Thursday, December 8, 2016

Home prices trend upward

Here is a line graph showing what the price of a $125,000 home in the Idaho Falls area would have done over the last 15 years. After peaking in the first half of 2008, the number slid in mid-2011 and bobbed for a few years, until mid-2014, when it started to climb again.
What a difference 15 years make, although it doesn’t always feel that way.

For lack of any real news breaking today, we decided to go back to our old friend, the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Calculator. This is the Web page where you can plug in your numbers and see how home prices have trended in your market.

Arbitrarily, we decided to see what a hypothetical property valued at $125,000 in the third quarter of 2001 would be estimated worth today. The results for all the markets we looked at are good, some really good. Here’s a breakdown.

Idaho Falls: $185,996  +48.7%
Pocatello: $185,252  +48.2%
Boise: $220,150  +76.1%
Reno: $209,754  +67.8%
Las Vegas: $181,459  +45.1%
Seattle: $251,652  +101.3%
Phoenix: $220,705 +76.5%

What’s interesting to look at is the volatility over the past 15 years. There's no question things bottomed out for everyone in 2011. In Las Vegas, your $125k from 10 years earlier would be $95,592 in the Q4 of 2011. In Idaho Falls, on the other hand, the line dipped but never below where it started. But the figure from Q3 of this year is still below the all-time high of Q3 2008, when it peaked at $187,961.

Here's a graph for Boise. Note that Joe Homeowner was underwater from Q1 2011 to Q2 2012, but recovery has been strong since then. 

Go ahead and try your house, but remember these are just numbers. Your house is only going to be worth what someone is willing to pay for it. What the HPI Calculator projects is what a given house purchased at a point in time would be worth today if it appreciated at the average appreciation rate of all homes in the area. The actual value of any house will depend on the neighborhood, house condition and age, home improvements made and needed, and many other factors. Consult a qualified real estate appraiser in your area to obtain a professional estimate of the current value of your home. Title XI of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 requires that any appraisal used in connection with a federally related transaction must be performed by a competent individual whose professional conduct is subject to supervision and regulation. Appraisers must be licensed or certified according to state law.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

U.S. Bank Foundation makes donation to EITC scholarships

The U.S. Bank Foundation has donated $5,000 to the Eastern Idaho Technical College Foundation to benefit the scholarship program for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Tracy Hoart, the bank’s vice president and district manager, and Deborah Moretto, vice president and trust officer for private client group, who also serves as the EITC Foundation chairwoman, visited the foundation to present the award. All scholarship dollars are allocated to students attending Eastern Idaho Technical College. The foundation awards nearly $200,000 every year in scholarships.

“Nearly one-third of EITC students receive scholarship awards through our office,” said Natalie Hebard, the foundation’s executive director. “Each and every donation is critical to supporting the mission.”

If you or someone you know is interested in attending EITC and would like to apply for scholarship support the next deadline to apply for scholarships is Feb. 10, 2017. Award notifications will be made by the end of March and funds will be available for fall 2017 and spring 2018. Applications can be picked up in person at the foundation office, 1600 S. 2500 East, Building No. 3, or found online at

To learn more about the Eastern Idaho Technical College Foundation, please visit, or call 208-535-5398.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Work progresses on new Deseret Industries store in Ammon

Looking east across the site of the future Deseret Industries store in Ammon.
In case you're wondering about all the dirt being moved in Ammon on 17th Street next door to Piano Gallery, that is the site of the new Deseret Industries store.

Site plans were filed in August, but the work has only started in earnest since the building permit was issued earlier this month. The project, on 6.45 acres, calls for a building of 48,605 square feet, 8,746 of which will be devoted to office space, to consolidate the Welfare and LDS Employment offices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the same building.

The store will replace the downtown Idaho Falls store at 450 E Street. Earlier this year Deseret Industries Marketing Manager Booke Yates told Local News 8 that the old store had served the community sell, "but was beginning to get a little run down." She said the construction team is also "evaluating the future" of the current Deseret Industries store location.

The new building has been designed by JRW Architecture of Rexburg.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

In 1966, Christmas shopping season started later, but with a lot more hoopla

Baloo the Bear makes his way through the streets of Davenport, Iowa, in a mid-'60s holiday season parade.
Now that "Black Friday" is in our rear view mirror, I find it interesting that the Christmas shopping season of 1966 officially kicked off on Dec. 3. That was the day the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce had made arrangements for a parade featuring marching bands, majorette squads, beauty pageant winners, Santa Claus, and -- most curiously -- 40 giant balloons from Giant Balloon Parades, Inc.

The mobile extravaganza was to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Memorial Drive in front of the LDS Temple and proceed to A Street, turn east on A to Yellowstone Avenue, then north to First Street, east on First to Holmes Avenue, then north on Holmes to the Country Club Shopping Center.

More than 200 youngsters, most of them Boy Scouts, had been brought into service to pull the balloons (characters from "The Wizard of Oz," "Alice in Wonderland" and "Aladdin and His Lamp," among others) along the parade route.

Some Googling reveals that Giant Balloon Parades was a company based in Newark, N.J. According to a 2006 article in the Quad City Times, Balloon parades were a hit in the '60s, the balloons were filled with air, not helium. They were mounted on big dollies and wheeled through the streets by costumed handlers.

With a portable air compressor they had to be filled just to a pressure of about four pounds to the square inch. "If we put in too much they’ll blow up,” a company representative told Jim Arpy, reporter for the Times-Democrat in Davenport, Iowa.

Anyway, I would be curious if anyone remembers this parade in Idaho Falls from 50 years ago. I can't imagine that it wasn't something to remember.

Monday, November 28, 2016

In honor of Cyber Monday, a trip back down Memory Lane, aka the 'Information Superhighway'

A screamin' machine in its day: The Leading Edge Model D. Initially priced at $1,495, it came with dual 5.25" floppy drives, 256 KB of RAM and a monochrome monitor.

In honor of Cyber Monday, when we are all expected to go hog wild online, I did a little digging to excavate the first story I ever wrote about the Internet. It appeared in the Post Register on April 10, 1994. In print.

Back then, we were calling it the "information superhighway." When was the last time you heard that term? Other headlines from that day's edition included, "Authorities say rapes often go unreported" and "Cobain's suicide perplexes local youth."

I think my home computer at the time was a Leading Edge 286, which I got from my brother-in-law in exchange for a microwave oven. It used 5 1/4-inch floppy disks and was handy for balancing my checkbook.

Anyway, here's the report:


Remember that old encyclopedia you had when you were a kid? The one in which Eisenhower was still president and the Piltdown man was still regarded as a revolutionary archaeological find?

OK, you were brilliant and got straight A's in spite of it. But think of how much easier it would have been if you'd had the latest information at your fingertips.

It's the computer age now. Although there's still lots of work to be done on the much-hyped "information superhighway," eastern Idahoans will soon have an easier time of getting linked up to the Internet, the worldwide network on which it's possible to get the latest information on practically anything.

SRVnet, a new non-profit organization based in Idaho Falls, is offering low-cost access to the Internet, access that has been limited until now to universities and government research agencies.

"My children just get on it and cruise," said Nancy Peterson, who is seeking investors and subscribers to help raise the $40,000 the association needs.

There are significant differences between SRVnet and commercial services like Compuserve, Prodigy and America OnLine. The people who run commerical services limit a user's exposure to what they want the user to see -- usually things for which they've been paid. The offer hook-ups to the Internet, but that involves a surcharge on top of the base cost, Peterson said.

With SRVnet, a user pays a set amount for a straight pipeline to the Internet. A "gold membership" costs $240 for two years, giving a user four free hours every month. Silver members pay $120 for one year, involving three free hours a month. Bronze members pay $10 a month for two free hours a month. Extra use in all three cases is billed at $3 an hour.

"If we could get 120 gold members and 120 silver members to sign up, we could begin," Peterson said. "The necessary documents have been filed and the equipment is waiting to be ordered."
If the effort falls through, all money will be refunded, Peterson said.

There will be a one-time charge of $29.95 for software, or users may purchase their own.
It's also essential to get a basic computer setup that can process information fairly fast. Any IBM compatible PC should be at least a 386 with Windows software (the programs will also run on Macintosh.) A regular telephone line will work fine, but the modem's capacity should be 9600 bps or more.

A good modem will cost around $150 to $200, Peterson said. PC prices vary and are coming down all the time. "In the next few years, you're going to see more and more people coming online," she added.

Anyone with children should be particularly interested in getting online with SRVnet, since the service will be very similar to the Internet access public schools will be offering. For business people, the Internet offers a competitive edge, both in gathering and putting out information. It's possible to start a bulletin board on the Internet that allows you to get your message out to anyone who has an interest in what you have to offer, Peterson said.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Retired city planner Renee Magee receives award for Smart Growth contributions

Renee Magee
Longtime Idaho Falls City Planner Renee Magee received the Charles Hummel Award from Idaho Smart Growth at its annual banquet, held last Thursday in Boise.

Named after Charles Hummel, an architect, historic preservationist and co-founder of Idaho Smart Growth, the award is given in recognition of an individual who demonstrates the same dedication to smart growth, and who exemplifies personal integrity and contributions to Idaho’s quality of life. Hummel died Oct. 22 at age 91.

Magee was Idaho Falls’ planning director from April 1997 to 2013. Since retiring, she has been active in guiding the Idaho Falls Historic Preservation Commission. She is active in Rotary and serves on the Museum of Idaho Board of Directors. She holds a master’s in city and regional planning from Ohio State University and a law degree from University of Wyoming.

As city planner and in retirement, Magee has been a guiding light in Idaho Falls’ downtown revitalization. With the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency, she offered advice most recently on the Bonneville Hotel project, suggesting a mix of market-rate and affordable residential units with retail on the ground floor. Built in 1927 the five-story hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and most likely qualifies for historic preservation tax credits and low-income housing tax credits. A development team was selected in August for the project, cost of which has been estimated at roughly $10 million.

Other 2016 Smart Growth awards given Thursday included:

Martin Luther King, Jr. Way Livability & Storm Water Project; Pocatello – Transportation Award

This main road through Idaho State University was redesigned to serve pedestrians and transit better as well as to improve safety for all users. Landscape and green storm water treatments complete the improvements.

Blaine County Community Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan; Blaine County – Citizen Advocacy Award

This plan has implementation strategies in place and some elements have already been implemented. Kudos for tackling bike/ped planning at the regional level and conducting a health impact assessment as part of the process.

Willard Arts Center and Colonial Theater; Idaho Falls – Redevelopment Award

The project is a great example of infill redevelopment that includes historic preservation. More than a decade in the making, it clearly has succeeded in bringing more people downtown, stimulating cultural activity and economic vibrancy.

Teton View Regional Plan for Sustainable Development; Teton County – Planning & Policy Award

A high level of involvement and commitment is shown by the many players brought together to make this happen. The plan provides clear direction for the region’s growth and addresses regional resources beyond land use with an eye toward sustainability.

Idaho Avenue Placemaking; Meridian – Redevelopment Award

This is an example of the catalytic nature of the lighter, quicker, cheaper placemaking approach that helps trigger community development quickly. The first project to be implemented from Meridian’s Placemaking Downtown Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper action plan is an excellent example of repurposing underutilized road right-of-way to another use.

36 Oak; Garden City – Infill Award

NeighborWorks Boise is using infill as an approach to providing affordable housing and live/work options. This is a good example of cottage-style single-family infill that increases density somewhat without overwhelming the surrounding neighborhood and does a good job of fulfilling Garden City’s comprehensive plan.

Vista Avenue Healthy Corridor; Boise – Citizen Advocacy Award

Grow Smart Awards have never previously recognized a study, however this one by the Urban Land Institute showed very good community engagement and collaboration with the city’s LIV program and the neighborhood. As a result the study has stimulated conversation and excitement which gave the jury confidence it will be utilized and implemented.

Nampa Library Square; Nampa – Commercial Award

This development did a great job of recognizing community needs as reflected in the variety of services provided. Keeping the library downtown and using it as an economic catalyst, including a mixed use development with structured and bike parking, are strong smart growth elements of the project.

Highway 55 Payette River “Lardo” Bridge; McCall – Small Community Award

More than just an aging bridge replacement, in this project the city worked with ITD to accomplish community development goals that emerged from previous planning efforts with good public engagement. The project completes a gap in the walking and biking network and provides space for public art; it’s as much a placemaking project as it is a transportation project.

For more information about the Grow Smart Awards and Idaho Smart Growth go to

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

TEDxIdahoFalls seeking speakers for 2017 program

TEDxIdahoFalls has launched its search for presenters for the 2017 event, to be held in February 2017.

In the spirit of "ideas worth spreading," the global idea-exchange platform, TED, has created TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. The local event is named TEDxIdahoFalls will feature TEDTalks video and live speakers to spark deep discussion.

The local event organizer, Brad Christensen, is leading the team curating speakers for the event. What they are really looking for are ideas, he said. “New ideas that originate in our community, but are widely relatable. Ideas or topics that may change perceptions, not something self-evident, are what make an exciting TED talk.”

All potential speakers are advised to visit and fill out the request form. Requests must be received by Dec. 31, and the panel will be chosen by Jan. 15, 2017.

Information for those requesting to attend will be available in January.

For updates, information may be found at, on FaceBook at and on Twitter at

Here's a TEDxIdahoFalls presentation from earlier this year, “Body Language: The Key to Your Subconscious,” from Ann Washburn.