Thursday, January 31, 2013

Weekend Happenings: Ice Skating and Hay Rides

Lake of the Isles - Family Skating Festival
Painter Park
620 West 34th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Thurs. Jan. 31, 2013
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Cost:  Free

Join us at the best outdoor skating rink in the Twin Cities - our very own Lake of the Isles rink! We'll enjoy ice skating, a bonfire, music, hot cocoa and s'mores! Bring the whole family!

Wells Fargo Winter Skate
Lankdmark Plaza
75 W. 5th St.
St Paul, MN 55102
Through Feb 3, 2013
11:00 am  to 5:00 pm weekdays, open until 10:00 pm weekends
Cost:  Free, rental skates available for $2/person

Skaters are invited to experience the unique urban setting of downtown Saint Paul. Located in the heart of the city, Wells Fargo WinterSkate creates a fun, winter experience for visitors of all ages. The historic Landmark Center creates a beautiful backdrop for the outdoor rink, showcasing Saint Paul’s charming European architecture and old-world ambiance.

We invite you and your whole family to dust off your skates and head to downtown Saint Paul. The outdoor rink will be filled with noontime skaters, after school groups, youth hockey scrimmages and practices, broomball teams, corporate events, and family open skating.

Daily skating at the Wells Fargo WinterSkate ice rink will not be canceled, unless the actual air temperature or wind-chill reaches -25 degrees F or colder or other severe weather conditions exist.

24th Annual Fire and Ice Celebration
Parkers Lake
Co Rd 6 & Niagara Ln
Plymouth, MN 55447
Sat. Feb. 2, 2013
2:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Cost:  Free

Hayrides, horse rides and sled dog rides, recycle bin races, miniature golf on the ice, snow bowling, youth ice fishing contest, recreational skating, goofy hat contest, food vendors and fireworks at 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Will the New ‘Normal’ for Housing Be?

Mortgage giant Fannie Mae recently offered some predictions of what the housing market’s “normal” will look like in the next two years.

In its report, “Transition to ‘Normal’?”, Fannie says while the housing market has shown improvement, uncertainty remains over both the economy and the real estate market.

"Our forecast is that 2013 and 2014 will exhibit below-potential economic growth,” according to the white paper. “This is despite the fact that we expect the housing rebound will continue and that the economy will benefit from the gradual increased growth of U.S.-based manufacturing, as well as the expansion of domestic energy production.”

The following are some of the projections Fannie made in its report:

  • Mortgage rates to stay low: Fannie Mae expects mortgage rates to remain low over the next few years. The mortgage giant expects rates will increase to no more than 4.2 percent by the end of 2014.
  • FHA loans may get more expensive: More costs may be assigned to Federal Housing Administration loans.
  • Refinancing drops: The boom in refinancing may have peaked last year with slower activity projected this year. "We expect 2012 to be seen as the high watermark for refinances and 2013 as the first of several transition years as the housing finance market transitions back to a more normal balance between purchase and refinance activity."
  • Foreclosures continue to fall: Fannie expects foreclosures to continue to decline from their peaks as more alternatives to foreclosure are pursued.

    Housing starts to rise: Fannie Mae predicts that housing starts (construction of new homes) will increase 23 percent in 2013 -- which would be 60 percent more than the record low in 2010. Fannie expects housing starts won’t reach sustainable levels until 2016.
  • Mortgage originations grow: "Given our expectations of continued improvement in housing starts, home sales, and home prices in 2013,” Fannie Mae writes, “we project that purchase mortgage originations will rise to $642 billion from a forecast of $518 billion in 2012."

Source: “‘Normal’ Housing Market May Not be What it Used to Be,” Realty Times (Jan. 30, 2013)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Weekly Market Update: January 28, 2013

The best real estate professionals leverage the power of data to deliver excellent value and real market understanding to customers. With the exceptional tools at their disposal, they can help buyers and sellers understand market trends and make important decisions. Real estate is "hot" again, even during the winter months, but nobody is predicting a rocket ship rise. It helps everybody if this market recovery incline is smooth and steady, like the gentle flow of a hot air balloon. Here are the numbers for this week.

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

• New Listings decreased 1.6% to 1,077
• Pending Sales increased 17.4% to 822
• Inventory decreased 31.6% to 12,197

For the month of December:

• Median Sales Price increased 15.9% to $168,000
• Days on Market decreased 23.4% to 108
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.5% to 93.8%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 40.0% to 3.0

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Glimpse of Home Building's Future

Bioethanol candles that heat an entire room. Refrigerators that pour hot water. Glass doors that slide around curves.

In response to the growing popularity of floor-to-ceiling 'glass walls,' NanaWall Systems introduced a sliding glass door system with mineral frames and tracks and concealed hardware, to avoid obstructing views. They can be configured to fit any shape--even a curved wall.

At the annual International Builders' Show in Las Vegas this week, tens of thousands, suppliers, distributors and builders convened to examine new innovations in home-building materials, appliances, fixtures and technologies.

The mood was optimistic: Construction of single-family homes climbed 18.5% in December from the prior year. The annual sales pace of new homes was on track to be 23% higher last year than the record low in 2011. And a number of exhibitors who sat last year's show out, such as GE Appliances, were back in force.

The new designs highlighted the changing priorities of today's homeowners—and could point toward a new set of standard home features. Generators, increasingly seen as a home essential, are getting smaller. Kitchen appliances have a greater ability to multitask. And the standard electrical outlet could be going the way of the dinosaur.

The Hot Fridge

GE's Café French Door refrigerator

Sure, it was exciting when refrigerators started dispensing water and ice—crushed and cubed. But GE Appliances says its Café French Door refrigerator is the industry's first fridge that can quickly heat 10 ounces of water. There's also a filter that promises to remove traces of pharmaceuticals.

Price: $3,200

Like a Fireplace Without the Smoke

EcoSmart Fire fireplace

Don't call it a fireplace. An Australian household-goods company dreamed up these torchlike decorative appliances, which burn denatured alcohol—or bioethanol—to produce flames as high as 8 to 10 inches. EcoSmart Fire products usually come in fish-tank-like enclosures, but some are free-standing pieces of furniture. They emit a surprisingly high amount of heat, capable of warming a whole room, and can burn for between seven and 24 hours. Many of EcoSmart's pieces are portable, and not considered fireplaces under most building codes in the U.S., making them legally acceptable for even most rental apartments. They produce no smoke and won't damage walls or ceilings in the rooms where they burn.

Price: $400 to $11,000

Small Box, Big Power

GE's new 8kW generator

As big storms continue battering the nation and power grids continue to age, more consumers want their own generators. Today's power units are increasingly compact. GE Generator Systems is showcasing its new 8kW generator, which it says boasts the smallest footprint in its class. The units can be placed as close as 18 inches to the home, making them usable in denser urban areas.

Price: $2,199

The Outlet Killer?

A Leviton plug with USB ports

The era of mobile phones, tablets and portable games has made plugs prime real estate when it comes time to recharge, leaving little space for things that have long needed power. Leviton, of Melville, N.Y., has added two USB ports to its wall box—allowing heavy tech users to cut out the "middleman" device of a charger and plug phones and tablets right into the wall.

Price: $20

Sauna Fever

A sauna by Finlandia Sauna

The sauna market is heating back up following the housing crash as higher-end buyers splurge on the heated rooms most associated with the spa culture.

Finlandia Sauna of Portland, Ore., allows buyers to select their size and wood type and decide if they want the unit incorporated into a bath or pool area or to function more as a stand-alone room. Europeans are big buyers, as are the health conscious, says Terri Tarkiainen, controller of the family-run business started in 1964. Sales are strong in New York—particularly Brooklyn—Florida, the Midwest and California.

Price: Starting around $5,000

The Rise of the Elevator

An elevator by Residential Elevators

Amid a shift away from one-story ranch houses and toward multistory, multigenerational houses, elevators are making a comeback in newly built homes. Residential Elevators Inc. builds small elevator units with interiors clad in mirrors, leather or high-end wood that can rise up to 50 feet—or five stories—and hold up to 950 pounds.

Price: Starts at $20,000

Grilling at Another Level

Fire Magic's new Echelon grill

Fire Magic's new Echelon grill is a high-tech smoker, rotisserie oven and barbecue all in one. Unlike many grills, which are purely gas-powered, the Echelon is combination gas and electric. The main grill lights using a hot-surface ignition system, much like the way a clothes dryer turns on, rather than the usual pilot light.

Price: $7,385

Jason Wu in the House

A Jason Wu-designed faucet

Jason Wu may be best known as the designer of inaugural ball gowns worn by first lady Michelle Obama, but he's made a foray into home fixtures as well. At the builders' show, Brizo, the high-end product line of Delta Faucet Co., owned by Masco Corp., MAS -1.14%featured a set of sleek, matte-black bathroom faucets and accents like towel rings and wall-mounted shelves, designed by Mr. Wu.

Brizo is marketing them as the ultimate in high fashion in the bathroom. The faucets, for example, display a cool blue light that changes to red when the water reaches the desired temperature.

Price: $799

Source:, A version of this article appeared January 25, 2013, on page M1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Glimpse of Home Building's FutureA Glimpse of Home Building's Future.  by Dawn Wotapka and Robbie Whelan

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Listing: Late January 2013

New Listing - 5220 Meadville Street in Greenwood

Click HERE for map

Presenting another Exception Home from Stafford Family Realtors:

5220 Meadville Street
Greenway, MN 55331

For Sale:  4 bedroom/5 bath single family home for $1,999,999.

West-facing Lakeshore on Excelsior Bay

Open Houses: January 27, 2013

19100 Rutledge Road - Deephaven
3 bedroom/3 bath
SqFt:  3,850
OPEN:  1:00 to 3:00

Welcome to Beachcomber, in the heart of Deephaven! This new home brilliantly combines the white, gabled architecture this area is known for, with modern, contemporary design, creating a home perfectly suited to this neighborhood. New and interesting details are used throughout, this includes a cantilevered entry roof to welcome you inside and a vaulted family room to encourage you to relax and enjoy your surroundings. Whether it’s time with family, or curled up in the window seat with a good book, you’ll enjoy sunshine from morning until night. The house is wrapped in windows and features a spacious, open floor plan. The kitchen, dining and family rooms all complement each other, allowing easy movement from one room to the next. On the second floor, the loft, overlooking the family room, allows you to nestle into the treetops in your own home and is down the hall from two junior bedrooms, a full bath, and a master suite. The master suite features a vaulted ceiling and windows on three sides. The master bath features a free-standing soaking bathtub and walk-in shower. It is bathed in natural light, providing a spa like experience. The home also features both a front deck and dining patio to allow you to enjoy the close proximity to Lake Minnetonka and Deephaven Beach. Well equipped with Thermadore appliances, a wine cooler, Marvin windows, Koehler faucets and Corian countertops. >>> We called this home Beachcomber due to it’s unique location near Deephaven Beach on Lake Minnetonka. We used the spirit of Beachcomber to guide the design, focusing on light, openness and a relaxed approach to living. Kick off your shoes and stay awhile! -Chris Guerrera, Risk Architectural Design, LLC

Click HERE for more information on Rutledge Road.

7269 Bent Bow Trail - Chanhassen
5 bedroom/4 bath
SqFt:  3,554
OPEN:  12:00 to 2:00

Welcome to 7269 Bent Bow Trail nestled in the demand neighborhood of Longacres. This home offers wonderful living spaces designed and built specifically with Family and entertaining in mind. From pillar to post this home features smart details. The main level features a Separate Formal Dining and Living Room, a totally remodeled Kitchen and a Two Story Great Room with gas fireplace and custom built-ins. The kitchen offers all new stainless steel Bosch appliances, granite countertops, custom quit-close cabinetry, tiled floors & backsplash. You will find four bedrooms on the upper including the private Master Suite, with a vaulted ceiling, large walk-in closet and bath with a double vanity, this is a wonderful retreat. The finished walkout Lower Level offers the perfect space for entertaining or relaxing. Enjoy a wet bar and room for your billiards room and family room. A 5th bedroom and ¾ bath finish off this home. The residents of this neighborhood are more than neighbors; the relationships built here become great friendships. With the winding streets, private parks, walking paths you'll enjoy the prime location of this neighborhood nestled between the City of Chanhassen and the Village of Excelsior. Experience Lake Minnetonka and all the conveniences of Chanhassen. Longacres is a unique neighborhood that has a welcoming feeling of community; many social events take place throughout the year including an Annual Picnic, Bunco, Book Clubs and numerous parties. Made up of 225 Lundgren Brothers built residences, Longacres is a neighborhood that people aspire to live in. For a private showing, please contact us at 952.470.2575 or visit for more information.

Click HERE for more information on Bent Bow Trail.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Listings: January 2013

New Listing - 74XX Dogwood Road in Chanhassen

Click HERE for map

Presenting another Exceptional Home from Stafford Family Realtors:

74XX Dogwood Road
Chanhassen, MN 55317

For Sale: New Construction 2-story single family home built to suit your needs for $1,299,000

To Be Built on the shores of Lake Minnewashta

New Listing - 4532 Bluebell Trail South in Medina

Click HERE for map

Presenting another Exceptional Home from Stafford Family Realtors:

4532 Bluebell Trail South
Medina, MN 55340

For Sale:  4 bedroom/5 bath single family home for $1,199,000

Custom Built Charles Cudd Home in Bridgewater at Lake Medina

New Listing - 1633 Isabella Parkway in Chaska

Click HERE for map

Presenting another Exceptional Home from Stafford Family Realtors:

1633 Isabella Parkway
Chaska, MN 55318

For Sale:  4 bedroom/4 bath single family home for $579,000

One Level Living at its Finest in Bellavista of Chaska

New Listing - 4694 Woodridge Road in Minnetonka

Click HERE for map

Presenting another Exceptional Home from Stafford Family Realtors:

4694 Woodridge Road
Minnetonka, MN 55345

For Sale:  4 bedroom/4 bath single family home for $569,000

Pottery Barn Beautiful in Forest Hills of Minnetonka

New Listing - 1725 Martingale Lane in Victoria

Click HERE for map

Presenting another Exceptional Home from Stafford Family Realtors:

1725 Martingale Lane
Victoria, MN 55386

For Sale:  4 bedroom/4 bath single family home for $550,000

Lennar's Popular Hampton model in Laketown of Victoria

New Listing - 15388 Sunrise Circle West in Eden Prairie

Click HERE for map

Presenting another Exceptional Home from Stafford Family Realtors:
15388 Sunrise Circle West
Eden Prairie, MN 55347
For Sale:  New Construction 2-story single family home built to suit your needs for $549,900

Build your Dream Home on this 0.84 acre lot in Eden Prairie

New Listing - 7269 Bent Bow Trail in Chanhassen

Click HERE for map

Presenting another Exceptional Home from Stafford Family Realtors:

7269 Bent Bow Trail
Chanhassen, MN 55317

For Sale:  5 bedroom/4 bath single family home for $469,000

Demand Longacres Single Family with Totally Remodeled Kitchen!

Weekend Happenings: 2013 St. Paul Winter Carnival

2013 St. Paul Winter Carnival
Rice Park
109 W. 4th St.
St. Paul, MN 55102
Thurs. Dec. 24 through Sun. Feb. 3
Cost:  Free to the Public

Cover Photo

It's that time of year again: when folks brave threats of freezing temperatures, harsh windchill, and snow by the foot to enjoy the vast variety of happenings at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, many of which are outdoors. Things kick off this Thursday with multi-block ice carving in the morning and live music in the evening at Rice Park. The Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships will also take over downtown and the Cathedral area that day, as over 200 ice cross downhill racers will compete for top honors at high speeds. Folks can get directly involved in festivities with the Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade at 5:30 p.m. starting at the Securian Building (401 Robert St.). Other fun outdoor activities to be had during the festival include the snow sculpting competition on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, the World's Toughest BBQ (also at Rice Park), and the Beer Dabbler in Lowertown. Folks who prefer to spend January warm and indoors may enjoy Saturday's Euro-Dance Party at the Germanic-American Institute (or stop by earlier for the outdoor party with mulled wine and carnival-style entertainment), the children's art show at the AZ Gallery, or the Queens and Fire and Ice drag show at the Lowry Lab Theatre. For a complete schedule and list of locations, visit — By Jessica Armbruster, City Pages

Check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

13 Hot Home Trends for 2013

The design choices of 2013 will be shaped by uncertainty over how long current home owners will stay and what future buyers’ tastes may be. So, home owners’ needs and style preferences are more influential in today’s designs than what buyers want.

Here is a baker’s dozen of changes that design pros and manufacturers say are emerging and will make greater inroads:

1. Smarter, Less Costly Automated Controls: With lives continuing to be busy and automation costs coming down, it’s become more affordable to control a home’s systems—temperature, security, electronics, lighting, and more—through a single device, even from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod. Doing so can eliminate multiple controls and make it easy for home owners to manage things around their home, even when they aren’t there, says Jim Carroll, a founder of Savant Systems in Cape Cod, Mass., which designs and develops integrated automation solutions. “The average family has more than 80 different devices that can be controlled with one system,” he says. Anna Lowder and husband Harvi Sahota are incorporating more of these systems in homes they build for their Mercer Home residential building company in Montgomery, Ala. One example is the Nest Intelligent Thermostat, which can be controlled remotely, react intuitively to home owners’ habits, and adjust to conserve energy costs.

Nest AutoAway
Nest Smart Thermostat

2. Outdoor Living Rooms and Screened Porches: A trend that began a few years ago continues to inspire home owners to think beyond terraces and decks. These spaces have more of the feeling and function of an indoor room—better furnishings, fire pits, curtains, and even televisions and audio systems. Some spaces are designed as courtyards for greater privacy, yet with high-efficiency glass windows and doors to make them energy-smart and seamless with indoor rooms, says Lowder of Mercer Home. Further helping to blur lines between outdoor and indoor spaces is the rise of screened porches, which have gained more indoor accoutrements such as fireplaces, making them livable nearly year-round.

3. Outdoor Kitchens, Vegetable Gardens, and More: Interest continues in outdoor food preparation of all kinds—as simple as a grill and as elaborate as a built-in cook’s station with sink, storage, beer tap, pizza oven, refrigerator, and countertops. Newer amenities include a hybrid grill that permits cooking with both gas and wood or charcoal and prefabricated kitchens that save funds, says landscape designer Michael Glassman in Sacramento, Calif. With a kitchen in place, many home owners move on to plant a vegetable garden, preferably including raised beds to avoid bending too much, Glassman says. He suggests starting with what home owners want to eat and cook—tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and herbs for gazpacho or spaghetti sauce—and learning through practice what thrives in an area’s soil and climate. Essentials are healthy soil, drainage, and readily available water. The next new food trend is a backyard pond with organically-raised fish that home owners can consume without trekking to a market, says Erik Coffin, CEO and owner of Gotham Capital Management in West Hollywood, Calif.

4. Themed Designs: After years of stark contemporary design, themed decorating is making a comeback, according to Montclair, N.J.-based designer Blanche Garcia. “There are more home owners asking for a European flair, perhaps antique sconces and velvet pillows,” she says. And partly due to excitement from the recent royal wedding, British-style motifs continue to proliferate, including Union Jack flags, red phone booths, and hounds tooth, floral, and crown patterns, says Paul Berberian, creative director of Brewster Home Fashions, a wallpaper company in Randolph, Mass.

Credit:  HGTV Blog

5. Media Frenzy: With more families remaining home for “staycations” rather than traveling, rooms are being devoted to TV and other multimedia entertainment with comfortable seating, tables, and good lighting. They’re designed to have a more “home-y” feel than media rooms of the past, Garcia says.

Credit:  Houzz blog

6. New Neutrals and Color Pops: With the country still in the financial doldrums, neutrals remain more popular than vibrant hues, says Erika Woelfel, director of color marketing at Behr Paint in Santa Anna, Calif. Nevertheless, neutrals aren’t the same whites, creams, and beiges, she says. “A blue-gray that works well with the range of popular blues and the purples they’ve replaced are making inroads; they offer a fresh background,” she says. In contrast, bright new accents such as such as raspberry-pink may attract greater attention than a straightforward red. There’s also a range of yellows, which complement blue-grays. And designer Ron Marvin of Ron Marvin Design in New York also sees a trend toward orange and purple accents. How long will these colors last? “Paint colors tend to move in cycles of five to 10 years and follow other home-décor categories, which in turn follow fashion,” Woelfel says.

Credit:  TLC

7. More Double-Duty Furnishings: With homes continuing to be scaled back and many baby boomers moving into condos, more furniture and furnishings need to do double duty in smaller spaces. Expect to see ottomans used for seating and storage, couches that convert to beds, and coffee tables that can rise for dining. This trend means that the one “room” in a house that’s not shrinking is the garage, which is often still big enough for two cars and storage.


8. Lighter Looks: Smaller homes and spaces call for scaled-back pieces and better illumination that makes rooms look larger. “I don’t like overwhelming rooms,” says Courtney Fohrman of Fohrman Interiors in Chicago. To achieve this, she suggests swapping out large bookshelves for wall-mounted shelves, opting for tailored furniture over clunky items, and welcoming natural light.

9. Green Merchandise: Interest in sustainable products and materials keeps attracting attention—particularly when it comes to choosing paints, adhesives, countertops, and flooring. “Most furniture companies and paint manufacturers have at least one item or line that fits the green movement,” Garcia says. Large paint companies such as Benjamin Moore, Glidden, Kelly Moore, and Sherwin Williams offer zero-VOC or odor-free paints, according to Healthy Homes Plans, founded by Linda Mason Hunter, author of The Healthy Home: An Attic to Basement Guide to Toxin-Free Living.

10. Energy and Water Efficiency: Efforts to conserve energy and water throughout the home continue to be popular, including low-water toilets and sinks, better functioning furnaces, and improved insulation. Solar panels are more integrated into roofs so they’re less of an eyesore. Gray recycled water can be used in toilets and to water gardens, while more drought-tolerant plants and replacements for impermeable hardscape allow greater water retention, Coffin says.

11. Panelized Homes: More factory-built homes help to cut building costs at the site by reducing the amount of labor time needed in the field. Besides cost savings, there’s the ability to improve quality control, says Eric VanDerHeyden, executive vice president of RSI Development in Newport, Calif., which uses a variety of plans ranging from 1,232 square feet to 2,500 square feet. “It can cut the cost in half and construction time from a year to eight weeks,” he says.


12. Handcrafted Elements: Many home owners desire hand-crafted artisanal pieces for a greater personalized look. Some are made from reclaimed rustic wood, which adds a homey, inviting feeling, says Brad Ford of Brad Ford ID in New York.

13. Stylish Kitchens and Bathrooms: These remain at the top of many home owners’ wish lists, as they reflect the trend of remodeling rather than adding on, says Bill Millrolland, executive vice president of Case Design Remodeling in Bethesda, Md. The transitional look—a middle ground between traditional and contemporary—has become more popular. This is evidenced by choices such as cove rather than crown molding, dark-stained or painted finishes rather than natural maple or cherry, and larger format 24” by 24” tiles rather than smaller 12” by 12” and 6” by 6” ones, he says. Designer Wendy Johnson in Manchester Village, Vt., also sees continued interest in kitchens, particularly when they become even more open “live-in” spaces for cooking, eating, socializing, doing homework, or paying bills. Likewise, master suites serve multiple functions, including unwinding, sleeping, and bathing. Millrolland reports more requests for Universal Design features that permit home owners to age in place but don’t convey an institutional look: Grab bars masquerading as towel bars, kitchen counters of different heights for wheelchair access, and wider hallways and doors to permit walkers and wheelchairs through.

Credit:  Cro Made Cabinetry

No matter what the market’s doing though, the best advice you can give to home owners is to make design decisions based on their hearts and wallets rather than media predictions and hype.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Weekly Market Update: January 21, 2013

The first full week of 2013 market data looks a lot like most of 2012 did. But let's go beyond the obvious. Consider this: Americans formed substantially more new households in 2012 than we built, which is partly responsible for the ongoing declines in active listings. Our population continues to expand from both natural reproduction and in-migration. But builders and lenders lacked the confidence and risk appetite to build in larger volumes. Unlike our sluggish jobs recovery, this imbalance actually stands to further fuel our fledgling housing recovery. If only all those new households could secure adequate employment, we'd be off to the races.

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

• New Listings decreased 8.0% to 1,120
• Pending Sales increased 4.3% to 722
• Inventory decreased 31.7% to 12,123

For the month of December:

• Median Sales Price increased 15.9% to $168,000
• Days on Market decreased 23.4% to 108
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.5% to 93.8%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 42.0% to 2.9

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, January 21, 2013

Essential Home Building Ideas: Kitchens

We're continuing on our series of Essential Home Building Ideas.  We've already covered Electrical and Design/Build ideas. Today we're tackling the hub of the home, the kitchen. 

1.  Recess the refrigerator.
2.  Place cabinets or drawers on both sides of wide islands for extra storage space. 
3.  Incorporate a paper towel holder in your cabinetry.
4.  Customize your drawers for optimal organization.
5.  Put a warming drawer in your dining room (technically not the kitchen but related.)
6.  Place pantry for easy access from both kitchen and garage.
7.  Incorporate both gas and electric hook-ups for appliances in case you change your mind down the road.
8.  For corner pantries, incorporate lazy susan's in the corners on every shelf for easy access.
9.  Place a light in your pantry and have it on a motion sensor, or put a switch in the door frame so that the light goes on when the door is open and off when the door closes.  This only works if you're diligent in closing your pantry door.
10.  Use copper tubing for your ice maker from the freezer until it's out of the kitchen wall.
11.  Consider installing a drawer microwave.
12.  Incorporate a dedicated knife drawer.
13.  Have separate pull-out cabinets for garbage, recycling, composting and dirty laundry (dishtowels, rags, etc.)
14.  Consider replacing lower cabinets with drawers - more efficient use of space and easier to get to items stored in them.
15.  Install two pumps at the sink, one for dishsoap and one for handsoap.
16.  Be sure to plan a space to hang dishtowels to dry at a convenient location to the sink.  It's amazing how often this gets overlooked.
17.  Incorporate an appliance garage for frequently used small appliances that you don't want sitting out for view.  This includes a standing mixer, food processor, toaster, coffee maker, juicer, etc.
18.  Plumb for water to the stove for a future pot-filler and to the island for a future prep station.  It will make updating your kitchen easier in the future.
19.  Never forget undercabinet lighting!
20.  Incorporate a pull-out drawer that is lined with plastic under your sink base to hold hard-to-get-to cleaning supplies.
21.  Keep your backsplash free of outlets by placing outlets under the bottom-side of the upper cabinets or under the lip of the countertop.
22.  If you have pets, incorporate a feeding area and possibly even a sleeping area for your pets in the kitchen.

We'd love to hear your ideas, too.  Let us know of any great ideas you had when you built your house.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Open House: January 20, 2013

7269 Bent Bow Trail - Chanhassen
5 bedroom/4 bath
SqFt:  3,554
OPEN:  12:00 to 2:00

Main Photo

Newly listed in demand Longacres neighborhood of Chanhassen. 

Click HERE for more information on 7269 Bent Bow Trail.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Add a Library

Even with the advent of all the electronic reading devices, there's just something about the feel of a book in your hand.  If you're the bookish sort, chances are you've often dreamed of having a library in your home.  Many believe it is out of reach for them but as you'll see below, you can incorporate space in your home for any sized library if you just broaden your definition of a library.  Enjoy the photos below!

Vaulted Rooms

home library pictures

Vaulted ceilings can waste a lot of space inside a home. This living room library makes use of some of that space while maintaining the open feeling of the room, by taking the bookshelves all the way to the ceiling. Image courtesy of Mark Dodge Design.

Loft Space

home library design idea

This large, open space at the end of a second-story hallway was remodeled into a sunny, inviting home library, rather than turning the space into a TV room or closed guest room. The shelving maintained the antique cottage look created by the architecture and wainscot walls. Image courtesy of Archia Homes.


home library ideas  

If your hallway is wide enough, consider converting one wall into a home library. Image courtesy of James Wagman Architect, LLC.   You could also consider adding an art gallery to the opposite wall!   

 Repurposed Closet
 small home library  

This walk-in closet was converted to a book nook and reading room. A space like this one can hold a surprisingly large collection of books. Image courtesy of Susan Jay Design.    


    home library designs  

Staircase landings are commonly underused spaces in the home where there may be just enough room for shelving or a bookcase. These custom shelves utilize the space under the stairs as well, while the open stairs and glass wall keep this library in full view. Image courtesy of Exedra Architects.

       home library

A spiral staircase creates a beautiful custom book nook in the stairwell space. Image courtesy of Glenn Gissler Design.

The Water Closet

in home library

This tiny closet satisfies the need for reading material in the bathroom and support’s this powder room’s vertical-axis design theme. Image courtesy of Smith and Vansant Architects PC.

Room Divider

Define spaces in your home without blocking light and views with a free-standing bookshelf. 

Frame a View

Fill in the spaces around your windows with books to frame all your views.  Image courtesy of

Source:  Many images and texts from Case Design/Remodeling Inc.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Weekly Market Update: January 14, 2013

With 2012 in the books, we're starting to see some 2013 activity trickle in. Watch for continuations of last year's trends: less inventory, strong buyer activity and firmer prices. It's hard to believe spring is just around the corner, but would-be spring sellers are noticing the changes that have taken place. It's a much less scary time to sell a home. Foreclosure activity will also be a key metric to watch. For the current cycle, here's what the data shows.

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

• New Listings decreased 34.6% to 832
• Pending Sales increased 12.7% to 594
• Inventory decreased 31.1% to 12,000

For the month of December:

• Median Sales Price increased 16.2% to $168,452
• Days on Market decreased 23.4% to 108
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 3.5% to 93.8%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 42.0% to 2.9

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, January 14, 2013

7 Expert Tips on How to Live Within Your Means Now

"What does it mean today to ‘live within your means’?” was a question posed by Megan of The Happiest Mom during a Women & Co. #MomTalksMoney video chat in July (2012). For our parents and grandparents, it meant only spending what you earned—hopefully leaving some financial “wiggle room” for unexpected events like a leaky roof.

But as we added credit cards to our wallet, our notion of “living within your means” somehow morphed into “living within your available credit limit”—at least for some. To regain their financial footing after the Great Recession, many families have returned to the “retro” definition.

Considering the precarious state of our economy, is living within our means good enough? Should we be aiming to live beneath our means, rather than within them? That’s the question I, in turn, posed to seven money gurus in my network. “Yes,” each enthusiastically exclaimed, and then shared with me these secrets to living a financially prudent life:

1. “Think of your ‘means’ as a pie,” suggests Carmen Wong Ulrich, President and Co-Founder of ALTA Wealth Management. “Each part of your life—mortgage, debt, education, savings, vacations, and so on—requires a ‘slice.’ If one piece of your ‘pie’ is too big, it has to come from other pieces, the other parts of your monthly budget: your take-home pay. That pie is 100%. That’s all each of us has to work with: that is your ‘means,’” explains Carmen. She cautions, “The biggest expense that we have control over is our home. Where and how you choose to live is one of the biggest decisions you can make for your budget.”

2. “Keep fixed expenses at 50% or less of pretax income,” says Jonathan Clements, Director of Financial Education for Citi Personal Wealth Management. By fixed expenses, Jonathan means mortgage or rent payments, car payments, utilities, insurance premiums, groceries, etc. “This leaves the other 50% for taxes, savings, and discretionary expenses like vacations and eating out,” says Jonathan. The result? “It gives you some room for error in your finances, such as getting hit with an unexpected expense or a sudden drop in income. If you lost your job, you could probably get by on just half of your old income, and maybe less,” says Jonathan.

3. “Strive to save 20% of your after-tax income,” recommends Manisha Thakor, Founder/CEO of MoneyZen Wealth Management. “Most people don’t want to hear this,” acknowledges Manisha, “but in a world where we are increasingly responsible for our own retirements and healthcare, anything less is a precarious place to be. Admittedly, saving 20% means your life probably will not look like that of an A-list celebrity. And, it probably will mean that, like your parents and grandparents, it may take some years to obtain a certain standard of living, so you will have to adjust your expectations. But, you will have a healthy financial safety cushion and more financial flexibility should life toss you a curve ball.”

4. “Don’t buy it if you can’t pay for it in cash, with the exception of your house and education,” say Fab & Fru co-founders Stephanie Berenbaum and Brandi Savitt. “Our grandparents had the right idea: before there was fake food and fake money, they ate only real, identifiable food and paid for things with cash. Follow this rule and you’ll be living within your means, not to mention eating healthy.”

5. “Keep your overhead low so you can stockpile cash for living,” believes Amanda Steinberg, Founder of DailyWorth. “At the end of the day, maintaining a life that you can barely afford isn’t much fun. We also know from dieting that deprivation doesn’t work. Everyone needs a treat from time to time—I know that I do! So I keep my fixed expenses as low as I can and I save, save, and keep saving. I even keep separate banks accounts, each earmarked for a specific goal, from emergencies to my future home to a week at the beach in the summer.”

6. “Be intentional in how you use money,” encourages Caryn Effron, Founder of “Living within your means has a great deal to do with becoming thoughtful about what is truly important in life. Family, friends, my work—that is what brings joy to my life. Stuff is just stuff—don’t get caught up in consumerism. Hold onto who you are and what is important and use your money to create experiences aligned with your values.”

7. “Drop the financial baggage when talking to your kids about money,” advises Amy Moses, CEO and Founder of Ballooning Nest Eggs. “When we say ‘no’ to our children, it’s often without explanation. We trot out clichés—‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’ or ‘It’s never enough!’—or our own childhood financial baggage, ‘When I was a kid I didn’t have half the things you have.’ Soon, words like ‘budget’ register as negatives in our children’s minds. All they hear is ‘no fun.’ But, if chats about money weren’t shrouded in anxiety, then we could help them, help us live within our means. This doesn’t mean you have to share your pay stub or whip up a PowerPoint presentation on balancing a checkbook. It means including the kids in on some of the choices. Name some fun summer activities and attach a cost to each. Set the limit that you can spend and allow them to pick the activities they want most. And, of course, sprinkle in some no-cost, high-fun stuff like bike riding, butterfly catching, and hiking.”

Source:  Women & Co., a service of Citi

Friday, January 11, 2013

Weekend Happenings: Dance Party On Ice

Dance Party On Ice
Chanhassen Rec Center
2310 Coulter Blvd.
Chanhassen, MN 55317
Sat. January 12, 2012
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Cost:  $5 per person

 Here are a few photos from past years!

Join us at the Chanhassen Rec Center where the hockey rinks will be transformed into a frozen dance floor!

A live DJ will be cranking the tunes while friends and families skate to their favorite hits! Also, complimentary beverages will be served in the warming house.

Cost is $5 per per person or $10 includes ice skate rental. Must register by Friday, January 4 if you would like to rent skates (indicate size at time of registration).

For more information or to register, call 952-227-1122.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

House in a Box

Here’s the perfect complement to your ever-accelerating lifestyle: A house that’s built in two weeks, start to finish. Prefab houses — also called modular houses — go up in a matter of days, with little impact on your building site and virtually no waste (no soggy piles of debris scattered about). Don’t worry: All that speed won’t compromise quality. Built in indoor facilities, prefab houses benefit from precision factory equipment and crews operating in climate-controlled environments, all of which translates to straighter walls, squeakless floors, and no down time due to weather. Best of all, prefab designs are limitless — take a look!

Special Delivery: Your Modular Home has Arrived

Prefab and modular houses are two sides of the same coin. Prefab houses refer to kits made of factory-built parts, which are assembled on-site by trained builders. Modular homes come as pre-assembled sections that are brought to you via truck and lifted into place with a crane. The house pictured here was built using SIPS — structurally insulated panels formed by sandwiching high-density insulation between two layers of particle board.

Credit: Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA)

A Twist on Tradition

Classic architectural style camouflages the fact this modular house comes straight from a factory. The final price of a modular home depends on what options you choose for siding, roofing, flooring, kitchen cabinets, appliances, bath fixtures, and other amenities. Expect to pay about the same for a prefab as for a similar house built using traditional on-site framing methods. The advantage is that modular homes are factory-built to much tighter tolerances, and there are no construction delays due to weather.

Credit:  Haven Homes

Prefabulous Designs

Many prefab manufacturers offer design services that let you customize the size and layout of your house. Although designs may be limited by pre-determined wall panels and other components, there’s plenty of flexibility when it comes to choosing features, such as kitchen cabinets, flooring, and lighting fixtures. Prefab manufacturers also offer designs and construction techniques that will adapt your home to various circumstances, such as hillside sites and areas prone to coastal storms and hurricanes.

Credit: Acorn Deck House Company

A View of Housing’s Future?

Custom-designed prefab houses can cost up to $200 per square foot of finished space. For a typical 2,500-sq.-ft. house, that would include more than $50,000 for site work, foundation installation, transporting the modular sections to the building site, permits, and the cost of a crane to lift the sections onto the foundation. Most modular house builders include design services, engineering, project management, and installation of all finishes in the per-square-foot cost of the house.

Credit: Stillwater Dwellings

The Greener Side of Prefab

Some manufacturers of modular homes pride themselves on using eco-friendly construction techniques and materials, such as certified wood from sustainably managed forests, recycled steel, and energy-efficient appliances. Order the Breezehouse model shown here with optional solar panels that help lower energy costs.

Credit: Blu Homes

American Icon, Prefabbed

Even that dream of Americana — the log cabin — comes in prefab versions. Built in a factory setting, the prefab log home is then disassembled and shipped to the building site, where it’s put back together by builders familiar with log construction techniques. Prefab log homes are complete with factory installed systems for plumbing, wiring, insulation, and HVAC. A prefab log home maker can produce 15 homes per week.

Credit: Blue Ridge Log Cabins
 People Who Live in Grass Houses ...

Considered to be as strong as steel, mature bamboo can be used for structural framing members. The prefab house shown was built using bamboo that’s more than 3 inches thick and certified by the International Code Council for use in residential construction. Amazingly, bamboo is actually a species of grass; when harvested, it grows back quickly, making it a sustainable building material.

Credit: Bamboo Living Homes/Photograph Carrie Branovan/Architect David E. Sands

Try to Contain Yourself

Giving new meaning to the idea of a mobile home, this unique modular house is built with MODs — modified shipping containers. These rectangular boxes, 20 to 40 feet long, are made from corrugated steel, available for $2,500-$5,000 in used condition. Several entrepreneurial designers use these low-cost containers as building blocks for house designs, although your zoning laws may not accept them — be sure to check. Good news: Your refrigerator magnets will stick anywhere.

Credit: DeMaria Design Associates

The Original Prefab

In the early 20th century, Sears, Roebuck & Co. offered complete kit homes that could be ordered through their catalog. The pieces arrived stacked on a railroad flatcar. Sears sold about 75,000 kit houses from 1904 to 1940, many of which are still standing, such as this classic example in Cincinnati. Today, the prefab industry sells about 250,000 houses per year. If you buy a prefab that’s made in another region, make sure it meets all local building codes and zoning restrictions.

Credit: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic
 Source:  Houselogic