Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Waterfront Home Tour This Weekend

As we mentioned HERE, this weekend is Coldwell Banker Burnet's Fall Waterfront Home Tour held on October 2nd.  You won't want to miss all the beautiful homes surrounding Lake Minnetonka, especially since we're close to or at peak fall colors!  Hope to see your around the lake.

Sharla and Eric

Open Houses: October 2, 2011

2650 Northview Drive - Minnetrista
4 bedroom/6 bath
Open:  1:00 to 5:00

Enjoy the tranquil "Up North" setting of this private estate. Nestled on 45+ acres of maple forest with 1500 feet of lakeshore on Whaletail Lake. This stunning home was thoughtfully designed by Michael Huber & built by Erotas. Offering breath taking spaces, long views and an amazing attention to detail, this home is truly a Northwoods retreat. Offering many opportunities for recreational boating, fishing & hunting.

Click HERE for more information on Northview Drive.

19885 Andover Place - Deephaven
3 bedroom/3 bath
Open:  12:00 to 2:00

You will enjoy 1-level living in this beautifully appointed "Not So Big Home". Beautifully finished & meticulously maintained, this home is nestled among two peaceful ponds & gardens and features wonderful indoor & outdoor entertaining spaces.

Click HERE for more information on Andover Place.

4645 Old Kent Road - Deephaven
3 bedroom/5 bath
Open:  12:00 to 2:00

Nestled on a private lot in North Amesbury, this home offers gracious living! It is beautifully updated & designed with family and entertaining in mind. Enjoy Main Level Living wiht a lower level Guest Suite, Exercise Room & Custom Pub. The 5 Car Finished Garage is the perfect "Man Cave". This home is a must see!

Click HERE for more information on Old Kent Road.

7705 Ridgeview Way - Chanhassen
4 bedroom/4 bath
Open:  1:00 to 3:00

Nestled on a .43 acre lot, this home shows like new construction! With a Great Room floor plan, Office & Gourmet Kitchen, Private Master Suite & Bonus Room. Relax in the private backyard or take a dip in the neighborhood pool.

Click HERE for more information on Ridgeview Way.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

To Save Money, Keep It Simple

Saving money for a new home? That may seem tough, but new research suggests you may be more successful than if you're trying to figure out how to save for a new house, your kid's education and retirement.

The new academic research paper finds that people do better at saving when they have just one goal in mind, versus the host of goals most of us tend to think about when we decide to take a hard look at our personal finances.

Researchers from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management found that when people are told that it’s important to save for a number of things, they get caught up in thinking about which savings goal is most important and how much should go into each pot.

That can keep them from implementing any sort of savings plan at all.

On the other hand, when a person sets one clear savings goal, it tends to be easier for to implement.

The two researchers, Dilip Soman and Min Zhao, studied people’s reactions to various savings plans in India, Canada and Hong Kong.

They found that even people from different countries and walks of life reacted similarly when faced with decisions about saving.

"One common strategy to encourage individuals to save is to bombard them with multiple reasons to save. … The underlying assumption for this strategy is the belief that when faced with several good saving goals, individuals are more likely to save. In our research, we show that such a strategy can backfire and that a single savings goal can actually result in an increased savings rate (compared with) multiple savings goals,” the researchers wrote.

By Allison Linn   Lifeinc. on Today

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Weekly Market Update: September 26, 2011

"How's the Market?" (Elevator Edition): New listings remain subdued with 15 weeks in a row of year-over-year declines. Buyer activity is strong with 19 straight weeks of year-over-year gains. Inventory has posted 31 consecutive weeks of year-over-year decreases.

"How's the Market?" (Dinner Conversation Edition): New listings were down 22.5 percent to 1,311 and pending sales were up 40.6 percent to 883 contracts. The inventory bins contained 23,453 active listings at the start of last week – down 22.2 percent from last year. The Percent of Original List Price Received and Months Supply of Inventory metrics suggest a slowly improving landscape for sellers although they are still entrenched in buyer-favorable territory for the time being.

Monday, September 26, 2011

6 Worth-the-Price Fix-Ups

Simple and affordable do-it-yourself projects can greatly increase a home's resale value, according to HomeGain's annual home improvement and staging survey. The marketing company surveyed nearly 600 real estate professionals to discover which DIY home improvement projects give sellers the biggest return for their buck.

Here are six projects under $1,000 (amounts are estimated) that made the list.

1.Cleaning and decluttering. Remove any personal items, unclutter countertops, organize closets and shelves, and make the home sparkling clean.

◦$290 Cost
◦$1,990 Return

2.Brightening. Clean all windows inside and out, replace old curtains, update lighting fixtures, and remove anything that blocks light from the windows.

◦$375 Cost
◦ $1,550 Return

3.Smart staging. Rearrange furniture, bring in new accessories and furnishings to enhance rooms, incorporate artwork, and play soft music in the background.

◦$550 Cost
◦$2,194 Return

4.Landscaping enhancements. Punch up the home’s curb appeal in the front and back yards by adding bark mulch, bushes, and flowers and ensuring current plants and grass are well-cared for and manicured.

◦$540 Cost
◦$1,932 return

5.Repairing electrical or plumbing. Fix leaks under the sinks, remove any mildew stains, and ensure all plumbing is in good working condition. Update the home’s electrical with new wiring for modern appliances, fix any lights or outlets that don’t work, and replace old plug points with new safety fixtures.

◦$535 Cost
◦$1,505 Return

6.Replacing or shampooing dirty carpets. Steam-clean carpets, replace any worn carpets, and repair any floor creaks.

◦$647 Cost
◦$1,739 Return

Excerpted from HomeGain’s 2011 Home Sale Maximizer Survey:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Open Houses: September 25, 2011

2065 Woodstone Court - Victoria
4 bedroom/4 bath
Open:  12:00 to 1:00

Enjoy this like-new walk-out rambler on the beatiful Deer Run Golf Course. This spacious home offers three bedrooms on the main level, a well equipped Gourmet Kitchen that opens to a Great Room with a cozy fireplace and a fully finished lower level with a Billiards room furnished with a custom built Wet-Bar, large Famiy Room with built-in entertainment center, exercise room and 4th bedroom. This is main level living at its best!

Click HERE for more information on Woodstone Court

1575 Cavaletti Court - Victoria
4 bedroom/4 bath
Open:  1:30 to 2:30

Looks like a page from Pottery Barn. This popular Wakefield model is on a private lot & is beautifully finished with all the amenities for today's buyers. Enjoy a gourmet Kitchen with granite, stainless steel GE Monogram appliances and stunning hardwood floors. 4 Bedrooms up including a private master suite with a fireplace.

Click HERE for more information on Cavaletti Court.

2219 Longacres Drive - Chanhassen
5 bedroom/5 bath
Open:  2:00 to 3:30

Nestled on a private lot across from neighborhood park, this well appointed and beautifully finished Kenton floor plan features a Gourmet Kitchen, Great Room, 2 Offices, finished lower level, spacious deck & stunning screen porch. This home will not disappoint!

Click HERE for more information on Longacres Drive.

2350 Hunter Drive - Chanhassen
4 bedroom/3 bath
Open:  2:00 to 3:30

The unique & desirable Lismore Model from Lundgren is now available! Nestled on a quiet, private drive with pond views, a private yard and mature trees this is the perfect tranquil setting. This home boasts a wonderful array of features including new stainless steel appliances in a Gourmet Kitchen, an executive Office, a private Master Suite with a Sitting Room & a great Play Space in the lower level just waiting for you! This is a must see in demand Longacres!

Click HERE for more information on Hunter Drive.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Design Style Are You?

With the numerous design shows all over TV, I'm sure you've heard about many different design styles like Arts & Crafts, Contemporary, and Traditional.  And you may have an idea of some of the main design elements in the more popular ones.  But could you tell the difference between French Country and Americana?  How about Contemporary and Modern?  Let's take a look at some common design styles. Then you can determine which style suits you best when you go to describe your property or when you're looking for you next home.


Likely the most popular home design style in America, Traditional Design brings the warmth and elegance of the past into the present.

Common Characteristics:  The shapes in this style setting are typically very graceful. Curving lines are very common. Furniture is often constructed of dark wood and finely crafted detail. Think Queen Anne style table legs and rolled sofa arms, for example. Oh, and sofas with arched backs..very traditional, too. There is often a sense of balance and symmetry of furnishings and decorative elements. 

Architetural Details:  Decorative features like crown moldings, paneling, and chair rails are commonly found in the Traditional style.  Again, symmetry of the home features such as a centered fireplace flanked by windows one either side.

Adapting the Style:  Traditional style can be adapted to a more eclectic and up-to-date feel by mixing in some fabrics and accessory items of other styles. This should be coordinated, but not necessarily strictly matched, to the rest of the scheme.


Clean lines, simplicity, and functionality are the main elements of Contemporary Design. 

Common Characteristics:  The overall look features straight lines, sharp angles, and shiny surfaces; not much fancy flair, so don't expect ruffles or florals.  Furnishings often have exposed legs and sit low to the ground.   Open space and sparse accessories dominate this minimal design style.  Bright lighting plays an important role, with accent lights emphasizing accessories or abstract artwork.  Often a black and white color scheme but pops of color are also used.  Texture is very important as seen in smooth glass surfaces, jute rugs, and incorporation of wood elements.

Architectural Details:  Think urban and industrial lofts.  Again, clean lines often with little embellishment. 

Adapting the Style:  Contemporary adapts well to other styles that use more geometrical patterns, and can easily translate into an eclectic style.


While Contemporary Design is considered the architecture of the moment, Modern Design is an older design style that was introduced in the early to mid- 20th century to combat the overly styled designs of the Victorian age. 

Common Characteristics:  Absence of ornament, structures of steel or concrete, industrial feeling stemming from the machine age.  .  Asymmetry and open floor plans.

Architectural Details:  Squared off, large expanses of glass and whitewashed stucco, strong horizontal lines, corner windows, industrial look.

Adapting the style:  Modern can easily be adapted to a contemporary style with some color and softening elements.

Arts & Crafts

Fine craftsmanship of furniture and architecture, with an emphasis on wood typifies the Arts & Crafts Design Style.

Common Characteristics:  Arts and Crafts interior elements feature prominent straight lines and a lack of excessive embellishment seen in some other traditional and classic styles. The careful craftsmanship of materials often provides a hint of native culture, particularly in the Mission Style variation which gives a nod to Spanish influence.  Geometric forms of stained glass-like mica establish a strong sense of Arts and Crafts when used for lamp shades, windows or panel inserts in cabinetry.

Architectural Details:  Homes built with wood, stone and brick, many in the bungalow style.  Front porches with square or tapered columns and low pitched roofs.  Built-ins, including furniture, dominant fireplace, exposed beams and open floor plan.

Adapting the Style:  Many homes today incorporate some arts & crafts elements into their design.  Mission style furnishings are very popular.  Keep the emphasis on function and wood, and away from curved and fancy.

American Country

American Country design style is all about bringing forth thoughts of simple, down home American comfort.  The emphasis is on natural materials, handcrafted features and time-worn charm.

Common Characteristics:  Tactile surfaces of wood, wicker weaving, wrought iron, stone, pottery, tin and other natural or earthy materials work well and provide great visual texture as well.  Wood floors, beadboard, curtains, comfortable furnishings, and incorporation of antiques.

Architectural elements:  Think two-story farmhouses with tall, double-hung windows, large eat-in kitchens and front porches.

Adapting the Style:  County is very versatile.  Use more rough-hewn materials of stone and wood to move in a more rustic style.  Add elements of classic American icons like the flag and red/white/blue to move in a more Americana style.

French Country

The look is casual but luxurious and full of color.  Borrowed from the south of France, this style is old-world, elegant but fuss free.

Common Characteristics:  Colorful, elegant, wallpaper, natural materials intermixed with old-world pieces (like a chandelier).   Furnishings often have a rustic, distressed painted look, and the wood commonly contains carved details.  Utilizes natural elements such as stone textures, wood, or rattan.   Fabrics are often made from natural materials, such as linens, cottons, and wools. Toile, a French Country fabric that illustrates repeated patterns of pastoral scenes or flower arrangements, is popular.  And roosters.  Roosters are the quintessential french country fixture.

Architectural Details:  Common elements include tall, thin windows, often with slat-board shutters, steep roofs, multiple gables, and assorted arches. Exterior is typically a mixture of stucco and stone, or brick and stone, trimmed with painted timbers, windows boxes, wrought iron railings and brick or stone highlights around windows and doors.

Adapting the Style:  French country can easily adapt to American Country or be a blend of the two.  It also lends itself to a cottage style very easily.

There are many more design styles that are variations on the ones mentioned here:  Classical, Asian, Art Deco, Rustic, Southwestern, Tuscan, Swedish, Eclectic...the list goes on and on.  Whatever your style, embrace it and enjoy it!

Sources:  Realtor Magazine, Interior Design,,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tis The Season

School is well under way, the days are getting shorter and many Sellers are asking their Realtors if they should keep their homes on the market or if they should take them off and wait till Spring. As it is with all things in life, there are trade-off’s to both decisions.

Many sellers are wondering if the market will pick up and be any stronger next spring, and if I had a Crystal Ball, I’d be able to tell you…but I don’t. Neither does anyone else for that matter – not even those who are experts on the economy, financial markets, etc…

But I do know this:

The Twin Cities housing market picks up momentum after Labor Day and we see an increase in showing activity and sales until we get hit hard with our lovely Minnesota winters or the Holidays, whichever comes first. Once the Holidays hit, there’s an obvious slow-down in Buyer activity. That slow down continues until the weekend after the SuperBowl which is the “un-official” beginning of Spring Market.

So, many sellers think it’s best to take their homes off the market after Halloween – but if you do – you’re missing out on some not-so-obvious benefits:

1. Holiday Buyers: These Buyers are obviously not tire-kickers – they are serious about buying a home or they wouldn’t be wasting their time – and their Agent’s time – with looking at homes over the Holidays.

2. January is the month for transferees. Many Executives are relocating and need to begin their new position in January. These buyers tend to have more income and less time – hence – they’re likely to make a quicker decision and act with a greater sense of urgency (something our local buyers seem to be missing).

3. Reduced Inventory & Competition: Since many sellers take their homes off the market in November, there are fewer homes to compete against. Real Estate is based on Supply and Demand so less competition will only help Sellers in this challenging market.

4. Holiday Homes: Most homes really sparkle and shine in December. For Sellers that celebrate Christmas and decorate their homes with Christmas Trees, Wreaths, and Lights, their homes never look better. It sparks an emotion within most buyers and all the festive decorations can really show off a home and downplay any flaws.

5. Competition heats up again when spring market begins (typically mid-February or the first day you see someone driving around in a convertible or on a motorcycle) so the Holidays are a great time to Sell Your Home!

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, give us a call! We are always available to you!

Warm regards,

Sharla & Eric

For Sale: 5BR/2+1BA Single Family House in Shorewood, MN, $599,000

Presenting a Beautiful Colonial Home from Stafford Family Realtors 

22310 Bracketts Road ~ Shorewood, MN

This beautifully finished center-stair Colonial home is sited on over 130 feet of shoreline on Galpin Lake in the heart of Shorewood. Well appointed, this home offers designer finishes throughout including 3 wood-burning fireplaces, vaulted ceilings, stunning lake views and a true chef's kitchen.

 For more information please visit for a private showing please call 952.470.2575

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Weekly Market Update: September 19, 2011

With the Labor Day slowdown in the mix for the current round of numbers, new listings were down 21.2 percent compared to the 12.9 percent average decline over the past three months. At 1,248 new homes, that now marks 14 consecutive weeks of year-over-year declines in new listings. Inventory levels were also down 21.2 percent to 23,481 active listings, marking 30 consecutive week of declines.

Conversely, buyer activity was up 53.0 percent over the same week last year. That’s a fairly hefty increase, but we can’t call it a one-week anomaly because the three-month average shows an impressive 41.7 percent average increase over the equivalent three months in 2010. The 823 purchase agreements mark 18 consecutive weeks of year-over-year increases in pending sales.

The Percent of Original List Price Received and Months Supply of Inventory metrics suggest a slowly changing landscape.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Are Home Buyers Getting Too Picky?

Minor Home Flaws Derail More Deals

Many buyers are demanding perfection in home’s today. A small stain on the carpet? Forget it. Distracting paint colors? They can’t look past it. No granite countertops? Onto the next house!

As home values drop, offering buyers some of the best bargains in years, more home buyers have realized they can get more choosy when home-shopping. And with inventories high in many areas, sellers realize their home needs to exude perfection if its going to stand out.

During the housing boom a few years ago, buyers were more willing to overlook flaws, or accept them, that is. They may have negotiated with the seller over repairs or upgrades, but some buyers were willing to even take the home “as-is” to win a bidding war or to get the home in the area they wanted.

Times have changed.

Even first-time buyers, who once were lured to the “starter home” (a.k.a. a fixer-upper), are getting choosier. A Coldwell Banker survey earlier this year found that 87 percent of first-time buyers say they want a “move-in” ready home over a fixer-upper–and they want it to be affordable too!

Buyers are “missing out on some excellent, older lived-in houses,” Holly Kirby Weatherwax, a real estate professional in Reston, Va., told the Toledo Blade. “It’s a shame, simply because they can’t overlook” flaws that wouldn’t have bothered most buyers in the previous two decades. Those flaws could be anything from minor imperfections like kitchen appliances by different manufacturers to the home’s color not matching the buyer’s furniture, Kirby notes.

“Anything that can be a distraction, you want to eliminate,” a Tennessee home seller noted in a recent news article. “A light bulb isn’t a big issue, but it can affect [buyers’] subconscious.”

So how did buyers get so picky anyway? Is it just the power of a buyer’s market? Some also blame the rising popularity of home design shows on TV for making buyers more selective when viewing homes. But in recent months, more home design TV programming is showing a slight shift to fixer-upper housing make-overs, showing how a home’s flaws can be overcome to still become a dream home. Will such TV shows eventually make more buyers give less-than-perfect homes a second chance?

Until then, before the for-sale sign goes up, more sellers are heeding the advice of their real estate agent to clean, paint, upgrade and stage to avoid lowball offers. Plus, with the huge glut of low-priced foreclosures, such finishing touches may help home owners rise above the competition.

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Friday, September 16, 2011

Home Features That Add Pizzaz!

Many homeowners are deciding to stay put and renovate rather than move.   And many are adding unique features that add enjoyment for them and will set their home apart should they decide to sell in the future.  Check out some of these great ideas and see if you can implement any into your next remodel.

Home Movie Theater

For the movie buff, a home theater is a great investment.  Ideal for basements where light is limited, home movie theaters can be customized to fit the needs of your family.  Most home theaters offer customized seating, a large screen, and a sound system with sight lines adjusted for optimal listening and viewing.  Forget about parking, having to be on time, and paying an arm and a leg for pop and popcorn. 

Stationary Pool

For the swimming enthusiast, how about an excersize pool.  Hydraulic pumps create waves to provide a great workout.  These small vinyl-sided steel panel pools can be built indoors or outdoors, and above or in the ground.  They are easier to clean and take up less space than conventional pools.  Costs start at nearly $13,000, or about half of what the cheapest conventional pools would cost. They are easy to dismantle and move and can fit a maximum of eight people.

Claw Foot Bath Tub

If you prefer a soak of a more relaxed kind, a one-of-a-kind vintage cast-iron clawfoot tub with porcelain finish may be right up your alley.  These conversation pieces are part of a dwindling supply nationwide.  Nearly all are stamped with the year of manufacture on the bottom (typically between the 1870s and 1930s). They are easily adaptable to modern plumbing systems.  You may need to do some refurbishing if you find one in good condition, but the beautiful end product is well worth the time investment.

Classic Bar

If you find yourself spending more time at home instead of going out on the town, then investing in a classic bar may be just the thing for you.  These entertainment icons can be decked out to suit your every need with built-in refrigeration, beveled mirrors, display area for collectibles, warming drawers, beer taps, wine captains, and a flat-screen TV.  Antique versions, such as residential models constructed by Chicago company Balke-Collender from the 1920s to the 1940s, are hard to find but worth the hunt.

Adding these and other features to your home can raise your enjoyment of your space and set you apart when and if you decide to sell.  If you're wondering whether or not to add a new feature to your home and aren't sure how it will affect the resale value of your home, please give us a call.  We'd love to discuss it with you.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Weekend Happenings: Nickle Dickle Days & Mini Golf

Nickle Dickle Day
City Square Park (and Downtown Waconia)

101 East Main Street
Waconia, MN
8:00 am to 10:30 pm
Cost:  Free to the public

Head west to Waconia this weekend for the 50th Annual Nickle Dickle Day.  Nickle Dickle Day is a family friendly community event that includes an arts & crafts fair, a car show, library book sale, music, duck races, mechanical bull, 5/10K races and a dance from 6:30-10:30pm on 1st Street.  Local merchants will be participating in sidewalk sales and there will be food vendors and entertainment all day long.  It's sure to be a fun time for everyone!

Fall Mini-Golf Classic
Lake Ann Park
10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Cost:  $8 for residents/$10 for non-residents

Tee off in the 6th annual Mini-Golf Classic at Lake Ann Park. This 9-hole golf course is laid out especially for 3-6 year olds. Participants will use a special three club plastic golf set and sponge golf balls (which will be provided) while their parent or guardian caddies. Schedule a tee time by calling 952-227-1122. Tee times will be scheduled early to late. Times are 12pm will be filled as necessary. Each golfer will receive a photo opportunity with the trophy and a snack upon completion of their round. ALL GOLFERS MUST REGISTER. REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS FRI. SEPT. 9TH. CODE NO. 2114.101.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Weekly Market Update: September 12, 2011

With some September data in the mix, seller activity showed a continuation of its intermediate-term holding pattern, with 14.3 percent fewer listings than the same week in 2010. The 1,313 new listings were more or less on pace with their 3-month 12.0 percent average decline.

Similarly, buyer activity continued to post large gains over the 2010 slowdown. This time, Twin Cities home buyers entered into 976 purchase agreements or 35.6 percent more than the same week last year.

As we've previously pointed out, shrinking inventory levels can be an important market signal. There are currently 23,849 active listings from which buyers can choose, 20.9 percent fewer than last year at this time.

Next week, watch for a changing story with absorption rates and seller concessions. As supply and demand attempt to find neutral ground, sellers are making fewer concessions in order to sell their homes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Under-Stairs Storage Solutions

Under-stair storage is nothing new. Most homes do use the space under the stairs for storage.  But usually the builder just sheetrocks over it or slaps on a door and calls it good.  Wouldn't it be great if you could use that space more creatively and beautifully?  Check out these great under-stairs solutions.

Visual treat for a small home

Rarely the focal point of a room, the triangular shape of under-stairs space comes out from the shadows when fitted with display shelves and a small storage cabinet. The dual purpose is perfect for small houses where space is at a premium.

Credit: Ogawa Fisher Architects/Joe Fletcher Photography

Booky nookie

Ever wish you had a place of your own to curl up with a good book? An under-stairs cubby has plenty of height and leg room. Add a comfy cushion and window seat-style storage drawers, and you’ve got the perfect hideaway for your literary pursuits.

Credit: Case Design/Remodeling, Inc.
Stow and go

Storage cubbies near an exterior door sure are handy for a family on the move. Put school packs, shopping bags, and sunglasses right where you can nab them on your way out the door. Everyone gets their own cubby.

Credit: Brennan + Company Architects/Anne Gummerson photography

Playing hard to get

Kids love kid-sized spaces. Make a nifty hideaway in an under-stair nook, and add motion-sensor lighting that turns on when kids crawl inside (better yet, they automatically turn off after Junior exits). When the kids grow up, convert the space to storage.

Credit: Boor Bridges Architecture

Think big; work small

Got a small home but still need an office? Clear out your under-stairs area, add a writing desk, laptop computer, and rolling filing cabinet, and you’ll add a big dollop of functionality to your house.

Credit: Maria Killam

Beauty is drawer-deep

Shelves are dandy but storage solution aficionados know that drawers have two big advantages: They pull out for easy access, and their drawer fronts hide any messes from view. A few angled cuts make this gaggle of drawers fit neatly under a stairway.

Credit: Richard Hill Interiors Ltd UK

A toast to smart storage solutions

The problem with a decent wine collection? No place to show it off! Now you can have your vino and see it, too! A built-in, temperature-controlled wine rack that hosts 200 bottles costs $5,000 to $10,000.

Credit: Vinotemp

Source:  Houselogic

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

For Sale: 5BR/3+1BA Single Family House in Chanhassen, MN, $599,900

Presenting Another Stunning home from Stafford Family Realtors

2219 Longacres Drive ~ Chanhassen, MN

Nestled on a Private Lot in Demand Longacres!  This desirable Kenton floorplan is finished beautifully & features a Gourmet Kitchen, Great Room, 2 Offices, finished lower level, spacious deck & screen porch.

For more information please visit for a private showing please call 952.470.2575 

For Sale: 4BR/2+1BA Single Family House in Victoria, MN, $599,000

Presenting Another Exceptional Home from Stafford Family Realtors
1575 Cavaletti Court ~ Victoria, MN

Pottery Barn Beautiful in Laketown in Victoria. This popular Wakefield model is on a private lot & is Elegantly finished w/the amenities for todays buyers. 

For more information please visit for a private showing please call 952.470.2575

10 Best States For Children

Minnesota ranks 2nd in the nation in the best places for children to live.  In fact, many midwest states and northeast states made the top 10.  Could it be that the cold and the snow contribute to a better way of life for kids?  You'll have to make that determination yourself.  Read on for more information on the study and the top 10.

10 Best States for Children
Which states rank the highest as best places for children to live? The 2011 Kids Count Data Book by The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently ranked 50 U.S. states based on social, health, and economic factors affecting children. Each state was given a score based on such factors as infant mortality rates, child and teen death rate, percentage of children in school, and the number of children below the poverty line and in single-parent families.

Here are the 10 states that emerged as the best for children:

1. New Hampshire

2. Minnesota

3. Massachusetts

4. Vermont

5. New Jersey

6. Connecticut

7. Utah

8. Iowa

9. Nebraska

10. North Dakota

See what other states made it on the top — and bottom — of the list.

Ranking the worst of the 50 states? Mississippi.

Source: “Child Wellness by State,” The Huffington Post (Aug. 18, 2011)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mortgage Refinance: You Have To Think Long Term

When it comes to a mortgage refinance, it’s less about how much you’ll spend and more about how long you’ll stay.

It’s generally a good time for a mortgage refinance when:
  • Mortgage rates drop at least 1% below your current rate.
  • You’re planning to stay in your house long enough to justify the closing costs.

Do the math
No. 2 above requires some calculation on your part. To figure it out, you’ll need to know:

  • The closing costs for a new loan. Ask potential lenders—costs usually run 3% to 6% of the loan amount. Lenders may finance these costs (that is, fold them into your loan amount), so you don’t actually have to write a check, but you’re still paying for it.
  • Your current mortgage payment.
  • Your potential new payment. Again, your lender can give you this.
  • The length of time you plan to keep your home.

To simplify these calculations, do a quick search online for various free mortgage refinance calculators, which can be found on many bank sites.

Find your breakeven point
Here’s an example of how a mortgage refinance might play out with a typical 30-year fixed-rate mortgage:

Amount Refinanced:  $200,000
Closing Costs for New Loan:  4% or $8,000
Current Mortgage:  6% or $1,199 per month
New Mortgage:  5% or $1,074 per month
Monthly Savings:  $125

But even though you start paying the lower rate right away, you’ve shelled out $8,000 in closing costs, and you aren’t ahead of the game on your mortgage refinance until you’ve paid that off. At $125 in monthly savings you have to stay in your home 64 months—more than five years—to make it worth it ($125 x 64 months = $8,000). Move before then, and you’ve lost on the deal.

However, if you remain for 10 years, for example, you’ll have saved $7,000.

It gets better
Although 1% is the rule-of-thumb minimum for a mortgage refinance, lower rates can make refinancing even more attractive, as the breakeven period becomes shorter.

Consider the above mortgage refinance scenario if you could shave another half-point:

Amount Refinanced: $200,000
Closing Costs for New Loan: 4% or $8,000
Current Mortgage: 6% or $1,199 per month
New Mortgage: 4.5% or $1,013 per month
Monthly Savings: $186

You now reach the break even point in 3.5 years.

Another way to improve your position
Two additional factors can make a mortgage refinance an even better option:

  • Your credit rating has improved since your last mortgage. Go to to monitor improvements.
  • You’ve started earning more money.

Both these factors make you a more desirable candidate in lenders eyes’ for a mortgage refinance, possibly allowing you to negotiate lower interest rates or lower closing costs, further shortening your breakeven period.

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t seek out a mortgage refinance just because “everyone is doing it.” It needs to make financial sense for you.

Source:  Houselogic  Written by Barbara Eisner Bayer

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day: Garage Organization

Ah Labor Day.  We often think of picnics with our family, relaxing and enjoying one another's company.  But in truth, most of us use this free day before school starts to get some much  needed organization projects done.  We thought we'd highlight this video with some great garage organization tips. 

Source:  DIY Network

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Should You Move Or Improve?

What do you do when your family outgrows your house, or when the quirks you once found charming about the place just aren’t livable anymore? A few years ago, the answers were easy. With house values climbing an average of 50% from 2001 to 2005 and lenders handing out big checks to nearly anyone who asked, you could quickly unload a too-small house and use the profits to help pay for a larger one. Or you could borrow against that growing equity to fund a big home-improvement project, with the full expectation of making your investment back someday when you sold. Flash forward a few years, and the rules of real estate have changed.

In this marketplace, with home equity shrinking and banks reluctant to lend, is it smarter to move or improve? Here’s some advice to help you decide.

Moving has gotten harder
With median housing prices down 25% since their peak in 2006, some 15 million homeowners—almost one in four—owe more on their mortgages than they could get from a buyer, according to Celia Chen, senior director of Moody’s And even folks who bought before the big run-up and can afford to sell at today’s lower prices still face steep odds trying to unload their homes with the glut of inventory on the market (36% more lawns wear For Sale signs now than a few years ago).

There was an uptick in units sold in early 2009, leading some economists to predict that the market has begun to rebound, but selling a house is likely going to remain difficult for a while.

Still, there can be an advantage to trading up now: If your house has curb appeal and a good kitchen—and you price it right—offers will come. You may not turn a big profit, but once you sell, you become a buyer in this buyer’s market. That means you’ll find what you’re looking for and pay less for it than a few years ago.

To analyze your trade-up options, check local listings to ballpark the price you could realistically get for your home and what you’d have to pay for the next place. Then contact a bank to see if, based on those figures and your financial situation, you’re likely to qualify for the new mortgage. Or do your research online: Investigate home values at online real estate sites and how much of a mortgage you’d qualify for at ban`

Improving has gotten easier
The economic slump has actually made renovating the home you already own a bit easier. The construction-industry slowdown has lowered the cost of some building materials: Plywood is down 46%, for example, framing lumber is down 42%, and drywall is down 25%, according to Bernard Markstein, senior economist for the National Association of Home Builders. Many contractors are also charging less for labor, to compete for the smaller pool of available jobs. What’s more, you won’t have to wait months for a contractor to show up—chances are he’ll be able to start in a matter of days.

Of course, you’ll still need to come up with cash to pay for the project. And the news is good there, too: As a general rule, improving costs less than trading up. Figure somewhere between $100 and $200 per square foot for new construction or a major remodel, depending on the scope of the project and labor costs in your area.  A two-story addition with a family room, bedroom, and bathroom costs an average of $165,200, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2010-11 Cost vs. Value Report.

Now more than ever, though, you need to make sure that you invest your money wisely. In other words, will your $75,000 kitchen remodel increase your home value by $75,000—or by anything close? For guidelines, check out the Cost vs. Value Report, which gives national average cost and payback figures for 35 popular remodeling projects.

To assess what’s right for your particular house, let your neighborhood be your guide. If there’s any chance that you’ll move within the next 10 years (and in this economy, who can be sure?) keep your improvements in line with those of other houses on your block, or you risk losing the money when you sell.

The most important considerations haven’t changed
Your house isn’t just your largest investment, of course, it’s also the place where your family lives. Financial considerations aside, the question of whether to move or improve should be decided by the things you cannot change about your current home: the school district, the amount of traffic on your street, the size and layout of your yard, your commute, the ease of access to markets and malls, and your neighborhood quality of life. If you love the spot, improving makes sense. But if a different location would be an improvement in its own right, then trading up could be the way to go.

Source:  Houselogic  A former carpenter and newspaper reporter, Oliver Marks has been writing about home improvements for 16 years. He’s currently restoring his second fixer-upper with a mix of big hired projects and small do-it-himself jobs.