Friday, December 30, 2011

Are You SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a medical condition causing periods of severe depression resulting from not enough exposure to sunlight.  It is most prevalent in the northern climates where the days are shorter in the winter and the weather is colder causing people to remain indoors most of the time. 

Surveys show that less than 5% of people in southernmost states, such as Arizona and Florida, experience symptoms, while in a northern city like Seattle, more than 30% of the population cites the ill effects of SAD.

While you may not have the full blown disorder, you could still be affected by SAD each year.  The symptoms include:
  • low energy

  • oversleeping

  • poor concentration

  • irritability

  • avoidance of social situations

  • craving for sweet or starchy foods, with consequent weight gains

Thankfully the days are starting to get longer again.  But there are still many more short daylight hours to contend with.  Here are some strategies you can implement to help you stave off those winter blues.

How your house can help

Turning on a few extra lamps is a natural response, but what your body really craves is more daylight — simply switching on a few more lights won’t do the trick. Typical artificial light can’t hold a candle to the power of daylight.

For example, standard indoor lamps produce only 100 to 1,000 lux (a measurement of light intensity). Compare that to the 50,000 to 100,000 lux of a sunlit sky.

Even an overcast day can pack 10,000 to 25,000 lux. That’s why good interior lighting, although cheering, doesn’t get to the heart of our biological need.

Instead, you need to boost the daylight inside your home, known as daylighting. Try these methods:

1. Trim tree branches and shrubs that block sunlight. An added benefit: cutting back foliage so it’s at least 2 feet away from your house helps prevent water damage to your roofing and siding. Cost: $50 for pruning tools.

2. Add a solar light tube. A 10- to 14-inch reflective solar tube is a relatively simple way to bring outdoor light into otherwise dim areas of your home, such as hallways. Cost: $500, installed on a one-story house.

3. Add a skylight to your home. A skylight provides 30% more light than a window. Cost: $2,500 and up, installed.

4. Add windows. If you have the wall space, consider letting in more daylight with a new window. Cost for a 3-by-5-foot window: $1,000 to $1,500, installed.

5. Add a bay or bow window. These windows bring in a lot of light and give a room a sense of spaciousness. Cost: $5,000 and up, installed.

6. Replace a solid exterior door with an all- or partial-glass door, or a door with glass sidelights. An upscale door replacement is $5,000 to $10,000.

7. Open curtains and blinds so they don’t block natural light. Make a habit of opening your window coverings first thing in the morning. Cost: $0

8. Rearrange furniture in your living room, office, or den so you’ll be closer to bright windows. Place large pieces of furniture against walls so they don’t block light. Cost: $0

9. Get outside. Whenever possible, take a long walk or tackle an outdoors chore. Cost: $0

Professional help

Sufferers whose symptoms get in the way of enjoying normal activities should consult a physician or therapist. Medication, behavioral therapy, and treatments using a special 10,000-lux light therapy lamp are often prescribed.

Source:  Houselogic by Dave Toht

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Importance of Lighting

Don’t forget lighting updates when planning to sell. From front door lighting to bathroom fixtures and everything in between, updating lighting is an important item on a home owner’s checklist when planning to sell a home.



Brushed or satin nickel finishes on lighting fixtures make a subtle impact when a prospect first sees MLS pictures and decides what homes to actually spend the time visiting.

Don’t be left off this list. Get rid of your old brass fixtures. What was once popular is now so out-of-date that it may make prospects focus on what else is out-of-date in the home.  Lighting changes the exterior feel of home as well as the interior ambiance.



Insider Tip: Check out the “commercial multi packs” available from building supply stores that cater to contractors. These packs include new lighting fixtures for multiple rooms. They are aimed at builders who are installing fixtures for the first time in a new home, but when updating a home they are most useful. Many commercial packs also come with additional add-ons in the same style for such things as chandeliers and ceiling fans.

You want all of your lighting fixtures to have clean lines and create a cohesive look. A handyman can install the lighting for a standard three-bedroom home in several hours. Expect to spend about $500 depending on the size of your home plus the cost of the installer. The cost is very well worth it in positioning your home for a successful sale.

Source:  Styled, Staged, & Sold blog, article by Sharon Brown, Homescapes by Design

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Weekly Market Update: December 26, 2011

Another year is almost in the books, and you could sum it up as another "transition year" for the local housing market. There were ups and downs, with positive developments stunted by political paralysis, joblessness or other issues. Nonetheless, the housing sector took important strides forward. Armed with record low mortgage rates, buyers took to the streets and began snapping up excess housing supply off the market. Those sales gains have helped stabilize inventory levels and seller concessions alike. Many consumers are facing tighter household finances, so foreclosures and short sales have seen plenty of demand. While that's limited price gains in many areas, it's also hastened the eventual absorption of distressed properties.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending December 17:

• New Listings decreased 16.9% to 799
• Pending Sales increased 50.1% to 749
• Inventory decreased 23.6% to 19,066

For the month of November:

• Median Sales Price decreased 10.2% to $149,000
• Days on Market decreased 1.8% to 135
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.0% to 90.9%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 30.0% to 5.7

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We believe Christmas is a celebration of the greatest gift of all - a babe who came down from heaven to bring hope, joy and new life to all who just believe.

We hope you enjoy this sweet holiday with your family and friends! May it be full of children giggling in delight, quiet times to enjoy the beauty of your home decorated for Christmas, and the wonderful Christmas movies and music.

Our prayer is that as you celebrate, you will know and fully receive the blessed gift of Jesus Christ in your life!

Merry Christmas!
Eric & Sharla Stafford

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Celebrity Listing: Brad Pitt

While he's best known as an A-list actor and producer, Brad Pitt is also an architecture buff who owns homes in Los Angeles, New Orleans and France -- some with girlfriend and fellow A-lister Angelina Jolie. The Moneyball star recently put one of his properties -- a midcentury modern home set on Malibu's Encinal Bluffs -- on the market for $13.75 million. The actor bought the home for $8.41 million in 2005, shortly after his highly publicized divorce from Friends actress Jennifer Aniston.

UPDATE (12/20/2011): Brad Pitt has sold his Malibu estate for $12 million to comedienne and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

Living Room

Built in 1962, the fully renovated residence features dark bamboo floors and walls of glass that open to sweeping coastline views. The 4,088-square-foot home comes with a family room, a modern kitchen, a breakfast area and a dining room.  Additional amenities of the home include three fireplaces, a security system and a sound system.


The modern stainless kitchen is equipped with top-of-the-line appliances, including a walk-in refrigerator and freezer.


The home's bluff-top location affords spectacular coastal views

Behind private gates, a tree-lined driveway leads past a lap pool and tennis court to the four-bedroom, four-bathroom home.  Hedges and a covered seating area provide privacy around the pool.

Ocean View

Stairs and a pathway lead to a sandy beach cove.
Source:  HGTV Front Door

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why Home Prices Are (and Aren’t) Stabilizing

Home prices are falling again, but some analysts see a silver lining because the prices of homes that aren’t selling out of foreclosure have been holding steady.

CoreLogic reported that home prices in October declined by 1.3% from September and by 3.9% from one year ago. A separate index released Monday by LPS Applied Analytics showed that home prices in September had dropped by 1.2% from August.

“Many housing statistics are basically moving sideways,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at CoreLogic.

Still, the CoreLogic index shows an important emerging trend where home prices are stabilizing after excluding distressed sales.

What’s the difference between distressed sales and non-distressed sales?

Unlike traditional owners, banks are often faster to cut prices in order to unload properties quickly—or what are called “distressed” sales. The upshot is that, the more homes being sold by lenders in any given month the faster prices tend to fall.

This was clear throughout the initial years of the housing bust. Prices declined most sharply in 2008 as banks dumped foreclosed properties at fire-sale prices. Owner-occupants are less likely to list their homes for sale in the winter months, too, which means that each winter there are also drops in prices because distressed sales account for a growing share of sales.

Are prices of distressed homes falling at the same rate as non-distressed homes?

That’s been the case up until recently. While total home prices were down by 3.9% from one year ago, prices were down by just 0.5% from one year ago when excluding distressed sales. In September, total prices were down by 3.8% from one year ago, but non-distressed prices were down by 2.1%.

This shows that while price declines are resuming, they are not yet falling from one-year ago for non-distressed homes. In fact, during the first nine months of 2011, prices of non-distressed homes remained relatively stable, with year-over-year declines between 2% and 3%.

Analysts at Barclays Capital called this “the most important trend in the housing industry right now,” in a report published on Monday.

Why would any stabilization of non-distressed prices matter?

If it’s true that prices of non-distressed homes are stabilizing, even as distressed homes continue to fall in price, it would mean that a distressed home is “increasingly being seen as a poor substitute for a non-distressed home,” writes Stephen Kim, the Barclays housing analyst. He says it’s possible that the “bifurcation between distressed and non-distressed homes will only widen with the passage of time.”

Won’t the overhang of foreclosures put pressure on non-distressed prices anyway?

That’s all too possible. There are more than two million loans in some stage of foreclosure, and it may be too early to argue that those won’t in some way impact the sales prices of non-distressed homes. For one, homes that sell out of foreclosure at significantly lower prices could be used by appraisers as “comparable” sales that may make banks less willing to lend at an agreed sales price for a non-distressed home.

In certain markets where many homes are selling out of foreclosure, it’s hard to simply set aside distressed homes. “You can’t deny the fact that if half of homes that sold in San Diego in a given year were distressed, that is the trend,” said Kyle Lundstedt, managing director at LPS.

What could happen if this trend holds up, with distressed prices falling and non-distressed prices staying flat?

It could stabilize something else: home-buyer confidence. “There is nothing that strikes fear in a homeowner’s heart than to hear that his home value has declined,” writes Mr. Kim of Barclays. “But if it was home price trends that got us into this funk, it stands to reason that a recovery in sentiment will be similarly ushered in once price declines have abated—which is precisely what the CoreLogic price data shows us.”

Source:  The Wall Street Journal, By Nick Timiraos

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Weekly Market Update: December 19, 2011

Today's housing market is like Minnesota Golden Gophers sports. If football's your game, it doesn't look great and hasn't for a number of years. If you're a basketball fan, the results are positive even if you're missing key inventory. If you're into hockey, past glory appears to be on the horizon. It all depends on your angle and how you look at it. Sub-4.0 percent mortgage rates and a 40-percent discount off 2006 prices may make buyers happy, but bank-mediated properties pose challenges to traditional sellers akin to playing a Big 10 schedule without Trevor Mbakwe. Moral of the story? Your level of enthusiasm is dictated by which set of bleachers you're sitting on.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending December 10:

• New Listings decreased 11.3% to 911
• Pending Sales increased 31.7% to 761
• Inventory decreased 23.2% to 19,380

For the month of November:

• Median Sales Price decreased 10.2% to $149,000
• Days on Market decreased 1.9% to 135
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.0% to 90.9%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 30.2% to 5.7

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, December 19, 2011

Designing on a Human Scale

The house of the future — at least the immediate future — probably won’t look anything like what we saw watching “The Jetsons” as kids. But it may very well look like acclaimed architect and author Sarah Susanka’s “not so big” home that’s making its premiere just outside of Chicago.

Susanka designed the show-home for the new SchoolStreet development in Libertyville, Ill., and it’s the first time she’s created a home that is available in the mass market. In partnership with developer John McLinden, Susanka has created a home that integrates technology of the present with the comforts of the past. It’s based on an architectural concept — smarter construction in a smaller footprint — that Susanka has nurtured at least since the 1998 publication of her book, The Not So Big House: A Blueprint For the Way We Really Live.

The SchoolStreet house isn’t small; it’s more than 2,500 square feet. But as a show house, it offers numerous ideas for adapting existing space.

“People are looking not just for a smaller house, but for a better house,” says Susanka. “You can make less square footage feel like more if it’s well designed.”

According to a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders, by 2015 homes are expected to average 2,152 square feet, which is 10.5 percent smaller than the average single-family home built during 2010 (that, in turn, is down from the peak of 2,520 square feet in 2007 and 2008). Susanka’s home embodies the trend toward living well on a smaller scale by incorporating an open floor plan with ceiling accents that define the space, several multipurpose rooms, energy-efficient features, and outdoor entertainment areas. Smart organizational built-ins blend seamlessly, such as a cabinet just the right size for extra toilet paper in the home’s bathrooms and a murphy bed in a first-floor room.

“SchoolStreet houses are designed to align with a cultural shift in how home owners truly want to live — more soulful designs, filled with detail, that are sensitive to the environment and connected to a pedestrian-friendly, vital community,” McLinden said. “For decades, Sarah has been espousing the benefit of such houses. Few people have had as great an influence on the American home and lifestyle as Sarah.”

The SchoolStreet project serves as a beacon of success in today’s housing market and new-home construction. The location was previously home to a luxury townhome development that went into foreclosure. When McLinden purchased the property, he went back to the drawing board to create smaller, high-quality, cutting-edge bungalows, and slashed the prices in half, with homes now starting at $500,000. He also converted Libertyville’s neighboring historic Central School building into 15 loft condominiums. As of early December, 21 of the 26 homes and 5 of the 15 lofts had been purchased.

“I’ve been a REALTOR® since 1978, and in all those years I’ve seen many different developments, but this concept and [Susanka’s] home is the most exciting thing I’ve been a part of,” says Sue Carey, SCRP, GMS, vice president of relocation and corporate services at Century 21 Kreuser & Seiler in Libertyville, which has selling rights to the development.

The SchoolStreet homes feature a new urbanist character, with porches set close to the front sidewalk to make more of a community connection. The 26 homes and 15 lofts are located close to the Libertyville’s vibrant downtown main street and within walking distance of many amenities. The urban lifestyle, Susanka says, is attracting an array of consumers, from downsizers to first-time buyers, from professional couples to growing families.

“From my perspective as an architect and an author, what I hear is people are refocusing on their homes not so much as an investment, but as a wonderful place to live,” Susanka says. “For real estate agents, I think it’s really important to see what people are looking for today. They have been shifted by the economy and by all the uncertainty that’s been coloring our world for the last few years.”

Susanka’s show-home has given both real estate professionals and buyers an example of how to live in a more organized and thoughtful manner, Carey says. “It’s a way of living and a way of readjusting your life so that it has more tranquility to it.” The show-home is open for tours now through May 20, 2012, after which it will be sold. Visit for more information.

Source:  Realtor Magazine - Erica Christoffer is the multimedia Web producer, as well as a writer, editor and videographer, for REALTOR® Magazine.

For more information on builders in our area who offer efficient design/build services, feel free to contact Eric or Sharla

Friday, December 16, 2011

Open House: December 18, 2011

1925 Topaz Drive - Chanhassen
4 bedroom/4 bath
Sq.Ft.:  3,993
Open:  12:00 to 2:00

This is the popular Wakefield floor plan and shows like a model! Enjoy the hickory hardwood floors, upgraded fixtures and custom touches throughout. Over-sized windows fill the home with sunlight all year round. The Gourmet Kitchen features stainless steel appliances, gleaming granite counters and all the amenities a chef will enjoy. Built with family and entertaining in mind, you will find the perfect space for any gathering, from the quiet four season porch to the formal dining room. Ashling Meadows is a beautiful neighborhood, developed by Lennar.  The neighborhood of Ashling Meadows is located in the award-winning Minnetonka School District. Excelsior Elementary, Minnetonka Middle School West and the Minnetonka H.S. are all located within a few miles of Ashling Meadows.Located in Minnetonka Schools!

Click HERE for more information.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Plan Ahead: Winter Break Happenings

Winter break can pose a challenge for some parents.  If you work, you need to either take the time off or find something for your kids to do.  Even if you have the time off, you may be hearing way too much "I'm Bored!" coming from your kiddos.  We're here to help!  Check out some fun things for your family to do during winter break or send the kids off and take a break for yourself!

Winter Adventure Camp
Carver County Parks
December 27-30
9:00 am to 4:00 pm daily
Boys & Girls grades 4-6
Cost:  $100

Learn and develope your outdoor skills indoors and out!  Activities include:
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Geocaching
  • Archery
  • Winter Hikes
  • Birding
  • And much more!
Given the nature of this camp, participants will need appropriate outdoor clothing for programs which will be taking place outdoors for extended periods of time.  Space is limited to 20 students, so sign up fast!  To register visit the city of Chanhassen’s website or they can call the Chanhassen Rec Center 952-227-1122.

Fee includes activities, materials and snacks. Lunch is not provided.
Way-Cool Cooking School, Inc.
16544 W. 78th Street
Eden Prairie, MN 55346
(Highway 5 and Eden Prairie Road near Kowalski’s)
December 27-29
Cost:  $55/class

Way-Cool Cooking School is a seriously fun Cooking School specializing in custom events and entertainment for all ages. The Way-Cool Cooking School believes cooking as a family is important, and want to get families excited about spending time together in the kitchen. They have created a space that is friendly and inviting to both children and adults with locations in Eden Prairie and Woodbury.

The Way-Cool Cooking School in Eden Prairie is offering four different classes for kids ages 7-15. $55 gets your child a morning or afternoon with an experienced chef (and some quiet time for you), and skills that they can put to good use at home!

Winter Wonderland – December 27, 9:00am to 12:00pm
Create a wonderland of goodies. Kids will have a Way-Cool time making: Snowman cupcakes, Snowflake cookies, Holiday Yule Log cake, and Homemade Hot Cocoa.

Cooking Skills Challenge – December 28 1:00 to 4:00pm
Students will plan delicious dishes created to their own tastes while sharpening cooking skills and mastering fundamentals. Chef instructors will take them through essentials such as knife use and kitchen safety, following recipes, measuring, mixing, and monitoring time and temperatures. Parents are welcome to join at the end of the day as the winner is chosen!

Baking and Pastry Extravaganza – December 29, 9:00am to 12:00pm
Kids will enjoy a fun-filled day of baking with a chef instructor to walk them through the fundamentals of baking. They will create Chocolate Pâté à Choux, Vanilla Pastry Cream, and Glazed and Flaky Mini-Scones.

Appetizers from around the World – December 29, 1:00 to 4:00pm
Just in time for New Year’s parties, learn to make fun and fantastic appetizers from Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

Register for classes online or call (952) 949-6799. Classes are also offered in their Woodbury location. Find out more by visiting Way-Cool Cooking School’s website at And since they are “way-cool” of course you can find them on Facebook.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Hwy 5 & Hwy 41
December 30 & 31
Cost:  Free

Arboretum Outdoors with Hoigaard's
Dec. 30, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Oswald Visitor Center. Try snowshoes and Nordic walking, with equipment compliments of Hoigaard's. Free lessons!
Saturday, Dec. 31. Free admission for skiers and snowshoers all day.

The Arboretum has more than 10 miles of cross-country ski trails and 3-plus miles of snowshoe trails. Snowshow rentals are available at the Visitor Center Information desk.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

For Sale: 4BR/2+2BA Single Family House in Chanhassen, MN, $799,900

Presenting Another Stunning Home from Stafford Family Realtors
1925 Topaz Drive ~ Chanhassen, MN

Elegantly finished home in Demand Ashling Meadows!  This exceptional home features a Main floor office, redesigned Kitchen, gorgeous hickory flooring and a 4 Season Porch that leads out to the spacious deck on a private lot.

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

Weekly Market Update: December 12, 2011

As another new year approaches, we find ourselves settling in for the holidays, which typically come with slowed real estate activity. In the first week of the full holiday shopping season, we saw sales increase. We're talking about residential real estate, of course, although retail performed surprisingly well, too. Sellers listed fewer properties during the week, choosing instead to hunker down in their living rooms rich with the aromas of pine-scented candles and cinnamon cider sticks.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending December 3:

• New Listings decreased 9.3% to 1,006
• Pending Sales increased 36.4% to 885
• Inventory decreased 22.9% to 20,031

For the month of November:

• Median Sales Price decreased 9.9% to $149,500
• Days on Market decreased 1.8% to 135
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.0% to 90.9%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 30.5% to 5.7

Monday, December 12, 2011

For Sale: 4BR/2+1BA Single Family House in Shorewood, MN, $469,000

Presenting Another Beautiful Home from Stafford Family Realtors

26820 Marsh Pointe Circle ~ Shorewood, MN

This home shows like a model!  Gourmet Kitchen, Main Floor Office w/ built-ins, a 2 story Great Room w/ floor to ceiling windows & stone Fireplace.

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

For Sale: 4BR/2+1BA Single Family House in Shorewood, MN, $469,000

Easy, Low-Cost Bathroom Makeovers

Are you looking to add some pizazz to your bathroom before holiday guests use your facilities? If you’re long on determination but short on time and cash, here are some quick, fun makeover ideas that will impress visitors, make your family proud, and help preserve the value of your home.

Revamp Your Floor

Credit:  Marie Haigh/Knitted Gems
 Wood floors give any room a warm elegance. Putting wood in a wet bathroom environment, however, is problematic. Enter sturdy vinyl flooring with a simulated wood finish. Durable and resistant to moisture, vinyl wood planks come with a textured finish that mimics real wood, making them hard to tell from the real thing. Choose oak, maple, and even exotic look-alikes. Costs range from $1 to $4 per sq. ft., and you can finish a small bath in a day.

Get A Handle On It

credit: Three Dogs at Home

Sometimes, a little bit can go a long way. Replacing hardware, such as your toilet handle, upgrades your bathroom for a mere $10 to $15. Also consider replacing your cabinet hardware, including pulls and handles, your door hardware, and towel racks.

Painted Ceilings


Although Michelangelo would have admired the neck-straining effort it took to complete this ceiling transformation, he would’ve been surprised at the exceptionally low cost: A $40 plastic stencil, some low-VOC paint, and about $60 worth of crown molding create a one-of-a-kind makeover guaranteed to put a smile on your guests’ upturned faces.

John Gets Formal Attire

Credit:  Rhoda at Southern Hospitality Blog

Moldings and wall treatments make a serious upgrade — for not-so-serious cash. The wainscoting for this toilet stall is actually wallpaper that looks like beadboard. Topping the wallpaper with chair rail molding completes the transformation, all for about $50 and a few hours’ work.

Update Outdated Trim

Credit:  Addicted 2 Decorating

Using 220-grit sandpaper, #000 steel wool, spray-on automobile primer, and metallic spray paint, blogger Kristi Linauer of completely changed her old brass trim and shower fixtures by painting them. The key, she says, is preparation — and plenty of painter’s masking tape.

Source:  Houselogic

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekend Happenings: Holidazzle Parade & Macy's 8th Floor

Why not spend some time in downtown Minneapolis this weekend.  For many twincitians, a trip downtown on a weekend in December is a time-honored tradition with family and friends to shop, eat, and attend the Holidazzle Parade and Macy's 8th Floor.  Maybe you should try it, too!

Holidazzle Parade
Nicollet Mall, Downtown Minneapolis
Thursday-Sunday every weekend from Nov 25 to Dec 18
6:30 pm
Cost:  Free, Hot Seats - $9

Once again it's time to bundle up the kids, pick up the grandparents and head to the Target Holidazzle Parade. Every year since 1992, when the first parade marched down Nicollet Mall, over 300,000 spectators converge on downtown Minneapolis to join the sparkling fun.  Brave the wind and the weather on the street or find a spot up above in the warm and dry skyways.  If you're willing to plunk down some cash you may score a Hot Seat in the heated tent where all the action is. 

For the 14th year the parade will be collecting money and food for the Emergency Foodshelf Network.  Donations can be given before or during the parade. 

Check it out with the parade link above or on facebook.

Macy's Annual Santaland and Puppet Theater
Macy's Department Store, Downtown Minneapolis
8th Floor Auditorium
Sat. Nov 19 through Fri. Dec 30
Generally open 10am to 8pm but times vary so check here before you go
Cost:  Admission Free, pictures w/ Santa extra, Theater tickets $4.

The 49th annual holiday show will delight guests of all ages. Join Macy's for the animated tale of "A Day in the Life of an Elf", a story depicting young elves as they prepare for Christmas at the North Pole.

Afterwards, have your photo taken with Santa himself and be sure to tell him what you're wishing for. Ask his elves about the photo packages.

And, be sure to visit Mrs. Claus' Bakery, which includes fresh gingerbread cookies and many other holiday treats; Santa's Toy Shop, filled with family friendly gifts; and Macy's Puppet Theater.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kitchen Trends for 2012

If you're looking to build a home in the coming year, planning to update your home for selling or just want to have an updated kitchen, you might want to think about incorporating some of these kitchen design trends for 2012.

Design Style

Kitchens are being recognized as not only the heart of the home, but also quite often the focal point and centerpiece.  Often open to large great rooms, the kitchen now looks less "kitcheny" and more often like an inviting place to gather and entertain.  One component of this trend is the integration and concealment of appliances, which opens the kitchen floor plan, embracing adjoining areas of the home, rather than becoming an intrusion into them.

The decorative elements that are strong right now include natural finishes like wood and stone but they are complimented by glass, shiny metallics, special attention to lighting details, and even crystal.

Traditional style remains the most popular kitchen design, although it has dropped slightly in popularity compared to last year. Shaker style, which is characterized by its simplicity, un-ornamented yet functional, finely crafted style, overtook ‘contemporary’ style in 2011 as the No. 2 most popular kitchen design style, and that trend should continue into 2012.


Sleek, shiney, stainless steel appliances are still on trend for 2012.  Since stainless steel has been used in the best kitchens for over a century due to its universal appeal, its ability to provide a sterile surface, its shiny appearance, as well as its association with luxury.

The second most popular color is currently black, which is due to its more formal appearance in relation to the rest of the common areas of your home.  The top 5 colors list is rounded out by grays, beiges, and bones.

Concealed appliances, such as warming drawers and steam ovens are more popular than ever. By hiding appliances away during your kitchen remodel, you allow more space to incorporate multiple guest functionality. Kitchens are fast becoming a warm gathering place for the clients family and friends.  

Warming Drawer


Maple cabinetry looks to be the front-runner in 2012. As for finishes, various shades of white/off-white hues, some finish distressing or glazes remain popular. Dark natural finishes also have been trending. Light natural and colored painted finishes also remained fairly common.

A mix and match approach is still trending where some stand-alone pieces are stained a different color from the rest of the kitchen.  And furniture-looking pieces are still popular.


Natural stone and quartz counters remain remodeling prospect favorites, but other renewable and recycled materials, such as laminate, concrete, paper, glass and stainless steel are seeing increased interest. Consider a low-maintenance surface to help cut down on cleaning and disinfecting time!

Quartz countertops

Concrete countertops

Whether your building new or remodeling, we hope this gives you some great ideas for your kitchen in 2012.  Let us know your thoughts.  What do you think are the best trends in kitchens for 2012?

Sources:  Stanton Homes, MBC Building & Remodeling, Slices of Life

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trees for Toys Event - Success!

This year, as we do every year, we co-chaired the Trees for Toys event at our Minnetonka Coldwell Banker Burnet offices.  Each year we collect toys for the Toys for Tots program and in exchange we give our clients either a Christmas Tree or a Wreath.  We serve yummy treats, have fun things for the kids to do and of course Santa is there to take down all the kids' requests.  And it's a great time to catch up with all of our clients/friends. 

This year we broke a record for the most toys collected!  We were able to collect 670 toys with 600 families participating!  What a great achievement!  We want to offer our heartfelt thanks to all of you who helped make this a super fun and very successful charity event.

Because of our great success, we were contacted by KARE11.  Eric will be on TV tonight (Tuesday, December 6) during the Toys for Tots segment to present our donation to the program!  Be sure to tune in and watch him freeze in the cold weather.

Weekly Market Update: December 5, 2011

Tryptophan and chatty in-laws were not able to curb the appetite of local home buyers, as purchase activity easily gobbled up last year's levels. Sellers were apparently stuffed and lethargic, as they brought fewer new properties onto the market than during the same holiday week last year. As we approach the slowest time of year for residential activity, expect transacted dollar volumes and sales counts to weaken from the spring and summer of this year. Keep watching inventory declines; they could have a measurable impact on the Spring 2012 market.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending November 26:

• New Listings decreased 9.1% to 601
• Pending Sales increased 46.8% to 574
• Inventory decreased 22.8% to 20,318

For the month of October:

• Median Sales Price decreased 9.6% to $154,500
• Days on Market decreased 0.5% to 134
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 0.9% to 91.2%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 27.6% to 6.3

Monday, December 5, 2011

Making It Merry

Yes, you can give your holiday décor that designer touch—without blowing the budget or investing time better spent celebrating with friends and family. Interior designer Richard Anderson of Cherub Designs shares a few of words of experience:

➻ Go with what you love. If you’re into glitz, great, more is more! If you like a more laid-back handcrafted style, do it.

➻ Hunt for a tree with character. Whether it’s fake or real, look for character and depth—you don’t want it to be perfectly symmetrical and sheared within an inch of its life. Own an artificial tree? Buy fresh eucalyptus boughs and nestle them in the branches to add a refreshing scent.

➻ Decorate the tree from the inside out. Begin by placing lighting closest to the trunk, and work your way out. Likewise, add ornaments in layers; if branches are widely spaced, hanging ornaments closer to the trunk gives the display depth and interest.

➻ Buy Christmas décor after Christmas—but rather than heading directly to big-box stores, check out nurseries. Bachman’s, Gertens, and the like usually have more variety than department stores and offer great bargains after the holidays.

➻ Buy in multiples. Five or six of something is better than one; it gives a sense of continuity.

➻ Group holiday collections together to make a visual statement. Arrange several collected mini-snowmen on a silver tray, or fill an apothecary jar with vintage ornaments—you can make something Old World look modern simply by changing the way you display it.

➻ If you don’t want to go all out, create a few big hurrahs that will be memorable. Make an impression by decorating the front door and the tree, and adding a centerpiece to the dining table. No need to put holly on every windowsill.

Remember, in a few weeks it’s all coming down. Keep it manageable and you’ll enjoy it more.

Lila Battis is an intern at Midwest Home magazine.