Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – What it Means for Homeowners

And, just like that, the Republican tax reform bill has passed both houses in Congress and is on the way to the President for signature.

The National Association of Realtors worked hard to improve the bill from its original version. Here’s some of what they did. (The following message has been quoted/edited for clarity from an email from NAR).

The new tax regime will fundamentally alter the benefits of homeownership by nullifying incentives for individuals and families while keeping those incentives in place for large institutional investors. That should concern any middle-class family looking to claim their piece of the American Dream.

Although the final tax reform bill is far from perfect, it is significantly better for homeowners than previous versions…

Last-minute changes to the bill include the following improvements:

• Capital gains exclusion. In a huge win for current and prospective homeowners, current law is left in place on the capital gains exclusion of $250,000 for an individual and $500,000 for married couples on the sale of a home. Both the House and the Senate had sought to make it much harder to qualify for the exclusion.

• Mortgage interest deduction. The maximum mortgage amount for households deducting their mortgage interest has been decreased to $750,000 from the current $1 million limit. The House bill sought a reduction to $500,000.

• State and local tax deductions. Both property taxes and state and local income taxes remain deductible, although with a combined limit of $10,000. Both the House and Senate bills sought to eliminate the state and local income tax deduction altogether.

Next steps

Enactment of the bill does not end NAR’s effort to reduce the negative impact on homeowners. “REALTORS®’ work on tax issues will continue,” says Mendenhall, “and we look forward to joining members of Congress from both sides of the rotunda on that endeavor.”

Access full details of the bill as it relates to housing and the real estate profession here.

So NAR is on the ball and their efforts saved this bill from having far worse consequences on housing. Support your local dues-paying Realtor today. 

Tips to Protect Yourself with Builders Contracts and New Construction

New construction in DC can be a great option in Denver’s real estate market, with its low inventory. But just because it’s new doesn’t mean there aren’t things to look out for. In fact, that’s why you should be extra careful. Here are a few tips on working through the process.

Work with an agent An agent with new construction experience will be able to give you advice throughout the process. An agent also provides a buffer of communication between you and the builder’s rep, which can be very helpful when negotiating. The Builder’s agent has an interest to sell houses, and they won’t give you a price break if you choose not to use an agent. That would upset their sales comparables and other Buyers who come in with representation. A knowledgeable buyer’s agent offers value with experience, insight and help negotiating. Since the fee is baked into the price already, there’s no reason not to work with someone. 

Protect your agent by allowing him or her to communicate with the builder first. Don’t just go visiting the site on a whim on a Sunday without asking your agent to at least call first and introduce themselves as your agent. Many new construction sales offices are sticklers on this protocol, and some won’t honor the agency relation if you come onsite without your agent present. Believe me, your agent won’t mind the call and it’ll save any trouble and/or confusion when it comes to your representation. If you really must go in and your agent is not around, put your agent’s name and information in the sign-in sheet so the Builder will contact them for follow-up.

Review Contract Terms — New construction contracts are written by attorneys hired by the builder, so read the language carefully. Pay attention to time frames and make sure they work for you, or else work  your agent negotiate the changes that you need. Check appraisal language and time frames, financing and earnest money deposit details. If timing allows, work in a pre-drywall inspection as well as the regular inspection so you have a chance to really do your due diligence on the property. 

Research Preferred Service Providers – A builder contract often offers strong incentives, like closing cost help or other discounts, to keep you working with their preferred title companies and lenders. Having worked with builders on a few different new construction projects, working with the same companies on each deal really does make for a smoother process, as title company and lenders already have the builder information on hand and the parties are familiar with each other. But, since these providers are getting bulk business from the builder, they’ll tend to communicate with the builder more freely and may favor them in small ways. 

You may have to give up the attractive purchase incentives in order to work with a “non-preferred” service provider when working with a new builder. Do your research to compare, and if you want to use your own then see what you and your agent can negotiate as far as concessions are concerned.

Research Developer Reputation — Find out what other projects they’ve worked on, and see if you can find out if there were there any legal issues in the early years after new owners moved in. Keep in mind, in boom or bust years can cause fluctuations in developer performance, but do your research and find out what you can. Here’s a list of Denver’s top homebuilders, but this is a dynamic industry so it’s not a comprehensive list.  

Home inspection – The foreman can help you with the final walk-through and punch list, but he works for the builder. You’ll want the eye of an inspector on your new place at least once, if not twice (before and after drywall). An inspector is hired by you at your cost, and they’ll provide you with a writeup and a report to show the builder exactly what issues need worked out. Believe me, it’s worth it to have the documentation on hand and an expert opinion backing up your punch list items.

Buy New Construction in Denver – Advantages

Denver has diverse homes and architecture, one reason why it’s such a beautiful place to live.

Buyers open to considering new construction in Denvercan find value for a few good reasons: New homes tend to hold their value well, they’re built for modern families and lifestyles and, since builders think differently than individual home sellers, there can be advantages during the purchase process.

Six Advantages to Buy New Construction in Denver

Built for Today’s Modern Family Today’s new technology, shifting work patterns and household economics affect how we live our lives and, as a result, what we need from our living spaces. Builders have taken note of these trends and so if you are in the market for new construction you’ll find open, modern floor plans and more “flex” space. It’s not uncommon to see more than one master suite upstairs and downstairs levels with bedrooms, full baths and kitchen suites, making it easy to accommodate in-laws, guests or housemates (or short term renters). Anyone who’s seen an awkward renovation knows that sometimes old homes can’t always be retrofitted perfectly to fit today’s lifestyle requirements.

Low-maintenance ownership: A new home may not offer the charm of a 1920s brick house in Park Hill or a Bungalow in Cheeseman Park. But if you’ve ever lived in an old home, you know that minor and major issues can crop up, sometimes frequently, repairs can add up, and old homes tend to be quirky. When you buy new, repairs presumably won’t be an issue for a while, and since everything is built to modern standards, regular maintenance and repairs tend to be easier and less costly.

Closing Perks: Even in low-inventory markets, Builders come from a different mind frame than individual sellers. Carrying costs are expensive, and they have debt to repay on a schedule. For that, they need to keep their sales at a regular clip and, in order to stay on pace, if the market demands it, they’ll offer up perks to encourage buyers. It’s helpful to know what you might be able to get and when the “enticements” are more likely to be on the table. A seasoned agent with construction experience can offer advice and insight during this process.

Everything is “fresh out of the box”: You have a full lifespan, and warranties, for the house and everything in it, including roof, windows, systems, and appliances.

Association Life: Many multi-unit new construction developments in Denver have homeowners’ associations (HOAs) — or condo associations, in the case of a new condo for sale in Denver. The assocation acts as a governing body for the community. This can be an attractive feature for busy homeowners who  don’t want to worry about landscaping or shoveling snow. Of course, you’ll be responsible for paying monthly association fees.

Now you know some of the reasons why it may be an advantage to consider new home communities in Denver. Read these important tips on how to protect yourself when negotiating with builder sellers.

What’s a Reverse Mortgage and How Does it Work?

A reverse mortgage, or “Home Equity Conversion Mortgage,” is a loan option for seniors age 62 and up, with good equity in their homes. It allows borrowers to access a portion of their home equity without needing to sell the home, with the home serving as collateral. It is insured by the Federal Housing Authority, and lenders follow FHA guidelines for qualification.

How Does a Reverse Mortgage Work?

  • When a borrower takes a reverse mortgage on their home, the lender pays the borrower based on the amount of home equity they have.
  • The borrower can opt for a partial lump sum, monthly payments, or a line of credit — or some combination of the three.
  • Funds are paid to the borrower in a lump sum and/or over time, and they create a balance on the loan, which then accrues interest.
  • Borrower is responsible for paying taxes and insurance.
  • Borrower is not required to make any payments on the loan.
  • Loan becomes due when the borrower leaves the home, usually either by moving or passing away.

How Much Loan Can I Get?

  • The loan amount is determined by a few factors, most importantly the borrower’s age (or youngest borrower, in the case of a couple), the value of the home, and interest rates.
  • Maximum value for homes is up to almost $680,000 this year (but you can still get a loan if your house is worth more).
  • Depending on your situation, you can expect to be able to to borrow up to 50-75% of your home’s equity.
  • If you have a current mortgage balance, it must be paid off when you take the reverse mortgage (it can be paid off with the new loan or else out of pocket).

Reverse Mortgages Had a “Bad Rep,” But Now Much Safer

Not so long ago, in the years around the financial crisis, a good number of borrowers defaulted on reverse mortgages. In harder times, borrowers found themselves maxing out the loan too quickly, and then having trouble keeping up with taxes and insurance. This caused a number of foreclosures in the years following 2008.

Since then, FHA has mandated stricter guidelines. Borrowers have limited access to the line of credit in the first year. They also must attend counseling from a third-party provider, and mortgage insurance premiums can go up for “big spenders” on credit lines.

These days, the reverse mortgage loan is used by many as a strategic and powerful tool for retirement.  

Reverse Mortgage Advantages

  • Allows a homeowner to tap into home equity without selling the house.
  • Eliminates your monthly mortgage payment.
  • Postpone and/or maximize Social Security Benefits.
  • Funds freed up for debt payoff or health care expenses.
  • Increased income allows “age in place” home improvements.
  • Borrower never owes more than the value of the home.
  • At payoff time, if home value beats the loan amount, you/heirs keep the difference.
  • The line of credit option can be an interesting tool for investment. If you keep the balance to zero, the loan accrues interest in your favor.

Reverse Mortgage Example

For a borrower aged 65, with a house worth $500,000 and owing $100,000, here is what a Reverse Mortgage would look like:

  1. Loan gets paid off and they’ll no longer have a mortgage payment.  Borrower pays taxes and insurance.
  2.  Credit line available of $103,420.  $22,200 of that amount would be available when the loan funds and the additional amount of $81,220 would be available after one year.
  3.  Untapped credit gains interest and grows for the borrower, and only what they use accrues interest.  

Ready to apply? Contact me for an introduction to a qualified reverse mortgage specialist.

What You Should Know About Reverse Mortgages

  • Since it’s a riskier loan product, closing costs are higher.
  • Upfront costs include 2% of the home value, plus mortgage insurance of 1/2% per year.
  • Borrower requirements are less strict than other loans (HELOC loans, for example).
  • They do create a lien on the property.
  • If/when owner is out of the house for a year or more, then the loan becomes due – must sell or refinance to a different loan product.
  • You’ll reduce the equity you’re passing on to your heirs.
  • You must pay taxes/insurance to protect your asset and not cause a foreclosure.
  • If you outlive the loan payments, you’ll still receive them. Neither you or your heirs will be responsible for any deficit, and you won’t suffer any negative credit consequences. 
  • You won’t have to pay the loan back until you leave the house, but the bank has a lien against the house and holds more and more equity the higher your loan gets.
  • If your loan equity is maxed out, your heirs will still have an option to buy back the house at 95% of value from the bank.
  • You’ll want to look out for scam artists who like to prey on seniors.

If You’re Not in Your “Forever Home”…

Downsizing — moving to a smaller, less expensive place — is another great way to benefit from your home equity in retirement. 

It’s never too early to talk with a professional about your options! Click here to schedule an appointment or call Jessica at 720.514.9540, or email me for a free, informative guide written by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, for a rundown on all the aspects of this important decision. 

Downsizing for Seniors

Equity, or the value of your house after the mortgage is paid off, is a source of wealth that can be used as a reserve to help fund expenses in retirement. Downsizing, by moving from your larger home to a smaller and less expensive place, helps to “right-size” both the physical space of the house and reduce financial burdens of owning a larger home.  

Why Move?

If you’re in the right house, it may make the most sense to stay. Aging in place has its advantages — and of course it costs money to move — so if expenses are manageable and the house is comfortable “for the duration,” as my mom likes to say, this can be a great option. And one can still access equity with a reverse mortgage or home equity loan.

The Cost of Owning

However, while home equity is often the greatest store of wealth, home owning is also one of the largest expenses. Taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance and repairs add up.

Downsizing can be a crucial move to free up capital, increase savings and allow you to live a more comfortable (and even more fun!) lifestyle as you grow older.

 Fact: Only 17% of Americans over 55 say they’re confident they’ll have enough to live on in retirement.

Downsizing Advantages

  • Better flow and features, potential one-level living 
  • Fewer rooms to clean and take care of
  • Neighborhood suited to your lifestyle, access to your preferred amenities — such as shops, restaurants, medical facilities, and/or family
  • Home equity funds to reduce debt and/or reinvest for retirement
  • Free up funds for education, grandchildren, travel, charity (et cetera!)
  • Reserve funds for health care costs
  • Option to delay Social Security payout, up to age 70
  • New lifestyle, new chapter!
  • In a Seller’s market, a great price on your house!

The Sooner You Move, the More You Save

Moving is never easy, especially if you’ve lived in the same house for a long time.

It will likely get more difficult with age, both physically and socially.

The sooner you downsize, the greater positive long-term effect it will have on your savings and expenses.

Click here for a handy downsizing calculator.

But I’ve Been in this House Forever. What About All My Stuff?

Moving is a big job, but you don’t have to take it on alone! With the help of a good network of qualified, caring professionals, you can get through this process.

Decluttering for Retirement: You could probably do without a lot of the stuff you own, and you may be surprised at how free you feel when you start letting it go.

Need Another Reason to Consider Selling? 

With high demand and low inventory, it’s a Seller’s market. Real estate prices in Denver are at an all-time high.

Interest rates are in constant flux, and the housing market is never static. Get in touch to find out more about how to position yourself for the best move possible.

Can’t-Miss Tax Deductions for 2017

Tax time is around the corner — and 2017’s tax reform bill has altered the tax deductions list from here on out.

But for 2017’s filings we still play by the old rules. Here the National Association of Realtors shares four popular deductions you can take now that will be gone by next year — including property taxes, home office and moving expenses. Don’t miss out! 

Selling Real Estate as the Executor of an Estate

If you’ve been named the executor of an estate, you’ve been given an honor—and a responsibility. Here I’ll discuss how to sell a property as the executor, or personal representative, of an estate in Colorado.

Whether or not there’s a will, the case has to go through probate if the estate’s estimated value is over $50,000. Probate is the legal procedure in which a deceased person’s assets get transferred according to their wishes and the law. As the estate’s personal representative, you’ll have duties to carry out, which often include selling a home.

While it may not feel right to sell a family home right away, the longer you hold onto it, the greater the chance that something may go wrong. Remember last spring’s big hailstorm? You don’t want to worry about insurance claims or new, costly repairs on top of all the probate proceedings. Plus, if you delay closing out the estate for too long (three years or more), the court will close the case and you’ll have to pay a large sum to reopen it.

As the executor, it’s your job to ensure the assets are properly distributed and not diminished unnecessarily. You will need to:

  • Engage a probate attorney to help with the process.
  • Obtain letters testamentary from the court if there is a will, or letters of administration if the deceased left no will (intestate).
  • Get court approval to sell the property.
  • Maintain insurance and pay taxes for the estate from the estate account.
  • Sort and remove belongings, inventory items of value.
  • Engage a Realtor with probate/estate sale experience.
  • Get the property appraised to establish a “date of death value.”
  • With a Realtor’s assistance, prepare the home (staging/repairs etc), price it, and list it.
  • When the sale is complete, see that funds go into an account established for the estate.
  • Keep the estate open for four months, giving notice so that creditors can make claims.
  • Pay creditors, attorneys, and beneficiaries according to the will or inheritance law.

Pro Tip

Denver real estate is hot these days. The word will get out of your loved one’s passing (from county records, obituaries, etc.). As the personal representative, you’ll be approached by all types of characters—investors, developers, “house flippers,” etc.—who will want you to sell the house directly to them, without putting it on the market.

These guys are approaching you directly to save on their expenses, so they can resell it for maximum profit. Dealing with such buyers, many with murky funding sources and who will likely try to play on your inexperience, is treacherous and stressful and can lead to bad situations. For this reason, it’s best to engage an experienced Realtor sooner rather than later, ideally at the start of probate, so you have someone to help you navigate today’s Denver real estate market.

You never know: It may turn out to be best to sell the property off market before listing it… but you’ll know best with the voice of an experienced and reputable listing agent in your corner to help you make wise decisions and weed out unqualified buyers and bad actors.

Are you the executor of an estate? Let’s talk!

In addition to being experienced with probate/estate sales, I keep a good roster of professionals in Denver to help you with the probate process: finances, tax preparation, moving and storage, and, of course, estate planning. Contact me for a recommendation for a Colorado estate attorney


Denver Home Prices up 11% Over Last Year

The Denver real estate market has been on a steep upward trajectory since 2012, and this year’s spring market is no different. Median sold prices are up 11% over May of last year, to $405,000.

Since May of 2012, prices have nearly doubled, up 93% from $210K!

Will Denver real estate prices continue to climb?

The job market is still strong, which is a positive indicator for real estate prices. Colorado has been ranked the No. 1 state for growth, employment and business environment, and for some time has been attracting transplants from other, more crowded, more expensive areas of the country. The beautiful scenery, amazing weather and rich outdoor life are all huge attributes, and living here offers a healthy, fun lifestyle, with plenty of jobs and other business opportunities.

Inventory is expected to remain in short supply for the next decade when, according to this study, supply levels may finally meet demand. 

It’s safe to say that prices will continue to climb — BUT a few factors might impact price increases.

Keep an eye on:

Population growth. The area population is still expanding, but at a slower pace than a few years ago. If fewer people move here, or if people start leaving (as some are, because of high cost of living), demand will decrease and reduce pressure on prices.

Interest rates. The Fed is expected to hike rates at least once more this year. They’re currently in the mid-4% range, which is not terrible from a historical perspective. But obviously rates affect buying power and the higher they go, the more expensive it becomes to finance the purchase of a home.

Tax Reform. It will no doubt take years to fully realize the results of Republican tax reform bill, which went into effect at the end of 2017. For now, though, one might surmise that the increased standard deduction will result in fewer people taking the mortgage interest deduction (since the amount of interest they’d be writing off would be less than the standard deduction). The mortgage interest deduction has always been a valuable incentive for those making the jump from renting to owning. The tax law, as I see it, takes away some of the financial advantage that owning previously had over renting, particularly among entry-level buyers. Does that mean would-be buyers will rent for longer? We shall see.

Get on the real estate ladder

Renting still ain’t cheap and home prices are still rising, so the longer you wait, the more a place will cost. And many agree that homeowning is not just a financial investment. Perhaps more importantly, it also provides pride in ownership and the positive feeling you get from living in your own place, in your own neighborhood.

Buyers should know that finding a home is possible. They just have to know the right moves – that is, how to get financing, write clean offers and move quickly in today’s Denver real estate market.

Are you a first-time homebuyer in Denver? Or do you want to be? Contact Jessica today!

Homeowners are sitting pretty right now!

It’s a great time to get the very best price for a home in today’s market! But buyers are savvy and have access to more information than ever. Find out how to make your place shine and show its best for today’s qualified buyers.

Are you thinking of selling your place? Ask Jessica Wilkie how to get 100% (or more) of your asking price.

Not ready to sell, but curious to find out how much your home is worth? Contact Jess for a free valuation.

Properties stay on the days on market under 10 since 2015

Home Prices in Denver CO for June 2018

Real estate market data for Denver, CO provided by Jessica Wilkie of Keller Williams Integrity.

Denver Home Prices

We have seen six years “sold” price increases on home prices in Denver and don’t expect things to slow down anytime soon.  If you are considering buying a home you can still find deals on a house in Denver but you must have a good real estate agent who understands the market.

Buyers shouldn’t wait on the sidelines for too long — low inventory means many of our listings have high interest as soon as they hit the market. As you can see from the graph below, listings tend to get 100% of their asking price. To make sure you succeed in this market, you’ll want to have an experienced agent help you find the right house and write the best offer for your Denver home.

Please click the link if you’d like to see how much current inventory is on the market in Denver.

Currently in Denver, homes have a median of 8 days on the market before they sell. But now that summer’s closing out we are seeing price reductions. It may be easier to negotiate with owners whose properties have been sitting for more than 20 days. Sellers should price their home slightly below market value to increase chances of receiving multiple offers. I’d expect home price increases to temper and stabilize, but high demand should keep prices on an upward trajectory.

Denver Real Estate Report Summary

The median “sold” price in June for single family homes in Denver is $446,000. The “sold” prices increased by 11% over June 2017.

The median sold price in June for attached homes with 2 bedrooms or fewer is $300,000, up nearly 13% over June of last year.

Find Homes for Sale in Denver CO

Visit my website to search for homes in Denver or to be notified when Denver homes come on the market.

To find out what you home is worth in the current market email me or call 720–514-9540.

Park Hill Denver Neighborhood

Homes for Sale in Park Hill, Denver Co

Let’s take a closer look at an established neighborhood in Denver CO with a lot to offer: Park Hill.

Why Do People Live here?

Park Hill is a beautiful neighborhood made up primarily of detached houses, with quite varied and lovely architecture. The neighborhood was mostly built from the 1920s through the ’50s, but some of the houses date back to the late 1800s, and some lots have been razed and replaced by ultra modern new homes from this decade.

Architectural styles range from the famous Denver Square, to Bungalows, to 1940s and ’50s Ranch styles, Spanish, Pueblo, Mediterranean Revival, and Minimal Traditional. It’s such an eclectic neighborhood!

Curious about Denver residential architecture? Check this amazing writeup of Denver architecture. 

Park Hill is bordered by Colorado Boulevard to the west, Colfax Avenue to the south, Quebec Street to the east, and East 52nd Avenue to the north. The neighborhood is divided into three administrative areas– North Park Hill, Northeast Park Hill and South Park Hill.

It’s conveniently located just 20 minutes by car to downtown Denver and 20 minutes to the airport. It has good bus lines into town and along the north-south corridors of Colorado Avenue and Quebec Street.

Park Hill is mostly quiet and residential with mature, leafy green trees and beautiful avenues crossing the neighborhood as you head into the city. Park Hill is adjacent to the 300+ acre City Park, which has two lakes, the Denver Zoo and the Natural Science museum. An eighteen-hole public golf course is located on the north side of the neighborhood. Along 23rd Avenue, Kearney and of course Colfax, you have restaurants, grocers, and many independently-owned shops, facilities and retail.     

Looking for a home in Park Hill Denver? Click here for all the latest listings in Park Hill Denver Co

What can I expect in a home in Park Hill?

The homes you’ll find for sale in Park Hill Denver are mostly single family detached, and range from small, one-level abodes of 1200 square feet to prestigious and massive homes along the avenues and streets, such as this stately home of more than 5000 square feet which sold this past spring.

Park Hill Neighborhood Amenities

• Safeway/King Soopers

• Park Hill Library

• Marcyzk

•City Park

•Museum of Nature and Science

•Denver Zoo


•Long Table Brewery

•Cake Crumbs


•Art Garage


•Park Hill Golf Course

Park Hill Upcoming Development

The big story is Park Hill Commons, a redevelopment project located at the 2800 block of Fairfax Street. This mixed-use development will provide 40-some residential apartments and townhouses as well as office, retail, restaurant and park space. The Long Table Brewhouse has already opened with good reviews.

What Schools will the Kids Attend?

Most neighborhood children are zoned to attend Park Hill Elementary or Stedman Elementary. There are also a few great charter schools located in the district as well as private options. Most middle school kids will attend the well-regarded McAuliffe International and for high school, East High.

Now You Really Want to Find a Home Here, Right?

If you are interested in the current homes for sale in Park Hill Neighborhood of Denver CO click on the link for most recent Active Sales.