Boulder real estate market remains cloudy with a few bright spots

At first glance, the home sales statistics for the communities of Boulder County look bleak. After all, overall sales are consistently down 12 percent to 14 percent in most markets and the average sales price is down in every market.

But comparing those stats with past years reveals some bright spots. For example, three Boulder communities saw an increase in median sales prices: in fact, Broomfield’s median price increased 5 percent. “Certain markets are performing pretty well, especially in the right price points," says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor Association. "If the price is below $400,000, sales are pretty brisk, and values are holding up pretty strong.”

Even though the average sales price dropped in every Boulder community, most of them did so by less than 5 percent and those that dropped more did so by less than 10 percent, Hotard points out.

And that 12 percent to 14 percent drop in sales is still a lower adjustment than in the previous two years, he says. “ The decline in sales volume has slowed and is likely to level off in the second half of 2010, potentially beginning modest growth in early 2011,” Hotard says. “While that may be a bit optimistic, it is definitely within reach.”

Nationally statistics show a 9.4 percent increase in home resales in September 2009 compared with August 2009. “Much of that activity is related to, at least we believe, folks moving quickly to take advantage of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit before it expires at the end of November,” he says. “Nonetheless, sales are sluggish. In much of our market areas, a lot of that is related to tight credit, particularly in the jumbo loan category.”

BusinessWeek recently named Boulder the strongest housing market and the Federal Housing Finance Authority said it has the 11th highest appreciation in the nation, but Hotard says that such news may give people the wrong idea about the area’s real estate market.

“It scares me to hear that,” he says. “I know we have some pain and suffering yet to feel here and to have those kinds of rankings gives me pause. We are still in an unprecedented economic situation with an unclear end and an uncertain understanding of what the future looks like. People may get a misimpression and have unreasonable expectations that make it difficult to succeed in their transaction.”

Doctor sees Boulder as perfect place to live and restore eyesight

Five weeks after having knee replacement surgery, Dr. Dennis Dupuis is back at work, making sure all of his patients have a clear view of the world.

The optometrist and owner of Eyecare Center of Boulder is also anxious to resume most of the outdoor activities that, along with a busy practice, have endeared him to this city.

“It’s actually doing pretty well,” he says of his recovery. “I can’t play soccer
anymore, but I’m sure I can hike and I can ride my bike.”

Dupuis, who has practiced since 1981, moved from upstate New York to Boulder in 1984. His practice has remained in the same location, 1836 30th St., for 18 years. He attained his biology degree from the University of New Hampshire and then his doctorate from the Southern College of Optometry.

Inspired by another optometrist who appeared to enjoy his job, Dupuis has found he also takes great satisfaction in how he helps his patients. “I think just getting the instant gratification that people see better right away,” he notes. “Oftentimes I get patients who have never had eye correction. They leave and they are just amazed at what they were missing in their life.”

He says with as busy of a practice as he has, he’s playing catch-up after taking four weeks off to recover from surgery. But his patients are just that – patient. “They’re willing to wait,” he says. “We’d better be busy or we’d be out of business.”

Dupuis and his wife of five years, Debbie, have four sons between them. Their oldest son, Eric, followed in his dad’s footsteps and practices in Florida.

“It’s great,” Dupuis says. “I’m looking forward to when he decides to come back to Colorado … and take over the practice. Right now he’s enjoying the warm weather.”

But Dupuis says he doesn’t plan on going anywhere. “I wouldn’t want to live anyplace else, really.”

To learn more about Dr. Dupuis and the Eyecare Center of Boulder, call (303) 449-2401 or visit

From physics to counseling, energy plays big role in dealing with change

Making the leap from physical energy to the metaphysical kind is not too far of one, according to Alan McAllister.

The owner of Whole Being Explorations has a doctorate in physics and spent much of his career doing physics research before becoming a counseling clinical hypnotherapist, in which he uses intuition as well as intellect. “I’ve always had a right brain life and a left brain life,” he says. “I figure you’ve got two hemispheres, you might as well use them.”

But the link between physics and the “transpersonal” counseling he offers is more concrete, as well. “It’s all about energy,” McAllister says. “Emotions, thoughts, or physical levels, these are all different types of energy, different perspectives and different ways of working. Many aspects of the things I learned about energy by doing physics apply to the work I’m doing now.”

Alan describes “transpersonal” counseling as that done with an understanding of the existence of spirit in one form or another – that humans are not just animals running around. “I’m helping people connect with that aspect of themselves,” he says. “We have so many tools we’re not accessing that can be beneficial in many different areas.”

The issue Alan helps most people deal with is change, he says. “They’ve either got not enough of it or too much of it. I help them to acquire skills or tools to adjust to shifts in their lives. It’s always unique depending on who I’m working with.”

Alan grew up in Philadelphia and worked in California, Japan and Texas, where he attained his doctorate at the University of Texas, before coming to Boulder to do physics research in 1993. He has been doing spiritual counseling for 12 years and opened his own practice four years ago after becoming trained in hypnotherapy.

While he enjoys traveling and even living in different places, the father of two says remaining in Boulder for longer than he has anywhere else has provided his school-aged children with stability and his family easy access to nature.

“It’s a good place,” Alan says. “For someone who’s interested in learning things at all levels, you could spend a lifetime in Boulder covering all the things that are offered here. It’s also still a place where I can run into people I know around town. I like the scale of it; it’s by far the smallest place I’ve ever lived.”

Lifelines for drowning homeowners - By Matthew Finberg

Many homeowners are realizing that their once-sure-thing investment, the American dream of home ownership, has become an anchor around their necks. For reasons ranging from overuse of home equity loans when the sky was the limit for residential real estate appreciation to loss of employment, many are over their heads – or “under water,” as the mortgage professionals call us, when home loan exceeds the value of the property securing its payment.

How did we get here? Aggressive mortgage brokers and unscrupulous appraisers with loose standards certainly made it easy for us to tap paper equity. The government certainly did very little to protect us from ourselves. Playing the blame game may ease your conscience if your home is under water, but genuine options exist to stem your negative cash flow and quite possibly keep that roof over your head.

You are far from alone in this experience: it is estimated that approximately 30 percent of all U.S. homeowners owe more on their mortgages than the value of their homes. With the jobless economic recovery we are experiencing, this figure is bound to increase. Banish the guilt demons which may haunt you and shake yourself out of the paralysis which naturally sets in when faced with what feels like hopelessness. You may feel like you are drowning, but real life lines are available to grab.

I recommend consulting a trusted attorney and real estate broker to help create your personal recovery plan. They can help you evaluate the pros and cons of the following options: (a) negotiating a loan modification which will result in a new payment schedule you can afford; (b) listing the property for sale at a price which may not fully pay off your mortgage debt (“short sale”) but could well end your obligations; (c) requesting that the lender accept a deed of your property in lieu of foreclosure; or (d) letting the property go to foreclosure sale.

Despite your good-faith intention to pay your debts as they come due and to honor the terms of your mortgage, experience indicates that lenders will not even talk to you about your loan unless you are at least three months delinquent on your payments. The lenders’ loss mitigation departments (the folks responsible for working things out with you) are overwhelmed with the volume of nonperforming loans needing their time and attention. Representatives of more than one major lender have told me that you are unlikely to get their attention if your payments are up to date. It may be time to stop throwing good money after bad.

LOAN MODIFICATION. If you are determined to stay in your home, once the lender is paying attention to you and taking your calls, you can explore a loan modification. A number of nonprofit organizations may assist you in this effort, and a good place to start is Though worth a try, statistics indicate that few meaningful restructurings are approved, and many that are approved end up in foreclosure notwithstanding the more affordable terms. The reality is that most of the 30 percent of U.S. homeowners who are under water need to move into more affordable accommodations in order to experience real relief.

DEED IN LIEU. In theory, a deed-in-lieu-of foreclosure would free the homeowner from the mortgage debt in exchange for his conveying the property to the lender. The homeowner would write off his equity invested in the property and the lender would acquire the property at the bargain price of the outstanding principal of the debt. The problem with this is that few lenders are interested. By foregoing the foreclosure process, the lender could very well end up with property subject to mechanics’ liens, judgment liens and other title defects which foreclosure could have eliminated. The property is worth less in this condition than after the cleansing of the foreclosure process. The lender would also have yet another real estate asset on its books, which harms its ability to make new loans and otherwise operate profitably. In practice, the deed-in-lieu-of foreclosure action has little appeal to a lender and almost no chance of success.

FORECLOSURE. After a homeowner has skipped three monthly payments, the lender will most likely elect to foreclose on the property in an effort to recover all sums owed. The first step is filing a Notice of Election and Demand with the Public Trustee for the county in which the property is located. State statute imposes substantial obligations on the lender to provide the borrower and other interested parties plenty of notice regarding the proceeding and an opportunity to cure the defaults virtually right up to the day of the auction sale of the property. Compliance with these requirements takes approximately four months after filling the Notice of Election and Demand, so the homeowner can expect to stay on the property for about eight months from the time that monthly payments are suspended before being legally compelled to move. The difference between the bid price at the auction and the amount owed under the mortgage, known as the deficiency, may be pursued in Colorado by suit against the borrower for seven years after the foreclosure sale. The former homeowner has the deficiency hanging over his head as well as the damage to this credit score by the reported foreclosure.

SHORT SALE. A better approach may well be listing the property with a real estate broker and negotiating with the lender to agree to release its lien if a reasonable offer is made, even for less than the amount of the loan. Lenders are interested in short sales as they save them from the marketing and ownership risks of ownership and the balance sheet damage of adding more real estate to its assets (assuming, as is most often the case, that it is the winning bidder at auction), and it may well result in a higher price than a subsequent sale by the lender post foreclosure. The owner with a contract in hand may be in a better position to convince the lender to forgive the deficiency and report the transaction to the credit agencies more favorably than it would a foreclosure, enabling the homeowner to walk away from the closing with a fresh start. The homeowner’s leverage is that most contracts for short sales contain standard language permitting the seller to cancel the contract if he does not like the lender’s terms.

In addition to the credit rating repercussions of any mortgage default, homeowners need to know that a price for debt forgiveness may be taxable income. In general, the amount of the portion of any loan which is forgiven or written off is considered taxable ordinary income. The lender will send such a taxpayer a Form 1099-C reporting the amount of debt cancelled. This is not all bad news. It is official recognition that the lender is not going to pursue a deficiency judgment against the homeowner. Statutory exceptions also exclude the cancelled amount from taxation even though the homeowner must report it in his tax return.

The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 generally allows taxpayers to exclude income from the discharge of debt on their principal residence. Debt forgiven through mortgage restructuring, foreclosure or short sale qualifies for the relief which is available through calendar year 2012 for up to $2 million of forgiven debt ($1 million if married filing separately). Mortgage debt in excess of the original acquisition debt is not eligible. The forgiven debt may also be excluded if it is discharged in bankruptcy or to the extent that the taxpayer is insolvent immediately prior to the discharge. Insolvency for this purpose is the excess of debt over the fair market value of assets.

If you are one of the 30 percent of all American homeowners who are drowning in their home mortgages, do not despair! Strategies are available which can limit the damage to your credit rating, protect you from a lawsuit for money damages by the lender and exclude the amount of debt cancelled from taxation. Your real estate broker and attorney can work to help you maximize your chances for such success.

Fall conference offers valuable information about real estate, economy

Are you’re wondering whether to buy or sell real estate during these turbulent times? Do you want more information about new green building practices, or are concerned about how the credit crunch will affect the future of lending and the economy? If so, REMAX of Boulder Inc.’s Fall Real Estate Conference will provide essential information for all attendees.

“I think anyone who’s interested in real estate or the economy should come hear these experts talk,” says Tom Kalinski, Broker/Owner of REMAX of Boulder. “You can interact with the panel and get your questions answered.”

The conference is set for 11:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the Millennium Harvest House Boulder, 1345 28th St. The cost is $49 and includes lunch.

With Brad Blackwell, Executive Vice President, Retail National Sales Manager for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and Paul Bishop, Managing Director of Real Estate Research for the National Association of Realtors (Washington, D.C.), headlining the event, REMAX of Boulder has put together an outstanding lineup of speakers. They also include Hugh Morris, Director of Smart Growth (National Association of Realtors (Washington, D.C.); Patti Silverstein, Chief Economist of Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.; and Andy Grolnick, President and CEO of LogRhythm Inc., of Boulder.

The conference will address the future of real estate lending – a major issue upon everyone’s mind – locally, nationally and internationally, as well as the direction of green building programs and green government regulations impacting construction and real estate prices.

One conference session will decipher perception from reality as far as what the government is doing to turn the economy around, what is needed to get through the down economy and what is really happening versus what people think is happening. “The idea is to clarify what is reality so people aren’t making assumptions or believing all the rumors,” Kalinski says.

The credit crunch has put the brakes on the entire economy, so one session is dedicated to discussing how the nation will overcome its fear of lending to take a more sensible approach toward awarding credit.

“The government in Washington doesn’t have a clue what’s going in the real world,” Kalinski says. “Banks can’t loan. By next year, banks are going to realize they’re not making any money and that they have to find a way to loan. Everybody is at a standstill.”

While conference speakers don’t have a crystal ball to guarantee what the future holds for real estate and the economy, “the people we have invited to come are in a better position than anybody here in Boulder, Colorado, to understand what’s really happening,” Kalinski notes. “Last year we learned a tremendous amount from the speakers. They weren’t 100 percent right, but they opened our eyes.”

For more information about the Fall Real Estate Conference or to register, visit

Colorado, cities rank well among metros throughout nation in home appreciation

Colorado and all of its metros’ housing markets continue to demonstrate their resilience, even in a recession.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency ranked Colorado at No. 11 out of 51 markets for a quarterly appreciation of 0.17 percent. Boulder, coming in at 44th out of 290 metro areas, was the highest-ranking Colorado city. Denver-Aurora-Broomfield was the next Colorado metro on the listing, coming in at 86th, and Fort Collins-Loveland was next, ranking 84th.

No Colorado cities made it into the top 20 highest appreciating cities, but none came in the bottom 20 – which was dominated again by California and Florida with a couple of cities in Nevada and Arizona thrown in – either.

Take a look at how Colorado and its cities compared with the national appreciation rate:

Despite struggles, BusinessWeek says ‘Boulder rocks’ in home values

BusinessWeek has named Boulder, with 59.39 percent of its homes increasing in value, as the metro area with the strongest housing market in the nation.

According to the magazine, Boulder “has had a relatively stable housing market, in part, because it is home to strong employers, including the University of Colorado, as well as a base of affluent residents. The supply of homes is limited in Boulder by the mountains to the west and its tens of thousands of acres of protected open space.” Boulder’s median home value was listed as $347,200.

The only other Colorado city to make the list of the Top 30 Strongest Housing Markets – those found listed by as having home values appreciate from the second quarter of 2008 to the second quarter of 2009 – was Fort Collins, which came in at 19 with 28.82 percent of its homes appreciating. Besides being home to Colorado State University, Fort Collins has excellent schools, low crime and a vibrant downtown as well as miles of hiking and biking trails, 600 acres of parks and 5,000 acres of natural areas, according to BusinessWeek.

BusinessWeek based its ranking on’s Q2 Home Value Index, which is computed by taking many different data points from public records and entering them in a proprietary formula.

Here’s a look at the top 10 strongest housing markets in the nation:

Save money on winter utility bills and help the environment with these 10 simple tips

1. Setting your water heater to 120 degrees is simple and will save you $6 to $10 a year.

2. Open the drapes or blinds on your south-facing windows to let the sun in and warm your home during the cold months.

3. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees so your heating system will operate less and use less energy. Turn your thermostat down 5 degrees at night or when leaving your home for an hour or more to save up to $70 on energy costs each year.

4. Washing all your clothes in cold water will save you about $40 a year.

5. Replace your furnace or heat-pump filter regularly. Dirty filters reduce airflow, making your equipment work harder and use more energy. Replace your furnace filter monthly (unless it’s a high-efficiency filter designed to last several months) during the cold season to reduce heating costs by as much as $35 a year.

6. A programmable thermostat is easy to install and automatically adjusts your home’s temperature settings when you’re sleeping or away. Doing so can save you as much as 10 percent or $70 a year.

7. Installing low-flow showerheads and faucets (the low-flow showerheads use 1.8 gallon per minute) can reduce your hot-water consumption by as much as 10 percent. You'll see savings up to $6 per year for a sink faucet aerator and $20 per year for a showerhead. The more faucets and showerheads your home has, the more you save.

8. Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs cost a little more but can save you about $50 over the life of just one bulb.

9. Weatherize and insulate older homes to save as much as 20 percent off heating and cooling costs. A handy homeowner can weather-strip doors and sea windows and gaps along the home’s foundation. The easiest and most cost-effective way to insulate a home is to add insulation in the attic, though unfinished basement walls and crawlspaces could use it, too. Check with a contractor to insulate walls, which can be more complex. The owner of an average home can see a savings of $140 a year.

10. Purchase ENERGY STAR® appliances. Appliances and electronics significantly increase your energy bill, so when it’s time to replace, remember that refrigerators, washers, TVs and computers have two price tags – purchase price and lifetime energy costs. According to ENERGY STAR®, the average homeowner spends about $2,000 on energy bills every year. Change to appliances that have earned the ENERGY STAR® rating and save $75 a year in energy costs while preserving the environment.