Latest News & Blog

Eco-Friendly Ways to Prep Your Home for Winter

Mike Cahill of Redfin

While winter brings the holidays, sweaters and scarves, and cozy nights curled up by the fire, this blustery season also brings harsh conditions that can wear at the exterior of your home. That’s why it’s so important to ensure your home is prepared to weather the winter season in an environmentally conscious manner. Mike Cahill of Redfin reached out to experts in eco-friendly home winterization practices to provide you with some tips for winterizing your home in 2020 and Invalesco Real Estate was honored to have been consulted for this article.

Harness solar energy year-round

When people think of solar energy they, naturally, focus on months with a lot of sunny days.  The truth is that a large part of the year the days are shorter and a bit less sunny. While it’s true that the summer will get you a much larger piece of the annual solar production, there is a place for solar energy in the winter months.  If the home is powered through non-electric sources there is an overall reduction of electricity used in the home.  This coincides with the cutback in solar energy generation, so they line up nicely.

When the weather is cold it cools down the panels, which increases the voltage.  This allows the panels to produce more electricity, per sunny hour, when compared to a summer month.  The cold decreases Electric Resistance.  This makes solar production more efficient while working with less sunlight. - 
PowerLutions Solar

One of the ways you can optimize your home during the winter is to install solar. There's a misconception that solar only works well during the summer, and that's not quite true. Solar works well whether it's summer or winter because we use energy constantly throughout the year. During the hot summer months your solar panels overproduce energy, which means that you'll have extra, cleaner energy during the cloudy winter months to help reduce your energy bill. Another benefit of going solar is to take advantage of current Federal Tax Credits to help reduce the cost of the solar system. However, keep in mind that these Federal Tax Credits are going away soon, so make sure you take advantage of it now to save even more money while it’s still available. - 
James the Solar Energy Expert

Learn what solar can do for you

Many electric utility companies across the country offer free or subsidized home energy audits that can reveal the most valuable efficiency improvements for your home. Many utilities also provide rebates or financing to help purchase new energy-efficient equipment or solar panels. The DSIRE website provides information about all the available financial incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy in all 50 states. Simply enter your zip code on the homepage to see them all. - DSIRE

Swap out gas for electric heating

Replacing your old gas boiler with an electric heat pump will help reduce methane and CO2 emissions. Because of the improved energy efficiency of heat pumps you will likely save money over the lifetime of the new equipment when compared to the cost of replacing your gas boiler, especially if you combine the system with a ground or water source heat loop. Be sure to combine your electrification investments with smart thermostats so you are ready to be a part of the residential demand response solution that will support our renewable energy transition. - Land Art Generator

Ensure your windows are up to date

One great way to save energy during our winter and summer months is to replace any older windows.  Over the last ten years window efficiency has increased tremendously.  If your windows are over ten years old it will make a massive difference replacing them.  Another way to help with efficiency is by insulating your attic space.  R60 or 20” of insulation is the recommended level for blown-in insulation.  Most of the older homes we inspect are not insulated properly and have 10” or less of insulation.  This can make a large difference in energy efficiency. At All Seasons Exteriors, we also install the best and most eco friendly shingle on the market which is Malarkey shingles.  All the shingles we install are rubberized and impact resistant.  They also have smog reducing granules in them.  These granules react with UV rays and pull smog out of the air.  Every roof we install is the same as planting 2-3 full-grown trees.  NO other manufacturer uses these granules in their shingles.  Remember there is always a reason to call All Seasons… - All Seasons Exterior

The weakest link in a building's envelope (walls, floors and ceilings) is generally the windows. Replacing them with the highest performance windows you can find and making sure they are installed properly - weather and airtight is critical - will make a tremendous difference in the comfort/livability and energy efficiency of a home. Note also, some manufacturers can tune the windows to the sun's orientation with the high solar gain on the south and varying options on the east, west and north sides to optimize their performance. Note that windows and doors are not all the same and one aspect is the air tightness.  If the manufacturer isn't able to provide their air infiltration rating, look elsewhere. - 
AE Building Systems

Regulate your home’s humidity

Winter brings lower temperatures and lower indoor air humidity. Keeping the indoor air humidity at 30-40% minimizes the forced air heating costs, prevents hardwood and solid wood furniture from drying out, and greatly improves breathing comfort and air filtration efficiency.  Make sure that circulation of the warm air near the windows is not restricted by shutters or heavy blinds, otherwise the inner surfaces of the windows may go colder than the dew point and start producing excessive condensation.  Besides working against your humidifier and sucking the moisture out of the air, condensation leads to unsightly puddles that damage the window sills and, if mixed with dust, create a perfect breeding environment for mold. - Aztech Doors & Windows
If you live in an area with dry winters, we recommend maintaining some humidity in your home. You can add room humidifiers or even a whole house humidifier, but plants are also a great way to add humidity to your home. Plants gradually release moisture into the air, help trap heat, and can be great design pieces. Adding moisture to the air during winter is not only good for the wood elements of your home, it makes your home's air more breathable and is great for skin health. - Invalesco Real Estate

Check and replace faulty weatherstripping throughout

Your windows and doors can be a big reason for air leakage.  Check and replace weatherstrip around windows and doors once a year.  Oftentimes the wear and tear can cause weatherstrip to lose its effectiveness.  In some cases, the better solution is to upgrade to new Energy Star rated windows with a .30 U factor or less.  In the process of replacing the window, the Certified window installer can ensure proper insulation is installed between the window and the home’s framing, further reducing air leakage around the windows. - Lake Washington Windows & Doors

To prep, your home for winter the biggest challenge and the best bang for your investment buck is to seal any cracks where cold winter air may enter, add blown-in fiberglass or cellulose into your attic (if you have one- some homes have cathedral ceilings), and especially find convenient, attractive and inexpensive ways to insulate all windows at night, especially the larger ones. This is called "moveable insulation," or "nighttime insulation." Sometimes windows lose more heat on cold and long winter nights than the rest of the house combined! - 
Crestone Solar School

Look out for sagging doors

The top hinge bares most of the weight of the door and over time the door will tend to pull away from the hinge-side frame. This can result in the top of the door rubbing against the frame on the lock side. It can also affect the weather seal. To correct this the first step is to tighten hinge screws that may have loosened. If they're tight, remove 1 or 2 of the screws from the top hinge, replacing them with 3" screws that will bite into the studs behind the door frame/jamb. This will pull things toward the stud, straightening the door. If that doesn't work, try putting a shim (something the thickness of a cereal box) behind the bottom hinge. Kicking out the bottom can straighten the door in its frame. - Door Renew

Originally published on Redfin

Finding Your Dream Home with Accessibility Needs

By Patrick Young, Able USA

Are you on the hunt for an accessible home? Finding the right home if you have a disability doesn’t have to be stressful, if you have the right planning and know-how. Before you begin looking for your perfect new home, be sure to explore these helpful house-hunting tips.

Start Making Your Moving Checklist Now 

It may seem kind of strange to start thinking about your move this soon. Finding and buying a home take time and focus and you may find yourself unprepared for your move when you do close on that dream home. So, make your move list now and pencil those must-do tasks into your busy calendar. Securing your home should be at the top of that list and having your locks changed is a simple security step you can complete first. Find reliable locksmiths in your new area, and call to see how far out you need to schedule their services. For a stress-free move, you may want to hire professional movers to help you relocate. Mapping these tasks out now will allow you more flexibility for negotiating the best prices and booking the best options for your future move. 

Keep Your Home Search as Stress-Free as Possible

Moving to a new home can be stressful and finding accessible homes can be even more of a challenge for people living with disabilities. Just like any other home buyer, you need the help of experienced professionals who understand your needs to help you navigate your home search.  Finding a real estate agent who will be your advocate throughout this process, and who has in-depth knowledge of the local area is well-worth the time and effort.

Once you have an agent in place, then you can decide what type of home is right for you. Many people with disabilities find that a single-story property with a ground-level entryway is the most logical. This allows for easier entering and exiting. Of course, you can still enjoy life in a multi-story home and access a below-grade basement with the right accessories in place. A stair lift, for example, if you’re in a wheelchair, or no-skid floor coverings, dual handrails, and extra lighting on the steps if you just need a bit of extra support. 

You should also spend some time researching local home prices in the area you’re moving to (homes in Denver currently have an average sale price of $455,000). You can also save yourself a lot of hassle by getting pre-approved for your home loan. This can give you peace of mind, as well as some additional leverage when making an offer on a potential property. 

Know Where to Turn for Accessibility Renovations

It is true that finding an accessible home that fits your needs can be a challenge. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a listing you can easily turn into the accessible home of your dreams. You need to factor in the costs of accessibility upgrades into your overall home budget so you can take care of those changes before you move into your new home. It costs an average of $9,000 for accessibility remodeling throughout the home, but the actual price of your remodel will depend on many different factors. Your best bet is to spend some time researching local contractors who are comfortable tackling accessibility projects and ask about the costs of projects before you start making offers on homes. 

A few of the projects you might consider are widening the doorways to allow for walker or wheelchair access, removing the carpet in favor of laminate flooring, and lowering the kitchen cabinets. Additional task lighting and automatic doors in the garage will also both go a long way toward enhancing your home life. 

Make Settling into Your Accessible New Home Easier 

You’ve closed on your home and your boxes are packed. How can you make the rest of this transition easier? One tip is to unpack all boxes ASAP. It can be tempting to procrastinate when it comes to this step, but getting it done will keep your home from feeling cluttered. It can also save you some stress, but you can reduce move tension with self-care as well. So, don’t forget to schedule in time to relax, eat healthy and get exercise as you work through the busy home buying process. 

Being thorough in your planning, patient in your search and practical in your move will make your search for an accessible home much less stressful. Good luck! 

Patrick Young, an educator and activist, created Able USA to offer resources and advice to others with disabilities in an effort to help them navigate the various aspects of life as a person with a disability.

Photo Credit: Stock Photo Secrets


Virtual THINKtank

Creating Your Own Road Map to Real Estate Investing Success

By Gilda Zaragoza - June 26, 2020

Recently, we welcomed Justin Cooper of Pine Financial Group to host another Virtual THINKtank. Pine Financial Group is a lender that helps real estate entrepreneurs invest in projects that help them reach their real estate goals. Justin said that more often than not, real estate investors are following a path outlined in a book they read, or may not have a path mapped out at all. This, he cautions, is not the way to execute your real estate investments. Rather, strict attention must be paid to your WHY.

Simon Sinek’s best-selling 2009 book Start With Why, encouraged leaders to lead with motivation and tap into humans’ innate desire to follow those with a sense of purpose. Justin says this same sense of purpose and clarity should drive your real estate investment strategy. 
Hence, the topic of our conversation was ‘Creating Your Own Road Map to Real Estate Investing Success.’

Justin began by explaining that a lot of investors follow many of the real estate investing “Guru’s” road map with the following investment path:
  1. Wholesaling. The entry level “no money needed” way to get into real estate investing.
  2. Fix and Flip. A more advanced and riskier next step after wholesaling. 
  3. Rentals – The ultimate goal being to acquire residential units for long-term buy and hold, cash-flow producing investments. 
  4. Commercial properties – the crème-de-la-crème of the real estate investment landscape. This is where the big players operate, replete with all kinds of different investment models, financing structures and ecosystem that seemingly separates the entry-level investor from the “professional” investor.
Justin says that this road map does not, and should not, fit everyone. Nowhere in the road map does it take into account your WHY. WHY are you investing in real estate? What do you want your typical day to look like? Do you want to have fewer, more expensive properties to manage, or more, less expensive properties? Do you want to own single family residences only, or look for multi-family? Do you care if those multi-family units are part of an existing HOA? The answers to those questions should absolutely inform your real estate investment strategy and that strategy should be unique to you. 

So, where should you start? First, you need to be honest with yourself and understand where you are today. 
  1. What is your current cash position? Do you have a significant amount of money to invest, or do you need to start small and build a larger pot of money to take the next step?
  2. What skills can you bring to the table? Are you good at finance and spreadsheets? Are you a people person who likes the thought of interacting with tenants on a regular basis? Are you good at remodeling and can handle small to medium-sized jobs yourself?
  3. What does your real estate investment team look like? Do you have a lender, an inspector, a list of trades to call? 
  4. Finally, what do you want your perfect day to look like? If you don’t want to be bothered with calls and emails from tenants, you should plan to use a management service for your properties and that is going to impact your cash flow and ROI calculations.
Now that you’ve taken stock of your current situation and what you want your future perfect day to look like, you can start to build your own unique real estate investment road map. How? You reverse-engineer it. If you know that you want $10,000 a month in free cash flow, that can either be (10) units at $1,000 per month, or (5) at $2,000 per month or (2) at $5,000 per month; you get the idea. Don’t forget to include all of your expenses – property taxes, property management fees if you’ll have those, etc. Many investors have been disappointed at their returns after buying properties because they didn’t do their homework. Pay special attention to HOA fees and any upcoming improvements that will require owners to pay an assessment for things like new roofing, decks or other community-related repairs.

At the conclusion of Justin’s presentation, we had a few questions:

Q: How do you determine what a good real estate market is?
JC: You want to make sure you’re not only generating good cash flow from your properties, but that you’re also in an appreciating market. Expenses are generally the same from market to market, so your purchase price, income potential and appreciation will determine how your investment will perform in 5-10-15 years. Ideal markets have a growing population and a diverse economy that is not too reliant on one industry or one employer. 

Q: Is there a benchmark ROI that you should target?
JC: Not necessarily. Good ROI targets differ according to the real estate class you are investing in and that will be determined by the work you’ve done on what you want your ideal day and portfolio to look like. 

Q: What are your thoughts on paying down a loan and losing the associated tax breaks?
JC: You should decide what helps you sleep better at night. Higher outstanding principal and more tax breaks, or not having a mortgage and paying a higher tax bill. For me, I’m happy to pay taxes because that means I’m making money. I sleep better at night having more properties free and clear, but that is different for everyone. 

Q: How do you decide what size multi-family is a good investment?
JC: Generally, 4 units or less is considered a residential investment, which is easier to get a loan for and you can get traditional 30-year loans. (5) units or more is considered a commercial investment and you’re into loans with 25 year amortizations that must be re-financed in 10 years. There are different commercial loans to be sure, but that example is pretty standard.

And with time drawing to a close, we concluded our conversation on ‘Creating Your Own Road Map to Real Estate Investing Success.’ 

Thanks Justin!


Virtual THINKtank

Digital Marketing Tools for Agents

By Gilda Zaragoza - April 24, 2020

On Thursday, April 23rd, we hosted our first ever VIRTUAL THINKtank! We were honored to have Jason Christiansen of Internet Media Consultants talk to us about what Realtors should be doing to stay relevant and engaged in today’s digital-first world of real estate sales. Below are highlights of his presentation, followed by some Q&A topics.

Now, more than ever, an agent’s digital presence and proficiency is a must to succeed in real estate sales. The COVID-19 pandemic that we are currently navigating has forced 95% of the elements of residential real estate online. This begins with consumers using tools like Zillow, Redfin and Trulia to search for homes before they even reach out to their trusted agent, or search for a new agent. If you’re not there when they are looking, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your client base and be known when they are ready to buy or sell.

Jason said “There’s an old saying in real estate that ‘The money’s in the list.’ I disagree. The money’s in the follow through!” To that point, Jason walked us through four key things agents need to be doing well today.

  1. Have a nice-looking website. There are plenty of great looking website options out there that provide drag-and-drop functionality for those who are not technically savvy. There are some that specialize in real estate needs and have templates ready for home listings including photos and links to virtual tours. Once you have a nice website live and a CRM system or email provider sync’d up with your website, you’re ready to start putting it to work.
  1. Generate leads through targeted ads. Jason recommends running ads on Facebook targeting the kinds of buyers you want to interact with, or have homes to market to. The targeting on Facebook is excellent and you have the ability to target people on Instagram through the same platform, giving you exposure on the two most popular social media sites. The image and copy need to be compelling to get people to click on your ad and take the next step. Think carefully about what you’ll be offering these potential future clients. Headlines like “Free exclusive list of homes in Parker between $350,000-500,000” are attractive to people who are looking in this area and price range.
  1. Build and land people on compelling landing pages to capture leads. Once someone has clicked on your social media ad, you’ll want to send them to a landing page that asks them to enter their name and email to receive the information you promised them. In the case above, it would be a current list of all the homes in Parker between $350-500,000. Jason recommends only asking for their name and email. The more information you ask for, the lower your response rate will be. You can set these landing pages up to highlight any number of interests: homes for sale, recent sales, open houses, etc.
  1. Use a good CRM system with automated emails. After your prospect has entered their name and email saying they want this curated list of available homes, they will be in your CRM system and now part of your automated marketing efforts. Jason said “This is where most agents are falling short. If you take the time and make the effort on the front end to set things up, you can continue to stay in front of these prospects automatically. You should set up 6-10 emails that go out over the course of days or weeks, providing relevant content to your prospects based on why they clicked on your ad in the first place. Now your CRM and mail system is doing your follow up for you, leaving you more time to deal with customers that need your immediate attention buying or selling a home.” Jason recommends ActiveCampaign, but other popular CRM systems are Top Producer and Salesforce.

Agents know they should be spending money to market themselves. The questions are “how much should I spend?” and “where should I spend it?” Using the guide above Jason showed us a road map that has worked for many of his clients. To figure out how much you need to spend, you can work backwards from how many prospects you typically convert into clients and how much those clients typically mean for you in terms of revenue each year. It may seem intimidating at first, but once you try some different ads and see what works, and stay in touch with people through your marketing automation and convert prospects to clients, you’ll figure out how much you need to spend to reach your revenue goals.

Jason closed with a reminder for all agents. “After property details, the most-visited portion of an agent’s website is their reviews. By keeping in touch with prospects and clients and giving them relevant information through automated marketing, you increase your chances of a positive review, which in turn helps you get more clients.”

Excellent advice!

THINKtank: Design Trends in New Construction

Expert Panel and Q&A

By Jeff Cornelius - March 20, 2020

On Tuesday, March 10th, Invalesco hosted a panel presentation and discussion focused on design trends in new construction projects. We were honored to have John Guilliams from KGA Studio Architects and Carrie Firmine from TRIO update us on some of the things their clients are asking for and some trends they saw at this year’s International Builders Show. Below are highlights from their presentation and Q&A that followed.  

JOHN: There are three different factors that affect the price of a home. First is the price of land. Most land now has some issue with it – be it size, challenging topography, or location. Second are the soft costs like entitlements, tap fees, etc. Those used to be 20-25% of a project – now they’re 35%. And third are the hard costs – labor and materials. The first two you can’t do much about, so developers are focusing on the last – construction costs. That’s driving the conversation around density. How can we maximize the usefulness of this particular parcel and, in turn, maximize the return? 

So, what are some of the challenges to increased density? What do you compromise? Do we use 1-car garages instead of two? Do we build some or all of the units as attached units? To get support from the surrounding neighborhood for a project you need to ask “what does this community need that my project could provide?” Bike paths? A community pool that’s also open to existing residents?

CARRIE: Community IS the new amenity. We’re seeing smaller clubhouses, grilling stations, urban gardens, smaller pools, bocce courts. Developers are using their limited space to build specific amenities into a project to instill a sense of community. 

JOHN: Another thing we’re seeing is that while families are getting smaller, houses are getting bigger. In 2000, the average house was 2,000 sf - now, the average sized new home is 2,500 sf. One of the reasons we’re seeing that could be an increase in multi-generational homes. There are now 68M multi-generational homes in the US.
Another trend is that first time millennial buyers are now used to high-end amenities from the newer apartments they’ve been living in. We need to think about this for single family home design – they want, and demand, good design and higher end finishes.

CARRIE: John’s 100% right. We call it the “Apartment Effect.” Millennials, and the population at large, are now surrounded by thoughtful, higher end design. We are also learning from the “experience economy” and incorporating what others are doing to activate their spaces into residential design. We are taking cues from places like Starbucks Reserve Roastery in New York. There are all kinds of unique, New York-specific design touches, like a custom split-flap display showing featured roasts. That’s a real nod to New York’s rail history and makes for a great design element.

JOHN: Developers and builders are also looking at new construction methods and technology to decrease cost, waste and construction time. Pre-fab and pre-cut panels are gaining popularity. There’s even a startup in Austin that’s using a huge 3D printer to manufacture small 400sf homes for the homeless. 

CARRIE: We talked earlier about placemaking and developers looking to integrate higher end finishes that appeal to today’s buyers. They still need to do this affordably and one way they are doing it is by offering design packages vs. having buyers pick separate tiles, cabinets, countertop finishes, etc. for multiple rooms. These packages have names like “Classical,” “Traditional,” or “Transitional” and they allow the builders to realize economies of scale and also cut down on change orders from buyers. Buyers like it, builders like it – it’s a win-win.

JOHN: Developers are also paying closer attention to the kinds of materials they are using. Projects that use eco-friendly and healthier products in their construction can command a premium, or at least offer a better brand proposition to their customers by showing that they are “walking the walk.” It’s all about the carbon footprint and wellness of your home. “LEED,” “Zero Energy Ready Home,” and “Energy Star Certified” are some of the labels and metrics that resonate with consumers.

CARRIE: In addition to those eco-friendly labels, consumers are really focused on wellness, and that is extending to their living space. We spend 90% of our time indoors, so people are concerned now about things they never really talked about before – off-gassing, air circulation rates, even the amount of natural light in a home as it relates to your overall sense of well-being. 

JOHN: Carrie’s right - natural light is critical, so window placement is key. Floor to ceiling windows are always a great option. Corner meet windows maximize natural light and can make a small room feel bigger. Another thing we’re doing to promote wellness is including dedicated closet or cabinet space in the garage where you can off-gas dry cleaning before bringing it inside, or store harsh household cleaners when not in use.

CARRIE: We’re even seeing clients ask for outdoor showers and Zen gardens. Things that don’t take up a lot of space, but contribute to their overall sense of well-being. 

That concluded the presentation portion. Below are excerpts from the Q&A. Answers have been condensed for brevity.

Q: A lot of early LEED homes have mold issues due to vapor barriers and trying to keep the building envelope super-tight. What has changed?
JOHN: Air circulation and VAV boxes. They change 100% of air 3 times per hour. Indoor air quality is probably the most important wellness component within your walls.

Q – What are some design recommendations you’d suggest for developers of smaller projects – like 10-20 units? What amenities can we add or what can we do to foster that sense of community?
JOHN: You could add a bike repair spot. A community garden. Front porches also encourage people to get outside. Think about things that will resonate with the buyer you are going for and what the surrounding community might also benefit from. 

Q: What are you hearing about detached For-Rent homes?
JOHN: That product started in Texas as a response to housing needs in more transient communities: universities, military bases, places like that, of which, Texas has a lot of. We’re seeing more and more of that nationwide, and also here in Colorado. For developers, it’s also a good way to get equity in your community. You keep the value of the land, which you can leverage for your next community.

Q: What have you heard about the Tesla solar roof?
JOHN: The technology isn’t quite there yet, but they are working on it.

That concluded the Q&A portion of our THINKtank on New Construction Design Trends.

Invalesco hosts THINKtank events throughout the year to keep our Advisors, Investors and Development partners informed and connected to the Colorado real estate market. To be notified of future THINKtank events, please join our mailing list HERE.