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