption reached 36.3%.    It usually peaks in July or August. 

A new House Einstein Report is in the works.  It will feature much more analysis on market conditions.   Sign up HERE.  

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Seriously, Get a Radon Test [Due Diligence]

by Osman Parvez

This is a vacuum gauge showing the radon mitigation system is functioning. 



These are the radon test results from the same house. 



Due diligence tip:  Just because the radon fan is generating vacuum doesn't mean the system is actually working.     

The EPA recommends mitigation for radon levels above 4.0 pCi/L.   This house has radon levels of 9.5 pCi/L.   

You can have your inspector test the radon level or you can buy a radon tester that you leave plugged to continuously monitor radon levels (with an alarm) for about the same cost.   Either way, have the radon level tested - even if the property already has a mitigation system.   

In this case, the seller removed the membrane from the crawl space because it was torn.  No, it wasn't disclosed.  Yes, they're paying to have it fixed. 

p.s. Don't trust the seller's property disclosure.   There's a reason I call it the document where the seller lies about everything they know about the house. 

Additional Reading
Guide to Radon Mitigation
Health Risks of Radon


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Friday, May 02, 2014

15 Properties Worth Seeing [Get 'Em Hot]

by Osman Parvez

Did you miss me?    I was traveling last week and with two separate negotiations in play, I just didn't have time to blog.   

It usually happens around this time of year.    Blogging takes a backseat to active negotiations.   Clients come first.     

Well, let's get to it.   Fifty two new listings hit the MLS this week.  I've sifted through them,  thinking I'd struggle to find ten properties worth seeing.  

Surprise! I found fifteen.    Ready to see them?   Call me to arrange a showing at 303.746.6896


1825 Marine Street #18.    It's a tiny one bedroom sandwiched between CU and downtown.   It's under $200K.   You may be able to squeeze an extra bed into the loft space.   Won't last long is an understatement.   Due diligence tip:  If you're thinking about doing an Air BnB type thing, double check the HOA rules.    $169,000


1480 Quince Street #201.   Awesome location.   Part of Nomad Cohousing and Boulder Affordable Housing.   $242,206.  If you qualify, go check it out. (Home ownership handbook.   The eligibility requirements for affordable housing are on page 5.   Required classes before you can apply to enter the lottery.)

4482 Hamilton Ct.   Tri-level in Martin Acres, all original.   Giant lot.  Asking $425,000.   Homes under $500,000 continue to be the hottest segment of the market.  Budget for updates. 

2621 Lloyd Circle.    Worth seeing because it's so unusual (i.e. might be a frankenhouse).   The location is pretty good but a half-duplex that needs updating for $449,000?   


655 Poplar Ave.    Nicely buttoned up attached dwellings appeal to baby boomers who want the Boulder lifestyle but not the maintenance headache of a traditional house.    Too bad there aren't many of them available, which is why you should probably go see this one.   It's near Wonderland Lake open space trails. 

2890 Stanford Ave - 60's era construction, decent size structure on a larger lot in a desirable part of Table Mesa for under $589,500.   3 bedrooms on the main level, one in the basement.  Due diligence: Elementaries are listed as both Bear Creek and Creekside, it's worth confirming this with BVSD.


4882 Kellogg Circle -  Arapahoe Ridge is a nice part of town with a pocket park and lots of families.  Lot sizes and homes tend to be a little more generous.   This house a decent layout and some updates.    Asking $664,000

1444 Kennedy Ct.    This looks like the same model as 4882 Kellogg above, but with a nicer kitchen (on a smaller lot).    It's a little more updated but you'll need to confirm that in person.   If you're interested in one of these, you should see both back to back if possible.   Asking $673,700

4135 Caddo Parkway -  A large ranch with 5 bedrooms and 4 baths on a large lot in Frasier Meadows.   Could use some updates, but then again I hear teal is coming back.


1222 Scrub Oak.    The split layout is not going to work for most families but it's a decent size, mostly updated house in a great part of Table Mesa. You're just around the corner from the Devil's Thumb neighborhood which has some private amenities that you can't use without a guest pass.  Make friends with the neighbors.  Asking $799,000.  

753 Pearl Street.   In the heart of downtown?  Check.    Lock and leave, maybe.   I have no clue who Wolff Lyon is or why his name is written in all caps.      But hey, classy closets - right?     In all seriousness, recently constructed downtown condos with a decent layout and square footage are very desirable.  If you're in this market, go see it.   Asking $849,000.


355 Longwood Ave.  If you're going to spend $1MM+ in Boulder, you want views like this house.  Note the wrap around decks that emphasize outdoor living.    Perches overlooking Viele lake are pretty rare.    Note, the layout is upside down.   Asking $1MM.

1421 Sunset Blvd.  Great house on a pricey piece of high land within a stone throw's of downtown Boulder.  I almost listed it, so I know a good deal about this one, none of which is publishable.  Asking $1.4MM

2490 Kohler Dr.   No apparent views but a giant size lot in a desirable section of Table Mesa.   The list of luxury appointments suggest an impressive house but there are no photos of the interior.  It's a big mystery.  The listing does describe 4 inline A/C units though.    Brrr...    Asking $1.75MM


2215 Mesa Drive.   Spectacular location close to downtown on a solid perch with unimpeded views.   Relative recent construction.   Lots of decks.  No argument, probably worth every penny.   Asking $2.0MM.  

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Boulder House Inventory - Get it Hot [Osman's Picks]

by Osman Parvez

Wow, it's been a busy week.     53 listings hit the market in Boulder this week, 7 of which are already under contract. 

As I'm writing this, it's nearly 6pm on a Friday night.   I've been a little busy negotiating on a contract and I still have to get my run in so I'm going to skip the usual Friday inventory run down. Instead, I'll give you only my picks. 

790 10th Street - Start Working on Your 3Pt. Shot.
Of the 53 houses hitting the market, 10 are worth seeing (and still available).  These are Osman's picks for the weekend of April 18th.  Here's the full list.   Individual property's and notes are below. 

Call me to see any of the following properties. ph: 303.746.6896.

3461 28th Street - Nice 2/2 in a decent location.   Possible investor play or CU kiddie condo.  

1634 17th Street #9 - I generally don't recommend 1 bedroom units for investment purposes but this one is in a killer location.   It's tiny, but would rent very quickly.   For people who occasionally visit Boulder or would like a low impact, minimal lifestyle, this could be a good choice. 

2932 Shadow Creek #108 - Gold run is ideally situated on the bike path and near CU.  Units are very easily rented to undergrads and grad students alike.  A quick hop on the bike and you're downtown, too.    Due diligence tip:  there have been several fires in Gold Run in recent years.  Read the HOA docs.

70 Benthaven Place - I could have sworn this has been on the market recently, but perhaps it was another one on Benthaven.    Devil's Thumb is very desirable for families and has the best schools in Boulder.  This unit could be a reasonable choice if you've got children and you're not into doing your own maintenance.   

711 Hawthorn Ave - I don't normally post about vacant land in Boulder because, frankly it's not that common and most of my clients aren't interested in building their own.  This particular location is spectacular, however.   You're right next to the Community Gardens and in central Boulder.    If you're willing to take construction risk, this is a plot worth considering.

3822 Lakebriar Drive - This unit could use some updates, but the location is spectacular.    There's a shortage of higher quality attached dwellings in Boulder.   This could be a great choice for Baby Boomers looking to downsize. 

2248 Nicholl Street W - Solid location, decent finishes, reasonable layout.   Looks turnkey.   

1989 Beacon Ct - Now we're talking.   This location is ideal for strolling to downtown or hitting the trails.  West Pearl is very desirable and these town homes are distinctive.   
  
790 10th Street - Historic but already updated and in a great location only a block from Chautauqua.   I'm not sure about the basketball court but it's a quirky conversation piece, if nothing else.   If you buy it, I'll knock off (rebate) a half point on my commission if you can win a one on one with me.     Ok, best of three.

3500 4th Street - This house was on the market a long time in 2009 and 2010.  The asking price started at $1.9 before falling to $1.5.   Back then, I took a few clients to see it and after serious consideration, we passed on making an offer.  It's now back on the market at $2.0.   I'm not sure what's changed or whether it's been updated.  Has it appreciated that much?    I'd need to see it in person (again) to find out. 

I'm in town this weekend, so feel free to call me if you'd like to set up a showing on any of the above properties.  ph: 303.746. 6896. Happy house hunting!
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mid Week Fresh Listings - Buttoned up and Ready [Get 'Em Hot]

by Osman Parvez

A couple of fresh listings caught my eye.   They may not make it to the weekend, so I thought I'd post up before they're gone. 


2040 Balsam.    Offered at $1.4MM.   

It last sold for $882,000 in 2011.    The owners appear to have invested a lot of resources into upgrading the finishes in the living areas, kitchen, and bathrooms.     The location is pretty spectacular for its proximity to down town, but the outer ring of the butte this neighborhood is built on is where the valuation anchoring views lie. 

Here's one of before.   



Here's after
More pics are here ->BEFORE and  AFTER

Call me if you'd like to see it.  303.746.6896

3795 Martin Drive - Offered at $449,000
Two car detached garage, decent size lot, lots of updates including solar and tankless hot water.   In this price range, the demand is outrageous.  This won't last the weekend.     Call me if you want to see it.  303.746.6896



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