Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top 5 Energy Efficient Improvements

Experts say that you have to do at least five energy efficient improvments to your home before you start seeing savings in your utility bills.  Not everyone can afford to replace their appliances or all their windows.  So if you only had $1,000, what top 5 things should you spend your money on?  Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of Shelton Group, a marketing agency specializing in sustainability and energy efficiency, sat down for a Q&A with HouseLogic to talk about simple things you can do to improve the efficiency of your home.

1. Caulk and seal all penetrations into the home. I’ll tell you, I had a home energy audit done three years ago, and even though I do this for a living, I was astonished. When the guy walked me down into my basement and showed me all the penetrations from plumbing lines and electricity wires, I couldn’t believe all the gaping holes in my house. Buy a few cans of Great Stuff and take a weekend to go around and seal everything, filling around windows, too. It takes time and it’s a pain, but it works.

2. Hire an HVAC contractor to take a hard look at all your ductwork — are there any ducts leaking that need to be re-sealed? — and give you an HVAC tune-up. You might spend a couple hundred bucks, but you can save significantly depending on how old or out of shape your HVAC system is.

3. Replace all your lighting with CFLs or LEDs. Most people tell us they’ve replaced all their incandescents, but it just isn’t true. The DOE says that only about 13% of sockets are filled with CFLs right now.

4. Program your thermostat. Most people who buy programmable thermostats don’t program them. If we actually programmed them not to heat the furniture while we’re away, that would be smart.

5. Reduce the temperature on your water heater. The Department of Energy recommends 120 degrees. If you have a tank water heater, it keeps a certain amount of water hot and ready to go all day, so lowering the temperature reduces the energy you use to heat the water.

If, after you’ve done all those relatively low-cost things, you want to make a little bit more of an investment, consider adding insulation to your house.

No one wants to do these things because they’re not sexy, and they’re kind of a pain, and windows seem more appealing. But I’d do all these activities before I replaced my windows.

Source:  HouseLogic

Weekly Market Update: January 27, 2012

The week left yet another trail of evidence leading back to a housing market on the mend. This time, the encouraging signs were even less clandestine. Nationally, both new and existing home sales enjoyed improvements. Even some December numbers were upwardly revised. New home sales have real and noticeable impacts on GDP, thus generating jobs and driving down unemployment. The overall bias for the entire U.S. is firmly toward balance. Locally, market activity was mostly positive. Spring will still be the major tell.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending February 18:

• New Listings decreased 7.1% to 1,256
• Pending Sales increased 28.6% to 899
• Inventory decreased 23.2% to 17,756

For the month of January:

• Median Sales Price decreased 3.4% to $140,000
• Days on Market decreased 8.5% to 142
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.4% to 91.2%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 34.2% to 4.7

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, February 27, 2012

When To Repair Or Replace Large Appliances

When your refrigerator, dishwasher, or washing machine act out, you may feel torn about whether to call a technician or junk the unit in favor of something new. In times of plenty, it’s easy to convince yourself that a product requires replacement when all it really needs is a minor repair. But today, your more prudent self may be scrutinizing every financial decision. Conversely, the cost of repair can be a case of throwing away good money that could be better spent on a more energy-efficient model.

Use these six guidelines to home in on the smart choice for you the next time your appliances behave badly.

1. Still under warranty?

Here’s the simple part. Check the owner’s manual and your records to see if the unit is still under warranty. If so, schedule a service call with an authorized technician.

Warranties vary widely between manufacturers, appliances, even retailers. Most cover parts and labor for a specified time, followed by a period of just parts. If you purchased an extended warranty from the retailer, examine that document as well.

2. No longer under warranty—how old is it?

The closer an appliance is to the end of its average useful life, the wiser it is to replace rather than repair, says Jill A. Notini, vice president of communications for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Average Useful Life is the typical age at which an appliance needs to be replaced because it dies or proves too costly to repair.

Given that most refrigerators last an average of 14 years, it may not be financially prudent to repair a 12-year-old model. Conversely, it might make sense to fix an 8-year-old built-in oven knowing that generally, it should last 16 years.

3. The 50% rule

For appliances that are no longer under warranty but still in the prime of their useful life, consider the 50% rule. If the cost of the repair will be more than half the price of a comparable replacement, it’s generally wise to replace it, says Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor at Consumer Reports magazine. The rationale? For the price of the repair and one future repair, you can enjoy a more reliable new machine.

To help make your decision, get a repair estimate. Service calls come with a price whether or not the appliance gets fixed, so factor that into your decision. Angie’s List pegs the average cost of an appliance service call at $60 to $100, not counting the repair itself. Many service providers will deduct these charges if they’re hired to complete the repairs. If you decide to go ahead with the repair, expect additional service visits to complete the process.

4. Can you fix it yourself?

Because labor accounts for more than half the cost of a typical repair, you can save big by tackling jobs yourself. Numerous online resources can help diagnose and fix common appliance ailments. Many of these same sites also maintain databases of owner’s manuals while connecting appliance owners with reputable parts suppliers.

The downside? You risk causing additional damage to machines if you’re not the handy person you thought you were. Worse, there’s the danger of physical harm. And self-help repairs often nullify warranties.

5. Factor in future energy and water savings

Present-day appliances are so much more energy and water efficient than previous models that it can be fiscally wise to upgrade rather than repair. A modern refrigerator uses roughly half the electricity of its 20-year-old predecessor, says Notini. New dishwashers get plates every bit as clean as older machines while using a fraction of the water and energy.

But replacing an aging appliance with a new highly efficient one still requires some evaluation. “If you intend to stay in your home for another 10 to 15 years, it may be worthwhile to upgrade to the latest efficient model, Notini says. If you’re planning a move soon, it may be smarter to repair it and pass it on to the next homeowner.

6. Take into account hidden costs

There’s more to the cost of replacing an appliance than the price of the new machine. If you have built-in cook-tops and refrigerators, you may face costly modifications to countertops and cabinetry when you replace, says Lora C. Donoghue, a kitchen designer in Charlotte, N.C. Even so-called standard-size machines may not fit into the same space as your previous model as standards continue to evolve.

Or the placement of water connections and power outlets may differ. And switching from an electric range to gas can involve a costly visit from the plumber or utility company. Likewise, upgrading from an older gas range to a newer one with electronic features may require the installation of a new wall outlet.

Although these guidelines can help you make an orderly fiscal decision, you may find that your enjoyment of a new unit—perhaps your dream appliance is on sale—simply trumps everything else.

Source:  HouseLogic

Friday, February 24, 2012

Open Houses: February 26, 2012

4211 Kings Road - Chanhassen
4 bedroom/4 bath
SqFt: 3,734
OPEN:  12:00 to 2:00

Pulled from the pages of a Pottery Barn catalogue, this beautifully finished home features designer touches throughout. Enjoy the warm, sun-filled rooms perfectly designed with family and entertaining in mind. Good food and good company are two of life’s greatest pleasures and this Gourmet Kitchen is where it all comes together. Expertly crafted cabinetry, granite counters and harlequin tiled backsplash finish off this French country inspired space. Complete with an informal dining area, this is truly the heart of the home. You’ll enjoy curling up with your morning coffee on the large window seat and watch the sun rise. The Great Room features a wall of windows, cozy gas fireplace and enameled bookcases & entertainment center. This space is perfect for relaxing with family or entertaining with style. The second floor is where you will find the Master Suite with its vaulted ceiling and private bath offering spa finishes. It includes a large soaking tub, separate shower, Water Closet as well as custom mirrors and light fixtures. In addition to the master Suite, there are 3 Junior Bedrooms, two share a spacious Jack & Jill Bath and the third bedroom has an en-suite Bath – or Princess/Guest Suite. There’s plenty of room for playing in the spacious 2nd floor Bonus Room. The lower level is unfinished and ready for you to finish to your liking. Nothing compares to spending time outside and the large deck spans the back of the home and is the perfect perch to watch the kids at play. Enjoy a short walk to Roundhouse Park that has a skating rink and warming house as well as large playground and the Lake Minnewashta beach is perfect for swimming or fishing off the pier. This home is located in the award winning Minnetonka School District. Children in this neighborhood attend Minnewashta Elementary, Minnetonka Middle School West and Minnetonka High School. The City of Chanhassen is desirable to families and businesses alike. The many festivals and events held throughout the year receive tremendous support from the local businesses; it is these celebrations of community that keep the small town feel alive in Chanhassen. For information or to schedule a private showing, please call 952.470.2575.

Click HERE for more information.

2484 Gunflint Court - Chanhassen
5 bedroom/4 bath
SqFt:  3,858
OPEN:  12:00 to 2:00

Only available do to relocation, this Longacres home features a Great Room floor plan with a Gourmet Kitchen offering cherry cabinetry, granite counters and refinished hard wood floors. Other features include a main floor Office, Private Master Suite and fully finished lower level with a custom entertainment center, fireplace, wet bar and Exercise Room. Walk to one of the two neighborhood parks and enjoy the close proximity to the City of Chanhassen and Village of Excelsior! To schedule a private showing, please contact Stafford Family Realtors at 952.470.2575.

Click HERE for more information.

For Sale: 4BR/2+2BA Single Family House in Chanhassen, MN, $612,000

 Presenting Another Exceptional Home from Stafford Family Realtors

4211 Kings Road ~ Chanhassen, MN

Pottery Barn Beautiful!  This Exceptional home features a Gourmet Kitchen w/custom cabinetry, granite counter tops, harlequin tiled back splash, upgraded fixtures, an upstairs Bonus Room, large backyard & a spacious Trex deck!

For more information please visit http://www.staffordfamilyrealtors.com/or for a private showing please call 952.470.2575


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Weekend Happenings: Fight Hunger and Get Techy

The Hunger Initiative
Various Locations
Saturday, January 25, 2012
9:00 am start, register for specific times
Cost:  Free but registration is required

In the Horn of Africa twelve million Somalis, Kenyans, and Ethiopians are starving due to the worst drought since the 1950s. On February 25, 2012; eleven churches, three packing organizations and thousands of volunteers will join together to pack one million meals for the Horn of Africa.

The Hunger Initiative is partnering with three Minnesota organizations and World Help to provide over 1 million highly nutritious meals to the Dadaab Refugee Camp. Your time and financial support of this project will save thousands of lives.

Sign up to pack food at one of 8 locations: 

Clover Ridge Elementary School      SOLD OUT
114000 Hundertmark Road, Chaska
Hosted by: Westbrook Church

Hope Academy        SOLD OUT
2300 Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis
Hosted by: City Church partnered with Wooddale Church

Maple Grove Community Center
12951 Weaver Lake Road, Maple Grove
Hosted by: Northwood/New Life Community Church

Nisswa Elementary School
5533 County Road 18, Nisswa
Hosted by: Timberwood Church

Shakopee Junior High School
200 10th Avenue East, Shakopee
Hosted by: Brookwood/Bridgewood/Oakwood Churches

Westwood Church
3121 Westwood Drive, Chanhassen

Woodcrest Church
525 Cliff Road, Eagan

Wooddale Church     SOLD OUT
6630 Shady Oak Road, Eden Prairie

Monetary donations can be given to one of three organizations that help fight hunger:  Kids Against Hunger, Impact Lives, Feed My Starving Children.  Additional donations will be accepted on site the day of packing.

Thousands of volunteers will gather together to package one million meals on Saturday. It’s a great event for the entire family. Join in and make a difference!

Tech Fest 2012
The Works
9740 Grand Ave. S
Bloomington, MN 55420
Saturday, February 25, 2012
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Cost:  $5

It's a festival of hands-on engineering fun for kids ages 5-12 and their families and celebrates National Engineers Week. Make fun, educational take-home projects, see exciting science, space, and chemistry shows, and explore hands-on engineering activities like Tech Take-Apart and Circuit Play.

Events include a live Space Show and a live Chemistry Show.  Activities include circuit play, magnets, mini flashlights, silly putty, chemistry experiments, papermaking and robots.  This event takes place at our new facility in Bloomington (map).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hot, Hot, Hot Color Trends

Karen Wistrom, vice president of marketing for Minnesota cabinetmaker Dura Supreme, is also a certified interior designer and a longtime member of the International Color Marketing Group, an organization of color professionals that tracks trends and forecasts color.

According to Wistrom, the economy is the predominant factor driving color trends in 2012. “People are looking for color palettes that are going to be longer lasting instead of trendy or changing seasonally,” she says. “Gray, for example, has emerged as an extremely popular color in the past few years. It is a safe, neutral color that transcends time.”

Gray Room

Not all is dismal, however. In fact, she says, that same bleak economic picture pushes people toward accent colors that are rejuvenating. Thus, color-watchers also predict counteractive brights in Pantone’s dynamic pick for color of the year, Tangerine Tango, and CMG’s color of the year, Boyz-N-Berry, a deep rich purple with red undertones.

Tangerine Tango Chair

Boyz-N-Berry Wall

Another palette with legs: eco-earthy. “The desire for all things eco-friendly,” says Wistrom, “translates in the rising popularity of landscape colors, such as earthy greens, blues, and reds.”

Source:  Midwest Home Magazine

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Weekly Market Update: January 20, 2012

The National Association of Homebuilders index recently rose to levels not seen since 2007. Historically, it's been a great leading indicator of housing starts. We lead with this information because it is just the latest in a series of testimonials toward a market with some wind in its sails. In as few as four months, the residential real estate scene could look quite different than it has in recent years. That's not to say that we're wave riding our way to a national housing boom, but market fundamentals could be steering the rudder in the direction of calmer waters. For sellers eager to get out but unwilling to take capital losses, that's more relieving than the usual threat of hull breach.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending February 11:

• New Listings decreased 0.4% to 1,313
• Pending Sales increased 28.9% to 928
• Inventory decreased 23.5% to 17,690

For the month of January:

• Median Sales Price decreased 3.4% to $140,000
• Days on Market decreased 8.5% to 142
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.4% to 91.2%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 34.6% to 4.7

If you have any questions pertaining to the market conditions in your area, please give us a call.  We'd be happy to discuss it with you.

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Hidden Dangers of Gas Fireplaces

Shari Christiansen will never forget that cold October day when her 13-month old son Brandon started screaming.

“It was the worst scream I’ve ever heard. It was just bloodcurdling,” Christiansen says.  The toddler had scampered up to the gas fireplace in the family’s Spokane, Wash., home and touched the scalding hot glass.

"He was stuck, hands pressed up against the glass,” his mom remembers. “And I just ran as fast as I could and I just grabbed him and peeled him off.”  Brandon had third-degree burns on both hands. In the year or so since the accident, he’s had three skin grafts. A fourth operation is scheduled for next month.

"It's horrible," Christiansen says."You never want to see your kid go through something like that."

It’s estimated that hundreds of kids in this country are seriously burned each year by the super-heated glass on gas fireplaces. That glass can reach 500 degrees or more.

Toddlers are naturally attracted to flames. They move so quickly, parents can't always stop them in time. But the danger doesn't go away as soon as the fire is turned off. The glass stays extremely hot long after the flames are gone.

At first glance, it would seem that these terrible accidents could be prevented with better supervision.  Pediatrician Beth Ebel is director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle. She sees these burns all winter long.  Dr. Ebel cautions against blaming the parents who may be unaware of the danger. In fact, they may think the unit is safe because the fire is contained and not accessible to their child.

Safety experts believe this is a design problem that must be addressed by the manufactures.  Right now there are no federal regulations that require manufacturers to protect kids (or anyone else) from the hot fireplace glass. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been asked to do that. But right now, the CPSC is allowing the industry to develop a fix.

“We feel like they are on the right path,” says CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson. “And they can do it a lot faster than we could via the regulatory process.”

The industry has proposed new safety standards that would require all new gas fireplaces to come with a barrier that keeps hands and fingers away from the hot glass. In most cases, this would be a screen of some kind that attaches to the frame around the glass.

We’re encouraged because we think we’ve come up with a really good physical barrier,” says Jack Goldman, president of the Hearth, Barbecue & Patio Association. “You will not get a burn from touching the screen, even though maybe an inch away is the glass that is hot.”

If the standard is approved, installers would be required to attach the screen or other barrier that comes with the fireplace before they leave the house. These screens would not block the view of the flames, so the fireplace has the same ambiance – it’s just a lot safer.

Two big companies already offer safety screens. A few years ago, Hearth and Home Technologies made safety screens standard of all of its gas fireplaces.

The Lennox Safety Guard was developed to settle a class action lawsuit. It’s available for both new units and those already installed. (Click here to order your free Safety Guard.)

The consumer advocates prefer a barrier that’s part of the fireplace, so it does not need to be installed and cannot be removed. But they seem willing to watch and wait to see if the industry’s proposed fix works.
“We’ll need to see if these screens are being attached by the installer and if not, we’ll have to push for federal regulations,” says Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety at the Consumer Federation of America.

If you already have a gas fireplace, burn prevention experts encourage you to buy a free-standing screen that goes in front of your fireplace. Most fireplace shops sell them for $100 or less. They’re not perfect, but they’re better than nothing.

The Christiansen’s now have a barrier in front of their fireplace. Shari encourages other parents to realize the danger and guard against it.

Source:  Life Inc. Blog, TODAY online, By Herb Weisbaum, The ConsumerMan

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekend Happenings: Ice Fishing & History

Take a Kid Ice Fishing
Lowry Nature Center
7025 victoria Drive, Victoria
Saturday Feb. 18
1:00 to 4:00
Cost:  $7

Participate in a "Take a Kid Ice Fishing" weekend.  Start at Lowry Nature Center and learn ice fishing techniques and ice safety, discover the gear needed to get started and make a jigging pole.  Then drive to Lake Auburn to learn about making holes in the ice andd try catching some fish.  Bring ice fishing equipment or borrow from Lowry.  Adults with children younger than 16 need not purchase a license for this program.  Reservations required:  reference activity 111301-85.  For ages 4 and older.  (763) 559-6700 or threeriversparkdistrict.org.

President's Day Family Fun
The Landing - Minnesota River Heritage Park
2187 E. County Road 101 - Shakopee
Saturday Feb. 18
11:00 am to 3:00 pm
Cost:  $5 for ages 2 and older; children 2 and under Free

Celebrate Presidents Day with Abraham Lincoln.  Attend a one-room schoohouse like Abe, assemble kid-sized log cabins and create a hat inspired by the President or the First Lady.  Spend time outdoors and ride a kick sled or snowshoe, then enjoy the warmth of a hot beverage and a cookie.  Park and enter at West enterance.  Reservations required: reference activity 138407. For all ages. (763) 559-6700 or threeriversparkdistrict.org.

Carver County Historical Society
555 West First Street - Waconia
Saturday Feb 18
Cost:  Free

In conjunction with the new traveling exhibit, "Why Treaties Matter:  Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations", the Carver County Historical Society hosts author and former State Representative Dean Urdahl to discuss his novel, "Uprising:  The Dakota Conflict of 1862."  Uprising helps to tell the story of the 1862 Dakota Conflict, the story of what occurs when treaties aren't honored and conflict erupts. Following the book discussion, attend a panel/roundtable discussion with exhibit creators and Native leaders. (952) 442-4234; hgoult@co.carver.mn.us; treatiesmatter.org.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Two Must-Have Redos

The top designers these days have a secret weapon to determine the latest trends in home design:  Pinterest.  Pinterest is a new social media site where members “pin” photos they like from around the Web to themed image boards on their personal page. Pins are shared with friends and other users, and Pinterest offers an integration option to share images to Facebook and Twitter.

And what are the hottest trends in home design that you should pay attention to?  A dedicated, well-organized laundry space, and smart storage/organization features.  They are the gifts that keep on giving.

Laundry Room

A laundry room inspirational
image posted by a Pinterest user
(original source: toriejayne.blogspot.com)

Because many working professionals only have a few hours to enjoy their home after a long day’s work, they should make the most of it.   Disorganization takes away from the tranquility of a space. Consider the laundry room. How many people dread their laundry space? The answer is too many.

Enhance laundry room space with shelving and cabinetry installed surrounding the washer and dryer. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Target or Ikea may suffice. Consider what can be stored in that space – laundry detergent, other household cleaners, and iron and ironing board, towels, bedding, and, of course, dirty laundry. Add bins or baskets for separate loads for instant sorting. A big enhancement, if there’s room, is the addition of a rolling table where one could fold clothes, or even use for arts and crafts projects.  Pull-out mesh "drawers" for drying delicates would make some people swoon.

Smart Storage

A pinned image of smart family
storage solutions on Pinterest
(original source: oakridgerevival.blogspot.com)

Who hasn't been frustrated the minute they walk in the door because they have to step over backpacks, boots and other outdoor gear?  No one wants to walk into chaos which is why efficient storage is such a hot item, especially in entry areas of your home.  In terms of smart storage, why not add dedicated towers or cubbies for each member of the family – even one for the pets. Add names to them, make it feel like their own, and place it near a widely used entrance. It provides a space to instantly sort jackets, backpacks, mail, keys, leashes, etc., when families arrive home.

Source:  Realtor Online Magazine, Styled, Staged & Sold blog, adapted from an article by Erica Christoffer

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Enduring Kitchen

Most of us have a long wish list for our kitchens: We want professional-grade appliances, well-organized storage, an island with a prep sink, granite countertops, lots of windows…the list of possibilities goes on and on. When it comes to style, the options are just as limitless—finishes, colors, materials. Choices galore.

But one thing is certain: No one wants to put time and money into a kitchen re-do that will be “so 2012” in a couple years.

An enduring kitchen sheds embellishments and ultra-modern looks in favor of simple, clean design with emphasis on the classics, say the pros who specialize in kitchen design. Resale isn’t top of mind these days, but timeless styles that make a kitchen easier to sell also make it easier to live with long term.

As homeowners consider the costs of remodeling their kitchens, they value good design more, says architect John Idstrom, president of Partners 4, Design in Minneapolis.  They realize that design fees are not the place to cut corners; guidance from a professional about the layout plan, work areas, traffic flow, and material selections is a good investment.

Live-in Value
Five years ago, you could plan on recouping nearly three-quarters of what you invested in remodeling your kitchen at resale; today, that figure is just 55 percent, according to Remodeling magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report. With dollars-and-cents payback declining, many people now remodel to create “live-in” value—they invest in creating a kitchen customized expressly to meet their needs and wants.

“The kitchen is the focal point of many homes and central to the living experience,” says interior designer Carla Bast in Minneapolis. Thus, she’s seeing more open, multipurpose spaces. Kitchens that invite lingering with the host or multitasking with a laptop often incorporate “soft seating,” says architect Todd Hansen, principal of Albertsson-Hansen Architects in Minneapolis. “People live in their kitchens and family members aren’t always standing and working at the same time. This means freestanding chairs, a built-in banquette, or even a sofa to complement an adjacent area with table and chairs. You want something other than a backless stool.”

Sustainable Choices
Savvy green consumers know that enduring kitchens incorporate sustainable products—they may cost more upfront, but they save energy, require less repair, and last longer. They choose Energy Star-rated appliances, which have almost become standard, energy-efficient lighting, and water-saving faucets.

Many also prefer to use healthy materials, including non-toxic and low-VOC paint, cabinetry, and flooring. They may take green to the next level by using recycled glass tile, lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and reclaimed wood.

Appliances Matter
Commercial-style appliances with an integrated or built-in look are also here to stay.  Architect Hansen notes enduring appliances use classic shapes with non-trendy materials. “Viking professional and Wolf-Subzero seem to get this, while some other manufacturers try to over-style their appliances. Too sleek or streamlined can easily date an appliance,” he says. He advises clients to go with stainless, while other designers note black is a safe choice.

And those small appliances that contribute to countertop clutter? They are now tucked out of sight in appliance garages or in the pantry when not in use. Since ample storage is so important to most homeowners, pantries of all stripes are enjoying a renaissance. “It could be a walk-in pantry or four shallow pantries or two side by side,” Johnson says.

Counters and Tiles
Neutrals and monochromatic themes—think shades of black, gray, or white—are popular choices for countertops and backsplashes. Experts advise keeping it simple. “One thing that will date a kitchen is putting in too many decorative elements, so keep the tile as neutral as possible,” Hansen says. You can easily introduce color and pattern with easy-to-change paint, window treatments, upholstery, and accessories.

When it comes to basics such as tile, designers say, play with shape more than color. “We tend to do less detailing in the backsplash than the trend was 10 years ago, and, overall, the kitchen tends to be a little more monochromatic,” Eastman says.

Granite is the standard for countertops today, but other natural stones and engineered surfaces such as Cambria and Corian are also popular.  It’s best to match island countertops to those on the perimeter cabinetry. “Use contrasting woods in the island, but keep counters consistent,” Eastman recommends.

Cabinetry and Finishes
Smith is seeing more dark-stained woods, such as cherry or oak, particularly for islands, often paired with a second color for the perimeter cabinetry. Most homeowners  prefer quarter-sawn oak rather than light oak cabinetry.

Hansen recommends going with natural woodwork for a classic look. “Use natural color woodwork rather than stain if possible, unless you’re matching the stain in the rest of the house. Wood by itself is never out of style.”

For a classic cabinet style, consider full-inset cabinetry (doors flush with the cabinet frame), says Hansen. Update the feel through configuration, proportion, and hardware, which could be changed out in the future. Simply changing drawer knobs and pulls also updates a kitchen, as does using a variety of closed and open-style cabinets.
Source:  Midwest Home Magazine, Article by Marcia Jedd

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For Sale: 5BR/2+2BA Single Family House in Chanhassen, MN, $515,000

Presenting Another Stunning Home from Stafford Family Realtors

2484 Gunflint Court ~ Chanhassen, MN

 Well appointed home in Demand Longacres!  Nestled on a private cul-de-sac lot.  This beautiful home features a Gourmet Kitchen w/granite counter tops, slate backsplace, Main Floor Office & a spacious finished Lower Level. 

For more information please visit http://www.staffordfamilyrealtors.com/or for a private showing please call 952.470.2575

Weekly Market Update: February 13, 2012

It was a week full of intrigue if ever there was one. A positive jobs report gave way to bullish activity on Wall Street backed by heroics from the hometown team, as the Giants showcased their Manning(ham) magic. Meanwhile, dozens of state attorneys general brokered a deal that will likely include principal write-downs. In local housing news, buyers made more purchases while sellers listed fewer properties than during the same week in 2011. Other indicators have recently showcased key improvements elsewhere in the marketplace. The most notable trend is fewer active listings. Buyers in wait-and-see mode may find themselves with more competition for fewer properties come spring.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending February 4:

• New Listings decreased 6.7% to 1,236
• Pending Sales increased 35.8% to 888
• Inventory decreased 23.2% to 17,697

For the month of January:

• Median Sales Price decreased 3.4% to $140,000
• Days on Market decreased 8.4% to 142
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.4% to 91.2%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 35.2% to 4.6

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Friday, February 10, 2012

Open House: February 12, 2012

2484 Gunflint Court - Chanhassen
5 bedroom/4 bath
SqFt:  3,858
OPEN:  12:00 to 2:00

Only available do to relocation, this Longacres home features a Great Room floor plan with a Gourmet Kitchen offering cherry cabinetry, granite counters and refinished hard wood floors. Other features include a main floor Office, Private Master Suite and fully finished lower level with a custom entertainment center, fireplace, wet bar and Exercise Room. Walk to one of the two neighborhood parks and enjoy the close proximity to the City of Chanhassen and Village of Excelsior! To schedule a private showing, please contact Stafford Family Realtors at 952.470.2575.

Click HERE for more information.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Home Storage: 7 Clever Ideas

Your house has been keeping secrets from you: Out-of-the-way places and forgotten corners that are full of potential. With a little imagination, you can turn your home’s nooks and crannies to your advantage, adding much-needed storage and living space without adding on or moving out. To get you started, we’ve gathered up 7 clever ideas for squeezing more out of what you already have.

The Instant Bedroom

With its now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t ability to magically pop out of walls, the classic Murphy bed is the perfect solution for those who have regular overnight guests but don’t have a spare bedroom. Mechanisms for single Murphy beds start at $700; add about $300 for a basic mattress. Custom cabinetry surrounds are $1,000 and up.

Credit: FlyingBeds.com

Inventing An Alcove

Two tall built-in cabinets on either side of this kitchen window create an instant alcove that’s perfect for a comfy window seat banquette for eat-in convenience. You’ll need 20 to 24 inches of depth to create a window seat with enough room for cushions along the back.

Credit: Flea Market Trixie

Calling All Walls: Give Us Space!

Your interior walls are hollow, meaning there’s space to be had between the wall studs. You can take advantage with alcoves and niches designed to fit between studs, or make one yourself. But take care when opening up walls — there may be electrical wires and plumbing pipes inside.

Credit: Photographer Nancy Nolan for At Home in Arkansas magazine

Gaining By Subtraction

By building out the corner of this small study room and adding soffits, this home owner created alcoves that are perfect for tucking away seating and adding modular storage cabinets. There’s even a nook for a reading lamp. Store-bought cabinet units are cheaper storage solutions than built-ins, but with this arrangement, the effect is similar.

Credit: Peter Pawlak Design Studio - 917.447.4099

Divided and Conquered

Needing to separate the living area from a sleeping room (but not allowed to build permanent walls), this enterprising apartment dweller used a freestanding wardrobe closet as a room divider. The side facing the bedroom offers plenty of storage behind sliding doors. Fabric stretched across the back of the wardrobe presents the living room with a fun design element.

Credit: Groovy Elisa

You're So Vanity

A custom-made laminate shelf, a mirror, and a slide-away stool can turn an unused slice of wall space into an a entryway vanity for last-minute wardrobe checks before you head out the door. This shelf may be a mere 6 inches wide, but it’s a great place to toss the keys, the mail, or your gloves when you return.

Credit: Peter Pawlak Design Studio - 917.447.4099

Doing Your Home Work

Need a home office? A little-used closet is ideal command center for a home-based business. This tucked-away office features an inexpensive desk ($100-$300) as the main work surface. If things get messy, you can simply close the door. Chalkboard paint ($15/qt.) surrounds the door frame for quick don’t-forget messages.

Credit: Ashley Sheping

Source:  HouseLogic

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fannie Mae: Outlook for Home Prices Rises Again.

The consumer outlook for U.S. home prices improved again in January, extending a recent upward trend in housing market sentiment, according to mortgage market firm Fannie Mae.

For its monthly reading, Fannie Mae said respondents in its January survey predicted home prices will rise by 1% over the next year, up from the 0.8% gain forecast in December.

Views on the direction of the U.S. economy also continued to improve. According to the respondents, 30% said they believe the U.S. economy is on the right track, up from 22% with that view in December. The percentage who said the economy is headed in the wrong direction fell to 63% of respondents, marking a 6 percentage point decline from the previous month.

Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan pointed to a slowly improving U.S. job market as one cause for rising confidence in the long-battered housing market. ”The strengthening employment picture last Friday provides encouragement that the improving trend in consumer confidence will continue and will at some point be reflected in a firming up of consumer spending,” Duncan said.

A report last week from the U.S. Labor Department showed nonfarm payrolls grew 243,000 last month, the largest gain since April. The jobless rate fell from 8.5% to 8.3%, the lowest it has been since February 2009.

Fannie Mae’s January survey also found 44% of respondents expect their personal financial situation to improve over the next year, up from 40% with that view in December.

The survey is based upon a monthly poll of roughly 1,000 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%.

Source:  The Wall Street Journal, by Mia Lamar

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Weekly Market Update: February 6, 2012

Whether motivated by the election cycle, a jump in employment, improving housing market metrics or the best start to a year for the S&P 500 since 1969, home buyers posted increased activity levels compared to last year. Consumers signed more purchase agreements but sellers entered into fewer listing contracts. Changes in supply-side metrics confirm this, suggesting that relatively less new product is entering the market compared to buyer demand. That's helped other metrics return to more friendly territory. Whatever the reason, it's good to see that vote of confidence.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending January 28:

• New Listings decreased 17.5% to 1,090
• Pending Sales increased 22.9% to 833
• Inventory decreased 23.5% to 17,762

For the month of December:

• Median Sales Price decreased 6.5% to $145,000
• Days on Market decreased 2.3% to 141
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.7% to 90.6%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 33.3% to 4.8

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, February 6, 2012

What’s Hot With Outdoor Living Trends

It’s not quite spring yet, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the outdoors.  You can start planning your next outdoor project today and by the time the weather warms up, you'll be ready to go.

The American Society of Landscape Architects conducts an annual Residential Trends Survey. Here are some of the findings from its 2011 survey, based on what landscape architects say are very to somewhat popular outdoor living feature trends:

■96.2% rated exterior lighting as somewhat or very popular;

■94.2% fire pits and fireplaces;

■94.1% seating/dining areas;

■93.8% grills;

■89.5% installed seating, such as benches, seat walls, or ledges;

■83.5% weatherized outdoor furniture;

■74.2% counter space;

■61.3% utility storage;

■58.3% stereo systems;

■54.7% sinks;

■50.2% refrigerators

The survey also showed more interest in technology featured on the outside too, such as stereo systems, Internet access, and televisions.

Also, low-maintenance landscaping and sustainability is also getting more popular, such as water-efficient irrigation systems and rainwater harvesting.

Source:  Styled, Staged and Sold,  By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR Magazine