Cheap Flips vs. Value Investments [Notable Sales]

Over 70 listings hit the market this week in Boulder; from entry level ranches to luxury mountain homes. Want to see which fresh listings we recommend viewing? Subscribe

Our review of the latest fresh listings will be published later today (via email). This post is about recently sold homes in Boulder. 

Notable sales can help you better understand the Boulder real estate market and think through buying and selling decisions. Sitting in an armchair reading this post is not the same as seeing property with a House Einstein Realtor (read: Why Us?), but this should at least give you a taste of what it's like to be our client. 

There have been almost 200 sales in Boulder since the beginning of the year. Here are a few worth noting.  

1822 Quince Street | $1.07MM | Details and Pics
On the surface, 1822 Quince is a basic mid 70's tri-level that appeared to have been extensively remodeled. My buyers were also excited about the potential of the gigantic lot - almost a half acre within the city limits.  

When we toured the home, it had sat on the market for three months. My buyers were hopeful that the lot could be subdivided in the future and given that the sellers had substantial equity, perhaps they would consider a low offer.  

But that idea fell apart the moment we walked in the door. The wear and tear on the finishes made it clear that the recent remodel was not high quality. The workshop in the back also looked like it had been electrified by the homeowner, without a permit, and the entire structure was rotting away. There were also signs that the home would need labor intensive grading and landscaping to correct the negative slope at the front patio. 

My buyers rightfully decided to pass. It just wasn't the right house for their needs. Due to poor curb appeal, deferred maintenance, and a high asking price - I gave it an Osman Score of 44/100.  [Note: To see the full write up on this house and others, subscribe below and then check out the archive. Fresh listings and Osman Scores are not published on the blog. You need to subscribe to the mail list to access that content.]

The Deal 
The seller acquired the home in in December of 2014 for $650,000 (6.5% below asking, 139 days on market). Here is what it looked like at acquisitionThey remodeled it, adding a back deck, replaced the roof, and obtained a rental license in August of 2015. 

In May 2019, the seller listed the home for sale. The asking price was set at $1.1MM. It was on the market for +250 days and finally sold last week for 1.07MM  (3.1% below asking). 

The seller did far better than I would have expected. 

For the buyer - the large lot itself might be worth more than the acquisition price in a few years given the location and current lack of red tape for a demo permit on a 70's era structure. 

The location and oversize lot are key drivers for valuation. In the short-term, this may continue to function as a rental property. In the long run, expect to see this turn into something completely different - a luxury single family home, subdivided into two lots and homes, or if Boulder Council continues to loosen the rules - something completely different. 

4365 Martin Drive | $740K | Details and Pics
A basic 3/2 ranch with just under 1,200 finished square feet and a one car garage. Basic ranches are a dime a dozen in Boulder, but demand for this type of home and entry-level price range far outstrips supply. 

Long-term readers know we've tracked sales for ranches in Martin Acres for more than a decade. It's one of the most plentiful property types in Boulder and tracking basic ranches helps establish what the greater market is doing at any given time. Expect a full update to our Martin Acres Index in the near future. 

The Deal 
The seller acquired the home on June 20, 2019 for $580K ($15K over asking, six days on market). Most listings in Martin Acres start around $625K. Having seen the house, my opinion is that the listing was intentionally under-priced to spark a fast sale and a potential bidding war. It worked, but there was a price. The seller likely left $25K or more on the table. 

Here is what it looked like at acquisition.  

The seller obtained a permit one month after acquisition ($25K stated value) and updated the kitchen, baths, mud room, finishes, and landscaping. A key design decision was to remove the wall separating the living area from the kitchen, opening up the floor plan. Sub permits were issued for plumbing and electrical work, too. Permits were closed out in November and the house was staged and listed for sale on November 15th. 

Is it worth a premium to have all that work done and simply move-in. For most buyers, the answer is yes. Did it make money for the seller? Almost certainly. Six months, soup to nuts and $160K gross profit (before commissions, and the investment of time and money to remodel). They likely cleared $80K to $100K.

The home was under contract three weeks after listing, despite the horrible timing on the sale. It sold for full asking with a small $500 concessions (closing costs paid by the seller.)  

4310 Clay Commons Court | $675K | Pics and Details
The third time was the charm. 

I represented the buyers on the purchase of this four bedroom, four bath town home residence. My clients were primarily looking for a property for family members to occupy while attending CU, but which later might serve as an income property. 

After an initial meeting to outline their investment goals, here's how we worked our way through the Boulder market.  

Strike 1 - Early December
We lost out on a bidding war for a two bedroom Gold Run Condo, despite going substantially over asking and waiving inspection. Gold Run has some advantages including proximity to CU and a functional health club, but the bidding war was hard to justify. Sometimes losing the bidding war is winning.

Strike 2 - Mid December
We went under contract on a two bedroom unit near CU but the seller immediately began behaving in shady ways. They failed to disclose mold damage and lawyered up even before accepting our full price offer. We rightfully terminated. 

My Spidey Sense says the seller might be prone to litigation, so to avoid that unhappiness, I'm not going to publicly reveal more about this property. If you want to read more about the deal, I wrote about it in my recent blog post, When Something Smells Fishy

The Winner
4310 Clay Commons Court had been on the market for three months when the seller cut the price massively. It hit our listing alerts and we rushed to go see it the very same day.  

There are only 18 units in the Clay Commons Court Development. Units are rarely on the market and the last time this one sold was almost nine years ago. I've been working in real estate in Boulder since 2005 and I have never been inside a unit in this complex. 

Zoned for 4 unrelated people and just down the road from CU, this property nailed the location requirements. There is also a grocery and bike path nearby, which provides easy access to the research side of campus or even downtown Boulder. With an open floor plan and quality finishes, it doesn't feel like a student property or a cheap rental. It feels like a well built home for adults. 

Within minutes of walking in the door, we knew it was a winner.

Unlike a cheap flip, the build and finish quality of this home appeared to be very high. There was nary a squeak as we tromped up and down stairs. Most of the finishes had been remodeled, years ago. The work had held up quite nicely. The quality build, great location, and reasonable price checked all the right boxes. The paint colors inside were not quite current, and the outside turquoise trim wasn't our favorite, but those were our only issues with the property. 

OK, the turquoise trim was my issue. My buyers didn't mind it. 

The Deal
When the seller slashed the price, it sparked a wave of buyer interest. First offers to the table have an advantage. We moved quickly. Having been through the process twice before, my clients needed very little time to review and sign the contracts. 

In Boulder real estate, speed is a competitive advantage.

The morning after submitting our offer, we were told another offer was on the table. With our response deadline looming, we waited, sweating as my clients worried their offer wasn't good enough. With some luck and savvy negotiating, my clients were eventually successful. Our offer was accepted. 

We were later told the second offer was slightly better, but the difference in price was not material. The listing agent and seller felt our offer was solid. They were right. It was. 

4310 Clay Commons Court sailed through inspection with a clean bill of health and my buyers closed on January 21st. At the walk through, I couldn't help but feel elated at the joy my buyers felt at finding such a great property at a reasonable price. It was a needle in a haystack and if we hadn't had the two previous deals fall apart, likely my clients wouldn't have moved forward with such confidence. 

Take home lesson: To make an intelligent real estate decision, there is no substitute for deep market knowledge. 


Osman Parvez  is the Founder and Employing Broker of House Einstein. Originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York, he lives in Boulder with his wife and their Labrador Retriever. He has been a Realtor since 2005.

Osman is the primary author of the House Einstein blog with over 1,200 published articles about Boulder real estate. His work has also appeared in many other blogs about Boulder as well as mainstream newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and Daily Camera.

For more information, Click HERE.

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The ideas and strategies described in this blog are the opinion of the writer and subject to business, economic, and competitive uncertainties.   We strongly recommend conducting rigorous due diligence and obtaining professional advice before buying or selling real estate. 


Please Note

This document contains forward-looking statements. You are strongly cautioned that investment results are subject to business, economic and other uncertainties. There are no guarantees associated with any forecast and the opinions stated here are subject to change at any time. Always consult your financial advisor before making an investment decision.