Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Weekly Market Update: January 30, 2012

As the first month of the year trots onward, so do home buyers. They posted increased activity levels compared to the same week in 2011. Seller activity slowed compared to last year, however. Inventory declines effectively positioned many local markets into a more balanced state – particularly toward the end of last year. Increased seller activity in the coming months could slow or even reverse that trend. Don't fret. Not only is an increase in new listings perfectly normal for this time of year, but improved absorption rates and seller concessions could begin to stew into seller confidence.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending January 21:

• New Listings decreased 8.2% to 1,092
• Pending Sales increased 29.0% to 730
• Inventory decreased 23.2% to 17,822

For the month of December:

• Median Sales Price decreased 6.5% to $145,000
• Days on Market decreased 2.1% to 141
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.7% to 90.6%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 33.7% to 4.7

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, January 30, 2012

Guide to Paint Sheens: Oooo, Shiny!

This paint sheens guide can help you add the perfect finish to an infinite number of paint colors. The higher the sheen, the higher the shine. Flat paint has no shine; high-gloss is all shine. In between are eggshell, satin, and semi-gloss, each with its own practical and decorative job to do. Don’t know which sheen to pick for your situation? This paint sheens guide helps you decide which sheen will perform and look best on your walls.

In the painting world, very shiny translates to very durable. High sheen can take a lot of abuse and a lot of scrubbing. The lower the sheen, the silkier the effect; but, like silk, scrubbing will damage it.

High gloss: The most durable and easiest to clean of all paint sheens, high-gloss paint is hard, ultra-shiny, and light-reflecting. Think appliance-paint tough. High gloss is a good choice for area that sticky fingers touch—cabinets, trim, and doors. High-gloss, however, is too much shine for interior walls (unless you want to make a big impact like the picture below). And like a Spandex dress, high gloss shows every bump and roll, so don’t skimp on prep work.

  • Practical application: kitchens, door and window trim
  • Durability: very high

Semi-gloss: Good for rooms where moisture, drips, and grease stains challenge walls. Also great for trim work that takes a lot of abuse.

  • Practical application: kitchens, bathrooms, trim, chair rails
  • Durability: high

Satin: Has a yummy luster that, despite the name, often is described as velvety. It’s easy to clean, making it excellent for high-traffic areas. Its biggest flaw is it reveals application flaws, such as roller or brush strokes. Touch-ups later can be tricky.

  • Practical application: family rooms, foyers, hallways, kid’s bedrooms
  • Durability: high

Eggshell: Between satin and flat on the sheen (and durability) scale is eggshell, so named because it’s essentially a flat (no-shine) finish with little luster, like a chicken’s egg. Eggshell covers wall imperfections well and is a great finish for gathering spaces that don’t get a lot of bumps and scuffs.

  • Practical application: dining rooms, living rooms, libraries
  • Durability: medium

Flat or matte: A friend to walls that have something to hide, flat/matte soaks up, rather than reflects, light. It has the most pigment and will provide the most coverage, which translates to time and money savings. However, it’s tough to clean without taking paint off with the grime.

  • Practical application: adult’s bedrooms and other interior rooms that won’t be roughed up by kids
  • Durability: medium-low

More fun sheen facts

Dark, richer paint colors have more colorant, which boosts sheen. If you don’t want a super-shiny wall, step down at least one level on the sheen scale. Ditto if you’re painting a large, sun-washed or imperfect wall.

Adding sheen also adds price: Valspar Ultra Premium eggshell costs $32, satin $33, and semi-gloss $34.

Source:  Houselogic, written by Pat Curry

Friday, January 27, 2012

Open Houses: January 29, 2012

10 George Street - Excelsior
3 bedroom/3 bath
SqFt:  3,144
OPEN:  1:00 to 3:00

Nestled on 62' of level, sandy lakeshore on Gideon’s Bay, this beautiful Nantucket style home enjoys long views of Lake Minnetonka on a private lot that abuts a quiet 60’ fire lane. Beautifully updated and well maintained, this home has an open floor plan with walls of windows to take in the long lake views. The main floor includes a Gourmet Kitchen, Dining Area, Hearth & Family Room. The second floor includes a Master Bedroom with His/Her Bath and two Junior Bedrooms that share a Full Bath. The owners recently added a 2nd floor Family Room with extensive millwork, fireplace and entertainment center. French doors open to a lake-front Office or 4th Bedroom. The Lower Level includes a Laundry Room, Family Room and Full Bath. The deck is a perfect place to enjoy the lake and wraps around the front of the house with a wood fence for privacy. There’s also a hard to find 3 Car Garage and plenty of street parking for guests. Walk to the heart of historic downtown Excelsior and experience the charm and sense of community provided by this lakeside village throughout the year. Please contact Eric Stafford for more information - 952.470.2575

Click HERE for more information

6481 Pipewood Curve - Chanhassen
4 bedroom/3 bath
SqFt: 2,787
OPEN:  2:00 to 4:00

Situated on a private, walk-out lot and offering wetland views, this custom built home features a Gourmet Kitchen with granite counters & KitchenAid appliances. The Two-Story Great Room offers an inviting gas fireplace and built-in bookcases & entertainment center. Walk to the LRT Regional trail and enjoy the charm of historic downtown Excelsior. Residents send their students to Minnetonka Schools.

Click HERE for more information

Donate Pillows to Needy Families

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Weekend Happenings: St. Paul Winter Carnival

The St. Paul Winter Carnival
Downtown St. Paul
January 26 thru February 5
Click HERE for schedule of events
Cost:  Most events free to the Public

The St. Paul Winter Carnival has been around since 1886 and these days draws over 350,000 visitors each year.   The mission of the Carnival is "To foster a sense of community, pride, belonging and connectedness by celebrating Saint Paul's unique history and emerging heritage through fun and educational experiences."
What can you expect?  A lot!  Ice carvings, parades, coronations, art shows, a half-marathon, hockey, ice skating, sled dog races, curling, food, and music galore.  There's something for everyone, every day of the festival.  Be sure to check it out at their website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Refrigerator Cleaning

You're stuck inside anyway, so you might as well make the most of your time and get some much needed cleaning done.  And one project that many put off for far too long, but gives huge satisfaction is cleaning the refrigerator.  Opening up that gleaming, organized cold box makes everything feel better and somehow makes the food much more enticing.

Supplies  Begin armed with serious ammunition: you'll need all-purpose cleaner, a sponge and hot water, and a steel wool scrubber in case you have gnarly spills to clean up. Disinfectant wipes ccan also be handy.

Break down the task by shelf. Start by taking out the contents of the entire top shelf. In addition to cleaning the shelf itself, be sure to wipe down the sides of the fridge, too.

Rather than simply tossing expired bottles, rinse them thoroughly so that they can either be recycled or repurposed for something else (like homemade condiments).

Consolidate. Sometimes several containers your most popular food can get hidden behind everything else in the refrigerator.  Condense the same unexpired items into one container.

Pare down your condiments by throwing away those that look funny, smell weird, or have expired. Also get rid of other items that you know you're probably never going to use.

Put like items next to one another. For instance, you may have six jars of cured or pickled vegetables, but all are different. Place them all in a line side by side in the refrigerator, so you know exactly what needs to be used up.

Wipe down stains and sticky spots on bottles. This will help keep the refrigerator as clean as possible.

If you know an item's going to expire soon (like this mustard, for instance), mark it with the label "use first." That'll help remind you to reach for the Dijon mustard that expires next month before you grab the yellow mustard that will still keep for the next year.

Remove crisper drawers completely from the refrigerator and scrub them clean with dishwashing detergent and hot water.

Label your herbs and spices so you know exactly what is in every bag. It only takes a minute, but it'll save tons of produce from going to waste.

Source:  YumSugar.com

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Weekly Market Update: January 23, 2012

Last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage applications increased more than 23.0 percent from the week prior. The fine print stated that most of the increase was driven by refinancing activity, given record low rates. Residential construction data also provided glimmers of hope. By now, many have surely noticed that the supply-demand balance is changing. What some may not realize is that this is a leading indicator, while home prices are a lagging indicator. Price appreciation is the final phase of recovery. Excess supply is down–in some areas, it's way down. Purchase demand in most areas strengthened throughout the second half of 2011. For sellers, it's less scary out there. For buyers, it's still a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending January 14:

• New Listings decreased 5.2% to 1,216
• Pending Sales increased 28.4% to 728
• Inventory decreased 23.8% to 17,690

For the month of December:
• Median Sales Price decreased 6.5% to $145,000
• Days on Market decreased 2.5% to 140
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.7% to 90.6%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 35.6% to 4.6

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, January 23, 2012

Celebrity Listing: Vera Wang

While best known for her wedding dresses, Vera Wang is a multidimensional style icon.  She has designed couture dresses for the stars, has a clothing line and bedding line at Kohls, has designed figure skating dresses, and of course, there are the wedding dresses.

She has made New York her home for many years and continues to call it her home base.  But she travels often to Los Angeles and has been looking for a place to call home there for 10 years.  She finally found the perfect spot:  a sleek four-bedroom house in Beverly Hills.

The home is a light-drenched aerie with floor-to-ceiling glass walls that overlooks the Los Angeles Basin and the Pacific Ocean, a sweeping view that she deems "insane." The midcentury-modern abode in Trousdale Estates was built in 1967 and is classic Richard Neutra-esque Hollywood. To wit, Burt Reynolds is one of its previous occupants, a fact that amuses Wang greatly.

Ms. Wang shows off her new abode in a recent Harper's Bazaar article.  Let's take a peek, shall we?

Can you believe Ms. Wang is 62 years old?!

Source:  Harper's Bazaar

Friday, January 20, 2012

Open House: January 22, 2012

6461 Oriole Avenue - Chanhassen
4 bedroom/2 bath
SqFt:  2,750
OPEN:  11:00 to 2:00

Nestled on a .4 acre, private lot, you’ll love the sun-filled, eat-in Kitchen, Great Room with wood burning fireplace & finished lower level walkout. Updated & in great condition with new carpet & paint throughout. Located in Excelsior Elementary and Minnetonka schools! To schedule a private showing or for more information, please call 952.470.2575.

For more information, click HERE.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Weekend Happenings: Hockey, Hockey, Hockey!

7th Annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships
Lake Nakomis in Minneapolis
January 20-22, 2012
Puck Drops at 8:30 sharp on Friday!
Cost:  Free viewing, Participants pay a registration fee

Hockey. The way nature intended. Outdoors in the crisp winter air, skate blades gliding on the fresh ice below, with the sounds of clacking sticks and the smell of grilling bratwurst filling the air.

Reunite with your friends over a weekend when time can stand still and we can all be kids for three days. The champions will go down in history with their names etched into the Golden Shovel, a symbol of our lifelong love and passion for the purity of this outdoor game.

A full schedule of events can be found on the official website.  You can also stay up to date on U.S. Pond Hockey Facebook page and Twitter feed.  You can even check out some video footage of the games in action on YouTube.

Hockey Day Minnesota
Excelsior Bay, Lake Minnetonka, Excelsior, MN
January 20-22, 2012
First game starts at 10:00 am on Saturday
Cost:  High School games $5/ticket

Hockey Day Minnesota will include a full day of local hockey and related programming designed as a celebration of the game from peewees to pros. Lake Minnetonka and the city of Excelsior will serve as the background for the three outdoor high school games.

Come to the Hockey Village including hockey related vendors, a Mite tournament, outdoor activities including open skating, great food and beverages and warm roaring fires.

Hockey Day Minnesota includes High School Hockey and the Pond Hockey North American Championships.  A number of rinks will be set up on Lake Minnetonka, just beyond the docks at Maynards and Bayside Grille.Hockey Day Minnesota coverage will include a Minnesota Wild game from Xcel Energy Center, as well as the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers against Colorado College from Mariucci Arena.


10 AM White Bear Lake vs Grand Rapids Boy's
1.30 PM Duluth East vs Minnetonka Boy's
4.30 PM Hopkins vs Minnetonka Girl's

Tickets for the high school games can be purchased at http://www.hockeyblastminnesota.com/

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Small Space Solutions for Shared Kids' Room

If your brood is growing but your house isn’t, try these 8 ideas for shared kids’ rooms that’ll give your wild bunch space for storage, sleeping, and playing.

Taking Advantage of Corners

Credit: Grace Hilton Interior Design/Cezanne Gilbert, photographer

When it comes to finding an extra bit of storage space in a kids’ room for two or more, look to your corners. Corner shelving units (about $80) take advantage of that valuable nook so you can stuff more stuff in its proper place. Look for shelving brands that include corner units as part of their line so all the shelving fits together.

Mirror Images Say, ‘This Side’s Mine!’

Credit: Mona Ives, Owner/Principal Designer, Stylish Spaces LLC

When two kids share the same room, equity brings harmony (or helps, anyway). This big closet is set up with duplicate shelving configurations so that each child has an identical storage solution behind their own closet door.

Keeping Homework at Bay

Credit: Ongap/Bigstock

Bump-outs and other kinds of alcoves are perfect for window seat storage and desks. This side-by-side desk set fits neatly into the curved opening of a bay window. There’s lots of room to do homework and projects, but the desks are out of the way. Using stock desk drawer units and a painted, plywood top, a DIYer can build this set-up for $300-$400.

Reimagining Space

Credit: Jessica Gale/Flickr

Converting a small sitting area in this older, turn-of-the-century home created a bedroom nook that adjoins the larger bedroom. The two kids share the work and play spaces, but each feels a sense of individuality and privacy. Painting each area a different wall color helps each kid feel ownership of their space.

Convertable Space That's On A Roll

Credit: MarianiPlus

These twin beds feature rollers and wall-mounted sliding tracks so that the beds can be separated for sleeping, or stacked on either side of the room to open up floor space. A floor-to-ceiling window lets in lots of light that helps the small room feel spacious.

A Peek-a-Boo Desk

Credit: MarianiPlus

This now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t desk is mounted on casters and glides under the bed frame to open up floor space for games. A large open shelf under the work surface lets you easily stash all the desktop paraphernalia.

Stacking Your Deck

Credit: GAP Interiors/Tria Giovan

Four in one room? Built-in, stacked bunk beds in perpendicular configuration give everyone their own unique sleeping alcove yet leave floor space open for activities. The bottom bunks feature room below for additional storage.

Take Advantage Of Wall Space

Credit: PourToujours blog

Open shelves for storing knickknacks and memorabilia are one of the least expensive storage options available. A prefinished, 3-by-1-foot shelf is about $10 at home improvement centers. Add a pair of decorative brackets in various styles and colors for another $10.

Source:  Houselogic

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2011 Annual Housing Report on the Twin Cities Housing Market

What was largely touted as a recovery year for our nation turned into a morass of political gridlock, credit downgrades, financial volatility, upstart protest movements and a sluggish jobs picture. The housing sector, in particular, did not see the recovery it should have. It was another transition year in what has become a more drawn-out bottoming process than most would like.

Let's face facts: There is no way to know for sure what the future holds. But a few important patterns emerged in 2011 that could clue us in. Key leading indicators are setting the stage for better times ahead and we are encouraged by these emerging patterns. There is a sense of momentum in the right direction.

Falling supply and rising demand suggest improving fundamentals. Distressed properties made up a sizable share of that demand, which prevented price gains. Although foreclosures continued to hinder a full-on housing recovery in 2011, many of them were sold, bringing supply of this price drag to a much lower level than in recent years. The path of least resistance is higher prices.

And remember that 2010 tax credit for first-time home buyers? Hindsight indicates that Washington was trying to catch a falling knife. The credit temporarily reversed the market’s natural tide, causing forecasters to prematurely declare that we’d hit bottom.

Make no mistake, the economy is on the mend. Layoffs have slowed, hiring has accelerated, fewer homes in financial distress are entering the market. It’s good to see that time still has a way of healing most wounds.

Housing demand has stabilized and a steadily expanding construction sector is generating the jobs needed to invigorate recovery. New jobs will drive housing demand and activate the widely-coveted “positive feedback loop.” Housing helps jobs which helps housing which helps jobs. You get the idea.

Additional labor market growth combined with record-low mortgage rates have bolstered purchase demand. Armed with cheap money, buyers took to the streets in 2011 and are expected to continue forging new households at a reasonable clip.

Listings Seller activity slowed during the year, both for traditional sellers and banks with distressed property inventory. The net result was a big reduction in the supply of available homes.

Sales Housing recovery won’t occur without consumer participation. In 2011, housing demand strengthened organically on its own, independent of government incentives. Closed sales were up 8.2 percent to 41,429 for the year.

Inventory No matter your personal beliefs or favorite type of Angry Bird, there’s no denying the fact that buyers have fewer choices from which to pick and sellers are facing less competition.

Prices Home prices remained depressed for most of the year and indeed ended the year 11.7 percent lower than in 2010. At $150,000, prices have come down roughly one third from their bubbly apex in 2007.

Higher. Increase. Positive. These are words we expect to use more of in 2012. The major factor constraining market recovery will not be with us forever. Lender-mediated inventory is a tar pit in the near-term, but it will soon be absorbed, removing the downward pressure on overall prices.

At the same time, housing doesn’t live in a vacuum. A number of local, national and global changes must take place to restore stability and confidence in the marketplace. For one, credit-worthy home buyers need access to mortgage capital. And although past policies temporarily dampened the natural ebb and flow of the market, a comprehensive housing policy framework is necessary to guide sustained recovery.

Source:  Minneapolis Area Associating of Realtors

Monday, January 16, 2012

For Sale: 3BR/2+1BA Single Family House in Excelsior, MN, $1,195,000

Presenting Another Elegant Home from Stafford Family Realtors 

10 George Street ~ Excelsior, MN

Totally renovated Nantucket style home on 62' of sandy lakeshore on Gideon's Bay.  Enjoy lake views from every room!  Recent 2nd floor Family Room & Office addition.  Updated w/new carpet & refinished wood floors.  Enjoy 4 Fireplaces & the private wrap- around porch.

For more information please visit http://www.staffordfamilyrealtors.com/or for a private showing please call 952.470.2575

For Sale: 4BR/2+1BA Single Family House in Chanhassen, MN, $529,900

Presenting Another Exceptional Home from Stafford Family Realtors

6481 Pipewood Curve ~ Chanhassen, MN

This gorgeous custom built home in Hidden Creek of Chanhassen shows like a model.  Situated on a private, walkout lot w/wetland views.  This home features a Gourmet Kitchen, 2 Story Great Room, Main Floor Office & Screened Porch that leads to a spacious Deck.

For more information please visit http://www.staffordfamilyrealtors.com/ or for a private showing please call 952.470.2575

Hot Trends for Bathroom Remodeling in 2012

Trend #1: Conservation rules

All around the country, water reserves are stressed. In response, regional governments are implementing conservation measures. As a result, there are likely to be new regulations that’ll affect your construction or remodeling plans. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Your new toilet will have a lower flush-per-gallon rating than the one that’s in there now. Consider a dual-flush version, or any low-flow toilet coming on the market that meets your style preferences. At the very least, your next commode is likely to feature a 1.28 gallon-per-flush rating — better than even the most-recent 1.6 GPF offerings.You’ll find them at home improvement centers from $100 to luxury showroom models for thousands more.

  • The WaterSense label, launched in 2006 by the Environmental Protection Agency to promote water conservation by plumbing manufacturers and home owners, will become as well-known as Energy Star. You’ll be shopping for low-flow shower heads and faucets with the WaterSense symbol on the box. Just as with Energy Star appliances, there is no cost premium associated with WaterSense savings — there are faucets in every price range. WaterSense shower heads are newer on the market, with a more limited selection today — mostly at more affordable prices.

  • You’ll start seeing more shower heads — especially rain shower models — using Venturi principles that deliver strong water pressure by adding air, not water, to the mix. They’re available in every price range, from ultra-affordable standard heads to luxury rain showers.

Trend #2: Technology advances

You may not think of your bathroom as a high-tech space, but that’s about to change. Here are some of the trends that can benefit your home:

  • You’ll be able to create a custom showering experience more affordably than ever. For $300 for simple controllers to $3,500 or more for a complete luxury installation, programmable showers let you digitally set your preferred water temperature, volume, and even massage settings before you step in. To achieve a personalized showering experience, you’ll need a 120-volt power source, and a thermostatic valve and controller in addition to your standard shower head or heads. Luxury models may include a steam system, a wi-fi source for music, multiple body spray outlets, tankless water heater, and a secondary controller to start the system from another room.

  • Dock your iPhone or MP3 player directly with your speaker-equipped, high-tech toilet so you can entertain yourself on the commode. While you’re not likely to invest $4,000 to $6,000 for a Kohler Numi toilet using this technology today, start looking for competitive models later in the year with lower prices.

  • Catch up on news and weather while you brush your teeth. Television screens are being integrated into medicine cabinets and vanity mirrors. Cost? Early entries to the market command a premium $2,200 to $2,400 price tag.

  • Plug your smart phone or MP3 player into your medicine cabinet so you won’t miss a call or song while getting ready for work or bed. A built-in jack keeps your unit charged (and away from wet countertops) and linked into a built-in speaker system.

Trend #3: Aging demographics emphasize safety

It’s not just high-tech that’s bringing an “experience” to the bathroom. Trends in universal design features add comfort, convenience, and safety. But that doesn’t mean your bathroom has to look institutional. Here are some universal design innovations that can factor helpfully (and stylishly) into your 2012 bath remodeling plans:

  • Sleek, low-profile linear drains are ideal for creating safe, zero-threshold shower designs. Unlike standard round drain covers that are typically mounted near the front end of a shower, these long, straight drains can be installed in different locations to minimize the slope of the shower floor. One popular location is at the outside edge of the shower, creating a wheelchair-friendly curbless shower. More offerings in more finishes — including nearly invisible tile-in channel models that are largely covered by shower floor tile — are becoming the standard for upscale spaces. You’ll spend $500 to $900 for a quality linear drain.

  • The rapidly-expanding selection of porcelain, glass, and ceramic tiles makes it easy to find slip-resistant, low-maintenance floors that don’t skimp on style. Expect to see faux wood, linen, and uniquely-textured looks for tiled bathroom floors and walls in 2012. The texture adds both visual impact and better traction for wet feet.

  • The accessible tub is no longer limited to the high-walled, narrow-door format that dominated the market in the last decade. Newer models, such as Kohler’s Elevance ($5,100), employ rising panels in front that give more of a traditional tub look with easier entry and exit. Others use standard hinged, sealed doors, but are increasing door width by several inches for better accessibility and appearance.

Source:  Houselogic, by Jamie Goldberg

Thursday, January 12, 2012

For Sale: 4BR/2BA Single Family House in Chanhassen MN, $259,000

Presenting a Charming Home from Stafford Family Realtors
6461 Oriole Avenue ~ Chanhassen, MN

Nestled on a .4 acre, private lot, you will love the sun-filled, eat-in kitchen, Great Room w/ wood burning FP & finished LL walkout.  This home is full of character w/2 full baths, 3 FP's, updated Kitchen w/ SS appliances & a private yard w/fire pit. 

For more information please visit http://www.staffordfamilyrealtors.com/or for a private showing please call 952.470.2575