Thursday, June 29, 2006

The New Rail Runner!

Rail Runner to begin abbreviated route Last Update: 06/28/2006 10:13:00 AMBy: Reed Upton The Middle Rio Grande’s commuter rail line is within weeks of beginning service, but it will have fewer stops than it will when full service begins. On July 14th the Rail Runner will begin offering service from downtown Albuquerque to Bernalillo with stops at Alvarado Station, Paseo del Norte and US 550 in Bernalillo. Missing will be stops in downtown Bernalillo, Los Lunas and Belen. “I would have preferred to have the whole corridor in place,” said executive director Lawrence Rael, “but construction schedules being what they are, negotiations with the Burlington Northern (railway) did not occur as quickly as we would have liked.” Officials estimate the train will make the run from downtown Albuquerque to northern Bernalillo in 18 minutes. When the trains initially begin running there will be no charge. Come October, a one-way trip aboard the Rail Runner will cost $2.


Report says Albuquerque hotels a bargain this summer New Mexico Business Weekly - 2:18 PM MDT Wednesday Albuquerque will have some of the lowest hotel rates in the nation this summer, according to a report by PKF Hospitality Research. The average room rate in Albuquerque will be about $67.95, according to the summer edition of Hotel Outlook by PKF and Torto Wheaton Research. This puts the Duke City behind markets such as Tucson, Ariz. and Columbus and Dayton, Ohio. New York will have the highest average room rate at $200.28, followed by Honolulu and San Francisco. Overall across the country, hotel rooms will be harder to find compared to last year and travelers will pay more for these rooms, according to the report. "Given the increasingly sophisticated yield management practices within the hotel industry, the high occupancy rates are enabling managers to more aggressively quote the highest room rates," said Mark Woodworth, president of PKF, based in Atlanta. That's good news for hotel owners, but not consumers, he added. Despite high gas prices, people will continue to travel, he added. But they will seek out more economical accommodations. Thus the report forecasts a rise in revenue per available room (RevPAR) in limited-service hotels and a bigger rise in occupancy rates for those properties than for full-service properties.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Cashing in on the last of the hot spots. Spotlight: Albuquerque Keep your head during a boom and you'll keep more of your gains over the long run. By Amanda Gengler, MONEY Magazine reporter May 17, 2006: 4:27 PM EDT NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - In early spring a TV news report on KASA Channel 2 in Albuquerque noted that the housing market nationwide was slowing down, with mortgage rates and inventory rising and demand slackening. "Now with all that said, by all accounts here in New Mexico things are still red hot," quipped Greg Zanetti, a local financial adviser. "But we are usually a little behind national trends." The Archibeck family economized when renovating their 1961 Albuquerque home, maximizing their return on investment. Indeed, Albuquerque missed much of the great bull market in houses. Between 2000 and 2004, median prices appreciated no more than 5% a year. But as other sunbelt cities are cooling, Albuquerque has started sizzling. Call it the rolling boom. As high home values price buyers out of one area, they move to new cities. Thus the San Diego bubble begat the Phoenix boom, and Las Vegas led to a bull market in Reno. Now those booms, and one in Santa Fe, have rolled into Albuquerque. "Even though our prices have gone up, we are still much more affordable than other areas," says Cathy Colvin, president of the Albuquerque realtors board. Booms do roll over, however. Housing prices in Phoenix, for example, could decline nearly 20% over the next 51/2 years, according to Moody's So even if prices are still rising in your market, you'll want to make decisions with an eye to holding on to as much of your equity as possible once the easy gains have been made. Go Where Land Is Scarce Certain neighborhoods appreciate faster than others. In Albuquerque, expansion to the north, south and east is restricted by mountains, Indian reservations and an Air Force base. This helps explain why the little remaining land in already developed areas has increased in value more than some of the new developments to the west, says David Murphy, publisher of SalesTraq of New Mexico. Consider the West River Valley, a small, highly coveted locale. It backs up to the Rio Grande and feels like the country, yet it's five minutes from a major mall. Robert and Heather Drager bought an acre there seven years ago. Still in their twenties at the time, they couldn't afford to build a house. So for four years they lived with their parents and house-sat for friends to save money. "Obviously, we really wanted this neighborhood," says Rob. In total they paid about $250,000 for their land and 2,000-square-foot house, about $100,000 more than they would have shelled out in Rio Rancho, a fast-growing community to the west. The sacrifice paid off. The Dragers' area has appreciated at more than double the rate of Rio Rancho. Today they wouldn't consider selling for less than $450,000, an 80% gain. Other hot neighborhoods these days: city centers. Young professionals and baby boomers with suddenly empty nests are moving to downtown areas, lifting real estate values in the process. It's a phenomenon that's hardly unique to Albuquerque; it's happening in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cleveland as well. Prices in Albuquerque's Nob Hill area have jumped about 30% since 2004, and that section of town was rising even when the rest of the market was flat a few years ago, according to local agent Linda DeVlieg. "This neighborhood is walking distance from shopping areas, restaurants and night life -- even my work," says clothing boutique owner Emma Del Frate, 39, who's listing her Nob Hill home for $335,000 and has bought a larger, $500,000 house around the corner. Finding the house proved difficult. Emma and her husband Victor, 38, searched the area for a year and a half with no luck. So they got inventive. In December 2004 they left a note on the front door of a house that looked attractive, asking the owners to call if they ever wanted to sell. The following summer they did. By year's end, the Del Frates were in serious negotiations. The house needs some updating, but the couple say they'll be conservative when it comes to renovating - no ripping out walls and relocating rooms. Which leads to a second strategy: Don't Go Crazy When You're Remodeling "Even in a rising market, you actually can over-remodel," says Everett Collier, president of the remodeling industry's trade group. Consider kitchens, which give one of the highest returns. According to Remodeling magazine, the average price for a minor kitchen remodel is $15,000. You recoup 99% of the cost at sale. When the price tag climbs to $82,000 for a high-end remodeling job, your return drops to 85% of the cost. That's why Janine Archibeck and her husband Michael opted to work with their existing floor plan. "A larger master bathroom would have been nice," says Janine of her 3,700-square-foot home in Albuquerque's Near Northeast Heights area. But not for the price: at least $25,000. Janine, 38, and Michael, 39, were certainly willing to invest in their architect-designed 1961 home, which they bought in 2002 for $320,000. In addition to replacing fixtures and appliances, and adding glass to brighten the place, the couple turned their backyard into a paradise that features a heated pool, a pool house and a canopy that shades a sitting area near the outdoor fireplace and grill. What they didn't do, says Janine, was knock down structural walls. "All the bathrooms are in the same place," she says. "We didn't have to move any plumbing." The Archibecks spent $190,000 on interior renovations and could easily have spent twice that had they decided to expand the home's footprint, says their architect, Jon Anderson. Today the home is worth at least $750,000. The moral: Build a breakfast area or an apartment-size bathroom because you want one, not because you figure that in a fast-rising market, the more you spend the more you'll make. The boom will fade, and then your gains will depend on how wisely, not how much, you invested.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Thu Jun 22 10:12:25 2006 Pacific Time Jacksonville, Albuquerque Have Largest City Park Systems; New Facts on City Parks Released WASHINGTON, June 22 (AScribe Newswire) -- The 56 largest cities in the United States have a total of 745,000 acres of parks, with Jacksonville, Fla., and Albuquerque, N.M., each leading the list of largest city park systems, according to a new study of urban parks released today by The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a nationwide nonprofit which works to protect parks and open space. For total size, Jacksonville is number one, with almost 98,000 acres of parks and preserves, including water preserves. In addition, when measured on an acres-per-capita basis, Jacksonville also ranks first with 126 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents. However, when parkland is measured as a portion of the total size of the city, the leader is Albuquerque, with more than one-quarter of its land protected as public open space. The TPL study found that the nation's most visited city park is Central Park in New York with 25 million users a year. And the group found that the largest single city park in the country is the 24,000-acre Franklin Mountain State Park in El Paso, Texas. The results conclude an eight-month study by TPL's Center for City Park Excellence (CCPE), the nation's leading source of data about urban park systems. The CCPE releases new numbers annually. The results are available on the Web at . With cities rebounding, many people are giving attention to their once-beautiful park systems, said Harnik. There is sudden interest in gathering information to help cities allocate resources more efficiently and equitably. Other cities which devote a high percentage of land to parks and open space include San Diego (22 percent of land area), Washington, D.C. (19.7), San Francisco (19.3), and New York (19.1). Cities with large amounts of parkland per capita include El Paso (44.5 acres per 1,000 residents), Austin, Texas (39.2), and Kansas City, Mo. (38.7). TPL began quantifying city park systems in 2000 with the book "Inside City Parks." In addition to studying acreage, TPL also compiles information on recreational facilities, park employment, the historical growth of systems, and a variety of budgetary measures. Of the 56 cities, San Francisco spent the most on its parks in fiscal year 2004 (the latest year available) with an allocation of $276 per resident. Other leading cities that year included Washington, D.C. ($264), Seattle ($238), Cincinnati ($166) and Chicago ($163). The range of spending is large, with the top city devoting eight times as much per resident as the lowest-funded city. In many ways, the budget numbers are the most significant, Harnik explained. Without allocating sufficient resources, it is almost impossible to create or maintain an outstanding system. In compiling its numbers, TPL counted all the parkland within each citys limits (but not in the surrounding metropolitan region). Acreage includes not only municipal parks but also those run by federal, state, county and regional agencies. In New York, for example, the 28,840 acres run by New York City Department of Parks and Recreation are supplemented by six state parks and more than 7,000 acres of National Park Service land. TPL also divided the cities into four groupings by density levels, comparing the older, more tightly-packed cities; the newer, more sprawling cities; and two density groupings in the middle. Each type of city seems to use its park acreage differently, making cross comparisons difficult. (However, since spending levels are not related to density, budgetary information was not broken into sub-groups.) TPL determined financial rankings by analyzing both the operating and the capital expenditures of all the park agencies serving a city (while subtracting non-park costs like running stadiums, zoos, aquariums or museums). In some cities, such as San Francisco, spending is higher because park agencies include state and national parks within the city boundaries. Revitalized cities need revitalized park systems, said Harnik. They help clean the air, reduce stress, improve health, diminish crime, increase tourism and property value, and provide an alternative to sprawl. Parks are the urban land issue of the 21st century. TPL's Center for City Park Excellence, begun in 1994, supports the creation and rehabilitation of city park systems through research, data collection, evaluation, skill-building, fundraising, garden and playground construction, and land purchase. The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations. For more information, visit TPL on the web at .

Friday, June 23, 2006


Real estate prices won't decline substantiallyFriday, June 23, 2006By Glenn Roberts Jr.Inman News Delores Conway, USC's Casden Real Estate Economics Forecast SAN FRANCISCO -- Unless there are substantial job losses, the real estate market appears on track for a soft landing, said economists for University of Southern California's Lusk Center for Real Estate. "We don't believe the housing market is going to fall off a cliff. We don't really subscribe to the hard-landing story," said Stuart Gabriel, Lusk Center director, during a presentation Thursday at the annual PCBC event, a conference for home builders held at San Francisco's Moscone Center. This is, however, a time of "stagflation," or economic stagnation coupled with inflation, Gabriel said, and the real estate market is losing steam -- with a general slowing in price-appreciation and sales. Higher interest rates and energy costs, and reduced refinancing activity are also taking a toll on consumer spending, which has sunk from about 3.9 percent in 2004 to a current level of about 3 percent. Despite this, Gabriel said it's unlikely that there will be a major shrinkage in house prices, given the strength of employment numbers. Interest rates, though marching up, are not high by historic standards, he said. The situation was a lot different in the early 1990s, when job losses contributed to a major downturn in the real estate market. Gabriel said that the impact of job losses in the aerospace sector hit Southern California's real estate market hard during that period. "Barring that sort of event we don't expect significant falloff in house prices," he said. Likewise, job losses in the construction and real estate-related industries during this slowing period should not cripple the housing industry, said Raphael Bostic, director of the Master of Real Estate Development program at USC and a Lusk Center expert. Gabriel's forecast calls for the economy to slow to a 3 percent to 3.5 rate of real gross domestic product growth for the remainder of the year after a rate of about 5 percent in the first quarter. Delores Conway, director of USC's Casden Real Estate Economics Forecast who also participated in the presentation, said that in California, rising home prices appear to be driving more housing activity to central areas. "The population is shifting in California more toward the center of the state, where we tend to have more affordable housing," she said. Some major markets in the state, such as Los Angeles, are still seeing high levels of price appreciation, though sales activity is down from a peak. "The number of sales has declined very significantly in all the cities," she said. The apartment market, meanwhile, has rebounded in some areas as shrinking housing affordability has diminished the pool of potential home buyers. "People are in some sense being priced out of the market," she said, while there are year-to-year rental increases of 7 percent to 10 percent in some Southern California markets. USC economists noted that condo markets -- particularly in formerly frenzied areas such as San Diego and Las Vegas -- might be the most vulnerable to changing market conditions. Conway said that some proposed condo projects will actually be built out as apartments because unit sales fell short of expectations. "This is particularly true in San Diego, which has been a bit of a bellwether and a bit of a leading indicator for the rest of the cities," she said. There is no evidence of price declines in any California markets at this point, though, "If we do see price declines, where we would probably look for them first is in the condo markets," Conway said. Bostic said, "I've been concerned about downtown San Diego for a long time, particularly in the condo market." He also said the luxury real estate market may feel the weight of the housing slowdown more than the general market. But he said he is generally bullish on the housing sector, and he noted that the Lusk Center is not predicting a recession. "I don't think price declines are likely at all, absent significant job loss," he said. As available land dwindles and housing affordability worsens in California, Gabriel said he expects that buyers will increasingly gravitate toward multi-family dwellings. Regulators have turned their attention to the popularity of unconventional home loan products and the risk that such products could pose, though the Lusk Center experts said they expect the use of such products will not have a substantial negative effect on the housing market. ***


Have you ever wished a real estate agent would write a book telling you how to sell your home? Well, I'm doing it - and it will be available later this year. If you would like to reserve your free copy (to the first 50 people who request it!) please email me at or call me at 505-271-6328 and leave your name and phone number - I will get back to you right away. It has lots of helpful hints about what helps, what doesn't, and little "secrets of the trade". I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

UNM gets $9 million for south Albuquerque land

Last Update: 06/21/2006 3:51:24 PMBy: Associated Press ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - Regents of the University of New Mexico have inked a deal selling more than 3,000 acres for Mesa del Sol. That’s a long-planned development of nearly 13,000 acres in southeast Albuquerque. The university sold its acreage for $9 million to Forest City Covington, which is developing Mesa del Sol, which could be home to up to 80,000 people in 50 years. In the next few years, Mesa del Sol is forecast to have 500 to 800 houses by 2008. About $7.5 million of the sale signed Tuesday will go to a scholarship fund. UNM also kept 280 acres in Mesa del Sol for its own uses. (Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Forest City to co-develop N. Mexico project

Forest City to co-develop N. Mexico project Linked articles » Retail growth in store for Forest City » Forest City unit buys out N.Y. project partner » Forest City to develop Virginia 'lifestyle' center Related Links Forest City Enterprises Inc. By LESLIE STROOPE2:09 pm, June 21, 2006 A joint venture between Cleveland-based real estate developer Forest City Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: FCEA) (NYSE: FCEB) and Covington NM LLC has spent $9 million to purchase 3,000 acres in Albuquerque, N.M., from the University of New Mexico.Forest City Covington NM LLC’s land buy comes as part of a mixed-use development agreement the entity signed with government and university officials in 2005 to develop 9,000 acres at the Mesa del Sol site over “several decades,” according to a Forest City Enterprises statement. Forest City Covington has the option to buy the remaining 6,000 acres of land from the New Mexico State Land office, according to the statement."Mesa del Sol demonstrates our commitment to develop large, mixed-use projects in growth markets," said Forest City Enterprises president and CEO Charles A. Ratner in a statement."We are excited about this long-term development opportunity and are pleased to reach this significant milestone of purchasing the first 3,000 acres,” he said. “Building on our experience at University Park at MIT in Boston and Stapleton in Denver, our vision for Mesa del Sol is to create a new, sustainable community within the thriving city of Albuquerque."The University of New Mexico will use the $9 million towards an endowment fund established for student scholarships at the school, according to a Forest City Covington NM statement.A message left at Forest City Enterprises was not immediately returned.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


America's Smartest Cities 10 Albuquerque Here is the biggest surprise in the top 10. Albuquerque doesn't get the credit it deserves for brainpower. It's the home of the University of New Mexico, and it's less than 100 miles from Los Alamos National Laboratory, a center for nuclear, biomedical and energy research. Percentage of city adults who stopped at each level: Earned a graduate and/or professional degree: 13.4% Earned a bachelor's degree: 18.4% Earned an associate degree: 5.9% Went to college, but didn't earn a degree: 24.2% Graduated from high school: 24.1% Dropped out of high school: 14.1% Summary of results Rankings for 53 biggest cities Bottom cities Previous

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

California firm buys Albuquerque tech company

New Mexico Business Weekly - 2:43 PM MDT Monday NTS Technical Systems, a wholly-owned subsidiary of National Technical Systems Inc., has acquired B & B Technologies Inc. in Albuquerque. B & B designs and integrates test, measurement, automation, data acquisition and control systems. Over the past 14 years, it has developed relationships with defense, aerospace and commercial companies such as Sandia National Laboratories, Honeywell (NYSE: HON) and General Dynamics (NYSE: GD). National Technical Systems (Nasdaq: NTSC) is an engineering firm based in Calabasas, Calif. Lance Butler, CEO of B & B, says his firm's services are complementary to those of NTS. The two companies work for many of the same customers, Butler says, doing adjacent services but not overlapping. "We build test systems and they do testing," he says. B & B, which has been in business for 14 years and has 13 employees, will stay in Albuquerque, Butler adds. The acquisition by NTS was attractive because it gives his firm the leverage of a large company, Butler says, and allows him to bring his firm to the next level. B & B will be a division of NTS and will eventually change its name to TSE, or Test Systems Engineering. Butler declined to discuss the financial aspects of the deal.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Green-built homes come into their own By NANCY SALEMScripps Howard News Service 31-MAY-06 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- In home building, green is the new black. No more weird architecture, clunky solar panels and wacky materials. Green building has been ushered into the mainstream by a construction industry and public concerned about energy conservation and health. "It's the right thing to do," says Jim Folkman, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico. "We're responding to the marketplace, which is demanding more green products and a healthier environment." Albuquerque raised its profile in the national green scene last week when the board of the Home Builders of Central New Mexico voted into place a green building certification program that follows new guidelines set by The 230,000-member National Association of Home Builders unveiled new guidelines for its green building certification program at the association's National Green Building Conference in Albuquerque in March. Albuquerque, through the Build Green New Mexico program approved last week, is one of a half-dozen U.S. cities that are pilot programs for the national association's green building blueprint. "We'll learn what to do right, what to avoid," says Steve Hale of Hale & Sun Construction Inc. in Albuquerque, past president of the Home Builders of Central New Mexico. "We'll help get it implemented in the field." Green building's stamp of approval was a long time coming. It began as a movement about 15 years ago, and for years was associated with homes made of rammed earth, straw bales and used tires and aluminum cans. The single goal was to conserve as much energy as possible. With rising power costs and greater concern about indoor air quality and health, green building moved into the mainstream the past six or so years, builders say. "Our message is that a house doesn't have to be strange to be green," says Kaycee Coffman of the Home Builders of Central New Mexico. The new guidelines take a comprehensive approach to green building, awarding points that add up to levels of performance: bronze, silver and gold. Builders earn points in dozens of ways, in seven categories: lot design, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, global impact, and operation, maintenance and homeowner education. For example, choosing an infill site earns nine points, using recycled-content building materials earns three points and installing an energy-recovering ventilator earns 10 points. A minimum number of points must be reached in each category to achieve a bronze, silver or gold level home _ to assure a balanced, whole-system approach, builders say. "It's performance-based," Folkman says. "It's systemic. Not just an item here or there. It comes together as a system and operates better. The end is greater than the sum of the parts." The average green-built home is about 40 percent more energy efficient than required to meet federal standards, builders say. The goal, though, is not just an energy efficient house, but a healthy one. Better air quality eases allergies and respiratory conditions. Green building systems bring fresh air into a house from the outside, run it through a heat exchanger and filter it, so the house has clean, fresh air all the time, builders say. Old-style green homes were sealed tight to conserve energy, with no exchange of air, creating an unhealthy environment, they note. Homes built under the new program are tested and certified. "Our reputation is behind this," Folkman says. "We want to make sure that when a house reaches a certain standard that it does perform at that level." Ray Tonjes, an Austin, Texas, green builder and head of the national association's green building subcommittee, said a bronze-level home, if planned properly, can be built for roughly the same price as a non-green home. The added costs at higher levels don't generally rise above 5 percent, he says, and are offset by savings in energy and water bills. "What we find is once our members _ builders _ engage in the concept, it's a very easy sell," Tonjes says, "because it really is common sense." Builders say the demand for green homes is growing. "I'm getting more calls every day from people who want lists of green builders," Coffman says. Nationally, in 2000 there were about 2,500 green-built homes; that number jumped to 14,600 in 2004, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Folkman estimates 7 percent to 10 percent of the Albuquerque area home building industry is using green techniques (About 7,000 homes were built in the metro area last year.) The other 90 or so percent are at least 50 percent to 70 percent of the way to achieving the bronze standard, he says. "It's the exception today, but in 10 to 20 years the bronze level will be the building standard," Folkman says. He says the carrot is the marketing. "Join this program, put in the extra effort to get started and see how it works for you," he says. "We will be pushing our (certification) logo. It's something people will recognize. I think it will very quickly snowball. Builders won't want to be second fiddle if they see our logo on the competition." Tonjes says the irony of green building is that it harkens back to historic construction techniques. "A lot of historic architecture dealt with the climate," he says. "For example, houses were oriented to the prevailing breezes. "We got away from that type of architecture because energy was so cheap. Now we're back. Sixty-dollar-a-barrel oil will do that." (Contact Nancy Salem of The Tribune in Albuquerque, N.M., at

Blog Archive