The Ongoing Saga of MB and JC Penney Custom Decorating

The Ongoing Saga of MB and JC Penney Custom Decorating

3 years ago I had JC Penney Custom Decorating make the draperies for my new house.  I was skeptical, not having shopped at JC Penney since I was a kid. But they did a great job.  So when it was time to replace my window treatments, I called them again.

It didn’t go so well this time.  To put it mildly.

The early problems were garden variety, but enough that I should have heard the foreboding music.  The web site scheduled me for a consultation date that the decorator couldn’t actually make.  During the appointment that was finally scheduled, the decorator — who has been awesome through all of this — got an absurd run-around on the phone trying to set me up on the JPC credit card.

It was clear to me that this system had problems.  But I had no idea at that point how incredibly bad those problems would become.

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If I Sell My House, Will I Be Able to Find a New One?

If I Sell My House, Will I Be Able to Find a New One?

Well, there is good news and bad news in this crazy Denver real estate market.

The good news is that, in July, inventory increased by just over 4%. The bad news is that, even with that increase, July inventory still set a record low, with only 7352 total properties on the market.

That is not a lot of houses.

What does this mean? It means there are a lot more buyers than there are homes to sell them. And so, especially in the lower price points, good listings get multiple offers, one winner, and several disappointed “losers.”

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Merry Wire Fraud, and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and wonderful 2017!  I hope you all had wonderful holidays, and that the return to “ordinary time” hasn’t been too traumatic.

My holidays were wonderful.  Nice time with family, a fun New Year’s Eve party in San Francisco, and then of course the obligatory week laid out with the nasty post-holiday bug that seems to have felled so many this season.

But the little “holiday” story I want to tell today happened during the holidays, but it wasn’t particularly festive.  In fact, it could have ruined a lot of people’s entire season.

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Refinancing and the Dream of the Mortgage-Free Life

Refinancing and the Dream of the Mortgage-Free Life

I bought my house on Friday.  Again. I have owned it for eleven years this month. And I have refinanced, by my count, five times.

Why? Because I want to pay it off. I want to be that cash buyer who goes to the head of the multiple bids. I want to bypass that mortgage payment every month, and write a nice check to some deserving charity instead.

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Of Discounts and Deception

Of Discounts and Deception

If you are one of my Facebook friends, you saw a stream of prayer request posts from me last month. I had clients who were in a very complicated situation. I didn’t go into detail on Facebook, and I won’t here, but basically title issues were threatening to cause them to lose their house to foreclosure before we could close it with our buyers.  The situation consumed me for well over a month.  I literally spent every day looking for new solutions — and pushing forward with the multiple potential solutions we were working on.  Which we eventually did — at the 11th hour— thanks to a whole lot of work, a lot of thinking outside the box, and more than a few prayers.

So imagine my displeasure when, a few weeks later, I heard a radio commercial for a “discount” real estate company that said “Most houses sell within a couple of days.  Why pay an agent 6% for just a few days work?”

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What If Postcards Told the Whole Story?

What If Postcards Told the Whole Story?

Somewhere in Las Vegas tonight, there is a stage with a trophy with my name on it, that I am not there to claim.  

    After 11 years in the business, I am being inducted into the RE/MAX Hall of Fame.  It’s one of those achievement awards that RE/MAX agents work a lifetime to attain.  I hadn’t been tracking my production closely, and I honestly thought I was a good two years away from achieving it.  But the lovely people at RE/MAX International surprised me with the news last month.

    And of course I’m sharing the news with you, because I’m excited about it.  And because it’s what we agents are supposed to do.

    But I’m also a little nervous about it.  Here’s why:


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The Saga of Sisters Seller and Cousin Realtor

The Saga of Sisters Seller and Cousin Realtor

So here I am at 35,000 feet, watching a People's Court marathon on my iPad.  Things have sure changed from the days of my full-time travel. Back in my day, we had nothing but bad food and in-flight magazines to keep us occupied. But now, thanks to the miracles of modern internet technology, I can watch a parade of disaffected roommates and former lovers hash out their differences on national television.

The last case caught my attention, though -- enough to motivate me to turn off the streaming and start writing.

It was the case of a young couple who were new homeowners. After they bought the house, they discovered that the fireplace was in dangerous condition and needed extensive work. The couple were irate.  The sellers had told them the fireplace was fine.  And instead it was very not-fine.  They had children -- children -- living in a house with a dangerous fireplace.  Someone had to pay.

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"I'm From the Government, and I'm Here to Help"

Ronald Reagan once said that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Lord knows I’m thankful that we have a government. But they’re about to “help” the real estate community in a way that is going to make closing on a house a lot more complicated for all of us.

On October 3, 2015, the new TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule (TRID), also called the “Know Before You Owe” rule, will go into effect for any real estate transaction involving a mortgage.  The rule consolidates four existing disclosure documents into two — a Loan Estimate (LE) and a Closing Document (CD). 

So far so good.

BUT . . . the Closing Document has to be delivered to the buyer three days before closing, so that he or she has adequate time to review it. Which all seems well and good. But it means that closing can’t happen until three days after underwriting has issued a “clear to close” and figures are finalized. Which means that buyers and sellers who would like to — or who need to — close sooner, can’t. Even if everyone is ready to go.

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Of Shake Roofs and Shady Vendors

I’m sorry you haven’t heard from me in a while. I’ve been busy — selling houses, of course. And trying to find houses for buyers. And moving my parents, which has served as ongoing reminder to me of what you all go through when you move. God bless you all!!

Today my office hosted a “round table” where we agents had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours firing questions at a panel of experts — plumbers, electricians, roofers, HVAC techs, etc. It was fascinating. And I learned a couple of things that I thought were worth passing on to you.

First: wood shake roofs. Anybody remember these? They were the bomb in the 1970’s. You saw them in all of the upscale neighborhoods. Having a shake roof became a status symbol.

Today, not so much. Turns out those wooden shingles are prone to catching fire. Who knew? Hence, they have been rapidly declining in popularity. In the past few years, I have been advising sellers with shake shingles that the roof will need to be replaced before closing, as more and more insurers are refusing to cover them, or insuring them only for their current value.  Which, given their age, generally comes to about a buck eighty nine.


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It's My Anniversary!

Ten years ago this month, I became a real estate agent.  

It was a mid-life career change. I had spent my entire adult life, up to that point, as a speaker and writer, talking about the meaning of love.  I still “loved” that work (pardon the pun), but the strain of the constant travel was getting to be too much.  I didn’t want to travel any more.  But I still wanted to help people, to do something to make their lives better.

Denver has always been special to me, and I was helping people find homes even when I wasn’t getting paid for it.  So selling real estate fit the bill perfectly.

Over the past few days I’ve been reminiscing about the past decade.  If you’ll indulge me, I thought I’d share just a few of those memories with you:

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But Can I BUY in this Seller's Market?

All of my messages to you recently have been about what a great time it is to sell, and all of the multiple offers and over-asking contract prices and crazy crazy market.  Which is very encouraging for sellers, but could paint a discouraging picture for potential buyers.  After all, why even try when you’ll be competing against so many others?

Well, the truth is that I’ve had a fairly good run with buyers lately.  In the past couple of months I have placed offers for five buyers, and put four of them under contract — all winning in multiple bid situations.

So yes, it CAN be done!

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If You're Ever Remotely Considering Selling, Read This . . .

Well, I walked off the plane and into a firestorm.  Actually, technically, I hadn’t even walked off the plane yet.

We were sitting on the runway in Newark, waiting to take off for the final leg of the trip from Rome to Denver.  You know how they ask you to turn your phone off?  And how everybody pretends they did it, but no one actually does?  And how embarrassing it is when your phone then actually rings?  That’s what happened to me.  Twice.  Same number both times.

So I let it go to voice mail, and then surreptitiously listened to the message.  It was an agent.  He had submitted an offer on one of my listings.  A listing that wasn’t scheduled to start showing until the next day.  So I checked my iPad.  (No, I hadn’t turned that off, either.)  Saw an offer.  A good one.  Well over asking price.  And then I realized “that isn’t the same agent’s name.”  I scrolled down and realized that I had not one but TWO offers, both well over asking, both sight unseen, on a listing that wasn’t even open for showings yet.

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It Was a Very Good Year . . .

It Was a Very Good Year . . .

Happy 2014!

I didn't send a letter with my Christmas cards, because I figured nothing particularly interesting happened to me in 2013.  But now, sitting here in my office, I am realizing that 2013 was a very good year indeed, and that I owe you, my clients and friends, some big thanks for helping make it so very good!  

First things first:  As many of you know, the real estate market took a big hit in the years following the "Crash of '08."  Like many other agents, I have been rebuilding my business ever since.  And, thanks to an improving market, a lot of hard work and some really great clients, I am happy to report that, as of the end of 2013, I am once again eligible for RE/MAX's prestigious 100% Club.  And I couldn't have done it without you

It was a great year.  I had a lot of fun with a lot of great clients, buying and selling properties ranging in price from $107,000 to $1.2 million.  I appeared in a RE/MAX International agent training video.  I earned the designation Certified Negotiation Expert.  And, I being this year as RE/MAX Alliance's "Featured Agent of the Month."

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Stay Warm . . . And Avoid Furnace Scams

Baby, it’s cold outside!

As I write this, the temperature outside is -5.  That’s five degrees below zero.  Last night, the low got down to -15.  I’m thanking God for a functioning furnace, and wondering what people did before the advent of modern home heating.

I’m also thinking about the people whose furnaces aren’t working.  Right now would be a terribletime to lose the ability to heat your house.  In the winter, it’s hard to imagine a more important system in your home than the heating system.

And, unfortunately, there are people out there who know that, and who are looking to make a buck off of your fear of freezing.

Last month, Channel 31 News here in Denver ran an investigative report on furnace scams in the Denver area.  I watched it with interest, because I’ve seen these kinds of scams first hand.  Recently.

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New Listing: 735 South Harrison Street

So, I love, love, love my new listing.  Full disclosure: it's my brother's house.  Which means I have love, love loved it ever since he bought it.  And I have watched the various remodeling projects unfold over time.  And with each project, I have loved it more. 

It's also located in Belcaro, one of my favorite neighborhoods in all of Denver.  Belcaro was built in the 1950's and consists mostly of custom built mid-century ranch style houses on large lots . .  and the Phipps Mansion, which is just a few blocks away.  In the 50's, Belcaro was on the "outskirts" of town, but here in the 21st century it's it's a quiet neighborhood that's right in the heart of things -- just south of the Cherry Creek shopping district, and an easy ten minutes from downtown. 

Seriously, I'd buy this house myself if I could.

Showings start tomorrow.  If you know anyone looking for a really awesome home in central Denver, give them a heads up!

In the mean time, you can learn all about it and see all of the pretty pictures here.  


MB in the news: I'm an expert on the Blue Parrot restaurant

MB in the news: I'm an expert on the Blue Parrot restaurant


 When I was a kid, families (especially Italian families like mine) came from all over the state for the Blue Parrot's authentic Italian fare and down-home atmosphere.  My grandfather loved the place.  So did I.  But now, Louisville has been experiencing a bit of a "restaurant renaissance", and the competition along Main Street is getting tougher.  The Blue Parrot isn't a fancy, upscale restaurant.  It's a family owned spaghetti joint.  The decor from a 1980's remodel is getting a little stale.  So they're sprucing up the place, restoring the "feel" of its heyday in the mid 20th century."


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Agents Behaving Badly


I hate it when other real estate agents make us look bad.

When it comes to public trust and confidence, real estate agents rank somewhere toward the bottom, alongside used car salesmen and U.S. Congresspersons.  Which is unfortunate, because I have met so many really good, hardworking, ethical men and women in this business.

But then there are the agents who give all of us a bad name.

In this continuing seller’s market, the hot topic du jour in real estate ethics has been the issue of “coming soon” marketing.  Which can be either a really good thing that helps a seller get more money for a listing, or a really bad thing that puts the agent’s interests above the seller’s.

 Here’s the basic premise:  Especially in a seller’s market, wide exposure to the general public is the key to obtaining the maximum price for a home.  Simply, you want everybody who may have interest in the home to know it’s for sale, and to have the opportunity to see it and to make an offer.  The more offers, the better position the sellers are in to choose the one that best suits their needs."

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Why MB May Never Make the Big Time . . .

So apparently I have my priorities all mixed up.

I didn't realize this, of course, until I took a class in "Time Management for Real Estate Agents."  I knew I needed help with time management, but I didn't know how very wrong I've been for all of these years.

I heard a lot of stuff I expected to hear -- about how I need to block my time, and how I'm supposed to budget more time for "income generating" activities and less for "administrative" activities.  And I learned what "administrative" activities are.  They're things I could delegate to someone else.  You know, things like filing and scheduling and filling out paperwork.

And working with my current clients.

You see, once I've "hooked" you, once you go from being a "potential" client" to being a "current" client, working with you is no longer an income-generating activity.  Apparently, according to the Gurus of Real Estate Time Management, that money is already in the bank and I'm supposed to spending my precious time out there with the people I haven't yet convinced to work with me.  Or not work with me, depending on how I budget my time.  That, I was told, is why the really successful real estate professionals hire buyer's agents.  They delegate the task of shlepping buyers around to find their new homes, so they can spend that time chasing new clients.

And I'm thinking "So why did I bother getting into this business in the first place?"

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Hutchinson: Great Homes, Great Memories

I grew up in a Hutchinson.

Many of you who grew up in Denver are nodding.  For the rest of you, I’ll explain.

Hutchinson Homes built houses here in the Metro Denver area from the 1950’s until the early ‘80’s.  They built a lot of houses.  If you’ve spent any time in Denver at all, you’ve seen a Hutchinson.  They all look alike.  Two bedroom windows, front door, picture window, garage.  Mostly brick.  Garage may be one or two car.  Kind of like this:

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Colorado History -- First Hand, Bonacci Style

And now for something completely different: a little bit of Colorado history.

It all started a few years ago when I was down in Walsenburg (in southern Colorado) for my uncle's funeral.  While I was down there I started thinking about my grandparents, who also lived in Walsenburg. Curious, I googled their names.  MUCH to my astonishment, I stumbled over the transcripts of two very detailed interviews with my grandparents.

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