Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weekend Happenings: Lake Minnetonka Kids Crappie Tournament

Ahh, fishing as a kid.  So much fun.  Watching the bobber like a hawk.  Seeing the fish swim under the boat.  Pulling up your huge sunny or crappie, all squiggly on the line.  What's not to like?!  Of course, now that you're an adult you realize that the "grown-up" with you had to put the worm on the hook, dodge your rod as you swung it about, counterbalance you as you leaned out of the boat to see what was in the water, and took every 2-inch fish off the line for you before throwing it back in the water.  What seemed like an all day adventure for you as a kid was most likely 10 minute affair in actuality.  But this is something we gladly do to instill a love of the outdoors, and fishing in particular, in our kids.

This weekend you have the opportunity to do just that.  Saturday, April 29th, 2011, come to the Adult and Kids Crappie Tournament on Lake Minnetonka.  The tournament runs from 6:00 am to 12:00 pm.  Weigh-in will be at Maynard's in Excelsior from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm.  There will be prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places along with other prizes.  The $7 entry fee can be paid at weigh-in. 

Take a kid fishing and have some fun!

Cheaper to Buy than Rent in 78% of Major Cities

It is cheaper to buy a home than to rent one in 39 of the nation's 50 largest cities, according to a quarterly report released today by real estate search and marketing site Trulia.

Trulia's rent vs. buy index compared the median list price with the median rent on two-bedroom apartments, condominiums and townhomes listed on as of April 1, 2011, in the 50 most populous cities in the U.S. While 72 percent of the cities favored buying in the previous quarter's report, 78 percent favored buying in this latest report.

"With home prices nearing a double dip and more foreclosures expected to flood the housing market over the next two years, the decision between renting and buying a home across most of the country has clearly moved in favor of buying," said Ken Shuman, Trulia's spokesperson, in a statement.

"As we head into the summer buying season, those looking to buy a home should be encouraged by improvements in the market and feel optimistic about their chances of finding an affordable home -- much more so than in previous years."

By Inman News, Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Open Houses: May 1, 2011

5105 Hooper Lake Road - Deephaven
4 bedroom/2 bath
Open 12:00 - 2:00

A must see! Nestled on a beautiful, wooded lot in desirable Deephaven & the award-winning Minnetonka School District! This beautiful home has been completely remodeled with hardwood floors, tiled baths, and new Stainless Steel Appliances! A great home for entertaining with a beautiful in-ground pool and Screened Gazebo. There's also a fenced-in vegetable Garden!

Click Here for more information on Hooper Lake Road

5965 Eureka Road - Shorewood
4 bedroom/3 bath
Open 12:00 - 2:00

This charming Shorewood Estate has been beautifully updated, and exudes old world charm mingled with today's amenities. Sited on 1.72 acres covered with mature trees and dotted with English, Shade and Perennial gardens. The grounds include a pool and pool / guest house (not included in FSF). Lovingly restored & brimming with character, you’ll find beautiful rooms for entertaining friends & cozy rooms just perfect for relaxing.

Click Here for more information on Eureka Road

5925 Sweetwater Circle - Shorewood
5 bedroom/4 bath
Open 12:00 - 2:00

Mature trees, winding streets, ponds & lakes, this is what makes Sweetwater a special place to live!This is a must-see home - very clean and turnkey, freshly painted and filled with sunlight! Located in the demand neighborhood of Sweetwater, this home sits on a premium, cul-de-sac lot with beautiful Pond views. Featuring 2 Fireplaces, a 2 Story Family Room w/Library & updated Gourmet Kitchen! There's 4 spacious upstairs Bedrooms with a 5th Bedroom in the Lower Level. In the award winning Minnetonka School District!

Click Here for more information on Sweetwater Circle

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Weekly Market Update: Week of April 25th, 2011

New Listings for the week ending April 16 were down 21.5 percent from the same week in 2010 to 1,846 properties. That's a smaller decline than the 3-month average, which is down 26.4 percent. It appears that year-over-year declines in listing activity peaked around the end of March when motivated sellers were eager for buyers to consider their properties during the run-up to the end of last year's tax credit deadline.

Pending Sales, too, predictably fell short of April 2010's credit-inspired five-year high-water mark. The 898 purchase agreements signed were 18.6 percent fewer than last year. That's on-par with the 17.6 percent 3-month average decline. Purchase demand is currently the highest it's been since the week ending May 8, 2010. Sales activity in 2010 peaked during the week that ended April 25 and then fell sharply, so we can expect a very different story in two weeks.

The winner is still inventory, which plunged by 15.4 percent from the same week in 2010. It's worth noting that the number of active listings for sale ballooned at this time last year as sellers moved to take advantage of the increased buying activity. Notwithstanding, we haven't seen declines of this magnitude in nearly 15 months. It's a trend that will mean fewer options for buyers as well as improved market balance.

We love talking about the market.  If you have any questions or just want to have a conversation about your home in relation to the market, feel free to give us a call or shoot us an e-mail.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Major Home Builders Selling 'Net-Zero' Housing

To stand out in a still-sluggish housing market, major builders are starting to sell affordable tract homes that come with solar panels and nearly zero utility bills.

On Earth Day Friday, Meritage Homes will begin offering a “net-zero” home that’s designed to produce as much energy as it uses annually. Such homes, starting at $140,000 in Tucson and $160,000 in Las Vegas, will be available in parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and central Texas, where a nine-panel rooftop solar array is already a standard feature. For a $10,000 upgrade, consumers can get 24 more solar panels that could reduce utility bills to zero.

“It’s a new way of building homes,” says C.R. Herro, vice president of environmental affairs for Arizona-based Meritage, the nation’s ninth-largest builder.

“This is the first major-size builder to do this,” says David Johnston, author of “Toward a Zero Energy Home.” He says net-zero building has become common in Canada, but until now relatively few affordable-housing units have achieved such efficiency.

Still, in an economy with $4-a-gallon gasoline, Meritage’s effort reflects an industry-wide push to build homes that cost less to operate.

Last month, Los Angeles-based KB Home announced that it will include as a standard feature in 10 Southern California communities a small, six-panel rooftop solar array capable of cutting energy costs by about 30% in an 1,800- to 2,000-square-foot home.

“Just about all the larger builders are focusing on energy efficiency,” says Kevin Morrow of the National Association of Home Builders.

“Shiny granite can only go so far” to lure buyers from low-price foreclosures, says Nate Kredich of the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council. Kredich says he applauds Meritage for “really pushing the envelope” on sustainability.

Bruce Ploeser’s family of six plans to move next week into Meritage’s first net-zero house, in the Verrado community in Buckeye, Ariz.

“It’s beautiful,” says Ploeser of the five-bedroom, 3,400-square-foot, $326,000 home.

He likes watching its meter, which often shows that the 25 photovoltaic panels are sending a surplus of energy back to the grid.

“I’m just amazed,” he says, “that it’s running backward.”

By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY
(c) Copyright 2011 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Weekend Happenings: Easter Festivities

Warm weather, green grass, egg hunts, jelly beans, bunnies, church services, family gatherings, delicious meals...many things come to mind when we hear the word Easter.  It usually brings to mind many happy and warm memories.  If you will be in town for Easter weekend this year or having family come to visit, here are a number of fun things you can do to build more happy memories.

Minnetonka's Spring Eggstravaganza
Saturday, April 23rd, 10:00 am to 11:30 am
Admission cost:  $8
Place:  Minnetonka Community Center

This spring event provides fun and treat–filled eggs for children ages 10 and under.

There will be face painting, spin art, musical entertainment, a jelly bean counting contest, games and scavenger–style egg hunt that takes place both indoors and out.

The spring bunny will be on hand, so parents bring your cameras. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Don't forget your basket for collecting eggs! Registration is required by April 19th and is limited to 150. There is no same day registration.

It will be an eggstra special time!

Community Easter Egg Hunt hosted by Our Savior Lutheran Church & School
Saturday, April 23rd, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Admission cost:  Free
Place:  Excelsior Commons

Free annual event features four separate Easter Egg hunts for ages 2 & under, ages 3-5, ages 6-8, and ages 8-12. Prize giveaways for free toys & sports equipment. Also puppet shows, music, children's play, and food. Event takes place rain or shine. For information: visit: or call 952-474-5181

Chanhassen Easter Egg Candy Hunt
Saturday, April 23rd, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
Admission cost:  $5
Place:  City Center Park

Join us for Chanhassen's Annual Easter Egg Candy Hunt! Participants will hunt for candy and special eggs in three different age categories. Each participant will receive a special bag for gathering candy. Each bag will also have a ticket for the prize drawings (must be present to win). Grand Prize is a bike from Bokoo Bikes. Bring your camera! For more info call 952-227-1100.

The Easter Egg Coloring contest open to ages 12 and under. Prizes will be awarded in separate age categories. Coloring contest pictures will be available at City Hall, the Recreation Center, on this link, and on Facebook. Bring your completed masterpiece to the event.

Easter Sunday - Rise 'n' Shine 5k / 4th Annual
Sunday, April 24th, 8:00 am
Admission cost: $25 pre-registered/$35 race day day includes
Place:  Como Lake

5k Run, Race Walk or Fitness Walk ‘round beautiful Como Lake on a USATF certified 5k course, or the simultaneous 1.5 Mile Fun Family &Friends Fun Fitness “Walk By My Side”.

Net event proceeds benefit CC’s Rx Exercise Events, Programs and Services. CC is a 501(c)(3) organization.

Charities Challenge Mission: To Improve Health/Fitness, Reduce Health Risks, and Enhance Disease Management via Goal-oriented RxExercise Training Programs, Engaging Events & Active Community Partnerships...
Because there is NO CURE for all the ills associated with lack of exercise…except RxExercise!

Minnesota Zoo
Saturday and Sunday, April 23rd and 24th, 9:00 to 4:00
Admission Cost:  0-2 yrs - Free, 3-12 yrs - $10, 13-64 yrs - $16, 65+ yrs - 410
Place:  Minnesota Zoo

Come out and enjoy the sights and sounds of spring at the Wells Fargo Family Farm. There’s nothing cuter than baby chicks, piglets, lambs, calves, goat kids, and bunnies. There will be fun, hands-on kids' activities, tractor rides from the Grain Elevator to the Farm, and a visit from Peter Rabbit on Saturday at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm.

There will be some special “egg” treats for the animals on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning.  Come out early to enjoy watching the animals take part in their own Animal Egg Hunt.  This fun form of enrichment will include colored Jell-O eggs, piƱatas, treat-filled plastic eggs, and hard-boiled eggs.  Our zookeepers will be hiding these special enrichment treats in the snow monkey, Faces of the African Forest, tiger, bear, otter and Amur leopard exhibits each morning.

No matter what you do this weekend, we hope you have a great time.  All of us here at Stafford Family Realtors wishes you the happiest of Easters!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Invest a Tax Refund in Your Home: $3,000 Projects

When it comes to your 2010 taxes, you’ll probably be happy with the national average refund of about $3,000. Sure, you deserve to celebrate. But before you go buy a bushel of lottery tickets, invest your refund in your home.

Boring? Hardly. Upgrading and maintaining your home preserves its value, giving you a nice return on your investment. Plus, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labors every day.

With summer on the horizon, here are four outdoorsy ideas for spending your refund.

Add Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting not only looks good, it also works
as a security feature. Image: Kichler Lighting

Show your house in its best light, even in the evening, with an outdoor lighting scheme. You’ll enhance your home’s architectural features and play up landscaping details, plus you’ll be adding safety and security to your property.

Here’s a quick price check on a professionally installed system:

  • 7 LED outdoor lighting fixtures to illuminate 100 feet of walkway: $2,275.
  • A transformer to convert household current into low-voltage: $400.
  • Two motion-detector security lighting fixtures: $300.
  • Total: $2,975

Install a Patio
Image: Cambridge Pavingstones with ArmorTec

A backyard patio is an inexpensive way to add some sweet living area to your home.

For a professionally installed brick or concrete paver patio that’s 12 by 16 feet—plenty of space for a table, chairs, and barbecue equipment—you’ll pay about $15 per square foot, or $3,000 total. Expect a payback of 30% to 60% on your investment (plus many hours of great outdoor living).

Other paving materials include limestone, slate, and granite. Concrete is a less expensive option that costs $6 to $12 per square foot, installed.

Upgrade Your Deck
Image:  Tiger Claw, Inc.

Make your deck more livable with upgrades that add shade, increase privacy, and provide convenience.

Shade sails provide soft, diffuse shade for areas not covered by trees and building overhangs. They’re made of weatherproof materials that never need maintenance, and come in various shapes. Professional installation of a 12-foot triangular sail costs about $3,000, including the sail and support posts.

Cable railings are thin stainless steel cables stretched between posts. They open up views and add a contemporary feel. Expect to pay $70 per lineal foot for the railings plus pro installation.
Built-in planters add visual texture and help define separate areas of your deck. Integrate their construction with built-in benches to add seating. You’ll spend $150 to $250 per lineal foot for cedar or redwood planters and benches, including materials and installation.

Replace Your Air Conditioning

Image:  Trane

Hoping the old unit holds on for another year? New central air conditioning units require 30% less electricity and lower energy bills by 30% more than AC units made just a few years ago. You also may qualify for a $300 energy tax credit. Prices for a new energy-efficient central air conditioner start around $3,000.

HouseLogic by John Riha
John Riha has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. His 1972 suburban house has been an ongoing source of maintenance experience.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Open Houses: April 17, 2011

2065 Woodstone Court - Victoria
4 bedroom/4 bath
Open 12:00 - 2:00

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

Click HERE for more information on Woodstone Court

7122 Harrison Hill Trail - Chanhassen
5 bedroom/4 bath
Open 12:00 - 2:00

This popular Denby floorplan from Lundgren Brothers is located on the coveted Harrison Hill Trail in Longacres of Chanhassen. Offering a Gourmet Kitchen with new granite and stainless steel appliances, a main floor Office and a Two-Story Great Room with cozy fireplace. Enjoy a professionally finished lower level walk out with Billiards room, 5th bedroom and full service wet bar.

Click HERE for more information on Harrison Hill Trail

7376 Bent Bow Train - Chanhassen
5 bedroom/4 bath
Open 12:00 - 2:00

A MUST SEE in demand Longacres! This beautiful one-owner home has been totally updated with Hardwood & Slate floors, new Carpet & Paint thru-out. This popular floorplan features a Two story Great Room, Main Floor Office, sun-filled Gourmet Kitchen with Granite Countertops and 4 spacious upstairs Bedrooms. The Lower Level walkout is finished with a 5th Bedroom, Billiards & Bar as well as Family Room with bookshelves & Gas Fireplace. All this and more on a .93 acre lot!

Click HERE for more information on Bent Bow Trail

5925 Sweetwater Circle - Shorewood
5 bedroom/4 bath
Open 2:30 - 4:30

Mature trees, winding streets, ponds & lakes, this is what makes Sweetwater a special place to live!This is a must-see home - very clean and turnkey, freshly painted and filled with sunlight! Located in the demand neighborhood of Sweetwater, this home sits on a premium, cul-de-sac lot with beautiful Pond views. Featuring 2 Fireplaces, a 2 Story Family Room w/Library & updated Gourmet Kitchen! There's 4 spacious upstairs Bedrooms with a 5th Bedroom in the Lower Level. In the award winning Minnetonka School District!

Click HERE for more information on Sweetwater Circle

7221 Tamarack Trail - Victoria
5 bedroom/5 bath
Open 2:30 - 4:30

Beautifully finished, this custom home was built by Allen Lee (now Stonefield Builders) and shows like new construction. Nestled on a private, wooded, cul-de-sac lot with breathtaking views of Tamarack Lake! A well-planned home with rooms designed for entertaining and relaxing. Enjoy the fully finished lower level with full Wet Bar and cozy fireplace which walks out to a patio and gorgeous views of the lake.Canoe or Kayak on the lake and enjoy the LRT Regional Trail just steps from your front door!

Click HERE for more information on Tamarack Trail

8000 Petunia - Victoria
3 bedroom/2 bath
Open 2:30 - 4:30

This 3 bedroom rambler is totally turnkey with a newly finished lower level. Nestled on large cul-de-sac lot near charming downtown Victoria. You will enjoy walking to dining, shopping & parks. Located in award winning Victoria elementary school.

Click HERE for more information on Petunia

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mortgage Rates Inch Higher

Mortgage rates continued to rise this week, with the 30-year fixed mortgage rate rising to 5.08%, according to’s weekly national survey. The average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.41 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage inched to 4.27% and the larger jumbo 30-year fixed rate moved up to 5.57%. Adjustable rate mortgages were slightly lower this week with the average 5-year ARM slipping to 3.87% and the 7-year ARM dropping to 4.21%.

Mortgage rates moved higher, but not very much, as investors looked past global concerns and took in a better-than-expected jobs report. The employment news validated other improving economic data and interest rates moved higher in response. Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds.

Even though mortgage rates have increased in each of the past three weeks, they’ve remained in a narrow range since late February, owing to a tug-of-war between better economic news and worries about rising oil prices and overseas events that could upend the economic recovery.

The last time mortgage rates were above 6% was Nov. 2008. At the time, the average 30-year fixed rate was 6.33%, meaning a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,241.86. With the average rate now 5.08%, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $1,083.44, a difference of $158 per month for anyone refinancing now.

Source: Bankrate, Inc.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Weekend Happenings: Spring Festival and Indoor Garage Sale

Venture down to Canturbury Park in Shakopee this weekend to attend the 2011 Spring Festival: An Arts & Crafts Affair. Hundreds of the nation's finest artists and craftspeople from 30 states will be selling their handmade wares. Voted one of the top 100 shows in the country by Sunshine Artist Magazine. Stage entertainment, hourly gift certificates, food and drink, lots of family fun. The show runs all day from Friday April 8 through Sunday April 10.

Maybe you're more of the garage sale type and have been itching to get your hands on some great deals.  Then the Chanhassen Indoor Garage Sale is the place for you this weekend.  The sale is being held at the Chanhassen Rec Center on Suday, April 10 from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm.  Admission is free but they ask that you please bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the CAP Agency.

Planning to do something else this weekend?  Please share!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Downpayment Proposals Could Close Door On Homeownership For Many

A proposal aimed at making banks more careful about the mortgages they make could end up forcing home buyers to come up with 10% or even 20% downpayments, some housing finance experts say.

“If the regulators impose a 20%—or even a 10%—minimum downpayment … hundreds of thousands of creditworthy households will be excluded from home ownership because of the dramatic increase in the wealth required to purchase a home,” the Consumer Federation of America, the Center for Responsible Lending, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, and the National Association of Home Builders said in a letter sent to last week to regulators.

A household earning the median U.S. income of $49,777 and saving 6% per year (about $3,000) would have to wait 14 years to save a 20% downpayment plus 5% for the closing costs needed to buy a median-priced home. With a 10% downpayment requirement, it would take 9 years, the letter said.

Finance reform
So far, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Federal Reserve have issued proposed rules based on the Dodd-Frank financial system overhaul Congress passed last summer. That law says banks must retain 5% of the risk of the mortgages they make and later sell to investors. The other banking regulators will also propose rules shortly.

Bank regulators will take comments until mid-June on the proposed rules and then announce a final rule.

Congress proposed the change thinking banks would be more cautious in their lending if they have to keep a portion of the risk of new mortgages. Legislators hoped the change would limit bank losses and reduce the likelihood that another bank bailout would be needed.

That 5% risk-retention rule wouldn’t apply to mortgages made to borrowers with good credit, ample income and savings, and a sizable downpayment. What the bank regulators are now deciding is what constitutes good credit and how much income, savings, and downpayment makes a borrower well-qualified for a mortgage.

First-time home buyers harmed
The argument over what’s a qualified residential mortgage could greatly affect home buyers as well as home owners who want to refinance their mortgages. If the regulators decide that a qualified residential mortgage must include at least 20% down, first-time home buyers would be especially hard hit.

A whopping 86% of first-time buyers put down 20% or less last year, according to data from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Repeat buyers could also have trouble getting a mortgage—64% of them made downpayments of 20% or less.

While home owners who put down less than 20% would still be able to get mortgages, they’ll pay higher fees and their interest rates could be as much as 3 percentage points more than those considered “qualified,” NAR estimates.

Federal Housing Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs guaranteed loans aren’t covered by the proposed rule. But if the qualified residential mortgage rule makes 20% downpayments the norm for the mortgage market, FHA could be pressured to do the same to prevent huge increases in its already robust share of the market, adding roadblocks to sustainable home ownership.

By Dona DeZube for HouseLogic