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.