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 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

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 or talk to your tax consultant.