Comments on Local Issues, Events and Some Gossip

highlands Ranch Blog

Hammersmith Management, Inc

Hammersmith Management has taken over the management of the local neighborhood homeowners associations. (not the entire HRCA) While there is some disagreement among many of the local Delegates over how the deal was structured, and negotiated behind the scenes, so far we are not seeing any issues directly affecting individual homeowners. In general, Highlands Ranch has always been well managed and we would expect this to continue.

2016 is a Frustrating Year for Buyers

Heavy demand and not enough homes for sale has caused bidding wars for homes here. Even the dumps are selling for full price, often with multiple offers. If you call me to start the buying process I will warn you that we may have some frustrations along the way. However, I have been able to get deals done this year.

Discount Brokers - Making Sellers Happy and Realtors Mad

In a world of self service is it really reasonable to pay a Realtor $25,000- to spend 25 hours to sell your house? Probably not. So, the industry is changing and costs are comming down, except at the big national franchise brokerages. I only charge a 2% listing commission, without any national franchise fees. Also, I have personally sold houses on Zillow and never paid a commission. You can 'almost' sell your home yourself in this market. I offer a For Sale By Owner Service for just $1,850.- See details here and save yourself $25,000-

2015 Sales Were Strong

Sales continue to be strong here. Reasons include the top rated school district, low crime rates and ever increasing property values. There are no more nice single family homes available priced under $300k. The Community Association has done a great job of maintaining and upgrading all the public spaces. The new Trex fencing along the major streets looks great, and should last for 20 + years.

Multiple Offers

In June of 2013 houses priced under $300k started selling quickly. During the summer selling months we started getting multiple offers. So, this is a good time to sell. Buyers can get a little frustrated. Lenders are sticking to 'comparable's' market pricing, so there have not been many overpriced deals happening. (that's a good thing for long term values)
Click here for some home selling tips.

No Teachers Unions at Highlands Ranch Public Schools

The entire Douglas County School District is free of teachers unions. The teachers here are paid based on performance, not tenure. It's been a little controversial as the unions were collecting millions of property tax dollars and resisting any improvements the local school board wanted to implement. They continue to fight the school board on numerous issues. I did notice that some of the weaker teachers left for different school districts where their (poor) performance would be protected by the unions. Several Highlands Ranch schools are highly ranked on national lists of Best Schools. Check out the STEM School - there is a lottery for admissions.

Just Bought Another Rental Property

The rental market in 2012 is very strong currently. Recently, a 'too good to be true' deal popped up in the MLS and I grabbed it. The selling broker was not a skilled negotiator and I was able to get it below asking price. That's a miracle in the current market. It's been fully remodeled and it rented out in just 1 day. For anyone who has the right attitude for managing rental properties this is an excellent time to get one into your investment portfolio. Annual ROI can be over 20% at current market rental rates.
Here's a video of the recent remodeling project.

Remodelling the Kitchen

I'm slowly remodelling our kitchen. First, I painted the walls. We chose a subtle yellow. One gallon of nice low VOC paint cost us $50-. Next, we put up all new cabinet doors and drawer faces, along with some nice knobs and handles. That was $2,000-. Next was the granite counter tops, of course. After shopping around a lot, that cost $2,200-. We chose a 'leather' finish. That's like a matte finish, not so glossy and slippery, but still sealed. And finally, all new stainless steel appliances. I got a coupon from Lowes for 10% off. (Lowes actually has the best prices on 'quality' appliances) That's another $2,000-. So, a nice kitchen remodel is costing us about $6,000-
This doesn't necessarily increase the value of the house by very much, but, it will make it much easier to sell or rent out.

Discount Listings

Sell your home for just 4.8 commission. (includes the standard 2.8% buyers agent commission). See my comments on why you should avoid over paying commissions to sell your home. Want to know how much money a Realtor makes on a deal? See this article on commissions.

Using Zillow

Zillow is very popular. I hear a lot of compliments and complaints about it. I have a Zillow '5 Star' rating and understand it's uses and limitations. Check out my comments here on using Zillow.

Investing in Rental Properties

I own a couple rentals here. The ROI is actually quite impressive. Sure, it's a bit of work. But I can handle it, especially when I consider the final return on the investment well exceeds my 401K. Check out my actual numbers here.

'Notice To Paint'

The homeowners association inspects all the homes every November. This is usually a quick drive by, with the inspector noting addresses of homes needing paint. The first 'Notice To Paint' letters go out in January and you will need to get the house painted over the summer.
This is a good thing. It keeps bad neighbors from having a trashy house that can affect your property value.
Contact the Community Improvement Services department at 303 471 8821

Lots of Showings Already

Well, the buyers are out early in 2010. The showing service reports strong activity, especially on the weekends. That's a great early indicator of a strong selling season. Let's hope the banks cooperate.......

Tree Trimming

I own 3 houses in Highlands Ranch so I manage a lot of trees. Having nice trees can add significantly to your curb appeal. Trees that are trimmed will stand up to that late spring snowfall. A couple hundred dollars spent with a good arborist is a wise investment. Here's some photos of recent tree trimming.

Local Dentists

I've been to several dental offices around town. It's interesting how their approaches to dental care differ. Click here for my review of local dentists.

Short Sales Causing Problems

For most of 2009 short sales have been been a royal pain for Brokers. The negotiations can drag out for months and 50% of the attempted deals fall apart because the bank just never approves them. Buyers get mad at the brokers and the brokers get mad at the banks. I've avoided the headaches by not taking any short sales listings. There's a problem developing here. The Realtors listing the short sales are pricing them 30%+ below recent neighborhood sales and some of them are getting sold. Then, when someone nearby wants to sell their home, these short sale 'comparables' bring down the market value of everything nearby. Suddenly, a home is worth $30,000- less and potential buyers can't get financing for what would have been a 'fair market price'.

Christmas Time in Highlands Ranch

Lots of activities offered by the Community Association during the holidays. Check their website at: Mostly family focused, of course. I like the annual drive to see the best Christmas Lights in Highlands Ranch.

Dealing With the Local HOA

The Highlands Ranch Community Association - That's our government here. There is no city hall, no Mayor, and no Councilmen. The association does everything, with an annual budget around $24 million. I see them as the Benevolent Dictator. They follow the established community guidelines and have a stated goal of "Preserving Our Property Values". They seem do a good job and not bother anyone. Sometimes I wish they would bother some people a bit over their property condition.... Here's a link to info on local politics.

Retirement Living - Over 55 Communities

There's a few nice retirement communities in the area. One of the newest Active Senior Living developments is Verona Homes, located on the north west side of Highlands Ranch. New, modern and a park like setting.

HGTV House Hunters - Highlands Ranch

Want to star in your own reality show? It could happen. Producers for HGTV has called me twice this year. They want an 'interesting' story of first time home buyers. I've been invited to audition, but have not yet found anyone willing to expose all their financial details to a national audience.....

Yard Sales

This is just the best place - for both buying and selling. Man, the deals I've got on kiddie clothes and furniture. I even bought a working lawn mower for twenty bucks. If you are going to have a garage sale just remember to start early. Folks from all over Denver will be working the sales. Here's the rules for placing yard signs in Highlands Ranch.

Buying a Home in Highlands Ranch

Most houses here are in good condition and all the neighborhoods are safe. There's the normal due diligence including a home inspection and an appraisal by the bank. I've only seen a couple cases of structural damage in all my years of looking at houses here. For some additional advice check out my guide to buying a home here.

Indulge Wine Bar

This is probably the coolest place in town. A great atmosphere with excellent wine and desserts. Send the kids for a sleep over and go here. It's open till 10PM or later with live music on the weekends. See their website for the best Highlands Ranch entertainment available!

Fix and Flip in Highlands Ranch?

As my clients know, I do some fix and flip investing. This always requires a spread of at least $50,000-beteween the purchase price and the planned exit (selling) price. In Highlands Ranch, it's rare for anything to sell at such a discount. Sometimes, foreclosure properties can be had for $25,000- below market price, but they definitely need some updating. Thus, not much fix and flip activity occurs here. But if something ever does pop up, it will be interesting to see how the numbers work out. Recently, we did one in Aurora that netted the investor $25,000- after all expenses and closing costs.

Clock Tower Lofts goes into Foreclosure

The Clock Tower development shut down in 2010 and been foreclosed on. This is quite unusual in Highlands Ranch. There are legal notices posted on the sales trailer and the one completed (unoccupied) building. I had noticed some real shortcuts in the construction process. I photographed some of the problems assuming that these would be problems for the eventual homeowners. But for now, it's been completely shut down and there is no response to numerous messages. A new developer will take it over and it will be great.

2008 closes out as a down year

The total number of sales in Highlands Ranch was down 19% for the year with the average selling price down by 12% (mostly from slower sales of higher priced properties) See my Highlands Ranch market analysis. For the entire metro Denver market selling prices were down by 16% for the year.

The Foreclosure Market in 2008

Out of almost 30,000 homes in Highlands Ranch, there are usually less than 10 foreclosure properties available. They are never priced very low (compared to other Denver area neighborhoods). And although they are usually in good structural condition, they typically require a full updating. Common total expense for a full update is $20,000-, plus selling expenses and capital gains taxes. So, trying to get a good foreclosure deal is tough here. The Denver Post and Daily News has interviewed me several times about the current state of the Denver foreclosure market and available foreclosure homes. The current foreclosure rescue bill being considered is getting mixed reviews.

Fence Replacement Project Continues

It's a big project to replace 41 miles of old wood fencing. But what has been done so far looks great. It better look great - this Trex synthetic fencing should last 50 years. We'll see.

For Sale By Owner

If you want to sell your home by yourself we can offer you some good local advice. Click here to see our page on FSBO.

Best Place To Live, Again

This time, Relocate-America has listed Highlands Ranch as one of the best places to live in America. Not sure what all their rankings were based on, and they did pick 99 other cities......but once again, Highlands Ranch makes the list.

Richmond Homes Siding Settlement

Many Richmond Homes in Highlands Ranch used defective hardboard siding. You can see the 'waves' in the wood if you look closely. There was a lawsuit and settlement. Any homeowner can file a claim. The settlement ends up being a few thousand dollars - just about enough for a good paint job. And that's really all you can do if your siding is bad. Contact the siding supplier at and start the claims process. (I got $5,000- for my claim) If you can't connect with the manufacturer then contact Nat'l Claims Recovery at 866 640 3611 (they'll take 30%)

4th of July Fireworks

There is an annual fireworks show near town center every year. Sometimes we go and sometimes we have a block party. One neighbor gets illegal stuff from Wyoming and puts on his own show for the neighborhood kids. It's much more up close and personal. This year the police raided the party and shut him down. Seems that a house nearby caught on fire! (but just a little bit) Good thing we stayed home this year.......

History of Highlands Ranch

Do you know the history of Highlands Ranch? See some important dates and events here.

Summer, 2008 - Water Those Trees !

Trees around my neighborhood are starting to stress from the hot, dry summer. Just 20 minutes with a garden hose a couple times a week will help a lot. The trees will be much happier.

Spring 2008 - Civic Green Happenings

The association has been doing extensive upgrades to the park all winter. It's getting a personality! Last week was the Highlands Ranch Veterans Memorial dedication - We attended along with politicians, the Highlands Ranch Choir, and a local motorcycle club.
This week is the annual Ice Cream Social at Civic Green. Arrive early, there was a 30 minute line to buy the $1- tickets last year....

Beware of Starkey Mortgage

I would recommend that you do NOT do business with Starkey Mortgage. There are a lot of reports of their practices being anywhere from incompetent to outright fraudulent. Stay Away !

September, 2007 Tree Trimming Time

Now is the time. Trim those trees hard. They will survive the first heavy snowfall and come back strong in the spring. Remember, if it's a dry winter, be sure to water the trees a few times. Homes with 'nice' trees sell easier.

Fall, 2007 - Fence Replacement

It's official, the Metro District will begin replacing fences along the parkways. 41 miles of stained cedar fence will be replaced with Trex! Very nice and long lasting. However, this project will take years to complete.

Water Problem at The Hearth

Actually, not uncommon around town, but the local association is taking aggressive action.
Click here to see the report from The Hearth at Highlands Ranch Home Owners Association.

Summer, 2007 - Activities

Here's a few activities around the community this summer; 9 Health Fair, Arts Live, Home Improvement Expo, Taste Of Highlands Ranch, Hooked on Fishing, 4th of July at Town Center, Highlands Ranch 5K & 10K run, Big Top Circus, Farmers Market every Sunday, Summer Concert series, Classic Car Show, Symphony at Civic Green, Movies at the Park, HRMA Music and Arts Festival, and endless (excellent) Garage Sales! (TIP: the concerts at Civic Green Park are much more comfortable that those at Heritage Hills park, where the afternoon sun will be directly in your eyes)

Richmond Homes Class Action Suit

Not uncommon in subdivisions around the country - Richmond Homes in Highlands Ranch used some bad siding in a couple of their projects. There is a settlement fund available to homeowners that know how to claim it. We got a cash settlement of $2,200- and used it to paint our house.
There were also some bad roofing materials used by Richmond Homes but they would not stand behind those claims. Homeowners will only see about a 15 year life from the roof shingles, as opposed to the 50 years claimed when they were selling the homes new.

Summer, 2007 - Need a Night Out...

What's the first thing a middle-aged man thinks when he sees a teenage girl walking down the street in Highlands Ranch? Answer: Wow, I wonder if she does..... baby sitting ?
Baby sitting is the main industry for school girls in my neighborhood. Rates seem to vary from $3- to $8- per hour. I use a local girl who takes my son to her house. He has a great time and is usually exhausted when we retrieve him. I found her from posting an ad on the local mailbox.

Spring, 2007 -Current Market Conditions

Looks to be a strong selling season for Highlands Ranch Homes. The technical charts show an improving market. Specifically, the days on market are shrinking as inventory levels drop a bit. Statistically, that would indicate an upcoming sellers market. To discuss your home value call me at (303) 791 7817

Fall, 2006 - Light Rail is Cool !

The light rail at Mineral Station is quite a hit. In fact, most of the parking spaces are gone by 8AM. Then it becomes a ‘drop-off and ride’. By noon spaces open up and it’s a quick and fun ride to downtown. Much cheaper than parking downtown (about $5- round trip), not to mention the gas savins.

Winter, 2006 - Snow Shoveling is a Community Activity

Well, this was like a camping trip, except we camped out at home. We got about 4 feet on our block. But it was passable. I was actually surprised to see some major construction equipment plowing our minor side street within a couple of days. Oh well, we survived, and got to spend some quality time cuddled up next to the fireplace. The only thing the local Safeway ran out of was eggs and bread.

Summer, 2006 - Child Labor in Highlands Ranch

I hired a couple of local high school students to pressure wash and stain my fence. Well, I definitely saved some money, and it turned out good. There’s always some teenage labor around. Best place to advertise seems to be on the mailboxes. But just be sure to set the expectations up front - and pay when everything is complete.

Spring, 2006 - Yard Sales

Yard sales. In Highlands Ranch these are just amazing. We have bought everything from (very nice) baby furniture to kiddie clothes and shoes (even some brand name stuff) It will be sad when our kid no longer wants to wear 'used' clothes.
Best plan is to head out early on a Saturday morning and drive down Highlands Ranch Parkway and then up and down Broadway, University, and Quebec. Don’t forget Wildcat Reserve Parkway on the south side.
The best shopping seems to be north of Highlands Ranch Parkway and west of University. I always go there first.

How to Become a Real Estate Broker

I get asked about getting licensed, so here's the info: Real Estate Training

Winter 2005 - Sales Are Strong

Highland Ranch real estate has been selling well. Seems that most houses sell fairly quickly if staged right. Homes with just a bit of a ‘wow’ factor sell first. That usually means professional landscaping, some nice widow treatments, and a freshly painted fence. i.e.; good curb appeal. I think that professional tree trimming is a great long term investment. Everyone loves nice, healthy trees.

Spring, 2005 - Paint Me Now

The local homeowners association seems to do a good job keeping the neighborhoods clean and up to date. It’s not common, but they do send out notices to homeowners with obvious deferred maintenance issues. The monthly newsletter always mentions the occasional citing for a code violation. Out of 28,000 houses, they seem to average 2 violations a month. (parking a commercial truck overnight, leaving a camper in the driveway for more than 3 days, etc) My buddy just received a ‘Notice to Paint’ letter….. He admits it’s time for a paint job, he just didn't have the motivation, until now. And that's why you rarely see a trashy house around the Ranch!

Winter, 2005 - A Grand Piano ?

Our home is much bigger than where we moved from. I didn't have enough furniture to fill up the front room. Well, I never thought about it before, but a grand piano would fit nicely there. I happened to visit a neighbor who had a piano in their front room and it looked great! I did some surfing online and found a nice used piano for $500-. Every so often, one of our visitors surprises us with their musical skills. Very cool.

Gangs and Graffiti in Highlands Ranch ?

Yep, even here are some gangs and graffiti. But it's a bit different. The 'tagging' takes the form of chalk drawings in almost every other driveway. Names and numbers mostly. The gangs; typically a group of 8 year olds on bicycles circling the block looking for who knows what......