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Summer is the number one time of year real estate is bought and sold in Colorado. Are you making a good investment? Are you buying a property that requires a trip over a terrible mountain pass that is beautiful in the summer, but a lion in the winter? The Durango Herald did a study to rank the “worst” passes. I was not surprised by the top two worst passes. How should this impact your real estate decisions? 5 tips for summer buying to make sure you are making a good real estate investment for both winter and summer in the Colorado mountains.
What is the worst pass?
Having driven every pass in Colorado, two passes are always a bit sketchier than the rest that I have driven. I stumbled across this article in the Durango Herald:
Seized by the journalist’s desire to categorize, quantify and rank everything, the Herald assembled a list of Colorado’s paved, year-round mountain passes and rated them on all the problems that make winter driving such a scare: snow, switchbacks, steepness, traffic, elevation, distance from help and frequency of accidents.
Wolf Creek took the gold with Red Mountain a close second. Having driven both passes, they are right on with their assessment. They are definitely “advanced” mountain passes that can quickly become sketchy in any weather. Any pass that requires plow drivers to carry avalanche beacons is up there on the list!
Why is this important?
Most real estate in Colorado is bought during the summer. Everything looks great under blue bird skies and great weather. How different is the property in the winter? I found out the hard way. I bought a cabin SW of Fairplay in the summer. The winter taught me a lesson very quickly when I experienced my first “ground blizzard” with gusts over 90 MPH and windchills below -40. Definitely not what I expected after looking at the property in the summer! It was not only miserable, but access was nearly impossible. You need to make sure you factor in the “surprises” the winter can bring even when buying in the summer.
5 tips for buying in the summer:
Although you can’t replicate winter conditions in the summer, here are 5 items to look for/ be cognizant of when you are purchasing a property.
- Access: Can you easily get to the property? I’ve looked at several properties that looked great on paper, only to find out that the road is not well maintained and there typically is a 10-foot drift over certain parts of the road making access impossible. I was once asked to finance a property outside of crested butte (maybe 5 minutes from town). Fortunately, I’ve spent considerable time in the area in the winter looking at properties, unbeknownst to the buyer the 5 minutes from town included a snowmobile ride! Make sure you know how the winter access is, who maintains the road, how it is maintained, and if you can actually make it into the property in the winter
- How long does it really take to get there? During the summer, you don’t have to contend with weather typically. In the winter, you can have both substantial traffic and winter weather which can make a recipe for disaster. The cabin that is only two hours away in the summer could be 4 hours depending on traffic, passes, etc… Make sure you understand the time it will take to get to the property. Also understand how long it will take to get from the property to skiing, hiking, etc… as well. For example you could buy a great house in Glenwood with the intent to ski in Aspen or snowmass, but during the winter with traffic it could take 1.5 hours to get to the slopes from the house. Is this a sacrifice you are willing to make?
- Neighbors during the winter? It is great to see in both summer and winter how your neighbors/neighborhood is. For example is the house next to a snowmobile trail that will keep you up all hours of the night? Is that cute quite condo in the summer actually the “party condo complex” in the winter. I was once staying in a condo in telluride with our newborn in what we thought would be a nice quite condo at mountain village, turns out we could hear noise from a bar all night that kept our infant awake, definitely not a condo I would want to own if you have any intention of sleeping at night!
- Ice dams/other winter hazards? Winter is critical to see what kind of issues the property might have during the winter. One of the biggest issues has to do with snow and ice. Although you can’t see the icicles in the summer you can look for telltale signs including signs of leaks on interior ceilings, walls, floors, discoloration of siding, discoloration of soffit, missing/damaged shingles on the roof. Although pretty to look at, icicles are an indicator of bigger problems and could ultimately lead to leaks and a complete failure of the roof. An ice dam is an indicator of heat escaping, the melting snow can then be sucked back into the eave, under the roof and into the house. When you are looking at a property, walk around the exterior of the property to see if there are ice dams, if so, walk inside and look at the corner of the ceilings to see if there is any discoloration on the interior and also on the exterior beneath the roof. This is a clear indication of a problem. Along with ice dams it is important to see the property in the winter to see how the parking, sidewalks, decks, etc.. hold snow and figure out how you are going to clear it. Is the driveway steep with no sun creating ice, if you have to plow, is there an easy way to remove the snow and move it out of the way?
- Views/sun during the winter? Sun and views are two huge considerations in Colorado and most winter locals. Having both of these items can drastically increase your sales price. Winter is a great time to see what kind of sun a property gets and also what the views are with all the leaves gone. Are you staring at a parking lot that you didn’t notice in the summer with all the leaves on the trees/bushes? Do you have a killer view of the mountains or a coal plant? The answers will drastically change the property value.
Although I focused heavily on the residential side of real estate above, winter is also critical for commercial real estate. In the winter you are able to see where roof problems are from snow and also how snow/ice will sit on sidewalks, parking lots, etc.. which is all critical information for making the best decision.
In summary, factoring in the winter is critical for mountain real estate success , especially in the resort markets. The 5 items above could make our break not only your happiness with your purchase, but also could drastically alter the value equation of the real estate.
I have closed thousands of loans throughout Colorado in all seasons. One of our specialties is mountain properties in ski/resort communities and can fund condos, land, residential properties, and commercial properties. If you have questions about any of the above or need financing quickly please give me a call (303…459…6061)
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Written by Glen Weinberg, COO/ VP Fairview Commercial Lending. Glen has been published as an expert in hard money lending, real estate valuation, financing, and various other real estate topics in the Colorado Real Estate Journal, the CO Biz Magazine, The Denver Post, The Scotsman mortgage broker guide, Mortgage Professional America and various other national publications.
Fairview is the recognized leader in Colorado Hard Money and Colorado private lending focusing on residential investment properties and commercial properties both in Denver and throughout the state. We are the Colorado experts having closed thousands of loans throughout the state.
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