Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Weekly Market Update: September 29, 2014

The season of crisp leaves, autumn colors and, yes, pumpkin spice lattes is upon us. Just in time for the fall equinox, mortgage applications have risen according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Though the season will likely slow things considerably in some areas, it seems that buyers are not quite ready to succumb to the cinnamon haze that is fall just yet.

 In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending September 20:

 • New Listings increased 10.3% to 1,621
 • Pending Sales decreased 5.0% to 930
 • Inventory increased 9.4% to 18,644

For the month of August:

 • Median Sales Price increased 5.3% to $219,000
 • Days on Market decreased 2.9% to 68
 • Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.7% to 96.3%
 • Months Supply of Inventory increased 18.4% to 4.5

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, September 29, 2014

Keeping Germs At Bay

School has started, the weather is turning cooler and suddenly your chances of catching a cold or the flu from someone increases dramatically.  It's probably inevitable that someone in your family will come home with some virus.  After all, you can't control what happens at school or at work.  But you can help to manage the germs in your home so that these uninvited guests don't get introduced to the rest of your family.

We've compiled a list of things you can do to minimize the spread of germs throughout your home.  These are things you can do on a regular basis to keep germs at bay.  But if someone in your family is actually sick, you're going to want to increase the frequency of some of the tips below.

Wipe Down Doorknobs and Light Switches

Use a sanitizing product and wipe down all the doorknobs (both sides of the door), light switches, drawer and cupboard pulls, remote controls, keyboards,  phones, microwave buttons, and anything else you can think of that everyone in your house touches on a regular basis.  While bathrooms and kitchens tend to be used the most by everyone, make sure you don't forget the entryway where people are initially bringing germs into your home before they have a chance to wash their hands.

Recommended frequency:  once a week, daily when someone is actively sick.

Be Smart In The Bathroom

Bathrooms are wet places and can harbor all kinds of yucky germs.  But being aware of how germs spread will help you out tremendously.  Avoid using bar soaps for washing hands - believe it or not, germs can live on a wet soap bar for a very long time.  Opt for a pump that can be wiped down weekly, or better yet, invest in an automatic soap pump.  Store toothbrushes so that they aren't touching one another, and replace your toothbrush after being sick.  Do not store toothbrushes anywhere near the toilet, and better yet, keep them in a covered location.  Whenever you flush, aerosolized water sprays out from the bowl bringing all those germs with it.  Which brings us to another biggie, always put the toilet lid down when you flush.  Clean your bathroom weekly and quickly clean up any water spills on the counter tops and sink edges.

Keep The Kitchen Clean

The kitchen is the number one place for germs in your entire house.  Not only is it a place where everyone congregates, there are also lots of food-born germs being handled that can contaminate any surface as well as your hands.  If you use a sponge, be sure to rinse it in soapy hot water, then ring it out to remove as much water as you can.  Store the sponge on a surface that doesn't collect water.  And always replace your sponge every 2-3 weeks.  Clean your entire kitchen weekly, paying special attention to places that everyone touches.  Don't forget to focus on the sink where lots of germs congregate.  Thoroughly clean the sink drains that can accumulate a whole host of baddies.  And remove and soak your faucet aerator in vinegar at least once per month.  Washing chicken and meats in the sink generates a lot of splashing and this is one spot many people forget to address.

The Vacuum Is Your Friend

Vacuum regularly to keep allergens at bay.  Use your vacuum on the floors, the furniture, your mattresses, your drapes and anything else you can think of.  If you have pets, wash them regularly to keep shedding to a minimum.  Your allergic family and guests will be very thankful.  Speaking of mattresses, be sure to replace them every 7-10 years.  They accumulate a lot of dirt and debris from our bodies which attracts dust mites.

Consider Changing Out Your Hardware

Did you know some metals are naturally antimicrobial?  Copper, copper alloys like brass, and silver and gold have the ability to kill bacteria, while stainless steel seems to have little to no antimicrobial activity. Brass doorknobs disinfect themselves within about 8 hours.  This means it's in your best interest to change out your doorknobs and cabinet hardware for brass, copper or another antimicrobial metal.  Bonus:  natural metal hardware is very stylish as well!   Be sure you don't have a coating on the metal as that will negate the antimicrobial effects.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Friday, September 26, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Music, Lights and a Parade

Long Lake Music and Fireworks in the Park
Nelson Lakeside Park
Downtown Long Lake
Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014
5:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Cost:  Free

Music begins at 5pm with Oronono, followed by Red Dot Garage from 7:30-11pm. The Orono Lions will be serving water, pop, beer, and wine throughout the event. Fireworks* begin at 8pm, so pack a picnic, bring a chair, and bring your family and friends to enjoy a great fall evening lakeside!  *Fireworks are sponsored by Lake Community Bank and Red Rooster.

Baker Park Reserve Campground
Saturday, Sept 27, 2014
1:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Cost:  Camping cost plus additional $15 program fee

Bring your lights luminaries, and flashlights to decorate your campsite. Prizes for best decorations. Saturday activities begin at 1:00 PM and include crafts, face painting, climbing walls and more. Campground check-in begins daily at 4 PM, so camp out Friday night for extra time to decorate!

City Center
Plymouth Blvd, Plymouth MN
Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014
11:30 am to 3:00 pm
Cost:  Free

Music, food, fun and marching bands will bring the community together again for the 17th annual Plymouth on Parade on Sat., Sept. 27, 11:30 a.m. Bring a chair or stand along the parade route to enjoy this perennial favorite. The parade route runs down Plymouth Boulevard from 34th Avenue to 39th Avenues.

After the parade, stay for an afternoon of free family activities from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Hilde Performance Center and the Plymouth Ice Center/Life Time Fitness area. Come inside for free ice skating, swimming and open gym. If you prefer to stay outdoors, check out face painting, pony rides, petting zoo, musical entertainment and inflatables. Be sure to cheer on your favorite duck at the Ducky Derby Race, sponsored by Minnetonka-Plymouth Rotary.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Weekly Market Update: September 22, 2014

As September deepens, a certain level of seasonal housing market cooling is bound to occur, but year-over-year trends do not seem poised to offend. Overheated and undercooked markets might make pretty for media outlets, yet a balanced market is the best friend of the buyer, the seller and, frankly, the real estate practitioner. Seasonal dips are nothing to fret over. It is now and will continue to be best to measure residential real estate activity not by months but by years.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending September 13:

 • New Listings increased 1.6% to 1,650
 • Pending Sales decreased 1.0% to 993
 • Inventory increased 9.5% to 18,513

For the month of August:

 • Median Sales Price increased 5.3% to $219,000
 • Days on Market decreased 2.9% to 68
 • Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.7% to 96.3%
 • Months Supply of Inventory increased 15.8% to 4.4

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Go See A Movie

There's nothing quite like the feeling you get when you walk into a cineplex and smell the fresh popped popcorn, see the big posters of the current showings and all the flashing lights.  There's just something about going to the movies.  It's a time for families to be together.  A way to forget all your worries and submerge yourself in pure entertainment for a couple of hours.  Whether you like documentaries or science fiction, romances or dramas, there's always something for everyone at the movies.

And the southwest metro is teaming with theaters so that you should be able to find exactly what you're looking for at exactly the time you want to watch it.  So we've compiled a list of all the local theaters so that when the movie urge hits you, you'll be fully prepared.

Chanhassen Cinema

5-Star Cinemas
570 Market Street, Chanhassen, MN
8 Theaters available
Seating:  one theater with stadium seating
Everyday Matinees 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm: $7.25, Friday Seniors (59+) $6.75
Tues - Sun Evening Shows:$8.75 (Adult 13+); $7.25 (Senior 59+); $7.25 (Child 4-12); $7.50 (Military ID required): Free (Child under 3)
Monday Madness Evening Shows:  $7.25
All 3D movies will include a $3.00 Premium Event charge

AMC Eden Prairie Mall 18

8251 Flying Cloud Drive Eden Prairie, MN
18 Theaters available
Seating: Stadium seating
Listening Devices available
Accessible to Disabled Audiences
Matinees before 5:00:  Adults $8.00, Children $6.25
Evening shows:  Adults $10.75, Children $8.00

Excelsior Dock Cinema 3

26 Water Street, Excelsior MN 55331
3 Theater's available
Seating:  Stadium
Matinees before 5:30:  $7.00
Evening Shows:  Adults $8.50, Seniors (59+) $7.00; Children 3-12 $7.00, Military $7.50, Children under 3 Free

Marcus Shakopee Cinema

1116 Shakopee Town Road, Shakopee, MN
11 Theaters
Seating:  Stadium seating
Matinees before 5:30:  Everyone $5.00
Evening shows:  Adults $7.00, Children and Seniors $5.00
Tuesdays all movies $5.00 and Free popcorn for Magical Movie Rewards members

Waconia 6 Theaters

101 West 1st Street, Waconia, MN
6 Theaters
Seating: Stadium
Listening Devices available
Accessible to Disabled Audiences
Matinees before 5:30:  Everyone $5.00
Evening Shows:  Adults (12+) $7.00, Children (3-11) and Seniors (65+) $5.00
Saver Tickets are sold in blocks of 50 at $6.50 each and carry no expiration date. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Clobber Cluttered Counters

Want to make your kitchen look cleaner?  Clear off the counters!  It sounds so simple but it absolutely works.  Even if the stuff on your counters is pretty and tasteful, if there's too much it will look cluttered and messy.

Take a look at a few of  these transformations to get a good idea of how much of a difference decluttering your counters makes.




But don't go too far in the wrong direction and completely clear off those counters.  Then everything can look sterile and un-lived in.  Add just enough to make the space look tastefully decorated.



Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors.com

Friday, September 19, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Apple Day, Mini Golf, and Fashion

Excelsior Apple Day
Water Street, downtown Excelsior
Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014
8:00 am to 10:00 pm
Cost:  free to attend

In its 28th year, the all-day harvest fest is a fun, family-friendly event featuring collectibles, antiques, specialty arts and crafts, and, of course, fresh produce from area apple orchards, farm fields and local vendors.

Lots to see, eat, buy and admire.

Vendor stalls will be located on three blocks of Water Street including the old Pizza Hut parking lot and adjacent 2nd Street. Doll Buggy and Red Wagon Parade starts at Noon.

Be sure to ride the restored streetcar (trolley) to Maynard’s for the annual antique boat show which runs the same day.

Free parking in most of downtown Excelsior, also at Excelsior Elementary School, city municipal lots.

Lake Ann Park
1456 West 78th Street
Chanhassen, MN 55317
Saturday, Sept., 20, 2014
11:00 am to 1:00 pm
Cost:  $8 residents/$10 non-residents

The Shops at West End
1621 W. End Blvd
St. Louis Park
Friday, Sept., 19, 2014
Market:  10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Fashion Show:  7:30 pm
Cost:  $30 to $150 per day

Like fashion? Then you’re going to love this weekend at the Shops at West End. MN4MN makes its debut as an annual showcase for fashion featuring national renowned retailers as well as local boutiques, artists, designers and curators. The event includes a New York-style runway show on Friday and Saturday evening, and a free, MN4MN Market during the day on Saturday.

Some of the participating designers include Emma Berg, Project Runway alum Christopher Straub, Freedom from Doubt, Handsome Cycles, Oie Jewelry, and Stephanie Lake Design. Top retailers participating in the Market include Arrow, Atmosfere, Covered, Heimes Haberdashery, Handsome Cycles, Juut Salonspa, Minq,, Stephanie’s, Target, and more. Source:  MinneapolisHappenings

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Local Farmer's Markets

We are blessed to live in a part of the Twin Cities that has great produce at our fingertips!  In fact, a few of the towns in our area are surrounded by fields so it makes sense that we would have some great Local Farmer's Markets.  And September and October are the best months for collecting a bountiful harvest!

From fresh picked green beans, to locally harvested honeys, you can find a ton of great things at a farmer's market.  It's a great way to buy healthy, organic, locally grown food for your family.  And it's a lot of fun, too.

Chanhassen Farmer's Market
Saturdays, 9:00 am to Noon
Location:  City Center Park Plaza Parking Lot (lower level east side of City Hall)

Offering bedding plants, fresh cut & dried flowers, fruits & vegetables, fresh breads, sweet corn & more. Wonderful, fresh fruits & vegetables, as well as fresh baked bread & handcrafted products.

Hopkins Farmer's Market
Saturdays, 7:30 am to Noon
Location:  9th Avenue, one-half block south of the Main Street clock tower.

For almost 30 years, the Hopkins Farmers' Market has offered a seasonal opportunity to choose from an abundance of just picked, locally grown produce, and a wide variety of free-range meat, poultry, and eggs. Enjoy artisan roasted coffee, fresh baked European breads, jams, jellies, honey, and baked goods. Select from canned goods, pickles, plants and cut flowers, soap and other items hand-crafted by local artisans.

Plymouth Farmer's Market
Wednesdays, 2:30 pm to 6:30 pm
Location:  Plymouth Ice Center, 3650 Plymouth Blvd.

Here are some things to keep in mind when attending Plymouth Farmers Market:
  • More than 20 vendors providing fresh, locally grown produce and foods.
  • Every week, be sure to check out great local musicians.
  • Children's activities and theme nights will be provided throughout the season.
  • Enter your name in for our weekly drawing for a Farmers Market basket-located at the information table.
  • Bring cash, please. An ATM is located inside the Ice Center.
  • Bring reusable bags and help keep the market a green place.
  • Please, no dogs at the market, with the exception of service dogs.
Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners will accept perishable and nonperishable food donations at the Plymouth Farmers Market. To donate, bring nonperishable items from home, or perishable/nonperishable items purchased at the Plymouth Farmers Market to the information table.

Chaska Farmer's Market
Wednesdays, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Location:  Carver County Government Center

At the Chaska Farmers Market, you will find an assortment of fresh produce and other locally produced foods and products. Please remember the vendors accept cash or checks only; they do not take credit cards.

Thursdays, 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Location:  Water Street in downtown Excelsior between 2nd and 3rd Streets.


With over 40 vendors, Excelsior's Farmer's Market has everything you could want.  Besides fresh veggies and fruit, they offer maple syrup, jams and jellies, homemade candies, olive oils and vinegars, dog treats, annuals and perennials, cheeses, whole-bean coffee, handmade soaps, grass-fed beef, and so much more.  You won't want to miss this market.

Tuesdays, 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Location:  Minnetonka Civic Center Campus

A woman inspects the offerings at the Farmers' Market.

Subscribe to their e-newsletter to get the low down on all that's happening at this great farmer's market.  Over 30 vendors offer their locally produced goods.  There's also entertainment at every market.  It's definitely a fun time for the whole family.  Be sure to stay for Music in the Park after the close of the market.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Weekly Market Update: September 15, 2014

The trend here in Minnesota, and nationwide, is one of normalization and market recovery.  According to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors (MAAR) price growth seems to be approaching normal historical levels.  Our Minnesota economy is holding at 4.0 percent unemployment, one of the best in the nation.  Total inventory is creeping back up which means you may have multiple offers on your house but buyers don't have to compete quite so hard to win.  And there is a marked decrease in foreclosure and short sale activity.

In the short term, we may see some year over year metrics declining, but the long term trend is still higher.  You've heard it before, slow and steady wins the race.

Last week in the Twin Cities metro region:

  • New Listings increased 9%
  • Pending Sales increased 1.4%
  • Inventory increased 9.7%
Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors, statistics provided by MAAR

Monday, September 15, 2014

Square Footage: What Is The Right Number For You?


Not too long ago, big houses were the thing.  And I mean BIG.  People who had the means (and many who didn't) were going as big as their lots would let them.  Yes, the housing bubble had a drastic effect on that.  And then the Great Recession hit and pretty much forced Americans to rethink how much house they needed.

As the economy recovers, house sizes are creeping back up again.  But having been burned once, many are opting to keep the size of their home to the Just-Right range.  And what is that just right range?  Obviously it varies based on the size of your family, how you live, hobbies and activities, and what your future holds.

If you go too big, you run the risk of having higher mortgage payments, higher taxes, higher insurance, more space to heat and cool (leading to higher utility bills), more space to clean, more space to maintain, more space to furnish and more detriment to the environment.

If you go too small, you run the risk of lack of space for storage, lack of space for entertaining, lack of personal space, and lack of space to expand if your family expands.

To get just the right amount of space, first take a look at some of the questions below.  The answers will start to shed light on what you want and need for your family.

Family Size

Are you married or single?  Do you have children?  Will they be leaving the house soon or are you soon going to be having another?  Do you currently or have plans to have aging parents living with you?  How many pets do you have (I'm serious, they take up space)?  All these factors will help you determine an appropriately sized house for your family.


Do you travel a lot?  Do you work from home?  Do you entertain a lot?  Do you live in a warm location where you can be outside a lot?

Hobbies and Activities

Some hobbies take a lot more room than others.  A woodworker will probably want a large workshop whereas a sewer can make do with a machine that they can pull out of a cabinet from time to time.  Piano playing, scrap-booking, video gaming...they all take varying amounts of space.

Future Goals

Are you close to retirement?  Are you planning to have more kids?  Do you want to devote a large amount of time to travel?  Are you trying to save more money?

Get Out Your Calculator

Once you've found answers to the questions above, you can start to picture the size of the home you might need and want.  Architect Dan Maginn in the article, "Square Feet, Foot Steps" recommends starting with your current home and following these five steps:

1.  Identify and measure the rooms dedicated to these functions:  Cooking, Dining, Bedrooms, Closets, Bathrooms, Living, Storage, Circulation, Mechanical/Utility.

2.  Note whether each of these rooms currently feels too small, too big or just right.

3.  Note how each of the functions in number 1 might change in the future based on the Future Goals you listed above.

4.  Based on numbers 2 and 3, adjust the size of the rooms until you feel they would be just right (or add, or eliminate rooms as needed.

5.  Add up the numbers and that is your just right size house.

Are you surprised?  Is the number bigger or smaller than you were expecting?  This isn't the perfect right answer for everyone, but it's probably a pretty good indicator of the right sized home for your family.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Movie in the Park and Oktoberfest

Excelsior Movies In The Park
Badger Park
5745 Country Club Road
Shorewood, MN
Fri, Sept 12, 2014
7:30pm to 8:30pm
Cost:  Free

All ages will enjoy Disney’s Frozen (PG). Bring lawn chairs, blankets and bug spray, and get ready to enjoy this great movie under the stars! Joey Nova’s will be selling pizza, and Southshore Senior Partners will sell popcorn—or bring your own picnic!

41 N. 10th Street
Minneapolis, MN
Fri-Sun, Sept. 12-14, 2014
Fri:  6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Sat:  11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Sun:  11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Cost:  Free, beer and food to purchase

The calendar says September, but it’s Oktoberfest in Minneapolis! Enjoy three days of German heritage in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. Nosh on some authentic foods such as bratwurst, sauerkraut, potato salad, savory sweets and much more. And of course, wash all that yummy-ness down with beer!

And while you eat and drink, you can enjoy live music and other fun activities such as stein hoisting and keg bowling.  Source:  Minneapolis Happening

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Annual Local Market Update: September 8, 2014

We thought we'd do something a little different this week and show you some interesting facts about market activity in our region of the Twin Cities Metro Area.  Many people may wonder why their home isn't selling for as much or as fast as they'd like.  They speculate on whether the market is getting better or worse in their area.

But the key to remember is that "all real estate is local".  And by local we mean within your specific town or even within your specific neighborhood.  If you live in Chaska and you are comparing your home to one in Minnetonka, that is not an accurate comparison.  You would need to compare your home to others in Chaska, and more specifically even, your home compared to others within a 6 block radius.

To drive home that fact, and to give you a picture of how varied the market is within our SW metro region, we give you some statistics, brought to you by the good people at the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.  This is by no means all of the towns within our region but a sampling to give you an idea of the variety.

But first, a quick primer on what all the terms mean:

New Listings:  The number of homes that went on the market in that time period
Closed Sales:  Those homes that sold withing that time period
Median Sales Price:  The middle number of all the numbers (i.e. 1, 3, 8  the median is 3)
Average Sales Price:  The average number of all the numbers (i.e. 1, 3, 8  the average is 4)
Price Per Square Foot:  The sale price of the home divided by the finished square feet of the home
Percent of Original List Price Received:  The sales price divided by the original asking price
Days On Market Until Sale:  The number of days it took to sell the home

Hennepin County
Year To Date
Medina 2013 2014 + / -
New Listings 139 163 17.3%
Closed Sales 79 77 -2.5%
Median Sales Price $485,432 $520,000 7.1%
Average Sales Price $567,949 $589,647 3.8%
Price Per Square Foot $156 $156 0.0%
Percent of Original List Price Received 9360.0% 9520.0% 1.7%
Days On Market Until Sale 152 82 -46.1%
Year To Date
Minnetonka 2013 2014 + / -
New Listings 750 818 9.1%
Closed Sales 489 464 -5.1%
Median Sales Price $279,950 $280,000 0.0%
Average Sales Price $335,473 $335,699 0.1%
Price Per Square Foot $132 $140 6.1%
Percent of Original List Price Received 95.6% 96.2% 0.6%
Days On Market Until Sale 85 74 -12.9%
Year To Date
Minnetrista 2013 2014 + / -
New Listings 189 197 4.2%
Closed Sales 72 77 6.9%
Median Sales Price $419,950 $425,000 1.2%
Average Sales Price $486,328 $500,724 3.0%
Price Per Square Foot $139 $151 8.6%
Percent of Original List Price Received 95.1% 95.3% 0.2%
Days On Market Until Sale 196 151 -23.0%
Year To Date
Excelsior 2013 2014 + / -
New Listings 27 22 -18.5%
Closed Sales 20 7 -65.0%
Median Sales Price $362,500 $234,750 -35.2%
Average Sales Price $467,656 $286,324 -38.8%
Price Per Square Foot $236 $168 -28.8%
Percent of Original List Price Received 97.8% 94.2% -3.7%
Days On Market Until Sale 109 65 -40.4%
Year To Date
Greenwood 2013 2014 + / -
New Listings 13 13 0.0%
Closed Sales 5 8 60.0%
Median Sales Price $1,236,250 $747,500 -39.5%
Average Sales Price $1,264,625 $1,269,150 0.4%
Price Per Square Foot $282 $304 7.8%
Percent of Original List Price Received 95.0% 93.0% -2.1%
Days On Market Until Sale 204 96 -52.9%
Carver County
Year To Date
Chanhassen 2013 2014 + / -
New Listings 442 477 7.9%
Closed Sales 309 246 -20.4%
Median Sales Price $315,000 $320,000 1.6%
Average Sales Price $345,741 $375,582 8.6%
Price Per Square Foot $130 $138 6.2%
Percent of Original List Price Received 96.9% 96.3% -0.6%
Days On Market Until Sale 89 80 -10.1%
Year To Date
Victoria 2013 2014 + / -
New Listings 216 253 17.1%
Closed Sales 126 115 -8.7%
Median Sales Price $380,000 $365,000 -3.9%
Average Sales Price $420,484 $368,325 -12.4%
Price Per Square Foot $132 $132 0.0%
Percent of Original List Price Received 97.0% 97.4% 0.4%
Days On Market Until Sale 112 95 -15.2%
Year To Date
Chaska 2013 2014 + / -
New Listings 440 454 3.2%
Closed Sales 257 200 -22.2%
Median Sales Price $245,699 $235,000 -4.4%
Average Sales Price $277,447 $305,505 10.1%
Price Per Square Foot $110 $119 8.2%
Percent of Original List Price Received 96.2% 96.8% 0.6%
Days On Market Until Sale 100 83 -17.0%
Year To Date
Carver 2013 2014 + / -
New Listings 117 101 -13.7%
Closed Sales 55 50 -9.1%
Median Sales Price $282,000 $269,900 -4.3%
Average Sales Price $260,280 $265,623 2.1%
Price Per Square Foot $110 $113 2.7%
Percent of Original List Price Received 96.4% 96.5% 0.1%
Days On Market Until Sale 104 78 -25.0%

For more information on your specific town/township, and to see more data and fancy graphs, follow this link to MAAR's Local Market Updates.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Generation Z?

I am a Gen Xer, that group of people born between 1965 and 1980.  We are characterized by parents who worked and divorced causing us to grow up early and have a lot of independence.  We saw a boatload of emerging technologies that literally changed the world:  fax machines, handheld calculators, cordless phones, video games, and desktop computers.  And we saw political and institutional incompetence:   Watergate, Three Mile Island, Bhopal, the Iranian hostage crisis, Iran-Contra and the Clinton-Lewinsky debacles mark the emergence of my generation.  We were the first generation that felt we weren't guaranteed a better life than our parents had.  We weren't sure we were going to get a better house or even if we would be able to afford a house at all.

After me is a generation call the Millennials or Gen Y's. These people were born between 1980 and 1994.  These folks are currently between the ages of 20 and 34 and are just emerging into the real estate market.  They are known for having high expectations with little effort on their part.  They are close to their parents, to the point of living with them even into their 30's.  And they tend to be opportunistic job hoppers. They have always known cable television, cellular phones, pagers, answering machines, laptop computers and video games. Technological advancements in real-time media and communication drive their expectation for immediacy.

It feels as though we are just getting a handle on this Millennial generation.  But we'd better start preparing for the next generation.  Being dubbed Generation Z (what will they call the generations after Z??), this group is still in their teen years.  What will home buying expectations be for this generation?

source:  dallasnews.com

According to Better Homes And Gardens Real Estate survey of Gen Z, teens of today have a solid head on their shoulders and have realistic expectations when it comes to home buying.  Maybe this comes from the ability to have vast amounts of information on anything at their fingertips 24/7.  They have blogs, news feeds, and many social media outlets where they can have access to the opinions of 1,000 of their closest friends at the tap of their thumb.  But they are still very traditional when it comes to ideas of future home buying.  Here are some of the stats:

  • 82% indicate owning a home is the most important factor in obtaining the American Dream
  • 97% believe that they will own a home in their lifetimes
  • They are willing to sacrifice to own that home including:  giving up social media for a year (53%), doing twice as much homework (53%), going to school 7 days per week (42%), and taking their mom or dad to prom (39%)
Today's teens have a good concept regarding finances and what it takes to get ahead.  They have seen their families struggle with the Great Recession and have learned about it in school.  As such they are already savers and have realistic expectations as to how much homes cost and what is financially required of them to own a home.

In terms of how they will buy a home, 95% believe they will go online to do much of their home buying selection, 29% believe they would use video chatting, but only 19% believe they would actually purchase a home online.  Despite their online savvy, 59% of these future homeowners expect to use the services of a real estate agent when selecting their homes.

According to Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. "Today's teens are fiscally literate and realistic when it comes to their future. It's quite profound that a generation that has never known a world without social media is willing to give up such a staple in their modern lives to achieve their dream home. With such mature insights at such a young age, Gen Z could very well be primed to be the next great generation."

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Resources

Monday, September 8, 2014

Great Fall Color Drives

There's nothing quite like the brilliance of a vast hillside of colorful trees turning color.  The reds, oranges, yellows and browns seem to usher in all that's great about fall.  The temperatures are cooler but still not bone chilling, making you want to sit by a fire, drink hot cocoa and nestle in a blanket.  There are no bugs and hiking through the woods offers a crunch under your feet and a feast for the eyes.

If you love getting the most out of seeing all the fall colors, then you're reading the right post.  We've put together some great scenic drives that you can manage in a weekend, some even in a day.  Pack a picnic and your hiking boots, and throw the kids and the dog in the van.  Head out on an adventure!

First, Find The Color

Minnesota is a big state.  The northern tip of the state hits it's peak fall colors much earlier than this southern end of the state.  For this reason, you'll want to know where the best colors are before you head out.

The map below shows the typical peak times in Minnesota.  And while this serves as a great first resource, you'll want to know specifically where the colors are changing the most at any given time.  Many factors affect leaves changing color:  drought conditions the previous summer, cooler nighttime temperatures, sunlight or lack of it, and high winds and rain.
Typical Peak Color
Source:  MN DNR

Luckily, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has provided a great map to let you know when and where the best fall colors are at any given moment. As you can see from the map on the left below, the colors haven't quite started to change yet which still gives you plenty of time to plan a get away.

fall color map
Source:  MN DNR

Without further ado, we've listed a few routes you might want to try this fall.  We've listed them in order of which areas are most likely to show fall colors first.

Scenic Highway 61 MN North Shore
Duluth to Grand Portage
150 Miles one way

Oberg Mountain, Tofte, MN
Source:  SuperiorTrails.com
There's a reason people call this part of the state "God's Country".  The majesty of Lake Superior combined with the rocky, tree covered hills makes this one of the most beautiful areas in Minnesota.  With numerous hiking trails (like the renowned Superior Hiking Trail), state parks and historic sites, you're sure to find plenty to do along the way.  And this area gives you your best chances of seeing some rare wildlife.

Great stops along the way:
Glensheen Mansion in Duluth
Gooseberry Falls near Two Harbors
Split Rock State Park near Two Harbors
Palisade Head near Silver Bay
Lutsen Mountain near Tofte
Grand Marais
Guflint Trail north of Grand Marais
Grand Portage State Park

Lake Country Scenic Byway
Detroit Lakes to Walker and Itasca State Park
88 Miles one way

Credit:  Joe Novak

Fall colors reflected in a serene lake.  The call of loons and the cry of eagles overhead.  The star attractions of this area are the Chippewa National Forest, Itasca State Park and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Get off the main track and walk on a bog, walk over the source of the great Mississippi River, fish from the shores of pristine lakes or better yet from a canoe, hit three different casinos along the way, and bring your binoculars for some great bird watching.  And when you're sitting around the fire, look up in the sky and you may just see the Northern Lights in all their glory.

St. Croix Scenic Byway
Afton to Sandstone
140 Miles one way

Source:  scenicpathways.com

If there’s a signature scene of fall driving in Minnesota, it may just be the view from Highway 95 approaching Taylors Falls as you begin the descent into the valley of the St. Croix River. The scenery taps into the Americana section of our brains—a shapely river valley cloaked in flaming maples, a scattering of conifers, a 19th-century town greeting us at the bottom of the hill. It is the closest Minnesota comes to New England.

Some of the oldest towns in Minnesota are along this beautiful route include Stillwater (self proclaimed birthplace of MN), and Taylor's Falls where some homes date to the 1850's.  There are plenty of state parks and historical sites to see along the way.  And it's a short drive from the Twin Cities, one that could be done in a day if you want.

Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway
Dexter to LaCrescent
88 miles one way

Source:  Pinterest.com
The southeast corner of the state is delightful.  Full of hills and valleys, twisty roads, limestone bluffs, old barns, and the meandering Root River.  It's breathtaking and unlike any other terrain in the state.  In fact, this area is so gorgeous that there are 4 other scenic byways in this area alone.  

Biking is highly touted in the area and you can rent one almost anywhere and spend the day on miles and miles of state bike trails.  The Root River is known for great trout fishing and the land boasts some of the best areas for turkey hunting.  Be sure not to miss the super cool town of Lanesboro, with great shopping and east and a theater as well.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Minneapolis and St.Paul Rank High In Quality Of Life

People who live here in the Twin Cities know that its a great place to live.  But it appears others have declared it a great place to live, too.

Source:  Minnesota Monthly

According to Nerdwallet, a financial website, both Minneapolis and St. Paul Ranked in the top five of US cities that offer the best quality of life.  In fact all of the top 5 cities are in the midwest.

So where did we net out?  Minneapolis came in 3rd and St. Paul came in 4th behind Madison, WI and Lincoln, NE.

The financial website looked at  income and health benefits, local economic strength, as well as work-life balance to find the best places for quality of life.

Here's what Nerdwallet had to say about Minneapolis:

"Workers in Minneapolis enjoy a healthy work-life balance, a relatively low cost of living and high rates of health coverage. The city also boasts a vibrant culture with a strong arts scene: Minneapolis is home to the second-highest number of live theaters per capita in the U.S. after New York City. The University of Minnesota, one of the largest public universities in the nation, is located in Minneapolis, which helps boost the local economy."
And here is what they had to say about St. Paul:

"St. Paul offers the same attractive qualities to workers as Minneapolis, its twin city, scoring especially highly in the income, affordability and health insurance coverage factors. Outside of the office, people here can enjoy many cultural and outdoor amenities, including performing arts centers, parks and more. The city also boasts 26 miles of Mississippi riverfront, the most of any city on the river."

Give yourself a pat on the back for choosing to live in one of the greatest metropolitan areas in our country!  To read more about the other cities listed and pour through the data you can link to the article at Nerdwallet, HERE.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Free Movie and James J. Hill Days

Movie At Dusk
Plymouth Fieldhouse
14800 34th Ave N
Plymouth, Minnesota 55447
Fri. Sept 5, 2014
8:00 pm
Cost:  Free to attend, concessions cost money

Come to the fieldhouse to see the movie "The Land Before Time" on Friday night.  In "Land Before Time" an orphaned brontosaurus named Littlefoot sets off in search of the legendary Great Valley. A land of lush vegetation where the dinosaurs can thrive and live in peace. Along the way he meets four other young dinosaurs, each one a different species, and they encounter several obstacles as they learn to work together in order to survive.

Lady K’s Popcorn will sell concessions at Movies in the Park, including popcorn, sno kones, cotton candy and candy, as well as pop, Gatorade and lemonade. Guests should bring cash.

Sept. 5-7, 2014
Fri:  5:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Sat:  10:00 am to Dusk
Sun:  10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Cost:  Free to attend

James J. Hill, one of the more colorful and controversial characters in Lake Minnetonka's history, brought his great Northern Railroad to the small village of Wayzata in 1857. Soon, Wayzata blossomed into a great tourist destination.

Every year, in September, Wayzata celebrates the turning point in her history with a series of events including; an arts & crafts fair, dachshund races, a coaster cart derby, children's activities, lots of food, a parade and much, much more!

See activity schedule below:

Friday, September 5th

5:00-10:00 PM Lake Minnetonka Carnival
5:00-8:00 PM Retail Junction
6:00 PM Billy Currington Concert
6:00-11:00 PM Music & Beer Garden

Saturday, September 6th

10:00 AM Dedication of the old Trapper's Cabin, recently relocated from Bushaway Road to Shaver's Park).
10:00 AM -10:00 PM Lake Minnetonka Carnival
10:00 - 11:30 AM Coaster Cart Derby
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM Street Market
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM Rails & Ales
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM Depot Dog Park & Dachshund Races
Hourly Special 1-hour Cruises — Steamboat Minnehaha
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM Bike Block
5:00 PM - 9:00 PM Street Dance with Jeff Dayton
5:00 PM - 11:00 PM Goo Goo Dolls Concert
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM Garden Railroad
Dusk Fireworks!

Sunday, September 7th

10:00 AM -4:00 PM Lake Minnetonka Carnival
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM Street Market
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM Motorsports Show
11:00 AM - 1:30 PM The Great Lake Race
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM Garden Railroad
Hourly Special 1-hour Cruises — Steamboat Minnehaha
2:00 PM Parade

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Weekly Market Update: September 1, 2014

As summer begins to wane, the total number of home sales will gradually drop like the leaves of fall. And although autumn is nearing, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the changing of the season will bring market chills. Because even as sales drop, sales prices are still mostly on the rise and inventory is stabilizing all across the country. And let’s not forget that lower sales figures are also due to fewer distressed properties on the market.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending August 23:

• New Listings increased 3.5% to 1,539
• Pending Sales increased 4.5% to 1,175
• Inventory increased 10.1% to 18,755

For the month of July:

• Median Sales Price increased 3.4% to $215,000
• Days on Market decreased 5.6% to 68
• Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.7% to 96.8%
• Months Supply of Inventory increased 15.8% to 4.4

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How To Build A More Affordable Home

Perhaps you're thinking of building a new home but don't necessarily want to pay the huge price tag for a McMansion in an "Executive" neighborhood.  How do you go about building an affordable home that still meets all your needs and satisfies a feeling of a little bit of luxury?  We're here to help you get started.

Find The Right Lot


Land prices in general have fallen in recent years which is good news for you.  But to really get the bang for your buck, you'll have to do some investigating.  If you'd prefer to be in a planned neighborhood, you will need to sit down with the developer and discuss the type of home you want to build.  Many neighborhoods have restrictions on the sizes and costs of the homes (on the low side).  Additionally, many developers require you to use their builder and offer little in the way of customization.  Avoid these developers, if at all

Look for developments with low lot prices that allow you to bring your own builder so that you can build exactly the home that fits your needs.

Search out newspapers, Craigslist.com, and for-sale-by-owner-types of websites for empty lots within already established neighborhoods or acreage in a more country-like setting. And if the price is right, you might even consider a lot with a tear-down home on it.  Many times the cost of the house along with the demolition costs ends up being less than same-sized empty lot.

 Build A Smaller Home


Okay, so maybe this is a little bit too small for you.  But home prices are directly related to square footage.  Thus, if you can decrease your square footage, you can decrease the cost of your home.

Reconsider whether you need or want these space-hogging features in your next home:

  • A two-story family room (wasted space on the second floor that could be another bedroom)
  • A two-story foyer (same as above)
  • A ginormous master bedroom (you just sleep there after all)
  • An exercise room (go to the gym)
  • A home office (isn't this why we have all those mobile devices?)
  • Formal living rooms and dining rooms (really, we just use these spaces a couple of times per year)
  • An extra guest bedroom or two (buy queen-sized beds for everyone in the family then make the kids share when grandma and grandpa come for the weekend)
  • A laundry room (just put a stackable washer and dryer in a hallway closet)
You may decide that some of these features you really do need and want, which is fine.  But going through this process will really help you whittle down what is really important for your family so that you build exactly what you need.

Delegate Rooms For Double (or Triple) Duty


Can't live without a laundry room?  Then why not also make it a pantry and a craft room as well.  Feel like you really need a guest room?  Then make it work as a hobby room and home office, too.  Can't live without a two-story foyer?  ....Well, yes, you actually can live without that.

The idea here is to be more creative with your space.  Make it work hard for you.  Build in lots of storage for organizing every space better so that more things fit into less space.

Strip Down To The Essentials


Tricking out your home with everything imaginable costs a lot of money!  Rethink every feature on your home and determine whether you can get away with less.

Consider these features:

Construction:  A simple box is the cheapest structure to build.  Include fewer niches, nooks, window seats and protruding fireplace areas. Stack bathrooms on top of each other to minimize long runs of plumbing. Simplify roof lines and have fewer gables, because complex roofs require numerous expensive trusses.

Standardization:  Go for a little less variety.  This may mean choosing three or four window sizes for the entire house to allow your builder to order more in bulk.  Go with only one or two exterior finishes instead of three or four. 

Scale back on luxuries:  Choose less expensive stock kitchen cabinets rather than custom.  Consider straight runs of stairs with no turns or landings.  Narrow or eliminate hallways.  Reconsider that luxury whirlpool tub and opt for an upgraded shower.  Decide if you really need those high-end appliances.  Simplify or eliminate fireplaces.  Do you really need 28 can lights, under-cabinet lights, AND pendant lights in one kitchen?

Splurge Where It Counts


With all the above being said, if there's something you've always longed for that will make you feel like you have a little luxury in your simple box, then by all means, go ahead a budget for it.  A gourmet cook may really want that Viking range.  If you work from home full time you may need and want a private home office.  If you are a bath taker, by all means include a bath. 

Another place to splurge is on smart storage areas.  Where ever you can think to put it, include storage options in your home.  Include lots of closets and cabinets.  Think of when you go to Costco and include space for bulk toilet paper, paper towels, and cases of pop.  Make your closets ultra organized from the start.  You can get away with a lot less living space, if you have space for all your stuff.

Saving money on your new home build requires that you really think about how you live and what's most important to you.  Prioritize, plan, and be prepared to love your new home!

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors