Thursday, December 10, 2009

Living Your Brand: Lessons Learned from Tiger Woods

Unless you've been living under the ocean for the last month, you no doubt have heard of the foibles and tribulations of Tiger Woods.  There are lessons to be learned from this frenzy of mass information.  We live in a world where no secret goes untold.  The more exposure one has in mainstream media, the harder they are destined to fall.
This is not some new phenomenon.  I remember being in 5th grade (well before Tiger was born- in fact probably even before his parents met) and writing an essay.  The assigned subject for the essay was to discuss whether it is right to look up to sports figures or actors as heroes.  It's been too long ago for me to recall who it was, but at that time some "hero" actor had been caught doing something.  All I can say for sure is that it wasn't a DUI, a drug arrest, a beating/stabbing/killing of a loved one or embezzling millions.  At the time, I argued that an actor's job is to perform, and it is the general public that holds him up as a hero when we do not know the real person behind the character. 
How times change.
Tiger was nearly everyone's hero.  The squeaky-clean wonder kid's videos from the age of 4 were plastered all over the airwaves as he came into his game.  The dedicated Dad-coach who taught him to love and excel at the game of golf was at his side to see him win time after time.  Remember the "I'm Tiger Woods" Nike campaign?  Children of every color learning golf, loving it, and there being no barriers for them because of this amazing golfer who broke through the barriers.  He won, he gave back, he spread the word about love and fellowship in golf, respect, honesty and perseverance.  He met a beautiful girl from Sweden who was working as a nanny and swept her off her feet, married her and had 2 beautiful babies.  And they all lived happily ever after.
Or not.
The problem comes in his branding.  We all bought into the ideal Tiger with the happily ever after because that is what his dad/coach/manager/PR agent sold us.  And he did a damn good job.
The problem with any brand is that you can't sell a bill of goods that isn't there.  Eventually, your consumers will turn your back on you if you cannot provide what you are selling.
Ask Tiger.  Since November 29, not one single endorsement ad of Tiger Woods' has been played on any network or cable channel.  Not one.  Gatorade pulled it's Tigerade line.  Tiger's popularity ranking among star athletes has dropped to 24th.  And the Congressional Medal of Honor he was to receive for excellence, integrity and dignity?  Nope.
At this point, no one wants to be Tiger Woods.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Have you tried Freak Up dot Com?

So, it's pretty clear that I'm a runner.  I love it, the sweat, the soreness, the athleticism, the (sometimes) comraderie.  This last part wasn't obvious to me until I started to run with my good friend Audge.  Problem is, she lives about 2,000 miles away, so we only get run together a few times a year.
For some reason, finding friends to run with has been... challenging.  My husband runs, and we do run together, but he prefers a slower pace.  Also, it's fun to run with a girlfriend.
Ahh.  Interesting choice of words.
Maybe you've heard of Meetup.  Theoretically, it's a place where you can find people with like interests to do things with, but it is NOT a dating site.  I do have other friends who run, but the one who lives closest is a nurse with odd working hours. (She works 9 to 5, who does that?  Sheesh!)  Ok, by that, I mean she goes out at 5 or 6am, which is akin to hell for me.
I had been told by well meaning folk that this would be a good place to find a running group, or any kind of group that might interest me.  I also love to knit and to read (which qualifies me as a dork, but I've accepted this).  So, I gave it a try.
I typed in Women's Running.  On page one, here is what I found:

In the words of Austin Powers "that's not my bag, Baby!"

Yep, that says Boulder's biggest LBGT- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender- Party.  Huh?  Those silhouettes look like strippers.  How is this a running group?  This was the first listing.

Next came Not Just a Walk in the Park.  Ok, this could work.  I clicked on it.  Ooh- their next meeting is... September 9.  'Kay.  Seems this group may have given up, as it started in August and each event had about 1 attendee, aaaand it looks like she organized the "group".  Sorry, Mary.

As I went down the list, I found Bake for Hope (hosting bake sales to benefit breast cancer research, last met in May; wonder why it didn't work?); Denver Single Women's Group (next meeting is tonight- at the Denver Center for Cosmetic Surgery. What's the subtext here...?  Plus, the aforementioned husband might not dig this idea); and Denver Golf Gals (ok, there's still about 6 inches of snow on the ground.).  I might be missing something, but where is the running aspect of any of these groups?

A little further down, I noticed Bodies Built By God.  Not sure what to say about this one, but with 90+ religious wars raging around the world at any given time, I'm thinking God doesn't give a crap about the cellulite on my thighs...  This is apparently a private group, but here is, in part, their statement:
If you thirst for worship and could use a little exercise at the same time, or maybe you are curious about Jesus but have never been involved with church or community, then we would love to invite you to come join Bodies Built By God. All fitness levels are welcome so please give us a call or email to reserve your spot in one of our classes. We would love to have you be part of our community where God works your body and your soul at the same time.

Wow.  Does this mean God is leading the class?  I wonder what he looks like in a leotard?

I'm going to Hell, no doubt about it.

Next I tried Knitting.  1. Practice Chinese in Denver.  2. Tots at 5280- "focused on developing new friendships for toddlers between the ages of 1-3 ".  Do toddlers really have that much trouble finding friends?  Do toddlers even care about finding friends??

Ok, I am ON A ROLL!!  What if I wanted to to join a book club near me?  This is kind of fun... I typed in: "reading."


I think I'll run alone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Open House Redux: A Few Tips for Open House Success

In my career, I've had mixed success with Open Houses.  I do believe that they can be a valuable tool for attracting attention to properties for sale.  Especially if the house is newly on the market.  Or, conversely, if it has been on the market far too long, but has not yet had an Open House.
Early in my Real Estate Lady profession, I do what many newbies do.  Having no listings of my own, I offered to help colleagues out by holding their properties open.  This idea was designed to gain exposure for both the new listing and the new agent (me).
These experiences taught me how NOT to conduct an Open House.  But in the spirit of being "glass half full", I will share the DOs:
  • DO clean your house!  And not just the weekly vacuum, dust, bathroom cleaning. You've got to do a great big spring cleaning.  In fact, you should do this before you even put your house on the active market. In one of those ill-fated early career open houses I hosted, the sellers decided to start cleaning the morning of the open house.  Potential buyers were greeted at the door with dirty mop water and the teenage son was "cleaning up" by stuffing dirty laundry into his closet.  Wipe fingerprints (and food stains) off the wall, put away the dog bed or litter box (hopefully in another state), take down junior's refrigerator collage.  Serious buyers will open closets, look in drawers, and explore anything behind a closed door.  They do not want to be greeted by a pile of laundry, or an open can of kitchen garbage (another war story for another time).
  • DO take any and all valuables with you.  This includes cash, jewelry, keys- and anything that looks shiny and pretty and you actually care about.  That same darling teenage son who was shoving his smelly sweatsocks into the closet was in fact doing in to cover up the real loot- a couple of shotguns and boxes of ammo.  Seems he was a hunter...
  • DON'T expect to have an open house every week.  It won't work- neighbors will wonder why your house isn't selling, and you'll get more and more frustrated.  Plus, it's just plain exhausting.  If you hold your house open every weekend and it doesn't sell for 30-45 days, everyone will start to wonder what's wrong with the house.  Your Realtor will know what the average time to sell a home like yours is in your market and will come up with a strategy that will bring the best positive exposure.
  • LEAVE. Go away.  Skedaddle!  Buyers do not want to be trailed by an anxious seller when they are looking through their possible new home.  Buyers agents, however, LOVE THIS.  Why?  Because most sellers cannot help but spill out their deepest, darkest reasons for selling: pending divorce, job loss, job transfer, or the fact that they'd be happy to take $10,000 under listing price AND leave all appliances and their antique grandfather clock just to be done with the whole thing.  Even if you don't have extenuating circumstances such as these, it's just less stressful for everyone if you aren't there.  Most open houses are only a few hours long.  Go see a movie, go shopping, go for a hike.  But do NOT stay there.

I hosted another open house where I "made sure" the sellers would not be home.  I spoke to the husband, as the wife didn't speak English, and tried to emphasize the fact that they should leave.  When I got there, the house was dark and quiet, so I set up shop and placed my signs.  Then I heard a strange noise.  Is that water?  Should I call a plumber?  Nope.  The wife was taking a shower.  Shortly after that the husband arrived with teenage daughter and her 3 girlfriends.  I reminded him that it would be best not to hang around, as we had discussed.  He understood.  He agreed.  He left.  Alone.  Teenagers opened up their Burger King bags and had lunch while mom watched TV and the open house visitors walked in and immediately left.  Can you imagine why?
Happy Selling!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Do you trust your lender? Bank of the West Costs Buyer the Deal

Today on the Tom Martino radio show, a caller phoned in to share an unbelievable story.  Only it was all too true.
The buyer and his wife had found their dream home after going to Bank of the West and getting a prequal letter.  They negotiated a successful offer on the property and were under contract.  After completing all necessary steps- submitting an earnest money check, submitting a completed mortgage application, completing inspection, getting title insurance- they set their closing date.  Two days ahead of time they contacted the lender to be sure that everything would go through as planned.  "Absolutely," they were told.  "No problem at all, we will see you on Friday."
Friday morning they awoke with excitement and anticipation.  Today would be the day that they would close on their dream home.  In the state of Colorado, possession usually takes place at the time of closing, so they were set to enjoy a romantic dinner in their brand new home.
Two hours before closing, they got a call.  The lenders were trying to verify employment.  It seems that the banker never started the loan process.
They didn't close that day.  The seller refused to extend the closing date and kept their $2,000 earnest money. 
They sold their previous home and now no longer had their dream home to move into.  The sellers don't want to work with them at all.  Tom is getting the would-be buyers a lawyer.
And we wonder how banking got to be such a mess. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A short list of good reasons to make Denver home

Among the many good reasons to live in Colorado, housing ranks right up there.  Despite the report in the Denver Post today, we are healthy, wealthy and wise(Denver metro home resales drop in October - The Denver Post).  At least according to what the lists would tell us.  Even the article referred to does not paint a bleak picture.  Although the numbers for October were down year over year (a 7.6% drop), they are still up 2.9% month over month!
We've got it pretty good in Colorado.  Median home prices are also UP- 7.7% for single family homes, and 3.5% for condos.  Pent up demand coupled with a decline in inventory helps drive prices up a bit.  What's more, despite the nations dismal 10+% unemployment rate, Colorado sits at 7% unemployment.  In other words 93% of Coloradans have jobs. 
A few other good reasons to live here:
300 days of sunshine a year.
Denver is the highest educated city: of those above the age of 25, 78.9% of the population has graduated high school, and 34.5% hold at least a bachelor's degree.
We live within 2 hours' drive of the most fabulous skiing in the world.
63.4% of those working in the city also live there.
Starting next summer, 14th Street will be transformed into a more 'walkable' space, complete with bike lanes and racks.
What's your favorite reason for living in the Denver area?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Realtors: Home sales jump in West - Denver Business Journal:

Realtors: Home sales jump in West - Denver Business Journal:
This is great news. If the extension is approved, we could see even more gains in a traditionally slow time of year. That's good for buyers, sellers AND investors!

Monday, November 2, 2009

How's the Market in Your Neighborhood? Another Look at Belle Creek

Because I live in Belle Creek- and because I purchased my home in 2001 when the market was insane- I have a vested interest in what our micro-market is doing.  I regularly check out the solds, under contracts, new listings.  Being a runner, I usually notice when something new pops up in the neighborhood.

So, when I blogged last week about what has sold recently in the neighborhood, I admit, I wasn't showing you the whole story.  Being a mixed-use community, we have townhomes, cottages, series 1 homes and series 2 homes.  Being in close proximity to the development world has taught me about some of the builder-ese that is used in a master planned area.  Buyers may know their homes as a "Logan" or one of the "Wellshire Collection".  I just know my house is in the 2 series...

Enough blathering, let's get to the meat of the issue.

In the past year, 20 homes have sold in Belle Creek.  Prices were holding steady until just recently.  On average, Belle Creek homes were getting about $105 per square foot overall.  This was regardless of which model was sold. 
In the past 3 months, however, we have seen that number take a nose dive.  Price per square foot is now at a frightening $90 per square foot!  There would have to be some sort of reason why.  That reason may surprise you.  I know it did me.

As it just so happens, until a month or so ago, there was still builder inventory available.  There were a couple of homes that were built but never closed back when BC was just forming.  These 2 homes were on the market for quite awhile- over 650 days, as a matter of fact.  Quick math- nearly 2 years.

So, when you are a retailer (of sorts), and you have inventory that doesn't move, what do you do?

Slash prices!  Have a Clearance Sale! 

The good news about this is that they sold.  We now have 2 formerly vacant houses that will have nice neighbors living in them.  That brings our home values as a neighborhood up. 

The not-so-good news is that they were reduced so severely that they dragged the value of the neighborhood (in price per sqft) down.

The verdict:  if you don't have to sell now, maybe you'd be better off waiting for awhile.  But if you know of someone who has been wanting to live in Belle Creek, it is a great time for them to buy.

Next:  A breakdown by price point and home size.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Avoid Hitting The Wall

Avoid Hitting The Wall
I've heard of Hitting the Wall (now more commonly known as Bonking) so many times it has become cliche. You run until your body just gives out, anecdotally in mile 25 of a marathon, just when you are about to make the final push. Or sometimes right at mile 26 when you can see the finish line. We have seen the videos of just such a tragedy- Especially Julie Moss's tragic finish at IronMan 1982.

I couldn't believe that I hit it so hard when I did. Now I know why and how to avoid it next year.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How's the Real Estate Market inYour Neighborhood? A look at Belle Creek

If you've been on planet Earth at any point in the last few years, you may have heard that the Real Estate market is pretty volatile.  Job losses led to record foreclosures and the introduction of the term "short sale" as a common noun.   Fortunately, as I know we have all heard, "all real estate is local."  (Otherwise stated as "the 3 most important factors in real estate: location, location, location.")

For Belle Creek residents, the market is actually pretty good.  As a Your Castle agent, I have access to neighborhood trends and reports for the Denver metro area.  As a Belle Creek resident, I concern myself with what our market is doing. 

You may have heard the term "months of inventory".  This is a valuable tool in determining whether now is a good time to buy, sell, or just stay put and wait.  When the Months of Inventory are closer to 12, it is a good time to BUY.  This means there is inventory that isn't moving and sellers are getting anxious.  As MOI moves closer to 1, it is a sellers' market.  There are more buyers out there than sellers, so sellers can be picky about what they will accept.

A "normal" market is 6 months of inventory, and this is what is ideal.  In Belle Creek, the inventory is at 4.2 Months of Inventory.  This is good news for sellers, as it indicates that there is not quite enough inventory for the buyers that are out there.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the current inventory is flying off the shelves.  But well-priced homes in good condition should sell in a reasonable time.  What's more, homes in Belle Creek are priced at a level that is desirable in the Denver Metro area.  The bulk of market activity is happening in the $250,000 or less range. 

Here are a few Belle Creek stats to chew on:
  • Currently there are only 7 houses that are actively listed for sale.  3 of these are short sale situations with contracts pending.  This means the bank has to approve the sale price, but someone has written a contract with the intent of buying this home.
  • Of these homes, all are priced at under $250k.  3 are at $189,000, 1 is $199,900, 1 is $210,000 and the final listing is at $219,950.
  • Months of inventory for homes in Belle Creek priced under $210,000 is 3.  Months of inventory over $210,000 is 6.
  • 50% of homes sold in the last 12 months were short sale or lender owned. 
Here is a list of the homes that have actually sold in the last few weeks:
  • 9499 E 109th Ave.  $242,000 Sold Sept 14, 2009
  • 9437 E 108th Ave.  $185,000 Sold Sept 25, 2009
  • 10765 Boston St.  $155,000 Sold October 9, 2009
  • 10628 Dayton St.  $135,900 Sold October 16, 2009
If you have any questions about buying, selling or any aspect of Real Estate, ask a Realtor.  As a specialist in Belle Creek, I am happy to answer any questions you have about our market!  Feel free to contact me with any of your real estate needs.
If you prefer to research on your own, check out my website.  You can research active, under contract and sold homes throughout the Denver Metro market at your leisure.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Did It!

4:30 came awfully early on Sunday.

The Denver Marathon started at 7am. Sharp. That's what the email read, that's what the program reminded us. They also requested that runners be there 90 minutes before race time, although I suspect that they were doing this in the same spirit that my dad was when he would tell my mom that their dinner reservation was at 7:30, when in fact it was at 8:00. He couldn't stand being late. She could never seem to get out the door less than 30 minutes late. You see the logic...

So at 4:30 my alarm was going off. This is not an hour I usually see unless we are flying somewhere wonderful (and I can nap on the plane). I showered, ate a banana, had some water, coffee. Out the door shortly after 5 to meet Audge and Cath at their hotel. Weather forecast was for a high of 80 degrees, but not until MUCH later. At this point it was about 35 degrees.

We walked from the hotel to the starting line, roughly 1/2 mile. We were there it plenty of time, so we used the porta pottys. It was so early there wasn't even a line. We stood there shivering and huddling together as we watched the other runners make their way to the park. By the time we entered the chute, my fingers and toes were numb with cold. As the runners numbers increased, I started to have a mini anxiety attack. We are REALLY doing this... Oh my Lord!

We shuffled over the starting line and started to hit our rhythm. The sun started to rise, casting pink and peach brush strokes low in the sky. God it was beautiful. I started to play tour guide as we made our way downtown. Invesco Field, Larimer Square, Union Station, Lodo. 17th ave, City Park. The memories were stirring, there's where I used to work, my brother lives just over the highway from here- see the church on the hill? His house is 2 blocks from there, right by our old townhome. I used to run City Park when we lived down here... there's the zoo... we kept a fairly ongoing dialogue, when our lungs allowed. Runners are a funny bunch. You can really bond over the miles, as I learned on the many runs I've shared with Audge. But something interesting happened during the Half. Other runners were chiming in, turning around, laughing along with us.

Right at Cheesemen Park our banter died down. It was getting warmer, but I think I started off too hard. My handheld hydration was empty. I was making weird noises trying to breathe, prompting Catherine to ask in a very concerned voice if I was alright. Can't blame her- but I was breathing and trying to eat sport beans at the same time! Audge was going on about how I should concentrate on my breathing pattern and using my arms. Somewhere in there, I forgot to keep pushing the water.

Not smart.

I had to switch to a walk. The last mile I picked my run back up, but it was a mere shuffle. I urged my girls ahead and met up with them at the finish line. Thank God for my athlete, exercise physiologist friends, thrusting Gatorade and water into my trembling hands. I considered whether I might ever do this again. Later that morning, at the grocery store, when I had to beeline for the bathroom, I vowed that I wouldn't do it again. More water, stat!

Of course I'm doing it again. See you next year, Denver Marathon!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It IS a Marathon!

So, when I embarked on this, I was full of sass. I've been running quite a bit and I was now going to train, officially, for a half-marathon.

Over the past 14 weeks, I've learned a lot about life in general through my many hours of training. Do I need to say I've learned a lot about myself? I'd be extremely obtuse if I hadn't. Hours alone on the road force one to reflect and just be. I've now run the gamut (pun intended) in weather from 98 degrees and dusty with an ozone warning to 25 degrees and sleeting. Colorado weather can be tricky like that. Here is a partial list of other tidbits that hit me along the way:

  • "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon." No kidding. I think I've finally realized that the only thing that IS a sprint is, well, a sprint. And I'm talking about the sprint itself, not the many hours of training that enables those who are truly sprinters to be able to do it. Anything that you take on (raising a family, having a career, training for a race) will take a lot of time and learning to be successful. If you tear out the door at full tilt, you're going to burn out sooner rather than later, and you might even hurt yourself in the process. When you build a house without a good foundation, it will eventually collapse in a spectacular way.

  • Fuel up. I have always just eaten when I felt like it, or maybe not eaten when I was too busy. Although my nutrition is generally pretty good(fruit and cheese are my favorite foods!), letting myself forget to eat set me up to become grumpy and listless. Try doing an 8 miler when you haven't eaten all day but quaffed coffee instead. You go out ok, but then the burning starts in your legs. Pretty soon, they feel like concrete blocks.

  • Take a look around you. I never really appreciated the beauty of the area I live in until I started to do truly long runs. Of course, the mountains are gorgeous, but they aren't exactly right outside my door. I have a great view of the mountains, which is beautiful. But there is so much more natural beauty and wildlife in this area than I had ever noticed in the 7 years that I have lived here. I saw a coyote on an early Sunday morning. I saw a turkey vulture stalking its prey. I saw a hawk perched atop a fence, eyeing me curiously.

Soon, the race will have been run and the grueling training will be over. But the lessons learned will be staying with me no matter what my schedule looks like.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's Not a Sprint, It's a (Half)Marathon, Part 2

Every summer, I go to visit my dad in Wisconsin.  He's retired and he spends summers in northern Wisconsin on a lake.  My family has been going up to that same area since the 1920s.  It's a lush, verdant wooded paradise on a small chain of lakes that very few people outside of our circle have heard of.  Plus, it is extremely hilly.

Perfect for training.

Usually, I try to get up there for at least 2 weeks in the summer with my daughter.  We swim, waterski, kayak, go boating.  We read tons of books and make crafts and sometimes we bake (if it rains).  We visit the iron mine, pick strawberries, eat fried cheese curds and we go everywhere we can by boat.

And I run.  Up hills, down hills, through woods.  On and on I run.  I run alone, with my Girl Audge, with my husband.  Every day.  In a word, it is heaven.

I never knew I'd want to have a running partner until I started running with Audge.  The first time we ran, years ago, I was sure she'd kick my butt.  She is young, fit, full of energy, and young.  And did I mention fit?  She has a Master's degree in exercise physiology, is a personal trainer, a yoga instructor, etc.  But the beautiful thing about running, especially with her, is that that doesn't necessarily matter.  We get together to run and we talk nonstop.  I've known her parents since before she was born, and she and her sister stood up in my wedding.  So you could say we have some history.

This year during one of our run/chatfests, we talked about how we both wanted to do a half marathon.  Problem is, she lives in New York, I live in Colorado.  We should plan to meet somewhere to do a race!  Yeah!

Yeah.  That would be so cool, but you know how it gets.... she teaches college courses... she works.... I work... I have a daughter and husband to take care of....  Fill in any number of reasons, all of them definitely valid.

Then I got her text.  I'm coming out to visit Catherine around the 10th of October, will you be around?  "Hell, yes!  Wait a second," I wrote," the 18th is the Denver Marathon, and they have a half marathon, if you feel like racing."  I anxiously awaited her reply.  Really?  I'll have to look into it...  What?!  I thought.  (Duh, Jen)  Quickly I typed "I was thinking about doing the half and I'd love to have a running partner!"

There ya go.  Now, I'm signed up to do this thing with Audrey AND Catherine.  This is awesome!  I better get training! 

Have you ever looked at one of those training logs?  I subscribe to Runner's World (love that mag) and there are times that I have no idea how to decipher what they've printed.  Plus, they have so many plans to choose from, it can be daunting.  I got lost somewhere between Yasso 800s, pace charts, tempo runs and fartleks.  Checking back issues helped.  But I again got lost amongst phrases like the end of the first mile, the even-paced runners were at only 78 percent of their VO2 max, an effort level more akin to a tempo run than a 5-K race--below their potential.  (Taken directly from the online archives)  Well I know I don't want to be below potential, but VO2 max is getting a little more scientific than I was looking for.  Can't I just go out and run a bunch, without killing myself?

Thankfully the answer was yes.   I just needed to find a program that spoke to me, also at the Runner's World website.  I entered a few answers to a few simple questions and voila! out comes my training schedule.  It started July 13 and goes for 14 weeks, culminating in my race on October 18.  Perfect.

The first week seemed like a joke.  Day 1, 2 miles.  Huh?  That's it?  Day 2, rest.  What?!!  I scanned down the list and saw the miles gradually increasing.  (It also has days with Speedwork and Tempo Run, but at the end of the program is a handy explanation of these terms.)  But, Good Lord, it only has me running at 11 minute miles!  How lame!  Ok, I did it my way last time and that didn't work out so good.  But jeez, I can start out a little faster, can't I?

Coming next, what IS a sprint anyway?  Lessons learned along the training route 

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft

Here's a final takeaway from what I learned at my Credit Scores class.  Look for a consumer class coming soon!

Avoid Identity Theft!
  • Monitor your credit report annually  Whether you sign up to monitor your credit with the company that has those catchy ads, or do it yourself, make sure you do it!  Remember that they have to pay for those ads and do so by charging a credit monitoring fee after your first report.  To monitor your own credit completely FREE, go to
  • Secure Your Mail  It might be a good idea to have it delivered to your office or post office.  Outgoing mail should be posted at the post office or a secured mail box.
  • Electronic keypad signatures  One of the most common points of theft.  Add the date after the signature so it cannot be reused.
  • Never list your social security number  And never carry your card with you!
  • Destroy all statements and solicitations  It's not enough to just tear them in half and throw them away.  Shred!
  • Don't leave paper trails  Take ALL ATM and gas receipts with you.  These are other very common points of origination for identity theft.
  • Always review your statements  Make sure all of the charges are yours.  If you don't recognize a store or vendor, call your credit card company and ask. 
  • Know who you are dealing with  Don't give out personal information over the phone or internet.  If someone calls claiming to be your bank or credit card company, call them back using the number on your statement, not the number the caller gives you.
  • Know your delivery dates  If the bill isn't there when expected, call.
  • Remove bar code from magazines and shred them!  There is a world of information about you contained in those little lines.
  • Keep your medical insurance card safe  Medical ID theft is the newest form of identity theft.
  • If you pay your bills by check  Put your work phone and address on your checks.
  • Have different passwords online  and change them every so often.
Hopefully this has been helpful information.  I know I learned a lot and wanted to share it.  There is nothing that feels quite so helpless as when someone is using your information- protect yourselves!

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's not a Sprint, it's a (half)Marathon

Last winter I decided I might try a half-marathon.  I've been a runner for a lot of years, and it is my preferred method of exercise.  (As Aunt Judy puts it, you get the most benefit from the least amount of time spent)  It occurred to me that it was time to push my limits a bit and run toward a goal.  With my mind nearly made up, I happily announced it to my husband.

"No, you are NOT running a half marathon!" 

I know how this looks.  You might be thinking something along the lines of: Whoa.  Who asked John Wayne Bobbit anyway?  I should probably back up and 'splain myself.

About 7 years ago, my now sister in law invited me to run a half marathon with her.  "Come on!  It'll be fun!"  Hmmm.  Sounds intriguing, I said, but I haven't really been training.  "No big deal- how much do you run?  I never train!"  Now, if she were some kind of ultra- running workout superstar I would've come up with many more reasons why I wouldn't.  But she isn't.  She works out, but not excessively.  Plus, I thought, I could kick her butt running any day.  Yeah.  Ok, yeah, I'll run it.  What fun!  What a challenge!  What great exercise!

What an idiot.  When I told my friend Charles recently that I had run that race without really training, he was horrified.  "That's downright dangerous."  Umm, yeah.

This wasn't some leisurely, flat course.  It's the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon.  Here's a description of the course, taken from the Georgetown to Idaho Springs website:

There is .5 mile of gravel road in the 2nd mile, and 1.5 mile of dirt road from mile 6.5 to mile 8. Also be aware of a steep grade with a 90° turn at the bottom of Clear Creek Drive in the 1st mile of the course.

The elevation at the start is 8500 feet, and gradually arrives at 7500 feet at the finish. Temperatures in the early morning at this elevation can be 50°, and can reach 85° by the finish. While conditions are usually optimal at this time of year, athletes should always be prepared for adverse weather while being in a mountainous location.

Holy Crap.  That doesn't even warn the innocent anywhere near enough.  The morning of the race dawned plenty early.  On my drive up the mountain to meet up with sis and her best friend, I went over my strategy.  Ok.  I can do this.  I ran 8 miles on Wednesday and took the rest of the week off to prepare.  Plus, I had a banana this morning, so my stomach should be fine.  Oooh look, outlet stores...!

At the start, we sat in the car to keep warm.  It was 30 degrees out, but at least it was sunny.  When we could no longer sit in the car without missing the race, we lined up.  POP!  We're off!

The first mile was easy.  The other ladies had this idea that we should run for 10 minutes and walk for 1.  Wimps.  Well, ok, I've never done this before, so if you guys like to do that, that's fine.

Around mile 6, I felt good.  The cold morning was turning into a warm day, and I could do this, no prob.  Around mile 8, my lungs were filled with dust and my legs were feeling the exertion.  Somewhere around mile 9, my feet started to burn.  From mile 9.1 until the end is not very clear in my mind.  Sis fell away to a walk at some point, and her bff joined her, but in the haze was a thought that if I stopped now, I might not start up again.  Coming in to the finish, I saw a couple of people being helped into medical tents, the finish line, my husband, my daughter, water, water, where's the water?, food, Port-a-Potty.  I did it, I did it, I'm dying, but I did it.  Just need to make a quick stop at the potty... I almost didn't come back out.  We still had to drive home 1 1/2 hours, but it was more like 2 1/2 to 3 with all the stops I needed to make.  I spent most of the rest of the day between my bed and the bathroom.

What an idiot.

So, you can see why hubby wasn't too encouraging.  He later admitted to me that he had seriously considered taking me to the hospital that day, and he was pretty freaked out.  But this time I'm going to train!

Stay tuned for more.....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tipping the Credit Score Scales in Your Favor

You might be wondering what you can do to improve your credit score.  Here are some good tips from the Credit Scores class I took last week:
  • Pay ALL of your bills on time or early.  Even a 30 day late on a small credit card can have a significant negative impact on your credit score.  Sign up to have the minimum payment automatically deducted on the due date to ensure that no matter when your "real" payment gets there, you have at least paid your minimum on time every month.
  • Don't co-sign loans!  Remember that their late payment becomes your late payment.  No exceptions, no do-overs.
  • Don't open new accounts unless absolutely necessary.  Inquiries may or may not affect your score depending on the rest of your credit history.  There are two types of inquiries: hard or soft.  A "hard" inquiry is when your full credit file is pulled, as when you try to open a new credit card.  A "soft" inquiry is when you pull your own credit score.  Fortunately, multiple credit inquiries from mortgage companies or auto loans within a 14 day period will not hurt your score, so you can shop around.  Just be careful where you do this- online mortgage companies are reportedly not the way to go.
  • In related news... Department Store Credit Cards hurt your credit!  It can be so tempting to "save 10% all day today".  However, the credit is only good in that particular store, so it isn't good for your overall rating.
  • Report Fraud Immediately!  If you are a victim of fraud, contact the credit bureaus, your credit card companies, banks and the FTC at
  • Monitor your credit.  Order a FREE copy of your credit report once a year at  This site will not require you to sign up for paid service.
  • If you are planning on refinancing or buying a home, do not make any purchases or runup the balances on your cards.  Wait until you move in to buy that furniture, carpet, appliances, etc.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Goes into Your Credit Score?

It seems like some kind of mystery.  How DO they figure out your credit score anyway?  Until recently, the calculations were fairly well guarded.  Yesterday, I took a class that gave an estimate of how it is figured. 
Being the mommy of a 9 year old, and a former teacher, I like to advocate SHARING!  So, here it is:

Payment History= 35%
  • Pay your accounts ON TIME, even if it is only the minimum.  You can usually sign up to pay the minimum automatically online.  This ensures that a payment is recorded on time every month, even if you still mail paper payments of any amount.  Most of us have experienced going out of town and forgetting to mail your bills...  this takes care of those "oops" moments.
  • Length of Positive Credit History. The longer you have your credit and pay it on time, the better
  • Severity and Quantity of Delinquencies. 
Amount Owed= 30%
  • Quantity of Credit Accounts.  Too many credit cards with balances can lower your score.
Length of Credit History= 15%
  • The longer the better
  • How long have your credit accounts been established?  It can take 6 months to a year to establish a payment history on a new credit card.  Until that time, it is a negative against your credit history because it is unestablished.
  • How long has it been since you've used your accounts?  If you have many cards that you never use, this can count against you.  Unfortunately, suddenly closing a bunch of accounts is not a good idea either.  Ultimately, you should have 3 cards that you use, and pay, regularly.

New Credit= 10%
  • Opening several credit accounts in a short period of time is a greater risk- especially if you have not established a credit history.
Types of Credit in Use/Having a Healthy Mix= 10%
  • 2 Intallment Loans (eg. Car payments)
  • 3 revolving Credit Accounts with balances
  • Balances on revolving debt below 30% of the high credit (credit limit)
  • No collection accounts
  • No public records
  • No foreclosures
  • No late payments
Coming Next:  Tipping the Scales in YOUR Favor

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Funnin' with the Numbers: what does "Months of Inventory"(MOI) mean?

I just read the simplest description yet for Months of Inventory.  So, here we go:

Months of Inventory are figured out when you find out how many homes sold in the last 12 month period and compare it to how many homes are actively on the market today.  If nothing else came on the market, the Months of Inventory are how long it would take for the current number of homes to be purchased, based of the prior year's activity. 

A "normal" housing market is defined as six months of inventory.  When the number is LESS than 6 months, the sellers have the advantage.  There are more buyers out there than there is inventory.  When the number is MORE than 6 months, it is a buyer's advantage market.  There is too much inventory for the number of buyers available.

So, where does Henderson stand?  Overall, the Henderson, CO, market is at 3.6 Months of Inventory.  Sounds really great if you are going to be selling.  But HOLD ON!

The numbers should be broken down further to make more sense.  To truly get a feel for whether now is the time to list your Henderson home, it makes sense to analyze how these break out:

Price Category:      Num Sold:     % of Sales:     Num Active:          MOI:
<85K                        0                     0                    0                    0
85K-135K                   1                     .8%                0                    0
135K-210K                55                   43.7%            11                   2.4
210K-315K                66                   52.4%            17                   3.1
315K-460K                 4                    3.1%               6                    18
460K +                       0                      0                    4                      *

For those homes listed above 460K, time will tell how quickly they sell. 

It is safe to say that if you are thinking of selling your home at a listing price between 135K and 315K, this is your market.  With such low supply, buyers are going to be anxious to purchase houses at this price level.

Be sure to consult with a REALTOR to find out what your most likely sold price will be!

If you are looking to upgrade, now may be the best time yet!  If you have a house to sell in that price range and are looking to buy a bigger, fancier, or better house...  as long as you can get the loan, these properties are a steal!

You can see what's available in any price range by visiting my website:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New pictures for Franklin!

What happened to fun driving?  It's not fun anymore.  It is guilt inducing (the Environment!  Greenhouse gasses!), boring, and just plain tedious.

Unless, of course, you are picking up your new floors!  Now that is exciting.  Ok, maybe it isn't exciting yet, but it leads to so many exciting things...  Meanwhile, here are a few pictures to let you know how it's coming:
Look at how Open and Bright it is!
More soon.....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

3653 Franklin, Hip Urban Living with a Yard?!

There it is.  Not our first joint venture, but the first we've ever taken on with an eye toward selling.  You may know this property.  If you lived in the neighborhood, or if you do now, you probably hated this property.  No more!  It is being completely remodeled and updated. 
The lot is HUGE- about 2 1/2 city lots put together- unheard of in most of Denver.  It's steps away from lightrail, minutes from downtown.  There's easy access to I70 too.
Follow our progress.  You'll be surprised what a little blood, sweat and tears will bring...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

First Time Homebuyers: Don't Miss Out on Your FREE Money

First Time Home Buyers Have 53 Shopping Days Left!
By Jennifer Prestwich

By now you have all heard about the $8,000 First Time Home Buyers credit. But what exactly does it mean? Is it a loan? A Tax Deduction? Will I have to pay it back?

The answers are, in order: No, No and No! You can get up to $8,000 as a REFUND if you close on your home before the deadline November 30. So, what's the catch? Let me explain.

First, you must be either a First Time Home Buyer, or you must not have owned a home for 3 years. If you have been renting, now is the best time to get yourself into a townhome, condo or single-family home. Although it has been improving over the last 4 months, it is still a buyers market and there are great deals to be had. But, you need to start searching now. Whether you are using Conventional Financing, FHA, VA or even if you purchase with CASH, you can take advantage of this. THE CATCH: You must live in the house for three years. Otherwise, the credit will be recouped upon sale of the home.

Second, not everyone will qualify for the $8,000, but most of you will. The price of the home determines how much you will get; 10% of the price of the home, up to $8,000. Very few of the homes for sale right now are listed under $80,000, so most buyers will get the $8,000. THE CATCH: If you are single and make more than $75,000, or married filing jointly and make more than $150,000, you will get less. The maximum amounts are over $95,000 income for individuals and over $170,000 for couples. The credit amount decreases as you approach the maximum amount of income.

Third, this is a credit, not a deduction. The difference? Uncle Sam will be writing you a check for $8,000. That's it. THE CATCH: You have to either wait until after your taxes have been filed OR amend your 2008 tax return.

Most importantly, remember that this will not last forever! You must close on your property before December 1, 2009. That means you should be under contract by October 1 so that you have plenty of time for the contract to go through.

Happy Hunting!