Thursday, June 30, 2011

Weekend Happenings: Local 4th of July Celebrations

Going to the cabin on the 4th of July weekend is something that many Minnesotan's partake in every year.  But for those of us who don't want to tackle the traffic or who don't have a cabin to go to there are plenty of fun things going on right in our neighborhoods to keep us entertained during this fun summer holiday.

Chanhassen’s 4th of July Celebration

July 2, 3 and 4, 2011
City Center Park
Fireworks Display:  10:00 pm Lake Ann Park

This annual celebration is a year-round topic of conversation in the community and is renowned throughout the state. Participation levels top 5,000 people per day. This year's activities are scheduled for July 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Highlights include a kiddie parade, community parade, carnival rides and games, adult and children fishing festivals, beach games, the SouthWest Metro Chamber of Commerce Business Fair, a street dance, Taste of Chanhassen, and the spectacular fireworks display over Lake Ann. City Center Park (north of City Hall) and Lake Ann Community Park are the venues for this event. Follow the link above for a full listing of events.

Lake Minnetonka
Lake Minnetonka 4th of July Celebration
July 4th, 2011
Excelsior Commons

Fireworks Display:  10:00 pm Big Stage

Sponsored by the South Lake-Excelsior Chamber of Commerce, this fun annual event features plenty to do for your family.  Highlights of this one day celebration include fun runs, sand sculpture competition, a parade, a fishing contest, music from local bands, kids entertainment and is topped off by an outdoor concert by the Minnesota Orchestra followed by a beautiful fireworks display over Lake Minnetonka.  Follow the link above for a full listing of all events.

Lake Waconia Fireworks Festival
July 4th, 2011
Fireworks Display:  10:00 (dusk) Lake Waconia

This year the Fireworks will be shot off from the island.  Viewing from Lake Waconia Regional Park, Cedar Point Park and Lola's Lakehouse. Best viewing from lake!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

For Sale: 3BR/2+3BA Single Family House in Deephaven, MN, $718,000

Presenting Another Well Appointed Home from Stafford Family Realtors

4645 Old Kent Road ~ Deephaven, MN

A gem in North Amesbury! This home has been beautifully updated w/spacious rooms just perfect for entertaining. On a premium, .85acre, private lot, surrounded by mature trees. 

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

For Sale: 3BR/2+1BA Single Family House in Deephaven, MN, $549,000

Presenting Another Stunning Home from Stafford Family Realtors
19885 Andover Place ~ Deephaven, MN

Located in desirable Amesbury North.  Stunning indoor & outdoor living spaces designed w/keen attention to detail. Nestled between 2 ponds w/lovely gardens.

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

Freddie Mac: Better Days Ahead in Housing

Freddie Mac’s chief economist is optimistic that the housing market and economy will improve in the second half of 2011.

Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said mortgage rates will likely remain historical lows of between 4.5 percent and 5 percent for the remainder of the year. Also, he expects more buyers to stop waiting on the sidelines as recent price drops in home prices have improved affordability.

Nothaft said consumers’ uncertainty about the economy has caused them to delay home purchases and other “big-ticket items.”

"Some potential buyers who have the means to buy are awaiting clearer signs that home values have firmed," Nothaft says.

But Nothaft says they should be getting their signs in the second half of the year, with projected job gains, and a growing, improved economy.

"Even though near-term concerns over income and sales growth are restraining consumer spending, business hiring, and new building, a number of positive signs in the economy indicate that growth will continue and is likely to accelerate in the second half of this year," Nothaft said. "Look for a gradual improvement in housing activity in the coming year.”

Source: “Freddie Mac Economist Sees Sunny Economy in Second Half,” HousingWire (June 27, 2011)

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Nose Knows

In today's market, it's the little things that can make or break a sale.  When we think of adding appeal to our home to ready it for sale, many don't think beyond the visual appeal.  But how a home smells can say a lot about your property.  Sensory research shows that the smell of a home can affect a person’s mood, according to Terry Molnar, executive director of The Sense of Smell Institute, a New York–based organization that focuses on the importance of smell to human psychology, behavior, and quality of life.

The Good

A light floral fragrance can put people in a more pleasant mood, while citrus scents, such as lemon and grapefruit, tend to have an energizing effect, he says. "Vanilla is one scent that’s universal around the globe," Molnar says. "People find it comforting and relaxing."

Here are some comments from realtors and stagers about their favorite smells.

"I recommend using lemon or citrus scented candles for showings and running a few lemon wedges through the garbage disposal." −Christine Spitale, Sunflower Staging, Highland Mills, N.Y.

"I think that cinnamon and vanilla are the best smells when trying to sell a home. I love to walk into a home and breathe in the fresh scent of cinnamon sticks on the stove or smell a burning vanilla candle." −Fran Hughes, Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Perimeter, Atlanta

"Heat up some water and throw fresh cinnamon into it. Turn it off just before the buyers come. They’ll think that you baked cookies for them." −April M. Newland, Newland Real Estate, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

"When you introduce any pleasant smelling items to a home, try to stick to basic scents such as vanilla, apple, cinnamon, and lemon. In small doses, these often appeal to the most buyers. A small reed diffuser in a bathroom can keep a clean smell, while not overwhelming the space." −Kellie Frooninckx, Virtual Enriching Homes, Phoenix

The Bad

While a light pleasant smell in the home can be very inviting, be sure that you are not using too many conflicting odors.  Additionally, many buyers may think that you are trying to cover up a bad smell if your scent is overpowering.  If your intent in using scents is to cover up a bad smell, it could make the problem worse.

"Covering up the smell is not the answer. Sometimes it takes a thorough cleaning of carpets, drapes, and upholstery. It also helps to open windows to get air flowing and to clean out the air ducts." −Barbara Linick, ERA Troy, REALTORS®, San Antonio

"I use an odor eliminator called PureAyre that smells like mint. The product can be 'injected' into furniture or carpets. It can also be sprayed into the air. When buyers come into a home, many are turned off by the smell of air fresheners or candles. Smart buyers know these are old tricks used to cover up smells, not eliminate them." −Carol Smith, Creative Home Stagers, Charlotte, N.C.

The Ugly

Okay, so you can't cover up a bad smell.  What is one to do?  Eliminating the source of the odor is the way to go.  Here are some tips from staging professionals:

- Take the trash out. It’s simple, but it can make a big difference. When the home is being shown, empty the garbage often.

- Snuff out the smoke. Eliminate all smoking inside and even outside, particularly when the doors or windows are open. An ionizer can help remove smoke smells.  For extreme cases where indoor smoking has occured for many years, you will have to hire a professional.

- Watch the cooking. The smell of lamb, broccoli, garlic, fish, and eggs can stick around long after the food has been eaten. 

- Wash Fido. Pets can be a big source of smells. Limit the pet to an outdoor area or a certain room in the house that can be regularly cleaned, says staging professional Kellie Frooninckx, owner of Virtual Enriching Homes in Phoenix. Also, clean the pet’s bedding regularly.

- Banish basement smells.  "If the sellers have a basement they may need to get a dehumidifier. Basements are in the ground, a damp environment by nature. So many times we open the basement door and get smacked with a musty odor. Bye-bye good offer." −Colette O’Mara, Weichert, REALTORS®, North Syracuse, N.Y.

Source: magazine

Friday, June 24, 2011

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

A Fantastic 'Must See' in Demand Longacres presented by Stafford Family Realtors
This beautiful one-owner home has been totally updated with Hardwood & Slate floors, Gourmet Kitchen w/Granite Counters, new Carpet & Paint thru-out & 2-Story Great Room. On .93 acre lot!

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

Hot New Home Trends for 2011

The housing market may be down, but it's not out. Houses continue to be built across the nation, especially homes aimed at first-time buyers. But the Great Recession has limited the bells and whistles that many people demanded under their new roof even four years ago. Would-be homebuyers want — and are getting — different things from "home sweet home" today.

From front porches to LED lights, here are the top six things experts say are trendy in new homes for 2011. How does next year's wish list compare to yours?

1. Smaller homes that 'live' the same

"One big trend is the smaller homes," says David Barista, editor-in-chief of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines. In fact, the median size of new U.S. homes fell from 2,277 square feet in 2007 to 2,135 square feet in 2009, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

"There's a couple drivers here," Barista says. "I don't think buyers are looking for that opulence of several years ago; they're looking for something more modest. (But) they still want the amenities and the spaces" in these smaller homes.

So he's not seeing the number of rooms in a home being cut; instead, the size of the rooms — and the overall home size — is shrinking 10% to 15%. That, of course, also brings down the price, which is key in a market in which new houses are competing against foreclosures.

Despite that shrinkage, Barista says homeowners still want nice touches such as quality faucets, higher-end appliances and granite countertops in that smaller kitchen.

2. The old front porch, revisited

Front and side porches are making a comeback, says Kermit Baker, chief economist for the American Institute of Architects, which performs a quarterly Home Design Trends Survey. One reason is simple: Front porches help create a sense of community, something that more traditional suburbs lack.

But something else is driving the interest in front porches, Baker says. Thanks to the recession and the soft housing market, homebuilders have sharply curtailed their construction of big, self-standing communities of hundreds or even thousands of homes. Instead, they're doing more "in-fill," adding dollops of homes here and there among existing homes. Porches can help integrate these homes with the existing community, Baker says.

3. A ‘greener’ home

Not surprisingly, energy efficiency is one of the year's hottest trends.

Efficiency takes many forms, from builders adding insulation in the walls, to better windows with glazing and higher "R-value" — or insulation ability — to sealed ductwork that doesn't leak air, to Energy Star-rated appliances throughout the home. Some builders are even installing low-energy LED lights for accent lighting, Barista says.

"There is a premium that (builders are) paying for these products," Barista says, "but they're doing their best not to pass along all the cost to the consumers."

Ideal Homes is one of many builders now offering a guarantee on ongoing energy savings for homeowners for their new home. The builder "does the math" on the savings for buyers, estimating their savings as part of the sale process.

"Multiple large national builders, including Beazer Homes and Meritage Homes, are now offering energy-efficient homes, some as standard (no premium cost to the buyer) and many rated or certified through third-party programs," Barista says, such as Energy Star or the National Green Building Program.

The trend is less about consumer demand and more about builders needing to stay competitive, not only with other homebuilders but also with existing homes and foreclosures.

"They see 'green' as adding value to their products," Barista says.

4. No 'upstairs, downstairs' drama

Single-story homes remain popular, according to the AIA. Why? It's simple: As the baby boomers age, such homes are easier for older folks to navigate. They're also easier for aged friends or parents to visit, too.

5. The downscaled kitchen and bath

Our desire for big kitchens and bathrooms ballooned during the boom years, and homebuilders were happy to oblige. That's changing.

"Functionality is now preferred to more and larger kitchens and bathrooms within U.S. homes," Baker wrote earlier this year. "But since kitchens remain the nerve center of the home, doing more with less space is a key consideration."

The upshot: Practicality and multiple use rule. Making a kitchen a family space is a priority. Kitchens will have areas devoted to charging laptops, mobile phones and PDAs, Baker says.

In the bathroom, some of the bloom is off the rose. Adding linen closets and storage is in. Adding a doorless shower? Not so much.

6. A home that serves you well

"Buyers are looking for value and how features contribute to the efficiency of their lifestyle," says Stephen Melman, director of economic services for the National Association of Home Builders.

That's why "walk-in closets in master bedrooms and well-designed laundry rooms are likely candidates to repeat as most likely features for 2011," says Melman, whose association is performing a survey of the year's most requested items in homes. Those requests may not be dramatic, but they underscore how homeowners want their home to work easily for them.

And there you have this year's hot house. Get yourself a big master closet and a big front porch and start enjoying yourself in 2011.

By Christopher Solomon of MSN Real Estate

Weekly Market Update: Week of June 20th, 2011

Pending sales in the 13-county Twin Cities were up 33.7% compared to the same week during the post-credit cool-down of 2010.  In total, 901 home buyers entered into purchase contracts.  This marks the fifth consecutive week of double-digit year-over-year gains in pending sales activity.  The last time we could proudly display that badge was for the week ending November 7, 2009.

Seller activity wasn't quite as robust.  New listings were down 9.1% from 2010 to 1,572 new properties.  Increased sales activity in conjunction with stable or falling listing activity should be met with continued market correction, including faster absorption rates, quicker market times and fewer seller concessions.

Inventory levels have begun to round off their seasonal peak, posting their first week-to-week decline in 18 weeks.  The 24,078 active listings currently for sale represent 11.6% fewer than the same time last year.

Moral of the story:  with every new week of truly comparable, unbiased data, our perception of hte market gets more and more clear.  Though we still have a ways to go, we like what we're seeing.

For Sale: 4BR/3+1BA Single Family House in Shorewood, MN, $550,000

This charming Shorewood Estate is presented by Stafford Family Realtors

5965 Eureka Road ~ Shorewood, MN

Nestled on a 1.7+ acre private lot, this English Manor home exudes Old World Charm with all of today’s amenities. Enjoy beautiful living spaces, lush gardens, in-ground pool & pool house.

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

For Sale: 4BR/3+1BA Single Family House in Shorewood, MN, $550,000

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Open Houses: June 26, 2011

2338 Fawn Hill Court - Chanhassen
5 bedroom/4 bath
Open:  12:00 to 2:00

Nestled on a quiet cul-de-sac, this custom built, one-owner home has been beautifully updated & meticulously maintained. Enjoy a Main floor Office, Gourmet Kitchen with new stainless steel appliances and a beautifully finished lower level with bar, game room and family room. Walk to Sugarbush Park. Residents of this neighborhood attend the new state of the art Chanhassen High School and Bluff Creek Elementary.

Click HERE for more information on Fawn Hill Court

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

2350 Hunter Drive - Chanhassen
4 bedroom/3 bath
Open:  12:00 to 2:00

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

Click HERE for more information on Hunter Drive

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Down the Drain: Garbage Disposal Dos & Don'ts

If your kitchen has a garbage disposal, you know how easy it makes mealtime clean up. But what you may not realize is that your disposal comes with some pretty important rules. Here are some of the most vital:

• Insert food slowly. Stuffing it all into your disposal at once can cause clogs and shorten the life of your system.
• Grind hard materials. Many people think food like chicken bones or small fruit pits are a no-no, but they can actually help clean the walls of the disposal.
• Use cold water for at least 20 seconds. This will solidify grease so that it can be ground up. Also, make sure that all food particles are washed completely down the drain.
• Keep it clean. One good way to eliminate drain smells is by grinding citrus fruit peels. You can also add a few drops of dish soap and let the disposal run for a few minutes.

• Use hot water. This will make grease liquefy and build up, which can clog the drain.
• Grind fibrous or expandable foods. The former, like celery stalks and onionskins, can tangle up the disposal. The latter, like pasta and rice, can clog it.
• Turn off the motor too quickly. You'll want to make sure all food particles are completely ground. Once done, continue to run the water for at least 15 seconds to flush out particles.
• Wash coffee grounds down the drain. While they won't harm the disposal itself, they can clog pipes and drains.
• Forget to use it. Lack of use can cause rusting and corrosion, which can lead to premature system replacement.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quarterly Market Report: June 2011

The nation’s homeownership rate is still pretty impressive. According to the latest data from the Census Bureau, two thirds of U.S. households – 66.5 percent – own their own homes. While that is the lowest national homeownership rate since 1998, it’s important to note that the nation is still recovering from The Great Recession, and housing markets are slowly starting to return to health. The Census Bureau’s report provides more detailed breakdowns on homeownership rates. For instance, during 2010, homeownership among those householders who are Asian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaska Native actually increased slightly. The report also breaks out homeownership rates by age cohort. Not surprisingly, older householders have a higher rate of homeownership:

Under 35 – 39.2%
Aged 35 to 44 – 63.9%

Aged 45 to 54 – 72.7%
Aged 55 to 64 – 79%
Aged 65+ – 80.5%

The majority of American households know the value and importance of owning their own home. So let’s look at why homeownership matters to people, to communities, and to America.

Contributions to the economy.

Housing is a key driver of the national economy, accounting for more than 15 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Every home purchase pumps $60,000 into the economy for furniture, home improvements, and related items. Each home sale touches 80 different occupations. Home sales in this country generate more than 2.5 million private-sector jobs in an average year. For every two homes sold, a job is created. In addition, homeowners contribute the bulk of federal income taxes – 80-90 percent – which support federal programs that benefit all Americans.

Homeownership continues to be seen as a good long-term investment.

Apartment rent is expected to rise throughout 2011 and into 2012. Annual rent increases make homeownership a good investment for most households. Most homeowners enjoy stable housing costs—a fixed rate mortgage payment might not change for 15 or 30 years while rent typically increases 3 percent a year. Owning a home is a one of the best ways to build long-term wealth. Historically, a homeowner’s net worth has ranged from 31 to 46 times that of a renter.

Social and civic engagement.

A number of research studies have shown that homeowners are more involved in their neighborhoods, their children’s schools, and the political process than are renters. Homeowners have a higher voter participation rate than do non-homeowners. Mobility rates for homeowners (how often they move) are lower than those for renters, thus providing more neighborhood stability. Children of homeowners do better in school, and stay in school longer.

Article courtesy of the National Association of Realtors
Does all the negative housing news have you concerned or confused?  Please call us! We are your local Real Estate resource!  E-mail Eric or Sharla or check out all of our listings at


Monday, June 20, 2011

Laminate Kitchen Countertops: Perfect Fakes; Low Cost

Once a favorite during the 1960s and 70s, laminate kitchen countertops are enjoying new popularity as an affordable, durable, moisture-proof, and surprisingly attractive replacement for your home’s worn kitchen countertops.

Credit:  Formica Corporation

Shop around and you’ll discover a nearly unlimited selection of richly colored solids, dazzling patterns, and enticing-to-touch textures. Laminates are cagey too: Check out the options that mimic rusted metal and earthy stone slabs and see if you can eyeball the difference.

Why laminate kitchen countertops are cool (and cost-effective)

Laminates are made with layers of paper and melamine resin. Generally, the thicker the product, the more durable and costly it’ll be. Higher-end laminates offer 10-year warranties. Fancy edge treatments kick up the costs too.

In the past, laminate kitchen countertops looked like poor copies of materials, such as wood and stone, because reproduction qualities were poor, and the finished product depended on a repeating pattern about 18 inches wide.

Today, advanced photographic technology creates laminates that look strikingly like the real thing, and unique patterns can be up to 5 feet wide—wide enough to create an entire “granite” kitchen island with no repeating pattern.

Credit:  Formica Corporation

Quick cost comparison

In general, laminate kitchen countertops are your least-expensive option. Compare the costs with other countertop materials, as shown for an average kitchen with 30 lineal feet of countertops, installed:

Laminate:  $1,575
Quartz (engineered stone):  $2,100
Solid Surface:  $2,250
Concrete:  $2,550
Slab granite:  $2,400
Ceramic tile:  $3,900

Durability: Laminate’s Achilles heel

Thankfully, today’s laminates aren’t as prone to chipping and cracks as products from days gone by. However, laminate countertops still are not as long-lasting as other materials, such as stone and solid surfaces. Household cleaners with mild abrasives can dull the surface, acidic liquids can stain the material, and laminates don’t stand up to heat, such as a pot with a hot bottom.

When shopping for laminate, look for long warranties and a melamine resin wear layer strengthened with aluminum oxide—a hard, colorless, inorganic material that makes countertops more resistant to scratches.

Credit:  Formica Corporation

Caring for laminate kitchen countertops

With proper care, a laminate kitchen countertop can last a minimum of 10 to 20 years. Scratches and burns account for the demise of most laminate countertops, so keep knives and sharp objects away from the surface and don’t use your countertop as a cutting board.

Avoid laying hot pots and pans directly on a laminate countertop to avoid permanently scorching the material. Regularly clean countertops with water and a non-abrasive household cleaner.

Credit:  Formica Corporation

By: Jan Soults Walker
With four home renovations to her credit, Jan Soults Walker is a devotee of improvements, products, and trends for the home and garden. For 25 years she’s written for a number of national home shelter publications, and has authored 18 books on home improvement and decorating.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Natural Swimming Pools: 9 Myths Busted

Do you like the idea of a natural swimming pool but get squeamish thinking about mud between your toes and tadpoles clinging to your hair? Environmentally friendly, chemical-free natural swimming pools have low ongoing maintenance costs and are healthy alternatives to conventional pools. They’re fairly common in Europe but less so here in the U.S., largely because of misconceptions. Follow along as we bust some common myths about these beautiful outdoor features.

Myth #1: They’re expensive

Natural pools cost about the same as traditional swimming pools — construction costs start at about $50 per sq. ft. However, because there are no chemicals to add, yearly maintenance costs are hundreds of dollars less. With natural pools, adds Mick Hilleary of Total Habitat in Bonner Springs, Kan., folks tend to add extensive landscaping to complement the natural look.


Myth #2: Natural pools are a lot of work

You’re building a natural ecosystem that basically takes care of itself. Monitor chlorine? Nope. Balance the pH? Relax. The most you’ll have to do is skim fallen leaves off the surface. There aren’t any filters to monitor, either, so you don’t have change out anything. Bonus: No electricity needed to run the filter system.

Credit:  Gartenart  Swimming Ponds

Myth #3: I’ll be swimming with weeds

Most natural swimming pools feature two connected pools — one for swimming, and a shallow pool to hold plants. The root structures of aquatic plants — cattails, water lilies, and duckweed — remove bacteria and other contaminants. Check your state extension service for localized water plants.

Credit:  Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects, Inc.

Myth #4: I’ll be swimming with tadpoles

Any animals attracted to your natural swimming hole, such as dragonflies and frogs, keep to the plant side of the system, which is their natural habitat. And yes, you want them: They eat mosquitoes and their larvae, keeping your backyard free of biting pests.

Credit:  Woodhouse Natural Pools

Myth #5: The bottoms are mud

Sterilized soil is good for the plant pond, but for the swimming pool, you can use concrete, a synthetic or rubber liner, or bentonite clay. At about 35 cents per sq. ft. (not installed), a 3-inch-thick layer of waterproof bentonite is the cheaper option. Adding 3 to 4 inches of pre-washed gravel to the bottom of your plant pond provides a habitat for beneficial bacteria that biodegrade any organic materials.

Credit:  Clear Water Revival

Myth #6: The water gets stagnant

While it’s true that standing, unmoving water can get brackish, it’s easy to continually move water over and around your plants’ roots so they can do their job of natural cleansing. A simple water pump will do the job at much less cost than a standard pool filtration unit. Adding a bubbler to your pool introduces oxygen that plants love. You’ll pay $1,000 to $1,200 for a pro-installed pump and bubbler.

Credit:  Woodhouse Natural Pools

Myth #7: They’re too untraditional

Actually, you can build a natural swimming pool that’s a dead ringer for a regular pool, complete with concrete sides and bottom, and a traditional sky-blue pool color. You can even substitute an out-of-sight gravel filter for the plant pond. Of course, making your natural pool look like Ye Olde Swimming Hole ain’t bad, either.

Credit:  Clear Water Revival

Myth #8: The water isn’t clean

Natural pools use one of two types of biological filters to create water that’s clear, clean, and chemical-free. Water is circulated by pump through either a gravel filter or a plant filter, depending on your preferences and, to some degree, your climate (gravel filters are better in warmer climates). Maintenance is easy: Once a month, remove any loose sediment with a pool vacuum cleaner.

Credit:  Bryan Morse at Expanding Horizons

Myth #9: You have to drain them in winter

Not so. Natural pools simply do what any pond would do — freeze over until spring, when the plant cycle begins again. Pipes for circulating water are underground and protected from freezing.

Credit:  Woodhouse Natural Pools
By: John Riha

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weekend Happenings: Stone Arch Festival and Lake Minnetonka Triathlon

Stone Arch Festival of the Arts

This Father's Day weekend, take the entire family down to the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts, located on and around the historic Stone Arch Bridge in downtown Minneapolis.  In it's 16th year, the two day festival, held on June 18 & 19, 2011, will feature 250 artists, 60 live music performances (mostly local and regional bands), and family entertainment.  The event is free to the public and promises something for everyone in your family.

Lake Minnetonka Triathalon

Summer is the season for Triathlons in Minnesota.  And this weekend, Lake Minnetonka will be the host of one.  The sprint triathlon (0.5 mile swim, 15 mile bike ride, and 3 mile run) on June 18 is full so you can no longer participate in the event, but you can show up and cheer on your fellow athletes.  The race will be held at the Excelsior Commons and starts at 7:30 am.  Stop in at Dunn Bros., grab a coffee, and cheer on the racers!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Double Dip in Housing Market?

First Quarter sales of homes in the U.S. indicate a possible double dip in the housing market. This video, from CBS News talks about it with a smidge of good news at the end of the segment. Check it out:

Monday, June 13, 2011

10 No-Cost, Low-Cost Tips For Saving Money On Energy Bills

The arrival of the summer season and the return of hot, humid weather means the arrival of high home cooling bills is not far off.

Lower your utility bills with these 10 no-cost and low-cost steps to reduce summer energy use:

  • Raise the thermostat setting to 78 degrees to recognize savings of 1% or more on your monthly electric bill for each increase of one degree.

  • Change the direction of a ceiling fan so that the air blows downward. A ceiling fan uses less power than air conditioning and increases comfort, particularly when used in conjunction with raising the thermostat. It can make the room feel 10 degrees cooler.

  • Close drapes during the hottest times of the day to block heat from entering the home. Sunny windows account for a significant amount of unwanted heat and make air conditioners work much harder.

  • Schedule activities that require hot water — such as washing dishes or clothes — for the early morning or late evening. This will result in less heat and humidity being added to your home.

  • Turn off unnecessary lights. Incandescent bulbs add to the heat in the home.

  • Replace old incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights. CFLs use less power, last longer, and generate less heat.

  • Clean or replace air conditioning filters monthly to allow the system to run more efficiently.

  • Install weather stripping and caulk to keep hot air and insects out of the home in the summer, as well as cold air out in the winter.

  • Install a programmable thermostat to adjust the thermostat automatically at times when no one is home.

  • Install heat control film to reduce heat gain through picture windows or other windows on which you do not want to draw the shades or curtains.
Source:  Dominion Virginia Power

Friday, June 10, 2011

Open Houses: June 12, 2011

1705 Martingale Lane -  Victoria
4 bedroom/4 bath
Open:  12:00 to 2:00

This beautiful home shows like a page out of Pottery Barn! Built by Lennar, this former model is the popular Wakefield floor plan. Beautifully finished, this home offers all the amenities & upgrades for a discerning buyer. Enjoy a gourmet kitchen with professional grade stainless appliances, butler's pantry, main floor Office with plantation shutters and a private Master Suite with gas fireplace and large bath. Sited on a large walkout lot with long uninterrupted, south-facing views and a masterfully landscaped yard perfect for entertaining.

Click HERE for more information on 1705 Martingale Lane

5965 Eureka Road - Shorewood
4 bedroom/3 bath
Open:  12:00 to 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
7771 Madelyn Creek Drive - Victoria
3 bedroom/3 bath
Open:  12:00 to 2:00
Located close to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum & charming downtown Victoria, this spacious end unit Townhome shows like New Construction & is completely upgraded! Enjoy a beautiful kitchen with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, 3 bedrooms + Loft and upstairs Laundry. The spacious master suite offers a private bathroom and walk-in closet.
Click HERE for more information on Madelyn Creek Drive

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Weekend Happenings: Excelsior's Art On The Lake

Come enjoy Excelsior's 31st Anniversary Art on the Lake held in the 14-acre Excelsior Commons Park beside beautiful Lake Minnetonka, this weekend June 11th and 12th. Attractions include 200+ juried artists, hands-on art activity tent, dedicated stage with fresh, live music; exceptional food vendors and free shuttle bus service from remote parking lot for attendees. This festival is considered a favorite among our many returning exhibitors and is hugely popular in the Twin Cities area.

• Feast your eyes on a multitude of fine, fun, funky, fabulous art.

• Come hungry. 18 food vendors ready to serve.

• Come thirsty. Biella ‘s Wine & Beer Tent: 11-6 Saturday, 11-4 Sunday.

• Bring your children to the Kids’ Art Tent, Saturday, 11-3 and Sunday, Noon -3

• Park for free at Minnetonka High School and take the Art on the Lake Shuttle to Excelsior Commons.

• Ride the Minnehaha for the special event pricing of just $5 per person.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why It's Time To Buy!

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent article about the right time to buy a house.  Here's an excerpt:

The Clouds Haven't Quite Parted, But the Long-Term Case for Home Ownership Is Looking Stronger.

Back in June 2006, when the housing market peaked, the prospect of a five-year national housing bust seemed unimaginable to most people. And yet here we are, with the latest Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller index showing that prices hit new bear-market lows, falling back to 2002 levels nationally and to 1990s levels in some battered regions.

Despite all the gloom, however, there are growing indications that it is a good time to buy.  To read the rest of this article and see the interactive graphics, click HERE.

Weekly Market Update: Week of June 6th 2011

Buyer activity in the Twin Cities metro area increased a colossal 59.2 percent over last year, the strongest year-over-year gain since the week ending October 3, 2009. That's a win any way you look at it, especially after 52 of the past 53 weeks showed year-over-year declines in buyer activity.

The post-tax credit drop-off seen at this time last year is driving this shift while current purchase levels have been on a modest but steady seasonal uptick. So far, sales levels are on track with 2007 and 2008 trends.

The change at this time last year is also showing up on the seller's side, where 1,523 new homes were introduced, or 3.3 percent more than the same week in 2010.

Overall, we've seen four consecutive weeks of gains in seller activity and three consecutive weeks of gains in buyer activity.

Inventory levels are preparing to round off their seasonal peaks. The 23,920 Active Listings for Sale are currently 10.6 percent below year-ago levels. That marks the 17th consecutive week of declines, a phenomenon not seen since spring 2010.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Most Consumers Say They Can't Afford A Big Down Payment

Only 12% of consumers think they could easily save a 20% downpayment to buy a house, according to a new poll from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

About one in five said they’d need a mortgage that allowed a much lower downpayment, while 17% thought they’d have to borrow the downpayment money no matter how much is required.

Half the respondents said they’d never be able to save enough money for a downpayment. 

“Since prices for homes are at historic lows, the necessary downpayment represents a lower dollar amount than would typically be necessary. Nonetheless, consumers still do not feel capable of meeting the requirements,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC.

The numbers suggest that consumers are reconciled to satisfying their housing needs through renting, even though in some markets it can be more affordable to buy a home than rent. While demand for rentals increased, so did the cost of renting.

Although renting has many advantages, it may not stimulate the economy as much as an uptick in the housing market would, as renters do not typically spend as much on home improvements, lawn equipment, appliances, or other areas which would lead to job growth, Cunningham said.

Source: NFCC Financial Literacy Opinion Index

Friday, June 3, 2011

For Sale: 4BR/2+1BA Single Family House in Chanhassen, MN, $599,900

Presenting an Elegant Home in Demand Longacres from Stafford Family Realtors

2350 Hunter Drive - Chanhassen, MN

This unique home offers a peaceful setting w/private yard w/mature trees! Beautifully landscaped w/large deck & paver patio. Featuring an executive Office, Master BR w/Sitting Room & Great Play Space in the LL!

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

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Weekend Happenings: Grand Old Day

Grand Old Day, St. Paul's first rite of summer, takes place along the city's historic Grand Avenue annually on the first Sunday in June. 

Grand Old Day features activities for all ages including:

*Sporting events

*Grand Old Day parade

*Entertainment District with with nearly 20 local bands

*Art District showcasing regional artists

*Family Fun District which includes inflatables, petting zoo, games, cultural arts/performance and Teen Battle of the Bands.

*Sporting District highlighting local sports teams and organizations

*Over 140 outdoor food and merchandise vendors!

The weather is promising to be beautiful this Sunday, so bring the whole family down to enjoy this free event and make it a fun family tradition. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Deer Run Open House Tour - Thursday Evening, June 2nd

Come tour the Deer Run neighborhood in Victoria on Thursday evening, June 2nd.  We are excited to be a part of this exclusive event.  There will be refreshments and a chance to win a round of golf with a cart on the Deer Run Golf Course.

For more information please give us a call or e-mail Eric or Sharla.  You can also visit our website for more information on these or other listings at

Nationwide Open House Weekend - June 4 & 5

We are excited to be a part of this nationwide event this weekend.  We will have several homes featured in the Longacres Open House Tour on Sunday, June 5th.  If you've been dreaming of living in the Longacres community, this weekend will be your chance to see more homes than you could ever imagine.

Please call us or e-mail Eric or Sharla for more information or visit our website at