What Makes a Smart City Smart?

Boulder is known for its highly educated, technology-oriented citizenry. The city is even ranked No. 1 nationally in the “Bloomberg Brain Concentration Index,” which tracks business formation as well as employment and education in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

But does that make Boulder a smart city? Not according to Colorado Smart Cities Alliance (CSCA). CSCA might summarize a smart city as an environment that works well for the people who live in it.

Specifically, CSCA defines a smart city “as an environment that enables all of us to effectively and efficiently live, work, and play. It leverages advancements in science and technology to create an area that is intelligent about strategic and tactical needs and wants of all the constituents.”

Boulder, Longmont, and Fort Collins are among a dozen cities along the Front Range that are founding members of the CSCA. Founded in 2017 by the Denver South Economic Development, CSCA is an open, collaborative, and active platform where stakeholders work to collaborate on continually improving the region’s economic foundations for future generations. The initiative aims to make Colorado a leader in the development of intelligent infrastructure. The goal is to accelerate the development of statewide Smart City initiatives that will improve our play, family, and work lives, from transportation and housing to public safety and the environment.

In ColoradoBiz Magazine, DesignThinkingDenver’s CEO Joe Hark Harold says, smart cities could design systems that save water and energy, reduce traffic and traffic congestion, lessen crime, better prepare for disasters, provide better connections between business and customers, and even manage the lights remotely.

There is urgency behind this movement, driven by an increase of those who live in urban environments. More than three million additional people are expected to move to Colorado by 2050 — an increase of more than 50 percent from 2015, according to the Colorado State Demography Office. Coupled with the growth the state has already experienced, the projected increase has spurred community leaders to collaborate on finding innovative, cost-effective ways to better monitor, manage, and improve infrastructure and public services.

“The Colorado Smart Cities Alliance is advancing policies and technologies that will better equip Colorado residents to live, work, and play in a future that is increasingly being shaped by the complex challenges of urban growth,” says Jake Rishavy, vice president of innovation at the Denver South Economic Development Partnership. “We’re working to create a 21st-century technology infrastructure right here in Colorado that will help to enhance everyone’s quality of life, particularly as our communities continue to grow.”

Among its activities, CSCA hosts regular “Civic Labs” events around the state to share challenges, expertise and solutions. At the Denver Smart City Forum in June, speakers described “smart” technology as having to be about the people who use it and benefit from it, that is, human-centered design and thinking.

“People, not technology, will create smart cities,” said Colorado’s Chief Innovation Officer Erik Mitisek.

To find out more and get involved in the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance, visit http://coloradosmart.city/

For more about the recent forum and DesignThinkingDenver, read http://www.cobizmag.com/Trends/Smart-Cities-Arent/ and http://www.cobizmag.com/Trends/Denver-Digs-Deep-on-Smart-City-Development-and-Implementation/

 

Posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 at 11:31am.

Posted on October 6, 2018 at 8:09 am
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Colorado’s Top Cities for First-Time Home Buyers

Nine Colorado cities rank in the top 50 best cities for first-time home buyers, according to recent analysis by WalletHub, a personal finance website. Four of those made the top 20 – Centennial, Thornton, Arvada and Greeley, coming in at Nos. 3, 6, 17, and 20, respectively.

With home prices rising in Colorado and across the nation, buying a first home is challenging. Potential buyers need to develop a realistic perspective on market prices, their financing options, and neighborhoods that have a good reputation and appeal to their lifestyle.

To help potential buyers target possible locations, WalletHub compared 300 cities of varying sizes across 27 key indicators of market attractiveness, affordability, and quality of life. Data includes important factors like cost of living, real-estate taxes, and property-crime rate.

Here are the rankings of the Colorado cities reported:

3. Centennial

6. Thornton

17. Arvada

20. Greeley

23. Longmont

25. Fort Collins

27. Colorado Springs

28. Westminster

39. Pueblo

51. Denver

67. Aurora

137. Boulder

 

Among those cities, Colorado Springs has the fourth-lowest real estate tax rate in the nation.

First-time home buyers are often in the millennial generation. As it turns out, Colorado is the ninth-best state for millennials, according to a separate WalletHub report.

Millennials – those born between 1981 and 1997 – make up over 35% of the workforce. While often thought of as “kids,” the oldest are 37 years old.

In addition to a total score of 9, Colorado ranks high for quality of life (7), economic health (3) and civic engagement (10).  No. 1 ranked District of Columbia also ranked first in the nation for quality of life and civic engagement.

Colorado was evaluated along with all 50 states and the District of Columbia across 30 key metrics, ranging from share of millennials to millennial unemployment rate to millennial voter-turnout rate.

Here’s a look at the top 10 states for millennials:

For more information, see the full reports at https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-cities-for-first-time-home-buyers/5564/#methodology and https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-millennials/33371/ .

 

 

Posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Friday, August 24th, 2018 at 10:36am.

Posted on August 25, 2018 at 7:19 am
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Boulder valley real estate: Parsing fact from ‘fake news’

Boulder County Single-Family Listings 2012-2018

In this day and age, one could be forgiven for wondering if facts no longer matter or actions no longer have consequences. Whether one watches the national news or a local city council study session where members declare that they want fewer visitors (both tourists and locals from neighboring cities), it is clear we are living in strange times.

Despite all of the uncertainty, there are still a few facts left out there (at least where real estate is concerned), and from them we can draw some reasonable inferences.

The Facts:

1. Home prices throughout Boulder Valley are reaching all-time highs.

At the top of the list, the average single family home in:

  • Boulder now costs over $1,250,000
  • The suburban plains now costs almost $850,000
  • Louisville and the suburban mountains now cost over $750,000
  • Boulder County now costs $767,000

Likewise, the average attached home in:

  • Boulder now costs over $540,000
  • Louisville now costs over $400,000
  • Longmont now costs over $350,000
  • There are no places left in Boulder County or Broomfield where the average condo is less than $340,000.

2. Local housing inventory is at historic lows

The inventory of homes throughout Boulder County is at or near historic lows..

At the end of June, there were 858 single family homes on the market in Boulder County.  To add some perspective, the inventory of homes on the market at the end of June 2006 was 2,763, more than three times as many homes as there are now.  There are many reasons for this, including the fact that people are choosing to stay in place longer, increasing prices/lack of affordable places to move to, strong anti-growth policies, etc. Looking at the economic, political and structural factors at play, it appears that this scarce inventory is going to be the new normal. 

3. Despite the high prices and low inventory, demand remains high

We gauge the strength of demand for homes using several indicators, including months’ of inventory, the average time a home spends on the market, and the number of expired listings (homes that failed to sell on the market). 

Economists say that a balanced housing market has about six months’ of inventory, with more inventory being a buyer’s market and less being a seller’s market.  At the end of June, Boulder County had about 3.3 months’ of inventory, compared to 3.8 at this time last year. In the first half of 2016, the average home spent 65 days on the market (from listing to closing).  So far this year, that average is 57 days, 12.3 percent faster. Last year at this time, there were 33 expired listings, compared to only 26 this year, which is a drop of 21 percent.

Taken together, these factors demonstrate that demand is getting stronger, even in the face of rising prices and declining choices. And when you consider net migration to our area and plentiful jobs, it also appears that demand will keep increasing and homes will continue to appreciate until . . . when?

What is it that will cool our market and when will it happen?

There are several issues that have the potential to slow our market.  First, interest rates continue to rise and as they do they will drain buyers’ purchasing power.  Second, as prices have risen faster than wages over the last decade, there may come a point where home prices have to stall in order to allow buyers’ savings to catch up.  Third, a macro-level event, such as a recession, international war, etc., could cool the entire economy and affect our market.

The set of variables is too complex to predict accurately what the precise cause(s) will be or when it will come, but it will come.  The good news (if you own real estate here) is that there is no better place to invest in real estate than here — even in a downturn.

 

Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Originally posted by BizWest on Wednesday, June 1st, 2018. Original found here.

Posted on July 1, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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3 trends that could ruin your home sale plans this summer

Sellers in the Front Range housing market enjoyed a blistering spring season.  Everything seemed to be breaking in favor of sellers — brisk appreciation, multiple offers, favorable terms, and generally quick sales.  However, several trends are emerging that could derail (or at least diminish) a seller’s summer home sale plans.  Here are three of the biggest trends likely to affect our summer market:

1. Rising Interest Rates. For the past several years, economists have been predicting that interest rates will rise from their historic lows (in the 3.5 percent range for a 30-year conventional fixed mortgage).  It turns out that  the eggheads finally got it right. Compared to this time two years ago, interest rates are at least a percent higher — and with the Fed raising their Funds Rate again at their last meeting (and with more raises on the horizon), it seems that even higher rates are coming. It seems now is an appropriate time to refer back to my article discussing the 1 percent Equals 10 Percent Rule, which is a rule of thumb that for each 1 percent increase in mortgage rates, your buying power decreases about 10 percent.  When you consider this with the fact that average home prices in Boulder County have risen about 21 percent in the past two years, it means that the same buyers from two years ago can now afford 31 percent less than they could have back then. 

If you’re thinking, “but I’m a seller, it doesn’t affect me.”  Think of it in these terms: that pool of buyers who would have bought your 2,000 square-foot, three-bedroom house two years ago? They can now only afford a 1,380 square-foot, two-bedroom condo.  That is, the pool of buyers for your home is significantly smaller today.

2. The market hates uncertainty.  To say this has been the least conventional presidency of the modern era is an understatement.  Setting aside the human side of the geopolitical uncertainty caused by the Trump administration (alienating the G7, backing out of the UN Human Rights Council, separating families at the border, etc.), the president has decided to wage trade wars on multiple fronts. And while these acts might be appeasing his base, they are starting to have a negative effect on the economy.  As of mid-June, the stock market has given back all of the gains it made in 2018, due in large part to the trade wars started with China and other countries.  Speaking of China, its investments in the United States have dropped 92 percent this year, and less foreign cash means less money to invest in the housing market.

The effect of this is straightforward — when people feel uncertain and less wealthy (i.e., watching their  world turn topsy-turvy and stock portfolios drop), they are less willing to take risks and make changes. And while home ownership might be the best investment you’ll make, it still represents a risk, especially if you’re a first time home buyer. Thus, the uncertainties in the economy will produce fewer buyers than a steadily rising market.

3. What the frac? The fracking industry in Colorado has flourished since a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in 2016 held that state laws trumped local bans and regulations limiting fracking.  In Weld County alone, there are approximately 23,000 fracking wells, and fights are currently raging over applications to drill near highly populated parts of Boulder and Broomfield counties.  Wells are being placed within 1,000 feet of schools, and this encroaching boom has generated growing health and safety related concerns, from a Colorado School of Public Health study reporting that living near fracking wells may increase the risk of cancer, to a home in Firestone that literally exploded from a leaky underground pipeline.

As the concerns grow, so will buyers’ reservations about buying homes near fracking, which could slow demand in these areas.  Longmont took the extraordinary step of paying two oil and gas companies $3 million to leave town and prevent future drilling.  To be sure, there are competing property rights at issue, but if compromises are not reached that make people feel safe, then homeowners could see their home values fall.

In sum, our market has been red hot this spring, but there are issues on the horizon that could dampen summer sales prospects.  Some of these are likely beyond our direct control, but I encourage you to make your voice heard where you feel you can make a difference.  Your home’s equity (and your conscience) will thank you.

 

Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Originally posted by BizWest on Wednesday, June 1st, 2018. Original found here.

Posted on June 28, 2018 at 5:15 pm
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Boulder Valley 2018 real estate predictions

Published in BizWest on December 6, 2017.

The Boulder Valley real estate market has undergone a shift in 2017.  While we began the year in a fairly strong seller’s market, it soon became apparent that the indicators we track were pointing to a shift toward a more balanced market. 

Making predictions is always a risky business, but here are my top three predictions for 2018 and what they will likely mean for people in the market.

1. Appreciation will continue (but at a slower pace).

While the Boulder area continues to top the country in total appreciation since 1991 (a whopping 371 percent), we have fallen out of the top 10 — to number 19 — nationally in terms of one-year appreciation (10.84 percent according to FHFA). Nevertheless, many structural factors point to increased upward pressure on home values (including low unemployment, strong net migration, and lack of lots to build upon).

For single family homes, Boulder County experienced 5 percent appreciation through the first three quarters of 2017. While this is solid, it pales when compared to the over 15 percent appreciation during the same period of 2016.

In 2018, I predict we will see about 5 percent overall appreciation in Boulder County, with individual cities varying substantially.  I predict that the highest appreciation rates will be in Longmont and Erie, and the slowest appreciation will be in the City of Boulder.

For attached homes (townhouses and condos), Boulder County experienced a meager 1.7 percent improvement through the third quarter of 2017. This number is somewhat misleading, as most areas were up by a higher percentage while the City of Boulder was actually down 3.7 percent.

For 2018, I predict that attached homes will appreciate by about 5 percent, with appreciation being higher in every locale except the City of Boulder. In Boulder, it is possible that we will see a continued decline in prices, especially if investment property owners who have not brought their units up to Smartregs compliance decide to sell rather than spend the money to them into compliance.

What this means: For buyers, now is a great time to buy, especially if you are in the market for a condo in the City of Boulder.  Waiting will cost you, but not as much as in previous years.  For homeowners, if you are considering selling, you have ridden a strong wave of appreciation over the last several years, and you will not likely see the same rate of appreciation by continuing to hold.

2. Inventory will increase in 2018.

Since 2011, the inventory of available homes on the market has generally gone down when compared to the preceding year. That trend finally broke in 2017, with available inventory of both single family and attached homes rising above 2016 numbers. Without getting too deeply into the weeds, a number of indicators that we use to track the market point to a continuation of this trend in 2018.  Some of the more telling indicators are (1) a falling sales price to list price ratio, (2) an increase in months of inventory, and (3) more expired listings (homes that did not sell on the market).

In the City of Boulder, on the single family side, I predict that inventory will see the biggest increase in the $1 million+ market as a gap has started to open between sellers’ opinions of their homes’ values and what buyers are willing to pay for them. On the attached side, we will likely see an increase as well, partly due to an influx of non-Smartreg-compliant units as well as condos at the Peloton being converted from apartments.

What this means: For buyers, you will finally have more homes to choose from in your search. For sellers, you will have to be much more careful when pricing your home to avoid being rejected by the market.

3. Interest rates will rise modestly.

For the past several years, numerous experts have predicted mortgage interest rate increases. And for as many years, the rate increases have been non-existent or far more modest than predicted, even after the Fed increased its Fed Funds Rate. Speaking of which, the Fed is expected to raise rates again this month as the economy shows continued signs of recovery. However, the number and size of interest rate increases in 2018 is far from certain because of a change in leadership of the Fed.

Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, predicts that rates will increase to 4.5 percent by the end of 2018, which is about 0.5 percent higher than current rates. This figure could be affected by tax reform, the country’s economic performance, and other political factors. Nevertheless, for planning purposes, an increase to 4.5 percent in 2018 is likely to be in the ballpark.

What this means: While appreciation rates and inventory are starting to move into buyers’ favor, there will be a cost to waiting to enter the market in terms of affordability.  That is, the longer you wait, the more you will likely pay for a home and the more interest you will likely pay for it.

Conclusion: Sellers have been the primary beneficiaries of the real estate market since the recovery of the Great Recession, but 2018 will finally see buyers in a stronger position.

_________________________

Posted on February 5, 2018 at 8:46 pm
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