Rising Property Taxes Add to State’s Housing-Affordability Woes

A new study by the Denver-based Common Sense Institute (CSI) examines the skyrocketing cost of property taxes and the implications for housing affordability in the state.

Released April 9, the study, “Colorado Property Tax Primer: Where do Property Taxes Stand and Where are They Going?” notes that a dramatic increase in home values combined with expanding local mill levies have pushed the property tax burden of most Coloradans higher than the national average. In fact, 63% of Coloradans live in a county where the property tax to income ratio is above the national average.

“Affordability and housing continue to rank as top issues for Coloradans, and the rising cost of property taxes is exacerbating the problem,” said Chris Brown, CSI vice president of Research & Policy. Under current law, property taxes are set to increase again over the next two years. Homeowners face an estimated 32% to 54% cumulative increase in their property tax bill between 2024 and 2026 for a $500,000 home.

The research calculates the property tax burden on middle-income Coloradans growing at a staggering pace. Property taxes alone account for 17% of the increase in household expenses this year.

“Rising property taxes are part of the larger affordability and housing challenges faced by Coloradans,” said Dr. Steven Byers, CSI chief economist.

An individual earning the average hourly wage to cover the monthly mortgage payment had to work 42 hours in 2013. In 2023, that number increased 172% and that same individual would have to work 114 hours just to cover the mortgage payment.

“Property taxes will continue to be a top issue for lawmakers and voters as everyone feels the pain of rising costs,” continued Brown. “Nearly every state property tax system has meaningful tax growth limitations that provide greater certainty and avoid the recurring need for last-minute property tax relief legislation. Without action, Colorado’s relative property tax competitiveness will decrease and continue to strain overall affordability.”

Read the full report at Common Sense Institute.

Navigating Denver’s New Rental Licensing Program: Impact and Insights for Landlords and Tenants

People who own rental properties have mixed feelings about Denver’s new rental licensing program.

On one hand, they appreciate the program’s intent of ensuring apartments and single-family rental units are fit for people to live in. On the other hand, they worry about added expenses, with some calling it a “money grab” for the city and county of Denver.

Annie Zook, who owns nine rental properties in North Denver, has had her properties inspected and is waiting for her applications to make their way through the process. Although the inspections didn’t turn up any issues she would have had to spend money correcting, Zook doesn’t think the program is necessary.

READ: Maximizing Investments — Harnessing Data-driven Real Estate Strategies

“I think the whole thing is missing the point,” she said. “These are our properties, and this is our retirement income. Why would we want to have a bad property? It’s in my best interest to have a safe place.”

Zook worries that the program will make renting more unaffordable for younger people who already are struggling.

“Young people move to Colorado because they want to ski and smoke weed, and they can’t afford stuff, and unfortunately, our city is building high rises no one can afford,” she said.

It was the process that made Ann Hershfeldt, who owns one rental property in Potter Highlands, nervous. She worried it would take a long time to get an appointment for an inspection. “It sounded like a nightmare process, so I was a little nervous,” Hershfeldt said.

But she was pleasantly surprised. Although she’d heard there weren’t enough inspectors and she’d have to wait her turn, she was able to get one quickly. Although she was worried the inspector might find issues in her rental home, which was built in 1948, he didn’t discover anything wrong with it.

“It was very easy, and the things I was worried about were not an issue,” Hershfeldt said. “The house is just old enough to make me worry, and it’s stuff you can’t help because it’s an older house.”

In all, the inspection took about 15 minutes. Hershfeldt said that newer buildings likely won’t have any issues, and that it’s the older buildings the city should focus on. She also said that for the program to have a real impact, it should be implemented statewide rather than limited to Denver.

“They want people living in houses that meet standards,” she said. “It just seemed to me that it’s a little too simple.”

The first stage of residential rental licensing went into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, when multiunit properties were required to be licensed. As of Jan. 30, 5,330 multi-unit properties had been licensed through the program.

The second phase of the law requiring all single-unit rental properties to be licensed took effect Jan. 1. As of Jan. 30, 8,740 single-unit properties have been licensed.

It takes an average of about a week for each landlord to complete the licensing process, which includes hiring an inspector and submitting proof their property has passed an inspection. Processing the application can take up to 30 days.

“People paying thousands of dollars a month should have operating heat and other minimum housing standards,” said Molly Duplechian, executive director of Denver Excise and Licenses.

The licensing fee for a single-unit dwelling is $50; $100 for two to 10 units; and $250 for 11 to 50 units. For buildings with 51 to 250 units the fee is $350, and for 150 or more it’s $500. Licenses are valid for four years.

Tenants who suspect that their landlords haven’t gotten a rental license can file an online complaint with the city.

READ: 7 Tips for Reducing Tenant Turnover

“As our enforcement team continues to search for unlicensed properties, we believe this tool will help the city increase our licensing compliance rate and achieve the public health and safety goals of this important licensing requirement,” Duplechian said.

Tenants can also call 311 to lodge a complaint about an unlicensed rental property.

Inspections range from $200 to $300, depending on the size of the property and how many units are being inspected.

When the city identifies an unlicensed property, it sends a notice of violation warning letter informing the landlord that they will be fined in about 30 days if they don’t apply for the license. So far, the city has sent out 1,880 violation letters to landlords without the required licenses.

Landlords who don’t comply receive a first fine of $150, a second fine of $500 and a third fine of $999 that the city can send every day for a landlord operating without a license.

“The city is taking strong enforcement action against unlicensed residential rental properties in our effort to make rental properties safe,” said Eric Escudero, communications director for Denver Excise and Licenses.

But just how does the department discover landlords who haven’t complied with the new law?

“The first place we go to is tenants who have filed a complaint with the health department,” Duplechian said. “We’ll work with them to look at whether they’re licensed or not. Then they’re on our radar.”

The department also has a software program it uses for short-term rental licensing. “It scrubs the internet for different websites and looks at listings and advertisements,” Duplechian said. “That’s very helpful technology.”

The new program has been a boon for inspectors, who have seen their workload slow as homebuyers sit on the sidelines waiting for mortgage interest rates to drop.

READ: 10 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Rental Property

“Residential inspections are down about 75%,” said Greg Goodman of Inspections Denver. “It’s been a blessing in disguise. The rental inspections have filled the void.”

The city provides a checklist of 25 criteria a property must meet before it receives a license. The checklist covers everything from properly working toilets and location of the water heater to lighting of halls and stairways and properly installed outlets and fixtures.

Although his primary business is home inspections of for-sale properties, Jordan Van Voorst of Checkup Property Inspections said he’s performing five to six rental inspections weekly.

The criterion for rental property is slightly different than for property the owner lives in, Van Voorst said. For example, on rental properties, GFCIs are only required in the bathroom, but in an owner-occupied property, they must also be installed in the kitchen.

The rental program also requires one smoke detector for each bedroom, and a fire extinguisher must be on the property.

Even so, Van Voorst said about 70% of the rental properties he’s inspected don’t have issues. “I’m sure there are horror stories out there, but most of the properties that I inspect are in pretty good shape,” he said.

Exit Strategies for Real Estate Investors: Maximizing Profits and Minimizing Losses

Investing in real estate is an exciting venture. It comes with many opportunities to make a profit — if you can overcome the challenges that arise. Expensive surprises often occur while you own a property, which is why it’s important to do your due diligence before making a purchase. 

Even seasoned real estate professionals encounter unexpected expenses. What’s important is learning to minimize them as much as possible, so when you plan an exit strategy, you’ll collect maximum profit. 

An exit strategy is when an investor liquidates a financial asset. This can include the sale of a property, business or shares when a company launches an initial public offering. Below are some common exit strategies for real estate investors. 

READ: The Pros and Cons of Investing in Real Estate During a Recession

House flipping

With house flipping, you purchase a house, renovate it, and sell it for a profit. If you plan on using this strategy, it’s important to think beyond cosmetic improvements, such as replacing light fixtures. The renovations need to align with the layout and functionalities that modern buyers want.

Buyers love purchasing houses that are updated and move-in ready, but investors should know that house flipping renovations can come with a high price tag. However, they’re worth it if they offer a solid return on investment. Make sure to have a financial cushion in case you need to make more extensive renovations than you expected.

READ: Mastering Residential Real Estate Flipping — 10 Essential Keys for Success

Wholesaling

Wholesaling is a real estate strategy where you, as the investor, act as a middleman. With wholesaling, you purchase a house but already have a buyer lined up to purchase the house from you. 

To maximize profit, find a seller who is motivated to sell their property quickly and doesn’t want to waste time with lengthy negotiations. Then, find a buyer who will purchase it from you for market value or above market value.

Buy, Hold, Rent

Flipping houses and wholesaling can create short-term profit. However, many real estate investors focus on long-term profit by buying, holding and renting property. With this strategy, you can rent your properties at a monthly price that covers your mortgage payment and other expenses.

Depending on the market, you’ll likely experience positive cash flow and increased equity over time. When you’re ready, you can choose to sell your rental property — whether that’s five, 10 or even 30 years later.

Although you’ll be responsible for the maintenance of your properties, this is a good way to have someone else pay your mortgage over time. The key is to carefully vet your renters to ensure they take care of your investment while they live there.

How to maximize profit during an exit

Regardless of which exit strategy you choose, here are a few tips to maximize profit when planning an exit.

Time your exit carefully:

Timing is everything in real estate. The market goes through cycles. Sometimes it’s a seller’s market, and other times it’s a buyer’s market. 

Although no one can perfectly predict market peaks, there are economic indicators — such as interest rates, inflation rates, employment rates, and vacancy rates — that can help you determine the ideal time to sell. For example, when interest rates go down, the demand for housing goes up — meaning there will likely be plenty of buyers willing to pay top dollar for your property. 

Monitoring these indicators can help you time your exit to maximize profit. Make sure to watch the news and follow economic trends to determine the best time to sell. When the time is right, get multiple home value assessments so you’ll know how much profit you stand to make.

READ: Exploring The Economics of Housing Inflation in Colorado

Network with real estate professionals:

Having solid relationships with others in the real estate industry is a good way to learn about exit strategies you might not have considered yet. 

Network with bankers, real estate agents, real estate brokers, real estate attorneys, real estate wholesalers and other investors who might be more knowledgeable about laws and tax strategies that could help you exit your properties with more profit.

Real estate agents can give you valuable insights that will help you get a solid return on your investment. They can also recommend contractors who do good work, saving you time and money when repairing and renovating your properties. 

Plus, if you decide to get your own real estate license to save on commission rates, it’s possible a seasoned agent or broker you know will show you the ropes or even employ you.

Ultimately, having a solid network can help you strategically create an exit plan that will make your real estate investment profitable. No one can time the market or plan an exit perfectly, but there are many steps you can take as a real estate investor to mitigate risks and improve your chances of success.

 

Screen Shot 2021 12 28 At 113128 AmLuke Babich is the Co-Founder of Clever Real Estate, a real estate education platform committed to helping home buyers, sellers and investors make smarter financial decisions. Luke is a licensed real estate agent in the State of Missouri and his research and insights have been featured on BiggerPockets, Inman, the LA Times, and more. 

Marshall Fire Recovery: Expedited Permitting Speeds Rebuilding 

The Marshall Fire in Boulder County shocked everyone with its speed and devastation. Within a few hours it had taken more than 1,200 homes and businesses. After 34 months the recovery is remarkable. The cities of Superior and Louisville, the two most affected, have made a Herculean effort to restore the homes and neighborhoods, accelerating a process that many expected would take years longer.  

“We had to be flexible and work on different creative processes,” said Allison James, Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Manager for the Town of Superior. “Time was of the essence and still continues to be.” 

James’ job is one of many created since the fires to help prevent another disaster like it in the future. Superior lost 391 homes and three businesses. As of late October, 271 building permits were issued and 118 homes were completed. Louisville saw 550 properties destroyed, and so far 285 rebuild permits have been issued with another 28 under review. James said that many property owners are still trying to decide what to do after being left without enough to rebuild.  

READ: Preparing for Wildfire Season — Colorado Embraces Technology for Safer Communities

“I think those people who were severely underinsured are having a much harder time,” James said. “We reached out to a little over 100 residents who are not in the building process yet. Some have sold the lots and some are still working with their insurance companies to close the gap and some are still on the fence.”  

Unforeseen issues, beyond more expensive code requirements and modern construction standards, like large, expensive retaining walls that are essential on steeply sloping lots, were omitted from property values and have complicated the decision of whether to rebuild or sell and move on.  

“People who aren’t rebuilding and are selling their lot are usually underinsured,” said Bartley Cox, who lost his Louisville home of 28 years. “There have been some issues with the retaining walls. Some are looking at $300,000 each to rebuild the retaining walls. This is one of the problems with insurance coverage. Some people didn’t even know they owned the retaining walls and were unaware they were responsible for rebuilding it. Some of the walls are owned by two properties. No one considered it would burn.”  

Cox said the claims process with his insurer required a long education and time commitment to recover enough funds to rebuild, but he still isn’t sure it’s enough. He estimates the value of his 8,000 square-foot lot, with excellent Flatiron views, is about $500,000. Construction bids to replace the home are coming in at $1.4 million or more, which exceeds his insurance. However, new homes built on burned lots are selling for upwards of $600 per square foot, while homes saved from destruction but remodeled are selling for around $450 per square foot.  

READ: Revolutionizing Emergency Dispatch — How Locution Systems Fights Fires with Voice

The cities have not tallied exactly who has rebuilt and who has sold their lot and moved on, but as of November 1 there are a dozen lots listed for sale in Louisville with 71 sold since the fire. In Superior there two dozen lots for sale and 35 closed since January 2021.  

Every burned home has residents with a different perspective, and those who have rebuilt may realize a boon from the higher value of their homes. Despite the difficulties, the overall feeling is that the cities and Boulder County made the necessary concessions and expedited normally ponderous bureaucracy to help people obtain permits and rebuild within their budgets.

Those who stayed were allowed to rebuild under older codes lacking more stringent energy efficiency requirements, and ironically, fire prevention remedies like pricey fire sprinkler systems that are now required under the 2022 code. However, this applied only to original homeowners. Anyone purchasing lots was required to design their buildings to meet the newer building and energy codes.  

“The city was good to work with,” Cox said. “They were good at communicating with the homeowners and builders. They are all ears when it comes to focus groups: What are the questions and problems? They made an effort to tackle them.”

A perspective on wildfires  

It was late in 2003 when I first wrote about wildfires. The Pumpkin Fire and Cerro Grande Fire broke out in New Mexico and threatened to take out the Los Alamos Nuclear Research Lab. In a story for Outside Magazine, I spent the summer with a hotshot crew out of Rocky Mountain National Park and wrote about the sense of amazement at the size and speed of the 47,000-acre blaze that burned 245 homes which, at the time, was a staggering loss. We had no idea it was just foreshadowing the next 20 years.  

Despite our experience of the last two decades, the Marshall Fire was something no one in Boulder could imagine. More than 1,200 homes, hotels and businesses and hundreds of millions of dollars in city infrastructure was torched. At the time, REColorado and IRES, the two main multiple listing services in Colorado, listed slightly more than 1,900 single-family homes for sale along the entire Front Range. Rentals were also in tight supply, forcing the unexpectedly homeless to scramble for a place to live.  

It’s been 34 months since the fire was contained and as with every situation like this, there are winners and losers. The underinsured took whatever the insurance company offered, sold their land and moved on. Investors jumped at the chance to build new homes in an area in great demand and those with the resources rebuilt homes that are better than new. Today we live in a world of rapidly changing climate where wildland fires are no longer limited to mountain communities. Parks and open space throughout our Front Range communities are looked at with wariness and now have their own special plans for managing what could lead to another citywide disaster. 

 

Steve Titus was a freelance writer for ColoradoBiz, Colorado Homes and Lifestyles, Outside, Sail and  Ski magazines. He has also written for The Denver Post  and many other publications. Today he is a licensed real estate broker and licensed general contractor in Denver, Boulder and several other Front Range cities. 

New Report Sheds Light on Workforce Housing in Mountain Communities

Housing affordability for workers has long been an issue in Colorado’s mountain communities. Analyzing the problem, the 2023 Regional Workforce Housing Report, released Nov. 2 by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, examines housing programs and projects at 37 rural resort member communities in Colorado and six other communities in the West. 

READ: New Approaches to Affordable Housing in Resort Communities

Noted in the report’s Executive Summary is the persistent wage disparity between part-time residents and/or newcomers, and full-time residents. 

“Seventy percent of newcomers and a greater percentage of part-time residents to the high country arrived job-attached with wages averaging over $150,000 per year, while 60 percent of full-time residents, most of whose earnings are tied to the local economy, earn notably less than that amount per year,” the summary points out, citing the NWCG’s “Mountain Migration Report,” published in 2021.

“This influx of wealth in a housing-scarce environment, land-locked by geography (and beautiful public lands) drives rents and home prices far beyond attainability of average workers. In other words, the marketplace for attainable housing is broken, and the only way most workers whose wages are tied to the local economy can step into the housing marketplace (even to rent) is with some combination of a hand-up from government-subsidized housing, down-payment assistance and market regulation. Fortunately, this report shows how much is being done. The challenge remains to find the next policy innovations.” 

The full report can be found online at nwccog.org/programs/member-services/reports 

From Boardrooms to Bedrooms: How Denver is Turning Vacant Office Towers into Residential Properties Post-Pandemic

All across the country, office tower values have been doing their best Humpty Dumpty impression in 2023. 

In Denver, the valuation of Wells Fargo Center (aka the “cash register building”) dropped from $475 million in 2019 to $287 million in 2023. 

The bust is largely due to an office vacancy rate that has remained stubbornly high after the great exodus from offices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Appraisers obviously don’t expect remote workers to come back anytime soon. 

READ: Adapting to the New Norm — Post-Pandemic Work Culture and the Future of Remote Work

“In downtown Denver, commercial vacancy rates have stayed around 20 percent for a couple of years now,” says Laura Swartz, communications director for Denver’s Department of Community Planning and Development. “So we’ve looked at our office buildings, particularly these ones with high vacancy rates that are underperforming, and said, ‘Is this a moment where these could become residential buildings instead of residential buildings in the future?’”  

To that end, the city has invested $75,000 of federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into a study focused on about 30 buildings. Gensler, a San Francisco-based architecture firm, is leading the study. Results are expected in fall 2023, says Jon Gambrill, Gensler principal and co-managing director of the firm’s Denver office. 

The pandemic “may have accelerated this a little bit, but I think a number of cities are going to have a problem at some point in the not-too-distant future, because there are just some buildings that are really old, and there’s always been a tendency for tenants to want to provide better space for their employees,” Gambrill says. 

He points to Calgary as an example. The oil and gas industry, once a major source of tenants for the Alberta city’s office space, significantly trimmed its footprint before the pandemic. 

A dozen projects, 10 of which are supported by the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program, will remove more than 1.3 million square feet of office space from the market and create about 1,500 residential units. The program pays grants of up to $75 per square foot to convert office space into residences. “They’re kind of leading the charge for a lot of cities coming out of the pandemic,” Gambrill says. 

Doling out about $86 million in incentives thus far, Calgary’s program has generated nearly $200 million in private investment. 

These kinds of incentives can be critical. “The single biggest challenge is cost,” Gambrill says. Building owners “are still asking more than what can be absorbed into a development cost. Once the value of the building is low enough, you may start to see more people acquiring a building to convert it.” 

READ: How to Reduce Real Estate Investment Risks — 12 Expert Tips

Once a deal is done, the hard work begins. Common construction challenges include meeting modern energy codes (“and how to do that without having to rip out entire mechanical systems and starting over,” Gambrill says) and creating an exterior that’s appropriate for residential use. 

“Here in Denver, there are some exciting conversations that we’re having with the city as it relates to balancing some of the carbon benefits of not demolishing a building to offset some of the required energy goals,” Gambrill notes. “Maybe there’s a win/win there.” 

Tax-increment financing (TIF) can provide another means to spur conversions. In Chicago, Lasalle Street has been hit hard by the exodus of office workers. The city developed a plan last year to add more than 1,000 new residential units to the immediate area by offering developers TIF dollars and other incentives to convert office buildings into apartments and condos. As of mid-2023, the city had selected three concepts that would invest more than $500 million, with about $200 million from the TIF coffers.

Historic preservation tax credits can also help fill the gap, says Aimee Sanborn, principal at Powers Brown Architecture in Denver. Sanborn worked on The National in Dallas when she was with Merriman Anderson Architects. The $460 million conversion of a vacant 52-story office tower to a hotel and apartments was the largest in Texas history. 

The project received Texas Historic Preservation Tax Credits of 25 percent of qualified rehabilitation expenditures as well as Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives totaling 45 percent. Many projects also leverage TIF dollars for funding. 

“Texas has a very lucrative program,” says Sanborn, who moved from Dallas to Denver in 2022. “Once it was implemented, you started to see a lot of conversion deals.” 

In Colorado, the corresponding tax credit is 20 percent to 25 percent (or up to 35 percent in rural areas), with a maximum of $1 million a year for three years. “It is much lower and it is capped,” Sanborn says. “I’ve been advocating for a potential increase in the tax credit for Colorado,” Sanborn says. “It is rather low in comparison to other states, and that’s really the only way those deals penciled in Dallas.” 

READ: Simplifying Colorado’s Sales Tax System — One Success at a Time

The 50-year threshold also doesn’t cover many of the buildings in question. Wells Fargo Center, for instance, won’t turn 50 until 2034. 

Sanborn says that changing the threshold for historic status, along with relaxed energy codes and expedited permitting, could catalyze some conversions. But there’s no silver bullet. “It may be that the costs of the buildings are still too high right now to be feasible” in Denver. 

Gambrill is quick to point out that the strategy can severely limit what you can do. “The problem is some of those conversions become restrictive because of their landmark status,” he says. “You can’t add balconies.” 

Powers Brown is working on a number of office-to-residential conversions now, but none of them are in Colorado. “I’d love to see more momentum,” Sanborn says. “I’d like to do more work locally and not around the country.” 

Not that office-to-residential conversions are a new concept in Colorado. RedPeak Properties converted the 1967 Security Life Building in Denver into luxury apartments at 1600 Glenarm Place in 2006. Denver Housing Authority is converting a former medical office at 655 Broadway into 110 affordable apartments. 

The Nichols Partnership bought the former Art Institute of Colorado building at 1200 Lincoln St. in Denver after it went into receivership in 2019. The residential conversion into the Art Studios, with 192 small apartments, was completed and began leasing in summer 2023. 

“It’s a big project. It’s 10 stories, 100,000 square feet,” says Melissa Rummel, development director for the Denver-based developer. “To be honest, when we bought it, we were thinking of renovating it for an office if we could get a single user in. Boy, are we sure glad we didn’t do that.” 

The Economics of Housing Inflation in Colorado — Exploring the Supply and Demand Imbalance

Art Studios is the third commercial-to-residential conversion project for the Nichols Partnership, after Turntable Studios, the former Hotel VQ near Empower Field at Mile High, in 2015, and Cruise, just east of downtown Denver, in 2012. 

Rummel says the team has learned to expect the unexpected. “What you encounter on the surface is never what you encounter when you demo and open the whole floor plate up,” she says. Art Studios required “a year of demo and abatement” before the conversion work started. 

“Getting new mechanical, electrical, and plumbing in the buildings is always challenging,” Rummel adds. “We replaced a central system at Art Studios, and we had three elevators taken down to two elevators, then the third shaft was used to run a lot of the extra ductwork and mechanical work. It really is a puzzle in every sense of the word, and I think the most important consultant on the team is the MEP engineer.” 

Certain building shapes work better than others. “Most offices, especially if they’re built in the ’70s or ’80s, are square floor plates, and those are too deep for apartment units. The rectangles that are long and skinny and have shallower floor plates, depth-wise, are better for an apartment layout in a conversion.”

Echoing Gambrill, Rummel says feasibility is inextricably tied to the cost of a project. “You need the basis quite low to actually make a conversion work, because traditionally, it’s the same construction costs as new construction,” she notes. “If you’re having to replace the skin and all of it, you almost have to get it for free to make a project work.”

Rummel sees potential beyond Denver’s urban core. “I don’t think it’s limited to downtown, urban Denver at all. It’s location-driven, and it’s also the vintage of the building and whether it’s three stories or 10 stories.” 

Gambrill points to “intriguing” opportunities in suburban Denver and elsewhere in Colorado with large surface parking lots, but notes, “The shorter the building, the easier it may be to just tear it down.”

Smarter House Hunting: How AI Is Changing The Homebuying Process in Mayberry, Colorado

Mayberry, a new community in Colorado Springs, might be inspired by the walkable towns of the past, but it’s taking a cutting-edge approach to selling homes through a partnership with OpenHouse.ai, a fast-growing company pioneering AI real estate solutions. The collaboration offers a new level of convenience and personalization for buyers, centered around affordability and flexibility.

READ: AI-Enabled Real Estate — How Automation is Impacting the Housing Market

AI tools that offer greater efficiency have quickly become commonplace in our daily lives. Now, the real estate industry is embracing the opportunities that AI offers. Mayberry and OpenHouse.ai’s partnership will help buyers find and design the home that suits their budget, needs and lifestyle, while giving builders intelligence into market demand and evolving buyer behavior.

“Our goal is to make it easier for buyers to purchase homes. With OpenHouse.ai, we want to remove barriers for buyers, while being totally transparent about cost. Buyers can complete a questionnaire to identify the best home options based on their needs, interact with floor plans, and get access to the information they need to decide if Mayberry is the right fit for them. After they design and buy their home, they can move in just 120 days later,” said Mayberry Communities President Randy Goodson. “Partnering with OpenHouse.ai makes sense for our market position, buyer profile and our ability to show buyers that we can build top-quality homes quickly through our advanced methods.”

More than ever, buyers are looking for affordable homes that meet their unique and evolving needs. As a result of the pandemic and a move to remote working, for example, Mayberry has seen buyers move away from open-plan layouts to more closed spaces that enable quiet and privacy.

READ: Adapting to the New Norm — Post-Pandemic Work Culture and the Future of Remote Work

“AI is changing the real estate industry. We can provide home builders with meaningful insights in real-time that allow them to better understand what people want from their homes while presenting buyers a range of options tailored to them,” said OpenHouse.ai CEO and Co-Founder Will Zhang. “As the home building industry continues to battle rising costs, labor shortages, and fluctuating demand, AI can also help optimize all aspects of the build lifecycle — including design, procurement and project management — reducing construction cycle times and keeping costs down.”

While AI and automation are transforming how we work, the sales team at Mayberry isn’t concerned about AI taking over their roles. Instead, they see the opportunities it presents. “OpenHouse.ai has been pivotal in enhancing the buyer experience, ensuring it is positive and responsive for our sales associates,” said Mayberry Head Salesman Dean Jaeger. “Each buyer qualified by OpenHouse.ai has been highly communicative, eagerly prepared for the subsequent phase of buying or touring our community.”

By leveraging OpenHouse.ai’s advanced technology, Mayberry is setting new standards for convenience and efficiency, making finding, designing, and buying that new dream home even easier. 

 

About Mayberry, Colorado:

Drawing inspiration from the walkable towns of yesteryears and the rich heritage of early Colorado Springs, Mayberry is set to redefine the “Hometown USA” ideal. With tree-lined boulevards and a pedestrian-centric town center, Mayberry harmoniously blends modern living with nostalgic charm. Here, you can live, work, and play with purpose. Spanning over 110 acres, its trails, parks, playgrounds, and open spaces are crafted to offer leisure just a few steps away from one’s doorstep.

About OpenHouse.ai:

OpenHouse.ai’s Builder Intelligence Platform empowers homebuilders with real-time analytics, facilitating data-driven decisions. The platform has catered to over 2.85 million unique buyers, listing and selling over five thousand homes across major US and Canadian cities, covering 24 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA). Compared to the standard contact conversion rate of 0.5%, OpenHouse.ai-driven personalization boasts a rate of 1.5% to 2.3%. Collaborating with our OSC partners and leveraging an AI-powered quiz can expedite sales by up to 30 days.

Top Company 2023: Real Estate

Now in its 36th year, ColoradoBiz magazine’s Top Company Awards program recognizes businesses and organizations based in Colorado or with a significant presence in the state that are leading the way in their fields, as demonstrated by financial performance, notable company achievements and community engagement.

To be considered, Top Company entrants submitted applications throughout the year online at ColoradoBiz.com. From those entries, which numbered in the hundreds, the magazine’s editorial board narrowed the field to three finalists (in most cases) in each industry category. A judging panel made up of area business leaders and ColoradoBiz staff then met to compare notes on the finalists and decide winners in 14 industries plus the Startup category, for companies in business four years or less.

Congratulations are in order not only to the 41 winners and finalists profiled on the following pages, but to all the companies that took the time to tell us about their achievements and obstacles surmounted over the past year that make them worthy of Top Company consideration.

READ: Fall 2023 Issue — Top Company Awards, Inside the CHIPS and SCIENCE Act, and More


WINNER 

Atlas Real Estate

Denver, CO

Website: realatlas.com

Founded in Denver in 2013, Atlas transacts more than $1 billion in real estate annually and manages more than 8,500 residential units. Since its founding, Atlas has expanded to markets in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Kansas, Missouri, Idaho and Texas. 

The 227-employee firm touts a program called Uplifting Humanity through Real Estate, dedicated to helping clients build wealth through the firm’s core services: investment; property management; institutional acquisition; and buy/sell brokerage services. 

Three years ago, Atlas introduced the Uplift Cycle, a concerted effort to help renters become homeowners and homeowners become investors in real estate.  The message Atlas shares with new residents when they move into an Atlas-managed property is they have a shared goal that their next move is into a home that they own.  In 2022, Atlas introduced an initiative focused on the single-family homes they own and manage that provides a pathway for a resident to earn the equivalent of a 3.5 percent down payment over a four-year period of renting from Atlas. 

Through the Atlas Uplift program in 2023, 82 homeowners bought their first investment; 1,800 residents expressed interest in moving from renter to homeowner, and four Atlas team members invested in their first home.  

Also, in 2022, Atlas fulfilled a long-time goal of launching a new business segment to make a meaningful impact on the environment – Net Energy.  Net Energy works with owners of single-family rental properties to make property improvements that drastically reduce carbon emissions and other resource consumption while increasing the value of the property for the investor. 

Additionally, Atlas is leveraging new technologies to create a more efficient environment for clientse — renters and property owners. For example, Atlas has embraced innovative solutions that make security deposits easier on residents; provided options on rent payment management and automation; and offered upgrades that include smart home technology. 

FINALISTS 

NAI Shames Makovsky

Denver, CO

Website: naishamesmakovsky.com

Founded by Motty Shames and Evan Makovsky in 1971, NAI Shames Makovsky is a full-service commercial real estate firm offering brokerage, development, property management, and lending for retail, business office, medical office and industrial properties. 

NAI Shames Makovsky is part of NAI Global, the single largest global network of commercial real estate firms in the world. 

In the last 16 months, the property management team at NAI Shames Makovsky has tripled its existing portfolio to include more than 3 million square feet of properties across the Denver area.  

NAI Shames Makovsky also recently won the Denver Metro Commercial Association of Realtors’ “Retail Deal of the Year” award for the sale of a property in Five Points. The sale of the approximately 97,103 square-foot property is part of a larger deal between a national real estate owner, operator and developer and Volunteers of America Colorado, a nonprofit with a mission to support Colorado’s most underserved residents with food resources and services. NAI Shames Makovsky has a long history of working with mission-driven organizations such as VOA Colorado to help them map out their real estate needs and make smart decisions for their future. This deal exemplifies the team’s creativity and expertise in bringing two strong community-minded clients to navigate a complex yet successful deal that will benefit both VOA Colorado and the neighborhood. 

Aimco

Denver, CO

 

Website: aimco.com

Aimco (Apartment Investment & Management Co.) invests primarily in the multifamily sector within targeted U.S. markets. Its vision is to be best-in-class real estate investors, developers and portfolio managers, committed to strong financial performance and outstanding corporate citizenship. 

The primary focus of publicly traded Aimco (NYSE: AIV) is on value-add and opportunistic multifamily investments located in the following target markets: South Florida, Denver and Washington, D.C. metro areas. 

The Denver-based company boasts a workforce rich with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, including 67 percent women in executive management; 43 percent women and racial/ethnic minorities in senior leadership positions; and 53 percent women and racial/ethnic minorities companywide. Aimco’s 2022 team engagement survey resulted in a record 4.52 out of five stars, with a record 92% of employees responding.  

Aimco’s parental leave program offers both mothers and fathers 16 paid weeks to take care of their biological or adopted children. 

Real Estate Crowdfunding Projects — 9 Reasons it’s a Great Option for Investors

Investing in real estate requires big money, right? Every headline shouts of new developments that cost tens of millions of dollars, which makes it hard to imagine ever breaking into the investment game. But there is a way in through real estate crowdfunding — powered primarily by social media and word-of-mouth marketing. 

Crowdfunding consists of many people contributing a small amount of money to fund a goal. In real estate, the goal might be to pay for an apartment building, an industrial site or raw land for future development. The investors — those who contributed a little bit of money — then become shareholders in the investment. It’s similar to fractional real estate investing, where investors own a percentage of a property.

Real estate crowdfunding gives individuals and businesses access to a large amount of capital quickly, and the potential return on investment is impressive. Real estate crowdfunding generally outperforms the stock market, sometimes at double or triple the rate. 

READ: Start Investing in Real Estate — 6 Tips for Millennials

Even though every investment carries the risk of loss, there are 10 significant benefits of investing in real estate crowdfunding projects.

1. You don’t need much money to get started

Real estate crowdfunding is a great option if you’re just starting out and have limited funds to invest. The price of entry is very low, sometimes just a few hundred dollars. 

2. You can diversify your investments

You could use your nest egg to buy another investment property, but then you’d have two residential properties to manage. Real estate crowdfunding allows you to dabble in everything from commercial properties to medical centers. This diversity in your investment portfolio is always a good idea.

READ: How to Invest in a Rental Property with No Money Down 

3. Real estate crowdfunding creates passive income

If you are looking for a steady stream of passive income, real estate crowdfunding can help. Through rental income or smart development, it’s possible to generate regular income without hands-on management or daily involvement.

4. You get expert advice

Real estate experts typically manage the best real estate crowdfunding platforms. You can harness this expertise when selecting and managing potential properties. 

5. It’s easier to liquidate

There are cheap ways to buy a rental house, but if you ever need access to the equity you build when you rehab a foreclosed property or a vacant apartment building, you’re in trouble. When you invest in real estate crowdfunding, selling your shares in a secondary market is possible. It’s not as fast as heading to the ATM to withdraw money, but it certainly beats trying to liquidate a property.

6. The risks are clear

Crowdfunding platforms run by real estate experts also come with an analysis of a property’s potential risks and profits. This reduces the burden on individual investors and minimizes the risks. 

READ: How to Reduce Real Estate Investment Risks — 12 Expert Tips

7. Transaction costs are low

Buying a property on your own comes with tens of thousands of dollars in closing costs, plus whatever renovation or marketing costs are incurred. Real estate crowdfunding projects have a much lower entry price, with costs divided among investors. This is just one way that real estate crowdfunding encourages investors who were previously shut out.

8. Investors can get a foot in the door

Not everyone has angel investors like Elon Musk at their beck and call. For some investors, simply getting a meeting can be challenging. Investing in real estate crowdfunding democratizes investing for people who otherwise could not enter some investment markets.

9. There are global investment opportunities 

In addition to economic diversity, real estate crowdfunding projects can help you expand your portfolio geographically. Many projects are open to investors from across the globe. This allows you to take advantage of favorable exchange rates in other currencies. It also opens the door to emerging markets, where the profit margin can be much higher.

10. You have more control

Real estate crowdfunding and real estate investment trusts are similar, but REITs maintain control over the investment. Real estate crowdfunding is more in the hands of individual investors. 

You might give money to a REIT to decide where to invest, but with crowdfunding, you pick the project and jump in. On the other hand, crowd funders might decide to let a REIT manage the money they raise. This can be helpful for new managers who want someone with more experience behind the wheel.

Risks to consider

As with any investment, there are risks involved in investing in real estate crowdfunding projects. Although it’s possible to sell your shares in a secondary market, this type of investing is still harder to liquidate than investments in the stock market. 

In addition, managing investments through a crowdfunding platform requires due diligence. If your selected platform isn’t up to the task, you may experience project failure or poor returns.

Talk to a financial advisor if you’re considering investing in real estate crowdfunding projects. They can help you understand the risks and benefits of this investment strategy.

 

Screen Shot 2021 12 28 At 113128 AmLuke Babich is the Co-Founder of Clever Real Estate, a real estate education platform committed to helping home buyers, sellers and investors make smarter financial decisions. Luke is a licensed real estate agent in the State of Missouri and his research and insights have been featured on BiggerPockets, Inman, the LA Times and more.

Maximizing Investments: Harnessing Data-driven Real Estate Strategies

If you’re a seasoned real estate investor, you’ve probably used data analytics your entire career. Calculating cap rates, cash-on-cash returns or even putting together a standard comparative market analysis (CMA) are all forms of basic data analysis. And data-driven real estate strategies are more important than ever.

But as data analysis becomes more advanced, smart investors look for more creative ways to use analytics to supercharge their investment strategy. Every big industry player is already doing it, from the leading real estate investment trusts (REITs) to the websites offering real-time home values. So what are some unconventional ways that you can use data analysis to make smarter real estate investments?

READ: How to Get More Renters — 13 Ways to Optimize Your Airbnb Listings 

Look at nontraditional analytics

According to a report on real estate analytics from consultant firm McKinsey, 60% of the predictive power of real estate analytics comes from nontraditional variables. 

So while traditional real estate data strategies like analyzing vacancy rates, market performance and property features have significant predictive power when it comes to real estate investing, they collectively make up less than half of the total predictive power. 

So what are some of these nontraditional variables? The McKinsey report touched on data points like proximity to points of interest, such as the distance to a four-star hotel, and distribution of points of interest, such as the number of coffee shops in a 1-mile radius. 

The report also highlights metrics involving the number of swimming pool permits recently issued in the neighborhood, Yelp reviews for local businesses, the number and type of grocery stores in a 2-mile radius and a lot more. Again, when combined, these nontraditional data-driven real estate strategies were more predictive of an investment’s performance than conventional variables. 

So if you’re competing against other investors for a certain property, and you’re using both traditional and nontraditional variables in your analysis, while they’re only using traditional ones, they’re only getting half the picture. You have a huge edge.

READ: Identifying Emerging Real Estate Markets — Key Indicators for Lucrative Investments

Trust the experts 

Using data-driven real estate strategies doesn’t mean you have to gather up the raw data yourself, build an algorithm to analyze it and put together a comprehensive investment spreadsheet. Smart people have been refining real estate data analytics for years — and smart investors are happy to piggyback on their expertise.

After all, every time you check a property’s value on Zillow or Trulia, you’re using their industry-best automated valuation models, and when you use an online commission calculator, you’re performing a kind of user-friendly data analysis.

To take things a step further, you could invest in real estate through a real estate investment trust or REIT.

REITs are modeled after mutual funds, except they invest in real estate instead of securities. Similar to mutual funds, their portfolio is heavily determined by the use of sophisticated data analytics. They own and operate income-producing properties, and are publicly traded just like stocks, so they’re an extremely liquid investment, unlike physical real estate.

Investing in a REIT is a way to tap into some high-quality market analysis, and get your money into the market — without all the hassle of actually buying and owning real estate.

READ: Promote Your Real Estate Business — 5 Best Digital Marketing Strategies

Don’t just look at upside

Most investors are optimists, but you should try to avoid tunnel vision when you delve into data-driven real estate strategies. Looking only for the upside can lead you to miss some important risk factors — an oversight that you might regret later. 

When you’re carrying out an analysis, dig beyond the headlines to find variables that might portend trouble. Are there unique local factors that can lead to unusual property declines? If the property’s value has been buoyed by local businesses, how are those businesses performing? If they’re not flourishing, your investment’s value might be a mirage. 

You might also want to reassess “safe” investments that are already in your portfolio. What does a comprehensive analysis say about those investments’ markets? You can save yourself a lot of money and stress by getting ahead of an expected decline.

READ: Unlocking Buying Potential — The Ultimate Guide to Commercial Real Estate Investing for Business Owners

Finally, don’t assume that more is better, or that trends are linear — especially when it comes to nontraditional variables. Remember when we said the proximity of specialty grocery stores like Trader Joe’s can be a great predictor of rapid appreciation? That same study noted that this effect was limited, and that properties that were close to a high number of these establishments actually saw price declines. 

That’s why smart investors use analytics to predict risk as well as success. The more time you invest in researching your potential properties, the more informed and effective your decisions will be. 

 

Screen Shot 2021 12 28 At 113128 AmLuke Babich is the Co-Founder of Clever Real Estate, a real estate education platform committed to helping home buyers, sellers and investors make smarter financial decisions. Luke is a licensed real estate agent in the State of Missouri and his research and insights have been featured on BiggerPockets, Inman, the LA Times and more.