Tuesday, December 26, 2006

COMMUNITY SPIRIT: The motto of the Manna Soup Kitchen is "In a comunity of plenty, no one should go hungry." On Christmas Day, that motto never rang so true. Nearly 300 people gathered at the ktichen on Avenida del Sol for an old fashioned holiday feast and Christmas party.

The menu included ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans, salad rolls and a myriad of desserts all donate by area restaurants, stores and individuals, said Ruthie Wilrick, the program director of the Manna Soup Kitchen. Wilrick said that an army of volunteers numbering about 70 started at 8:30 a.m. wrapping presents, setting up tables and cooking food, getting it all finished in time to open the doors to the public at 11:30 a.m.

Manna's Board President Jim Heasley said that Monday's feast was just a high profile example of what goes on every day at the kitchen. "It's a total ourpouring of the community - small townism at its best," he said. "We provide everyone who wants one a meal, every day of the year. And you don't have to be homeless; you just have to be hungry."

Durango, it's a special place to live. Call us if we assist with your Durango real estate needs. To explore more of Durango visit http://www.HomesInDurango.com and http://DurangoRealEstate.biz.

Friday, December 22, 2006

SNOW: Snowfalls like that which hit our area earlier this week create all kinds of problems for rural drivers and homeowners, but nothing like those encountered by the county workers whose job it is to keep the roads clear.

There are more than 600 miles of La Plata County roads to plow, so officials with the county's Road and Bridge Department have to make decisions about which roads get plowed and how often. As the road maintenance superintendent for the county, Doyle Villers is usually the man with the final say.

Villers said the county has indentified county roads 240 (Florida Road), 501, 141 (Wildcat Canyon Road), and 310/318 as the main arterials that receive top priority during winter storms. Those roads are paved and sanded as often as conditions dictate by the county's 10 large dump/plow trucks, whose drivers work 12 hour split shifts to clear roads 24 hours a day, often covering a combined 1,500 miles during a given storm.

After the main roads are addressed, Villers said motor graders attack the gravel roads that are the access to many rural subdivisions. Lower volume roads, in general, are not plowed until major roads have been cleared.

Villers said the road crews' task is to clear snow from the center line of a road to the side, and that often can affect cars, mailboxes and driveways that are in the path of the snowplows. The right of way on these roads is 30 feet from the center line, and the county is not responsible for any damage to objects inside that right of way. The county recommends that residents never park in the right of way when snow is expected.

As we have seen this week from the storm that hit the front range, keeping the roads clear can sometimes be a very difficult task. We are very lucky to have not only dedicated, hard working county road crews but also the CDOT crews that maintain our highways. Thanks guys!


Sunday, December 17, 2006

RECIPE FOR A MERRY CHRISTMAS: Take the crisp cold of a December night, add two generous parts of snow, stir in air so clear it tinkles. Into a generous heart, mix the wonder of a little girl, the sparkle of a young boy's glance, the love of parents, and set gently before the chimney side. Add the lightest touch of a reindeer's hooves, a sprig of holly, a scent of fir. Set the mixture to rise in the warmth of a dream of good will to men. It will be almost ready to serve when it bubbles with warmth and good feeling. Bedeck with the light of a star in the East, garnish with shining balls of gold, silver and red. Serve to the tune of an ancient carol in the middle of the family table. This recipe is sufficient for all the men and women your will ever meet.

Mary and I wish all of you the best in this holiday season. May the joy and peace of Christmas be yours.

Monday, December 11, 2006

PURGATORY: Discriminating customers may be on the horizon for Durango Mountain Resort. Purgatory has been selected as one of the top 20 resorts in North America in the December 2006 edition of Conde' Nast Traveler.

The list was selected by readers who were invited to evaluate 104 North American ski resorts that they had visited in the past three years, and rank the resorts on terrain and conditions, lifts and lines, town ambience, dining and apres ski/activities. Only resorts that received a required minimum number of responses were eligible for inclusion in the rankings.

Purgatory received the 20th spot on the list, receiving an overall score of 64.3. Terrain and conditions were the highest ranked area for the resort with a score of 71.9, with town ambience close behind with 71.0 and lifts and lines rounding out the top three with a score of 68.8

For more information about Durango real estate visit http://www.HomesInDurango.com and http://www.DurangoRealEstate.biz. Check out the Mountain CAM at Purgatory.
HOW MUCH HOME CAN YOU AFFORD? There are two ways to determine how much you can afford to spend on a home. You can calculate a general estimate for what you may be able to afford, or you can work with your banker, lender or realtor to be preapproved for a specific loan amount. Here, you can make two estimates to help you investigate home buying, check out the homes you can afford and plan for down payment.

You should be preapproved for a loan when you are serious about home buying. Being preapproved tells you exactly what you can afford and helps to speed up the buying process. It establishes stricter (or sometimes more generous) limits on what homes you should be looking at.

Estimate 1: Calculate the total home cost you can afford.

To calculate the total home cost you may be able to afford, multiply your gross annual income by 3.5.

For example:

$50,000 X 3.5 = $175,000.
$75,000 X 3.5 = $262,500.
$100,000 X 3.5 = $350,000.

This is a rough calculation of the amount you might qualify for, assuming a 20 percent down payment and that you do not have a lot of debt.

Estimate 2: Calculate the monthly mortgage payment you can afford

To calculate the monthly mortgage payment you may be able to afford, multiply your gross monthly income by 0.38 and subtract your current monthly debt payments. Debt payments include student loans, car payments, credit card and other credit payments.

For example:

Gross monthly income is $4,000 ($48,000. divided by 12)
Monthly debt: $750.
$4,000 X .38 = $1,520
$1,520 - $750. = a mortgage payment of $770

The .38 ratio is used when you can make a 20 percent downpayment on your home. With a downpayment below 20 percent of the purchase price, reduce the ratio to .33. As you can see, the amount of debt you have can greatly reduce the maximum monthly payment you may qualify for. In addition to saving for a monthly payment and closing costs, you may also need to reduce debt. (As a general rule, you should pay down debts before saving for a down payment. This strategy will also dramatically reduce your total interest costs.)

We recommend visiting with one of our local loan officers to determine precisely how much you can afford and which loan program best works for you. Give us call. We'll be glad to give you names and numbers.

More information can be found at http://www.HomesInDurango.com and http://DurangoRealEstate.biz

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

HOME PRICES: According to the Colorado Association of Realtors Colorado home prices have come down .7 percent in the third quarter from a year ago, however they are still higher than 2004. Home sales have dropped two straight years when comparing the single-family unity sold in the 3rd quarters of 2004 (6.5%) and 2005 (17.2%). However Lawrence Yun, senior forecast economist for the National Association of Realtors, says there are brighter day ahead saying elevated inventories will be worked off over the next two quarters, wages are rising at better than 4 percent and jobs continue to be created and with home prices falling, the demand will inevitably pick up. Yun predicts the low point will be the fourth quarter of this year. "Sales will then steadily climb and with it will come strengthening home prices. In summary, the housing slump is nearly over."

Durango has fared much better than the rest of the state. The number of 3rd quarter home sales is down 20.9% compared to 2005 but our median price has increased a whopping 32.0%.

Durango real estate - please call (800) 834-8445 if we can help or visit http://www.HomesInDurango.com or http://www.DurangoRealEstate.biz.

Friday, December 01, 2006

CONSERVATION: Private U.S. landowners have set aside land comparable in acreage to the state of Georgia for conservation purposes.

A new tally of U.S. private land conservation efforts finds a boom in the number of smaller, local land trusts, particularly in the West, seeking to compensate for the 2 million acres of farms, forests and open spaces developed nationally each year.

Nature areas, wildlife habitat, open spaces, waterways, wetlands and other lands conserved through private means rose to 37 million acres - roughly the size of Georgia - from 24 million acres conserved as of 2000, the Land Trust Alliance said Thursday.

http://www.HomesInDurango.com and http://DurangoRealEstate.biz -Your Durango real estate information source.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

TEXAS: We've just returned from our annual pilgrimage to Texas to see the grandbabies. The only positive thing about the trip (other than the grandkids) is it serves as a reminder that our Durango area is truly a special place to live.

The first morning we stepped out of the hotel with the pups, all you could smell was automobile exhaust. We were reminded that the haze that lay over the city was not fog, it was pollution. Cars and people, people and cars - and everywhere, lots of noise.

Happiness is Texas in the rear view mirror. On the return trip home, as we dropped down into Bloomfield, the snow capped La Platas let us know we were home and the tensions began to ease. We were welcomed by a beautiful blanket of snow.

Durango, you're special. See why at http://www.HomesInDurango.com and http://www.DurangoRealEstate.biz.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

WILDLIFE: According to a recently released insurance survey, collisions between automobiles and deer is an increasing problem on U.S. roads. Deer related car crashes, including wrecks involving elk and moose, are up almost six percent compared to last year's deer season.

Deer collisions become more frequent during the fall and winter due to animal migration and the mating season, which typically occur from October through December.

About 1.5 million deer/elk vehicle collisions happen each year in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those accidents cause about 150 deaths and $1.1 billion in property damage annually, according to NHTSA.

In Colorado, the Highway 160 corridor from Mancos to Pagosa Springs leads the state in the number of animal related crashes. Also, as the elk leave the high country and settle into the Animas Valley for the winter, automobile/elk collisions increase significantly. Increasing deer and elk populations together with continued encroachment into their natural habitat have added to the risk.

Drivers should slow down and use high-beam headlights as much as possible and be aware that deer and elk travel in groups. Where there is one, there are probably others close behind. "Deer whistles," devices that attach to the vehicles' front bumper have been shown to be ineffective. The best prevention is to use a little "common sense" when on the road.


Friday, November 10, 2006

PRICING: One of the more difficult things in working with a homeowner in the marketing of their property is arriving a proper offering price for the home. It's hard, and sometimes impossible, for the owner of a home to emotionally detached him or herself from the years of memories, personal experiences and, often, just lots of hard work that they put into the property.

There are many, many reasons why homes are put on the market. We see homeowners downsizing after the children are grown. Medical conditions sometimes place individuals in situations where the sale is a must. Selling a home to retrieve equity to supplement retirement is also common.

One thing is true in every situation. The amount of money needed for retirement, medical expenses and the like has no bearing on the value of the home. A homeowner who insists on pricing the home based on current or future financial needs rather than true market value is only worsening the situation.

It's our job, as professional brokers, to assist the homeowner in analyzing current market conditions, reviewing comparable sales and determining the highest and best price for placing the home on the market.

Our clients have found our websites http://www.HomesInDurango.com and http://www.DurangoRealEstate.biz to be very beneficial in keeping up with the Durango real estate market.

Monday, November 06, 2006

DAAR: The Durango Area Association of Realtors donated $40,000 to seven non-profits, a $10,000 increase from 2005. The organizations receiving funding included; La Plata County Community Development Corporation, Southwest Center for Independence, Habitat for Humanity, Volunteers of America-Durango Community Shelter, Mercy Housing Colorado, Housing Solutions for the Southwest and Colorado Housing, Inc.

This money will help with new building projects as well as supporting low-cost rental units and helping families in need of emergency housing.

The Colorado Association of Realtors Housing Opportunity Foundation donated $639,000 this year to various housing organizations across the state. Grants ranging from $385 to $100,000 were distributed to 85 agencies, and the funding will support homeless programs, crisis shelters, construction of affordable housing, down-payment assistance and more.

It feels good to be involved in an industry that not only recognizes the needs of the communities we serve but is also willing to contribute both time and assets to those in who need assistance.

To learn more about Durango and our wonderful area you are invited to visit http://HomesInDurango.com and http://www.DurangoRealEstate.biz.

Friday, November 03, 2006

MORE STATS: Of the homes sold in the 3rd quarter the average number of days the properties were on the market were:

In Durango - 132, in Bayfield - 139, in Ignacio - 56 and 130 in the county.

Follow the Durango real estate market at http://www.HomesInDurango.com and http://www.DurangoRealEstate.biz.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

MORE ON PRICES: According to numbers released yesterday by the Durango Area Association of Realtors, Durango home prices are up 11 percent compared with a year ago, but home sales have fallen 39 percent.

The median price of a Durango home was $436,050 in the third quarter - up $44,050 from the same period in 2005. But only 43 homes sold in the third quarter compared with 70 a year ago.

Durango's newest median price is $12,000 lower that last guarter's record high of $448,000. The median price of a Bayfield home in the third quarter was $306,000 - up 13 percent from a year ago. But home sales dropped 57 percent - from 23 to 10.

It's important to understand that "Median Price" is the point where the number of sales below that point equals the number of sales above that point. "Median Price" is not an average price.
But it is good indicator of economic trends. If more higher price homes sell, the median price will go up and vice versa.

We are seeing an increase in buyer activity in the properties priced below the current median. If the trend continues, our median price will drift downward. In our opinion, moving towards a more balanced market bodes well for the Durango real estate economy.

Daily traffic is increasing on both of our websites http://HomesInDurango.com and http://www.DurangoRealEstate.biz

Friday, October 27, 2006

NEW HOME PRICES: The Commerce Department reported that the median price for a new home sold in September declined by 9.7 percent from September, 2005 providing evidence of the slow down in the once booming housing market.

It is important to recognize that, here in Durango, we do not have the mega tract builders; Pulte, DR Horton and the like. In major markets these huge corporate builders create large inventories of product. When sales begin to slow, price adjustments and sales incentives reflect a downward turn in pricing. The resale market cannot compete with new home purchase incentives offered by builders. As a consequence, the housing market, overall, becomes depressed until inventories are depleted.

Locally, our inventory of new spec homes is relatively small with the majority being in the Bayfield developments of Dove Ranch, Mesa Heights, Sunrise Estates and Forest Lakes. Our builders are, by and large, sole proprietors who are active in the actual construction process. The product they produce is generally high quality with more of a custom look and feel. While our market has slowed due to the problems in the major housing markets, it doesn't look our prices are coming down measurably.

Learn more about Durango real estate at http://www.HomesInDurango.com and http://DurangoRealEstate.biz

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

CONSERVATION EASEMENTS: A conservation easement (or conservation restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.

When you donate a conservation easement to a land trust, you give up some of the rights associated with the land. For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, while retaining the right to grow crops. Future owners also will be bound by the easement's terms. The land trust is responsible for making sure the easement's terms are followed.

Conservation easements offer great flexibility. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, while one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property, and need not require public access.

A landowner sometimes sells a conservation easement, but usually easements are donated. If the donation benefits the public by permanently protecting important conservation resources and meets other federal tax code requirements it can qualify as a tax-deductible charitable donation. The amount of the donation is the difference between the land's value with the easement and its value without the easement. Placing an easement on your property may or may not result in property tax savings.

Perhaps most important, a conservation easement can be essential for passing land on to the next generation. By removing the land's development potential, the easement lowers its market value, which in turn lowers estate tax. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in the heirs' ability to keep the land intact.

The Colorado Legislature is once again revising the state income tax credit for conservation easements to correct inconsistencies with federal law, and to remove the temptation to use the credit in ways for which it was not intended. The credit, and the ability to covert it to cash by transfer or refund, have made land protection attractive and affordable for landowners at all income levels. Resident taxpayers and nonresident landowners who are members of Colorado pass through entities may claim the credit. However, the provision of the current law that allows an easement donor to claim a credit of 100% of the first $100,000 in easement value has raised the question of whether some easement donors have "donative intent," (which is necessary to qualify for both the federal income tax deduction and the state tax credit.) The same provision has led some landowners to structure a series of easement gifts in order to take maximum advantage of the credit. This practice, while not illegal, has resulted in smaller conservation easements that are harder for a land trust to justify. House Bill 1354, to take effect in January of 2007, eliminates the "100% of the first $100,000" provision, and also clarifies who may claim the credit. It changes the formula for calculating the credit to a simple 50% of the value of a donated conservation easement, and it raises the credit cap from $260,000 to $375,000.

Source: La Plata Open Space Conservancy - 2005 Annual Report.


Monday, October 23, 2006

BOULDERS: The developer of Boulders at Escalante, the 37 unit townhome development behind Home Depot is facing legal troubles.

In April, the developer ordered the contractor, Kurt Geary, to stop construction, apparently over financial issues.

Geary is now suing the developer for breach of contract and failing to make proper payments for labor and services. In the lawsuit, Geary alleges that he entered into a contract with the owner in May 2004 for services to be performed, and that the contract has not been fulfilled. Before the term of the contract was completed, Geary was order to stop work in April 2006.

The developer agreed to include four attainable units required by the City of Durango, but have since made a formal request to the city seeking exemption for building those units. The city has issued 10 certificates of occupancy at Boulders out of a total of 37 planned units.

Our experience with Boulders at Escalante has not been good. Last year one of our clients submitted an offer on a unit under construction. We attempted for weeks to obtain a response from the developer. No response, none. Our client finally gave up and purchased another property. In retrospect, given the current happenings, we're glad he did.

Keep track of real estate happenings at www.HomesInDurango.com and www.DurangoRealEstate.biz.
100 YEARS AGO: From the Herald - "A considerable movement in Animas City real estate is imminent. The Herald has information from reliable sources that several large transfers of lots will be made in the near future ... and it would not be surprising if quite a boom were to result."


Saturday, October 21, 2006

SKI SEASON IS HERE: Wolf Creek Ski Area will hold what is believed to be its earliest opening ever - by one day - on Friday. At least 57 inches of snow have fallen since September.

That's a week earlier than the area's projected November 3 opening.

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort has set a Thanksgiving day opening date and Telluride Ski Area has set Wednesday, November 22 as its official opening.

At Wolf Creek all facilities - ski school, rental and sports shops, Wolf Pup Building, Wolf Creek Lodge and the Pathfinder Bar are ready for the opening day. Forest Service Road 391 is groomed for cross-country skiing from the end of Alberta parking lot to Alberta Lake dam. Wolf Creek is celebrating its 30th year of free cross-country skiing.

View our Purgatory mountain cam at www.HomesInDurango.com
100 YEARS AGO: This advertisement appeared for The Local Security Co. "A bargain - Two fine building lots (corner) on Fourth Avenue for $400 if sold quick"

My, how things change. Keep up to date on Durango real estate at http://HomesInDurango.com and http://DurangoRealEstate.biz.

Friday, October 20, 2006

FINANCING: Likely the largest debt you'll ever take on is a loan to finance the purchase of your home. Your home is collateral for the loan, which is also a legal contract you sign to promise that you'll pay the debt, with interest and other costs, typically over 15 to 30 years. This contract is called a mortgage. It is usually in the form of a Deed of Trust. If you don't pay the debt, the lender has the right to take back the property and sell it to cover the debt. To repay the debt, you make monthly installments or payments that typically include the principal, interest, taxes and insurance, together known as PITI.

PRINCIPAL -- The principal is simply the sum of money you borrowed to buy your home. The amount financed is determined by the purchase price less the amount of cash, called a down payment. The larger the down payment the smaller the amount financed, hence the lower the interest expense over the life of the loan.

INTEREST -- Usually expressed as a percentage called the interest rate, interest is what the lender charges you to use the money you borrowed. As well as the given rate, the lender could also charge you points, and additional loan costs. Each point is one percent of the financed amount and, and some cases, can be financed along with the principal. Principal and interest comprise the bulk of your monthly payments in a process called amortization, which reduces your debt over a fixed period of time. With amortization, your monthly payments are largely interest during the early years and principal later. In addition to your principal and interest, your mortgage payment could include money that's deposited in an escrow or trust account to pay certain taxes and insurance. Generally, if your down payment is less than 20 percent, your lender considers your loan riskier than those with larger down payments. To offset that risk, the lender sets up the escrow account to collect those additional expenses, which are rolled into your monthly mortgage payment.

TAXES -- The taxes are property taxes your community levies based on a percentage of the value of your home. The tax is generally used to help finance the cost of running your community, say to build schools, roads, infrastructure and other needs. You must pay property taxes even if you don't need an escrow account and even after your mortgage is paid off.

INSURANCE -- Lenders won't let you close the deal on your home purchase if you don't have home insurance, which covers your home and your personal property against losses from fire, theft, bad weather and other causes. Even if you pay cash for your home, you should buy home insurance unless you can afford to repair or rebuild your home if it's damaged or destroyed. If your home is in a federally designated high flood risk zone within a flood plain and you are signing for a federally insured loan, federal law mandates that you must buy flood insurance. If you are not in a high flood risk zone, you still may buy the coverage. If you put less than 20 percent down on your home purchase, most lenders will also charge you private mortgage insurance (PMI) premiums. The coverage doesn't protect you, it protects the lender from you defaulting on the mortgage. Without the coverage, many buyers could not otherwise afford to buy a home. Effective for loans written on or after July 29, 1999, lenders must automatically cancel PMI when your mortgage balance shrinks to 78 percent of the home's original purchase price.

Give us a call or email if you have any questions or need further information. We're here to help.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

POPULATION: 300,000,000 people in the United States; that's 299,955,000 that don't live here in Mayberry, I mean Durango. We have 45,000 people spread out over La Plata County. With our slow pace lifestyle, clean air, no traffic jams and low crime rate, it's no wonder the rest of the country wishes they could be here. But then, where would we put 300,000,000 people?


Monday, October 16, 2006

HOUSE HUNTING TIPS: 1. Location counts. You've probably heard the old real estate joke about "location, location, location," but the point still bears repeating. Location is crucial. How far are you really willing to commute to your place of employment? How good are the local schools, shopping centers, public transportation, seniors services and other public amenities? Will your new home be next to a vacant lot or a commercial property? Even a picture-perfect dream home can be a mistake if it's in an undesirable location, and a poor-location home can be a particularly bad choice if you anticipate reselling the home within a few years.

2. Make a list. Do you (and your spouse, if you're married) really know what you need and want in your home? You'll save yourself many hours of shopping (and potentially arguing) if you make a list ahead of time. Zero in on the features you must have, would like to have, definitely don't want and would prefer not to have. Your goal is to find the right home for your family without falling in love with one that doesn't suit your needs. Tip: Start compiling your wish list by thinking about what you like and dislike about your current home.

3. Do your homework. Not long ago, consumers had very little access to information about recent home sales prices, market trends, homes on the market, neighborhood statistics and the home-buying process. Today, all this information and more is available on the Web. Go surfing. Get educated. Become empowered.

4. Get preapproved for a mortgage. Your top-dollar home price is a function of your household income, your creditworthiness, interest rates, the type of loan you select and how much ready cash you have for the down payment and closing costs, among other factors. Rather than guessing or estimating how much you can afford to spend, ask a lender or mortgage broker to give you a full assessment and a letter stating how much you're qualified to borrow. The true amount may be much more or much less than you think.

5. Use a checklist. Touring multiple homes is a confusing experience for most people. Rather than relying on memory, make notes about the homes you visit. Turn your priorities into a personalized home-shopping checklist and use it track the features of each home.

6. Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes. House-hunting can be tiring, especially if you're relocating from a distant community and not accustomed to our altitude. There's no sense in torturing your feet unnecessarily.

7. Be prepared to make an offer. House-hunting can also be frustrating, especially if you know in your heart you're not really emotionally or financially ready to buy a home. If you're not ready, don't put yourself through the exercise. If you are ready, go through a blank purchase contract ahead of time so you'll know what decisions you'll face when you make an offer. We'll be happy to furnish you one.

8. Relax. Granted, buying a home is a major life-altering event. But it's not worth making yourself insanely crazy or super-duper stressed. Save time at the end of your house-hunting expedition to unwind, calm your thoughts and emotions and keep the whole experience in perspective.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

PREAPROVALS: Few people can buy a home for cash. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), nearly nine out of 10 buyers finance their purchase, which means that virtually all buyers -- especially first-time purchasers -- require a loan.

The real issue with real estate financing is not getting a loan (virtually anyone willing to pay lofty interest rates can find a mortgage). Instead, the idea is to get the loan that's right for you -- the mortgage with the lowest cost and best terms.

We routinely suggest that our clients start the mortgage process well before making an offer on a home. By meeting with lenders -- either online or face to face -- and looking at loan options, they will find which programs best meet their needs and how much they can afford.

We also recommend preapprovals for another reason: The Colorado Contract To Buy and Sell Real Estate form requires buyers to apply for financing within a given time period, in many cases, seven to 10 days. By meeting with loan officers in advance and identifying mortgage programs, our clients avoid having to quickly find a lender, check credit, and rush into a financing decision that may not be the best option.

What is it? "Preapproval" means you have met with a loan officer, your credit files have been reviewed and the loan officer believes you can readily qualify for a given loan amount with one or more specific mortgage programs. Based on this information, the lender will provide a preapproval letter, which shows your borrowing power. You can visit as many lenders as you like and get several preapprovals, but keep in mind that each one carries with it a new credit check, which will show up on future credit reports.

Although not a final loan commitment, the preapproval letter can be shown to listing brokers when making an offer on a home. It demonstrates your financial strength and shows that you have the ability to go through with a purchase. This information is important to owners since they do not want to accept an offer that is likely to fail because financing cannot be obtained.

How do you get preapproval? Real estate financing is available from numerous sources. Based on our experience, we recommend our clients work with local Durango lenders who offer competitive programs and deliver promised rates and terms. We have several we highly recommend.

The lender will carefully review your financial situation, including your credit report and other information. They then will suggest programs which most-closely meet your needs. For instance, a first-time buyer may need to finance as much of the purchase price as possible, while a repeat purchaser (someone who has bought a home before) with more equity (money invested in the home) might want to get a 15-year loan and the lower overall interest costs it represents. Typically, first-time buyers opt for the traditional 30-year loan, with either a floating interest rate or a fixed rate of interest over the life of the loan. In most situations we prefer our clients select a fixed rate loan.

If we can assist you in locating a local lender, give us a call or email. We'll be glad to help.

Monday, October 09, 2006

NEW INDUSTRIAL PARK COMING: County commissioners have unanimously approved the conceptual development plan for a new industrial park on about 220 acres of land, adjacent to and northwest of the Durango-La Plata County Airport.

Bobby Lieb, representing the Durango Chamber of Commerce and the applicant Durango Commercial Development LLC, was excited about the outcome and now plans to put specifics into the project. "We want to respect Commissioner (Wally) White's wishes and make the area aesthetically pleasing," Lieb said. "We want to design a place where people will want to work." White said he is concerned because the property, which is along the Florida River, potentially could be a scenic corridor.

Lieb said the bonuses of the location are that it is centralized in the county, consistent with the airport master plan, and it will provide Bayfield and Ignacio residents with jobs. "We are at a shortage of commercial space in the county, primarily at Bodo (Industrial) Park and the Durango Tech Center," Lieb said. While the recently approved gravel operation will start before the business park, at some point they hope to operate the two concurrently. Construction on the gravel pit will begin within the next couple months, said Lieb.

Several people from the public commented on the importance of the project. "This reminds me of the initial development of Bodo Park in the '70s," said Doug Shand, a founding member of the Durango Industrial Development Foundation, which created Bodo. "This project definitely parallels that." Commissioners also were positive about the impact of the future park.

It is good for the community to have more live and industrial commercial space," Commissioner Sheryl Ayers said. "I agree entirely with the fact that we need it."


Sunday, October 08, 2006

ARE YOU READY TO BUY? Do You Know What You Want? Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or entering the marketplace as a repeat buyer, you need to ask why you want to buy. Are you planning to move to a new community due to a lifestyle change or is buying an option and not a requirement? What would you like in terms of real estate that you do not now have? Do you have a purchasing timeframe?

Whatever your answers, the more you know about the real estate marketplace, the more likely you are to effectively define your goals. As an interesting exercise, it can be worthwhile to look at the questions above and to then discuss them us. It will help us understand how we can best help you.

Do You Have The Money? Homes and financing are closely intertwined. (Financing is the difference between the purchase price and the downpayment, commonly referred to as debt or the mortgage.) The good news is that over the years new and innovative loan programs have evolved which require only a 5 to 10 percent down payment. In addition to a down payment, you also need cash for closing costs (the final costs associated with closing the loan).

Keep in mind that the less you put down the higher your monthly mortgage payments will be. So most homebuyers choose to buy with some cash up front.

Is Your Financial House in Order? To obtain the best financing you need good credit plus fanancial stability. For at least one year prior to purchasing a home, you should ensure that every credit card bill, rent check, car payment and other debt is paid in full and on time.

Just getting started? Give us a call. We will be glad to answer any questions.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

CLOSING COSTS: Bankrate, Inc. last month released its 2006 National Closing Cost Survey results. Their findings showed New York State ($3,887) has the highest mortgage closing costs in the country, while Colorado ranked 23rd with an average closing cost of $2,988.

The survey provides a comparision of lender, title and settlement fees in 51 geographic locations, which includes cities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each state listing includes their current ranking, compared to their 2005 position, a detailed breakdown of average closing fees for that state, and a printable worksheet for consumers to compare average costs to their lender fees.

To view the survey, go to www.bankrate.com/closing.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

VALUES: House prices, slumping after a five year boom, are projected to decline in half of the nation's metropolitan areas, with the Northeast, Florida and California among the areas hardest hit. This forecast is made by Moody'sEconomy.com, a private research firm. Moody's projects that the median sales price for an existing home will decline in 2007 by 3.6%, which would be the first decline for an entire year since the 1930's.

The report projects that 133 of the nation's 279 metropolitan areas would sustain price declines. This is quite a contrast from the last five years when low mortgage rates pushed sales to five consecutive annual records and prices in the hottest sales areas skyrocketed.

How does this affect our Durango market? As we've previously posted, much of our real estate economy is driven by 2nd home buyers, retirees and/or investors; a significant percentage coming from California, Arizona, Florida and Las Vegas. The areas have already experienced sales volume and price declines. As these markets slow and turn down the number of potential buyers of Durango properties will decline. Our market will slow (as we're already seeing.) Will our home prices decline? We think not significantly but we certainly will not see the value escalations as in recent years.

Look back at our October 2 post. Many consumers are migrating from the metropolitan areas to smaller communities and Durango is America's #3 "dreamtown."

http://HomesInDurango.com / http://DurangoRealEstate.biz

Monday, October 02, 2006

DREAMTOWNS: Seven of the 10 small cities that offer the best quality of life are in western states, according to a Bizjournal.com study that identifies American "dreamtowns."

Bizjournals' study was inspired by the heavy public interest in small-town life and business opportunities. More than 1.7 million people move from metropolitan areas to small cities or rural counties each year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau research.

The study identifies the small communities that would be most attractive to people considering such a move. The highest scores go to well-rounded places with strong economies, light traffic, moderate costs of living, first-class educational systems, and good access to big-city attractions.

The study group was the nation's 577 micropolitan areas, which are defined as regions that are economically dependent on central cities with 10,000 to 50,000 residents. All Metropolitan areas were specifically excluded from the report.

Our Durango is the #3 ranked "dreamtown" in the nation. It's hard to believe that Bozeman, Mont. and Jackson, Wyo. came in ahead of Durango. Bozeman is too cold and Jackson too crowded. Then again, 3 out of 577 isn't so bad. Maybe that's why Durango is called the "Hidden Gem" of the San Juans.

You can be a part of this spectacular area. Give us a call or email us. We're here to help. Visit our websites http://HomesInDurango.com and http://DurangoRealEstate.biz for more information on Durango real estate.

Friday, September 29, 2006

MOVE OVER SAN FRANCISCO: If someone were to ask you which Colorado downtown has as many restaurants per capita as San Francisco, your mind would probably flash to Aspen, Boulder, Vail, or, more likely Denver. But you would be wrong. It's Durango.

According to The Denver Post's Wednesday Food Section San Francisco has a restaurant for about every 180 residents; Durango has about 160 per resident. The Post devoted 4 pages, yes we said 4 pages, to covering several Durango establishments. Featured were Chez-Grand-mere, Ken & Sue's, Gazpacho, Seasons, Sushitarian, Mahogany Grill and the Durango Diner. Also the Cyprus Cafe and Jean-Pierre's Bakery and Cafe were critiqued.

While The Post did a terrific job in exposing the culinary side of Durango, they missed a few of our favorites:

** Patio dining at Olde Timers or Carver's Brewing Co.

** Randy's (best prime rib in town)

** Ariano's (wonderful Italian)

** The Palace (try the Chicken & Dumplings)

** Farquarhrts (where to locals go)

** Tequila's (the name says it all)

** Steamworks (have a brew and the cajun boil)

It looks like, in addition to skiing, hiking, fishing, camping, rafting, golfing, etc., we can now add another Durango favorite pastime - Eating!

For detailed information on our area visit http://HomesInDurango.com or http://DurangoRealEstate.biz

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Take a look at www.DontItYourself.com. This website is put up by the Orlando Board of Realtors and offers a humorous look at the troubles people get into doing things for themselves. It's very clever. For instance:


#10 Heart Transplant

#9 Build Your Own Swimming Pool

#8 Defend Yourself In Court

#7 Asbestos Removal

#6 Hair Plugs

#5 Septic Tank Cleaning

#4 Root Canal

#3 Lasik Surgery

#2 Cremation

And the #1 thing you should never do on your own.


This is a fun site and it's not all about real estate.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

ENERGY REBATES: La Plata Electric Association customers who join the co-op's renewable energy generation program can do their pocketbook as well as the environment a favor. Eight residential customers of the co-op has qualified for a rebate for installing a renewable energy generation system since January 1, when the program began. LPEA pays $2 per watt of capacity for a photovolatic, wind or hydroelectric system. This is a rebate not a grant.

Customers who install renewable energy can win four ways financially. Based on a typical 2,000 watt capacity system, which costs around $20,000, they could earn:

1. The LPEA one-time rebate of $2,000 ($2 per watt of capacity up to $1,000 watts.)

2. A $2,000 tax credit from the federal government. The federal residential tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of the system, not to exceed $2,000.

3. A $5,000 rebate from Xcel Energy, which is buying unlimited renewable energy credits to meet state voter approved goals regarding alternative energy sources. (This program expires October 1 but might be renewed.)

4. If a homeowner's system produces more electricity than the family consumes, the electric meter spins backward. At the end of the year, if a customer's electrical generation outstrips use, the customer gets a check from LPEA. In the net-metering program, as it's called, the customer is selling the power back to LPEA.

An alternative energy system can be installed by the consumer or by a certified professional. Because the system must meet state electrical codes and the protocols of the LPEA we strongly recommend hiring a professional to install your system.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

OPEN SPACE: Durango has been singled out as one of the bright spots in conservation efforts to keep open space beyond the reach of development.

In a report released last Monday, the Colorado Conservation Trust cites approval by Durango voters last year of a half-cent sales tax, half of which is to be spent on open space, parks and trails. The levy is expected to raise $6.2 million annually for conservation purposes.

The report on conservation activities last year also noted the acquisition by Durango of the 177 acre Jacobs Cliffs property on Animas Mountain that is to become Dalla Mountain Park after
the owner of the land.

It feels good to live in and be a part of a community where the citizens care about maintaining the beauty that surrounds us. Thank you Durango!

http://HomesInDurango.com / http://DurangoRealEstate.biz

Monday, September 18, 2006

IT'S AUTUMN IN THE ROCKIES: This photo was taken Sunday from Little Molas lake north of Durango. There's snow in the high country and the fall colors are beginning to show. Winter is on the way. Now is the time to prepare for what we hope is a spectacular snow season. Here is a fall fire safety checklist for homeowners:

** Clean roof and gutters of pine needles and leaves to eliminate an ignition source for potential fires.

** Fall is the best time to trim branches when trees are dormant.

** Clean the inside of the chimney and clean branches away from the exterior chimney stack.

** Stack firewood away from the house. Locate firewood uphill at least 15 feet from the home. Do not stack firewood under the deck!

** Remove unhealthy vegetation. Trees and shrubs that are stressed, diseased, dead or dying should be removed so that they do not become a fuel source for potential fires.

** Choose surrounding vegetation wisely. Maintain a greenbelt (irrigated if possible) immediately around the home using grass, a flower garden, and/or fire-resistant ornamental shrubbery. An alternative is rock or other non-combustible material, which may be preferable if the house is made of wood or other flammable materials. Avoid using bark or wood chip mulch in this area.

** Make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.

Let's have a safe winter season and think "SNOW."


Friday, September 15, 2006

MARRIED / UNMARRIED: Marriage comes with financial benefits, a fact sometimes best recognized by couples who don't or can't get married. Unmarried couples who buy property need extra protections. Marriage allows couples tax-free transfer of property and gifts, as well as some inheritance rights without a will. Same-sex couples who can't officially wed or heterosexual couples who are unwilling to, need to put extra protections into place when buying or sharing a property.

Several states are now offering rights for unmarried couples, while others are taking them away. So local laws need to be carefully considered when choosing a home ownership structure. Colorado is one of the latest states to propose that same-sex partners receive the same state rights as married couples. A vote is scheduled for November.

It's important to note that, even if Colorado permits the forming of a domestic partnership, these laws will be new and not necessarily recognized by the federal government. This makes joint ownership and financial planning more complicated. That's why it's best to work through these issues with an attorney and a financial planner. Unmarried couples need to decide how to title their home, or how to structure ownership, because different structures have different consequences.

Many unmarried couples choose the "joint tenants with rights of survivorship" structure, which allows for an automatic and probate free transfer to a surviving partner. For married couples, who can transfer assets to each other tax free, this structure makes sense. Estate taxes aren't owed until the second party dies. Unmarried couples, however, run the risk of being taxed twice.

For unmarried couples, many attorneys say that"tenancy-in-common," when coupled with a revocable living trust, is a more flexible way to title one's home. This structure allows partners to own unequal interest in the property, but there's no automatic transfer after one dies unless it's designated by the living trust. A properly funded trust, in which assets are titled in the trust, is a hassle-free way to leave property to a partner because you avoid probate.

This information is not to be considered legal advice. We are merely pointing out the need to be cautious in acquiring real property. Everyone, especially unmarried couples, should consult with their attorney to determine their best course of action. Call or email us if we can be of assistance.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

FRONTIER: Bobby Lieb, executive directive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday that Durango is among the cities being considered by Frontier Airlines for expanded service from Denver. Lieb's report was to a meeting of the La Plata Economic Development Action Partnership.

Frontier Airlines, which now carries 20 percent of Denver International Airport traffic, previously announced that it is acquiring 10 of the fuel efficient Bombardier Q400 model high wing turboprops to launch Frontier Express next July. Speculation has been that Frontier would use some of the planes to serve some of the state's mountain towns. Lieb's report was the first putting Durango in the mix. We hope he's correct.

Additional flights in and out of Durango obviously will make it easier for travelers to arrange and make connections to other parts of the country. Plus, with the high wing Bombardier the view of the trip over the front range will be even more spectacular. We'll keep you posted.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

THE WORD IS OUT! Durango is the darling of the glossies this year. Fresh on the heels of being named the nation's top mountain biking mecca by Outside magazine, our fair city is again in the headlines. In its September issue, National Geographic Adventure tapped Durango as one of its top "Amazing Adventure Towns."

The write up reads, "For multisport adventurers seeking a home that has it all, Durango feels like the center of everything. Head uphill and you're in the Rockies, hiking, skiing, and ice climbing in legendary alpine terrain. Hit the lowlands and you're in the Southwest, with year-round access to mountain biking, Anasazi ruins, and slot canyons. Hang around town and you'll discover Main Street's Wild West character and a thriving community euphoric about life in America's premier outdoor hub."

In a curious move, National Geographic then goes on to plug the Southern Ute Indian Tribe's Three Springs development, noting that it could be an opportunity for would-be "Amazing Adventurers" to break into the market. "The project means more affordable housing in a market brimming with $500,000 homes; it also means even tighter competition for jobs in the service oriented economy.

The magazine named a total of 31 adventure towns with Durango topping the list of "Great Outdoor Meccas." Those of us lucky enough to be living in this Colorado paradise know that National Geographic is "right on." If your not here but want to be, give us a call. We can answer all your questions about Durango.

Learn more about our area at http://HomesInDurango.com and http://DurangoRealEstate.biz.
WATER FACTS: Approximately 66% of the annual water flows from the Colorado watershed occurs during the late spring/early summer runoff. These water flows cannot be fully utilized by Colorado agriculture, communities and residents unless they are stored in reservoirs. Vallecito, Lemon, McPhee and Jackson Gulch Reservoirs store spring water flows from the San Juan and Dolores watersheds for year-round beneficial use in southwestern Colorado. Only 3% of the annual water flow occurs during the winter months of December, January and February. Without water storage in southwestern Colorado, there would not be stable water supplies for our agriculture, communities and residents during either the low-flow inter months or the dryer late summer months.

Colorado Water Table
& Water Terms

One acre foot of water equals...

~ An acre of land covered with one foot of water
~ 325,900 gallons of water
~ Enough water to supply a family of five for one year

One cubic foot per second (cfs) equals...

~448 gallons of water per minute
~1,983 acre feet (af) of water in twenty-four hours of water flow
~ 646,320 gallons of water in twenty-four hours of water flow

One million gallons of water per day (mgd) equals...

~ 3.07 acre feet (af) in one day
~ 1,120 acre feet (af) in one year

As we earlier posted, water allocation is normally controlled by ditch companies and measured in cubic feet per second (cfs.) The amount of water represented by one share in the ditch company can vary from company to company. A buyer should to be thorough in their due diligence when purchasing irrigated property to be certain there is enough water for their needs. That's where we can help. If you have questions or would like additional information about Durango real estate, give us a call or email.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

WATER RIGHTS: We find that one of the most confusing things for newcomers to our area to grasp is Colorado water law. Since the 1860s, The Colorado Doctrine has defined the four essential principles of Colorado water law: 1. All surface and ground water in Colorado is a public resource for benefical use by publicagencies and private persons. 2. A water right is a right to use a portion of the public's water resources. 3. Water rights owners may build facilities on the lands of others to divert, extract or movewater from a stream or aquifer to its place of use. 4. Water rights owners may use streams or aquifers for the transportaion and storage of water. Practical application of The Colorado Doctrine means that water can be moved from where it is found to where it is needed based upon a priority system of "first in time, first in right." People, with water rights, who live along the river usually have diversions from the river to their lands. Away from the river, landowners are dependent upon irrigation ditches to deliver their water. The irrigation ditches are mutually-owned non-profit corporations established to deliver water to owners. Each ditch company has a board of directors, a secretary to handle the office business, and a ditch rider who controls the actual water flow. Operations are based on the by-laws of each ditch company and by Colorado corporate law. We'll discuss more water facts and issues in future postings. In the meantime, if you have questions or would like additional information about Durango real estate please give us a call or email.

**This is a re-post from April, 2006. Water issues are so important in our area we want to keep these topics current and easy to find.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

WINTER'S COMING: Everyone who pays a heating bill is looking for ways to same money. Electric Thermal Storage Heat (ETS) may be the answer. Here are some of the most common questions and answers about EST heat.

What is an ETS heater? ETS heaters are 100-percent efficient units designed to use off peak electricity to provide heat for less that half price of regular residential rates.

How do ETS heaters work? During off-peak hours, the ETS unit's heating elements covert electricity to heat, which is stored in high-density ceramic bricks. The bricks are surrounded by high efficiency insulation that allows them to hold heat for long periods. A fan evenly and quietly distributes the heat to you home 24 hours a day. Built-in thermostats allow you to easily maintain a desired temperature.

How may ETS heaters are required for a home? ETS heaters come in many sizes, from individual room units to whole home furnaces. This allows great flexibility in heating everything from a small room to the whole house or even a workshop. Cost and the number of heaters needed depends on many factors; size of the home, amount of insulation, number of windows, etc. A representative from the local electrical supplier can measure the home, factor in all the variables and make recommendations.

Most electrical suppliers offer economic incentives promoting the use of this energy saving device. For example, in our area, La Plata Electric offers a rebate of $40 per kilowatt. For a 40 kilowatt furnace, this is a substantial rebate.

Be certain to use a qualified electrician when installing a ETS unit. A list of local electricians trained in installing ETS heaters can usually be obtained from the electric supplier.

Mary and I hope this information is beneficial to you. Let us know if we can be of assistance.

http://HomesInDurango.com / http://DurangoRealEstate.biz

Saturday, September 02, 2006

WHO REPRESENTS YOU? One of the hot topics facing the real estate world right now is the issue of agency. Some would have you believe that it really doesn't affect you, the buyer, and that not much has really changed. They are wrong!

The question of agency is important to you as a buyer because it it answers the most basic and fundamental question that you can ask a real estate professional: Who do you represent in this transaction?

Until that question is answered, you may be left with the impression that all agents who work with buyers actually represent those buyers, and that you have someone going to bat for you in your transaction. Bad assumption.

Lets say you meet a really nice agent, Joe, and share with him what you're looking for and spend several hours on a Saturday afternoon looking at properties. During your conversation you volunteer that you have $250,000 to spend and not a penny more. You find the "perfect" house listed for $250,000 but decide to submit an offer of $225,000. During negotiations, the seller's broker asks Joe how much cash you have and how high are you willing go. Guess what, Joe has that information.

Now, in Colorado unless you have a signed "Buyer Representation Agreement" with Joe making him your Buyer Broker, Joe is most likely acting as a Transaction Broker and has no fiduciary obligation to you. Joe, if he chooses, can disclose the financial information you've given him to the other parties seriously affecting your negotiating position. As your Buyer Broker, Joe cannot disclose any confidential information and must remain your advocate at all times. Which position, as a buyer, do you prefer?

Make sure the agent you are working with has agreed, in writing, to represent you as a "Buyers Broker." We have a specimen of Colorado's Buyer Representation on our website HomesInDurango.com. Click on "Buying a Home." If you have any questions or need further information give us a call or email. We're here to help you.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

E-PRO: When you're on the Internet, you don't have time to waste on endless searches for useful real estate information. Most people want to get things done quickly and without hassle. They appreciate dealing with an agent that:

** Answers e-mail promptly and professionally;

** Respects their on-line privacy;

** Offers home listings and other Internet tools to help find or market a home.

The solution - Select an e-Pro.

As an e-PRO I have successfully completed the e-PRO training program for real estate professionals. This program, endorsed by the National Association of Realtors, teaches real estate practitioners the nuts and bolts of working with real estate on-line: Web sites, e-mail, on-line tools, and most of all, what today's consumer really wants.

What does all this mean to you? There are several benefits in working with a certified Internet professional.

MORE PRIVACY - Are you reluctant to give our contact information through the Web for fear of being pestered or spammed. e-PROs understand. We've learned the Web isn't just a place to do business; you need information from someone you can trust.

That's why e-PROs respect your privacy. We respond quickly to your questions, but don't send you unwanted communication. And we protect your personal information.

LESS HASSLE - Tired of struggling to find information? e-PROs are more likely to have access to the latest Internet utilities, making your real estate life easier. For example:

** On-line Virtual Tours;

** Comprehensive neighborhood data;

** Extensive property listings and access to the entire MLS system;

** Immediate e-mail notification of just-listed homes meeting your criteria;

** Maintaining this Real Estate Blog keeping relevant Durango real estate information at your fingertips.

The result; you get more information, more easily. With electronic files you have less paperwork to deal with.

LESS EXPENSE - Our access to advanced technology can save your considerable expense. We have more tools to market your home, so you're likely to get a better price. With on-line tours you reduce in-person showings and the costs involved.

Relocating? Our tools allow you to research electronically, you can narrow your search to specific properties before you even arrive in town. Save on travel and search time.

Mary & I would like to offer you our assistance in meeting your real estate needs. Give us a call or e-mail. And remember - it pays to use an e-PRO!


Saturday, August 26, 2006

TAXES: What's the difference between death and taxes? Death doesn't change every time Congress meets. But taxes certainly did in 1997, and the Taxpayer Relief Act of that year made a dramatic difference in the tax liability of those who sell their own homes. As it stands today, almost no one will owe any federal tax on profit made from the sale of a principal residence (defined by the IRS simply as the place you live most of the time.) To qualify, you must have owned and occupied the house as your main home for at least two of the five years before you sell. And that's about it..It won't matter how old you are when you sell. It won't matter if you once used the old one-time $125,000 over-55 exclusion. It won't matter whether you buy a replacement home or not. It won't even matter if you've used this new exclusion on another main home in the past, as long as it was more than two years before the current sale. A single owner can take up to $250,000 gain free of any federal tax ever. A married couple filing jointly can take up to $500,000. Even if only one of them owns the property, the full $500,000 is available if the non-owner spouse occupied the property for the required two years. The exclusion can include postponed profit on previous homes, rolled over under the old pre-1997 rules. This new tax break can be used over again on the sale of another principal residence, as often as every two years. You can even use part of the exclusion if you were in the house less than the full two years, if your move is required by one of three reasons: job transfer, health reasons, or some other unforeseen circumstance acceptable to the IRS. So few home sales will require federal tax payments these days that in most cases your sale won't even be reported to the IRS by the person in charge of the closing.

If you would like more information or have questions about Durango real estate, call or send us an email. We're here to help.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

CNNMoney.com: National home sales slumped more than expected in July, according to a trade group reading that showed the biggest supply of homes for sale in 13 years, coupled with weak prices. The National Association of Realtors reported that the pace of existing home sales was the slowest since January 2004. The glut of homes on the market has cooled off if not killed the white-hot home price gains of a year ago.

Locally, the Colorado Association of Realtors reported that home prices in La Plata County declined by 6% in the 1st quarter this year. While we don't expect drastic value reductions, there is no doubt that prices are softening as Sellers adjust to current market realities. On the positive side, the softer pricing outlook will bring more buyers into the market that many had found unaffordable. Plus, with the rapid escalation in values that we have seen in the Durango marketplace in recent years, our Sellers are not losing money.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

TREES & GARDENING: Gamble Oak, Ponderosa Pine, Juniper and Pinion are some of the most common native trees in our area. Aspen trees occur naturally in the cooler, moist terrain of altitudes above 7,400 feet. Fir and spruce trees also thrive in the life zone and higher.

The many orchards of apple, peach and apricot trees throughout the county reflect Durango's history as a produce supplier for Silverton's miners. New varieties of trees are currently being planted and harvested in La Plata County. Although trees are beautiful and essential for wildlife, they may be a danger in the event of a wildfire. A clear open space between buildings and the surrounding vegetation provides a defensible perimeter when fighting a wildfire. Staff from the Colorado State Forest Service at (970) 247-4355 are available to consult with individual homeowners regarding forest stewardship and defensible space.

The State Forest Service can also provide recommendations for clearing an area of unwanted vegetation and information on ensuring the health and vigor of our forest. This includes advice on treating deceased trees, bard beetle, spruce budworm and dwarf mistletoe, which are among the more common diseases.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

BEARS: New to the area? Take a quick look at your new surroundings. If you have oak brush habitat surrounding your new home, a fairly common occurrence in the area, you may at some point be visited by one of our most curious, adaptable and intelligent residents - the black bear.

Black bears tend to frequent the Durango area when they come out of hibernation in the spring and in early August as they start packing on fat for their winter hibernation. Although they're here for their natural foods such as berries, oak acorns, plants, vegetation and the like they've also found that we humans provide them with a food bounty of our own - be it bird seed, fruit, pet food, barbecue grill scraps and trash.

Normally shy and secretive in the wild, bears have an amazing sense of smell and have learned to associate humans and their homes with food. Sadly, people unwittingly feeding bears NEVER ends well for the bears. Bears that pose a human safety risk or cause property damage in their attempts to get food are captured and moved away. If the same bear causes problems anywhere else after being relocated it is humanely destroyed by wildlife officers. Bumper stickers seen around town proclaiming "Garbage Kills Bears" are all too true.

Don't attract bears to your property through your carelessness with trash and other attractions. Safely store trash during the week and put it out the morning of pickup only. Take down bird feeders when bears are around or make them absolutely inaccessible to bears. Securely store or remove anything else that may attract bears to your home.

The responsibility of coexisting with bears lies with all of us that have chosen to live in bear habitat. Be part of the solution and be considerate of the welfare of our bears and your neighbors.

If Mary and I can answer questions or provide more information give us a call or email. We'll be happy to assist you.


Monday, August 14, 2006

FICO SCORES AND YOU: A FICO score is a credit score developed by Fair Isaac & Co. Credit scoring is a method of determining the likelihood that credit users will pay their bills. Fair, Isaac began its pioneering work with credit scoring in the late 1950s and, since then, scoring has become widely accepted by lenders as a reliable means of credit evaluation. A credit score attempts to condense a borrowers credit history into a single number. Fair, Isaac & Co. and the credit bureaus do not reveal how these scores are computed. The Federal Trade Commission has ruled this to be acceptable.

Credit scores are calculated by using scoring models and mathematical tables that assign points for different pieces of information which best predict future credit performance. Developing these models involves studying how thousands, even millions, of people have used credit. Score-model developers find predictive factors in the data that have proven to indicate future credit performance. Models can be developed from different sources of data. Credit-bureau models are developed from information in consumer credit-bureau reports.

Credit scores analyze a borrower's credit history considering numerous factors such as:

**Late payments
**The amount of time credit has been established
**The amount of credit used versus the amount of credit available
**Length of time at present residence
**Employment history
**Negative credit information such as bankruptcies, charge-offs, collections, etc.

There are really three FICO scores computed by data provided by each of the three bureaus––Experian, Trans Union and Equifax. Some lenders use one of these three scores, while other lenders may use the middle score.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How can I increase my score? While it is difficult to increase your score over the short run, here are some tips to increase your score over a period of time.

**Pay your bills on time. Late payments and collections can have a serious impact on your score.

**Do not apply for credit frequently. Having a large number of inquiries on your credit report can worsen your score.

**Reduce your credit-card balances. If you are "maxed" out on your credit cards, this will affect your credit score negatively.

**If you have limited credit, obtain additional credit. Not having sufficient credit can negatively impact your score.

What if there is an error on my credit report? If you see an error on your report, report it to the credit bureau. The three major bureaus in the U.S., Equifax (1-800-685-1111), Trans Union (1-800-916-8800) and Experian (1-888-397-3742) all have procedures for correcting information promptly. Alternatively, your mortgage company may help you correct this problem as well.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

DRIVER'S LICENSE: For our new residents, first of all WELCOME! Getting a driver's license: you must carry out within 30 days of becoming a resident. If you have resided in Colorado for 60 days, you are automatically considered a resident. Also, if you have purchased a home or business, have accepted employment or have registered to vote you are a resident.

The cost of a normal license is $15.60. For a motorcycle license it will cost a dollar more. For a commercial license it's $25.60 if you are only switching over from another state. A new commercial license is more.

New residents must apply for a Colorado title and registration for their vehicle immediately upon establishing Colorado residency. Application should be made in the County Motor Vehicle Office. In La Plata County the office is located in the Office Depot shopping center at 305 South Camino Del Rio. The following documents are required:

1. Your out of state title or current out of state registration.

2. A vehicle identification verification form (DR2087) completed by a law enforcement officer, a licensed Colorado motor vehicle dealer or a licensed Colorado emissions testing station.

3. A current and accurate odometer reading.

4. Proof of vehicle insurance coverage (insurance card, copy of insurance policy or letter from insurance company on the company's letterhead.)

5. If a lien exists on an out of state title, the lien holders name and address must be provided if not shown on the out of state registration.

Once you arrive at the county Motor Vehicle office, you will need to pay the title and registration fees. For out of state vehicles the car must have a VIN inspection. This can be done on the Motor Vehicle Registration. Your Colorado registration will be mailed to you if there are no liens filed against the vehicle. If there is a lien, the title will be mailed to the lien holder. Please allow 4 to 6 weeks for delivery.

The cost of getting plates and tags is determined by several different factors which include:

1. The kind of vehicle it is.

2. The weight of the vehicle.

3. How much you paid for the vehicle.

4. Where you bought the vehicle and how long ago.

For more information visit www.revenue.state.co.us/mv_dir/wrap.asp?incl=dlolist


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

2ND HOMES: A recent study of 2nd home owners in the area suggests that many may one day become permanent residents.

The study, funded by a Southwest Colorado quasi-governmental group, found that the owners of 17 percent of single family dwellings and 55 percent of condominiums in La Plata County have mailing addresses outside the county. In the study 3,300 of the 3,600 second-home owners were mailed surveys. Eighty-five percent were returned.

The survey examined second-home owners plans for their properties and their feelings about their communities. Two results from the survey were particularly interesting.

First, many second-home owners hope one day to become permanent county residents. A slight majority said they would like to become full time residents or said they would like to retire in their second homes.

Second, 69 percent of second homes stand empty when their owners are away. The study suggests that most of the 31 percent that are rented out part time or full time are condominiums located near Durango Mountain Resort.

According to the survey results for La Plata County, the largest segment of second-home owners is in the 55 to 64 age group, and a large majority are couples with children no longer at home. Sixty percent of second-homeowners made more than $100,000 per year, though one-fifth made between $50,000 and 74,999 per year. While 45 percent are retirees, 46 percent are employed full time and 12 percent are self-employed.

We can't think of a better place to enjoy a second home than here in the beautiful San Juans. Give us a call or email. We'll help you find just what your looking for.


Friday, August 04, 2006

ENERGY TAX CREDITS: Energy is a hot topic these days. Everyone is concerned about how much we're using, how much we need, how our future demands are going to be met and how much is it going to cost. Energy, particularly electricity, is a vital part of our lives. It fuels our economy. Our businesses are tied to its being reliably available. We depend on it for light and air-conditioning and to run our homes. We are constantly using more. In fact, the amount of energy Americans use doubles about every 20 years, according to Alliant Energy.

The electric industry is working to expand the amount of power produced to meet this growing demand. But simply increasing energy supplies is not all that needs to be done. We need to find ways to use less energy.

With that in mind, Congress included a variety of tax credits in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) signed by President Bush on August 8, 2005. These credits offer individuals and businesses incentives to invest in energy-efficient appliances, products and vehicles. The tax credits became effective January 1, 2006, and most will remain in effect through 2007.

Here are some of the new tax credits as they apply to real estate:

The law provides for a one-time tax credit for up to $500 in total for installing efficient new windows, insulation, doors, roofs and heating and cooling equipment in your home. That $500 cap can be reached in several ways, with 10 percent of the cost of exterior windows, insulation, doors and roofs being allowed. Up to $300 for the purchase and installation of an efficient air conditioner, heat pump, or water heater may also be included, as can up to $150 toward the purchase of an efficient furnace.

Improvements must be installed in or on the taxpayer's principal residence in the United States. Home improvement tax credits apply to improvements made between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2007.

It is important to know that each one of these credits comes with specific requirements. But, by following the guidelines, you as an individual consumer can save significant money, save some energy and improve your home.

For more information on the EPAct tax credits, visit www.energy.gov/taxbreaks.htm or talk to your tax consultant.


Monday, July 31, 2006

FLOOD INSURANCE: What is a Flood? Flood insurance covers direct physical loss caused by "flood." In simple terms, a flood is an excess of water on land that is normally dry. Here's the official definition used by the National Flood Insurance Program:

A flood is "A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or two or more properties (at least one of which is your property) from:

** Overflow of inland or tidal waters;

** Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source;

** Mudflow*, or

** Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above."

* Mudflow is defined as "A river of liquid and flowing mud on the surface of normally dry land areas, as when earth is carried by a current of water..."

Who Must Maintain Flood Insurance?

Anyone who purchases a home in a designated 100 year flood plain AND borrows money from a Federally Insured Lender using the property as collateral must furnish evidence of flood insurance to the lender.

Also, as many of our friends and neighbors found out after the Missionary Ridge and Valley fires in 2002, flood insurance is vital in offsetting losses incurred as a result of the mud slides experienced thereafter.

We encourage anyone living and a designated flood plain or mud slide prone area to investigate flood insurance. It can be purchased through your local insurance agent and is underwritten by the national Flood Insurance Program, a Division of FEMA.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

CONSERVANCY: Everyone in Southwest Colorado owes his or her livelihood and well-being, either directly or indirectly, to our rich and diverse open lands. Few residents would be prospering today if there were no farms and ranches, no wildlife, no scenic open space and no tourist economy. It is vital that we work together to preserve our remaining open lands.

We all know that our population will continue to grow. The challenge, for all of us, is to accept and channel growth in a healthy way. The La Plata Open Space Conservancy guides growth by working in partnership with private landowners to protect our most productive and most beautiful lands from development, by means of donated conservation easements. This kind of land conservation costs the taxpayers nothing for land acquisition and management, but it provides enormous public benefits. Additionally, landowners who donate conservation easements may claim tax benefits that they can often use within the community. Land conservation is good business and it's good for business. (Sounds crazy coming from a Realtor, right?)

Last year twenty landowners partnered with La Plata Open Space to protect productive farms and ranches, wildlife habitat, scenic open space, archaeological sites, watershed and public recreation using conservation easements. Thanks to their gifts, these lands will not change next month, next year, or ever. They will continue to provide the myriad of benefits that make ours a healthy and beautiful community. These donations will inspire new conservation projects that will cumulatively benefit the community even more. Last year's donations raised the number of La Plata Open Space's protected properties to 146 totaling 17,375 acres.

Private land conservation isn't free, however and La Plata Open Space needs your help. Their operations are funded primarily by individual membership contributions, event proceeds and occasionally small grants. To be a part of this worthwhile movement send donations to:

La Plata Open Space Conservancy
P.O. Box 1651
Durango, CO 81302


Thursday, July 27, 2006

DURANGO: Yesterday we talked about the slow down in the national real estate market. In today's Durango Herald the Durango Area Association of Realtors released their second quarter statistics. The number of homes sold in Durango is down 40% from the same period last. The number of homes sold in Bayfield increased slightly reflecting the lower cost of housing in Bayfield.

The median home price in Durango continues to increase. But again, we believe, as the market cools and properties sit longer and longer sellers will adjust to be competitive. This is not all bad. It's hard to justify much less sustain a 20% to 25% increase in housing cost year after year. Sometimes the market just needs to take a breather.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

IT'S OFFICIAL: The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says we are now in a buyer's market in housing as a soaring supply of homes for sale means nearly flat prices and longer waits for sellers. The news came in the NAR's report for June, which showed that home sales fell to the slowest pace since January while price gains were the smallest in over a decade.

We noted in a previous post that sales in our area were slowing down with homes and land sitting on the market for longer periods. While we haven't seen a major reduction in pricing, it is only a matter of time until sellers recognize they need to be more competitive in their pricing given the rise in housing inventories should this trend continue.

While this may be a tough pill for sellers to swallow, it should be good news for those shopping for a home. We have recently seen many individuals squeezed out of our market due to the rapid price increases over the last 2- 3 years. That could be changing!


Friday, July 21, 2006

BP: It is BP's policy to seek a Surface Use Agreement (SUA) with affected landowners for all new wells. In La Plata County, the company plans to drill new 80 acre infill wells from existing wellpads wherever possible. This modern approach to resource development will help keep impacts from BP's operations on neighbors to a minimum.

As part of this new approach, BP will offer owners of properties on which an 80 acre infill well is to be drilled a one-time, cash payment as part of the surface use agreement.

For the approximately 150 remaining 160 acre wells that BP has identified as suitable for development, the company will seek an agreement with the landowner that offers a one-time cash payment that is two and a half times larger than the cash offer for an 80 acre well on an existing wellpad. In developing a new 160 acre well, BP will most likely have to construct a new wellpad, access road and service pipelines.

Typically, such new wellpads disturb an area of about four-fifths of an acre. The company will discuss with the landowner possible locations for the wellpad taking into account factors such a ground contours and ongoing agricultural activities.

BP's landowner payment and surface use agreement are part of a process that is transparent and consistent for all landowners. In the event BP and the landowner are unable to reach an agreement, BP may find it necessary to seek a permit to drill through the state's regulatory process. In such cases, BP will still offer a cash payment, smaller than the original offer, to the landowner as a show of good faith.


Monday, July 17, 2006

GROWTH & TRAFFIC: As our area grows so does our traffic problems. As a result, expect to see more roundabouts on our streets in the Durango area. Several of these circular traffic-calming devices are planned to be installed in the near future.

Later this summer or in early fall, a roundabout will direct traffic at Goeglein Gulch Road and Fort Lewis Drive. One was installed recently near Mercy Regional Medical Center and two more are planned there. And a roundabout has been proposed in Bayfield where U.S. Highway 160B and CR 521 (Buck Highway) intersect.

Roundabouts are generally installed to slow traffic but not stop it and provide for a greater capacity that traffic signals. They reduce collisions by slowing drivers and eliminating some conflicting traffic, such as lift hand turns.

Still, all that being said, they're annoying!