RE/MAX of Boulder earns top rank in nation for total sales volume in 2010

REAL Trends has named RE/MAX of Boulder, Inc. No. 1 on its list of Top Firms Ranked by Closed Sales Volume Per Office, a category in its 2011 REAL Trends 500 publication released this month.

RE/MAX of Boulder earned the designation with a sales volume of nearly $560 million representing 1,400 sides in 2010 – more than $71 million more than the next ranked office.

The REAL Trends 500 is an annual research report identifying the country’s largest and most successful residential firms as ranked by closed transaction sides and separately by closed sales volume. “This report represents the most trusted standard of measuring the performance of the nation’s leading realty service firms,” said REAL Trends editor Steve Murray in informing RE/MAX of Boulder of its honor.

The recognition from real estate consulting and communications company REAL Trends falls on the heels of RE/MAX International naming RE/MAX of Boulder its top single office for total sales volume in 2010 for the fourth consecutive year.

D.B. Wilson, managing broker for RE/MAX of Boulder, attributed the office’s accomplishment to the hard work of its 89 brokers and their loyal customers, who continually return or refer their friends and family to the real estate office.

“This award is just incredibly gratifying,” he says. “Our Realtors take tremendous pride in their production and providing a level of service to their clients that can't be beat. This award exemplifies the fulfillment of all of their dedication and hard work.”

The local media has also often recognized RE/MAX of Boulder for its customer service: it has been Boulder Daily Camera’s Boulder County Gold Winner for Best Real Estate Office or the runner-up for 16 years, and the Colorado Daily has named the office Best of Boulder, as well, multiple times.

RE/MAX of Boulder, 2425 Canyon Blvd., Suite 110, is owned by Tom Kalinski and serves all of Boulder and Broomfield counties, and parts of Larimer, Denver, Jefferson, Weld and Gilpin counties.

Here’s a look at the 10 Top Firms Ranked by Closed Sales Volume per Office:

Source: REAL Trends 500

Remodeling index shows improvement across the board

Homeowners are slowly re-entering the remodeling market, according to the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI).

The NAHB reports that its remodeling index has increased from 41.5 in the fourth quarter of 2010 to 46.5 in the first quarter of 2011, indicating a potential recovery.

This is the highest level for the RMI since the fourth quarter of 2006, although an RMI below 50 indicates that more remodelers report market activity is lower compared with the prior quarter than those who report it is higher.

The overall RMI combines ratings of current remodeling activity with indicators of future activity like calls for bids, according to the NAHB. Current market conditions for the first quarter of 2011 rose from 43.3 in the previous quarter to 46.1. Future market indicators climbed from 39.7 in the previous quarter to 46.8.

“Remodelers report a jump in activity so far this year and have been receiving more calls for work and appointments,” says NAHB Remodelers Chairman Bob Peterson, CGR, CAPS, CGP, a remodeler from Fort Collins. “However, many home owners are still slow to commit to remodeling due to feeling uncertain about the economic recovery and difficulty obtaining loans.”

Below are the top reasons prospective customers have told remodelers that they are waiting to remodel their homes:

• It is difficult to get financing (90 percent of remodeler respondents);

• They have lost equity in their homes (81 percent);

• They are uncertain about their future economic situation (74 percent);

• Reluctance to invest in home when not sure home will hold its value (67 percent);

• Negative media stories making them more cautious (62 percent);

• Inaccurate appraisals make financing more difficult (54 percent).

“Home remodeling continues to slowly increase and continued growth through the year is expected,” says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “The fact that some indicators are breaking 50 means remodelers are seeing improving activity in their markets. While credit scarcity and economic uncertainty continue to weigh down remodeling, signs of increasing consumer interest are promising.”

Here’s a look at current remodeling market indicators compared with the fourth quarter of 2010, all of which have increased, according to the NAHB’s Remodeling Market Index:

For more information about remodeling, visit

From skiing to family to business, Boulder offers property manager a life he loves

Like so many Colorado transplants, Todd Ulrich came to the state from Baltimore, Maryland, with skiing as much as possible on his mind.

But he found that Colorado offered him so much more than winter recreation: it was here that he found a home, the opportunity to make a living and where he wanted to raise a family.

Todd, the owner of PG Rentals Property Management at RE/MAX of Boulder, moved to Colorado in 1993 “kind of for skiing and just a change of pace,” he says. “I purposely moved here to get stuck here and ended up going to the University of Colorado.”

While he went to CU for a degree in economics, none of the jobs he has had has put that degree to use: he had worked as a Web and software developer for a “dot com” company, as well as invested in real estate (he bought his first rental property after graduating from CU) and worked as an electrician. But the experience of managing his own properties led to opening his own residential property management business, and he founded PG Rentals 12 years ago.

When Todd started his business, he was managing two or three of his own properties; today his company manages more than 100 rental properties, including short term, student, executive and standard 12 month. The majority of those properties are located in Boulder County communities including the city of Boulder, Broomfield, Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette, Erie and Superior.

Most of the properties he managed in the beginning were leased to students, and from that experience he learned that property management involved much more than just collecting rent. “I had to educate myself very quickly,” he says.

Today, with 12 years of experience in the business under his belt, Todd says he offers what other property managers often fail to: customer service.

“(I pay) attention to detail,” he says, adding when he was a student renter, he noted what property managers did that was good and bad, and why they earned the reputation they did.

Todd says the biggest complaint many have about property managers is their failure to respond in a timely manner and to follow up, so he has tried to excel in that area.

“Clients came to me because they were looking for something different, and I’ve kept every one of them,” he says.

Because PG Rental serves a diverse clientele, Todd’s knowledge and ability to manage any and all residential properties has grown over the years and it’s kept his job interesting and new.

And his personal life is full of new things, as well: Todd married Susan Gingrich, whom he met while working for the dot com business, more than a year ago, and they are now the proud parents of a four-month-old baby boy, Thomas.

“I’ve lived here almost 20 years and I’m still very active with camping, hiking and skiing,” Todd says of his adopted home. “There’s so much to enjoy in the state. We love being here and our kids are going to have the opportunity to experience all this.

“On the business side of things, the opportunity is remarkable in Boulder,” he adds. “People everywhere are struggling – the economy is not great – but Boulder just keeps on.”

For more information about PG Rentals, visit; call (303) 564-4762; or e-mail

April market stats show buyers are slowly springing into action

Boulder County’s real estate market continued to push on toward recovery in April, with sales and prices of single-family homes creeping upward.

Both average and median prices increased in every Boulder community – a phenomenon not witnessed in recent memory, even though the area’s prices have not experienced the decreases many markets throughout the nation have.

“They’re holding up extremely well,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor Association.

He attributed the increases in part to limited inventory, creating a more competitive environment.

“It’s a classic supply-demand situation,” Hotard says.

The sale of 257 single-family homes in April was an increase over the 212 sold in March but still down from the 346 in April 2010 – though that’s expected considering that was the last month in which the first-time and move-up buyer tax credit was available.

“We could not match the incentivized market of 2010,” Hotard says. However, April 2011’s single-family home sales “improved substantially over 2009,” which had 204 sales.

Additional good news that came with April’s real estate statistics is that sales of condominiums and townhomes were in line with March’s, holding at 75.

Hotard says that market is still having an issue with tight financing and demand is not as strong as it is with single-family homes.

While the chilly, wet weather has not helped the housing market, affordability has in both pricing and a 30-year fixed interest rate below 5 percent, he says.

With improved job creation in the area and pent-up demand, home sales should be stronger, Hotard says. Although the trend is moving upward, it’s uneven.

“Unnecessarily tight credit is continuing to constrain the market place,” he says. “In some parts of our market areas, we’re seeing lower appraisals resulting in contract cancellations. Those kinds of pressures continue to make this a challenging - although an improving - market.”

Although reports show foreclosures in many parts of Colorado are down by large numbers, “we still have a ways to go to clear out all of that distressed inventory,” Hotard says.

“I’m encouraged by the strength of our market,” he says. “My personal feeling is if we could loosen credit and make it available to a larger number of qualified borrowers, we would see substantial improvement in our market.”

The Boulder Area Realtor® Association is working with the National Association of Realtors® to encourage Congress and federal regulators to provide affordable mortgage products and guarantee a strong secondary market to support credit availability, Hotard says.

“We’re fighting battles to make sure that home ownership tax benefits are preserved in the tax code. Homeownership matters,” he says.

Tips will ensure summer parties are clean and safe

Summer is finally here – or it’s supposed to be, anyway – and you likely are planning one or more barbecues with friends and family. Here are a few tips to prepare the yard and grill from before you plan the menu and fill out the guest list:

Grill Safety Inspection

• Check for leaks in your gas grill by mixing a small amount of dishwashing liquid and water in a spray bottle, then spray the hose and all connections. Next, with the hose connected to the propane tank, open the gas. If bubbles appear, you have a leak and need to replace the hose or fix a loose connection.

• The flame on gas grills should be blue; if you see a yellow flame, there are either clogged air jets or burners that need adjustment.

• Clean the grill, inside and out. Scrub burners and grates with a wire brush, and then cut the grease build-up with a vinegar and water solution. Rinse clean and let dry thoroughly. A good all-purpose cleaner can take care of the outside of the grill.

Clean and Cool

Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are in good condition so your food is stored at the correct temperature and remains safe to serve.

• The cooling vents shouldn’t be blocked, as the air needs to circulate to ensure safe food preservation.

• Keep the refrigerator temperature at 36ºF to 38ºF and the freezer no colder than 0ºF to 5ºF. Inexpensive refrigerator and freezer thermometers can help you maintain the right temperature.

• Clean gaskets on the refrigerator and freezer doors with mild detergent and water - not bleach - to ensure a good seal and prevent wasted energy.

Spruce Up the Yard

• Inspect the deck and stairways for any loose boards or railings and tighten them up.

• Give your lawn mower a check-up to ensure you can mow efficiently and safely. Consider buying extended service plans for your appliances and power tools for your peace of mind and to make service and repairs easier.

• After mowing the lawn, break out the trimmer and edger to tidy up the sides and corners of your yard.

For more tips on getting ready for summer fun, visit

Namasté Solar harnesses the power of respect


This is the Sanskrit meaning of namasté in Namasté Solar’s name.

And just like the word – a traditional greeting of respect that recognizes the interdependence of all living things – Namasté Solar’s goal is to show the earth, the community, their customers and employees respect not only through increasing use of solar power, but in how the business is run.

Blake Jones, Ray Tuomey and Wes Kennedy founded Namasté Solar in 2005 after Colorado voters approved Amendment 37 requiring energy companies to glean a certain amount of electricity from solar by 2015, says Dan Yechout, sales director.

Xcel Energy’s Solar* Rewards program launch in 2006 ignited Namasté Solar’s business.

Today, it is the most experienced Colorado-based solar company, having installed more solar projects in the state than any other company. Its primary market is the greater Denver/Boulder area, though it has done business as far north as Fort Collins, as far south as Colorado Springs and, occasionally, on the Western Slope. In addition to its main office in Boulder, Namasté Solar has been working from its LEED-certified office in Denver for the last 1½ years, as that’s where most of its customers are.

But Namasté Solar’s founders didn’t want to just run a business – they wanted to set a higher standard of respect not only for the earth, but for their customers and their employees.

So they recently established Namasté Solar as an employee-owned cooperative, which now has 40 co-owners and 22 cooperative candidates/employees. In the cooperative structure, all candidates are given the opportunity to purchase a share in the business and invest in Namasté Solar’s future.

All co-owners have a voice in what happens at Namasté Solar, from the company rebranding to the bi-annual company retreat agenda. They also vote on who will serve on the company’s internal board of directors, which occasionally makes decisions not well-suited to a companywide vote, Yechout says.

Salary ranges are tight, everyone has access to the company’s financials and, instead of paying commission, all the co-owners enjoy profit-sharing, he says.

“We think it’s good for us, but it’s really great for the customers,” Yechout says. “Whether it’s selling or installing, all of us co-owners have a vested interest in making sure you’re happy with our product and service.

“Having happy customers in the end is always the goal,” he adds. “We’re always going to go the extra mile for the customer in the end, and this has really paid off for us.”

Namasté Solar also shows respect to the community by being the first solar installer in the nation to offer a solar grant program, he says. It dedicates 1 percent of its annual revenues (regardless of profit) toward its corporate social responsibility plan, which includes solar grants, sponsorships and in-kind donations to local nonprofit organizations. The solar grant program gives long-term energy self-sufficiency to these organizations and enables them to reallocate their annual electricity savings, instead, to support direct program costs, Yechout says.

Namasté Solar also seeks to “walk the talk” through its own facilities and operations: its Boulder building was certified as LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council when it was remodeled 2008; its fleet of vehicles includes mostly hybrids or those that run on biodiesel; and the company has a zero waste program and partners with Eco-Cycle on zero-waste initiatives.

To ensure that home and commercial building owners can afford solar service, Namasté Solar not only provides a wide price range of solar panels from which to choose, but it is now offers a residential lease program so that homeowners do not have to come up with a large upfront payment to install a solar array.

But with the Colorado Legislature increasing the percentage of power generated by solar in 2007 and 2010, Namasté Solar’s co-owners have a certain amount of job security.

To learn more about Namasté Solar, visit; call (303) 447-0300; or e-mail

Colorado's home prices remain steady through 4Q 2010

Colorado’s real estate market stood its ground through the end of 2010, according to the Federal Housing Finance Authority’s House Price Index.

Colorado’s house-price change of -1.03 percent from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the last three months of 2010 earned it a rank of 10th out of 51 on the index. The nation as a whole saw home prices decline 3.95 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with the same period of 2009.

While none of Colorado’s metro statistical areas were ranked among the top 20 for house price appreciation, most of their house prices remained steady compared with metros nationwide through the end of the year.

Boulder remained among the top 100 metro statistical areas for its price appreciation of 0.06 percent, it dropped from 53rd in the third quarter to 87th in the fourth.

It also fell three places to the fourth-highest rank among Colorado metros, falling behind Pueblo, which saw home prices climb 1.05 percent from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2010, ranked 38th; Greeley, which ranked 57th with an appreciation of 0.53 percent; and Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, which ranked 80th with prices appreciating 0.12 percent.

All but one of Colorado’s metros stayed well out of the bottom 20 except for one: Grand Junction’s home prices declined 8.68 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with the previous year, earning it the rank of 299 out of 309.

Here’s a look at how all of Colorado and its ranked metro areas’ change in housing prices in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with change in housing prices nationwide:

Surveys find Colorado is both 'safe' and (somewhat) 'secure' from natural and employment disasters

Recent surveys show that not only is Colorado one of the best places to make a living, but you can do so in relative safety.

According to Sustain Lane, Colorado ranks eighth among the nation’s states for safety – at least in terms of the number of natural disasters since 1953, as reported by Yahoo! Shine.

Rhode Island ranked first, followed by Utah and Colorado neighbor Wyoming. Texas took the top slot for the state with the most natural disasters, followed by California and Oklahoma.

Here’s a look at the top 10 safest states in the union:

But the fact that you are unlikely to experience a natural disaster while living in Colorado is likely not enough reason to move or remain here: it’d also be nice if you could support your family and then some – right?

According to Yahoo! Finance, Colorado also has that going for it, too. Using data from, Yahoo! Finance reported that Colorado is No. 9 among states where you can not only find a job, but find one that pays enough to cover the expenses and taxes and have a little leftover. pulled unemployment rates, average wages, tax rates and cost of living from all 50 states and found the best and worst states in which to make a living.

Here are the top 10 of each:

Where is money hiding in your home? Find it when you’re spring cleaning

When you finally get around to spring cleaning your home but then are tempted to quit before the job’s done because it just is too much, perhaps this thought will keep you going: there’s cash in that junk!

According to Kiplinger (as reported by Yahoo! Finance), people often throw away cash – or, at least, items that could bring them cash if they were handled properly.

Here’s some items you should snag if you come across them while in the midst of spring cleaning:

Receipts – More specifically, health care receipts. While most companies require all receipts eligible for Flexible Spending Account claims turned in by March 15, some give to as late as June 15. And while you’re going through those receipts, grab any you can use to claim tax donations such as those for charitable donations or job-hunting expenses, if you itemize.

Gift Cards – If you come across unused gift cards but won’t use them for yourself or give them to someone else, check out gift card exchange sites such as Gift Card Granny or Plastic Jungle, which purchase gift cards for a percent of their value.

Electronics – When the electronics you just bought become outdated in the next few weeks, don’t throw them away. Instead, you can sell them on, which buys computers and accessories, game systems, MP3 players, digital cameras, satellite radios and GPS devices.

You may also consider exchanging them through companies that allow you to trade older items for credit, such as the Apple Recycling Program or Hewlett-Packard offers a similar trade-in program if you buy a new HP or Compaq product first.

Donating your electronics may not have immediate rewards, but you can reap the tax deduction if you itemize. The National Cristina Foundation will take your used computers, software and accessories and find them a new home, helping provide computer training to the less fortunate. Old cell phones can be donated through

Lastly, do your part to save the earth by recycling your electronics through programs like those offered by Best Buy, or try out your local to find them a new home.

For more information on donating and recycling electronic goods, including how to safely and completely wipe all your personal information from them, visit the EPA's eCycling home page.

Jewelry – With the price of gold topping $1,400 an ounce as of late March, silver nearing $40 an ounce and platinum reaching $1,750 an ounce, now is the time to part with jewelry you don’t wear often and lacks sentimental value. But before you ship them off to or similar gold buyers, check out auction houses, estate buyers, and jewelers to find and compare offers. You can also find an appraiser via the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers.

Clothing and accessories – Go shopping in your closet for items to sell at a secondhand store. Typically, clothing will resell for just a quarter or a third of the original retail price, but handbags may sell for up to half the original price tag. If you sell to a consignment shop, you'll have to wait until your item sells before collecting any money.

Call your choice secondhand store or check its Web site before you head in, as you may need to make an appointment to peddle your wares, and you’ll want to make sure your items are in season, in style and fit in with the shop's other offerings. Your items should be clean, stain-free and neatly folded. But if you can't profit from your apparel, consider donating it and claiming the tax benefit.

Books, music, movies and other miscellaneous items – Your first medium of choice for selling these items is the Internet, such as eBay, which will charge a fee but allow you to reap most of the profits. If you have enough items or they will bring in enough cash, you may enlist an online auction helper such as iSold It. Other sites to try: Amazon Marketplace, Overstock and Craigslist. If you're trying to sell furniture, use Craigslist or your social network to find local buyers who can swing by to pick stuff up themselves (just be safe). Of course, there’s the old-fashioned way of selling your used items: garage or yard sales.

Early spring sales show promise of new life in housing market

If you compare March’s real estate statistics for Boulder County with March 2010, you might think things are worse off than they really are.

But if you recall that at this time last year, the first-time and move-up tax credit was bringing potential home buyers out of the woodwork, you’d understand what an unfair comparison that is.

However, compared with the last year without a tax credit influencing sales – 2009 – March 2011’s home sales are improving, says Ken Hotard, vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor Association.

Sales of single-family homes, 212 in March, exceeded the 193 sold in March 2009, though the 75 condominiums and townhomes that sold in March fell below the 87 sold two years ago. Compared with February, single-family home sales were up from 158 and condo/townhome sales increased from 54.

In March 2010, 272 single-family homes sold and 119 condos/townhomes sold.

“We’re basically continuing the trend we’ve seen in recent months,” Hotard says. “We’re showing good improvement over 2009, but we’re still not matching the 2010 numbers when we had the tax credits in place.”

The condo/townhome market continues to struggle, thanks to an excess supply for the demand that’s out there, he says.

While the current market stats aren’t reaching stimulus-level activity, the single-family market is showing increased sales and price stability month over month, Hotard says.

“We’re getting a little of that spring bump and hopefully that’ll continue,” he says, noting he is hearing from area Realtors that listing activity is more brisk, though inventory is not increasing evenly across submarkets.

Average and median sales prices on single family are continuing to improve throughout the Boulder market, much in part to the fact that the area didn’t experience inflated prices in the early 2000s, he says. The current prices reflect the real value of homes in the Boulder area markets.

Hotard says another positive sign that will impact the market in time is an improvement in local communities’ sales and use tax receipts, which shows “potential improvement” in consumer confidence and spending.

However, he says, “the drags that are still out there. The overall economic health remains weak, and while job growth is improving, it’s not at a pace to significantly reduce unemployment.”

Tight credit, the national debt and talk about requiring 20 percent down to obtain a mortgage are adding to the uncertainty people have about the real estate market, though, in the end, lenders will adopt more reasonable qualifications for lending, Hotard says.

On the bright side, new home construction went up 7 percent nationally in March, he notes, which means homebuilders are expressing more confidence.

“There certainly could be pockets in certain market areas where increasing the supply of new housing makes sense,” Hotard says.

Boulder growth takes the slow road

Boulder County grew from 291,288 residents in 2000 to 294,567 in 2010 – a growth of only 1.1 percent but enough to keep it among the top 10 biggest counties in Colorado, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s initial results from the 2010 Census.

However, Boulder dropped from being the sixth biggest county in 2000 to the seventh in that 10-year period, trading places with Larimer County, which grew from 251,494 resident in 2000 to a population of 299,630 last year – an increase of 19.1 percent.

El Paso jumped from the third biggest county in 2000 to the No. 1 slot in 2010 with a growth of 20.4 percent that took it from 516,929 to 622,263 residents, surpassing Denver, which grew only 8.2 percent to a population of 600,158.

However, El Paso was not the fastest-growing county in Colorado from 2000 to 2010: Douglas County was with a growth of 62.4 percent, followed by Weld County, 39.7 percent, and Garfield County, 28.8 percent. Several other counties also had higher growth rates than El Paso’s.

The city of Boulder gained 2,712 residents in the 10-year period, registering a population of 97,385 in 2010, for a growth of 2.9 percent. It fell in rank from the ninth biggest incorporated community in Colorado to No. 11.

The city (and county) of Denver retained the top slot for the biggest city in the state, and Colorado Springs and Aurora stayed in the No. 2 and 3 slots, growing 15.4 percent and 17.6 percent, respectively. The city of Fort Collins, with growth of 21.4 percent, went from 118,652 in 2000 to 143,986 residents last year, and went from the fifth biggest city 10 years ago to the fourth biggest in 2010.

Castle Rock grew the fastest – 138.5 percent – over the 10-year period, followed by Commerce City, 118.7 percent, and Parker, 92.3 percent.

Here’s a look at Colorado’s 10 biggest counties and their growth since 2000:

State’s efforts to convert science, tech resources into jobs recognized

Colorado continues to build and leverage its science and technology resources, according to the Milliken Institute’s 2010 State Technology and Science Index.

The state retained its No. 3 ranking from the 2008 index, behind Massachusetts and Maryland, respectively.

The index recognizes states that have used investment and long-term planning to successfully leverage their tech and science assets – the engines of 21st century economic growth – and tracked and evaluated states' tech and science capabilities and their ability to convert them into companies and high-paying jobs since 2002.

The 2010 State Technology and Science Index looks at 79 unique indicators that are categorized into five major components: Research and Development Inputs, Risk Capital and Entrepreneurial Infrastructure, Human Capital Investment, Technology and Science Work Force, and Technology Concentration and Dynamism, according to the Milliken Institute.

The State Technology and Science Index provides a nationwide benchmark for states to assess their science and technology capabilities, and whether they have the ecosystems for converting those capabilities into companies and high-paying jobs.

Save money and your home with these inspections and repairs

If you hope to keep your home livable for a while like many are doing in this economy, here are some repairs to tackle before they become expensive and unavoidable home improvements, according to Yahoo! Finance:

Annual HVAC inspection

An annual heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) inspection costs $200-$300, depending on where you live, but it can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars compared with what you could spend on repairs or replacement if you don’t have it done. A furnace blower that’s not working may cost about $150 to repair, compared with what it will cost if it’s not fixed: $300-$1,000 to replace the heat exchanger. Or an inspection could show that the reversing switch in the heat pump is broke – a $100-$300 cost versus the system switching to a more expensive auxiliary heat and higher heating bills.

Servicing and minor repairs protect the thousands of dollars you’ve invested in your HVAC system. Have the inspection done in the spring or fall, when companies aren't as busy, and you're not in dire need of heat or air conditioning.

Chimney inspection

If you’re willing to fork out $65 for a chimney inspection, or even $150 for an inspection and cleaning, once a year before you start that first warming blaze in the fireplace, then you could remove creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.

An inspection might show that you need a chimney cap, which would cost $150 to replace, versus the $2,000-$4,000 to replace the chimney liner rain could dampen and cause mold to grown on. You could also find and repair several other issues, all of which will allow rainwater to get in to your chimney and cause mold – potentially requiring your whole chimney to need replacing – if not otherwise fixed for a few hundred dollars.

Termite inspection

A termite inspect costs between $75 and $200, with a termite protection contract for qualifying homes with no current evidence of termites to cover treatment and repairs for any later infestation ranging from $200 to $300.

Have your home checked for termites any time once a year, though they are more active in spring and early summer. Subterranean termites come from the ground or flying termites damage framing, trim, drywall, furniture, carpet, copper and other soft metals. The average homeowner loss for termite damage is $3,000, but losses can be as high as $30,000 or even $80,000, Curtis says. Most homeowners insurance does not cover repair of termite damage.

Power washing and sealing wood deck

Paying $100 to $300 to power wash and seal a 200-square-foot deck (more for a larger deck) every two to three years in sunny weather, depending on the amount of traffic, moss and mold it is exposed to, can make your deck last 20 to 30 years.

Power washing gets rid of stains, algae, mold, mildew and moss, which can make your deck slippery and dangerous, and sealing it after it’s cleaned helps prevent water damage. If you don’t power wash and seal it, your deck will warp, nails will pop out and it won't last as long, costing you $4,000 to $20,000 to replace it, depending on the size.

Dryer vent cleaning

It’s definitely worth spending $120 to $200 a year to have your dryer vents cleaned on a sunny day, as the cost of not doing could be your home, your belongings and even your – and/or your family’s – life.

If your dryer is not on an exterior wall, it's likely that the vent leading outside is clogged up, and ignoring it could result in a disastrous fire.

Carpet cleaning

Cleaning your carpet isn’t just about making your home look clean; it’s also about removing soil before it stains and even ruins your carpet. And, more importantly, it also removes pollen, bacteria, insecticides and dirt, helping your family to breathe easier.

It costs about 50 cents per square foot for hot water extraction cleaning, or $500 for 1,000 square feet of cleaned carpet. You should clean your carpet once a year on average, though more often for high-traffic areas and homes with small children, pets or smokers. Manufacturers’ warranties may require cleaning every 18 to 24 months; save money by focusing on regular cleanings for high-traffic areas and waiting up to two years for the entire carpet.

If the carpet looks dirty, you've waited too long because some soil can't be removed with vacuuming. This soil will bind to your carpet and dull the texture, shortening the life of the carpet.

By regularly cleaning your carpet, you extend its life and save the $3,000-plus it costs to replace 1,000 square feet of medium-grade carpet including padding and installation.

Cold temperatures in February put a freeze on housing market

While February’s home sales didn’t follow the upward trend of recent months, it wasn’t any surprise that a lack of real estate activity followed the freezing temperatures Colorado experienced.

“February really kind of resulted in a bit of a flattening out of the market, in part driven by the extremely cold weather that struck people down for about two weeks,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor Association.

While the 158 single-family homes sold equaled those sold in February 2010, the 54 condominiums/townhomes that sold was down from the 67 that sold a year ago.

While Hotard attributes the lack of more sales of single-family homes to the cold weather that “took people out of home buying experience,” he says the drop in sales of attached units is consistent with that market’s performance in recent months.

“We’re seeing weakness in sales volume year over year in particular market areas, including single-family homes, but it’s more pronounced in condo/townhome sales that have been weak for some time now.”

However, while home sales are lackluster, the average and median single-family home prices are anything but in most Boulder County communities. Every Boulder market showed an increase in median sale prices, while only the city of Boulder showed a decrease – 2 percent – in average sale prices.

“In the midst of that (slow sales), average and median sales prices in single-family (market) have not only held up but dramatically improved in most markets year over year,” Hotard says. “They’re looking very solid.”

As if providing a lesson in contrast, the average sale price of condos/townhomes in five of the nine Boulder communities dropped in February, and the median sale price of attached units fell in three of the communities. Louisville and Lafayette were the only two communities that saw a decline of both their average and median sale prices of condos/townhomes.

“One thing not helping right now is inventory has shrunk to a point in which some buyers are seeing limited choice in type of housing product they’re looking for,” Hotard says, referring to the overall real estate market. “We’re still seeing demand but not seeing the product available for particular buyers.”

Other hindrances to the expansion of the Boulder area’s real estate market include the lack of job growth, he says.

“We continue to see very modest improvement (in jobs) and similarly with credit availability, but not enough to push us into a rapidly expanding market” or even a more aggressive market than the current one, Hotard says.

And while the more recent world events of the natural disasters and nuclear dangers in Japan as well as the United Nations’ actions against Libya may not have a direct link to the local market, they may have an impact, nonetheless, he says.

“Unfortunately, worldwide events at this time are creating uncertainty, which is always an uncomfortable thing for markets, particularly real estate markets,” Hotard says.

He adds that the growing unrest in the Middle East and rapidly rising gasoline prices “clearly signal uncertainty, and that has the potential to discourage consumers from making major decisions.”

Yet Hotard says he is still confident that current events won’t be enough to cripple the local market.

“I anticipate continued improvement in the market as we move through the spring and into the summer,” he says. “All indications are that the economy is slowly but surely recovering.”

Californians transplant love and knowledge of canines to Colorado kennel

When dog owners leave their canine companions at Windstar Kennels near Longmont, they can trust that they are in the care of people who truly know their customers.

It’s not just that Windstar Kennels owners Robert and Heather Lindberg were professional dog show handlers for 20 years, which might be experience enough. But both of them come from families who bred dogs - the couple breed dogs themselves, as well - and they owned a kennel in California before moving to Colorado in December 2009.

Caring for dogs is truly their expertise.

The Lindbergs attended shows all over the country as professional show dog handlers, including at the recent Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York, before retiring in February.

“We did have the luxury of traveling to so many different areas and seeing the differences in the people,” Heather says.

Now they are content running Windstar Kennels, which offers boarding, grooming and “play care” for dogs and cats, as well as breeding beagles.

“It’s a lot of work,” Heather says. “We live, eat and sleep it, but we do enjoy it. It’s rewarding for us to be around the dogs and the cats.”

While both Heather and Robert were raised in southern California, Robert’s family is originally from Colorado and his parents and sister and her family had returned to the Rocky Mountain state five years before Heather and Robert decided to follow suit.

“We really wanted to get out of the rat race of California,” Heather says, noting they were drawn to the Rocky Mountain state by family and “the outdoor lifestyle – the mountains and everything Colorado has to offer. We came out several times a year to visit family and show dogs and fell in love with it.”

The Lindbergs waited to move to Colorado until the right kennel was available, she says.

“We looked at a lot of different kennels, but this one just stole our hearts,” Heather says, noting Windstar Kennels sits on 2 acres and came with a home for the people as well as the animals. “It’s charming and park-like with a view of Long’s Peak. It’s country living but still close to town. It had a wonderful reputation.”

The former owners of Windstar Kennels, Cathy and Ronald Nats, are still on staff, and the kennel is thriving, Heather says.

“We offer a safe and fun environment at a reasonable price while (pet owners are) away from town,” she says.

Robert’s 13-year-old daughter enjoys pitching in at the kennel when she visits during the summer, and his two teen nieces help during their school breaks, as well.

“It’s really nice,” Heather says. “We’re settling in. We’ve had a lot of support and contacts through the different dog clubs we’ve joined over the years.”

Although the Lindbergs remain in the business they know and love, they’ve noticed some contrasts between Colorado and California – the weather being one of them.

“We have enjoyed the different weather: waking up to white little blanket of snow, and the dogs absolutely love it – they go crazy,” Heather says. “The dogs adjust real quickly.”

Windstar Kennels is located at 14077 County Road 5 in Longmont. For more information, visit; e-mail; or call (303) 485-2176.

Boulder foreclosure rate among lowest of Colorado metros

Boulder County reported the lowest foreclosure rate among metropolitan counties with  one completed foreclosure per 1,071 households in 2010.

The county finished 2010 with 1,352 foreclosure filings and 616 foreclosure sales – a decrease of 6.2 percent and a 23.4 percent increase, respectively – compared with 2009.

The figures show that Boulder followed the general trend of the other Colorado metros, with foreclosure filings falling and foreclosure sales increasing, according to the Colorado Division of Housing.

But 2011 has had a positive start among all of the state’s metros, with foreclosure sales dropping 21.8 percent from 1,917 sales in January 2010 to 1,499 sales in January 2011. Foreclosure filings in Colorado’s metropolitan counties were down 1.1 percent from January 2010 to January of this year. Total filings in January fell from 2,729 to 2,699, year over year.

From December 2010 to January 2011, foreclosure filings fell 6.7 percent, and foreclosure sales at auction rose 11.7 percent. But foreclosure filings are now at the lowest monthly total reported since June 2010. Foreclosure sales at auction, while down from January 2010, increased for the second month in a row as lenders sped up the processing of foreclosures, the Department of Housing reported.

Foreclosure filings are the initial filing that begins the foreclosure process, and foreclosure sales totals are the total number of foreclosures that have been sold at auction at the end of the foreclosure process.

The counties with the largest decreases in foreclosure filings from January 2010 to January 2011 were Boulder and Mesa counties, where filings decreased by 29.9 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively. Douglas County reported the largest rise in new filings with an increase of 68.8 percent, year over year.

The county with the highest rate of foreclosure sales in January was Weld County, with a rate of 690 households per foreclosure sale. Mesa County came in second with 702 households per foreclosure sale. The lowest rate was found in Broomfield County where there were 6,450 households per foreclosure sale.

World-traveled architect's interests range from anthropology to building design

Jim Kalinski saw more of the world while growing up than most people see in a lifetime.

One of four children of a father working in government service, the California native spent years 2 through 7 in Spain, then five years in Aurora, Colorado, and the last five years of his childhood in Germany, where he attended a high school for children of U.S. government employees and service men and women.

But of all the places he had been, apparently Colorado made the biggest impression not only on Jim, but on his brother, sister and mother, who live here also.

Yet before he discovered his true home and career - architecture - in Boulder, Jim took a detour to pursue an interest he thought might lead to a career, earning a degree in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania

"It was really archaeology - a branch of anthropology - that interested me," he says. "I had visited Mesa Verde and other places in southwest. It's kind of like CSI (crime scene investigation), only of branches of civilization. I still find it compelling, but it's hard to make a living at it."

Jim was enticed to move to Colorado to earn a master's degree in geology - another interest of his - at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and because his brother, RE/MAX of Boulder Inc. Owner/Broker Tom Kalinski, was already living here.

Colorado also had a few other attractive characteristics, such as great weather and outdoor activities including backpacking and canoeing, and "of course, the geology is very well exposed here in Colorado," Jim says.

But it didn't take long before his brother had him learning how to oversee building projects, and Jim discovered a new interest. After a year and a half of graduate school, Jim left the study of geology and went into construction full time.

"I worked with a couple of other builders early on and learned from them," Jim says, noting he did some hands-on work, as well. "It evolved over time into mostly managing as the projects got bigger and bigger.

"Eventually I decided I enjoyed the design side more than the brain-damage side of construction management and got a degree in architecture," he says.

Jim earned a master's degree in architecture from the University of Colorado at Denver in 1990 and worked with a couple of other firms to earn his license before starting Left Hand Design Group LLC in the early 1990s.

"It's creative and every job is different; (architecture is) art and science combined, and that's kind of nice," he says. "It's challenging and constantly changing; you're working with different people all the time. There are a lot of fun things about it."

Having a brother in Boulder who was already established in real estate and who "dabbles" in development also helped get his firm off the ground.

"It's always harder when you get started until you make some connections and build up some relationships," Jim says.

Just as his career in architecture was beginning, Jim married his wife, Kim, in 1990. A few short years later, they became parents of now 14-year-old twins, Quinn and Amy.

Jim says while his children haven't had the same opportunity to live abroad as he did growing up, he hopes to take them to see more of the world than what they have already with trips to Canada and Mexico.

"I think it is important to see how the rest of the world lives; it helps to keep your own life in perspective," he says.

For him, his experiences as a child as well as an adult - he has returned to Europe a couple of times, and traveled to Canada, Mexico and around the U.S. - have helped him in life as well as in his work as an architect.

"I guess living all around has made me realize that there are a lot of good ideas and a lot of different ways of doing things," he says. "Of course, it's helpful to have firsthand exposure to some of the great classic architecture - Greek, Roman, Renaissance, Modern - of the world and I'm sure it has influenced me."

Left Hand designed the Flats, a multifamily residential project on 28th Street across from the CU Events Center, as well as numerous other local projects and homes. Jim jokes, "I'll design anything for money."

Left Hand Design LLC is located at 1526 Spruce, #201, in Boulder. Call (303) 447-2926 or e-mail

January’s real estate stats trigger thoughts of recovery

If January’s real estate market is any reflection of how 2011 will proceed, then the forecast for Boulder County is “recovery.”

“I’m pretty pleased with the continued positive direction of the market, given that this is traditionally a slow time,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor Association.

One hundred thirty-nine single-family homes sold in Boulder County in January, compared with 127 sales in January 2010. Longmont saw had the most homes sell as well as the biggest increase in sales, with 41 homes selling in January compared with only 30 a year ago – a nearly 37 percent increase.

But it wasn’t only the sales volume that improved in the single-family market: average and median home prices were up in every market except in the mountains, where the average price of homes dipped slightly, and Lafayette, where the median home price fell a bit.

Louisville had the strongest gain of median and average sale prices, with both increasing more than 11 percent.

“The single-family market consistently shows its strength here in both pricing and sales volume growth,” Hotard says. “In contrast, the condo/townhome market is currently weak on the pricing side of the market.”

Boulder County saw 59 condos/townhomes sell in January 2010, while 46 sold in the same month last year. But several communities in the Boulder market saw average and/or median sale prices decline in January – including Superior’s 17.9 percent average price dip – compared with a year ago.

“It’s still struggling and I believe it is mostly related to tight credit, and demand is simply not strong enough to support the supply that is in the market right now,” Hotard says.

Although the economy remains shaky, developers are beginning to show their confidence in the direction of the market by exploring opportunities in the Boulder County market area, Hotard says.

“I’m encouraged by the consistent direction of the market,” he says. “If this kind of strength continues and goes on into the spring, it could mark the turn for housing recovery within our market area and potentially along the Front Range of Colorado.”

The Boulder market is showing signs of recovery because it didn’t have as far to fall into the recession as other areas, Hotard explains: it didn’t have double-digit home price appreciation; it has had lower foreclosure rates; and its job losses haven’t been as severe as other communities’.

“We never had the big run-up here,” he says, noting home sales volume and credit availability have been the Boulder area market’s “hang-ups.”

But the credit strings are beginning to loosen – though some big issues still need resolved – and buyers are more willing to get into a more stable market, Hotard says.

“I think buyers in general are more encouraged and enthusiastic about the future of the residential marketplace, and they don’t want to lose out on today’s competitive pricing and historically low interest rates,” he says.

Important advice for buying your first home

With the economy keeping prices in check and interest rates at historic lows, this is an ideal time to buy your first home – if you tread carefully amid such a momentous transaction, according to Forbes.

Here are some tips to ensure that you are making the right move and getting the right price:

  • Make sure buying is for you. Consider whether rents are cheap and homes costly in your community, whether you are you planning to move in the next year or two and if your job situation is questionable. If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, buying is probably not a smart move. The days when you could flip a house quickly and at a profit are history.

  • Do a credit check. Before you spend all of your free time shopping for the home at your dreams at a bargain rate, have cash on hand for a down payment and a mortgage lender who is willing to provide you with a home loan at an affordable rate. Get preapproved to expedite the closing of your purchase, which could take months otherwise in this market. 

  • Consider a down payment and the alternatives. Speaking of down payment, today it’s best to have 20 percent up front, which instantly adds equity to your house and lowers monthly payments. You also know you can afford to buy a home when you have saved enough for the down payment. Without it, you’re looking at forking out even more in your monthly payment for private mortgage insurance.

  • Be realistic about costs. Shop for a home that won’t gobble up most of your income each month. Besides the mortgage and principal payments, buying a home means paying for insurance, maintenance and real estate taxes 

  • Don't cut corners on inspections. It’s worth paying for a good home inspection, especially if you're buying a foreclosed home. The home inspection is key to understanding the condition the home is really in and whether you’ll have to cough up a lot more to make it livable.

Small appliances contribute to big energy use

Big things come in small packages, so it shouldn’t surprise you what big energy hogs small items such as digital pictures frames, cell phone chargers and laptop power adapters are.

If every American household had a digital picture frame running around the clock, it would take five power plants to run them all, Forbes says, reporting data from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an electricity-focused research and development nonprofit.

While bigger home appliances like refrigerators and dryers do their share of energy consumption, small devices are collectively sucking a large amount of energy from the power grid. And as these devices become more commonplace, their energy consumption rises exponentially, according to Forbes.

One reason is many small devices – such as those phone chargers or power adapters – are always plugged in and continually drawing energy, even when the devices they charge are disconnected, Forbes reports. If you have equipment that is always on, like printers or speakers, it’s also running up your electrical bill – even when it’s in sleep mode.

Tom Reddoch, the executive director of energy utilization at EPRI, tells Forbes that the typical U.S. home 30 years ago had about three always-on devices; today, that number has climbed to more than 30.

While a refrigerator typically accounts for about 8 percent of the typical household's total annual energy consumption, Forbes reports Reddoch as estimating that “energy vampire” devices account for about 4 percent.

The easiest way to reduce energy consumption is to turn off and unplug devices when they're not in use, Forbes advises. If that isn't practical or convenient, use a smart power strip to help stop the flow of electricity to an idle current. For instance, some smart strips allow you to set up a lead device like a computer so that when it is turned off, other supporting devices, like printers and speakers, are also turned off.

You can also save energy by adjusting devices’ default settings, such as manually lowering the default brightness and intensity settings on a television set, Forbes says.

To get a better idea of just how much energy you’re using – and wasting – you might want to invest in an electricity monitor like the Kill A Watt, which measures the energy efficiency of household appliances.

You can also save energy as well as on appliances by purchasing energy-efficient products. Visit the U.S. Department of Energy site to find out if you are eligible for a rebate from the government when you buy an Energy Star appliance.

Here’s a more complete list of items you may already have in your home or are considering buying that will consume more energy – and more of your paycheck – through the power they require:

• Plasma TVs

• Digital picture frames

• Videogame consoles

• Set-top boxes

• Battery chargers

• Always-on devices (printers, speakers, computer monitors, etc.)

• External power adapters

• Aquariums

• Dehumidifiers

• Coffee makers

• Air purifiers

• Incandescent light bulbs.

For more information about just how much energy these items use, visit

CU among 3 Colorado colleges considered ‘best value’ by Kiplinger

Three of Colorado’s public colleges ranked among the top 100 of Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges 2011 list.

The Colorado School of Mines, Golden, was the top-ranked Colorado public school on the list, coming in at No. 59 out of 120 for in-state value and No. 65 for out-of-state value.

The University of Colorado, Boulder, was ranked 85th for its in-state costs and 97th for out-of-state costs, followed by Colorado State University, Fort Collins, ranked 90th and 99th for in-state and out-of-state costs, respectively.

According to Kiplinger's, the ranking is based on a combination of academics and affordability, using the data from Peterson’s/Nelnet on more than 500 public four-year schools. Kiplinger's narrowed the list to about 120 schools based on measures of academic quality including SAT or ACT scores, admission and retention rates, student-faculty ratios, and four- and six-year graduation rates, which most schools reported for the class that entered in 2003.

Then Kiplinger's ranked each school based on cost and financial aid, giving more weight to academic quality than costs, the latter of which includes total expenses for in-state students (tuition, mandatory fees, room and board, and books); the average cost for a student with need after subtracting grants (but not loans); the average cost for a student without need after subtracting non-need-based grants; the average percentage of need met by aid; and the average debt per student at graduation. To determine out-of-state rankings, Kiplinger's ran the academic-quality and expense numbers again, this time using total costs for out-of-state residents and average costs after aid.

Here’s a look at how the three Colorado colleges that appear on Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges 2011 list compare with the top three-ranked institutions:

Boulder sees a dip in unemployment in December

Colorado’s unemployment rate dropped slightly from 8.7 percent in November to 8.6 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in December, while the Boulder-Longmont MSA saw its unemployment rate fall 0.3 percent from 6.8 percent in November, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

“… we’ve had over-the-year wage and salary employment growth in Colorado for the first time in almost 2½ years,” says Ellen Golombek, executive director. “And we’ve added jobs four consecutive months.”

With an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent, Boulder-Longmont has the lowest rate for metropolitan statistical areas in the state.
The unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) increased in 32 of Colorado’s 64 counties, decreased in 23, and remained unchanged in nine. The lowest rate was 4.0 percent in Cheyenne County and the highest was 18.5 percent in Dolores County. In December 2009, the unemployment rate increased in 50 counties, decreased in eight counties and remained unchanged in six. Last year, the lowest rate was 2.6 percent in Cheyenne County and the highest was 16.3 percent in Dolores County.

Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate fell from 9.8 percent to 9.4 percent in December.

Employment increased in four of Colorado’s eleven major industry sectors over the year. Education and health services increased 9,600, leisure and hospitality 6,200, professional & business services 3,800, and trade, transportation and utilities 1,400. Construction, down 5,700, continues to post the largest decline of all industry sectors. Information declined 3,500, financial activities 3,100, manufacturing 2,800, government 700 and other services 100. There was no change in mining and logging.

Here’s a look at the unemployment rate in some of Colorado’s biggest metro areas:

Economists predict Boulder real estate prices will return to peak within two years

Real estate prices in Boulder County could return to the peak levels they reached in 2005 and 2006 before the year 2013, according to Fiserv, which provides the statistics for the quarterly Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

Larimer and Pueblo counties are also predicted to rebound before 2013, and Fiserv expects El Paso County will see its prices return to peak numbers between 2013 and 2014. Most of the Denver metro area, Weld and Mesa counties can expect their real estate prices to rebound sometime between 2015 and 2025, according to Fiserv.

While most of the nation should see its prices rebound within 14 years, California, Arizona and Florida have the most markets that won’t catch back up until well after 2025.

Source: Fiserv Case-Shiller map

Boulder single-family housing market finishes 2010 on a high note

It may have sounded more like a “pop” than a “bang,” but the Boulder County real estate market ended 2010 on a high note.

“We’re continuing this trend of seeing some modest improvement, especially in the single-family market,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor Association.

In December, 231 single-family homes sold, compared with 211 in December 2009 and 195 in November 2010. But the number of homes that sold isn’t the only positive aspect of the month’s figures, Hotard points out.

“Every market area had a increase year-over-year in single-family median home prices through Nov. 30,” he says, adding the average sales price also increased in every market but two (the mountains and plains) during the same period.

On the other side of the coin, “attached dwellings didn’t do so well,” Hotard says.

While December’s sale volume was close to 2009’s, most Boulder County markets saw declines in average and median prices.

“I think that’s the weaker part of the market right now,” he says. “It’s much more of a buyer’s market than the single-family home market, and there is continued difficulty in lending in the condo market.”

At the same time, lending volume across markets has increased “very modestly, which I think is more related to increased demand rather than easing credit,” Hotard says.

While qualifying criteria for loans has not loosened up, lending volume has grown with more homeowners refinancing and a modest increase in loan applications, he says.

Hotard says that while it’s possible that Boulder County home prices could reach their peak levels from 2005-2006 within a couple of years, as Fiserv Case-Shiller recently predicted, the market will have to gain more momentum than it has thus far. Home prices have dropped as much as 20 percent from those peak years.

“Inventories continue to be tight, sustaining prices, but once prices move up, there’ll be more homes for sale and that could hold back home prices somewhat,” he says. “It’s difficult to be precise. … There’s a lot of moving parts in the market right now; it’s tough to make broad general statements you can spread across the market. I do agree that this area (Boulder County) of Colorado … is likely to recover much sooner than most of the nation.”

But owning a home is still the American dream for which many people are still reaching, Hotard says, pointing to a National Association of Realtors study that shows 95 percent of home owners and 72 percent of renters believe that over a period of several years, it makes more financial sense to own a home than to rent. And 93 percent of those home owners say they would buy again.

“Even though we’ve gone thru this period of tremendous uncertainty and actual loss in many markets, American attitudes toward home ownership continue to be strong,” Hotard says.

The top 10 ways you can save on your home remodeling project offers these suggestions for saving money on your home remodeling project:

10. Avoid using second mortgages, personal loans and credit when you can.

If you’re building an addition, it’s likely you’ll need a home equity line of credit or second mortgage. But you don’t want to pay for years for those new doors, so you’ll want to avoid personal loans and credit cards when possible. Cash is your best and cheapest choice.

9. Use existing structural elements as finish surfaces

If it works into your decorating style, refurbish interior brick walls, ceiling beams, concrete floors or wood floors that may be “decoratively aged” rather than building up new finish surfaces.

8. Build the addition up or in

It costs less to build up than to build out, as foundation work for building outward is expensive. It costs even less to build inward than upward if you have any spare rooms you can repurpose for other uses. If function rather than space is what you need, seriously consider building inward.

7. Avoid moving the plumbing

Plumbing work is expensive on its own; moving the plumbing can double – or more – the cost. But avoiding moving the plumbing is easier said than done, since half the reason for remodeling is often to redesign the kitchen floor plan.

6. Do your own work

It’s almost always cost less to do your own work versus hiring a professional – if money is your only concern. If it isn’t, then consider that the learning curve could be so steep or the need for specialized tools so great – or you’re in so much misery – that you end up hiring a professional anyway.

5. Use existing electrical work as much as possible

Like plumbing, electrical work is expensive. Instead of completely abandoning and redoing your current wiring, explore the possibility of supplementing it.

4. Live at your worksite

If you can find a way to live in your home while you’re remodeling, you’ll certain save money than if you’re renting an apartment to live in. It does help to take certain measures, such as maintaining a “clean zone” and using dust barriers.

3. Avoid the big remodeling contractors

Seek out the one- or two-person operations, which don’t have the unemployment taxes, worker’s compensation, advertising and sales commission costs you’re paying for. The smaller operations will negotiate, and you'll probably get a better level of service. Make sure the remodeling contractor is licensed, and the smaller the operator, the more you should concentrate on finding many local references. You will gain even more knowledge about that contractor’s quality of work by visiting examples of the contractor’s remodeling work. It should go without saying that if the contractor is stingy about showing examples, cross that contractor off the list in a hurry.

2. Use the ‘free’ home remodeling consultants

Even if you don't plan on using them, use the kitchen planners at The Home Depot, Lowe’s and local home improvement stores, who will provide you with a nice printed kitchen design layout. You can get product samples of siding from siding companies, hardwood and laminate flooring chips from flooring companies, and, for a short time commitment, flooring installers will come to your house and give you a dead-on floor measurement. These services come with a cost: the sales pitch, but you're not shelling out any bucks (though make certain that they're not charging you for the estimate, as some companies have begun to do recently).

1. Reduce your need for contractors

Contractors add 18 percent and more – usually more – for their services, which can amount to a staggering amount of money on big projects. They provide immensely valuable services for complicated, multistage projects, but carefully examine what you’re using the contractor for and question whether it’s worth another 25 percent.

• Are you paying them to perform easy work? Consider what projects for which you can hire a small contract to do, such as laying a brick patio when the addition is done.

• What about materials? There are materials you can easily get yourself and not have to pay the 25 percent markup, such as the set of towel bars that cost $100 if you swung by the store.

• Is there simple, non-building work you can do yourself? You can probably clean up the site when they’re done, or get the permit yourself.

You can find many avenues to save money with contractors, but get their estimate first and then start knocking off items.



Recent development proposals keep city office busy with reviewing projects

The City of Boulder’s Department of Community Planning and Sustainability is keeping busy – and may be for a while – with a long list of proposed and approved developments on its plate. Here’s a look at what developments the city has recently approved, is reviewing or is waiting for submissions on in 2011: