Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Home prices continue to rise, locally and nationally


The big news this morning on the real estate front is that home prices continued to pick up speed in February, showing the biggest gain since height of the housing bubble in 2006.

The S&P Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 major markets showed a 9.3 percent rise over the last 12 months, the biggest yearly gain in the index since May 2006, which was one month after the index showed record-high home prices.

After that, the index showed a decline in prices almost every month until May 2012, when the turnaround began. Every month since then there has been gain in home prices, with each month's gain stronger than the one that came before.

In eastern Idaho, the widely held view is that home prices didn't fall as hard in 2008 because they hadn't risen at the same pace as they had in markets like Boise, Reno, Las Vegas or Phoenix.

Nevertheless, looking at the number from the Snake River Multiple Listing Service, the slowdown was quite real. Here are the median prices for single family homes and the number of homes sold in Bonneville County every February between 2006 and this year:

2006  -- $129,400     86
2007 -- $148,450      112
2008 -- $161,000      92
2009 -- $151,950      58
2010 -- $134,500      42
2011 -- $141,000      52
2012 -- $122,250      76
2013 -- $147,154      79

The housing recovery has been driven by a number of factors, including near record-low mortgage rates, a drop in foreclosures and reduced unemployment, all of which have helped lift both new-home sales as well as sales of previously owned homes. The rising home prices has helped bring back some buyers who had been reluctant to buy while prices were falling.

"Despite some recent mixed economic reports for March, housing continues to be one of the brighter spots in the economy," said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

But Stan Humphries, chief economist for home price tracker Zillow, told CNN there are signs in the market could slow down. "Regardless what data you look at, home values are clearly rising at an unsustainable pace," he said. The increases in the index may be distorted by the shift in transactions to private home sales from the foreclosure sales that had been dominating the market.

Work to start soon on new Idaho Falls Stinker station

A building permit has been issued for a new Stinker station at First Street and Holmes Avenue.
Our routine stop at the city of Idaho Falls Building Department office yielded a few new developments on projects already reported.

A building permit has been issued for the new Stinker Station at the corner of Holmes Avenue and First Street. No demolition permit has been issued, but what we're going to see is the car wash taken out and a new store begun (estimated value of the project is $800,000 -- that's going by square footage calculations.) Once the new store is built, the old store will come down. In the course of the renovation, the gas pumps will remain in the same place and in service.

Also at the department office on Park Avenue were exterior plans for "Building L" at Snake River Landing. This 10,000-square-foot structure on Milligan Road, just south of Buffalo Wild Wings, will eventually be the home of McKenzie River Pizza, as well as tenants to be named later.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Boise-based Web developer aims to give job hunters, employer with new tools

LaborFeed.com, which debuted April 17 at Boise’s Tech Cocktail event, is offering a new twist on employment ads by uniting people on the hunt for contract and day work with homeowners and businesses in need of workers.

Rod Adams, a Boise native and resident, said he created the new Web site out of his own need while facing unemployment. As one of millions of out-of-work Americans with a broad spectrum of skills – professional to manual labor – Adams said he wondered why he couldn’t find a reputable Web site to help locate contract or day work.

Out of his frustration and need an idea was born: create a web site with a simple and free interface that includes a rating system and offers an option to receive real-time job alerts.

“Today’s job market landscape is different.  So we’re different too,” said Adams.  “We’re here for the laborer and the professional.  Our mission is to help you find workers, find jobs and get stuff done.”

Adams explained that the LaborFeed concept addresses new employment trends identified by the U.S. Department of Labor.  As companies lean more on temporary workers in a post-recession economy, LaborFeed.com helps businesses and homeowners find workers to fill long- or short-term contract and day work positions.  While most job seekers understandably hope to secure a full-time job, career experts say now is not the time to snub temporary job listings. That’s because temp positions not only provide an income, but they also can help build new skills or enhance existing ones while making valuable connections that can lead to permanent, full-time posts.

At the same time, Adams said he wanted to keep the process simple, hence the no-nonsense Web interface. Whether someone wants to find work or a business or homeowner is offering job opportunities, LaborFeed.com allows users to quickly create a free account and post a worker or job ad.

For more information or to create a free LaborFeed account, visit www.laborfeed.com

Rigby-made Blue Ice vodka earns "gluten free" label designation

Blue Ice Vodka, an American potato vodka produced at Distilled Resources, Inc. near Rigby, has become the first spirit brand in the country to feature a "Gluten Free" designation on its package label.

A Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is required for all alcoholic beverage labels. To receive the designation, a product must meet all the bureau's testing standards.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, can trigger a digestive disorder called celiac disease, one of the most common genetic autoimmune conditions in the world -- and one that often goes undiagnosed. It is estimated that as many as one in 141 Americans, or about 1 percent of the population, has celiac disease. The only existing treatment is a gluten free diet.

"Three years in the making, federal approval to officially label Blue Ice Vodka as gluten free is another progressive step for the industry and for all of those who suffer from gluten intolerance," said Gray Ottley, director of Distilled Resources, Inc. Previous to "Gluten Free" COLA approval, gluten free claims by spirit companies have been prohibited on package labeling. Blue Ice Vodka bottles featuring the new packaging are now in market nationwide.

Vodka can come from a variety of sources -- potatoes, wheat, corn, even grapes. If you're gluten intolerant, you don't want to buy vodka made from wheat. Here are some other brands that have been identified as gluten free, even if they haven't yet been officially labeled:
  • Bombora vodka. A grape-based vodka imported from Australia.
  • Chopin vodka. The company makes three varieties of vodka: wheat, potato and rye. The potato-based vodka comes in a bottle with a black cap and lettering.
  • Ciroc Ultra Premium vodka. Another premium vodka, also made from grapes. Ciroc's plain vodka is considered gluten-free.
  • Cold River vodka. Made in Maine, Cold River comes in two flavors: plain and blueberry (made with real Maine wild blueberries). Both are considered gluten-free. Interestingly, the company also makes an unusual potato-based gin..
  • DiVine vodka. Made from grapes by a winery in southwest Michigan. The winery/distillery does not process any gluten grains.
  • Glacier vodka. Also made from potatoes in Rigby by Distilled Resources.
  • Luksusowa vodka. Poland-crafted Luksusowa (which means "luxurious" in Polish) is the top-selling potato vodka in the world, according to distributor W.J. Deutch & Sons.
  • Monopolowa vodka. This potato-based vodka originated in Poland and now is distilled in Austria.
  • Smirnoff vodka. Distilled from corn, and the company's plain vodka should be safe. Beware, however, of Smirnoff Ice beverages — they are malt-based and not gluten-free.
  • Tito's handmade vodka. Tito's is made in Texas from corn.
Blue Ice Vodka is owned by 21st Century Spirits based in Los Angeles, Calif. For additional information, visit www.blueicevodka.com.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Smart PJs getting worldwide media attention

We first reported on Juan Murdoch and Smart PJs before Christmas. It seems that the scannable pajamas are creating something of a buzz.

Here is the link to a video that appeared yesterday on Slate.com: http://www.slate.com/blogs/trending/2013/04/25/bedtime_story_pajamas_barcode_covered_bed_wear_links_with_app_to_read_bedtime.html.

Kind of snarky, if you ask me, but it was Oscar Wilde who said, "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." Even the headline, "Creepy or Awesome? New Pajamas Hardwired With Bedtime Stories"concedes that Murdoch, an agent with Keller-Williams East Idaho, had a unique idea.

Murdoch said that while he has yet to recoup his initial investment, the phone is ringing off the hook. "It's going nuts," he said Thursday. "I've done three interviews with broadcasting companies from the UK today!" He's also been contacted by the Today Show.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Inkley's awning gone from downtown building

Walking downtown on Wednesday (and what a beautiful day it was), I noticed the old blue-white-and-rust Inkley's awning had been removed from the building at the corner of Park Avenue and A Street. Downtown beautification continues apace. Inkley's closed in 2007, in case you like to have information like that on file.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chiles resigns from CEO post with Greater Idaho Falls chamber

Robb Chiles, who has been CEO of the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce for the past decade, resigned from his position Tuesday. The resignation was immediate and made public in a press release this morning.

Jim Hammon, chairman of the chamber's executive board, said he and the board will be responsible for the day to day operations until an interim director is appointed. A committee has been formed to find a new CEO, he said.

The press release said Chiles had resigned to "pursue other interests." Efforts this morning to reach Chiles were unsuccessful.

The shakeup comes at a busy time of year for the chamber, which started taking registrations Friday for its annual Fourth of July parade and the Liberty Festival that afternoon on the Snake River Greenbelt. Other chamber-sponsored events coming soon include A Taste of Idaho and the annual golf tournament.

"We are working hard to make sure events this summer go off without a hitch," Hammon said.