Friday, June 29, 2012

Open House: July 1, 2012

2484 Gunflint Court - Chanhassen
5 bedroom/4 bath
SqFt: 3,858
OPEN:  1:00 to 3:00

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 on Gunflint Court.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

You Won't See This On HGTV

Patience, sadly, is not one of my virtues. But, as some of you know, I married ‘up’ and Eric is a very patient man . . . he kind of has to be to be married to me. That is why I like to frequently remind him: “High Maintenance, High Performance”!

So, on to the point of this story!

On March 21, 2011, we listed a beautiful, custom built, upper-bracket home in Minnetrista. Sited perfectly on a 9 acre lot and bordered by Painters Creek, it was - and is still - one of my favorite homes. Every detail of the home was carefully and thoughtfully designed - the result of an amazing collaboration between the sellers and SKD Architects. Custom built by MS&I, with the finest amenities and quality finishes, the style of the home was unique and dubbed “Urban Prairie”.

After listing the home, we previewed the property with Coldwell Banker Burnet’s Distinctive Homes Agents and it was very well received. Within a month, we had an offer (I actually had represented the buyer) but we couldn’t come to terms so the buyer moved on and the home stayed on market.

Last December, 2011, we got a Purchase Agreement from another Coldwell Banker Agent. Eric worked with the sellers and negotiated with the Buyer’s Agent for 6 MONTHS and finally came to terms in May 2012! The sale closed this month, capping off a long culmination of conversations, negotiations, cooling off periods, and more negotiations. Eric’s patience and strong negotiating skills definitely paid off! Here’s some pictures of this amazing property!

Commanding Curb Appeal

Porch With Phantom Screens

Quiet, Private Setting

Warm And Elegant

Well Equipped Kitchen

Open, Spacious Floor Plan

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Best Practices For Selling Your Home

You've probably read article after article touting the benefits of staging your home to help it sell faster.  And this is completely true.  Staging a home is essential to a faster sell and a better price.  We help every one of our sellers stage their home to show it in its best light.  But there are many other tools we use to sell your home, that often go under the radar of most consumers.  Take a look at some of the many things we do that help your home sell for top dollar and as fast as possible.

A Picture Is Worth...A Lot!

Most people start their search for a home online.  And if the pictures of a house online are subpar, that buyer is going to glance over it in a heartbeat.  We consider the pictures of your home to be so important that we hire a professional photographer to show your home in its best light.  The photographer takes photos of every room from every angle using several exposures.  This way we can choose the best picture in the best light to represent your home online.  Let's face it, how many times have you seen an online listing showing a picture of the seller's couch?!  With Stafford Family Realtors, each room of your home will show to its best adavantage every time.

Want to buy my couch?!
A home listed with Stafford Family Realtors showing the room to its best advantage.

Show Web Address On Signage

Phone numbers are so last year!  Online is where it's at.  With so many potential buyers owning smartphones, it just makes sense to show our web address of the listing on our signage.  Then passersby can look us up, quickly find our listings and get all the information they need.  And we don't stop there.  We show your listing on our blog (right here on the Live page!), Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, as well as many other websites like Trulia and Zillow.

Feedback, Feedback, Feedback

After every broker open and every showing of your home, we hound the agents for feedback.  If they decided not to offer on your home, we ask what the deal breaker was.  If we continue to hear something like, "The kitchen is too dated.", then we know our next step forward and can work out a strategy for how to proceed.

Shared Information

We often tell our clients, "When we know something about your listing, you know something."  We believe in complete communication with our clients.  We set you up so that you can access information about your listing whenever you want.  We also review the data on your listing every week and give you a call to go over that information.  Have the numbers of showing requests fallen off recently?  Maybe it's time to drop our price.  Are we getting second showings?  Maybe an offer is coming up soon.

At Stafford Family Realtors, we know that you've entrusted one of your most valuable possessions with us and we take that very seriously.  We believe in exceptional customer service and strive to build life-long partnerships with each of our clients.  When you list with us, we treat your home as if it were our own.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Weekly Market Update: June 25, 2012

Market metrics are in the midst of seasonal peaks and valleys this time of year. Listings, sales and prices all tend to reach pinnacles on the historical trend line, while market times generally take a dip to annual lows. Summer is historically an exciting time for real estate. Between vacations to see family and friends and the crush of wedding weekends, Americans manage to find the time to buy and sell real estate. The last several years have been rough, no doubt, but an undeniable gleam has returned to the marketplace this year, and summer brings with it a certain extra swoon.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending June 16:

• New Listings decreased 3.7% to 1,476
• Pending Sales increased 19.8% to 1,173
• Inventory decreased 31.0% to 17,517

For the month of May:

• Median Sales Price increased 10.5% to $169,000
• Days on Market decreased 19.6% to 125
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.8% to 94.6%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 43.9% to 4.6

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, June 25, 2012

Party Lights for Summer

You've had one of those blissful afternoons in the backyard with friends, grilling, chatting, sipping Lillet. Then the sun begins to fade. Guests start discreetly checking iPhones. Spouses signal "let's go?" to one another. Luckily, you've lined the patio with strands of pretty lights—sweet wire birds ($39,, or perfect little bulbs left chicly bare ($39, or shaded with orange lacquer pagodas ($49, or delicate ceramic shells ($224, Now flip the switch. Suddenly, faces are bathed in a soft, romantic glow. iPhones slip back into pockets. Glasses are refilled. Some enchanted evening, indeed.

5 Ways To String Them


Hang multiple strands loosely above the space. Let some strands dip lower than others.


String a single strand between poles around the perimeter of the space.


Wrap basic string lights around the bottoms of trees in tight clusters or around columns in your pergola.


Weave strands throughout dense foliage for a firefly effect.


String lights from poles arrayed in a circle around a center point—a tree, say—in your yard.

Source:  Wall Street Journal Homes online

Friday, June 22, 2012

Open Houses: June 24, 2012

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

Click HERE for more information on Kelzer Pond Drive.

1725 Martingale Lane - Victoria
4 bedroom/4 bath
SqFt:  3,734
OPEN:  12:00 to 2:00

Click HERE for more information on Martingale Lane.

1655 Field Drive - Victoria
4 bedroom/4 bath
SqFt:  3,893
OPEN:  12:00 to 2:00

Click HERE for more information on Field Drive.

353 Summerfield Drive - Chanhassen
5 bedroom/4 bath
SqFt:  3,544
OPEN:  12:00 to 2:00

Click HERE for more information on Summerfield Drive.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Third Consecutive Month of Price Gains

Minneapolis, Minnesota (June 12, 2012) – The month of May provided another confirmation that the Twin Cities metropolitan area's housing market continues to positively lean toward market recovery. During the month, buyers signed 5,130 purchase agreements, 27.3 percent higher than last May, and sellers introduced 6,599 properties to the market, 6.0 percent less than May 2011. This combination of activity drove down the number of homes for sale on the market to 17,262, down 31.1 percent.

The median sales price was up 10.5 percent from last May to $169,000. That's the third-largest jump since January 2004 and the third consecutive month of year-over-year gains. Prices have risen 22.5 percent since February (from $138,000 to $169,000). Home prices are now at their highest level since October 2010.

"Residential home prices have been increasing steadily," said Cari Linn, President of the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®. "It's been a positive change for our local housing market and it's been a long time coming."

Prices are "melting up" because distressed properties now comprise a smaller share of overall sales. Since traditional homes sell for a median price of $205,000, foreclosures sell for $116,350 and short sales go for $135,000, these shifts have translated into notable price gains.

Traditional closed sales were up 50.1 percent, while foreclosures fell 12.8 percent and short sales increased 12.9 percent. Together, distressed homes made up 31.1 percent of all new listings and 39.4 percent of all closed sales, the smallest shares since June 2008 and September 2008, respectively. Traditional sales made up the remaining 60.6 percent of all closings and sold for 76.2 percent more than foreclosures and 21.3 percent more than metro-wide prices, further supporting the strong gain in overall median sales price.

The number of homes for sale has dropped for 16 consecutive months, down 31.1 percent from last May to 17,262 active listings – the lowest inventory reading for any month since January 2004. The month's supply of inventory plunged 45.6 percent to 4.5 months – the lowest reading for any month since December 2005.

Homes sold in 125 days, on average, down 19.6 percent from last May. Sellers received an average of 94.5 percent of their list price, up 3.8 percent from 91.1 percent last May. Cash buyers made up 20.1 percent of all closed sales, down from 22.2 percent at this time in 2011.

"May looks great on paper and on the street," said Andy Fazendin, MAAR President-Elect. "Buyers are active, sellers are starting to see some brightness on their end and the market is rediscovering a nice balance."

All information is according to the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR) based on data from the Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota, Inc. MAAR is the leading regional advocate and provider of information services and research on the real estate industry for brokers, real estate professionals and the public. MAAR serves the Twin Cities 13-county metro area and western Wisconsin.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Better Than New Construction in Springfield of Chanhassen

Custom Lennar Home on Private Lot with Pond Views

For Sale: 4BR/3BA Single Family House in Victoria, MN, $559,000

Pottery Barn Beautiful in Laketown

New To Market in Chaska! $349,000

For Sale: 4BR/3BA Single Family House in Chaska, MN, $349,000

For Sale: 5BR/4BA Single Family House in Victoria, MN, $725,000

For Sale: 5BR/4BA Single Family House in Victoria, MN, $725,000

Weekly Market Update: June 18, 2012

The report card for this week showed higher grades than last year at this time for both buyers and sellers. Activity levels are higher on both sides, which is indicative of recovering confidence in the local market. Prices in certain areas have already turned a corner, and it is not unreasonable to expect a continuation of this trend. As summer begins to swelter, also keep a watchful eye on active listings, absorption rates, days on market and percent of list price received. Being schooled in these metrics is like having an open book during the final exam.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending June 9:

• New Listings increased 0.4% to 1,582
• Pending Sales increased 29.4% to 1,231
• Inventory decreased 31.0% to 17,540

For the month of May:

• Median Sales Price increased 10.5% to $169,000
• Days on Market decreased 19.6% to 125
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.8% to 94.6%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 44.7% to 4.6

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, June 18, 2012

Top 5 Requests for Home Design

Years ago, I attended a trade show for kitchen and bath products in Dallas. You know the kind: Huge convention hall, lots of booths, vendors hawking the latest in whatever the latest is. Lots of free logo pens, letter openers and key chains.

A friend of mine told me that stuff is called “swag.” And it was. Heavy swag.

After a couple of passes around the trade show floor, filling my canvas tote bag with catalogs and brochures and swag, I popped in on a seminar, where a representative of a national home builder was talking about new home design to a room full of eager builders.

He kept referring to homes as “products,” like cars or refrigerators, and said that his company’s national surveys and studies had figured out what everybody wants in their new home. Everybody.

He had an impressive PowerPoint presentation of all these “wants” – the preferred appliances, bath fixtures, home styles, etc., and was happy to share it with the builders, who’d come here from all over the country.

Which is probably why you so often see the same house in Denver that you see in Atlanta.  And Seattle. And Des Moines.

For some homeowners, that kind of “design by survey” is fine; they want something middle-of-the-road, something not too different from the other houses in their neighborhood. Something they can sell in a few years.

Others look at houses a little differently. They want a house that fits the specifics of their daily lives; that knows who they are and how they’re unique; a home that might last them a lifetime.

That’s personal, face-to-face-talking-for-hours-over-a-cup-of-coffee kind of information. You can’t get that from a survey.

But I’ve done a little survey of my own anyway, by combing through the past couple of years’ of client files. I found five requests that seemed to pop up more often than others and thought I’d share them with you below.

1) Remodel

You saw that one coming didn’t you? Or haven’t you read a newspaper in 3 years? Homeowners are staying put. They’ve got too much invested in their homes and neighborhoods to let them go at the current market prices. Or they’re buying existing homes in great neighborhoods and making them their own.

2) Keep it under 3,000 square feet

Not sure how this became the magic number, but a high percentage of our recent new home clients have made this specific request. It’s still a much higher number than the average American home (about 2,100 square feet in 2009), but significantly lower than the custom homes of just a few years ago. (The home pictured above is 2,764 square feet.)

Interestingly, while homeowners are spending less on house size, they’re spending more in other areas (see below). This is a great sign – we’re moving past an emphasis on the “bigness” of a house as a measure of its quality.

3) Lots of light and windows

I’ve got to attribute this first to the properties my clients are choosing; they’re bigger, more open, and often, more rural.

Simply put, there’s more to see than just the houses next door – so it’s no surprise they’d want more glass area to enjoy the view (above).

A close second reason may be the architectural character and styles my clients prefer – less of the “formal” styles that have generally have fewer windows and more of the “casual” styles that work well with more glass.

4) Zero wasted space

OK, I can’t say I’ve ever had a client ask for wasted space, but more and more I’m hearing that folks want to get the most from every square foot (above).

And not just because less house costs less to build and maintain, but because homeowners are coming to realize that wasted space in their house is usually offset by a loss of quality and detail somewhere else.

Specifically, homeowners are cutting back on “single-use” rooms (dens, private baths), “showy” spaces (two-story foyers, galleries, long hallways), and on overly-formal spaces (dining rooms, living rooms).

5) Energy efficiency

Another no-brainer, with a catch. Energy efficiency isn’t just about insulation, high-tech glass, and geothermal heat pumps anymore; it’s about designing and orienting a home to respond to the particulars of the site (read more about good design and energy efficiency).

These days most homebuyers expect tight construction, an efficient heating system, and plenty of insulation, as much of that’s become the industry standard. But when you start with energy-efficient design strategies, you can save a lot more.

Your Own Personal Top 5 List

A great place to start the design process for your next home is at your own kitchen table, beginning with a simple list of priorities from each family member. If you asked each to list their top 5, how many do you think they’d agree on? How many would surprise you? Leave your comments below — we’d love to hear what you have in mind.

Zillow Blog  Richard Taylor is a residential architect based in Dublin, Ohio and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with him at

Friday, June 15, 2012

Weekend Happenings: Festivals Galore!

Stone Arch Bridge Festival
Downtown Minneapolis
June 15-17, 2012
Cost:  Free

A weekend of art and music on the Minneapolis riverfront.  Over 250 artists will present and sell their works, offering up a panorama of disciplines and styles. Along the way, visitors can indulge in a vast array of carnival games, family-friendly happenings, and food vendors. Music fans can choose from the 40 performers playing on three stages throughout the weekend. And for those whose definition of art involves chrome and tail fins, the festival features a showcase of classic, imported, and just plain bizarre automobiles. All in all, the event endeavors to gratify every artistic leaning, even for those who prefer to take it all in during a stroll over the Stone Arch Bridge.

St. Paul Summer Beerfest
State Fairgrounds - International Bazaar
Saturday, June 16, 2012
2:00pm to 6:00pm
Cost:  General Admission ticktes $40, Designated Driver $10

St. Paul's biggest beer festival dedicated to craft beers! This outdoor festival will feature sampling from 85+ breweries in a commemorative tasting glass, live music, food, educational seminars, a silent auction benefiting the YMCA of St. Paul, and the fun atmosphere of MN State Fairgrounds.

Nature Valley Bicycle Festival - Uptown Criterium
Uptown Minneapolis - Calhoune Square
Friday, June 15, 2012
4:30pm to 9:00pm
Cost:  Free

The Nature Valley Grand Prix returns to the uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis for the the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium for the Friday evening event. With huge crowds that have lined the entire course every year, the riders have been energized and there has been some incredible racing.

The course has teams race past Calhoun Square on a .88 Kilometer course that comprises six tight corners and a furious race to the finish line.

With a long straightaway across the finish line into a very short run between turns one and two, speeds will descend from a brisk 35-plus mph into the low digits before ramping up again out of turn five on Lake Street. Strong racers and teams will stay up front to control the tempo and avoid accidents.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Adding An Above-Ground Pool

A swimming pool may not add value to your home and property, but if you’re wanting that backyard cooling-off spot, an above-ground swimming pool costs far less than an in-ground pool. At around $6,000 for a basic above-ground model versus $30,000 for in-ground, you’ll spend 80% less, and you avoid the disruption of heavy equipment digging up your backyard.

Of course, if you select upgrades like patterned or textured liners, fancy stairs, and custom decking, you could up the price for an above-ground pool to $15,000 or more. At that point, it makes sense to consider an in-ground investment, which you may be able to list as a selling amenity someday.

Ring pools: the least expensive option

Above-ground pools come in two basic types: ring and frame. Ring pools, also known as “float to fill,” are commonly around 12 feet in diameter and 3 feet high. Made of heavy-duty vinyl, they get their name from an inflatable ring at the top of the pool, which rises as the pool fills with water and lifts the sidewalls into place. The filled pool is flask-shaped, wider at the bottom than the top for greater stability.

A 12-foot ring pool holds approximately 1,400 gallons of water, enough to require chlorine tablets for chemical balance and a filtration pump. You can buy one for these for around $300, load it into the back of the SUV, and get it ready for filling the same day. Many families see this as an inexpensive way to test the waters on pool ownership and maintenance.

Frame pools: more costly and more permanent

A frame pool has a sturdy metal frame and an interior pool liner. One of these can stay up year-round, although it can be disassembled in a matter of hours. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes; the most popular size is a 24-foot round, which gives plenty of room for laps or a rowdy game of water polo. Most frame pools come with a lifetime warranty that translates into 25 to 30 years of practical use, even with kids pushing off the sides and jumping off the deck area.

The typical frame pool has walls that are 48 inches to 54 inches high, which means you’ll need a ladder to get in and out. Depending on the size and shape of your yard, installers may be able to bury one end of the steel framework deeper in the ground to create different water levels, but even with this trick, 6.5 feet is the depth limit. Once the pool is set up, you can add decking or landscaping to make it look like a more permanent feature of the yard.

A bare-bones frame pool costs around $4,000, and as much as double that if you add niceties like a high-end patterned liner or a wood frame to blend in better with the landscape. As with a ring pool, you use the backyard hose to fill these with the requisite 3,000 to 6,000 gallons.

Depending on size, plan on two to five days for installation, which includes leveling the site and laying a sand bed. The best time to get on a dealer’s installation list is in the winter or early spring. The impulse-buying nature of an above-ground pool means dealers can be backed up several weeks once summer turns hot.

Maintenance and safety issues

Above-ground frame pools need many of the same working parts as inground versions, such as filters and automatic pool cleaners. They can definitely support a heater, although to keep costs proportionate, many people just spread a solar blanket over the pool when not in use. It’s also possible to hook up automatic cleaners on the circulation line to avoid manually cleaning the sides.

Chemicals are required, but in smaller quantities. Plan on spending an average of $400 a season on chlorine, compared with $600 for an inground pool. Homeowners also need to be aware of local safety ordinances and erect the appropriate fencing. In many jurisdictions, fencing can be attached to the top of the pool itself instead of around the perimeter of the yard.

Because it isn’t permanent, an above-ground pool doesn’t require a permit, and it won’t impact the resale value of your home. Note that some homeowners associations or developers don’t allow them, and they’re not suited for diving. It’s always a good idea to notify your insurance agent that you’ve added an above-ground pool, as coverage policies vary.

Source:  Houselogic

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Weekly Market Update: June 11, 2012

Last year at this time, the housing market was in a holding pattern of uncertainty and negativity. This year, it is acceptable to have hope again. Sellers have listed less inventory and buyers are absorbing existing inventory. Foreclosures, while still Inventory present, are having a less detrimental impact since low-priced inventory has already been purchased, forcing consumers up the price ladder. Homes are now selling quicker and for closer to list prices in many submarkets. The short sale process, loan availability and some appraisals continue to threaten a quicker recovery, but less so recently.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending June 2:

• New Listings decreased 17.4% to 1,382
• Pending Sales increased 27.2% to 974
• Inventory decreased 29.9% to 17,607

For the month of May:

• Median Sales Price increased 10.5% to $169,000
• Days on Market decreased 19.5% to 125
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.8% to 94.5%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 45.2% to 4.5

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, June 11, 2012

Open House: June 12, 2012

8205 Kelzer Pond Drive - Victoria
5 bedroom/5 bath
SqFt: 4,856
OPEN:  11:30 to 1:30

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.

Click HERE for more information on Kelzer Pond Drive.

After The Housing Bust, Revisiting Homeownership

For generations, owning a home has been a key part of the lifestyle most Americans aspire to. But when the mortgage crisis exploded in 2007, it brought down the U.S. housing market — and the entire economy along with it.

The ensuing recession was an assault on the American dream of homeownership itself. The tidal wave of foreclosures, the crash in home prices and tighter lending standards have left some Americans unable or simply too nervous to buy a house.

In the wake of the housing crisis, a flurry of media coverage has trumpeted how Americans are rethinking homeownership. Pundits asked, "Is renting the new owning?" and a September 2010 Time magazine cover proclaimed, "Why owning a home may no longer make economic sense." But has renting become "the future of home-dwelling" in America, as one cable news reporter posited?

In a word: no.

Five years after the market crash of 2007, the desire to own a home is actually very much alive and well. In a recent poll of likely voters by the Woodrow Wilson Center, 84 percent of respondents said homeownership today is just as important as or more important than it was five years ago. Ninety percent still think homeownership is part of the American dream.

'Living The Dream'

At a kitchen table in the Boston suburb of Sharon, Mass., 11-month-old Lilah Medeiros is eating mashed potatoes and making elephant sounds. Her parents, Jared and Emily Medeiros, are in their mid-30s. Both work in a museum, and both are first-time homebuyers.

 "We got a nice front yard, backyard, side yard — two side yards," Jared laughs about the family's new digs.

Emily loves the family's new space. "[Jared] does some woodwork stuff. He can do his projects on the weekends, and I can do some gardening," she says.

"I do feel like we are living the dream. We've said it a couple times since we bought the place," she adds. "This is what you always picture — having the space to do this stuff — and now we do."

Around the country, young families like the Medeiroses are buying homes or condos in the city as well as the suburbs. That desire to own a home, and one's own piece of land, has deep roots in the American psyche.

A Dream With Deep Roots

The term "American dream" became popular in the 1930s, says Bob Shiller, a housing economist at Yale. "But I associate it with the suburban movement that developed after World War II," he says.

"To me, homeownership at that time represented kind of a community spirit. We have neighbors, we like our neighbors, we're active in the community," Shiller says.

The American tradition of actively encouraging home- or farm ownership dates back even further, he says.

"That was the real American dream — [owning] your own farm. So we had the Homestead Act in the 1860s that made it possible for anyone with modest means to buy a farm," he says.

Still earlier, the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville noted the importance of homeownership in his book Democracy in America, published in the 1830s and based on his travels around the country.

"He noticed the independent streak of Americans and their desire to own their own farm and their own home," Shiller says.

"He thought that that represented a kind of anti-feudal feeling — that each person in this country is an independent agent. There is no landlord or lord with his thumb on you."

That American dream arguably became pretty warped during the housing bubble. Buying a house meant making big money fast. There was a frantic rush to buy as prices rose, and McMansions sprang up as people used the equity in their homes to move into bigger houses than they needed.

"It was a different spirit," Shiller says of the boom times. "It was not the same American dream."

Buying More Attractive Than Renting

Today, some might argue that people like Jared and Emily Medeiros are returning to something healthier. The homes on their street in Sharon are well-kept but modest. Many are ranch houses, spread out with nice, big backyards. There are no new McMansions in this neighborhood.

"Most of these ranches were all built in the '50s, so it's ... like a turnover right now," Jared says. "Either the people are moving to Florida or dying or selling their house. And a lot of couples our age with kids, first-time homebuyers, are buying up all the houses around here. You can totally see it. Just lots and lots of families."

The couple says they didn't buy expecting to get rich from rising home values. They simply did the math and decided that, by owning, they could get a lot for their money right now. The couple paid around $250,000 for their home — less than they would have paid a few years ago for a nice house not in need of major repairs.

Home prices are down about 30 percent on average nationally. Interest rates are super low, while rents are rising.

"We're almost at a historic opportunity, in terms of the cost of owning relative to renting," says William Wheaton, an economist at MIT. "It's hard to think of a time in the last ... two or three decades when it's been as good to buy as right now."

Public Policy A Key Factor

Still, Wheaton says, many of the financial benefits of owning a house are a result of government policy. The government has a hand in making mortgages available and affordable, in part through the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners. Those kinds of incentives are a big reason that 65 percent of Americans own their homes.

The opposite is true in countries with different policies. Switzerland, for example, has the lowest homeownership rate in the developed world, Wheaton says.

That's not because the Swiss particularly love renting, he says. It's just that the economic incentives in that country push them toward it. The tax structure there favors renting: It's easy to get long-term rental leases, and loans are harder to get.

As a result, "only 35 percent of the population of Switzerland owns their home," Wheaton says. "And Switzerland is a very affluent little enclave."

The relationship between policies and behavior should be of interest to American policymakers. Over the next few years, Congress will be restructuring the government's role in the housing market. Those changes could have a significant impact on that key element of the American dream: owning one's home.

Source:  National Public Radio

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Open House: June 10, 2012

353 Summerfield Drive - Chanhassen
5 bedroom/4 bath
SqFt: 3,544
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, quartz counters and custom finished island finish off this inviting space. Complete with an informal dining area, this is truly the heart of the home. Durning the warm spring and summer months, you’ll enjoy curling up with your morning coffee on the spacious deck.

Click HERE for more information on Summerfield Drive.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

10 Easy Staging Tips for Curb Appeal

No matter the asking price, simple curb appeal changes can set the scene to immediately attract buyers to a property. Data shows that a majority of home buyers look at properties online or drive by before contacting an agent. As a result, the exterior of the property is always a major selling point.

The decision to buy starts when the prospects step out of their car in front of the property. Prospects will immediately imagine what their friends and family will think when they drive up.

Here are 10 easy steps to make the most of your curb appeal. (It is well worth the expense to hire someone to make these changes if you do not have the time!)

1. Make sure the lawn is mowed and the landscaping is pristine. Keep your gardens neat and healthy, and repair visible damage.

2. Clear the yard. Remove any visible trash cans, toys, tools, rusted outdoor furniture, old lumber, or yard debris.

3. Paint house trim and touch up concrete steps to freshen the look.

4. Paint the front door to give it a fresh look. Repair screens and screen doors.

5. Invest in a new and colorful welcome mat at the front door.

6. Add a potted plant to the side of the front door.

7. Replace the old brass doorknob and lock with brushed nickel.

8. Make sure the street numbers are polished, in place, and easy to see, even if this requires some major shrub or flower trimming. If your street numbers are painted on the curb, repaint them.

9. Replace that old, rusty mailbox in favor of a sleek, modern one. If your mailbox is attached to the house, replace it to match new hardware on the front door handle.

10. Wash all of your windows inside and out. The sparkle will show.

Curb appeal is extremely important when prospects are first beginning to make decisions about which properties they want to see with an agent. These simple changes will differentiate your property from others on the same street or nearby.

Source:  Realtor Magazine:  Styled, Staged, & Sold Blog

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Weekly Market Update: June 4, 2012

Although the latest jobs report was less than exciting for those waiting for economic recovery to cast a warming glow all across the land, the residential real estate market continued to jog along at a nice pace, as though earbuds were drowning out the din of negative energies trying to dissuade healthy activity. For the most recent week, buyer activity was higher than year-ago levels while listing activity registered lower. Keep watching inventory and sales activity throughout the summer to see if this runner's high will continue into fall.

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

• New Listings decreased 8.5% to 1,387
• Pending Sales increased 19.2% to 1,231
• Inventory decreased 29.8% to 17,740

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 3.7% to 93.4%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 41.7% to 4.8

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, June 4, 2012

What To Consider Before Building A Pool

The decision to build an in-ground pool isn’t one to take lightly. Apart from the substantial installation costs, which typically run into the tens of thousands of dollars, you have to factor in ongoing maintenance expenses as well as insurance and tax implications. And you can’t be assured of recouping your investment when you sell; while a pool may be attractive to some buyers, others might be put off by the upkeep or safety concerns.

If you’re looking for bang for your buck at resale, an upscale kitchen or extra bathroom offers greater impact. But if you want the ultimate backyard entertainment amenity and social gathering spot, nothing fills the bill like a swimming pool. Thinking about taking the plunge? Here’s a look at how the numbers add up.

Ballpark your installation costs

The average cost in the U.S. to install, equip, and fill a 600-square-foot concrete pool starts at $30,000. Add in aesthetic details like waterfalls, lighting, landscaping, and perhaps a spa, and you’re easily looking at totals approaching six figures.

Concrete is the most expensive pool material, but it’s also the most durable and offers the most options for customization. Fiberglass shells and those with vinyl liners fall on the lower end of the budget scale, but the liners typically need replacing every 10 or so years. Changing the liner requires draining the pool and replacing the edging (called coping), so over time costs add up. Most home buyers will insist that you replace a vinyl liner, even if it’s only a few years old.

Decide on a filtration and heating system

The filtration pump is the biggest energy hog in a pool system, so you want to get the most efficient pump possible. The good news here is that new, variable-speed pumps use up to 80% less energy than old single-speed pumps, cutting operating expenses dramatically. At about $1,500, these cost more up front, but some local utilities offer rebates through participating pool dealers. You can further cut energy costs by setting the pump to run at non-peak times, when rates for electricity are lower.

If you’re planning to heat your pool, gas heaters are the least expensive to purchase and install, but they typically have the highest operation and maintenance costs. Many pool owners opt instead for electric heat pumps, which extract heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to the water. Heat pumps take longer than gas to warm the pool, but they’re more energy-efficient, costing $200 to $400 less to operate per swimming season. Regardless of heating system, covering the pool with a solar blanket to trap heat and reduce evaporation will further lower operating costs.

Account for ongoing maintenance expenses

All pools require that the water be balanced for proper pH, alkalinity, and calcium levels. They also need sanitizing to control bacteria and germs, which is where chlorine has traditionally entered the picture. These days you have a variety of options, including systems that use bromine, salt, ozone, ionizers, or other chemical compounds that can be less irritating to skin. Chlorine remains the most popular because the upfront costs are reasonable, and you don’t have to be as rigid about checking the levels on a set schedule. But as far as your wallet is concerned, they all even out in the end.

In a seasonal swimming climate, budget about $600 annually for maintenance if you shoulder the chemical balancing and cleaning yourself; in a year-round climate, it’s more like $15 to $25 per week. To save yourself the task of once-a-week vacuuming, you can buy a robotic cleaning system for between $500 and $800 that will do the job for you. In locations where the pool must be opened and closed for the season, add another $500 each time for a pro to handle this task.

Factor in insurance and tax implications

A basic homeowners insurance policy typically covers a pool structure without requiring a separate rider, but you should increase your liability from the standard amount. It costs about $30 a year to bump coverage from $100,000 to $500,000. Many underwriters require you to fence in the pool so that children can’t wander in unsupervised.

In some areas, adding a pool may increase your annual property taxes, but it won’t necessarily add to your home’s selling price. For that reason, try to keep your total building cost between 10% and 15% of what you paid for your house, lest you invest too much in an amenity that won’t pay you back.

Source:  Houselogic