Colorado Home in mountains

Looking for your dream Colorado Home?  If your one of those that holds out to the last minute, that last minute is coming up on you real fast. Start thinking about a Dream Denver Colorado Home in the mountains if your financially stable and can obtain the financing. Yes, now is the time to buy!

While Denver Colorado real estate foreclosure sales have been on the downturn along the Front Range, and surrounding Denver mountain home communities are experiencing increases often of triple-digit percentages as homeowners from the wealthy on down lose their properties.

For years, mountain brokers touted endless appreciation that bested the stock market. When properties appreciated at rates of 10 percent or more a year, “all you needed for a loan was a pulse,” some sources were quoted as saying.

Finding Your Dream Colorado Home


Already this year in Pitkin County, there have been 25 foreclosures, compared with six this time last year — then a record. Grand County has logged 48 foreclosure filings through mid-March, close to the annual total of 2007.

Back in 2007, a resort homeowner in financial trouble could easily sell for at least what was owed. Today, resort counties are weathering 50 percent or greater declines in real estate sales from the high times of 2006. At first, 40 percent to 50 percent of foreclosure filings were second homes and timeshares. Two years later, it’s mostly locals, with less than 30 percent of properties in foreclosure coming from timeshares and second homes.

Mountain Town Foreclosures

Twelve of the 15 counties in Colorado with the highest foreclosure filing rate increase between 2007 & 2009 are home to 21 of Colorado’s 26 ski resorts.  Ski resorts long considered immune to the fluctuations of the national economy, mountain resort communities are weathering record levels of foreclosures as jobs decline and credit for loan adjustments withers.  Two counties with ski resorts closest to the Denver front range are Grand and Summit. The percentage of increase in Grand County (Winter Park) from 2007 to 2009 was up 348% while Summit County ( Breckenridge, Keystone & Copper Mountain)experienced a 214% increase during the same time period followed by Eagle County (Vail) up 256%. These figures are expected to increase this year up another 50%.

Denver Colorado Home Market – Many Denver Home communities are located and managed by HOA’s  (Home Owners Association)

When you purchase a condominium, townhouse or other type of property in a planned development such as a leased land property, a gated community, or even an ordinary subdivision, you are obligated to join that community’s homeowners’ association (HOA) and pay monthly or annual HOA fees for the upkeep of common areas and the building. If you are considering purchasing one of these types of properties, you should be aware of the following nine things about homeowners’ associations and how they work before you buy.

HOA 101

First, let’s take a look at what HOAs are all about. HOA fees often range from $200 to $400 per month. The more upscale the building and the more amenities it has, the higher the homeowners’ association fees are likely to be. In addition to monthly fees, if a major expense such as a new roof or a new elevator comes up and there aren’t enough funds in the HOA’s reserves to pay for it, the association may charge an extra assessment that can run into the thousands of dollars.

Because multiple parties live in the same building, all residents of condominiums and townhomes must be equally responsible for maintaining the common areas of the building such as landscaping, elevators, swimming pools, clubhouses, parking garages, fitness rooms, sidewalks, security gates, roofing and the building exterior. Many of these types of common areas, such as pools and tennis courts, also exist in subdivisions of single family homes. Regardless of whether the HOA governs a building, such as a condo or townhome structure, or a neighborhood of individual houses, HOA fees help maintain the quality of life for the community’s residents and protect property values for all owners.

In addition to maintaining common areas, HOAs also set out certain rules that all residents must follow called “covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs)”. In a common building, rules may include what color front door you may have, whether you are allowed to line dry your laundry outside, whether you can have a satellite dish, the size and type of pets permitted, and so on. In many ways, these rules are similar to the types of rules apartment dwellers must follow.

In a subdivision with individual homes, regulations may include what color you can paint your home, the exterior landscaping you can do, the types of vehicles you can park on the street or in your driveway (no RVs, for example), permissible type and height of fences, and restrictions on window coverings for windows facing the street. If you want to do anything that differs from these rules, you will have to convince the HOA to grant you a variance, which is probably unlikely. No matter where you live, you are likely to be subject to city ordinances and restrictions related to the use of your property. HOAs add yet another layer of restrictions and because their members are more likely to know what you’re up to, the HOA is more likely to enforce the rules. So, let’s take a look at some of the rules and regulations you need to know about before you decide to join one of these communities.

Before buying a property in a community that has an HOA you should:
1. Learn the HOA’s rules

You may be able to find an HOA’s CC&Rs online as well as information about what happens if you violate a rule. Make sure any online information is current. If you cannot find this information online, ask your real estate agent to acquire these documents for you or contact the HOA yourself. Pay particular attention to rules regarding fines and whether the HOA can foreclose on your property for nonpayment of HOA dues or fines resulting from CC&R violations. Also, learn about the process for changing or adding rules and whether HOA meetings are held at a time you will be able to attend, if you wish to do so. If the rules are too restrictive, consider buying elsewhere.
2. Make sure the home you want to buy is not already out of compliance with HOA rules

Buying into an existing problem can be a headache.
3. Assess environmental practices

If environmentally-friendly living is important to you, be aware that some HOAs may dictate that you use fertilizers, pesticides, sprinkler systems, and whatever it takes to keep your lawn picture-perfect. They may not allow xeriscaping (an environmentally friendly form of landscaping) and may limit the size of gardens, ban compost piles and prevent you from installing solar panels. If these things are important to you, make sure you check the fine print first.

4. Consider your temperament
Are you the type of person who hates being told what to do? If so, living in a community with an HOA may be a very frustrating experience for you. One of the major benefits of homeownership is the ability to customize and alter the property to suit your needs, but HOA rules can really interfere with this.

5. Find out about fees
Fees will differ for each community. Because of this you should make sure to ask your HOA the following questions: • How are HOA fee increases set? • How often do increases occur, and by how much have they historically been raised? • Can you get a printed history of HOA dues by year for the last 10 years? • How large is the HOA’s reserve fund? • Also, ask for a record of special assessments that have been made in the past and ask if any special assessments are planned for the near future. Note that economies of scale can mean that special assessments are higher in smaller HOAs. • Find out what the monthly dues cover. Will you still have to pay extra for garbage pickup? Is cable included? Compare dues for the complex or neighborhood you are considering to the average dues in the area. Keep in mind that you will have to pay for recreational facilities whether you use them or not. Find out the hours for amenities like pools and tennis courts. Will you be around during those hours, or will you be paying for facilities you’ll never be able to use? Be aware that the HOA may have rules about how many guests can use common facilities. If guest restrictions are severe, forget about that housewarming pool party you envisioned.

9. Consider the impact of HOA fees on your short- and long-term finances
A condo with high HOA fees might end up costing you as much as the house you don’t think you can afford.
Homeowners’ associations can be your best friend when they prevent your neighbor from painting her house neon pink, but your worst enemy when they expect you to perform expensive maintenance on your home that you don’t think is necessary, or impose rules that you find too restrictive. Before you purchase a property subject to HOA rules and fees, make sure you know exactly what you are getting into.

Denver Homes in metro Denver recorded a month-over-month gain of 0.6 percent, and the local index is up 4.1 percent for the year, double the 2 percent increase in the U.S. national index. In the first quarter of 2010, U.S. home prices fell 3.2 percent compared with the fourth quarter.

Prices remain nearly 31 percent below their July 2006 peak. But they have risen nearly 3 percent from their April 2009 bottom. Tax credits and historically low mortgage rates have failed to lift home prices so far this year in most metropolitan areas. Prices fell 0.5 percent in March from February, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index released Tuesday.

The decline in prices is discouraging for American homeowners who have seen the value of their largest asset deteriorate sharply over the past three years. For those struggling to pay their mortgages, falling home prices make it harder to refinance into an affordable home loan. Mortgage delinquencies were at a record high in the first quarter.

DENVER HOME – Denver County had the most home resales in April for the seven-county metro Denver area, but Boulder County had the most sales of $1 million-plus homes, according to Metrolist, INC. Denver County reported 2,844 in total home resales — 2,084 houses and 760 condominiums. Most homes of both types in the county — 1,026 — sold in the $100,000-$200,000 price range that’s attractive to first-time home buyers.

Closed total resales jumped 23.5 percent last month to 4,188 in April 2009, and rose 16.3 percent from March sales.

Home resales, also called existing home sales, are those of properties that have been sold at least once before.

Other April resale data from Metrolist, by county:

• Arapahoe County had the second-highest number of house resales, at 1,781, followed by Adams (1,634), Jefferson (1,602), Douglas (1,282), Boulder (906) and Broomfield (200) counties.

• Arapahoe County also had the second-highest resales of condos, at 706, followed by Jefferson (475), Boulder (389), Adams (268), Douglas (190) and Broomfield (36) counties.

• Most houses in Adams County — 879 — sold in the $100,000-$200,000 price range.

• Highest sales by price range in other counties were: Denver, 749 ($100,000-$200,000); Arapahoe, 628 ($100,000-$200,000); Jefferson, 627 ($200,000-$300,000); Douglas, 512 ($200,000-$300,000); Boulder, 313 ($300,000-$500,000); Broomfield, 77 ($200,000-$300,000).

• Arapahoe County had the most condo sales, by price range, at 303 for condos selling at less than $100,000.

• Other counties’ highest condo sales were in the $100,000-$200,000 price range, including Jefferson (284), Denver (277), Boulder (174), Adams (142), Douglas (97), Broomfield (23).

• Denver County has the most combined home resales through April, at 2,844 (2,084 houses/760 condos).

• Other counties’ year-to-date existing home sales included: Arapahoe, 2,487 (1,781 houses/706 condos); Jefferson, 2,077 (1,602 houses/475 condos); Adams, 1,902 (1,634 houses/268 condos); Douglas, 1,472 (1,282 houses/190 condos); Boulder, 1,295 (906 houses/389 condos); Broomfield, 236 (200 houses/36 condos).

Based in Greenwood Village, Metrolist is metro Denver’s Multiple Listing Service, providing housing data to real estate professionals.

In the majority at the Capitol in 2003 and looking for ways to balance the budget, Republicans settled on a way to cut close to $60 million annually: suspending a property-tax break for seniors.

jeffwebphoto_008But they needed Democratic votes and, only after a weekend of bipartisan deal-making, the legislature suspended the Senior Homestead Exemption for three years.

Flash forward to 2010, and Republicans — including some of the same ones who voted to suspend the tax break in 2003 — say Democrats are trying to raise taxes on seniors by suspending the break yet again.

“You know what the difference is?” said former Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood. “They (Republicans) were in the majority then, and they were responsible for the budget. Now, they’re not responsible.”

Anderson should know. As Senate majority leader in 2003, she brokered the compromise with then-Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald of Jefferson County.

“We took a lot of flak when we did it the first time,” Anderson said. “We couldn’t pass the budget unless we got this done.

“But you didn’t have these caucus positions back then that you do now. Both sides voted for things for the good of the state.”

Passed by voters as a constitutional amendment in 2000, the tax break didn’t fully kick in until the 2002-03 budget, when about 120,000 seniors took advantage of it.

Then, faced with a $1 billion revenue shortfall, lawmakers suspended it for three years.

Starting in fiscal 2006-07, seniors got the tax break for three years, but in 2009, the now Democratic-led legislature — faced with a shortfall of more than $1 billion, suspended the tax break for one year, saving $90.4 million. And it was Republicans firing the flak then.

Republican Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray voted to eliminate the break as a House member in 2003. As a senator, Brophy voted against nixing the break for one year in 2009 and voted against the proposed two-year suspension this year, which passed the Senate.

Remembering the 2003 vote, Brophy said he e-mailed fellow Republicans at one point in the current budget downturn and told them to watch what they said, lest history be recalled. He also said he’s tried not to refer to a suspension of the tax break as a tax increase.

But in a January guest column for The Denver Post, he wrote, “Gov. Bill Ritter and majority Democrats (in 2009) levied $1 billion of new taxes and fees on Colorado families, including a $90 million property tax increase on Colorado seniors.”

Asked about the disconnect, Brophy said, “I thought I had been very careful about my rhetoric around that issue, for obvious reasons.”

He says he regrets his 2003 vote.

“I think you have to be intellectually honest and say that when you’re in the majority, you either do things or get talked into doing things you don’t want to,” he said.

Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, also was in the House in 2003 and voted to suspend the tax break. As a senator, he has twice voted against a suspension.

Asked to explain his reversal, Harvey said he voted against nixing the break this time around “for philosophical reasons because of the way the Democrats are handling the budget.”

“That may be an inconsistency,” he said, “but it’s an honest answer.”

Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, also voted to suspend the tax break in 2003 as a House member. But in 2009 and in 2010, she voted against lifting the exemption.

“It is a much more dire situation for seniors in 2009-2010 than it was in 2003,” she said.

Despite her 2003 vote, Spence helped Senate Republicans bash Democrats over the issue last year.

“Suspending or repealing that important allowance in state law would be an insult to the very Coloradans who have done so much for our state,” Spence said in a video made by Republicans.

In all, seven Republicans, all of them now in the Senate, voted in favor of the suspension in 2003 and against it later. Meanwhile, Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, voted for the idea in 2003 as a House member, against it in 2009 as a senator and then was excused the day of this year’s vote.

And House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, voted in favor of the suspension in 2003 and opposed it in 2009. This year’s proposal still awaits a recorded vote in the House.

But Republicans are not the only ones who have switched sides on the issue.

Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, chairman of the Joint Budget Committee, voted for the 2009 suspension yet voted against the 2003 proposal.

“I did?” Pommer asked. “I don’t remember that. I thought I voted for it.”

Pommer said he likely voted against the suspension then because he was a freshman and leadership was trying to protect his seat.

House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, voted against the suspension in 2003 but supported it in 2009.

“I didn’t have to vote for it” in 2003, he said. “They didn’t need my vote.”

Eight Democrats who voted against the 2003 suspension voted in favor of the plan in 2009, and two of those have voted in favor of it this year in the Senate.

This year’s bill to suspend the exemption for two years and save $188.1 million over two years, Senate Bill 190, is expected to reach the House floor Monday afternoon.

The Senior Homestead Exemption

•Was approved by voters as a constitutional amendment in 2000.

•Is offered to people 65 and older who have lived in their homes for at least 10 years. It exempts 50 percent of the first $200,000 of the actual value of the homes.

•Local school districts and other governments still get the full property taxes levied on seniors’ homes, but the state picks up the tab for the portion that qualifying homeowners don’t pay.

•The amendment also allows the legislature to reduce the tax break or fully zero it out in any given year or multiple years.

Senior tax-break switcheroo

Forty-one Republicans and 19 Democrats voted to eliminate the Senior Homestead Exemption for three years in 2003. In 2009, only one Republican in the House and one in the Senate voted to eliminate the exemption for one year. This year, only one Senate Republican, Al White of Hayden, has voted for a bill to suspend the tax break for two years, and the measure awaits House consideration, where no Republican votes in favor are expected. These lawmakers have changed their votes over the years:

overheadForeclosure rates in the Denver metro area were up in February over the same period a year ago, according to data from First American Core Logic. The foreclosure rate for the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield area was 2.06 percent, an increase of 0.57 percentage points compared with February 2009, when the rate was 1.49 percent. The study also showed that 5.95 percent of mortgage loans in the area were 90 days or more delinquent, compared with 4.16 percent for the same period last year.

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