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What the Heck is the Point of an Architectural Review Board?! What to Expect When Building Your Dream Home!

August 26, 2011

Architectural Review Board. Design Review Committee. Architectural Review Committee.

Why Do They Exist?! One of these is bound to be the cause of a custom build homeowners stress at some point. So what is the point and how can you get YOUR design approved? Well, the whole point of the Review Board is to keep homes in the neighborhood on the same track architecturally. This helps maintain home prices in the neighborhood high and angry neighbors at bay. They tend to control for character and the reason you probably bought there was exactly that. Everyone who bought in that neighborhood has a stake in the appearance of it, and if its architecturally restricted, they have a stake in the appearance of YOUR home too! That may be a hard concept to grasp, but chances are if you were drawn to the neighborhood to begin with, you probably like the style.

What Do They Do? Typically, ARB’s are put in place to maintain a historic element of an area. Sometimes its for the park service and they are controlling for restoration of OLD structures, others there is a new development going up and they want to maintain a certain standard of quality. Either way, they are controlling for some level of accuracy, character, concept and quality, and if your personal tastes don’t fit within their guidelines, you may be SOL.

Types. There are two types of ARB’s, Public and Private. Public are generally make up of citizens who have been appointed to the position and preside over scheduled public meetings. They tend to oversee older, established neighborhoods. When projects go up for consideration against a public board, the public is invited to comment on the project and the forum is open. Typically projects will be reworked before a final vote if it does not fit within the guidelines.

Private design review tends to be more common in newer developments. Subcontracted architectural firms typically have the final say, and they are never viewed in public. Drawings will be submitted as they are ready and returned later with or without comment. Clearly this can be much more difficult to go through, and no homeowner should make an attempt without knowing what is likely to be, and what won’t be approved.

What To Expect. There are plenty of things you will need for your review, and you should double check with the group you are dealing with to ensure you have everything.First, get a list of guidelines BEFORE you start planning. Generally, the easier you make it at the first meeting, the easier it will be to get it approved. Board members LOVE easy projects!

If you aren’t sure about your design, ask for a design review.This is non-binding once it is over and allows you to get valuable feedback on your design and what may need to change.

Stay flexible. Just remember that there is always another solution, and who knows, you may like it more the second time around!

Patience is the key to success. Clearly you have worked on this project for a long time. Now you need to relax a little and focus on dealing with the task at hand. They may have questions to ask, and it may take all day, so bring a magazine and a cup of coffee. If you have done everything correctly and gotten a pre-review then you should be okay.

Make sure you bring complete documents! This may be the most important because they cannot give you the okay without complete knowledge of what you are planning. Try to make sure that no question needs to be asked when going through them, and bring a materials board to give a better example. This is just a board of samples of paint colors, tiles, etc that you have picked up and want to use. This can make a presentation work just because it gives a much more full idea of exactly what is happening.

Prepare to Negotiate. Know what you can trade, have alternate solutions available at YOUR disposal and offer to trade. Make sure your requests are reasonable though!

Finally, try to remember that although you hate the process and can’t wait to start building, this is the same group of people who are keeping your neighbors from painting their house purple!


Ben Blonder

Owner/Managing Broker, Kapital Real Estate LLC

Office: 970-797-2190

Cell: 970-420-6166

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Fort Collins: Booming! Not Busting!

August 23, 2011

There is an apartment shortage in Fort Collins, and the only solution is to build more. Luckily a few are already being built. Although different reports have different rates that I have seen lately, they range from 3% to 6.3%. Regardless, that is incredibly low and apartments/places to live are in high demand! The influx of CSU students each fall drives rent up, at least 2% from $862 to $877 and they are only rising. Over the next two years Fort Collins is going to add new beds to the rental market.

Loveland has seen even more of an increase, where rent rose 11.7 percent from last year and now hovers around $1,045. The vacancy rate has risen since then from 4.1 to 5.2%. Loveland has seen a lot of economic growth as well with about 10,000 new jobs being created through new companies, more construction and a new development going into place.
Overall, Northern Colorado is in a great place for growth, economically, physically and for students. If you are thinking of moving to the area, just give me a call!





Ben Blonder

Owner/Managing Broker, Kapital Real Estate LLC

Office: 970-797-2190

Cell: 970-420-6166

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Is Your Property Rent Ready? 12 Must Do’s!

August 20, 2011

There are things every homeowner should do to LIVE in their home. But what about the landlords who don’t live on the property? Here are 12 steps that every landlord should take BEFORE renting their space.

1. NEW LOCKS. Make sure you replace any and all locks! You DO NOT want to allow a previous tenant or owner with a spare key open access to the property. This is key for safety, so make sure you do this first thing! If you have an HOA, make sure you include keys to everything when you give them to the tenant, and anything else they will need. If you can replace it legally, do.

2. STEAM THE CARPETS. There is nothing worse than moving into a new place with disgusting carpets. Get them professionally cleaned so that there is no chance they continue to deteriorate. Also, make sure you air it out properly after, because the only thing worse than dirty carpets, is the smell of mold/rot.

3. LANDSCAPE. Take care of anything that needs done in the yards. Cut grass, trim trees and bushes, pull weeds, fix the sprinklers, spray dirt from cracks, etc. This way it not only looks sharp, but it gives the tenants some incentive to keep it looking the way it does.

4. FILTERS. Change them. Air filters are often not taken care of by clients, even though they should be in long term situations. Use the disposable ones if possible, they don’t require monthly cleaning and are less for your tenant to remember.

5. CLEAN. Not just the carpets, but a GOOD professional cleaning, top to bottom. Make sure everything is spotless and move-in ready.

6. LIGHT. Replace light bulbs, potentially with high efficiency ones. Make sure you get ALL of them, including the outside, and wipe down fixtures.

7. INSPECT CEILING FANS. Make sure they are still hanging on tight. Clean the tops of them and ensure they operate correctly.

8. SPIDER/PEST PROOF. Spray spider killer along the outside edge of the property, all openings (doors and windows) and clean out ALL cobwebs, spider webs and the like. Make sure you spray in the basement for extra effectiveness. If you need to, geta professional to do a fumigation.

9. CHECK OPENINGS. Openings are windows and doors. Make sure they don’t squeek, operate without too much effort, are hung correctly, fit the space and are clean. Tracks on sliding doors are particularly important because that can end up as a costly repair if they aren’t taken care of.

10. SCREENS. This is also a security measure to some extent, but it keeps pests out. They need to be in working order and can save lots of money in the long run.

11. MISC. This includes painting and fixing anything that may need it. A fresh coat of paint never hurts, and there is usually a laundry list of items that need some form of repair. Make sure those are taken care of. Tiles and grout are important too, so always double check that!

12. FIRE AND CO2. Make sure you have the proper detectors installed with new batteries and in the right locations. Typically one per bedroom and one on each main floor is good. CO2 is becoming more and more common to watch for as well, so make sure you take care of that too!
By following this list, you should be able to get your place into good condition for renting, and it should be easily maintained by tenants! Let me know if you have any other good ideas for ensuring a smooth process.




Ben Blonder

Owner/Managing Broker, Kapital Real Estate LLC

Office: 970-797-2190

Cell: 970-420-6166

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Buying, Now Cheaper Than Renting!

August 15, 2011

In most US cities buying is actually cheaper than renting. Between the beating home prices got and the demand for rentals, rent has risen and home prices have fallen making owning more feasible than renting. Buying a two bedroom home seems to be the way to go, especially according to Trulia, which states that 74% of the countries 50 largest cities host rental markets more expensive than owning. In the remaining 14% renting vs buying were about equal.

Not only is it cheaper to buy, but interest rates have fallen so drastically, with 4.19% being offered for a 30 year fixed loan (and 3.43 for 15 year fixed) on Monday. Now add in tax perks and you have a pretty darn good deal. The problem lies in qualifying for a loan. Stricter lenders are making it incredibly difficult, and those who still have a savings are fearful about putting it towards a home. But it may be less expensive in the long run depending on the city in which you live.

The buy-rent calculation is just one part of the decision-making process. Other factors include:

  • How long you plan to stay. If you’re not keeping the home for several years, transactional costs of buying and selling (e.g; commissions, closing costs) can wipe out any buying edge.
  • Whether you have cash for closing. It’s not easy to find banks willing to lend more than 80% of the cost of a home. That means buyers have to come up with 20% down, plus closing costs. On a $200,000 home, that’s $40,000.
  • Whether you can cover all the homeownership costs. It’s not just the mortgage: There are property taxes, insurance, heat, utilities and regular maintenance.
  • Whether you can claim the tax advantages of homeownership. Mortgage interest is deductible and can shave a lot off tax bills but this benefit accrues mostly to high income earners with substantial mortgage payments. Many borrowers claim the standard deduction on their taxes and so derive no savings from the deduction.

Even where it’s cheaper to rent, it doesn’t necessarily mean renters will come out ahead. A mortgage is a type of forced savings. That amount of each paycheck gets put towards something in which you lower the balance. Very different to a checking account, and a mandatory requirement. It just depends on whether or not you can afford ot put that much aside. At least when you own, you won’t lose every penny you put in so long as you maintain the mortgage and the home.



Ben Blonder

Owner/Managing Broker, Kapital Real Estate LLC

Office: 970-797-2190

Cell: 970-420-6166

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Vacancy Rates Still Falling

August 12, 2011

Apartments in Colorado are becoming hot commodities! During the second quarter the vacancy rates fell to 5.2%, the lowest since 2001. In the first quarter of 2001 the vacancy rates in Colorado were 4.3%. The drop in rate has resulted in some big changes in rent throughout the state. The average rent has increased 2% from the second quarter of 2010 to now, going from $862 to $877. Northern Colorado in particular has the tightest market right now, fostering sustained growth in rent in recent quarters.

The difference varies based on area and the average rent in these metro areas is Colorado Springs: $761, Fort Collins/Loveland: $882, Grand Junction: $631, Greeley: $649, Pueblo: $512 and Denver with $915.

Poudre School District – Information You NEED to Know!

August 7, 2011

Any and all information about a school is typically found on its website, but I will sum up some great links and thoughts for you on the 9th largest district in Colorado.

1. Date and Time: Each school can have a different start date and time. Make sure you know the exact days and times by looking here.

2. PSD Offers a tuition based preschool program in addition to the no-cost program. The tuition based program offers: Teachers licensed by Colorado Dept. of Education; A High quality, standards-based preschool environment; and 16 students per session with an Adult to child ratio of 1-8. For more information on both tuition based and no-cost programs, go here.

3. Bus Schedules: Are available online here. Make sure to use the schedule finder by address if you do not already know what route your child will be taking.

4. School Supply Lists are available at the schools, and teachers may have more specific requirements. It may be a good idea to send your child with a backpack, paper and writing tools to get them started and save time on one shopping trip.

5. Lunch. Lunch menus can be found here.

Lunch meals cost:
Elementary – $2.05; Reduced – $0.40
Secondary – $2.30; Reduced – $0.40

Breakfast meals at participating schools cost:
Elementary and secondary – $1.25; Reduced – No Charge

6. Health information involving immunizations, concerns, physicals and the like can all be found on the PSD website or by contacting the school directly at (970) 482-7420.

7. A great way to keep updated on the school is via twitter and facebook!

8. Make sure you give the school accurate information for emergency updates and contact.

Make sure to utilize the PSD website! They have great information, log-in portals for parents, and updated schedules on many items! This is the best resource for any of the schools in the district, and I suggest printing out a list of their contact numbers for quick reference!

Happy Back to School Days and Good Luck!

Points – Rates – Fees. What you NEED to know.

August 4, 2011

There are a number of points, fees and rates associated with getting a mortgage. Some are more well-known than others, and some are known, but don’t make a lot of sense. I am going to explain 3 key elements to the mortgage, Purchase points, interest rates, and fees. All things you can expect to hear about while going through the process. Remember, the most important part of getting a loan is finding an agent you can trust, knows your needs & wants and answers your questions. Also, making sure you can afford it over the life of the loan is smart too!

Purchase Points, Buy-Down Point, Discount Points.

What are they and how do you decide if you want to buy them?

To-may-toe, to-mah-toe. All three are interchangeable terms for an up-front fee paid to a lender at closing to lower your interest rate over the loan life. Points are equal to 1% of the total loan amount so if you buy a $200,000 house, 1 point is $2000. Also, the more you buy, the lower you drop your rate. However, this also means the MORE you bring to closing.

Whats the deciding factor? Typically, you consider how long you want to own the home and what you can afford to pay each month. The longer you live in the home (or even rent the home out), the more you save on interest over the life of the loan. Personally, I would say if you plan on owning the home for over 7 years, purchase points are a great idea! This situation also requires consideration of what you can put down. If you don’t have a large savings, it may not be the best option.

Interest Rate.

This term refers to the rate lenders charge for borrowing their money. These days interest rates are dropping like flies. They are constantly changing and can go UP or DOWN.

When you get a mortgage, you are charged an interest rate.this is the rate which the lender charges you for using their money to buy a home. It determines how much your monthly payments will be. Generally speaking, the higher the interest rate, the higher your monthly payment. There are two types of mortgage people go with, fixed or ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) and this determines whether the interest rate will be locked in or change with the times. When you get a quote from a lender for a specific rate, you are not guaranteed that rate because it may change before the closing, however, you do also have the ability to lock the rate in. Generally, lenders will allow you to “lock in” for 15, 45 or 60 days, and this can be expensive, but it can also save you a lot of money over time.

This may be the most important part of your mortgage, so make sure you do research, ask any and all questions, and know what you are getting yourself into.



Fees are a part of doing business and they are definitely associated with getting a mortgage. Generally, they cover the cost of processing and underwriting the loan. They can include charges for a number of services requested by the client, such as insuring the title is free and clear, land surveys, or appraisals (required to close by lenders). Lenders have different fees and requirements for getting the loan approved. Choosing a lender wisely is key to being successful in your home purchase.

This is another key area to ask LOTS of questions so that you fully understand exactly what you are doing.


All in all, getting a mortgage is a daunting process, so making sure that you ask about anything you don’t understand, finding a lender that makes you comfortable and finding something you can afford, both now and in the long run, even considering a job loss or other unknowns is incredibly important.