Saturday, March 24, 2012

Construction Underway on Largest Single Family Home in Breckenridge

Groundbreaking began March 19 on what will be the largest single-family home ever built in Breckenridge. The Bennett Residence, a 15,000-square-foot custom home designed by Michael F. Gallagher Architect and built by Double Diamond Property & Construction Services, is being built in the Shock Hill neighborhood.

“This is an incredible home and a great economic boost for the town of Breckenridge,” said Michael Gallagher, the architect for the project. “There aren't many projects of this size and scope being built these days, so it's particularly gratifying to see the economic impact this project will have. Permits and other fees are over $45,000 alone. The owner, Mr. Bennett, seriously considered building in several different resort areas but he liked Breckenridge's proximity to Denver and the access to the Breckenridge Nordic Center right out his door. We're very happy he is able to build his dream vacation home here.”

Gallagher and builder Arnie Surdyk of Double Diamond Property & Construction Services of Breckenridge estimate that they will hire over 20 subcontractors and approximately 100-150 construction workers. They plan to work with as many Summit County companies as possible. The home will take at least 20 months to complete.

“The owner is very enthusiastic about hiring local workers and using Colorado materials whenever possible,” said Gallagher. “All of the cabinets are being fabricated in Leadville by Cutting Edge Woodworking. Our stone and wood flooring is being sourced through Telluride Stone Company. We hope to buy most of our construction materials in Colorado.”

About the home

The showcase custom home is being built on a site of just over an acre, with a building envelope of 11,000 square feet. “Getting a home of this size, with a two-lane bowling alley and large garage to fit the allowable building envelope was quite challenging,” Gallagher said. “The home is basically a three-story home, but technically there are seven different levels, with five bedrooms and eight baths. The rooms are rather large and the entertainment facilities are quite generous. There is the bowling alley, an audiophile listening room with a projection screen TV and lounge area around the fireplace. There is also a game room that includes pool, foosball, shuffleboard, poker, a bar and a wine cellar. All of the bedroom suites are as large as master suites in most homes in Breckenridge.”

Other features of the home include an elevator, a separate catering kitchen, both downhill and Nordic ski rooms, a private library, a drying closet, hot tub, sauna, steam room and three laundry facilities.

The home features an oversized three-car garage and an outdoor living room with a fireplace and grilling kitchen, plus numerous open patios and covered decks.

“With a home of this size, it is important to keep everything feeling connected and keep some areas intimate. We worked very hard to make sure the design feels like a home and feels comfortable for the owner, his family and guests. The design was inspired by the grand lodges of the western national parks as well as Adirondack camps.

“We worked very closely with the town of Breckenridge to minimize the environmental impacts a home of this size will have,” continued Gallagher. “For example, the site will have 11 geothermal wells, each 400 feet deep, which will be used to heat the home. The home will have the very best insulation and the most efficient mechanical products available today.

“It's an exciting project for myself and for the Town of Breckenridge,” Gallagher said. “We hope this will spur other projects in Summit County and breathe some life into the construction industry.”

Courtesy Summit Daily News

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Good News in the Real Estate Market

For the first time in 18 months, home prices in February rose higher. With a median price of $171,881, prices in the 53 cities surveyed by the RE/MAX National Housing Report rose by 1.1% over February 2011. Home sales were even higher, up 8.7% from one year ago. With a positive sales trend of 8 straight months above the previous year, it’s looking like 2012 will witness a very strong home-selling season. As a result of reduced foreclosure activity, inventory continued a downward trend for the 20thstraight month, 22.4% lower than the housing inventory in February 2011. Consumer sentiment appears to be rising, and record low mortgage rates coupled with favorable home prices are attracting homebuyers and investors who don’t want to miss a historic opportunity.

"All the data is pointing to a very active spring and summer selling season this year, which is great news for a recovering housing market."said Margaret Kelly, CEO of RE/MAX, LLC. "As sales numbers have trended higher for several months, we have been anticipating a turnaround in home prices, and it looks like it’s finally starting."

Home Prices Start to Rise, Sales Trend Higher: Housing Recovery Underway


Home Sales in February were 8.7% higher than sales in February 2011. This was the 8thstraight month year-to-year sales have risen. February home sales were also 8.1% higher than sales in January. Of the 53 metro areas included in the survey, 45 saw increases over February last year and an impressive 26 metro areas saw double-digit jumps, including: Albuquerque, NM +46.6%, Providence, RI +36.7%, Raleigh, NC +33.8%, Boston, MA +30.5% and Chicago, IL +27.5%.

The Median Sales Price of homes sold in February was $171,881. This price represents a 1.4% increase from January, and a 1.1% rise from the median price seen in February 2011. February is the first time in 18 months that the year-to-year home price has increased. Of the 53 metro areas included in the February survey, 24 experienced price increases from February 2011, including: Miami, FL +20.5%, Orlando, FL +15.8%, Phoenix, AZ +12.5%, Tampa, FL +11.1%, St. Louis, MO +9.8% and Detroit, MI +8.9%. 


The average Days on Market for properties sold in February was 103, the same as for the month of January, and the same average seen in February 2011. Only two months in the last 12 months saw a Days on Market average below 90: July and September both reported 88. Days on Market is the number of days between first being listed in an MLS and when a sales contract is signed.

In the month of February, the average inventory of homes-for-sale in the 53 surveyed metro areas dropped 0.8% from January and also dropped 22.4% from February 2011. Month-to month inventories have now fallen for 20 consecutive months. Given the current rate of sales, and the size of the active inventory, the resulting Months Supply is 6.6 months, a drop from the 7.3 month supply seen in January, and significantly lower than the 9.3 month supply reported in February 2011. Months Supply is the number of months it would take to clear a market’s active inventory at the current rate of sales. A six-month supply is considered a balanced market between buyers and sellers.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Wild Colorado: Tracking tracks in the snow

A set of tracks zigzags across the slope below the chairlift, seemingly random and haphazard.
They backtrack on themselves, seem to cover little to no ground and are dotted here and there with snow disturbances, like something was digging or just stuck its head in the snow.

These are likely fox tracks, says Dan Eberle, the youth coordinator at Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, a nonprofit that works on the ground alongside the Forest Service. The organization coordinates volunteers to do trail work and education that Forest Service officials aren't able to do due to funding priorities.

They look lost, Eberle said about the fox tracks. But they're really listening and smelling for subnivean creatures such as mice and voles that rely on winter snow cover for survival. Such creatures move under the snow, where, when it's deep enough, it remains a constant 32 degrees regardless of the temperature above snow. Subnivean is the term used to describe the zone just under the snow from the Latin for under (sub) and snow (nives).

Fox and owls can hear their prey through the snow and pounce from above, said Eberle.

Those are the variable holes amidst the tracks.

When you see disturbances in the snow, that's where fox jump in and pound through the snow. Sometimes they stumble on a nest, Eberle said.

Different tracks, different stories

Fox are less aggressive hunters than the more elusive ermine, a type of short-tailed weasel that storms nests of critters and demolishes them, Eberle said. He's once spotted the white weasel with its black tail only once, but it was early in the morning as he trekked to the top of Keystone's snowy slopes before the resort opened. Rarely, if ever, has Eberle come across the ermine's tracks.

Different tracks tell different stories, said Eberle, who partners with Daniel Rudolf on Fridays at Keystone Resort to guide visitors and locals on an hour-long, free interpretive tour of Summit County's snowy environment.

For instance, a pine squirrel doesn't like to stay on the ground long, so its tracks are quick, running from tree to tree.

Typically, snowshoe hare prints are tucked close to trees, which they use for cover.

As prey, both animals look to their various habitats for safety when they're not out foraging for food. Sometimes, a predator's tracks can run alongside its prey, which tells the story of a hunt and possibly a kill.

Often, Eberle finds it interesting to point out that snowshoe hare tracks represent movement in the opposite direction from which they appear. The larger hind legs land in front of the smaller front legs, he said. It's intuitive to think the larger hind legs would be behind the front legs, and that fools fellow creatures as well as humans.

Their tracks send mixed signals and deceive predators, Eberle said. It's not something they do on purpose, obviously, but said it's a type of biological confusion that's part of the natural environment.

Deer and elk tracks aren't as common in the High Country in winter, because the large game animals typically migrate to lower elevations where food supply is more prevalent. Otherwise, they're burning more energy than they're taking in, looking for food, Eberle said. Moose tracks could be more common, but it's not likely to see them at the ski resort, as they're more solitary creatures that live near wetter drainages.

It's easy to see some tracks from the chairlift, but Eberle and Rudolf's Ski With a Ranger Program and similar programs at Copper Mountain and Breckenridge Ski Resort get skiers to slow down and take a look in tree islands for tracks elsewhere on the mountain. Sometimes, animals and humans look to the same lines for travel, too. Skiers who pop into the trees often come across animal tracks that run the length of the line they're looking to ride.

Though feline and canine tracks aren't common at the resort, Eberle noted their major differences for those hiking or traveling in the backcountry: Feline claws can retract while canine claws don't.

So, if one comes across a large, roundish, fist-sized print without claw marks, it's likely a mountain lion's track. A smaller print with claws that's longer rather than wider, and more oval-shaped could be a coyote or a domestic dog.

Take a minute next time you're out and look around you just might stumble across an animal's tale in the snow.

More info:

Learn more about animal tracks in winter through Friends of the Dillon Ranger District's Ski With a Ranger program, which runs at 11 a.m. Fridays at Keystone Resort, Breckenridge Ski Resort and Copper Mountain.

Call (970) 262-3449 (970) 262-3449 , email or visit for more information on the tours.

Friends of the Dillon Ranger District also offers similar interpretive tours in summer, which can showcase an entirely different realm of High Country wildlife. Look to the website for the upcoming schedule.

Courtesy Summit Daily News