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Signs of economic recovery in Falcon

After several years of contraction and stagnation, several economic indicators show that Falcon’s economy, as well as the economy of the county as a whole, could be on the mend. Foreclosures downData from the El Paso County public trustee’s Web site shows that after peaking at 351 in 2009, foreclosure starts in the 80831 ZIP code declined in 2010 and again in 2011.Last year ended with 179 foreclosure starts in the 80831 ZIP code. Sixty were in Woodmen Hills and 24 were in Meridian Ranch, compared with 101 and 36, respectively, in 2010.The numbers are in line with the trend for El Paso County as a whole, according to reports by Tom Mowle, public trustee.At the Feb. 14 El Paso County Board of County Commissioners meeting, Mowle said foreclosure start rates in 2011 in the county were down by about 25 percent. About 45 percent of homeowners have been able to avoid the full foreclosure process by getting their mortgage modified, selling the property or coming up with the money to get out of default, he said.ìIt’s steadily getting better in terms of foreclosures. I’m expecting a further decrease in foreclosures ñ about a 15-percent drop … once the final set of creative loans reset this year,î Mowle said.In 2011, there were 3,545 foreclosure starts in the county. A normal number for an area with El Paso County’s demographics is about 2,400, he said.Residential construction upNew home construction in Falcon’s major developments peaked in 2005, with 788 single-family residential permits issued to builders like Classic Homes; and bottomed out in 2008, with 95 permits.In 2010, the county changed its land use code to allow developers an option to record plats in smaller phases so they wouldnít have to pay all the development fees at one time. On Feb. 9, Max Rothschild, director of the county’s development services department, asked the BOCC to extend the phasing policy through December 2013, which they did by a unanimous vote.The county has been ìvery cooperative in trying to help the industry, and I think the industry still needs help,î Rothschild said.After they bottomed out in 2008, the number of single-family residential construction permits issued to builders in Falcon’s major developments has gone up every year. In 2011, 161 permits were issued.Bob Croft, who works at the Pikes Peak Regional Building Dept., said he’s noticed a county-wide uptick in construction activity since the beginning of the year.In January, a month in which builders request fewer permits, eight single-family residential construction permits were issued to Campbell Homes, Richmond American Homes, Journey Homes and Elite Properties of America. That’s one more permit than was issued in January 2011.Existing home salesAccording to housing information Web site, 171 houses were for sale in the 80831 ZIP code as of Feb. 20. Of those houses, 62 were short sales or bank-owned and five had pending sales. The Web site also shows that 424 single-family homes were sold in the previous 12 months.The number of houses for sale in the Falcon area is low and that’s good for sellers because a low supply motivates buyers, said real estate agent Laurie Klipfel.Klipfel lives in Latigo Trails, where she said she thinks home prices have stabilized. Prices in Woodmen Hills and Meridian Ranch are still declining a bit because of the high number of short sales and foreclosures on the market in those developments, Klipfel said.An offer on one of her listings has been in limbo for seven months while the mortgage lender decides whether to accept it. Foreclosed properties lingering on the market depress the price of non-foreclosure homes because appraisers have to take the value of the nearby foreclosed property into account, she said.Klipfel is hopeful the recent settlement with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Ally Financial and Citigroup will help more people modify their loans and keep their homes.Colorado will receive $204.6 million, with $73.3 million set aside for principal reductions, and $46.3 million in refinancing benefits to underwater borrowers, according to an article at In the article, homeowners with a mortgage from any of those five banks were advised to directly contact the bank.Buyers are demanding that sellers pay closing costs, so sellers should price their homes competitively, factor in 3 percent for closing costs and prepare themselves for low-ball offers. Well-qualified buyers are out there, but they’re looking for a deal, Klipfel said.ìPrices are stabilizing, but we’re not seeing appreciation yet,î she said.EmploymentIn the last four months, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center has seen an upward trend in the number of jobs posted to their system, which receives only a portion of all job openings in the area, said Michelle Graham, business and community initiatives director.ìWe’re getting 80 or more new job postings a week. We have over 400 active job openings right now,î Graham said. ìThey run the gamut from entry-level positions starting at minimum wage to higher-level management and engineering positions starting at $70,000 a year or more.î Jobs include engineers, prep cooks, field investigators, housekeepers, managers and health care and customer service employees.In February, the center hosted employee opportunity events for three local companies hiring people to fill 870 customer service and warehouse positions.ìThings are looking up,î she said.TransportationAirline flights are one of the 10 metrics in the Business Conditions Index used by the Pikes Peak Quality of Life Indicators to measure the state of the area’s economy. More flights mean enhanced business relationships and an increase in tourism.During the recession, the Colorado Springs Airport lost about 10 percent of its flights, not as bad as other small to medium-size airports, which lost up to 20 percent of their capacity. Mark Earle, airport director, presented the information to the BOCC in February.In May, Frontier Airlines will add non-stop service from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle and Portland, Ore. The airline will be flying its Airbus 319s, one of the larger aircraft in their fleet, for the four new destinations, Earle said.ìIn the last couple of months, we’ve regained a lot of what we lost; and, with the addition of Frontier service in May, we will be up 10 percent over the prior year,î Earle said. ìWe’re hoping to be up a little bit more than that.îAfter introductory one-way fares ranging from $49 to $89, fares will be the same as flying out of Denver International Airport, he said.ìFrontier has told us they have plans (from Colorado Springs) to other cities,î Earle said. ìThey’re willing to put in more service but they want to see how this service is supported before they move forward.îEarle added that if the community wants the service to continue and expand, it has to be used.

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