Thursday, May 31, 2012

Open Houses: June 3, 2012

8205 Kelzer Pond Drive - Victoria
5 bedroom/5 bath
SqFt: 4,856
OPEN:  12:00 to 2:00

Nestled on the tranquil shores of Kelzer Pond, this custom built Sondergaard Forcier home features designer touches throughout. Enjoy the pond views and 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 a beautifully tiled backsplash combine to create this kitchen that can truly be called the Heart of the Home. Just off the kitchen is the Three Season Porch with a cozy fireplace. You will enjoy relaxing with your morning coffee or watching the sunset from the privacy of this space. The Great Room features a wall of windows, custom cabinetry and a gas fireplace. This open floor plan is perfect for evenings with the family as well as entertaining. The home office is hidden behind a set of French doors just off the foyer. A wall of custom stained book cases has been built-in and extra storage can be found in a closet. This office will work just the way you do while inspiring creativity and enhancing your productivity. The second floor is where you will find the Master Suite with its tray ceiling and private bath offering spa finishes from the large Jacuzzi tub to the walk-in shower with dual heads and the built-in linen cabinet. In addition to the loft space found on this floor, you will also enjoy a private guest suite and two junior bedrooms with a Jack-and-Jill bath outfitted with enameled wainscoting, private vanities and walk-in closets. Well equipped, the lower level walk out has been expertly finished with a spacious family room featuring a wall of custom built bookshelves, an entertainment center and a stone fireplace. The focal point of this Billiards Room is the antique bar that has been thoughtfully refinished and installed. The large, flat yard is the prime spot for a pool! The Watermark neighborhood enjoys a private estate setting and offers its residents walking and biking trails along with community parks. To schedule a private showing or for more information, please call 952.470.2575 or follow this link.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Weekly Market Update: May 28, 2012

The tempo in residential housing has remained upbeat through the first five months of 2012. Year-to-date figures begin to sing a compelling tune at this time of year, and the song thus far is that markets are moving back toward balance and home prices are beginning to reflect that stabilization. For the most recent week, buyer activity was higher than year-ago levels while listing activity registered lower. Keep an eye on months supply, seller concessions, market times and foreclosure rates. Multiple offers are back and tentative owners looking to move should take note. It's okay to sing in public again.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending May 19:

• New Listings decreased 9.6% to 1,533
• Pending Sales increased 18.6% to 1,116
• Inventory decreased 29.4% to 17,648

For the month of April:

• Median Sales Price increased 12.1% to $162,500
• Days on Market decreased 15.2% to 135
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.6% to 93.4%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 42.0% to 4.8

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Outdoor Appliance Buying Guide: Specialty Items

“There is a trend away from simple barbecue islands and to elaborate outdoor kitchens,” explains Mitch Slater, president of Danver, a manufacturer of outdoor kitchen cabinetry. “Homeowners want to be able to do outdoors all the food preparation that they normally have to do indoors.” For that reason, appliances like ice makers, pizza ovens, and beer fridges are all finding their way to the backyard. However, you should carefully consider your needs and lifestyle to ensure that you’ll get your money’s worth of use and convenience from specialty appliances that may cost thousands of dollars.

Note that with outdoor appliances, you will likely encounter the following additional costs for installation:

  • $125 to $300 to add an outdoor electrical outlet.
  • $400 to $800 to run a cold water supply line, or a combination hot-and-cold water supply
  • $1,500 to $3,000 to install hot-and-cold water supply lines plus a drain system.

Ice makers

Cost range: $180-$2,000
Likely additional costs: 110 outlet, water line hook-up, cover
Average life span: 3-10 years

With a built-in ice maker, there will be no more trips to the corner store for 25-pound bags of ice. These sleek, stainless steel-clad units blend seamlessly with outdoor kitchen cabinetry and produce about 25 pounds of ice per day.

Because these models get tied into the home’s water line, they require a plumber for installation. They also require an electrical outlet. Expect to pay $900 to $2,000 for an outdoor-approved appliance with a warranty that covers parts and labor for one year and the compressor for five. Homeowners in cold climes must shut off the water supply and drain the lines before winter to prevent the freezing and bursting of pipes.

Portable or countertop ice makers are less expensive—ranging from $180 to $300—and don’t require a connection to a water line. An interior reservoir is filled with tap or bottled water, allowing the units to produce about 35 cubes per hour. Refilling the tank may be necessary for large amounts of ice, and the appliance requires an electrical outlet.

Because most less-expensive machines are not UL rated for outdoor use, they should not be left out in the weather. Expect shorter warranties (90-day to one year) as well.

Pizza ovens

Cost range: $700-$6,000 and up
Likely additional costs: gas line hook-up, sturdy base, firewood
Average life span: 5-20 years

“Gas or wood-fired pizza ovens are getting very popular,” explains Danver’s Mitch Slater. Attracted by the romance of a Tuscan-style pizza-making experience, more and more homeowners are installing these hefty gourmet appliances. Constructed of masonry or thick steel, these units all feature a stone hearth floor and gently sloping domed roof.

Wood-fired stoves, the purist’s choice, come in two basic models: those heated from a fire built inside the firebox and those heated from a separate firebox below the oven. Both require a sizeable time commitment to reach desired temps, not to mention a steady supply of hardwood. A word of caution, notes Slater: “These units are heavy, 500 pounds or more, and require a sturdy base that can be very expensive to build.”

Countertop pizza ovens are fueled by propane or a home’s natural gas supply and can reach cooking temps in as little as 30 minutes. Prices range from $700 for a freestanding wood-fired oven to $6,000 for elaborate wood- or gas-fired units. Expect warranties ranging from five years to limited lifetime.

Beer dispenser

Cost range: $400 to $1,500
Likely additional costs: 110 outlet, CO2, cover
Average life span: 5-10 years

For serious entertainers, there may be no greater luxury than an endless supply of ice-cold draft beer. Often referred to as kegerators, beer dispensers simultaneously chill and dispense beer from a keg.

Though models are available for as little as $400, the less-costly versions typically are not designed for outdoor use and must be protected from the weather. Expect to pay between $900 and $1,500 for an outdoor-approved model with a warranty that covers parts and labor for one year and the compressor for five.

Before investing in one of these appliances, it’s wise to know that kegs are heavy and not readily available in all areas. A full-size keg holds approximately 160 pints of beer, or roughly seven cases. And once the keg is tapped, the beer will remain fresh only for about three weeks under consistent refrigeration.

In addition to an electrical source, kegerators also require a CO2 supply. Each five-pound cylinder of gas will dispense about six kegs of beer before it needs refilling from a local gas supplier ($10).

Patio heaters

Cost range: $150-$800
Likely additional costs: 110 outlet, natural gas hook-up or propane tank, cover for freestanding units
Average life span: 5-10 years

Patio heaters don’t cook the food or chill the beer, but they do increase the amount of time a family gets to enjoy the outdoors. There are three main categories of outdoor heaters, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. None, however, will transform an arctic evening into a tropical oasis: most work best when the thermometer reads between 50 and 60 degrees. Patio heaters add approximately 10 degrees to the ambient outdoor temperature.

Tabletop models stand just 3 feet tall, making them easy to move from site to site. Putting out about 10,000 BTUs, these units heat a 10-foot-diameter circle, or about 80 square feet. They will run approximately two hours on a one-pound propane tank. At about $5 per tank, the operating cost is $2.50 per hour. Prices for tabletop propane heaters range from $150 to $250, including a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Freestanding—or post-style—heaters stand about 8 feet tall and heat an area more than four times the size of tabletop varieties. Producing over 40,000 BTUs, these models warm a 20-foot-diameter circle, or 314 square feet.

Fuel choices for post-style heaters include propane or natural gas. Using natural gas eliminates the need to refill propane tanks and costs less than half to run, but requires a gas line hook-up and a stationary location. Post-style heaters range from $200 to $500 and come with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Electric heaters simply plug into a standard outlet, making them the greenest and cheapest options when it comes to operating costs. Powerful bulbs emit steady infrared heat that is unaffected by wind like models that utilize flames.

Units costing $300 will heat 75 to 100 square feet and cost as little as $0.15 per hour to run. Models that heat 300 square feet cost upwards of $800 and consume about three times the energy.

Some electric heaters are rated for outdoor use and may be exposed to the elements, as long as the outlet itself is weatherproof. Some electric heating units are designated for outside use but must be covered, meaning they can be used only under a roof structure, awning, or eave, limiting their applications. Also, heating elements last only two to four years depending on use and cost $100 to replace. One-year manufacturer’s warranties are standard.

Source:  Houselogic

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Celebrity Listing: Ryan Seacrest Buying Ellen Degeneres's Home

In one of the largest Los Angeles-area real estate deals of the year, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest is buying talk show host Ellen DeGeneres' Beverly Hills compound.  Seacrest is in escrow to purchase the Beverly Hills estate for $37 million, according to a person close to the transaction.  The property was listed last fall for $49 million but Ms. DeGeneres and her wife Portia de Rossi were quietly shopping it last year for $60 million.

Ryan Seacrest
Ellen Degeneres
The nine-bedroom property includes a 9,200-square-foot modern residence, two guesthouses and a separate three-bedroom house. It is located on a private street in north Beverly Hills.

The houses and guest houses are situated on more than three acres, and the grounds include a swimming pool and large pond. DeGeneres assembled the compound during the past five years or so by combining four separate properties.

Sources:  Wall Street Journal, The Hollywood Reporter,, Architectural Digest

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Weekly Market Update: May 21, 2012

Houses are just things. Boxes waiting to be filled. In the hands of caring, nurturing citizens, those simple boxes become homes that create memories and fortify communities for generations. This May, more than 13,000 REALTORS® rallied at the Washington Monument to preserve the American Dream of homeownership. Some components of the dream are being threatened by budget pressures and market realities. But homeownership is very much alive and well, as more than three out of five residencies are owner-occupied in the U.S. Moreover, buyer demand has been impressive throughout the year. As Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stated: "A nation of homeowners is unconquerable." Our response in 2012: Fill the box!

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending May 12:

• New Listings decreased 11.8% to 1,485
• Pending Sales increased 18.9% to 1,159
• Inventory decreased 28.3% to 17,761

For the month of April:

• Median Sales Price increased 12.1% to $162,500
• Days on Market decreased 15.1% to 135
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.6% to 93.4%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 42.4% to 4.7

Monday, May 21, 2012

The War Against Ants, Wasps & Mosquitos

Would you rather shoo bugs away naturally? Or take no prisoners with warfare?  We’ll help you do both (depending on your mood). That way, when you eat hot dogs, the bugs don’t eat you.


Mosquitoes have graduated from whining pests to West Nile disease-carrying stalkers. So getting rid of mosquitoes, and preventing them from hatching, should be a top priority. Try these tips.

Do-no-harm defense:
  • Eliminate standing water—empty buckets and watering pails—where mosquitoes breed. Reduce puddles with a push broom.
  • Attract bug-eating wild birds by growing sunflowers or filling bird feeders and birdbaths.
  • Clean birdbaths and keep water moving with battery- or solar-powered wigglers.
  • Spray oil of eucalyptus, which repels mosquitoes.
  • Don’t wear perfume—it attracts mosquitoes.
  • Light torches or citronella candles. Smoke repels mosquitoes.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which is trying to protect you from the West Nile virus, recommends applying insect repellent whenever you work or play outdoors. The CDC recommends:

  • DEET: Still the most widely used and effective mosquito repellent, though not recommended for young children, and must be reapplied throughout the day. It also eats plastic, like your sunglasses or water bottle. (Ben’s 30% DEET Spray: $4)
  • Picaridin: An ordorless DEET alternative that is less irritating and obnoxious, but not as long-lasting (8 hours vs. 11 hours). (Cutter Advanced Sport: $8)

Ants want to enjoy your barbecue, too. Here’s how to get rid of these uninvited guests.

Do-no-harm defense:
  • Ants won’t cross lines made of chalk, salt, talc, baby powder, or cinnamon. They also shy away from bay leaves.
  •  Spread borax around ant hills and patio/deck perimeters. Ants will eat it, causing them to dry up.
  • Try feeding them Cream of Wheat (while not a chemical, it does have the same effect), or another food that expands. It will explode their stomachs.

Bees and yellow jackets

Most bees won’t harm you unless you accidentally stumble over their nest. They’re good for your landscaping and the planet in general, so leave the bees be.

Yellow jackets, on the other hand, are stinger missiles. These common wasps can sting the same person or animal several times. They leave telltale pheromones that mark the victim for a mass attack from hive-mates.

Do-no-harm defense:

  • Yellow jackets love protein foods, so cover your meal during prep time, and wrap or throw out leftovers.
  • Cover garbage cans and quickly clean up after raccoons or dogs that get into your trash.
  • Wasps won’t invade other wasps’ territory, so trick them into thinking your patio is already claimed: Fill a paper bag with newspaper and hang it from a tree.
  • Make a trap with a soda bottle and fruit juice.
  • Avoid wearing bright, flower-like colors that make you look like a giant flower.


  • Chemically controlling yellow jackets requires finding the nest, which is risky. Baits, which wasps bring back to nests so you don’t have to visit, are a better bet. Mix protein—tuna, chicken, cat food—with insecticides such as fipronil.
Source:  Houselogic

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Weekend Happenings: Food, Plants, & Pets

Minneapolis Riverwalk Tour
Gold Medal Park
S 10th Ave & S 2nd Street, Mpls
Saturday, May 19th
11:00 am to 2:00 pm
Cost:  $45/pp

Hungry for an off-the-beaten path Minneapolis food experience? Join us as we explore one of the city's trendy and historical neighborhoods, Mill District and St. Anthony on Main in Northeast Minneapolis. You'll enjoy the afternoon sampling food at the first Thai restaurant in Minnesota, drinking local Minnesota brewed beer at the oldest restaurant in Minneapolis, and enjoy a local favorite - the cheese curds. You'll also enjoy mouth-watering pasta located in the historical Chase building, fresh baked European style bread at a local Farmers Market, home-made gelato, and lip smacking BBQ sliders from a historical restaurant that once operated as a mattress company.

Along with sampling food we will also visit the Mill City Museum, stroll by the Guthrie, and enjoy gorgeous views of St. Anthony Falls as we walk along the Stone Arch Bridge into historical St. Anthony on Main. You'll learn about the history of both these neighborhoods including a stroll along the oldest street in Minneapolis. You'll taste and chat with other food-loving guests, and leave the tour with an appreciation for these distinct neighborhoods that most tourist never see!

HCMG 4th Annual Plant Sale
Hopkins Pavilion
11000 Excelsior Blvd., Hopkins 55343
Saturday, May 19th, 2012
9:00 to 2:00
Cost:  Free to attend

Hennepin County Master Gardeners ask you to come celebrate the beginning of a new gardening season.  Buy beautiful plants for sun or shade at great prices.  The plants — over 7000 of them — are grown by Master Gardeners with tender loving care. We’re offering perennials, ornamentals, natives and more! We’ll also answer your gardening questions and provide helpful information on the plants you purchase.*

Find veggies that you can’t buy at our local garden centers.  For the first time, we will be offering seedlings of vegetables that have won the statewide Master Gardener Program trials. These veggies have proven themselves to be Minnesota hardy — and tasty — in our gardens. Most of these are not available at the our local garden centers or other plant sales.

Come early for the best selection.  We will accept cash or checks only, please. Bring a wagon or cart. You’ll want to buy lots of plants!

*Proceeds from this sale benefit University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener community programs in Hennepin County.

Carver-Scott Humane Society’s 20th Annual Walk Fur Love

McKnight Park
110400 Pioneer Trail, Chaska, 55318
Sunday, May 20th
10:00 am
Cost:  Free

The 20th annual Walk Fur Love event hosted by the Carver-Scott Humane Society will benefit homeless animals at the Carver-Scott Humane Society. The surrounding community and their furry friends are invited to participate. The event will feature walker prizes for different donation levels, raffle prizes, entertainment, food, activities for kids, vendor booths and pets galore! All proceeds from the event will benefit the animals in need at the Carver-Scott Humane Society.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Luxury Baths For Relaxation

The Swedish sauna, Turkish bath and Russian banya have some new competition in U.S. bathrooms: the Japanese ofuro.

A copper Japanese-style tub from Diamond Spas, with an $11,642 price tag.

Manufacturers are adapting the extra-deep soaking tub, used in Japan for a relaxing, meditative up-to-the-neck soak, for the U.S. market.

The U.S. arm of German bathroom-furnishings maker Duravit AG offers an extra-deep Japanese-inspired bath in its 'Onto' collection of wood-paneled bathroom sinks and vanities, designed by an Italian architect. "You have to get in it like you're getting on a motorcycle," says Tim Schroeder, president of the U.S. unit. "It's a different kind of proposition" than Americans are used to. Sales of the tubs—which start at $1,500 and can climb up to $5,600—are 15% higher than expected, he says.

Requests for custom-made Japanese baths have grown as much as 30% a year over the past three years, according to Diamond Spas Inc., a Frederick, Colo., manufacturer. Prices run from $5,500 for a one-person, stainless-steel model to as much as $17,000 for a two-person copper model with accouterments including seats, a built-in heater, air jets and "mood lighting," says marketing manager Krista Payne.

"Everyone is trying to make their bathrooms their little getaway now," Ms. Payne says. "You see Asian influence in clean and simple lines."

Kohler last year released the Japanese-inspired Underscore Cube. The dimensions—48 inches long, 48 inches wide and 34 inches high—suit the clean, contemporary designs that are currently popular, says Diana Schrage, a Kohler interior designer. Prices can reach as high as $5,479 with extras like a "vibracoustic" system, which plays music that bathers hear and experience as pleasant vibrations in the water.

Kohler's Underscore Cube, seats two, with 'vibracoustic' sound system optional.

Such bathroom bling is a far cry from the baths of traditional Japanese culture. In Japan, a person will have taken a cleansing shower, using a shower nearby, before entering the ofuro. "It's a cherished act, to be able to sit in the bath and do nothing," says Merry White, a professor of anthropology specializing in Japanese culture at Boston University. Family members typically take turns at an already-filled bath kept warm with a lid. In the U.S., bath water is normally slightly warmer than body temperature, which is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In Japan, baths are much warmer than that, she says.

The depth and temperature make the Japanese-style bath "unbelievably comfortable," Prof. White says.

A Japanese-style tub concentrates water on a smaller footprint than an American tub, leading some homeowners to consider them only for ground level or below. Tub makers say a contractor should determine if structural reinforcements are required if installed on upper floors.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Weekly Market Update: May 14, 2012

If only there were a system of grand, colorful lights for tracking residential real estate. Green for rising market, yellow for a transitional market and red for declining market. Let's see if we can try to determine today's market without the ease of well-known signals. Prices are bottoming and starting to rise. Buyer activity is showing year-over-year gains. Homes are selling faster and closer to list price. Multiple offers are becoming commonplace. Inventory levels are leaning toward the seller. Green means go.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending May 5:

• New Listings decreased 6.6% to 1,643
• Pending Sales increased 41.9% to 1,232
• Inventory decreased 28.3% to 17,579

For the month of April:

• Median Sales Price increased 12.1% to $162,500
• Days on Market decreased 15.1% to 135
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.6% to 93.4%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 43.1% to 4.7

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, May 14, 2012

Popular Remodeling Projects

Kitchens and bathrooms remain the top jobs home owners are taking on in remodeling projects, according to a new survey by the National Association of Home Builders.

The top remodeling projects of home owners, according to the latest survey of remodelers, are:

1. Bathrooms

2. Kitchens

3. Window/door replacements

4. Whole house remodels

5. Room additions

6. Handyman services

The report’s finding of the main motivation behind home owners’ decision to remodel is not too surprising: To repair and replace old components and to upgrade amenities.

But more than 20 percent of remodelers surveyed said they’ve been noticing a drop in the number of customers who are remodeling to try to increase their home’s value.

The survey is yet another indication that more home owners are happy staying put–at least for now–and instead are looking at how to enhance what they already have.

Nearly half of the remodelers surveyed said they’ve been seeing an increase over the last year in the number of home owners who are undertaking remodeling projects so they can avoid moving.

“Home owners are repurposing spaces and making more efficient use of their home’s square footage,” says NAHB Remodelers Chairman George “Geep” Moore Jr. “Whether it be young families or couples aging in their homes, people want to let their house adapt with their needs as they change over time.”

According to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, home remodeling is expected to post its best year this year since 2006.

But while home owners want to enhance, they also want to save.

“Before it was curb appeal, showiness and keeping up with the Joneses,” Duo Dickinson, author of Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want (Taunton Press), told USA Today in a recent article on remodeling trends. But now more home owners want their homes to reflect who they are. “The house is the most direct mirror of your personal values. When people renovate to change their lives, they waste money.”

These more “me-centered” remodeling projects may include livening up outdoor spaces, creating “livable kitchens” that are multi-purpose and make the kitchen serve as a room for more than just cooking, and smaller master baths (like removing that luxurious spa tub for a larger shower)

Also in saving a buck, more home owners are looking at doing more of the work themselves. According to a new report from Bank of America, 70 percent of home owners are taking on home improvement projects that they once hired out in order to cut costs, tackling everything from plumbing to painting.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Weekend Happenings: Mom's Day, Fishing Opener

Sister Saturday
Saturday, May 12
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Cost: Free

For all those fishing widows out there, have we got an event for you!  Come to Waconia for the 8th Annual Sister Saturday.  It's a great way to celebrate the fishing opener! Special sales and events at participating shops throughout Waconia. Don't miss the Fashion Show!

Mother's Day Brunch
MN Landscape Arboretum
3675 Arboretum Drive
Chaska, MN 55318
Sat. & Sun., May 12 & 13, 2012
10:30 am and 1:00 pm
Cost:  $21.49 members; $23.49 non-members; &9 ages 4-8; free for ages 3 & under

Treat Mom to a delicious brunch amid the spring beauty of the Arboretum. Price includes admission to Arboretum.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What I Learned From Mom

It’s Mother’s Day, and the best gift you can give Mom is three little words: You were right.

We asked home bloggers and experts to share the great advice Mom gave related to all things home. And, knowing that Mom isn’t perfect — just perfect for us — we also asked for words of wisdom that missed the mark.

Mom says: ‘Don’t try to do it all’

“My mother was a real perfectionist. She’d know if I walked on the carpet (and shouldn’t have). She gave me a respect for things looking right. But that’s also her worst advice, because no one can do it all well. As Erma Bombeck said, ‘House work, if you do it right, can kill you.’

So I focus on key rooms in the home — what my mom did once she started to lighten up. It’s what I call mini-tasking. Pick one project, like straightening up your closet, rather than overloading yourself with a long list. And focus on high-traffic, high-visibility rooms, especially where bacteria, mold, and mildew can grow.

Blend mini-tasks with everyday activities, like when you’re on the phone with Mom. Swipe and wipe door handles, the fridge door, the kitchen sink. I keep a box of Clorox wipes handy so I can grab and go.

Oh, one more tip to make cleaning, organizing, and other home tasks more doable: Enjoy a libation! (Of course not while you’re doing major home improvements.)” — Julie Edelman, The Accidental Housewife

Mom says: ‘Wise DIY’

“Sometimes doing it yourself isn’t the best option. My mom did a lot of sewing and would decide whether something was worth seven hours of her time vs. buying it outright.

My husband and I paid a plumber $600 to install the plumbing (get the lines in, connect to our waste line) in a half bath. It would have taken us two months and still cost about $400 for tools and materials. I will never regret a penny of that. Instead, we did the DIY stuff we knew we could, like installing the sink and toilet.” — Cassity Kmetzsch, Remodelaholic

Mom says: ‘Keep it natural’

“I got many of the recipes for my green-cleaning products from my great-grandmother, who wrote down the things she remembered and treasured in her Bible, which was given to me when she died. My laundry soap recipe came from her.

But a great flip happened between my great-grandmother and my mother, who wouldn’t let us stay in the house when she cleaned because she was using commercial cleaners that were toxic. The generations went from one extreme to the other. My great grandmother was cleaning with things you can eat, and my mother was cleaning with things she knew were too dangerous for me to be around.

I’ve taught my kids to go to the pantry before they go under the sink to find a cleaner; to give the natural things a try and they’ll work better for you in the long run.” — Leslie Reichert, Green Cleaning Coach

Mom says: ‘Prepare’

“The best advice I ever got from my mom about the home was simple: Do things right the first time. The payoff is in the preparation. She was always a big fan of getting books from the library when she didn’t know how to do something. These days you can just look online, but the idea is the same; learn the right way to do something before you start doing it. And when I’ve been lax in the prep work, the project has always taken longer, resulted in frustration, and cost more money.” — Alicia, Curbly

Mom says: ‘Use the right tools’

“Best advice my mother gave me was to always make the beds, because doing so will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something and will keep you inspired throughout the day to attend to other household duties.

The worst advice I ever got was from my grandmother, who said butter in the refrigerator never goes bad.

Good advice I give my daughter and son is to always use the right tool for the job — advice I try to adhere to as I renovate my house.” — Jennifer Mcknight Trontz, author of “Home Economics”

Mom says: ‘Reuse!’

“My mom let me make my own decisions about my room when I was a kid. I’ll let my kids do the same. Having a small budget or no budget is a great way to get creative. When I was a kid, I built a side table out of 2x4s and stuck old pennies to it. I learned to reuse.” — Cassity Kmetzsch

Source:  Houselogic

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Weekly Market Update: May 7, 2012

Buyers don't live in a spreadsheet. When they find a home to love and cherish, they don't intellectualize it too much. There are generally fewer homes on the market, they're selling more quickly and prices in most areas are no longer in a downtrend. Dwindling inventories means there's less competition and more pricing power for sellers, who are finally starting to be rewarded by strong buyer activity. Interest rates at 50-year lows doesn't hurt either. Love is in the air and all around the housing market.

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

• New Listings decreased 14.9% to 1,475
• Pending Sales increased 21.4% to 1,187
• Inventory decreased 28.0% to 17,603

For the month of March:

• Median Sales Price increased 7.1% to $149,900
• Days on Market decreased 9.7% to 144
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.8% to 92.1%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 37.2% to 4.8

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Outdoor Lighting For Curb Appeal And Safety

Think about it: Most of your guests (and if your home is on the market, many would-be buyers) see your home only in the evening, when its best features may be lost in the shadows. Well-executed outdoor lighting enhances architectural detail and plays up landscape features, casting your home in the best possible light and adding an abundance of curb appeal.

Outdoor lighting also adds value. Judith Patriski, an appraiser and owner of Quad Realty Co. near Cleveland, estimates that for upper-bracket homes, an investment in outdoor lighting can yield a 50% return. “When you pull into a driveway and see a gorgeous home, you’re going to pay more for it,” says Patriski.

And she emphasizes that it’s not only about aesthetics: “In all price ranges, lighting for security is important”—both to protect against intruders and falls. Here are the elements of successful outdoor lighting.

Mimicking moonlight

Much of the success of exterior lighting hinges on its design. Hang around lighting designers long enough and you’ll hear a lot of talk about “moonlight effect.” That’s a naturalistic look that features light no more intense than that of a full moon, but still strong enough to make beautiful shadows and intense highlights.

Other techniques outdoor lighting designers use:

Highlight trees: Whether illumined from below or given presence by a light mounted in the tree itself, trees make stunning features.

Use uplights: Uplighting is dramatic because we expect light to shine downward. Used in moderation, it’s a great way to highlight architectural and landscaping features.

Have a focus: The entryway is often center stage, a way of saying, “Welcome, this way in.”

Combine beauty and function: For example, adding lighting to plantings along a pathway breaks up the “runway” look of too many lights strung alongside a walk.

Vary the fixtures: While the workhorses are spots and floods, designers turn to a wide range of fixtures, area lights, step lights, and bollards or post lights.

Stick to warm light: A rainbow of colors are possible, but most designers avoid anything but warm white light, preferring to showcase the house and its landscape rather than create a light show.

Orchestrate: A timer, with confirmation from a photocell, brings the display to life as the sun sets. At midnight it shuts shut down everything but security lighting. Some homeowners even set the timer to light things up an hour or so before dawn.

Adding safety and security

Falls are the foremost cause of home injury, according to the Home Safety Council. Outdoors, stair and pathway lighting help eliminate such hazards.

Often safety and security can be combined. For example, motion-detecting security lighting mounted near the garage provides illumination when you get out of your car at night; the same function deters intruders. Motion detecting switches can also be applied to landscape lighting to illumine shadowy areas should anyone walk nearby.

Even the moonlight effect has a security function: Soft, overall landscape lighting eliminates dark areas that might hide an intruder, exposing any movement on your property. Overly bright lights actually have a negative effect, creating undesirable pockets of deep shadow.

Estimating the cost

Total outdoor lighting costs will vary according to the size of your home and the complexity of your lighting scheme. Expect to pay about $325 for each installed LED fixture. LEDs also require a transformer to step the power down from 120 volts to 12 volts, running about $400 installed.

A motion detector security light costs about $150 installed. Porch lights and sconces range from $100 to $250 installed, depending the fixture and whether running new cable is necessary.

Contractor-installed outdoor lighting for an average, two-story, 2,200 sq. ft. house might add up as follows:

7 fixtures to cover 100 feet of LED pathway lighting: $2,275

Transformer: $400

4 LED uplights to dramatize the front of the house: $1,300

2 LED area lights for plantings: $650

2 motion detector security lights: $300

Total cost: $4,925

Source:  Houselogic

Friday, May 4, 2012

Open Houses: May 6, 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. 

7210 Gunflint Trail - Chanhassen
4 bedroom/3 bath
SqFt:  3,074
OPEN  12:00 to 1:30

Nestled on a private lot, this home features a Great Room floor plan with a beautiful kitchen featuring cherry cabinetry & millwork, a main floor office & Master Suite with Sitting room. Walk to neighborhood parks! Please contact Eric Stafford at 952.470.2575 for more information on the short sale.

Click HERE for more information.

2710 Northview Drive - Victoria
5 bedroom/5 bath
SqFt:  4,183
OPEN  12:00 to 1:30

Located in Victoria’s newest neighborhood, Rhapsody, this beautiful home shows like new construction. This hard to find floor plan offers a spacious Great Room that opens to the Kitchen and Informal Dining area – just perfect for family and entertaining. Good food and good company are two of life’s greatest pleasures and this Gourmet Kitchen is where it all comes together. Custom crafted cherry cabinetry, granite counters and oversized center island allow this kitchen to be an inviting gathering space. Complete with an informal dining area, the Kitchen is truly the heart of this home. The Great Room features a wall of windows offering long, pastoral views, cozy gas fireplace and built-in entertainment center making this space perfect for relaxing with the family or entertaining with style. Adjacent to the Great Room, French Doors open to the Home Office and adjacent to the Office, you’ll find the Formal Dining Room The second floor is features the Master Suite with its vaulted ceiling, spacious walk-in closet and private bath with spa finishes. You will also find three junior bedrooms on this floor with a Jack & Jill Bath and a Princess Suite with private ¾ bathroom. The Loft offers the perfect spot in the house to put your feet up and watch a movie or have a Wii party! Professionally finished by Sondergaard Forcier, the walk out lower level offers a large Family Room with gas fireplace, space for your Billiards table and a snack bar complete with mini fridge and sink. There is an additional Junior Bedroom and ¾ bath along with a beautiful, relaxing sauna. Nestled on a premium lot and backing to a preserve, this spacious backyard is perfect for a pool and offers plenty of room to play! Victoria has been nicknamed “the City of Lakes and Parks” because of the 200+ acres of reserve land, thirteen parks and nine lakes within its borders. Victoria is also home to the 1,800+ acre Carver Park Reserve. Along with the several community parks, Victoria is also home to the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The city has a small town feel but also has a rapidly growing population and commerce. The new Victoria Field house offers an ice rink, walking track, exercise facility, gymnasium and numerous classes. Among a host of services, Victoria is home to fine public and private schools, a spa, new grocery store, fine dining options, churches and car dealership.

Click HERE for more information.

3142 Thoreau Road - Chaska
2 bedroom/2 bath
SqFt: 963
OPEN  12:00 to 2:00

Welcome to Arbor Field at Clover Field of Chaska. This crisp & clean, sun-filled townhome was a former model built by Pulte. Offering upgraded finishes throughout, you will enjoy maple cabinetry, enameled millwork & designer paint colors with a private balcony off the kitchen. The City of Chaska's mission is to be the "best small town in Minnesota" and many of its residents have chosen Chaska for its small town feel and friendly atmosphere. The City prioritizes projects that promote community gathering and enhance the sense of identity and pride. Clover Field embraces the traditional look of the older neighborhoods which have always held timeless appeal. This community awakens fond memories of a simpler way of life. Gathering with friends and neighbors on a warm spring day. Sitting on the front porch watching the stars flicker on a summer night. Riding bikes through newly fallen leaves to the corner grocery store or walking to school in the season's first gentle snow. It's a way of life that has been missing in many new subdivisions, but it's the cornerstone of this traditional neighborhood. Tree-lined boulevards, sidewalks, parks, wetlands and ponds add to the character of the neighborhood. Within walking distance from home is the Southwest Metro Transit station, Clover Ridge Elementary School and local boutiques.

Click HERE for more information.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Weekend Happenings: Birds, Trees, and Walking

Raptor Release
Hyland Lake Park Reserve
10145 Bush Lake Road
Bloomington, MN 55438
Saturday, May 5, 2012
11:00 am to 2:00 pm
Cost:  Free

Celebrate rehabilitated birds of prey released back to the wild from the University of Minnesota Raptor Center. Come early, see live raptors and participate in activities and bring your camera. Stage program starts at Noon. Dogs are not permitted at this event.

Arbor Day Tree Planting
Lake Ann Park Maintenance Bldg
1456 West 78th Street
Chanhassen, MN 55317
Saturday, may 5, 2012
9:00 am to 12:00 pm
Cost:  Free

2011 Arbor Day Poster Contest Winner - Tiana Connelly

Join the City of Chanhassen and local community groups for the annual Arbor Day event. Help plant trees in Lake Ann Park that will provide shade, clean air and beauty for generations to come. Meet at the Park Maintenance Building and come prepared (proper shoes and gloves along with a shovel) to have a good time outside in any weather! Refreshments, goodies and free seedlings will be provided to volunteers.

Call Jill Sinclair at 952-227-1133 to sign up your group or for more information.

MS Walk
Minnehaha Park
4801 South Minnehaha Park Dr.
Minneapolis, MN 55417
Sunday, May 6, 2012
8:00 am to 12:00 pm
Cost:  Free

The Christopher & Banks Walk MS presented by Walser will take place Sunday morning, May 6, at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. It’s free to walk, but fundraising is encouraged. Movement is something many of us take for granted, but for people living with MS, movement isn’t a guarantee. A special guest at the Ampyra booth at Walk MS will be Rick Sommers of New York City. Rick was one of the first people with MS to be treated with a therapy to improve his walking. He is available to talk about the impact of walking problems in MS and the options for treatment. Stop by the booth to learn more about how to talk to your doctor about walking.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

5 Great Gardening Apps

Let’s just agree there’s an app for everything, and gardening is no exception. I tried out a number of apps for the iPhone (though some of these have Android versions) and picked a few that will help your garden grow.

1. Food Gardening Guide (free for iPhone, iPad, Android): Mother Earth News has produced this delightful and comprehensive guide on how to grow your own food. Chapters are titled “All About Growing (whatever),” and they deliver info on planting, harvesting and storage, saving seeds, pest and disease prevention, growing, and kitchen prep. For instance, did you know you can harvest carrots, store them over the winter, and replant in spring to generate seeds? Now you do.

2. Landscaper’s Companion ($5.99 iPhone, iPad; $4.99 Android): This is a planting reference for just about anything you can stick into soil — trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, bulbs, and on and on. For each species, the app provides its growing zone, watering and sun needs, height, width, and bloom time — plus a pretty picture. You can also scroll through images, pick a plant that sparks your interest, and then research it.

3. Garden ID (free for iPhone, iPad): A personal gardening guru that customizes information for your particular slice of heaven. Allow the app to use your current location, and it suggests fruits, vegetables, and herbs that can thrive in your edible garden anytime, and even varieties you can plant now. Select a veggie, and Garden ID gives you planting, growing, and harvesting tips. As a bonus, it also names plants that like to grow together, like corn that shades lettuce, giving it a longer growing season. You’ll also learn which plants don’t get along, like cauliflower and tomatoes.

4. Garden Tracker (99 cents for iPhone, $3.99 for iPad): A digital gardening journal that helps you keep track of what you planted where, when you watered and fertilized each plant, and days until harvest. It also gives info on sunrise, moon phases, and USDA Hardiness Zones. It’s a great planning tool for square or rectangular plots and beds, because it lays out plants in a grid.

5. Home Outside ($1.99 for iPhone, iPad): Home Outside lets you dream up out-of-the-box landscaping not limited to rectangular plots. You can arrange trees, gardens, patios, hammocks, even driveways. Don’t like the way it looks? Move, rotate, scale up and down until your landscape design looks just right.

Source: Houselogic

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Weekly Market Update: April 30, 2012

There's that sound again. It's the media message you once heard on the TV and radio or read in newspapers and on the Internet in days seemingly long gone. Real estate stories are mostly being cast in a generous light. That's all well and good, but is now the time to list or buy? Answering that question still relies upon many specific, localized, determining factors, but we have reached a place where the process is generally more positive and enjoyable. That big American dream of homeownership is no longer haunted by night terrors.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending April 21:

• New Listings increased 13.9% to 1,677
• Pending Sales increased 41.2% to 1,281
• Inventory decreased 28.4% to 17,447

For the month of March:

• Median Sales Price increased 7.1% to $149,900
• Days on Market decreased 9.7% to 144
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.8% to 92.1%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 37.6% to 4.7

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors