Real estate conference offers perspectives on navigating market, economy

If you’re looking for insight into how to navigate today’s uncertain economy and real estate market, then you won’t want to miss Re/Max of Boulder Inc.’s 2010 Fall Real Estate Conference.

Federal Housing Administration Commissioner David H. Stevens headlines this year’s conference keynote speakers. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, and Brad Blackwell, retail national sales manager for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, will round out the keynote speaker panel.

The conference is set for 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, at the Millennium Harvest House Boulder, 1345 28th St. The cost is $59 and includes lunch. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. and a reception at 4:30 p.m. will wrap up the day’s events.

Re/Max of Boulder is also honored to welcome Larry Kendall, chairman emeritus of Fort Collins-based The Group Inc. Real Estate. He will speak on strategies that will serve Realtors well when selling real estate in this economy.

Other topics covered at the conference include:

Commercial/Residential: Opportunities on the Horizon: Smart investors should look beyond today's headlines for real estate opportunities that will mature throughout the next decade. We'll look at developments such as ConocoPhillips, North Park and others, including redevelopment and infill projects, with an eye toward maximizing investment returns.

Residential Track: Transit-Oriented Development: FasTracks eventually will change the dynamics of real estate in the Boulder Valley. This panel will discuss projects such as Boulder Junction and other transit developments in Broomfield, Louisville and Longmont.

Commercial Track: Rent or Buy? Is your company in the right-sized space? Is it time for you to purchase a building for your business? Our expert panel will discuss how you can take advantage of the current market and get the best value for your company's dollars.

During the Real Estate Forecast, Boulder Area Realtor Association President D.B. Wilson, who also manages the Re/Max of Boulder office, and Lynda Gibbons, chief executive officer of Gibbons-White Inc. will talk about what the future holds for the economy and real estate for the remainder of 2010 and into 2011. They will examine both the national trends and the outlook for the Boulder Valley.

For more information and to register for the Fall Real Estate Conference visit or You can also contact Tom Kalinski of RE/MAX of Boulder, Inc., at 303.441.5620 or e-mail; or Chris Wood of the Boulder County Business Report, 303.440.4950, or e-mail

Four hours of Continuing Education Real Estate Credit are available from VanEd. Contact the BCBR if you are interested in being a sponsor or having a booth.

Relationship building key to successful banking

If you have lived or worked in Boulder long enough, you may remember it as Boulder Valley Bank and Trust, a private bank founded in the 1980s.

Or perhaps you’re more familiar with Mountain Parks Bank or its successor, Community First National Bank.

No matter what the name and parent company, the bank known as Bank of the West since 2004 has stood on its original foundation: building relationships with customers.

Owned by BNP Paripas in Fargo, N.D., Bank of the West was founded 135 years ago, and its philosophy today is the same as it was then, says Lisa Evans, vice president and Boulder market manager.

“We have always focused on the customer relationship,” she says. “It is all about the customer experience.”

To ensure that the bank is true to its cause, Bank of the West employs a third-party survey company that calls customers randomly to see how their experience was and whether the bank met their needs, Evans says. Third quarter results showed that more than 94 percent of our customers at the two Boulder locations were "extremely satisfied" with the customer service they received.

“Banking in general is a people industry,” she notes, adding that its service is what sets Bank of the West apart from its competitors.

Bank of the West employs 12 people at its two Boulder branches, 3800 Arapahoe Ave., #100, and 1300 Walnut St., #100. Evans says more than half of them have been with Bank of the West for more than five years, and some have been with it – and its predecessor – for more than 10 years.

She attributes the bank’s low attrition rate to efforts to build a relationship with its employees, as well, by providing them with financial assistance for their college education, and recognizing them with incentives and rewards for different levels of achievement. “People choose to stay and grow with our company,” Evans says.

Bank of the West is also the leading sponsor of University of Colorado athletics. And the bank and its employees show their appreciation to the community they serve by getting involved, either financially or by giving of their time, with University of Colorado athletics, the local hospice program, the YMCA, Boulder Community Hospital and the Family Resource Center (Access Counseling), Evans says.

A majority of Bank of the West’s Boulder clients have been with the bank for years, she says, showing that getting to know and understand people is important in banking.

The bank is also known for its business banking, and is one of the 30 largest commercial banks in the nation.

“Both of the branches have a background in commercial banking, in being there for that business owner,” Evans says. “I think it’s about relationships – faces you know and relationships you build. Whether it’s commercial or retail banking, we’re providing what the customer needs and we’re able to grow along with them. If we have a relationship, we know what they need and can bring that to the table.”

Bank of the West’s parent company, BNP Paribas, is one of the six strongest banks in the world, according to Standard & Poor’s, with $2.4 trillion in assets. Bank of the West had $61 billion in assets as of Sept. 30, 2009, and more than $40 billion in deposits.

Learn more about Bank of the West’s Boulder branches by calling (303) 444-7771 (Arapahoe branch) or (303) 449-7200 (Walnut branch), or visit

Boulder tagged for smart folks and life before and after graduation

Combine a beautiful setting and friendly people with an entrepreneurial with a major university and you get one of the smartest cities in the nation – perhaps because graduates of that university fall in love with the city itself.

Web magazine The Daily Beast recently named Boulder No. 1 on its list of America’s Brainiest Metros.

According to the magazine, America’s Brainiest Metros are a mix of large metros with a significant presence of technology and knowledge-based businesses and the nation’s premiere college and university towns. The presence of a major research university is one of the most decisive variables.

While noting that Boulder is known as a liberal enclave, the magazine touted the University of Colorado as “top notch” and home to some of the nation’s best science programs. It also recognized that Boulder is the base for several science research centers.

But it also has plenty of recreational opportunities that not only bring students to CU, but convince them to stay after graduation.

According to, Boulder ranks fifth on its Top 10 College Towns: Great Cities for School and Life After Graduation. says besides CU, Boulder also offers its students and graduates “mountains and eye-catching scenery.” The average age of its residents is just 29, and it has more than 36,000 acres of open space, where students can test their skills in hiking, mountain biking or climbing. Boulder residents also have relatively short trips to hit the slopes at Eldora Mountain Ski Resort to ski, snowboard or snowshoe, and plenty of hot spots in town where they can warm up or shop and socialize.

Here’s a look at the top five in The Daily Beasts’ Brainiest Metros:

Market stats reflect sobering economic conditions

The economy is just barely chugging along, and the local real estate statistics reflect it.

Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor Association, says that 227 single-family home sales for Boulder County is “a fairly revealing number. Things really did slow down quite a bit after the homebuyer tax credits expired this spring.”

During the second quarter of this year, 1,103 single-family homes sold, compared with 765 during the third quarter – a 30 percent drop. And 416 townhomes/condos sold in the second quarter while only 225 sold in the third quarter.

Boulder – along with the state and nation – will face ongoing challenges as the government continues to struggle financially, he says.

“It’s not clear what this, now temporary, foreclosure freeze will do in the market; it could have an additional dampening effect,” Hotard says.

He notes that 31 percent of home sales nationally in the third quarter were homes that were foreclosed on. It is important to keep the processing and sales proceeding and to move these distressed properties out of the market. Recently, Bank of America and GMAC lifted their freezes, debunking negative speculation regarding processing oversight.

“I also think the election coming up has had an effect on the economy and real estate market because of uncertainty about future federal policy,” Hotard says. “Hopefully whoever prevails in the elections nationally will instill confidence in consumers and markets, providing a positive boost to economic health and housing nationally as we enter 2011.”

Virtually nonexistent job growth – unemployment nationally is at 9.6 percent and may drop to 9.2 percent next year – and the lack of an economic expansion also will take its toll on the real estate industry, he says.

“I don’t think anyone ought to panic,” Hotard says. “No one is anticipating a double-dip recession. While we’re not experiencing a rapid expansion, for months we’ve been on a slow and measured positive trend in terms of economic growth. It’s just very, very slow.”

Despite the low home-sales volume, Boulder’s home values and sales values remained solid across the market in September, “reflecting stability even in the face of challenging financing and rising numbers of foreclosures that we have seen in Colorado and nationally,” Hotard says.

Another bright spot is that “historically low, unbelievably low” interest rates are available on mortgages. “Mortgages couldn’t be cheaper,” Hotard says.

Hotard also sees a positive energy from area Realtors who are “retooling, reorganized, more efficient and expanding services,” instead of reducing them, to bring more value into transactions.

“It’s really encouraging to see how the real estate professionals are responding to the challenges this market is presenting to them,” he says. “From my exposure at national and state meetings, while there are fewer Realtors, there is an energized level of professionalism and value in the industry and confidence that profitability will return as a result.”

Pending home sales rise for second consecutive month

The National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index ended the summer on a positive note, rising 4.3 percent in August from July to 82.3 based on contracts signed that month.

The data reflects contracts put on homes, with closings following in one or two months. Markets had expected the index to increase 3 percent.

July’s index rose 5.2 percent to 79.4 based from a downwardly revised 75.5 in June, making August the second consecutive month that pending home sales have increased.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the latest data is consistent with a gradual improvement expected in home sales in upcoming months.

“Attractive affordability conditions from very low mortgage interest rates appear to be bringing buyers back to the market,” he says. “However, the pace of a home sales recovery still depends more on job creation and an accompanying rise in consumer confidence.”

Although Yun expects a continuing steady rise in home sales, he cautioned any sudden rise in mortgage rates could slow the recovery.

“Current low consumer price inflation has helped keep mortgage interest rates very attractive this year,” he says. “However, recent rising trends in producer prices at the intermediate and early stages of production, along with very high commodity prices, are raising concerns about future inflation and future mortgage interest rates. Higher inflation would mean higher mortgage interest rates. In the meantime, housing affordability is hovering near record highs.”

According to Reuters, home sales and building activity are stabilizing after a steep decline following the end in April of a popular tax credit for home buyers. The rise in pending home contracts may indicate a modest gain of existing home sales this fall. However, high unemployment and a glut of homes on the market indicate recovery will be very weak.

In the West, which includes Colorado, the PHSI rose 6.4 percent to 101.1 but remains 19.6 percent below a year ago. The Northeast index declined 2.9 percent to 60.6 in August and remains 28.8 percent below August 2009. In the Midwest the index rose 2.1 percent in August to 68.0 but is 26.5 percent below a year ago. Pending home sales in the South increased 6.7 percent to an index of 90.8 but are 13.1 percent below August 2009.