Fort Collins Parks and Natural Areas: Gateway Natural Area

Fort Collins Parks and Natural Areas:  Gateway Natural Area

One of the best kept secrets of the Fort Collins Parks and Natural Areas:  Gateway Natural AreaFort Collins Parks and Natural Areas is Gateway Natural Area.  Just 15 miles from Old Town Fort Collins and 2 miles from the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, Gateway Natural Area is the former water filtration plant for the City of Fort Collins and is nestled at the confluence of the Main Stem and North Fork of the Cache La Poudre rivers.  This certified Natural Area offers the best of both worlds – it is a city park of sprawling lush grass, ancient cottonwood, elm, apple and pine trees; picnic tables, barbecue grills, and 2 covered pavillions.  It is simultaneously a gorgeous introduction to one of most beautiful canyons of the Rocky Mountains: towering granite spires, steep canyon walls, two rivers boasting riparian wildlife like trout, beaver, mink, bear, deer, fox, and mountain lion and well kept trails to explore all of it.

Fort Collins Parks and Natural AreasAlthough both archeological evidence and local folklore confirm that native peoples and pioneer settlers have inhabited and enjoyed this site for thousands of years, it was in 1903 that the City of Fort Collins secured senior water rights to the river and built a filtration plant of several two story brick buildings, settling ponds, charcoal and gravel raceways, and diversion structures to provide a thirsty growing city with clean drinking water.  Known as “Water Works Park”Fort Collins Parks and Natural Areas:  Gateway Natural Area from the turn of the 20th Century until the late 70’s, the area remained open to the public and was a hidden gem for residents of that era.  The plant was in operation until the late 1980’s when it was shuttered due to functional obsolescence and the Fort Collins Utilities opened a modern, higher capacity plant closer to town.

Through the efforts of local community organizations, grants, and citizen initiated tax dollars, over a million dollars was spent to improve access from Highway 14 (Poudre Canyon Highway), secure the old water works buildings and reopen the park to the public in 2002.  For more information click on the Fort Collins Parks and Natural Areas link.

For more information on Fort Collins and Northern Colorado, visit Northern Colorado Real Estate.

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Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Competitive Offers

Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Competitive Offers

Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Competitive Offers

If you’re buying a house in today’s turbulent market – you’ll likely be competing with other buyers for the same narrow inventory of available properties.  If you you want to actually be competitive, here are a few things to prepare for.

10.  Be prepared to act quickly!  Those who are able to act quickly to submit an offer have a substantial advantage.  These buyers have likely already lost out on a couple of other properties because they hadn’t been prepared to compete and have used valuable time to learn their lesson.  Do your home work up front:  Study this list, study the neighborhoods where you think you’d like to live.  In many cases, you’ll have just a few hours to make a decision and that seems scary.  Keep in mind that what you are trying to do with your offer is secure a position with the Seller that gives you ‘dibs’ on this property.  The only way to do that is to present an offer the Seller will sign ahead of any others he/she has received.

9.  Decide on what your “walk away” number or condition is.  As part of your ability to act quickly, you need to know what your absolute bottom line number is or what your absolute must-have features are.  There many elements to a real estate purchase, the least of which are how much you genuinely like the property.  Irrational exuberance has led many homeowners to buying houses they weren’t prepared to actually own.  Work with your agent to come up with a list of must-haves.  Work with your financial advisor to determine what your bottom line is so that if the numbers don’t work, you don’t let an emotional trigger determine whether you have over paid for a given home or not.

8.  Plan to leave a little money on the table… just not too much.  In a competitive environment all bets are off.  Historical values become merely reference points in an accelerating price range.  Full price offers and over-asking offers have become far more common in the ultra-competitive price ranges.  Seller’s may not feel obligated to provide the kinds of concessions they’ve been providing for the past few years (e.g. closing costs, transfer fees, etc).  The cleaner the deal and the easier it is for the Seller to see you’re serious about buying the property, the greater the chance they’ll pick your offer.
Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Competitive Offers
7.  Use the contract to your advantage.  Your agent should know the contract inside out.  They know the areas that spell uncertainty for the Seller.  Typically these uncertainties are the Inspection Objection, the Loan Conditions Deadline, and Insurance Objection to name a few that are specific to Colorado.  If the house is newer, consider waiving your inspection resolution and opt for a Home Warranty.  Tighten up your deadlines so the Seller doesn’t have to wait more than a week for your home inspection to be completed.  There’s been great success in acknowledging the inspection is for major mechanical, structural, plumbing and electrical consideration and you won’t be asking for a laundry list of items to be repaired or replaced.  I’ve heard of Buyers bringing along their inspectors to the initial showing of a highly desirable property and doing an impromptu inspection during the showing period.  Lastly, don’t even think about contingency offers on the sale of another home you have to sell.  Determine early on if you can swing a bridge loan or flat out qualify for your next home without having to sell your existing one.

6.  Consider providing additional earnest money.  In our market it is typical for earnest money to be approximately 1% of the purchase price.  If a Seller sees a contract with double the earnest money or more, that tells them a)you’re serious about their property and b) you’ve got liquid funds available right away.

5.  Consider putting additional money as down-payment.  Even if you qualify for a low-down-payment type of loan but you’ve got 10 percent or more you could put down as cash at closing, not only will this help your bank feel better about you as a borrower, it will help the Seller see the value of your solvency and resolve to see the contract through to closing.

4.  Speaking of banks, see a lender as early on in the process as you can – preferably BEFORE you start to look for homes you think you can buy.  Your negotiating power is directly related to how solid and confident your buying power is.  If you don’t know for sure you can qualify for the loan it will take to buy the house of your dreams, then there’s no sense negotiating on a price only to find out after the fact that you cannot afford it.  If the Seller has a preferred lender they’d like you to be pre-approved by – do it.  It doesn’t cost you anything and it is a tremendous act of good faith.

3.  Learn what an “Acceleration Clause” is.  No, this isn’t the turbo button on Santa’s Sleigh.  An acceleration clause is a clever contract writing strategy that basically tells the Seller you’re willing to pay more than any other buyer by XXX number of dollars up to a purchase price of xxx number of dollars.  Many real estate agents a) don’t know how this strategy works and/or b) don’t like to write them because it may diminish a buyer’s negotiating position.  Regardless, you should know what these are because even if you don’t want to use one for yourself, you’ll very likely be competing against a buyer and and agent who will use it.

Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Competitive Offers2.  Find a real estate agent you trust – preferably a REALTOR.  REALTORS are held to a higher standard of practice than non-realtors and typically have completed more demanding continuing education credit hours than non-realtors.  There’s no formula for trust except that as a rule, trust must be earned.  If you don’t personally know a REALTOR, ask a friend – even a Facebook, Google-Plus or Linked-in friend for a couple of recommendations.  Interview these candidates just like you would a baby-sitter or other care-giver – we’re talking your hard-earned money and equity at stake here!  Ask the REALTOR if they work as an Agent or Transaction Broker (this is a Colorado distinction and may not be applicable in your state).  An agent provides a position of advocacy that a transaction broker is precluded from providing.  In Colorado, the only way to have a real estate broker work for you as an agent is to execute an Exclusive Right to Buy – Agency agreement.  It is in your best interest to know that the person handling the negotiation of your home purchase is standing firmly and legally in your corner!!

1.  And the Number One Way to Prepare for Competitive Offers is…  Trust your agent to do his or her job.  If you’ve gone to the trouble of interviewing and hiring a respected, experienced agent, tell them everything.  The more they know about your wants and dreams and lender pre-approval and “walk away” conditions, the better they’ll be able to help you attain your goals.  They will be the ones to remind you of these critical desires if and when you end up on the Buyer Emotional Roller Coaster.  Your agent is your coach and is there to help you “get in the game” and compete at the highest levels.

NOTE:  These are simply the opinions of a 10-plus-year veteran of real estate sales and management.  This is not meant as legal advice and as such would encourage anyone to seek the advice of an attorney before making any decisions about buying real estate, signing a contract, obtaining a mortgage, or hiring a real estate broker as an agent.

 Northern Colorado Real Estate

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Greeley Colorado Homes For Sale May 2013 Market Update

Greeley Colorado Homes For Sale May 2013 Market Update

As we’ve seen in all other segments of the Northern Colorado Real Estate Market, the Greeley/Evans area has seen precipitous drops in overall housing inventory (aka ‘houses actively for sale’).  As the chart below illustrates, since 2010, the Greeley/Evans area has gone from more than 700 homes for sale in the month of April, 2010 to just over 400 in the same month of 2013.  This tightening of inventory combined with a substantial uptick in consumer demand (aka ‘buyers’) has led to quite a hot market this Spring! 

Greeley Colorado Homes For Sale May 2013 Market Update

Buyers Competing With Each Other Instead of Sellers

Another shift in market dynamics is where competition is coming from.   Qualified buyers are competing with one another for the comparatively few homes available as opposed to even just 12 months ago when buyers were competing with sellers’ asking prices by seeking closing cost concessions and inspection report items. 

Greeley Colorado Homes For Sale Total Homes Sold Graph

Median Home Prices Rising in the Greeley/Evans May 2013 Market Update

Substantial increases in sales volume as well as median home prices seems to demonstrate that the Greeley/Evans Market has cast off the previously record levels of distressed inventory stemming from the economic collapse of the sub-prime credit boom.  Median home prices in the Greeley/Evans Market has gone from $152,650 to $166,500.   This clearly demonstrates a recovery in the mid-tier housing stock.  NOTE:  The spike in home sales in April of 2010 appears due to an early round of the first-time homebuyer’s tax break incentive.

Greeley Colorado Homes For Sale Total Sales Volume Graph

Interest rates remain at historic lows which is also creating an interesting opportunity for Sellers.  With high demand in the median price points, a well-positioned seller in this market could take advantage of existing equity and use the increased buying power offered by sub-four percent 30 year fixed mortgage rates!  Currently, bankrate.com is showing 30 year fixed conventional mortgages from a national survey of lenders at 3.71% and 2.92% for a 15 year fixed mortgage.  Trends indicate that mortgage rates are ticking up slightly as the economy continues to improve.

If you would like more information on the market in Loveland, Berthoud, Greeley or Fort Collins, please contact us or visit our web-site www.buyfortcollinshomes.com

Loveland Homes For Sale May 2013 Market Update

Loveland Homes For Sale May 2013 Market Update

April 2013 sales volume in the Loveland/Berthoud real estate market nearly eclipsed last June’s high which at that point was the highest monthly sales volume in the area for the last 5 years.  With just over 54.6 million dollars in sales volume in April, the area is seeing yet another consecutive month of increased sales and activity.

Loveland Homes For Sale May 2013 Market Update

However, one of the challenges facing buyers in this market is the relative lack  of inventory.  As the chart below demonstrates, inventory levels for single family homes in the Loveland/Berthoud real estate market is moving in the opposite direction of sales volume and units.  This tightening of inventory has created much more competition among buyers who are scouring neighborhoods and the internet hoping to get a first glimpse of the next home for sale.

 

Loveland Homes For Sale May 2013 Market Update

Median Home Prices Rising in the Loveland/Berthoud May 2013 Market Update

Median home prices are moving up as well.  Since the median home price reflects the true middle of the bell curve of home prices, jumps in this indicator demonstrate a recovery in the number of homes being sold in higher price points.  This is in sharp contrast to the more widely reported “average sales price” which is easily moved up or down with fluctuating luxury property sales.  In just the last year the median price of homes sold in Loveland has gone from $235,000 to $267,515, which is $3,515 higher than Loveland’s larger neighbor to the north, Fort Collins.

Interest rates remain at historic lows which is also creating an interesting opportunity for Sellers.  With high demand in the median price points, a well-positioned seller in this market could take advantage of existing equity and use the increased buying power offered by sub-four percent 30 year fixed mortgage rates!  Currently, bankrate.com is showing 30 year fixed conventional mortgages from a national survey of lenders at 3.71% and 2.92% for a 15 year fixed mortgage.  Trends indicate that mortgage rates are ticking up slightly as the economy continues to improve.

If you would like more information on the market in Loveland or Fort Collins, please contact us or visit our web-site www.buyfortcollinshomes.com

 

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Fort Collins Colorado May 2013 Market Update

Fort Collins Colorado May 2013 Market Update

The Fort Collins market is experiencing a housing drought.  The first graph shows a comparison of the active inventory in each month over the last 7 years.  With levels far below historic averages, even a modest uptick in buyer demand creates a highly competitive purchase environment.  This may be good news for those home owners thinking about selling.  With the market responding within hours of an updated home search, Sellers are foregoing weeks of keeping a house in pristine showing quality or having to spend weekends away from the home while an agent holds an open house.

Fort Collins Colorado May 2013 Market Update

With the substantial increase in sales volume and units, especially when compared over the past 7 years, it is clear the “pent-up” demand has broken loose and more people are interested in real estate they can call their own!

Fort Collins Colorado May 2013 Market Update

What does this Fort Collins Colorado May 2013 Market Update Mean to You?

Median home prices are moving up as well.  Since the median home price reflects the true middle of the bell curve of home prices, jumps in this indicator demonstrate a recovery in the number of homes being sold in higher price points.  This is in sharp contrast to the more widely reported “average sales price” which is easily moved up or down with fluctuating luxury property sales.  In just the last year the median price of homes sold in Fort Collins has gone from $245,000 to $264,000.

Interest rates remain at historic lows which is also creating an interesting opportunity for Sellers.  With high demand in the median price points, a well-positioned seller in this market could take advantage of existing equity and use the increased buying power offered by sub-four percent 30 year fixed mortgage rates!  Currently, bankrate.com is showing 30 year fixed conventional mortgages from a national survey of lenders at 3.71% and 2.92% for a 15 year fixed mortgage.  Trends indicate that mortgage rates are ticking up slightly as the economy continues to improve. 

If you would like more information on the market in Fort Collins, please contact us or visit our web-site www.buyfortcollinshomes.com

Old Town Fort Collins Has A Great New Coffee Joint!

Old Town Fort Collins Has a Great New Coffee Joint!

There’s a great new place in Old Town Fort Collins where you can hang out, get work done, meet clients, and enjoy a wonderful cup of coffee (not to mention some tasty pastry and savory snacks).  The Crooked Cup at 147 W. Oak Street in Fort Collins, CO has all the charm and warm ambience you’d expect a coffee shop to provide – plus the baristas are amazingly friendly and happy to concoct just about any coffee combination you are likely to need!  For those of you Harry Potter devotees, The Crooked Cup offers a mug of genuine Butterbeer that Madame Rosmerta’s Three Broomsticks may not be able to rival.Crooked Cup Coffee Shop

The owner, Gabe Armstrong, is a long time Fort Collins entrepreneur.  A graduate of Colorado State’s hospitality, hotel, and business management programs, Gabe “gets” what coffee shops are for – and coffee is only part of the mix. 

There’s no doubt that the U.S. has a love affair with coffee but our love affair with cozy, comfy, and welcoming meeting places is just as strong.  As much digital dialogue as goes on in our lives, there’s still a ton of face to face connections that need to be made on a daily basis and having those connections happen at a coffee shop makes them all the more powerful.

The Crooked Cup has been open for just a couple of months and already enjoys a decent following of regulars who duck in from the street to grab a cup of joe meet a client, or just catch up on some emails.  Marilyn is the barista I see most often and welcomes me by name every time I stop in.  She knows my drink of choice (medium Cappucino, wet, in a mug), and always provides gracious attendance.  It is a place I think of as my own – and Gabe and Marilyn know that’s what builds loyalty and returning customers… a sense of place, a sense of community, a sense of ownershp, a sense of belonging.

 

Chris Hardy is a coffee lover and REALTOR/broker/owner of Elevations Real Estate in Fort Collins, Colorado
Check out Northern Colorado Real Estate information at www.buyfortcollinshomes.com

 

Northern Colorado Real Estate April Market Update!

Welcome to the Northern Colorado Real Estate April Market Update!

Spring is finally here and the market has really taken off!  In each of the 3 major communities covered in this report, all are reporting substantial gains in both number of homes sold and and median prices.

First, let’s talk about inventory.  Of all the indicators tracked in this post, this is the only one that seems to be lagging.  Inventory just hasn’t kept pace with demand which is leading to bidding wars over desirable homes certain markets.  The chart below shows a comparison of the last 6 years of inventory levels for single family dwellings in the Northern Colorado Real Estate market made up of the Fort Collins, Loveland/Berthoud, and Greeley/Weld County areas.

April Active Inventory History

 Next let’s take a look at the number of transactions that have actually sold in the last 6 years.  As you can see, the number of closed transactions has increased steadily across all four communities.  When you see an increase in transactions but a lagging inventory, demand is outstripping supply and prices are likely to go up.  The second chart shows the tightening gap between inventory coming on the market compared to inventory sold (and leaving the market).

April Homes Sold HistoryApril New Listings versus Sold Listings

Finally, this last graph shows the sales volume in April over the last 6 years.  It is evident (including the bump from the first-time homebuyer tax credit in 2010) that across all the Northern Colorado Real Estate statistical areas that units and volume are up and prices are liking edging higher with the median price of homes sold in each of these areas has seen a substantial increase year over year.  Fort Collins metro area median price for April has gone from $245,000 to $264,000.   Greeley/Evans went from $152,650 to $166,500 for the same time frame while the Loveland/Berthoud area went from $235,000 to $267,515.

April Sales Volume History

It is clear that change is afoot and for those either thinking about selling their home or buying one, now may be a good time to act.  Mortgage rates are still incredibly low and loan programs like VA and USDA provide low or no money down payment features that have never been more attractive for buyers.

Shut-Off and Shut-Out: Going Tech-Free For a Day

Shut-Off and Shut-Out:  Going Tech-Free For a Day

Shut Off and Shut Out
 

Have you considered how much of your life is defined by the technology you rely on every day?  During a recent power outage, I found out just how much mine is.

A couple of nights ago in Northern Colorado, we were gifted with a humongous spring storm that started as rain and ended with a foot and a half of snow on the ground.  Actually, snow in May is not all that uncommon here, but given that we had just had a couple of days in the 80’s – this arctic blast required a substantial shift in attitude.  What started out as a somewhat inconvenient weather event turned out to be an exercise in the re-discovery of life

We live outside of Fort Collins, CO in a canyon carved out by the Cache La Poudre river (pronounced locally as poo-der).  Living in a rural mountain area provides numerous upside features like gorgeous rocky mountain landscapes, fewer neighbors, wildlife in your front yard, and best of all, a river to fish in just across the road.  Some downsides of mountain living include the threat of forest fires, isolation from emergency services, and wildlife that can eat you (mountain lions and bears, oh my!).  We also rely on electricity to run the pump for our well so we can have running water, propane to fuel our furnace, and satellite dishes to provide internet and TV.  Being in a canyon eliminates cell coverage and so we have to use a land line for telephone service.  When all systems are “go”, it is wonderful and we absolutely love it here!

Shut Out and Shut OffHowever, when all systems are “stop” a whole new world opens up that we don’t very often have to live in.  That spring storm I was talking about snapped tree limbs and iced-up power lines which is a perfect combination for losing power.  At 3:30 a.m. our electricity went out and we were instantaneously shut out from the modern world.  No TV, no running water, no internet, no heat.  Our old fashioned touch-tone phone and line was the only communication tool to the rest of the world… and it went out at lunch time.  I thought, “Oh, this will be fun!  We can just hunker down and huddle under blankets and ‘rough-it’ for a few hours until the power comes back on.”  Hunker down we did.  Huddle under blankets – great.  But I hadn’t charged my iPad and the night before the internet had flickered and corrupted my not quite newly updated Kindle app so I couldn’t continue with the book I was right in the middle of reading.  I had to actually pull an actual book made of paper from the shelf and actually turn pages manually!! 

Not only did I find myself cut-off from the rest of the civilized world, I found myself cut-off from the minute-to-minute attention demands that being continuously plugged in provides (just to be clear, “attention demands” is a euphemism for distractions).  For the first time in more years than I care to count, I actually stared out the window and just watched it snow!  I watched the dark-eyed juncos forage all over the thistle and black-oil sunflower feeders.  I made sure the early arriving hummingbirds had fresh nectar to feed on throughout the day to keep their energy up to stave off the cold.  One of the numerous red foxes we see also stopped by looking for stray seed or more likely, a distracted bird.

Shut Off and Shut Out

I sat quietly alone with my own thoughts…. not the random, scroll-through-the-newsfeed thoughts that Facebook delivers.  I read over 100 pages of an amazing book called “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek (thankfully, it wasn’t available as an e-book).  I scratched my dog, Cache behind the ears for longer than he thought was ever possible (and he still wanted more).  Best of all, my wife and I would look up from our books from time to time and have random conversations that weren’t interrupted by texts, TV commercials, email alerts, or phone calls.  I think I already mentioned the huddled up under the blankets part? 

Eventually the fearless linemen of our rural electric co-op restored power to our section of the canyon around 7 p.m.  The furnace roared to life; our microwave oven beeped, our fridge whirred back to life with the distinctive crash of a fresh batch of ice cubes falling into the bin.  While I was relieved we wouldn’t have to see how cold our cabin would get with an expected overnight low of 15 degrees, I found myself a little disappointed that the solitude and isolation to which I had resigned myself ended as abruptly as it began.  

Another question popped into my head:  Do you think there’s an iPad app that can create 24 hour power outages and vehicle failures on demand?  I hope so…  I really, really hope so.

Paperless in a Paper Centric Biz Part II: 5 Parts to Paperless Primacy

Paperless in a Paper Centric Biz Part II:  5 Parts to Paperless Primacy

So what have I done to go paperless?  Here are the five things that have really made a huge productivity difference for me and hopefully reduced my carbon footprint:  1. Having a desktop scanner; 2.  Running a dual monitor set-up; 3.  My iPad; 4.  Using electronic storage solutions; 5.  Using Docusign in as many ways as we can imagine.

As I mentioned in one of my other blog posts about paper hoarding, one of the best solutions is to have a desktop scanner at your workstation (Click Here to read more).  The second action that has saved loads of paper is a dual monitor set-up.  I use a laptop as my primary computer and have a larger desktop monitor that I connect to my laptop when working.  I use the “extend desktop” graphics feature and can view multiple documents on both my laptop screen and the monitor (most laptops have this auxiliary video card already built-in).   paperless desktopI know this doesn’t seem like a paper-saving strategy.  However, for me, it has been both a paper-saver and a time-saver.  Having a working document up on one screen and a reference document open in another eliminates the need to print the reference document.  From a productivity standpoint I use Outlook and can have my dashboard with calendar and tasks and emails on one screen while my MLS search interface is up on the other screen.

The third item that continues to move me toward complete freedom from paper is my iPad.  I’m a chronic note taker – whether on a pre-listing appointment, at a conference, or a buyer interview, I use my iPad as the formerly ubiquitous REALTOR clipboard.  I take notes, take photos, record video all on this device.  I don’t print floor plans and elevations – I ask for the docs electronically and present them on the iPad where you can zoom, pan, and see even more of the document than if it were on a static sheet of glossy 65# cover stock.  I LOVE the Notability for iPad app.  It allows you to hand write or type notes as well as append and highlight pdf documents.  You can clip photos to your notes and email notes you’ve taken to other folks.  It isn’t a free app but the cost is so nominal compared to the value – definitely something to check out.

Fourth on the list is electronic storage.  Whether it is DropBox, iCloud, Google Drive or just an external hard drive (and some combination of the above) being paperless can’t truly be achieved unless you have some sort of well structured and redundantly backed up electronic storage solution.  I’ve not used Carbonite but they have a pretty aggressive ad campaign going right now and probably worth checking out.  That product isn’t just a storage facility but a back up for your entire computer.

Finally, no transaction can even come close to being paperless without a simple solution for clients and colleagues to affix their legitimate signatures to binding documents and contracts.  DocuSign has been our e-signature vendor of choice for over a year now and we LOVE it.  It is versatile, well-supported, and accepted by more and more institutions each month.  I look forward to the conservatreeday when the title company simply hands everyone an iPad and we all just use DocuSign Ink to ratify the closing docs and the closer hits a button and electronic copies of the executed documents fly off to all the parties who need them and every closing can save a minimum of 500 sheets of paper. 

According to the website Conservatree.com, a case of paper requires .6 trees.  For every 20 paperless closings that’s 1.2 trees.  For a modest sized title outfit doing 900 closings a year, they could either save 54 trees or (even more importantly) reduce the amount of energy expended to produce the paper and reduce our dependence on foreign oil as well as C02 emissions.

For some back story on my relationship with paper, check out part 1 of this blog series http://actvra.in/HHq

 

Paperless in a Paper Centric Biz Part I – My Relationship With Paper

Paperless in a Paper Centric Biz Part I – My Relationship With PaperKinko's Logo

 I used to work for Kinko’s (now FedEx Office).  I worked for Kinko’s back in the day when it was a hippy-dippy-dog-on-the-floor-copy-shop.  We compiled (copied) course texts for the local university and other education institutions.  We also made copies of people’s stuff – lots and lots of copies.  I tell you this because I know paper.  I know how it feels, how it smells.  I can still feel the heft of a ream of Xerox branded 20 lb, xerographic paper with an 85 brightness.  I am fondly nostalgic of those sensations just as I am fondly nostalgic of cracking open a new book purchased off the shelf of an actual bookstore. I’m really dating myself here, but remember how cool to the touch and delightfully aromatic the old ditto duplicates we used in school were? It may seem weird but I have a deep love of paper – and I think our society does, too.

Key OperatorIt used to be that when something was committed to paper, a kind of legitimacy was created.  This thought, this idea became tangible.  It moved from the realm of the abstract to the concrete and could be shared by making copies of it and then saved eternally for posterity.  It is hard to believe that I’m using the past-tense to describe a business that remains a multi-billion dollar industry.

I think one of the most common reasons people of my generation hold on to paper (yes, I’m talking primarily about baby-boomers, here) is because of this sense of possession and ownership.  I own a book.  It sits on my shelf.  I can reference it at my convenience.  Example:  I subscribed to National Geographic and would often read them cover to cover.  I kept them – for years.  Why?  This is going to sound really shallow but in some ways a bookshelf filled with NatGeo mags and my English Lit books was an outward expression of my intellectual accomplishments (almost like a diploma).  I think I was trained by my parents and grandparents to do this as books and paper and the furniture in which we stored them were some of their most valued and prized possessions.  Financial institutions and the government perpetuate this idea of legitimacy through the tradition of hard-copy record retention as a means to prove who you are and what you own and how much (or how little) taxes you owe.

So what does this have to do with going paperless?  From a psychological standpoint, I think many people identify busy-ness with paper.  The more paper on my desk, the busier I must be and the busier I look to others.  Again, the presence of paper legitimizes what I do.  I was always a bit distrustful (and slightly envious) of those who kept their desks completely free of clutter and paper.  In my mind, they didn’t have enough to do if their desks remained that neat and tidy all the time.  Thankfully, I’ve learned to get over that. 

I think it also has to do with mastering technology and trusting in elecopiesctronic and cloud-based storage systems.  My father-in-law is in his late 70’s.  He knows how to search the internet and read emails.  It took him years to learn how to create an email.  All he ever did was just reply to people who sent him emails.  When he finds things on the internet that he thinks my wife and I might find interesting…he prints them and hands them to us.  I KNOW, RIGHT?!!!!  I’ve shown him several times how he can just email us the link to the site he is referencing but he refuses to do it.  He doesn’t trust it.  Not only does he print stuff off the web for us and other family members – he prints stuff off the web for himself and files it…reams and reams and reams of paper every year.  Paperless isn’t even part of what he sees as a valuable pursuit.  The value is in the paper itself.  Although my father-in-law could be viewed as an extreme case, if you’re having trouble going paperless, I think it’s worth exploring where your own relationship with paper stems from.

If you’re interested in the steps I’ve taken to go paperless, please check out Part II of this Blog by clicking here.