Friday, December 28, 2007

WESTWARD HO': did a piece on "Why the West is Booming" commenting on an issue we've seen first hand for several years.

Demographers say thousands of Baby Boomers are saying 'no thanks' to the warmth of Florida and Arizona and heading to the Rocky Mountain West.

They're drawn by low crime, fresh air, little traffic and abundant outdoor activities. Although people of all ages like these things, older people tend to be flexible enough in their careers, families and finances to finally kick up their boots on the porch rail.

A significant percentage of our clients are 55+. Southwest Colorado in general and Durango in particular have exactly what they are looking for. Four fantastic seasons, brilliant blue skies, clean air and lots of friendly people.

Monday, December 24, 2007

CHRISTMAS: It's Christmas Eve. A full moon is rising over the San Juans creating almost daylight conditions reflecting off the pristine snow - a white Christmas.

Mary and I, together with Max and Maggie, wish each of you a wonderful holiday season full of joy and peace. We look forward to serving you in 2008.

Friday, December 21, 2007

HOME SALES: According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) existing home sales are in an upward trend that should carry into 2008. Their Pending Homes Sales Index is up slightly - with two months of consecutive gains in homes under contract nationally.

Prices are also on the increase in nearly two-thirds of U.S. metro areas, and not just in certain area of the Sunbelt. Prices are up in Gary, Indiana, Binghampton, New York, and Spokane, Washington as well as Corpus Christi, Texas.

Our website activity remains strong and we are constantly receiving inquiries from individuals seeking information about Durango and our real estate. People want to live here and as home sales improve around the country our real estate economy will only get stronger.

If you are considering buying real estate in the Durango area - now is the time!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

FICO: J.R. Spies with The Mortgage Link has provided this information about FICO scoring:

It is important to note that raising your FICO credit score is a bit like losing weight. It takes time and there is no quick fix. In fact, quick fix efforts can backfire. The best advise is to manage credit responsible over time.

What's in your credit score:

35% = Payment History
30% = Amounts Owed
15% = Length of Credit
10% = New Credit
10% = Types of Credit Used

* Pay our bills on time
* Keep Credit Balances at less than 30%
* Don't Close out your accounts
* Get New Credit if you don't have any
* Don't get new credit if you are new to credit
* Keep at least 3 to 4 active accounts
* Have a good credit mix (Mortgage, Auto, Installment, Revolving)

The importance of any factor depends on the overall information in your credit report.


Pay your credit on TIME! Recent late on $200 credit card is much worse than a $3,000 collection paid 3 years ago.

It is better to have some five accounts at less than 30% balance than to have 1 account at 100% balance.

It is better to have 5 credit cards with 50% balances than to have no accounts at all.

It is better to have recent inquiries and new accounts than to have no credit at all.

It is better to keep the credit you have and slowly add new accounts than to radically add 4 or 5 new accounts. New accounts will lower your average account age.

The FICO scores read types of credit and give a higher weight to the more important type of credit - Mortgage, Auto, Installment and Revolving.

Monday, December 10, 2007

MAGIC: Saturday a large herd of elk, I counted 80 - 90 animals, spent the day lounging in the #8 fairway along Trimble Lane. Every car slowed to view these magnificent animals but no one stopped to alarm them even though they were only 50 feet from the road.

Later in the day, about 7:00, I was on the deck grilling hamburgers. A light snow was falling, mulit-colored Christmas lights lined the deck railing and ice cycles hung from the roof. In the distance you could hear the elk moving. Cooing, chirping and squealing (elk are very vocal) the entire herd slowly meandered closely past. In the dark their eyes sparkled, reflecting the Christmas lights like fireflies in a eerie procession. Then they were gone and left was the muffled silence of a snow fall.

Special animals, special times, magical memories- why we live in the beautiful San Juans.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A $3 MILLION CONDO? In Breckenridge One Ski Hill Place, a 90 unit development at the base of Peak 8, is about to raise the bar for luxury.

The first 15 of the 90 units will be released December 8 with the asking price of the first four penthouses of $2.67 million. The price per square foot will range from $963 to $1,385.

We were in Breckenridge last August and with all due respect to the fine citizens of Breckenridge - ARE YOU NUTS?

Breckenridge is crowded, over built and bumper to bumper traffic. Plus, the Ski Area Citizen's Coalition in its annual environmental scorecard gave the ski area an "F."

Our little corner of Colorado may not have the glitz of the Aspens, Steamboats, Snowmasses and Breckenridges but we wouldn't trade our little western town and open spaces for any of them.

Monday, December 03, 2007

HEY DUDE! Thanks to a prolonged snowstorm that dumped almost 3 feet of wonderful white powder Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort was able to open Sunday with its annual benefit day. Upwards of 3,000 skiers and snowboarders packed the area with this year's proceeds going to the Durango Winter Sports Foundation and Durango Nature Studies.

Lifts 1 and 2 are running and most of the front side is open, nearly 100 acres. Purgatory hopes the back side will be open next week. We love the back side and can't wait until its open.

Meanwhile, here in the valley, the sun is shining, the sky is brilliant blue, temps in the low 40's. Life is good in the beautiful San Juans.

Friday, November 30, 2007

SNOW REPORT FROM DMR!!! If you haven't heard, Purgatory is about to get a ton of snow! The forecast is calling for 19-33 inches before the weekend is done. We are anxiously awaiting the storm and will determine opening day based on the accumulation today and tomorrow. If the snow piles up, as it is predicted to, we are hoping to get the lifts turning on Sunday, December 2nd with the 15th annual Benefit Day. Please keep checking our website or call our Snow Report at 970-247-9000 ext 1 for daily updates. The storm is moving into the area right now and light snowflakes have begun to fall at the resort. Today we are expecting 3-5 inches of accumulation. The bulk of the storm is expected to land tonight and tomorrow with 10-15 inches possible tonight and another 6-12 inches predicted through Saturday night. There is also a slight chance of snow on Sunday. Keep doing your snow dance and watch the accumulation pile up!

Friday, November 16, 2007

BUILT GREEN: The Durango area's biggest development received one of Colorado's top honors recently.

Tierra Vision Homes was presented with the "Built Green Builder of the Year" award at the annual Home Builders Meeting in Denver for its work at the Three Springs Development. Tierra Vision Homes is a subsidiary of the Tierra Group, a Southern Ute company, which is behind the 2000-plus unit development east of Durango in Grandview.

When complete, Three Springs will be comprised of five neighborhoods networked into each other and will contain upwards of 2,000 homes and a mix of commercial development. The project is centered around the new Mercy Regional Medical Center.

Congratulations guys!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

PURGATORY: Durango Mountain Resort got some big press this month. Ski Magazine selected Purgatory as one of the "Seven Great Mountains to Ski With Your Kids" in the November 2007 issue. One of only two resorts selected from Colorado, Purgatory was hailed for its "rolling steps that are roller coaster fun, but never intimidating."

The resort was pinpointed as being a great location for kids because of the family-friendly atmosphere of both the resort and the town of Durango. "With the one-two combo of town and resort, families find great skiing, comfortable digs ans an authentically Western experience," wrote the magazine. Ski also cited Mesa Verde and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad as excellent side vacations for families.

Purgatory is scheduled to begin the 2007-08 winter season December 1 with the 15th annual Benefit Day. The day features $15 lift tickets with all proceeds going to Durango Nature Studies and the Durango Winter Sports Foundation.

Purgatory's Benefit Day as raised more than $200,000 for local non-profit organizations in La Plata County since 1993. Previous benefactors include Trails 2000, Durango Discovery Museum and the Durango Arts Center.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: The Regional Housing Alliance of La Plata County has renewed its intergovernmental agreement it the Durango City Council, but the accord did not come without controversy.

Three years ago, the RHA signed agreements with La Plata County, Durango and Ignacio. Beginning in 2008, the agreements must be renewed annually. At Tuesday's council meeting the RHA asked councilors to renew the agreement as the Board of County Commissioners and Ignacio Town Board had done in recent weeks.

The City Council's vote, however, was not unanimous. Councilor Leigh Meigs voted against renewal of the agreement. She said she is disappointed in the progress of affordable housing efforts and the lack of guidance in creating a policy and an ordinance for affordable housing in the community.

Let's see -- we have an anti-growth Board of County Commissioners with its new land use code and plus an anti-growth City Council both extolling the need for affordable housing. It all sounds like political bull-hockey to me.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

EMPLOYMENT: The national unemployment rate for the month of September 2007 was 4.7 percent, which is up .1 percent from the month of August.

The State unemployment for the month of August, 2007 was 3.6 percent, which is down .2 percent from the month of July. This rate is 1.1 percent lower than the national average.

La Plata County boasts an unemployment rate for the month of August 2007 of 2.6 percent, which is down .1 percent from the month of July. This rate is 2.1 percent lower than the national average and 1 percent lower than the state average.

Our economy is strong, the real estate market remains good. If your thinking about a move to Durango, now is a terrific time. Give us call!

Friday, November 02, 2007

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: City councilors and developers hope the Three Springs development in Grandview will be a model for a future affordable housing policy in Durango.

To comply with the original agreement, Three Springs must provide 52 attainable units for the first two phases. The developers fulfilled the requirement for affordable units for at least the first two phases by donating land for the 63 unit Mercy Housing PinonTerrace development adjacent to Mercy Regional Medical Hospital.

"Affordable" unites are defined as being affordable for households earning as much as 80 percent of the area median income or AMI. "Attainable" unites are those which are affordable to households earning between 80 and 125 percent of AMI.

Friday, October 26, 2007

ROOF HEALTH: Winter weather can be harsh on roof systems. Making sure the roof drainage system is in good shape now will help minimize problems in a winter storm and prevent leaks.

In most cases, metal or plastic gutters are hung along the eave of the roof and carry the water to downspouts, which discharge the water at ground level. The downspouts must be large enough to handle all the water collected by the gutters in a reasonable time period. At least one downspout is usually needed for each 25-30 feet of gutter length.

Gutters must be sloped toward the downspouts for proper flow. The downspouts should be piped away from the house foundation to prevent water accumulation and eventual seepage into the foundation. If underground lines are present, be certain to keep them unclogged and flowing. Gutters and downspouts also help reduce erosion along the foundation and protect steps and walkways from unwanted water (and ice) buildup.

Regular cleaning of gutters and downspouts, especially after the fall, is essential. A major cause of roof drainage failure is blockage due to leaves, twigs and sediment buildup. Also, coating of gutter interiors and sealing of seams may be needed in some cases to prolong their useful life and prevent leakage.

Remember, these tips are only general guidelines. Since each situation is different, contact a professional if you have questions about a specific issue.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

STATISTICS: The Durango Area Association of Realtors just completed its statistics for the 3rd quarter of 2007.

The total number of residential home sales for In-Town Durango increased slightly by 1%
compared to the same period in 2006, while In-Town Bayfield saw a decrease in units sold of 20%.

Average days on market for In-Town Durango increased by 1% to 133 days as compared to the
same period in 2006 and In-Town Bayfield decreased 17% to 115 days.

The condo/town home market experienced a 30% decrease in the number of units sold in both the Durango and Resort markets over the same period last year. The median price decreased for Durango units to $230,000 with average days on market of 90 days down from 239 same quarter last year.
The Resort market experienced a 30% decrease in the median price to $177,750 with
average days on market increase of 85% to 283 days.

The median price for a La Plata County country home stayed consistent at $379,450 in comparison to the previous quarter. This is an increase of 11% from the same period in 2006. The number of units sold is down slightly while total volume increased 3%.
While our market has slowed, it is important to note that only the condominium market has experienced a draw-back in prices; understandable due to the rapid price appreciation over the last two years and the number of units available.
Compared to the major real estate markets across the country our little piece of the world 1s doing quiet well.

Monday, October 22, 2007

2008 BUDGET: Here is a summary of major capital improvement projects included in the city of Durango's 200 budget:

Streets and associated improvements - $1,507,500 for alley repaving, road construction, walk ramps, etc.

Parks and Recreation Department - $6,642,800 for parks, open space and trails and greenway acquisition.

Facility and system improvements - $1,003,00 for radio and computer upgrades for the police department, for the City Hall heating, air-conditioning upgrade and for the affordable housing fund.

Water and sewer systems - $2,116,750

Parking improvements - $1,653,750 for paving, vehicle washer, bus-stop shelters and signs.

Airport - $283,000 to replace the terminal's roof, to renovate the restrooms and to build an employee parking lot.

Total for Capital Improvements Program = $13,216.800

Thursday, October 18, 2007

WATER STANDARDS: Strict, new water standards approved by the La Plata County commissioners aim to curtail growth where the water supply is inadequate but make a concession to very small subdivisions by permitting them to rely on water being trucked in.

The standards apply only to new developments; existing subdivisions are not affected. Only two lot subdivisions, or in some cases, agricultural lands being subdivided into three lots, can rely on trucked in water. Land owners must prove no well water in available and sign a waiver saying La Plata Count cannot be held responsible in the case that they cannot find a water supplier.

The standards require subdivisions with five or more lots to do a comprehensive groundwater study, which can cost between $25,000 and $30,000. The amount of water required for each household would still be 350 gallons a day, but the new standards would allow developers to use a lower estimate if the could prove it was adequate.

The rules now become part of the county's new land-use code.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

WATER: Southwestern Water Conservation District board members have approved a $100,000 grant to further a long standing project to bring drinking water to the Dryside, as southwestern La Plata County is known.

The grant, which was approved Monday, will pay for the pursuit of permits, environmental studies and money to build the backbone of a potable water system.

The La Plata West Water Co. has been supported by small grants for several years while it looked for ways to give residents of southwest La Plata County a reliable source of water. Many southwest county residents now must truck water from a spring in Marvel or rely on a well.

The cost of the backbone of the system, engineering and construction of an intake structure, water treatment plant and a trunk line to carry Animas La Plata Project (A-LP) water to the New Mexico line is estimated at $49 million.

The Animas-La Plata Project is a negotiated settlement of Indian water rights claims. The Upper La Plata Water Conservancy District and others are entitled to water from the project. The La Plata Water Conservancy District owns 700 acre feet of A-LP water, which has been made available to La Plata West for nontribal water users. The city of Durango is purchasing 1,900 acre feet of water from A-LP.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

IGNACIO: Ignacio is experiencing a period of economic growth unlike anything in recent memory. Revenue from local sales tax soared 26 percent from 1995 to 2005 and property tax revenue rose 26 percent as well. A variety of new businesses have opened their doors on Ignacio's main Goddard Avenue, and others are expanding. Several factors are contributing to the upturn.

First there was the natural gas boom. Gas well pads form a patchwork on the lands surrounding the town. Much of that land is owned by the Southern Ute Indian tribe. Thanks to high gas prices and wise investments, the tribe has seen its worth mushroom to about $4 billion. It is said the tribe controls the distribution of about 1 percent of the nation's natural gas supply. Much of the traffic generated by this production funnels through Ignacio. Many workers stop for lunch and take advantage of other services in the town.

Also boosting traffic is construction of the new Sky Ute Casino Resort just north of the town. The new resort, schedules for completion in December 2008, is expected to provide between 400 and 600 jobs.

Another draw was Ignacio Bike Week, which filled the void left by the storied Iron Horse Motorcycle Rally and brought about 20,000 people to town this last Labor Day weekend.

One thing Ignacio doesn't have is the sky-high prices for property that Durango has. We have numerous 35 acres parcels on the market beginning at $140,000. Try to find that in the Durango marketplace.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

DIVERSE DURANGO: This past weekend the Durango Cowboy Gathering filled the Diamond Circle Theater and the Abby Theater with cowboy poetry and songs. Highlighting the event was a motorless parade and a Horse Exposition. Cowboys and cowgirls were everywhere.

At the same time, Saturday night Durango went Mo-Town. The Community Concert Hall played host to the Coasters, Marvelettes and, best of all, the Platters. This talent packed show presented most of each group's number 1's, including "The Great Pretender", "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and "Twilight Time."

Western swing, campfire music and Mo-Town - only in Durango! If you're not living here - we can help.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Does lowering the thermostat at night mean that it takes more energy to reheat the house each morning?

According to the La Plata Electric Association, it is a myth that it takes as much energy to reheat a house in the morning as was saved during the temperature setback period overnight. The amount of heat a house loses through its walls, ceilings and floors is directly proportional to the difference between the indoor and the outdoor temperatures. Air leakage into and out of your house also increases with larger temperature differences.

When the indoor temperature is set lower, the indoor to outdoor temperature difference is smaller, so less heat is lost from your house. If less heat is lost, your furnace has to use less electricity to create the heat to replace it. The amount of heat used to reheat the house, therefore, is less than the amount saved over the temperature setback period.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

ECONOMY: Deborah Walker, Associate Professsor of Economics and co-director of the Office of Economic Analysis and Business Research at Fort Lewis College, says our local economy continues to look good despite what we hear from some economists regarding the national credit crunch caused by problems in the mortgage lending market.

Even thought we might eventually feel some of the fall out, as of now most local indicators are still positive. We are lucky to live in a fairly diverse seconomy and do not have to rely on one sector to keep jobs and income growing.

In looking at the local labor market, for example, the average number of people in the labor force in the second quarter of 2006 in La Plata County was 91,627. In 2007 the average increased to 93,800. The number of people in the county who want jobs is growing and our economy is accommodating them with new jobs. Most business people we talk to are looking for people to work.

The average unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2006 was 3.4 percent. In 2007 the rate was down to 2.6 percent.

The trend in Tourism is upward with with more passengers using the Durango-LaPlata County Airport and an increase in riders on The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Agriculture dollars, an important sector in our economy, increased 16 percent in second quarter of 207 over the same period in 2006.

Median home prices increased 3.9 percent in Durango, 30.8 percent in Bayfield and 34.5 percent at the resort areas. The number of sales has slowed but values remain strong.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

OPEN SPACE: The dedication of a portion of Durango's sales tax to preserve open space was cited as a bright spot in the 2007 Colorado Conservation Trust report on land conservation statewide.

In 2006, Colorado land trusts and local government programs placed 167,500 acres of farm, ranches, wildlife habitat and scenic areas out of reach of development, according to the Trust's report. The total acreage protected statewide to date stands at 1,950, 693 acres, 2.9 percent of the state's total land mass.

In 2005, Durango voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase with the stipulation that half of the increase was to be used for capital projects (such as the new library) and the other half be spent on open space, parks and trails. Durango's land preservation program contributes to making Colorado a national leader in land conservation.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

REFINANCE: If you're struggling with a mortgage that has become hard to pay, due perhaps to an adjustable rate that adjusted itself upward more that you expected, you may want to refinance into a different, more stable loan. After all, interest rates are still on the low side, historically speaking. You may want to consider refinancing just because current rates are lower than what you're paying.

Refinancing involves taking out a new mortgage on your home; usually at a lower interest rate, decreasing the amount of your monthly payment. If you can get a new loan at a rate 1 or 1/2 of a percentage point lower than your current mortgage you can reap sizable interest savings over 15 to 30 years.

Friday, September 28, 2007

SOLAR: For the seventh consecutive year, energy efficient homes in La Plata County will be open to the public through a self-guided tour. Each year the La Plata County Solar Tour offers innovative homes that feature passive solar design, active solar hot water and photovoltaic arrays for independent and grid tied systems. Homes selected for the tour also offer a variety of energy efficient building, lighting and appliance choices.

This local educational opportunity is sponsored by the National Solar Tour, an annual event held in communities across the county on the first Saturday of October., National Energy Awareness month and throughout the autumn months. Home and building owners demonstrate solar and other installed renewable energy and energy efficient features. Tour guests learn how they can reduce energy demand through energy efficiency and how to supply energy from clean renewable energy sources.

For more information on national solar tours and activities please visit the American Energy Solar Energy Society at

Sunday, September 23, 2007

THE IRON HORSE INN: Owners of the Iron Horse Inn have received preliminary approval to demolish the 157 unit motel and build 203 condominiums and townhomes in a new development to be called North Animas Village. Long considered by locals to be the northern boundary of Durango it will be sad to see it go. The Iron Horse was the first place we stayed when Mary and I were considering a move to Durango 17 years ago.

The plans for North Animas Village include a unique approach to the affordable housing crisis in Durango. The developer has introduced the idea of a Transfer Fee Covenants as part of the preliminary application that was approved by the Citry Council.

The covenant would require developers , and later homeowners reselling the properties, to give 1 percent of the sale price of a home to the La PLata County Regional Housing Authority to go toward the agency's land-trust and down payment assistance programs. It will be interesting to follow this innovative concept as it develops.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

WATER: The public packed a hearing Tuesday on a plan that would pipe drinkable water to a 400 square mill area where many residents rely on wells or trucked-in water.

The proposal which voters would have to approve, is to create the La Plata Archuleta Water District. Residents of the district would pay a special tax to fund the construction of water treatment facilities and pipelines that would supply dependable water to rural southeast La Plata County. The project, at an estimated cost of $85 million, also would cover a corner of southwest Archuleta County.

Inclusion in the district would be voluntary. So far almost 670 residents have asked to be excluded.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

CONDOS: The Durango City Council voted 4 - 1 Tuesday to approve the preliminary plan for North Animas Village, which would replace the existing Iron Horse Inn with 203 residential condominiums.

The council approved the preliminary plan with the condition that developers I.H. Management negotiate with the city and the Regional Housing Authority to provide money for affordable housing by charging developers and future sellers a percentage of each unit's sale price. The developer's attorney estimated that the transfer fees would raise $300,000 in the initial construction phase and as much as $1 million in the future from the resale of units. Of course, the actual amount of revenue raised would depend on market conditions.

Monday, September 17, 2007

HILLSIDE/RIDGELINE: Durango city planners are working out the kinks in an interim ordinance aimed at protecting the city's hillsides from future development.

A hillside and ridgeline ordinance was one of the first goals of a new Council that changed dramatically in April's election. The council expressed concern about the growing number of residential and commercial projects being built on higher ground throughout the city which critics say negatively affect Durango's scenic beauty.

The interim hillside ordinance prohibits new construction on slopes of 30 percent or greater and addresses sightlines for structures built at the top of a slope. For existing lots on slopes between 20 and 30 percent that are not yet developed, the ordinance does not prohibit development, but it does require a separate review by city planning staff before construction can begin.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

1995: $145,000
1996: $160,000
1997: $150,000
1998: $163,500
1999: $170,438
2000: $199,250
2001: $230,000
2002: $252,000
2003: $275,503
2004: $300,000
2005: $357,700
2006: $422,982

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

DURANGO: We just returned from a brief holiday to Orange County, CA (Newport Beach to be exact.) Newport Beach is a beautiful area but the exact opposite of Durango. Money and wealth were on display.

For example, automobile dealerships noted were Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Ferrari and Bentley; no Ford or General Motors. The vehicle of choice, hands down, is Mercedes or BMW. Every vehicle was sparkling clean. We now refer to Newport Beach as "the land of the spotless automobile."

The median price of housing in Orange County is $653,000; twice that of La Plata County.

People were everywhere; thousands and thousands of people. They were not unfriendly but certainly were not as open and down to earth friendly as Durango. Perhaps that is a result of living shoulder to shoulder and being crowded together.

A tour of the Balboa Island harbour was an eye-opener. Huge yachts and sailboats lined the docks. More than just a few were obviously in the million dollar plus category.

We returned even more appreciative of our Durango lifestyle. Pickups with dogs in the back, friendly people in blue jeans, and most of all the beautiful green and majestic mountains.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

WELL MAINENTANCE: When a well-water supply system has been running flawlessly, there is a tendency for homeowners to forget that just like any other mechanical equipment in the house, the well equipment needs periodic maintenance and replacement. A lack of maintenance can lead to a sudden loss of the water supply -- one thing a homeowner certainly does not want to have to live without for even a short period of time. But with regular preventive maintenance, maximum reliability can be achieved. Prompt attention to changing conditions is important. If unusual noises or irregular flow conditions occur, it is best to have the system checked out as soon as possible. The effort to perform maintenance or servicing will vary with the type equipment involved. Many private water supply systems now use a submersible pump located at the bottom of the well. If problems with this type pump are encountered the pump may have to be pulled up from the base of the well. However, these units are durable and under normal circumstances can operate trouble-free for relatively long periods of time.

Others pumps are located above the well (typically in a well house or utility area). These pumps can be heard when they operate and may require more maintenance than a submersible pump; however, they are usually readily accessible if repairs are needed. Regardless of the type pump, water is usually pumped into a tank for water storage and pressurization purposes. The water in the tank ensures a small volume of water is always on hand so that the pump does not have to turn on each time a faucet is opened. The pressure of the water flow throughout the water distribution system is controlled by an automatic switch located at the storage tank. These storage tanks are designed to contain water as well as some air to help regulate the water pressure. Since water cannot be compressed, the compressible air provides a cushion to help regulate the water pressure for distribution throughout the house. Without this water storage capacity and air cushion, the pump would turn on and off on a regular basis, causing extra wear, while providing water at widely fluctuating pressures. In old tanks, over time, the air can be absorbed in the water, allowing the tank to become waterlogged. If the pump short-cycles on and off, the tank may simply need some air. Draining water from this type tank will recharge the tank with air. New tanks contain a membrane or bag to keep the water separate from the air. These are referred to as captive air or bladder tanks. Other tanks have a rubber diaphragm (wafer) that floats on the water while acting as a barrier between the water and tank. Both these type tanks usually have valve stems similar to the ones found on automobile’s tires that can be used to regulate the pressure. Occasionally, these membranes rupture and must be replaced but otherwise they provide for more uniform operation than the basic tank. Even if your well system appears to be operating properly, it would be prudent to have it checked and serviced by a qualified serviceperson every few years. The well water should also be tested periodically to ensure suitable water quality conditions are maintained.*

*HMA Franchise Systems, Inc.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

LAND USE CODE: After 5 long years of work, debate, praise and complaints county commissioners have approved a sweeping revisison to the county's land use code that seeks to clarify rules for development as our area confronts a period of unprecedented growth.

The document is 444 pages and codifies maps that divide the county into 10 districts and establishes zoned use for eight of those districts.

Proponents of the code praise it for eliminating months of uncertainty from the permitting process of home builders and for striving to preserve the area's natural beauty. They have point.

Critics say it represents an unwarranted intrusion on the rights of private property owners and fails to live up to its goal of simplifying and clarifying the process. At 444 pages - they also have a point.

The new code is effective January 7, 2008. It will be interesting to watch and participate in the process.

Friday, August 17, 2007

HILLSIDE DEVELOPMENT: When our new City Council first met last April, councilors made it a priority to create hillside and ridge line development regulations.

On Thursday, the city planning staff presented a draft of the proposed Interim Hillside Regulation Ordinance for public input to the council.

The regulations would require staff review of projects of existing single and two-family structures, existing multifamily homes and nonresidential structures and all new subdivisions on slopes 20 percent or greater. Multifamily homes and nonresidential building proposed for hillsides with a 30 percent slope or higher would require a Conditional Use Permit with approvals by the Planning Commission and City Council.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

RUMBLE: We're hearing a rumble in the air, a vibration of the ground. It begins during the early days of summer and increases steadily through August until labor day when all hell breaks loose. It's motorcycle rally time, labor day weekend, in Southwest Colorado.

The biggest event is likely to be Ignacio Bike Week which picks up where the Iron Horse Motorcycle Rally and Rally in the Rockies left off. Organizers are promising everything that makes a rally a rally, vendors, beer gardens, rock concerts, competitions and a Harley Davidson motorcycle giveaway. Best of all, this rally is free.

Last year, after Rally in the Rockies failed, the Ignacio Chamber, with only six weeks to plan, picked up the slack and drew 10,000 bikers to town. This year, they expect 20,000 bikers to rumble into Ignacio, Durango and the Four Corners.

Welcome bikers, welcome - ride safe, be safe & spend lots of money!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

WATER: It seems like we discuss water more than any other issue. It's that important! Given the rapid growth we've experienced and the drought prone nature of our region, La Plata County commissioners are considering tougher standards for proving the existence of adequate long-term water supplies for new developments. The standards, when finalized, will become a part of the county's land use code.

All new subdivisions, except very small ones, would be required to conduct groundwater studies to demonstrate that the total amount of water the development will pull from the aquifer will not exceed the rate that it is recharged.

We support the county on this one but keep in mind - another regulation & higher standards - another blow to affordable housing.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

VACATION RENTALS: A relatively new ordinance is sending a not-so-subtle reminder to Durango entrepreneurs who cash in on the city's lucrative vacation home rental market: Tourism may be Durango's lifeblood, but people live here too.

In April, city councilors passed a new law requiring a homeowner obtain a permit to rent out a private home for fewer than 28 days. The ordinance is a result of rising complaints by neighbors. One property in particular spurred the planning commission to propose the ordinance.

The ordinance require homeowners to post information inside the home about trash collection, the number of allowed guests, noise restrictions and parking regulations. Permits are based on neighborhood density zoning and can cost between $50 and $150 depending on the property location. The ordinance also requires permit holders to pay sales tax.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

XERISCAPE: The term "xeriscape," coined in 1981, is a combination of the Greek work "xeros," which means "dry," and the modern work "landscape." It technically is a registered trademark of Denver Water, the water utility for the city and county of Denver, but has fallen into common usage in recent years. The term came out of a task force that included Denver Water as well as members of academia and green industries. The task force came up with seven principles of landscaping to conserve water and protect the environment. Since then, cities and counties in the Western and Southern United States have adopted the principles and now require developers to follow them.

According to Xeriscape Colorado, a program of the Colorado Waterwise Council, more than 50 percent of residential water goes to landscaping and lawns throughout most of the Western United States. However, xeriscaping measures such as reducing water waste, using proper irrigation techniques, and using native and low-water plants, can reduce water usage by 60 percent or more. Futhermore, according to Xeriscape Colorado, a good xeriscape can increase property value by 15 percent and reduce water and maintenance costs by as much as 60 percent.

For more information on xeriscape, check out

Saturday, August 04, 2007

THE ANIMAS: The City Council imposed moratorium on construction along the Animas River should conclude at the end of November when new standards will be in place according to Planning Director Greg Hoch.

The city will likely prohibit ground-floor residential units along the River Trail and will likely examine building size and how buildings look from the river rather than focusing solely on how they look from Camino del Rio.

Friday, August 03, 2007

BUSY, BUSY: Summer's in full swing, properties are selling and we're showing new buyers every day. But life in Durango is more than business - it's a lifestyle.

Each Wednesday evening this summer Fort Lewis College has presented, courtesy of its President, movies filmed in and around Durango. Shown outdoors under a tent (with free popcorn) we've been treated to The Naked Spur, Support Your Local Gunfighter, Vacation and next week City Slickers. In addition, Music In The Mountains offers some of the best classical listening to be found anywhere.

Fishing is off, the river is muddy due to mudslides in the high country but the weather is perfect for golf.

And, the garden is coming in; fresh lettuces, radishes, mellons, green beans and jalapenos plus a bumper crop of tomatoes. Canning green beans and peppers has begun and soon tomatoes and salsa will follow.

Whew! What a place to live.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

CONDOMINIUM INSURANCE: If you're thinking of buying a condominium, you'll likely have to join a condominium association. These associations have insurance, but what do they cover?

Basically, the association's insurance covers the condominium building, commonly owned property and liability for the association. But that insurance does not cover losses to your unit, such as those resulting from a burglary or water damage. It also won't provide liability coverage for injuries in your unit, such as if someone slips on your bathroom floor.

That's why you should consider a condominium insurance policy. This coverage can protect you from losses to your personal property and the interior of your unit, and it will provide you with liability protection for bodily injury or property damage to others.

Keep in mind that virtually everything you put in your condo - including furniture, personal items and so on - is your responsibility. You need to know the total value of these belongings so you can get the appropriate amount of coverage.

Let us know if we can assist with your Durango real estate needs.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

HOUSING: La Plata County Commissioners are looking at a possible ordinance that would have developers pay fees that would go toward providing affordable housing in the area. The Regional Housing Authority on Tuesday presented commissioners with a draft "Fair Share Housing Ordinance."

The fees are a way that resort communities have found to provide affordable housing where high-end homes have driven up property values, pricing people who build the homes and provide services in the community out of the market.

The City of Durango is also considering a "Fair Share" ordinance. The city's plan would focus on requiring a certain number of affordable homes with new developments. But the ordinance proposed to the county would charge them fees that would go toward helping people find housing near existing population centers, such as Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio.

Commissioners said they needed time to review the proposal and instructed county staff to evaluate the legalities of enacting such an ordinance.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

WATER: If the sight of a lawn sprinkler dousing curbs and sidewalks on a hot summer afternoon strikes you as wasteful, you're not alone.

The City of Durango wants to reduce the amount of water wasted during the summer months by 20 percent, and an ordinance to make sure that happens is imminent. The ordinance passed the Durango Planning Commission by a 4 to 1 vote July 9 and next moves to the City Council for final approval.

The ordinance, promoting the Xeriscape method of water efficient landscaping, will only apply to new commercial and multifamily developments and not to single family residences or existing businesses.

Monday, July 30, 2007

LPEA REFUNDS: The board of directors of La Plata Electric Association, our local energy co-op, voted to refund $2 million in capital credits to customers who have maintained an account with LPEA for at least one year. The amount of the refund will depend on the amount of money each customer has paid over the duration of each account.

The refunds will be credited directly to the customer's electric bills or mailed as checks to those who no longer have an active LPEA account or are scheduled for a refund in excess of $250.

Each year, payments made by customers that exceed the cost of providing the actual electric service are placed into a patronage capital account in each customer's name proportionate to the amount paid. The capital often is used to finance improvements such as additional electrical lines, poles, transformers and substations.

When the co-op's finances are healthy, as they are this year, the capital investment often is returned to the customer-members. Since 1939, LPEA has refunded more than $25 million to members.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

BANKING: They say money makes the world go round. In Durango, banks - the ultimate money keepers - both reflect and help drive the local economy.

As Durango grows in population and wealth, the local banking industry is growing along with it. La Plata County has 10 banks with 19 branches. Their combined deposits topped $1 billion in 2006 for the first time.

The local banking industry is intimately tied with the housing industry. Consumer deposits fuel loans that in turn drive economic growth, including construction. The local industry is doing well, while not quite enjoying growth as strong as a year ago.

Banks are further fueled by Durango's tourist economy which attracts people with money to spend. People come into town to take advantage of the many attractions and typically they have an above average median income. Many are thinking about buying a second home or retiring to Durango. *

*source - The Durango Herald

Monday, July 23, 2007

VACATION HOMES: Last year, while investment home sales dropped nationally, vacation home sales rose nearly 5 percent at a time when real estate, in general, was experiencing a downturn.

By 2025, an estimated 35 percent of the U.S. population will be age 50 or older. That's one of the reasons why all signs point to a continued strong market for vacation homes, bolstered by Baby Boomers as prime vacation home candidates. Whether they simply want to diversify investments or want a place to get away, Baby Boomers are driving this marker growth.

This bodes well for the continued strength of the Durango market. Statistics from the National Association of Realtors show that:

** Two-thirds of of buyers desired a vacation home close to a body of water;

** Nearly 40 percent preferred to have access to recreational or sporting activities;

** More than 30 percent chose vacation or resort areas;

** And 31 percent preferred mountain retreats or natural attractions.

With our lakes, rivers, rafting, fishing, hunting, skiing, biking and unmatched beauty is it any wonder our vacation home market remains strong. Durango has it all.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

LAKE DURANGO: A settlement reached Tuesday in the long-standing Lake Durango water dispute call for the creation of a new water authority to take over operations of the private company that supplies water to Durango West and other nearby subdivisions. For years, the company has been plagued with complaints of inadequate supply and poor quality. Other subdivisions served by the company include Shenandoah, Trappers Crossing and Rafter J.

The new authority, as a non-profit governmental entity, will be in better position to complete a pending arrangement to secure water from Lightner Creek.

It is expected that the water authority will be formed by December 2007.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

CHIPMUNK HILL: A popular sledding and tubing hill on Highway 550 south of Durango Mountain Resort will soon be history. A conceptual plan to develop this 160 acre parcel has been submitted to the La Plata County Planning Department for review.

The plan calls for 16 homes plus a trail easement that would allow the public to cross the property to access public land to the east.

Monday, July 16, 2007

GROWTH: At last Tuesday's city council meeting city planning director Greg Hoch presented councilors with statistics that confirm what we have know for some time - that Durango is growing and growing quickly - but the latest numbers indicate that the number of homes in the city could more than double based on numbers of the 2000 census. In that year, Durango's 13,922 residents lived in 5,813 homes, apartments and condominiums. Seven years later, there are now more than 16,000 people and 7,660 housing units, representing an overall housing increase of 32 percent an an annual growth rate of 6.4 percent.

The growth rate is a serious concern to Durango's three newest council members, Leigh Meigs, Michael Rendon and Scott Graham, all of whom ran on strong managed growth platforms before their April elections. Rendon believes the development approval process needs to change to give elected officials more of a say in long-term planning decisions. "We were elected not because people are anti-growth, but because they want managed growth, and that's the way we can do it," he said.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

HOUSING HELP: The first use of financial assistance in La Plata County to help low and moderate income families get into their own home is virtually assured, Jennifer Lopez, executive director of the La Plata County Regional Housing Authority, said Friday.

The agency has received a $256,800 grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development through the state Division of Local Affairs to create a revolving loan fund to assist with down payments and closing costs.

A family of four with an income of $48,500 or less annually could qualify for financial aid. This is the first down payment assistance program in Durango or La Plata County where appreciation of real estate prices has impacted the purchasing ability of low and moderate income buyers.

Friday, July 13, 2007

WATER: Fish in the Pine River below Vallecito Reservoir would get some extra protection under an agreement approved by a state water board Thursday.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board voted to accept a donation of water from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Pine River Irrigation District. The deal will put varying amounts of water into the river for a stretch ending 12 miles downstream from the reservoir, home to brown and rainbow trout.

In exchange for the donation, the water board agreed not to file for an in-stream flow right, a water right that could force water to stay in the stream.

Under the agreement, the reservoir will release 136 cubic feet per second during the summer to supply a 12 mile stretch down to U.S. Highway 160. During the winter, the reservoir would release less - up to 50 cfs.

The agreement will take effect once it is signed by Pine River and Southern Ute officials.

Monday, July 09, 2007

$$$$$$ : And you thought Durango real estate is getting expensive. A 56,000 square-foot house near Aspen owned by Prince Bandar bin Sultan is still waiting for a buyer. The mansion, which is named "Hala" and includes 95 acres, went on the market last summer for $135,000 million, the highest price ever asked for a home in the United States.

The main residence has 15 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms and features its own hair and beauty salon, an indoor swimming pool, steam room, gym and heated stables. The estate also has its own water treatment plant, garage facilities including gas pumps and a car wash and extensive security facilities.

Prince Bandar is the former Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States.

If you're homeless and have an extra $135,000 million, give us a call.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

LAND-USE CODE: After years of public debate and scrutiny, the new La Plata County Land-Use Code is nearing completion. It will be the subject of a public hearing Tuesday and could go to county commissioners for approval as early as August 14.

The new code clearly tells property owners what they can and can't do with their land. That's what people love about the code. It's also what people hate about it. At a voluminous 446 pages, it promises a dramatic shift in how development happens in La Plata County.

Currently, the only way property owners know what they can build on their land is to go through the lengthy permitting process. Under the new code, most landowners would need only to look at a map and see what zone they are in.

It will be interesting to see how implementation of the new code plays out. Hopefully, the days of trying to catch a county planner in a good mood are over.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

WATER: A stalled plan to form a potable-water district in southeast La Plata County where residents rely on wells or truck-in their water, is ready to move ahead.

Proponents filed a service plan with the county Monday. But nothing will happen immediately. Supporters are aiming at a mail in formation election-creation of the district and election of a board of directors-after the first of the year and a revenue election sometime thereafter.

State law says revenue elections must be held in May of even years or in November of any year. In this case voters would be asked to approve $25 million bonded indebtedness, a 5 mill tax levy and remove the district from state spending limits.

The proposed La Plata Archuleta Water District first bogged down in late 2003 when shareholders in the Pine River Irrigation District rejected the leasing of as much as 2,000 acre feet of water for a 400 square mile service area.

A recent court ruling said that individual shareholders could pool water to lease giving district backers new hope.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

GOING GREEN: Most folks associate "green" and "bank" with greenback dollars. At Alpine Bank Durango, however, "going green" means purchasing 100 percent of its electric power from renewable resources through La Plata Electric Association.

Though not the first bank to purchase Green Power from LPEA (First National Bank of Durango stepped up early in the offing), Alpine is the first to commit to 100 percent GP. Thanks Alpine!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

NEW PARK: Dallabetta Park opened Monday with a ribbon cutting ceremony, giving rafters a place to rest and preserving the legacy of a long time Durango family.

The park, located behind Home Depot on the west bank of the Animas River, offers two river take-outs and two picnic shelters. It covers 6.8 acres, with 800 feet of shoreline for angles to cast for trout, adding to Durango's much cherished reputation as a mecca for outdoor activities.

Angie Dallabetta and her family donated 3 acres in 1996 to the city of Durango to create the park. The city acquired the rest of the land from La Plata County.

Monday, June 25, 2007

TRIMBLE CROSSING: Construction has resumed on Trimble Crossing, the mixed use development on the corner of U.S. Highway 550 and Trimble Lane. When completed the development will consist of single family residences with varied densities and local office/retail.

As a part of the development, a traffic signal will be installed at the 550/Trimble intersection. The $1 million development paid project is currently underway and is expected to be complete in September.

The railroad crossing surface at Trimble Lane was replaced last year as the first step in the signal project. The project will include the installation of new railroad crossing signals with gates, widening Trimble Lane to provide turn lanes and a raised center median; providing corner islands on U.S. Highway 550; resurfacing and re-striping the intersection; and installing traffic signals at the intersection. The traffic signals and railroad signals will be interconnected and synchronized to function together.

SUMMER: If the last few weeks are any indication, this is going to be a busy summer season. The town is packed with people and all four trains to Silverton are full of tourists.

Our real estate market continues to be strong. Properties are selling and we are as busy as we have ever been. As markets in other parts of the country improve our market will only get stronger. If you are planning a move to Durango now is the time.

Let us know if we can help.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

PINON TERRACE: With construction well underway on Pinon Terrace, Durango's newest affordable housing property, Mercy Housing Colorado will begin accepting applications immediately and opened its waiting list June 1.

Pinon Terrace, northwest of Mercy Regional Medical Center's new facility, will be home to 66 families who need quality, sage, affordable housing in Durango. Mercy Housing Colorado plans to open the property to residents in October 2007. Pinon Terrace will include one-, two-, and three- bedroom townhouses within walking distance of Three Spring's parks, schools and retail.

Amenities will include washer/dryer hook-ups, ceiling fans, exterior storage, a dishwasher, refrigerator, clubhouse, on-site management office, community room, computer lab and laundry room. All residents will have access to the parks and recreational facilities that are a part of the Three Springs master development.

To apply to live at Pinon Terrace, call (970) 385-8618 and leave the following information: name, address, phone number, size of unit needed, number of people and gross annual income. A Mecry Housing Colorado staff member will contact applicants for an initial pre-qualification consultation.

If we can assist you with your Durango real estate needs, please give us a call or an email. We're here to help. /

Monday, June 18, 2007

AIR CONDITIONING: Summer is here and while most homes in our area do not have central air conditioning and increasing number do. A few simple homeowner checks and maintenance will increase both the life of and the efficiency of your system.

Homeowner Checklist:

The amount of do-it-yourself air conditioning maintenance a homeowner can do is limited. However, there are a few steps that can help the system operate trouble-free and minimize the potential for consequential damage. Ensuring adequate airflow is perhaps the most important homeowner responsibility. Homeowners can (following manufacturer instructions):

* Clean or replace the filter(s) regularly.
* Keep leaves and other debris off the condensing unit.
* Keep the condensing coils clean by carefully brushing and hosing them.
* Keep shrubs and other plant growth that might obstruct airflow at least 18 inches away from the condenser.
* Maintain insulation on ductwork in attics and other unconditioned areas.
* Check the condensate drain for any sign of blockage or leakage. Water should be dripping from this drainline when the unit is running.
* Keep room input and return registers clear of furniture or other obstructions.

Selecting Trained Professionals:

If your air conditioner needs more than the regular maintenance described here, consult a qualified air conditioning technician. A well-trained professional can provide a thorough pre-season or maintenance evaluation and servicing as needed. Insufficiently trained service technicians forsake proper diagnostic procedures and often only perform stop-gap measures to keep a unit going. Such short-sightedness can have a drastic effect on other components leading to consequential failure of the entire system. At a minimum, a technician should:

* Check that the system contains the correct amount of refrigerant.
* Test for refrigerant leaks.
* Check for and seal duct leakage.
* Clean the blower components.
* Measure airflow through the evaporator coil.
* Verify the correct electric control sequence.
* Inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections.
* Oil motors and check belts for tightness and wear.
* Check the condensate system for backup or leakage.
* Check operating temperatures and pressures.
* Check the accuracy of the thermostat. /

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

ECONOMICS: Economic opportunities are increasingly coming at altitude. Six of the nations 10 fastest growing state economies last year were located in the Mountain West, including Colorado's, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The Rocky Mountain region has been leading the nation for about three years in overall performance. Strong economic growth is translated into respectable job gains, falling unemployment and rising wages in the region.

Locally, our economy remains strong with unemployment rates below the state average. Its early in the season but it appears we're in for a great tourist season.

Monday, June 11, 2007

HOUSING: A five point plan to help more La Plata County residents crack the tough housing market was unveiled Friday to local and state officials, developers, nonprofit agencies and curious individuals.

The Regional Housing Authority, created in 2004 to help La Plata County turn residents into homeowners, has led the preparation of strategic housing solutions. The plan would:

* Help communities develop policies leading to smart growth;

* Establish city and county ordinances requiring developers provide a percentage of below market rate housing. There are 190 such programs in the United States;

* Create a $10 million trust fund for second mortgage and down payment assistance.

* Establish a land bank through purchase or donations. Tamarron has contributed 6 acres and Three Springs could provide land for rental units.

* Educate and counsel potential home buyers to create a pool of people ready to take on home ownership.

The housing authority wants to help at least 500 families over a five year period. It's aiming its efforts at home ownership for families earning from $25,000 to $75,000 annually. /

Monday, June 04, 2007

RENTALS: Durango's rental market remained relatively stable in the first quarter of 2007, with vacancy rates slightly down and rents slightly up compared with a year ago.

The median price for all rental units in Durango, including two and three bedroom units, was $801, up $24 from a year ago. The median rental price of $801 sets a new high in Durango. Meanwhile, the vacancy rate was 4.3 percent compared with 7.7 percent last year. /

Sunday, June 03, 2007

MEN WHO GRILL: Yesterday we cooked in the "Men Who Grill" competition, a fund raiser for The Women's Resource Center. Twenty-five teams participated in this annual event and the public turnout was fabulous.

Our menu was:
Smoked Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin
with Honey/Mustard Sauce and Grilled Balsamic Peaches. (email me for the recipe)

It's events like this that makes Durango such a special place. There's always something going on. Today is the White Water Rodeo, kayaking competition on the Animas.

Friday, June 01, 2007

DURANGO: Durango's selection by the National Historic Trust as one of the 2007 Dozen Distinctive Destinations is being promoted on the Trust's web site and in their internationally distributed magazine.

The Durango Business Improvement District (BID) is working with the Durango Tourism Office (DATO) and with the city to further support the designation with a new banner to hang over Main Avenue.

Also, the only billboard in Durango (located in the Animas Valley along Highway 550, visible to visitors traveling south, approaching town) will soon advertise the designation as well as Downtown. Rumor has it that numerous travelers make it their "mission" to visit all of the Distinctive Destination cities and towns. The designation surely was a gift to Durango that continues to keep on giving.

Http:// /

Monday, May 28, 2007

FIRE SAFETY: The majority of homes now have smoke detectors; unfortunately, too many of them are not functioning properly. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the number of homes with non-functioning smoke alarms now outnumber the households with no alarms at all. Missing batteries or disconnected alarms account for over 50% of non-working alarms; dead batteries account for another 20%. In addition, most homes with smoke alarms do not have a unit on every floor.

It is easy to forget that a smoke alarm’s sole function is to sound a warning. Fire spreads fast and smoke is toxic. Generally, when the smoke from a fire triggers an alarm, there is less than three minutes to get to safety. Failure to rapidly respond when an alarm sounds is a leading cause of fire casualties.

The NFPA offers the following tips for the testing and maintenance of smoke alarms:

*Choose a smoke alarm that bears the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

*Install a smoke alarm in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home.

*For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all should sound.

*Test your smoke alarms at least every month. Use the test button or an approved smoke substitute and clean the units, all in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions.

*Do not use an open-flame device for testing because of the danger the flame could pose.

*Install a new battery in all conventional smoke alarms at least once a year. Immediately install a new battery if an alarm “chirps,” warning the battery is low.

*Replace smoke alarms that use extended life (10-year) batteries when the alarm chirps or fails to respond to periodic testing. The batteries in these units cannot be replaced.

*Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.

*Make sure everyone in the household can hear the smoke alarm(s) when sleeping. Not everyone is easily roused by the sound of an alarm; do a practice run.

*Special smoke alarms are made for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These smoke alarms use strobe (flashing) lights. The use of vibration devices may provide additional benefit in some cases.