Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weekend Happenings: Macy's Flower Show and Savor Minnesota

Even if the weather outside doesn't exactly scream SPRING, there is still someplace you can go to get your flower fix.  Macy's Annual Flower Show runs from March 27th to April 10th on Macy's 8th floor and is free to the public. This week marks the 47th anniversary of the collaboration between Bachman’s and Macy’s for the Flower Show, and this year, it’s bigger (and taller) than ever.

This year’s theme, “Towers of Flowers,” takes the show to new heights by recreating world landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa and draping them in blooms. (Fun
 fact: the Leaning Tower was a prop in a Macy’s Day Parade in New York City once upon a time.) There are also mosaic-tile towers, and even a castle with a parapet.

Bachman’s has once again created a Garden of Dreams, but the show isn’t filled with tropical plants we can’t host here in our Minnesotan gardens. Many of the plants are hardy enough to survive our winters, and they’re even marked with a Minnesota symbol in case you're taking notes for your own garden. Bachman’s really put the latest trends to the test in "Towers of Flowers"—gardening up, not out—and passed with flying colors.

If you're looking for something a little closer to home, check out Savor Minnesota on Saturday, April 2nd from 1:00 to 5:00 at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. Savor Minnesota features the best of Minnesota's wine, food and beer. 

Participants will have the opportunity to eat and drink their way through various vendors, from Italian and Chinese to chocolate and strudel. Twenty Minnesota wineries and Minnesota beer will be winning guests over with their local libations.

Savor Minnesota is sponsored by Minnesota Grown and the Minnesota Farm Winery Association. Each attendee will receive a wine glass, reusable shopping bag, and booklet of the event with over $100 in discounts from the participating exhibitors.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fit A Small Office In Your Small Home

Yes, you can! Squeeze a small office into your small home, that is. But that doesn’t mean you have to take over one of the kids’ bedrooms—just look for under-utilized space.

After that, it’s decision time: How much to spend, how big to make the office, and how you’ll use it.

Here are five solutions to consider:

1. Kitchen helper. From a $400 store-bought island for bill-paying to a breakfast bench nook with file drawers built in under the seats (cost: $5,000 to $15,000), your kitchen is a treasure trove of small office possibilities. Even a slide-out cutting board (about $500 in a cabinet package) can serve as a nifty desktop.

2. Closet conversion. Get rid of unused stuff or consolidate it in another area, and a 3- to 8-foot-wide closet accommodates a built-in desk, shelves, and lighting. Make a nearby chair do double duty for your desk.

With doors and wiring for lighting and a phone, and possible added drywall, your new small office would cost $2,000 to $4,000. Keep in mind that the more floors and walls that wiring has to travel through, the costlier it gets.

3. Porch possibilities. Convert that long, narrow space on the side of your small home that gets only seasonal use to a year-round office for about $15 per square foot. Use plug-in space heaters and fans for your HVAC system.

Use inexpensive, freestanding shelves to provide storage space. Cost: About $70 for a 30-by-80-inch bookshelf.

4. Those out-of-the-way spaces. Alcoves, lofts, stair landings, basement and garage corners, and bedroom nooks qualify as potential office space. Use freestanding shelving units and bookcases. Plants or privacy screens can “wall” the area without making it feel smaller.

You can build a bench for visitors with storage space inside for about $130. Want a craftsman to build it for you? Add another $300 to $400.

5. Under-used dining rooms. Formal dining rooms can be overrated. If yours isn’t being used regularly, convert it to a small office. You’ll be close to your main entry, making it easy to receive clients and business associates. If a nearby kitchen or other busy household area is a noisy distraction, install French or sliding doors as acoustic barriers.

Terry Sheridan is an award-winning writer who has covered real estate and home ownership issues for more than 20 years. She’s owned homes ranging from 1,500 square feet to 3,000 square feet.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Open Houses: March 27, 2011

1735 Carriage Drive, Victoria
5 Bedroom/4 Bathroom Single Family Home
Open 12:00 - 2:00

Priced below market & loaded with designer amenities! Enjoy special features such as a Main Floor Office, 3 Fireplaces, a Gourmet Kitchen with extensive Granite countertops, Butler's Pantry & large Walk-in Pantry. Professionally finished Lower Level with a 5th Bedroom, full service wet bar Bar & Family Room!

Click here for more information on 1735 Carriage Drive.

10566 Spyglass Drive, Eden Prairie
4 Bedroom/3 Bathroom Townhome
Open 1:00 - 3:00

This home is a MUST see! Beautifully turnkey and full of Pottery Barn finishes, this home is freshly painted & has a Gourmet Kitchen, Gas Fireplace & Wood floors. Enjoy main level living in a quiet neighborhood of upper bracket homes. Designed by Brandl Anderson, this floor plan offers soaring ceilings, large windows and spacious rooms perfect for any occasion. The Gourmet Kitchen features GE Profile stainless steel appliances and extensive cabinet space. The private main floor Master Suite is a wonderful retreat with His and Her sinks, separate tub and shower and large walk-in closet with a custom California Closet system. Enjoy the ease of maintenance free living and location within minutes of Eden Prairie Center and major freeways!

Click here for more information on 10566 Spyglass Drive.

Or feel free to contact us for further information on these and other properties.  Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

5 Mortgage and Foreclosure Myths

In a mortgage market that changes as quickly as this one, today’s fact is tomorrow’s fiction. For buyers, misinformation can be the difference between qualifying for a home loan or not. Sellers and owners, knowledge is foreclosure-preventing, smart decision-making power! Without further ado, let’s correct some common mortgage misconceptions.

1. Myth: Buyers with bad credit can’t qualify for home loans. Obviously, mortgage guidelines have tightened up, big time, since the housing bubble burst, and they seem likely to tighten even further over the long-term. But just this moment, they have relaxed a bit. In the last couple of weeks, two of the nation’s largest lenders of FHA loans announced that they’ve dropped the minimum FICO score guideline from 620 (which allows for some credit imperfections) to 580, which is actually a fairly low score.

At a FICO score of 620, buyers can qualify for FHA loans at many lenders with only 3.5 percent down. With a score of 580, the lenders are looking for more like 5 to 10 percent down – they want to see you put more of your own skin in the game, and the higher down payment lowers the risk that you’ll default. However, if your credit has taken a recessionary hit, like that of so many Americans, this might create a glimmer of hope that you’ll be able to take advantage of low prices and interest rates without needing years of credit repair.

2. Myth: The Mortgage Interest Deduction isn’t long for this world. Homeowners saved over $85 billion in 2008 by deducting their mortgage interest on their income tax returns. A few months ago, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform caused a massive wave of fear to ripple throughout the world of real estate consumers and professionals when they recommended Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) reform, which would dramatically reduce the size of the deduction.

Fact is, the Commission made a sweeping set of deficit-busting recommendations to Congress, a few of which are likely to be adopted. Fortunately for buyers and sellers, MID reform is not one of them. Very powerful industry groups and economists have been working with Congress to plead the case that MID reform any time in the near future would only handicap the housing recovery. Congress-folk aren’t interested in stopping the stabilization of the real estate market. As such, the MID is nearly universally thought of as safe – even by those who disagree that it should be.

3. Myth: It’s just a matter of time before loan guidelines loosen up. The US Treasury Department recently recommended the elimination of mortgage industry giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I won’t get into the eye-glazing details of it here, but the long and the short is that (a) this is highly likely to happen, and (b) it will make mortgage loans much harder and costlier to get, for both buyers and homeowners. It’s possible that loans are as easy to get as they’re going to get. So don’t expect that if you hold out, zero-down mortgages will come back into vogue anytime soon. Fortunately, Fannie and Freddie aren't likely to disappear for another 5-7 years, so you have a little time to pull your down payment and credit together. If you want to get into the market, the time to get yourself ready is now!

4. Myth: If you don’t have equity, you can’t refi. Much ado is being made about how stuck so many people are in their bad loans, because they don’t have the equity to refinance their way out of them. If you’re severely upside down (meaning you own much, much more than your home is worth), stuck may be the situation. But there are actually a couple of ways homeowners can refi their underwater home loans. If your loan is held by Fannie or Freddie (which you can find out, here), they will actually refinance it up to 125% of its current value, assuming you otherwise qualify for the loan. That means, if your home is worth $100,000, you could refinance a loan up to $125,000, despite the fact that your home can’t secure the full amount of the loan.

If your loan is not owned by Fannie or Freddie, you might be a candidate for the FHA “Short Refi” program. While most mortgage workout plans are only available to people who are behind on their loans, the Short Refi program is only available to homeowners who are current on their mortgages and need to refinance up to 115 percent of their homes’ value. So, if you owe $250,000 on your home, you can refinance via an FHA Short Refi even if your home’s value is as low as $217,000. If you think you’re a good candidate for a short refi, contact your mortgage broker, stat – there are some in Congress who think that this program is so underutilized (only 245 applications have been submitted since it rolled out in September – no typo!) that its funding should be diverted to other needy programs.

5. Myth: If you’ve lost your job and can’t make your mortgage payment, you might as well mail your keys in. Until recently, this was essentially true – virtually every loan modification and refinancing opportunity required that your economic hardship be over before you could qualify. And documenting income has always been high on the requirements checklist. But there are some new funds available in the states with the hardest hit housing and job markets, which have been designated specifically for out-of-work homeowners.

The US Treasury Department’s Hardest Hit Fund allocated $7.6 billion to the states listed below – all of which are now using some portion of these funds to offer up to $3,000 per month for up to 36 months in mortgage payment assistance to help unemployed homeowners avoid foreclosure. Contact the state agency listed below if you need this sort of help:

•New Jersey:
•North Carolina:
•Rhode Island:
•South Carolina:
•Washington D.C.:

By Tara-Nicholle Nelson , Broker in San Francisco, CA
March 9, 2011

If you have any questions about your home loan situation, feel free to contact us.  We'd be happy to talk it over with you.

Minneapolis Tops List Of Best Cities To Find A Job

With the employment picture still bleak in some major metropolitan areas, job seekers might be tempted to run off to the cities with the healthiest employment numbers–but low unemployment doesn’t always mean it’s the best place for finding a job.

While cities with low unemployment might be the easiest areas for some to land a job, there may be little diversity in the industries hiring, the cost of living can be high, and the required skill sets can be too specific.

The recruiting firm Ajilon Professional Staffing looked at the U.S. cities with the fullest employment, according to the Department of Labor, and then determined which areas are the best for finding a job. The ranking reflects considerations such as: the diversity of industries in the city, the cost of living, the range in size of companies offering employment, and high level of education among its residents. All those factors were weighed equally.

The top spot goes to Minneapolis, where the unemployment rate is 6.5 percent. From December 2009 to December 2010, the unemployment level dropped by .7 percent, indicating that an already strong market is improving.

“The reason why Minneapolis is at the top of the list is a combination of factors,” says Jodi Chavez, senior vice president of Ajilon. “First and foremost, the city records the lowest unemployment rate of all the cities in the ranking, brought about by the large companies in financial services, health care, retail and manufacturing that have picked up their hiring activities.”

The Minneapolis-St.Paul metropolitan area has several large medical device manufacturers, Chazez says, and they seemed to weather the economic downturn with a minimal impact on staff levels. “In fact, this sector continues to add jobs,” she says. “As hiring has picked up, companies in this market are also showing demand for highly specialized positions like specialty tax, IT audit or compliance-related jobs that were not available during the recession.”

The diversity of industries isn’t the only quality that makes Minneapolis the best city for finding employment. “The quality of life in Minneapolis overall also tends to be high,” Chavez says. “The city has low crime rates and poverty rates and relatively low cost of living while being one of the major metropolitan centers of the Midwest. The Minneapolis–St. Paul market is in somewhat of a sweet spot of offering jobs with relatively high pay while having a low cost of living.”

Austin, Texas, which holds the No. 2 spot, also stands out for its low cost of living, varied-size companies and diverse talent pool. The eclectic capital city has become an alternative to Silicon Valley, Chavez says. “Silicon Valley has a high cost of living, so a lot of tech companies are moving to Austin.” And it doesn’t hurt that Austin is home to the University of Texas and many other higher education institutions.

Businesses in college towns often recruit locally, knowing that there are plenty of educated, talented candidates in the area.

Another college town with a high level of educated workers is No. 4, Boston. “There are a lot of start-ups,” Chavez says of the city and its emerging entrepreneurial scene. Boston’s unemployment level dropped from 8.3 percent in 2009 to 7.1 percent in 2010, thanks to growth at nonprofits, financial services firms, and health care companies.

“Health care is one of the most job-healthy industries across the board,” says Chavez. Information technology and software engineering are also strong fields throughout most major U.S. metro areas.

By Jacquelyn Smith

updated 3/20/2011 4:12:28 PM ET 2011-03-20T20:12:28

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Weekly Update: Twin Cities Housing Market

I think I'm safe in saying, we're all sick of this weather and winter! We need some warmer temps and sun to get the local buyers out and in the market! But, in spite of the weather, the Star Tribune actually had a postive report on the Twin Cities Housing market. Here's the weekly update:

Home sales in the Twin Cities metropolitan area continued to exhibit signs of divergence from last year’s incentive market. The 812 Pending Sales for the week ending March 12 were 20.9 percent fewer than the same week in 2010. Since this year’s weekly Pending Sales figures look more like a standard bell curve than last year’s railroad spike, we’ll continue to see declines through the end of April followed by gains during the summer months.

Sellers introduced 1,453 new homes or 31.1 percent fewer than the same week last year. Active Listings for Sale has been shrinking relative to last year and holding fairly steady at or below 22,000 units so far this year. As of March 21, the current inventory of 22,077 made for 10.0 percent fewer homes for buyers to choose from. This trend has helped the Months Supply of Inventory metric maintain at 7.5 months, just outside the five to six month balanced range.

And here's the article from the Star Tribune:

Minnesota home sales rise, bucking nationwide trend
JIM BUCHTA, Star Tribune

While home sales across the country continue to fall, the housing market in Minnesota is showing some signs of momentum. Or at least stability.

In Minnesota, there were 7,284 home sales during January and February, a 5.7 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the Minnesota Association of Realtors.

Nationwide, the results were less promising. During the first two months of the year, home sales have remained relatively flat compared to 2010. However, on a seasonally adjusted basis, February sales took a turn for the worse, falling 9.6 percent, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday.

"Home sales are being constrained by the twin problems of unnecessarily tight credit, and a measurable level of contract cancellations from some appraisals not supporting prices negotiated between buyers and sellers," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the national Realtors group. "This tug and pull is causing a gradual but uneven recovery."

The latest data shows just how volatile the housing market is, both locally and nationally, as the economy struggles to regain its footing and the mortgage industry faces an overhaul. Economists had expected sales to fall only about 4 percent, causing some to wonder if the worse-than-expected sales last month mean that a U.S. recovery is still far away.

Clearly, the biggest obstacle standing in the way of anything that looks like a recovery is the foreclosure crisis, which dominates the market in every corner of the nation and continues to put downward pressure on home prices.

Across the country, prices fell to the lowest level in nearly nine years. Even in Minnesota, where sales have picked up in recent months, sale prices continue to fall. During February the median sale price of all closed sales fell 8 percent to $129,900, luring bargain shoppers into the market.

"Home buyers in Minnesota have recognized that there are outstanding values in the marketplace," said Chris Galler, chief operating officer of the Minnesota Association of Realtors.

While statewide sales figures showed gains, that's not true everywhere in the state. The Realtors association divides the state into 13 regions that correspond to the economic development regions established by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

During January and February four of those regions showed steep declines in sales and only five showed an increase in the median sale price. The regions that did well have strong regional economies tied to a growth industry.

Farmers, for example, are doing particularly well right now because of strong demand for corn and wheat. So in the northwest region, which includes the fertile Red River Valley, sales rose 27 percent.

The south central region, which includes Mankato, saw similar gains. Not true for areas that rely on manufacturing, which was clobbered by the recession. In the Arrowhead region, which includes Duluth, sales were down 10.9 percent. Agents in that part of the state have been anxiously awaiting the reopening of two iron mines.

"That area hasn't had a lot of changes or new people moving in," Galler said. "It's hard for prices to increase; demand is still the key."

The same factors apply in the Headwaters region, where sales fell 35 percent and prices were down 34 percent. Data for the report is provided by agents who are members of the Regional Multiple Listing Service.

In some communities, especially small, rural towns, agents don't subscribe to the service. Galler said that the report still captures the bulk of transactions in the state.

In just the seven-county metro area, where the vast majority of transactions are included in the report, the number of closed sales during January and February rose 3.9 percent.

Though January and February are typically the slowest months of the year, analysts pay close attention to sales activity during these months because they are on the cusp of the spring buying season, which typically starts in late February and early March.

Agents say that this year harsh weather kept many buyers inside. That's evident judging by data released earlier this month by the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, which said that in the 13-county metro area, pending sales -- an indication of future closed sales -- had fallen more than expected compared with last year at this time. And according to a weekly report released Monday by the Minneapolis association, pending sales in the 13 county metro area were down 21 percent.

Brad Fisher, a sales manager for Edina Realty and the president of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, said local buyers and sellers need to brace themselves for declines in sales at least through early spring. Sales through the first half of 2010 was buoyed by the federal home-buyer tax credit, which expired last April.

"We pulled that spring business from the second quarter into the first quarter," Fisher said.

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bathroom Updates: 4 Trends To Watch

Granite is slowly beginning to lose some of its popularity in favor of other bathroom vanities, and green–the color, that is–is catching on, as these trends–along with others–gain steam in bathrooms this year, according to a National Kitchen & Bath Association survey of 100 designers. The survey offers insights into the hottest trends in bathrooms for 2011.

Here are four trends to watch in bathroom home design.

Dupont Zodiaq quart surface in Bianco Carrara;
 Photo credit: Shadowlight Group
1. Quartz countertops more in demand. While granite still reigns in bathroom vanity tops, it’s popularity is slowly sinking as quartz continues to steal some of the market share, according to NKBA. While 83 percent of designers still opt for granite, that number has gradually been narrowing in recent years as quartz increases in demand (54 percent of NKBA designers opted for quartz). A year ago, 85 percent of NKBA designers used granite, compared to 48 percent for quartz. Meanwhile, solid marble vanities have also been on the decline (from 46 percent to 37 percent), while cultured marble has increased slightly in use among NKBA designers from 12 percent to 19 percent.

Photo credit: Delta Faucet Co.
2. Bathrooms go “green”–literally. Green color palettes for the bathroom are on the rise. Twenty-four percent of NKBA designers say they are using green colors to spice up bathrooms–up a year ago from 14 percent. However, the three most most common color choices in the bathroom remain: Whites and off-whites, beiges, and browns.

Kohler’s Conical Bell Vessels sink;
 Photo credit: Kohler Co.
3. Sink preferences mount. Under mount sinks continue to dominate newly remodeled bathrooms, but vessel sinks are increasingly becoming a more popular choice. Integrated sink tops are also on the rise, as well as pedestal sinks.

Photo credit: Kohler Co.

4. Satin finishes shine. In following recent kitchen trends, satin nickel faucets in bathrooms are rising in popularity, while brushed nickel faucets are falling out of favor. Other popular faucet finishes in the bathroom include bronze and oil-rubbed bronze, polished chrome, and polished nickel. Meanwhile, stainless steel finishes are becoming less popular in the bathroom.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Heartfelt Thank You!

Eric & Sharla would like to extend a warm Thank You to all our friends and clients who attended our Morning Movie Event and fundraiser for Love INC which was helt at the Chanhassen Cinema on March 12th.  Because of your overwhelming generosity, Love INC now has a 2-month supply of paper products for their families! They are also able to purchase 63 new bike helmets with the cash donations that totaled over $500.00!! You gave in a big way and we really appreciate it!

Eric & Sharla, Mary Morely of Love INC, Annette Call of Regency Title  & Brian Call of Rubicon Mortgage Advisors
 A special thank you goes out to our trusted business partners, Brian &Annette Call with Rubicon Mortgage Advisors and Regency Title. Thank you for co-sponsoring this event again this year!

The three Ps, along with some friends, handed out candy to all the kids who attended the event.

Would you like some candy?

It was a full house!

It was great to see you last Saturday – thanks again for all of your support!

Bye bye!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

For Sale: 5BR/4BA Single Family House in Shorewood, MN, $700,000

Presenting Another Exceptional Home from Stafford Family Realtors

5755 Smithtown Way
Shorewood ~ Minnesota
Only relocaiton makes this beautiful home avaliable.

From pillar to post, this home has been lovingly maintained and beautifully updated with Pottery Barn quality finishes throughtout.
Open Sunday, March 20th
12-2 PM stop in for a viewing!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's 'In' and 'Out' In The Kitchen: 10 Trends To Watch

Kitchens are going dark, LED lighting is gaining steam, and trash is getting more attention–all are trends in kitchen designs this year, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association, which surveyed 100 designers at the end of 2010 to reveal the hottest kitchen trends.

The following is a list of what’s cooking in kitchen trends for 2011, based on NKBA survey results of which kitchen designs are increasing in demand and which are losing favor.

Courtesy of KraftMaid Cabinetry

1. Cabinetry

Gaining steam: Maple cabinetry

Losing steam: Cherry cabinetry (Cherry dominated kitchens in early 2010 but was overtaken by maple cabinetry this year)

2. Kitchen finishes

Gaining steam: Dark natural finishes; light natural and colored painted finishes also remained fairly common, inching up slightly in use.

Losing steam: Medium natural, glazed, and white painted finishes are on the decline and the use of distressed finishes has dropped significantly in the last year.

Photo credit: Miro Dvorscak
3. Color

Gaining steam: Grays, beiges, and bones

Losing steam: Brown tones, whites, and off-whites

O’Neil Cabinets shaker style;
Photo credit: Courtesy of O’Neil Cabinets

4. Design styles

Gaining steam: Shaker style, which is characterized by its simplicity, un-ornamented yet functional, finely crafted style. (Shaker overtook contemporary style this year as the No. 2 most popular kitchen design style). Traditional style remains the most popular kitchen design, although it has dropped slightly in popularity compared to last year.

Losing steam: Contemporary style

Kitchen from Huntwood Cabinets features
 an island with built-in wine cubbies; Photo credit: Alan Bisson

5. Cabinetry upgrades

Gaining steam: Unchilled wine storage (yet undercounter wine refrigerators are losing favor)

Losing steam: Tall pantries, lazy Susans, appliance garages, and pull-out racks are declining slightly in popularity.

DuPont Corian solid surface in Sorrel; Photo Credit: TC Studios

6. Countertops

Gaining steam: Solid surfaces, a low-maintenance countertop surface, has grown in popularity, but granite and quartz continue to hold dominance. Other countertops surfaces increasing in niche use include butcher block and marble.

Losing steam: Laminate

Liebherr’s 2060 series

7. Refrigerators

Gaining steam: French door and side-by-side refrigerators

Losing steam: Freezer-top refrigerators and freezer-bottom models

Thermador’s Masterpiece Series 36-inch
 Silver-Mirrored Induction Cooktop; Photo credit: Thermador

8. Cooktops

Gaining steam: Induction cooktops are closing the gap on gas and electric models; double wall ovens are increasing in use.

Losing steam: Gas cooktops are still popular but their use is falling slightly in favor of induction and electric cooktops. Single wall ovens and warming drawers are also on the decline.

Photo credit: Kichler Lighting
9. Lighting

Gaining steam: LED energy-efficient lighting options

Losing steam: Incandescent lighting and CFLs (compact fluorescent lights)

Photo credit: Rev-A-Shelf, LLC
10. Trash

Gaining steam: More designers are taking into account trash considerations in kitchen designs, with trash or recycling pull-outs, garbage disposals, and trash compactors on the rise.

Losing steam: Not considering where the trash goes in the kitchen.

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine
March 14, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gotta Go to the Auto Show

Need something to do this weekend?  The 38th Annual Twin Cities Auto Show is coming to the Minneapolis Convention Center starting Saturday, March 12.  Featuring an estimated $15,000,000 in new vehicles, and filled with amazing new displays; this is the 7th largest Auto Show in the nation. GMADA is pleased to present vehicles from almost every manufacturer in the world!

NEW Ultimate Garage by AutoMotorPlex
Features three unique, fully decorated garage themes: The Racing, Exotic and Contemporary car spaces. Each space is designed, styled and features products relating to the individual themes.

NEW Green Room by Star Tribune
The car industry has never been more Green, with an ever increasing inventory of hybrids, electric, Flex fuel and clean diesels. The Show's main floor has Green vehicles throughout. But the Star Tribune Green Room will highlight these innovative vehicles. As a special feature it will also include the University of Minnesota's award winning Solar Powered car along with these vehicles:

• Audi A3 TDI
• Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
• Lincoln MK2 Hybrid
• Mercedes Benz ML Blue Tec
• Porsche Cayenne Hybrid • Ford Fusion Hybrid
• Toyota Prius Hybrid
• Toyota Camry Hybrid
• Toyota Highlander Hybrid

NEW Luxury Lane
A million dollars worth of vehicles in one room. The best and most luxurious vehicles that the new car industry has to offer. This is truly the room where you can find your license to dream. See luxury vehicles from:
• Audi
• Bentley
• Cadillac
• Hyundai
• Lincoln
• Maserati
• Mercedes
• Porsche
• VW

Whether you're in the market for a new car or just like to dream, bring the family on down to the Auto Show.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Save Money With Your Edible Garden

An edible garden featuring vegetables and herbs can save you a bundle if you keep it simple and raise plants that offer high yields.

Whether you’re trying to pinch pennies on your grocery bill or just hungering to eat healthier, having your own edible garden is the answer. The beauty of tending a backyard vegetable patch is that you can pick and choose what to grow, allowing you to customize a mix that suits your family’s palate—and gives you the greatest return on investment.

How much can you save?
A backyard edible garden will trim costs from your grocery bill while providing you and your family with the freshest produce possible. According to Bruce Butterfield, research director for the National Gardening Association, a well-maintained garden can produce a half-pound of fresh vegetables for every square foot of garden space. At average market prices, that means a garden returns about $1 per square foot.

Studies conducted by W. Atlee Burpee Co., a mail-order seed company, are even more optimistic. According to Burpee, the average cost-to-benefit ratio of home-grown produce for those who have established gardens is better than 1 to 25. That means every $1 spent on seeds and supplies yields at least $25 worth of vegetables.

Even first-time gardeners will benefit. George Ball, owner of Burpee Co., says that a $10 investment in seeds for tomatoes, beans, bell peppers, lettuce, peas, and carrots, plus $80 for soil, fertilizer, and the cost of building several raised beds, can yield more than $250 worth of veggies and herbs—a substantial portion of the approximately $3,465 the average U.S. family spends on a year’s worth of groceries.

For families that save the harvest, either by freezing, canning, or drying, the cost-benefit ratio climbs even higher. Martha Garway, who tends a 10x10 plot in a Providence, R.I., community garden, freezes much of her summer produce, such as okra, tomatoes, and peppers.

That summer harvest, which costs her $20 for the plot plus the cost of seeds (and she tends to save her own), enables her to “buy only meat and fish through winter—no vegetables,” she says.

Top plants for great returns
For the average gardener in most regions of the country, here are some of the most cost-effective vegetables to grow, and an estimate of what you’ll save over store-bought produce. These figures reflect veggies harvested for fresh eating only; if you freeze or can produce to consume beyond the harvest season, your savings will multiply.

Slicing tomato
Seedling cost: $2.00/plant
Yield: 10-15 pounds tomatoes/plant
Savings: $15-$23/plant

Bell pepper
Seedling cost: $2.00/plant
Yield: 6-8 peppers/plant
Savings: $9-$12/plant

Seed cost: $2.95/packet of 240 seeds
Yield: 10-15 pounds of cucumbers per plant
Savings: $5-$7.50/plant

Bush green beans
Seed cost: $2.95/packet of seeds
Yield: 2.5-3 pounds/5-foot row
Savings: $3.75-$4.50/row

Pole green beans
Seed cost: $2.95/packet of seeds
Yield: 4-5 pounds/5-foot row
Savings: $6-$7.50/row

Leaf lettuce
Seed cost: $2.00/packet of mixed lettuces
Yield: 16 oz. of salad every 3-5 days after leaves mature
Savings: $4 per week

A few vining vegetables, like squash or Malabar spinach, produce abundant yields for the price of a packet of seeds ($2.95). Winter squash types in particular are easy to cure and store, lasting well into spring and offering savings of up to $10-$15 per vine.

Herbs offer amazing return. For $1.50, you can buy a 3-inch pot of parsley, chives, oregano, mint, or basil and harvest leaves all season long. With the perennial herbs, like oregano and mint, the harvest continues for years with little maintenance action required. Compare that to “fresh” herbs you’ll get at the grocery for $3 for a 3-ounce packet.

What not to grow
Some vegetables aren’t cost-effective in an edible garden. For instance, you could spend $20 for organic seed potatoes that will yield 15 pounds of spuds from a 20-foot row planting. Compare that with the average price of white potatoes in the supermarket at $1 per pound. Then again, you can’t find Russian Banana fingerlings or Purple Viking potatoes at the grocer, so if you want a specialty spud, grow your own.

Other veggies that don’t pay to grow are ones that are finicky, like celery or asparagus. Both are labor intensive. Onions are relatively cheap to purchase, and it can be difficult to get a large yield of good-size bulbs without a massive garden.

Try growing shallots instead, a gourmet-style onion family member that produces green tops you can harvest like chives and mild flavored bulbs that cost up to $4 a pound at the store.

How big an edible garden?
The median size of an edible garden is about 100 sq. ft., according to the National Gardening Association. For a family of four, a growing space of 200 sq. ft. should keep the family in veggies all summer long. Plan to spend 4 hours a week tending your garden, with 8-12 hours for preparing the planting area in spring, shopping for seeds and seedlings, and sowing crops.

By: Julie Martens
Published: February 2, 2010

Julie Martens is a writer with 21 years’ experience in the field of gardening. Her bylines appear in magazines such as Nature’s Garden, Country Gardens, and Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living. She recently moved into a renovated 1915 home and is busily working on a new garden.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Weekend Happenings: Minneapolis Home & Garden Show

Whether you're a homeowner or a "wanna be", you won't want to miss this weekend's Minneapolis Home & Garden Show located at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  The event starts today, March 2nd, and runs through Sunday, March 6th.

This huge community event brings the latest in Home, Gardening, Remodeling and Home Decor.  The show will display stunning gardens, local celebrities and more! Guests have the opportunity to meet 1,000+ experts and experience thousands of the hottest new products and services.

This year's all new lineup includes appearances by Taniya Nayak of HGTV's Designed to Sell and Andrew Downward of HGTV's Divine Design. Local celebrities will compete in a Celebrity Cooking Contest throughout the show.  There will be several presentations by members of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society on topics ranging from composting and sustainable gardening to container gardening and patios. Step inside the unique Idea Home, completely built by energy panels and learn the latest trends for energy efficiency for your home. As you tour the home you will see innovative landscaping, design, home furnishing, kitchen appliances and more!

There is so much to see and do at this fun, family friendly show.  Stop on by and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Weekly Market Update

Good afternoon! I hope you’re enjoying a reprieve from the snow and cold we’ve been having! I have to remind myself we are still in the season of winter and spring doesn’t officially start until March 20th! And then spring doesn’t really come until sometime in April – or May!!! Lower expectations and experience less disappointment!

Here’s what’s been happening in our next of the woods this past week:

The gap between current and year-ago listing activity continues to widen, as anticipated. Expect the supply-side numbers to show sizable year-over-year declines due to the high baseline set during the spring 2010 tax credit. It should be noted that we are now approaching a period where we’ll be comparing the 2011 non-tax credit market to the 2010 tax credit market at its peak level.

For the week ending February 19, there were 690 signed purchase agreements, which made for a 12.1 percent decline from the same week last year. There were 1,367 New Listings for the week, representing a 25.4 percent decline from a year ago. Active Listings, at 21,642, have been holding steady since the beginning of the year due to subdued seller activity coupled with fairly reliable sales volumes. That marked a 3.3 percent decline from year-ago inventory levels.

A more meaningful comparison is to look back at 2009 and 2008 and avoid tax credit stimulated activity. This week's 690 Pending Sales fall right in between 2008 and 2009 numbers. While that is less buyer activity than we would like, it does provide hope for the future!

As always – please feel free to call or email us if you have any questions or concerns!

Best regards,
Eric & Sharla