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Harris Group Realty Blog 
Monday, September 16 2013

There are lots of businesses that tout superior customer service as part of their brand. I don’t know about you but most of the time I am disappointed when I have the opportunity to experience their “superior customer service”. What the upper echelon of management believes as their mantra doesn’t seem to filter down to the employees that their customers interact with. So it is my pleasure to share with you an account of superb customer service that I encountered recently at the local Kuni Lexus automobile dealership. 

Posted by: Barbara Harris Team AT 01:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, September 13 2013

Simple affordable do-it-yourself projects can make your home more sellable in a competitive real estate market. If you are considering listing your home for sale or have had your home on the market but haven’t received an offer, here are some simple tips to make your home stand out.

Posted by: Barbara Harris Team AT 01:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, September 12 2013

All of us wish to turn a house into a home, but what exactly does “home” mean to each of us? Does it describe a place that we return to at the end of the day? Is it the place we feel most comfortable in?  Must this place have a certain amount of personal memories in order to be called our “home”? As Realtors, we work closely with a buyer to help them find a ‘house’ that meets their needs. When does that ‘house’ become a ‘home’?

Posted by: Barbara Harris Team AT 01:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, September 11 2013

Homeownership is still the American dream. Recent polls show that nearly 9 out of 10 Americans still believe owning a home is important. And why not? With interest rates at historical lows and current local housing prices still affordable, it doesn’t make sense to sit on the sidelines anymore. 

I don’t know if you have tried renting a home lately in Colorado Springs but not only is it a mad rush to get one but landlords are raising rents because there is so much demand. If I was a renter today, I would seriously think about buying.  Take for example, the home I have listed at 1314 Lewis Lane: 4 Bedrooms, 2 full baths, a one car garage and almost 2100 square feet of living space with a beautiful park like back yard with a newer furnace and central air conditioning.   Listed at $159,900, if a first time buyer purchased the home with El Paso Bond money with 3% down payment assistance, the total payment would approximately be $695.00. If they were to rent the home it would probably rent for $900-950 a month so buying would save the buyers approximately $255 a month or over $3000 a year.

Many buyers have heard that it is difficult to get financing but there are lenders today that will look at FICO scores as low as 530 with interest rates still below 5%. Yes, you need to have stable employment of at least 2 years on the job, you need to make sufficient income to cover the monthly mortgage payment and living expenses, and if you don’t take advantage of the first time homebuyer’s programs that are available that offer down payment assistance, you will need to have approximately 3.5% saved for your down payment if you are purchasing with an FHA loan. 

Why continue to throw money away when you can be one of the 9 Americans that can obtain the dream of owning a home. This bubble of opportunity will not last forever.   Now is the time to make your move!

Real Estate Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask the Seller to pay your closing costs and pre-paids. If you are purchasing with a first time homebuyer loan, you could virtually buy a home with less than $1000 of your own money. That’s less than putting down a security deposit with prorated rent! 


Posted by: Barbara Harris Team AT 01:11 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, September 09 2013

We live in an age of technology and any Real Estate Broker that wants to succeed today needs to embrace the changes technology brings with it. In the almost 32 years that I have been a real estate professional, I have seen many changes in the industry.
I will never forget one of the first changes I experienced. When I first entered the real estate profession in 1979, we searched for homes using a catalog type book filled with pages of photos and information on homes. I kept track of my clients with a recipe box filled with index cards that had handwritten notes on them. Lo and behold, one day it was announced that we would soon be able to search for homes using a computer! The time a home went on the market until every REALTOR in Colorado Springs knew it was available was shortened from one week to one day. Amazing!

It wasn’t long before Realtors improved communication with their clients by installing phones in their cars. No longer did we have to search for a convenience store or a pay phone so we could quickly make a call to arrange a last minute showing. Along came the fax machine that allowed for a quicker response time for contracts. The 80’s brought the cell phones that no longer had to be installed in the car in order to work, and contact software for computers that did away with the handwritten file cards that held all the client information.

The 90’s and the 21st century brought smaller cell phones and computerized contracts. Computers seemed to get faster yearly and it wasn’t long before we saw contracts that were internet-based with “mouse” signatures and phones that could access the internet. Everyone began to embrace communicating via email until email became to slow and texting became the faster more efficient way to communicate. Twitter and Facebook not only connected you with people all over the world but they also became new ways to advertise homes for sale. These days, you can show a buyer homes via videos and photos on the internet, write a contract on the internet, obtain the signatures via the internet and conduct all the negotiations and the entire transaction without ever meeting either client.

Wow, you might think, this is so efficient and after all time is money isn’t it? The problem with today’s real estate transactions is that we are losing a vitally important ingredient. That ingredient is the relationship. Consumers don’t get to know us and we don’t really get to know them. It makes it more difficult to negotiate when you may have only communicated by email or texting. Why didn’t that Seller accept that offer on the home after it had been on the market only 10 days- it was a “no brainer”. Maybe if you had stopped by to sit down with the Seller, you might have found out that they were nervous that the sale was happening too quickly and that they might not be able to get out on time. Just being there to reassure them of the process or to perhaps offer to tweak the dates a bit to make the Seller feel more at ease could have made that sale happen.

Technology is great but it doesn’t take the place of the face to face meeting and the bond that can be formed into a long lasting relationship. Relationships do matter and those REALTORS that blend technology with the good old fashioned connection of the face to face meeting will see their success rates soar.


Posted by: Barbara Harris Team AT 01:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, September 06 2013

6.       Decide what is important to you.  Your Realtor should sit down with you and determine what features are most important to you before going out to look for homes.  Surveys indicate that besides the number of bedrooms and baths, location is an important factor for most buyers.  You might want to be close to work or have your new home located in a certain school district.  Whatever those features are, you need to decide on what is important to you and prioritize these features in a list.  This will be helpful as you begin to look at homes.

7.       Eureka! You have found your dream home!  Now don’t lose it by making a ridiculously low offer.   Since mid 2007, Colorado Springs has been experiencing a definite Buyer’s market.  That means buyers have the upper hand when it comes to negotiating offers on homes in our local real estate market.   Buyers can often offer less than the asking price and ask for some if not all of their closing costs to be paid by the seller.  That doesn’t mean that you should make a ridiculous offer and expect that the seller will accept it.  Remember, sellers have seen their values decrease steadily since mid 2007 and in some cases; the sellers are selling for less than what they paid for the home originally.

8.        Buying a home is usually the most expensive purchase you will make.  Be prudent and spend a little bit of money to hire a professional home inspector to inspect the home.  A home inspector will look for safety hazards, items needing immediate repair, and will explain how to maintain the home once you own it.  A home inspection gives you the opportunity to acquaint yourself with the property you are buying.  If inspection uncovers serious problems you can most often opt out of the purchase rather than being saddled with a ‘money pit’.

9.        Review the title insurance commitment.  Title insurance provides insurance coverage if a claim is made on the title.  It is important to review your title commitment to make sure that your names are spelled correctly, the legal description is accurate and the loan information is correct.  You should review the requirements and the exceptions of the title commitment to make sure that there are no surprises.   You should also review any covenants that go with the property at the time you are reviewing the title insurance commitment to make sure you can abide by them.  There is nothing worse than finding out after you close on a home that the covenants won’t allow the business you run from your home. 

10.      Walk through the home before closing.  Be sure to arrange for a walk through of the home you are buying before attending the closing to verify that the home is substantially in the same condition as when you made your offer to purchase.  We recommend to our clients to schedule the walk through 24-48 hours prior to closing.  It is best to have the home totally empty so you can view all the surfaces of the interior without interference. The seller is supposed to leave the home in a clean, ready to occupy condition with all repairs from the inspection resolution completed.  If any problems surface at the walk through, your Broker should contact the Seller’s Broker to work out a resolution before closing. 

Posted by: Barbara Harris Team AT 01:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, September 05 2013

Are you thinking now might be the time to step out and explore the possibility of buying your first home. Congratulations! You will seldom find a real estate market like we are experiencing in Colorado Springs and you will definitely benefit from the very low interest rates that are available right now.

Before you start to look for a home, be sure that you won’t be considering moving from that home for at least 3-5 years. You might be scratching your head right now but you need to realize that it takes about 3-5 years to build up enough equity to recoup your original investment costs in a normal economy. You probably have read or heard that real estate prices in our area have dropped anywhere from 14-17% since June 2007 and that interest rates are at historically low levels. These indicators mean this is a perfect time to buy an affordable home.

And now, 10 tips that will make buying your first home a pleasurable experience and one that you will want to repeat.

1.          It is important to use the services of an experienced real estate broker when you make the decision to purchase your first home. Often, if you ask around you will find that your friends or family members can recommend a real estate broker that is both reputable and knowledgeable about the local real estate market. You need to feel comfortable that your Broker will be your advocate and explain every step of the buying process to you with patience and understanding. Talk to a reputable lender. 

2.          After choosing your Realtor, the next most important step is to choose a lender that is reputable and reliable.  You might be tempted to use an internet lender because they often offer unbelievable rates and yes, the deals and rates are unbelievable. Ask your Realtor for a recommendation of 2-3 lenders. Make an appointment to meet with each of the lenders face to face. Let them know that you are a first time buyer and want to know what loan programs are available for first time buyers. The lender will ask you questions about your job history, how much money you have to put down, what you have as debts, and what you have as assets. A reputable lender will spend the time you need to explain the different loans available and explain the cost of purchasing a home.

3.         Once you have decided on a lender, you will want the lender to check your credit and credit score. Lenders determine your interest rate and how much you qualify to borrow (your debt to income ratio) as they review your credit report. A FICO credit score of 720 or higher will help you obtain the lower interest rates. The FICO credit score is determined by how much credit you have and if you pay your monthly obligations on time.

4.         The lender will tell you how much loan you can qualify for and then you need to take the time and make a budget to determine how much you can spend for housing. The lender may tell you a payment amount that is higher than you want to spend. If you have a budget you won’t be swayed to spend more for housing than what you can realistically afford. Get in the habit to save money. 

5.         Once you know what you want to spend for your monthly mortgage payment, start saving the difference between what you are paying for rent and what your monthly mortgage payment will be. In may only be a few months before you close on a new home but in just those few months you will have initiated a habit of saving that will benefit you for the rest of your life. 

Watch for the remaining 5 tips for first time home buyers in our next weekly blog.

Posted by: Barbara Harris Team AT 01:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, September 04 2013

We are always interested when the monthly stats come out from the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors.  As actively involved Realtors in the real estate market of the Pikes Peak area, we have a premonition on how the stats will look but we always hope that they will be better than we expected.

 September, October and November’s stats weren’t much of a surprise.  Probably the fact that we saw increases in the average and median prices was a bit puzzling until we realized that the increases were due to the fact that there had been more sales in the $250,000 and over price ranges.  Our pool of first time homebuyers was drained with the tax credit that expired April 2010 so it only made sense that the number of sales would be less but the values would be higher.

 December 2010 saw a 16.1% increase in sales over November 2010 but only a 1% increase from December 2009.  In December, we had a total of 4,327 single family homes for sale which was a 9.5% increase from December 2009.  The average sales price increased 4.4% over December 2009 and the median sales price increase 3.1% from December 2009.  Overall, the Pikes Peak region saw a 6.4% decrease in sales for 2010 compared to 2009. 

 What do all those stats mean to you, the homeowner or home buyer?

 For the homeowner, what this means is there are more homes on the market right now and less buyers than there was a year ago so you have more competition.  You need to be sure your home is in tip top shape, staged and priced where it should be instead of where you want it to be.  That is, if you want to sell it in 2011.  You might believe that your listing price will be higher because the median and average prices seem to be going up.  That just means that there is less to select from the below $250,000 price range and more to select from the $250,000 and over price range right now.  There is still some very stiff competition out there for home sellers.  Foreclosures are definitely a threat to value and short sales although difficult to close offer buyers some negotiating power.  

 If we didn’t list another home for sale in January we would have a 6.34 month supply of listings on the market for sale.  If we could get our inventory down below a 6 month supply we would begin to see values rise and we could hope that it might actually become a Seller’s market instead of the Buyer market we have had for over the past 3 years.  Sellers, tell everyone you know that this is a great time to buy and that your home is a tremendous value.  Speak positively about the market so your friends and co-workers will relax and step back into the market.

 Now, for the homebuyer-what are you waiting for??? In the almost 32 years of selling and listing homes in the Pikes Peak region, we have never seen a market like this before!  There are excellent values in every neighborhood in the Colorado Springs area and interest rates have never been so low.  Or should I say they had never been so low.  Interest rates are beginning t0 creep back up.  No one knows if the small increase we have seen in rates in the past month or so will continue or if it will flatten out.  Remember, for every 1% increase in the interest rate, you qualify for 10% less in home value.  Right now, if you buy, you will probably pay less in a mortgage payment than you would pay for rent for the same type of property.  That opportunity doesn’t come around very often-so, what are you waiting for???

 If you want to see the numbers in black and white and in graph format, or if you would like to know how your area is performing or what the average list to sale ratio is, email us at or give us a call at (719) 227-9900 and we will be happy to send you that information.

Posted by: Barbara Harris Team AT 12:54 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, September 04 2013

Thank you Barbara!  We really appreciate your assistance, kindness, and professional approach in selling our home.  We received excellent service and communication from you and your staff.  We will definitely suggest you to others needing to sell or buy in the high country region.  I wish you the very best going forward.  Again, thank you for promoting and selling our home during this time of a very challenging real estate market.  You're the best!

M. & J. Hemric

Posted by: Barbara Harris Team AT 12:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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The Barbara Harris Team
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