Monday, September 30, 2013

LED Lights - Are They Worth It?

You've heard time and again how energy efficient LED lights are.  Most incandescent lights are around 60 watts, while an LED is around 10 watts.  In addition, an incandescent light will typically last about 1,200 hours while an LED will last around 50,000 hours before needing to be replaced.

The one major disctinction between the two bulbs is price.  An incandescent light will cost around $1.00 while an LED light can run you as much as $10 (we checked on for the above pictured bulb).  That's a big price comparison!  In fact, switching all the lights in your house to LED's would cost a small fortune.  So, how should you decide whether to switch out an incandescent light for an LED?  It all comes down to...math.  (And you thought you wouldn't need math after barely passing algebra.)

To compare the cost of LEDs with incandescents, let's offer up 2 scenarios and calculate the difference in cost between the two bulbs.

Scenario 1:  5 Hours/day for 2 Years

Let's say you're going to use this light bulb for 5 hours every day for two years.  To determine the total cost over the 2 years you would need to add the cost of the bulb with the cost of the electricity over that time span.  And since electricity costs are in kilowatt-hours (kWh) we'll need to make sure to convert to the proper units (all that math horror is coming back to you now, isn't it?!)  We'll use an energy cost from my last bill of 13 cents/kWh.

Incandescent Light Bulb

Cost of electricty = 60 watts / 1000 watts/kilowatt X 5 hours/day X 365 days/year X 2 years  X $0.13/kWh =  $28.47

Cost of bulb(s)  = 3,650 hours/1,200 hours/bulb X $1.00/bulb = $3.00

Total cost of bulbs and electricity for incandescent bulb = $31.47

LED Light Bulb

Cost of electricity = 10 watts / 1000 watts/kilowatt X 5 hours/day X 365 days/year X 2 years X $0.13/kWh = $4.75

Cost of bulb(s) = 3,650 hours/ 50,000 hours/bulb X $10/bulb = $10

Total cost of bulbs and electricity for LED bulb = $14.75

In this scenario, clearly you have a decent cost savings for LED bulbs compared to incandescent.

Let's now look at another scenario where the bulb is not used quite as often.

Scenario 2:  30 minutes per day for 2 years

Okay, same bulbs but we're going to only use them for about a half hour per day in that 2 years.  What is the cost comparison?

Incandescent Light Bulb

Cost of Electricity = 60 watts / 1000 watts/kilowatt X 0.5 hours/day X 365 days/year X 2 years X $0.13/kWH  = $2.85

Cost of bulb(s) = 365 hours/1,200 hours/bulb X $1.00/bulb = $1.00

Total cost of bulbs and electricity for Incandescent bulb = $3.85

LED Light Bulb

Cost of Electricity = 10 watts / 1000 kilowatts X 0.5 hours/day X 365 days year X 2 years X  $0.13/kWH = $0.47

Cost of bulb(s) = 365 hours/50,000 hours/bulb X $10.00/bulb = $10.00

Total cost of bulbs and electricity for LED bulb = $10.47

Clearly, the cost is much higher for an LED bulb in the second scenario.

Final Decision....It Depends

Whether or not you trade out your incandescent bulbs for the very energy efficient LED light bulbs clearly depends on how you're going to use that light.  If you will use that light every day for several hours, such as in the kitchen or in your office where you work all day, an LED light may be the way to go.  But for the hallway light or a closet light, an incandescent is definitely the way to go....unless you tend to forget to turn the light out (hint: invest in an automatic timer for the light switch in those areas).

Of course, if your ultimate goal is to save the earth and money doesn't even factor into it for you (and if that is the case, who are you???) then by all means, when your incandescents finally die, then switch them out for LEDs.  The earth will thank you.

Source:  Michelle Schwake, Stafford Family Realtors.  For our scenarios, we used and

Friday, September 27, 2013

New listing: 4140 Ewing Avenue South - Minneapolis

4140 Ewing Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55410

New listing just posted:

New listing video just posted:

Description:  Nestled on a tree-lined street in the demand Linden Hills neighborhood this charming home features vintage design elements & gracious room sizes throughout. This great location offers ample opportunities for shopping & dining, not to mention enjoying the Minneapolis Lakes!

Home Information:

Beds: 3

Baths: 1.00

Sqft: 1448

Asking Price: $349,900

MLS #:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Weekend Happenings: Fire Safety, Junk Bonanza, Harvest Holiday

Fire Prevention Open House and Safety Fair
Excelsior Fire District Station #1
24100 Smithtown Road
Shorewood, MN 55331
Thurs., Sept 26, 2013
6:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Cost:  Free

Displays, Activities, Demonstrations, FREE Food, Fun, and Fire Truck Rides.  This is sure to be a fun and educational event for the entire family.  Come meet Sparky the Fire Dog and Freddie the Fire Truck, take part in the Tools Vs. Toys Challenge and qualify to win great prizes !   The event will feature live Auto Extrications, live Residential Sprinkler Demonstrations, interactive Kitchen Fire Safety Display, hands on Fire Extinguisher Demonstrations, and learn how to escape from smoke in the Safe Escape House.  There will also be Fire Extinguisher inspection and testing on site for only $8.00 for residences and businesses.

Junk Bonanza
Canturbury Park
1100 Canterbury Park Rd.
Shakopee, MN 55379
Thurs. - Sat., Sept 26-28, 2013
10:00 to 5:00 Thurs.
9:00 to 5:00 Fri & Sat.
Cost:  $9 per day


The Bonanza hosts more than 140 juried "junk" vendors of vintage finds, beautiful antiques, architectural salvage and one-of-a-kind and artisan-repurposed pieces. The 2013 Spring gathering included more than 12,000 visitors who found their special treasure at the three-day, indoor event at Canterbury Park, southwest of the Twin Cities. Among the special activities: a gallery displaying the 10 finalists in the "Art of Junk" contest, with entries from community artisans and Bonanza vendors, "… MoreLucky Friday" giveaways with thousands of dollars of certificates from sponsors and junk vendors to be spent on goods during the Bonanza, and guest appearances by Tim Luke, noted antiques expert and appraiser from HGTV's Cash in the Attic. Jo Packham, the editor of Where Women Cook magazine will sign copies of magazines and her new book, "Pieography: Where Pie Meets Biography." Bonanza founder and editor of Flea Market Style magazine, Ki Nassauer, will also sign copies of her magazines.

Source:  Explore MN

Harvest Holiday At The Farm
8880 Highway 5 East
Waconia, MN 55387
Sat., Sept 28, 2013
10:00 am to 3:00 pm
Cost:  Free

Homegrown Apples - Apple growers sharing their knowledge and sales

Apple Pie Contest - Win $50. gift certificate
Pie Sampler - Food, Food, Food to sample
Holiday Tablescapes in Loft - Fall and Christmas
Barn Sale - Shed full of Antiques
Fall Decor - broom corn, specialty pumpkins, gourds, fall containers, illow branches, dogwood branches, garden mums.
Display by local wine grower
Music by Traveled Ground 11 am to 1 pm
Bring your camera, great photo opportunity!

Source:  Explore MN

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Parents Everywhere Can Relate

We are all busy.  And I might venture to say that those who have children are very busy.  And it's not a leap to say that those homes where both parents work and have children at home are very busy indeed.  So it was with total empathy and great hilarity that I happened to catch the last few minutes of the Emmy Awards on TV last Sunday night (because, you know, I was busy!).

The spot featured Will Ferrell who was there to present a couple of awards.  But he was decked out in shorts and a T-shirt and had his 3 sons along with him.

Image: Will Ferrell
Source:  Mike Blake/Reuters

"Unfortunately Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith dropped out at the last second and they called me literally 45 minutes ago and I couldn't find child care, OK?" Ferrell told the audience. "We had a soccer game, there was a neighbor's birthday party, a nut allergy, I didn't have time to do my hair. It doesn't matter, it's great to be here."

Ferrell told his oldest boy, "No, you cannot play Angry Birds right now." But he was quick to realize what any level-headed modern parent understands: iPad = distraction. "Fine, take turns, 30-second turns."

So you see?  Life is hard everywhere no matter if you're a movie star or just a Joe Shmoe.  Kudos to the Emmy's for letting this spot aire.  Busy families everywhere can totally relate.

We at Stafford Family Realtors are busy, too, and are very thankful for it since it means that people are trusting us with the greatest investments of their lives.  If you need help with any real estate needs, call us.  We're never too busy for you.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Weekly Market Update: September 23, 2013

For several weeks, markets across the country have seen consistent gains in sales, prices and percent of list price received at sale. Things like steadily low rates, less lender-mediated inventory and increased consumer confidence are all helping this reality. Each and every week reveals signs of a recovered market that are going from temporary yard sign to permanent road sign. Here’s to hoping for prosperous signs on the road ahead.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending September 14:
• New Listings increased 19.5% to 1,625
• Pending Sales increased 8.3% to 1,006
• Inventory decreased 8.0% to 16,095

For the month of August:

• Median Sales Price increased 16.9% to $207,900
• Days on Market decreased 34.0% to 70
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 2.0% to 97.0%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 18.2% to 3.6

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, September 23, 2013

Build a Smarter Closet

We have recently moved into a 20-year-old house.  And I have to say, there is ample storage space in the many large closets throughout the house.  Then why is it that I have toys strewn all over the floor, clothes that can't find a home, clear plastic bins in every corner, and large items leaning against the wall next to the closet?  It is simply because the space within those nice large closets is not well organized.

Many homeowners who were not fortunate enough to build the home they live in, where they would presumably have created large well-organized walk-in closets in every room, decide to revamp their closets with a professional closet organizing system, like California Closets.  If you're looking to save some money, many home improvement stores offer up a couple DIY systems that you can install in a weekend.  The only thing you need to do is come up with the design that will fit your needs.

Source:  California Closets

So what should you think about when remodeling your closet space?  That definitely depends on how you live and what sorts of things you want your closet to do for you.  No matter what you store in your closets, we've included some steps of great things you can incorporate into your closet redesign that will help you with everyday functions and get the clutter out of your main living space and back where it the closet!

Step 1:  Declutter

Maybe the reason you can't fit everything into your closets is because you simply have too much stuff.  Go through everything you normally keep in your closet and decide what has more value to you:  that particular item or the space you will have if you get rid of it.

Step 2:  Plan Out The Space

Once you know what will be going into your closet, be sure to plan the space so that everything will fit and be stored in a logical space and so that it will include everything you want it to. 

  • You want the things that you commonly use everyday to be within easy reach and those things you rarely use stored up high. 
  • Do you need to have a dirty clothes hamper in your closet? 
  • Do you like to iron your clothes in your bedroom? 
  • Do you store jewelry there? 
  • Do you have over sized items that need extra space? 
  • Where do you want to keep your seasonal items? 
  • Do you want to store all those shoes in cubbies or in a hanging bag?
Constantly ask yourself questions like these to be sure you include everything you need in your closet space.  Then, take a trip on the internet.  Pull up pictures of well organized closets and see if there is anything that catches your eye and makes you think, "I NEED that in my closet!"

Step 3:  Make It Even More Useful

Here asre a few things that can be added to your closet to really increase it's functionality and make your life a lot easier:

  • Install an outlet.  Many a time I have needed an outlet in my closet for ironing clothes, vacuuming, or having an out-of-the-way spot to recharge those flashlights, tablets or handheld vacuums.
  • Add lighting.  Let there be light!  Even a very shallow closet in a brightly lit room will have a lack of light for seeing everything that is in there.  Add a light somewhere in every closet.
  • Extras.  A small bench, a pull down ironing board, a rolling ladder, baskets to hold loose items, hooks for hanging robes or brooms, the list could be endless.
  • Add Quality.  Large, self-closing drawers can help you quietly get ready in the morning while your spouse sleeps.  Exchange those hollow core doors for 6-panel solid wood doors.  Paint the inside a bright white so everything can be seen to it's best advantage.  If you have quality throughout your entire home, don't skimp on it in the closet.
  • Leave some space.  Everyone likes stuff.  And it seems that we are continually buying more stuff all the time.  Be sure you leave some space in your closet for future purchases. 

Step 4:  Enjoy, Put Your Stuff Away, and Repeat Step 1

Yes, once you have a fully organized and ideally functioning closet, you can sit back and enjoy it.  But, sadly, reality steps in the moment you take something out and don't put it back.  An organized system works only as well as you allow it to.  And if you find that you aren't putting things away because it's too hard to reach or just isn't in the right spot, by all means, revamp your plan and change it.  Then be sure to periodically go through your things and purge what you don't use or need. 

One last thought.  Well organized and maximised closets in older homes are a terrific selling point.  So it's worth doing even if you don't necessarily see the need for it yourself.  I plan on starting my closet redesign today!  It will take some work, but the end product will so be worth it.  How about you?  Do you have some great ideas for closet organization?  We'd love to hear what you think.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Weekend Happenings: Buy Local

Nothing is jumping out at me for Things-To-Do this weekend.  Sure, there are always plenty of things to do in the SW metro and in the entire Twin Cities area each and every weekend.  But usually there are a couple of things I can point our friends to, things that stand out as must-sees or crowd pleasers.  But my usual sources have turned up rather dry.  So instead of saying there's nothing to do, I thought I'd remind you of all the great unique shops in our area that can help you while away the entire weekend if you so choose.

Mustard Moon in Chaska

Source:  Mustard Moon

Junk is the new Brand New (I just came up with that myself!).  And there's no better place to spend a few hours browsing all the cool old stuff and saying to yourself, "Why didn't I think of that!?".  Those folks at Mustard Moon have an amazing ability to gather a bunch of vintage items, and arrange them in such a way as to make you wish you'd hung on to every old thing you've ever come across in your lifetime. 

In years past, the Mustard Moon was only open every third weekend of the month.  But this occasional shop is now open every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Be sure to check out their Blog for a quick taste of what their shop is like...they post a lot of awesome pictures of their wares.  You can find the Mustard Moon at 501 Chestnut Street, in downtown Chaska.

Occasional Shops of Carver

Ms Macs
Source:  Ms. Mac's Antiques

Since you'll be in the area after visiting Mustard Moon, why not take a jaunt down the road to the quaint river town of Carver, just a few minutes outside of Chaska.  Every 3rd weekend (which happens to be this weekend friends!), there are several vintage shops in the area that are open for business.  Ms. Mac's AntiquesThe Nature of It, Carver Country Flowers and Gifts, Carver Junk Company, The Good Junk Garage, and The Vintage Cottage will keep you busy for as long as you like.  Bring some money, you won't come away empty handed!

The Shops of Downtown Excelsior

Source:  Kiokreations

Talk about a shopper's delight!  You can't go wrong spending the day browsing all the shops in downtown Excelsior.  They have everything from designer clothing to gardening shops, antique stores to European gift shops and everything in between.  There are simply too many good places to list here but follow the link above, and you will find a directory of all the shopping you could want in Excelsior.  And talk about good food!   Yumi's sushi, Jake O'Connor's Public House, Maynards, Licks Unlimited.... You won't ever have to leave.


And TONIGHT (Thurs., Sept 19) it is the Fall Festival of Girls Night Out!  Walk to all the shops with your girlfriends and partake of all the sales, specials, appetizers and general all around fun of Girls Night Out!  Shops open from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

That should keep you busy for the weekend....or the next few!  But stay tuned, we'll highlight more great shopping locales in other Weekend Happening issues.  Until then, feel free to let us know what are some of your favorite shops in the SW metro?  We'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Keep Valuables Safe During Showings

How do you open your home up to potential buyers while safeguarding your valuables?  It can be a challenge.  While you may be able to grab your purse and your iPad as you climb into your car, there are other things that you don't necessarily want to haul around with you for every showing.


Since most people are going through your home with a professional realtor that has called to schedule an appointment, you probably don't need to worry too much about large valuables, like flat screen TV's and computers.  They are pretty hard to fit into a purse or a duffel bag.  But smaller electronics like tablets, cell phones, GPS navigation systems or even high tech weather stations should be out of sight and preferably in a locked drawer or cabinet.

Important Documents

Identity theft is all too common these days.  Be sure to protect yourself by putting any important documents that include your social security number or credit card numbers in a safe or locked drawer/cabinet.  Also, be sure to log out of your computer and have it password protected so that no one can easily browse through your files.

Prescription Medications

Sadly, prescription medications like painkillers are one of the most often stolen items during showings and open houses.  If you have one or two bottles it may be fine to grab them as you head out the door.  But if you're like many, who have numerous medications, it can be cumbersome to bring them all with you.  You might want to invest in a safe designed for medications.  MedSafe can store up to 15 bottles of medicine and uses a battery-powered digital lock.  You can install it in your medicine cabinet, a linen closet or anywhere else you choose.

Jewelry and Other Valuables


So maybe you don't own thousands of dollars worth of diamonds and other precious stones.  But thieves are just as likely to snag that high-end necklace laying on your dresser or find that savings bond sitting in your desk drawer.  Be sure to have a few areas in your home that provide locked access to your valuables.  Or devise clever hiding systems like those shown in this slideshow at 

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Weekly Market Update: September 16, 2013

A pendulum spends little time in the middle. It tends to overswing center and hang out at the extreme before changing directions. Apply that to housing. Two or three years ago, almost no one would have foreshadowed concern over affordability, yet that's what some are cautioning against in an environment of rising prices and interest rates. It would take further increases to truly rattle confidence and sentiment, but it's wise to monitor the market recovery's dual-edged saber.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending September 7:

• New Listings increased 18.6% to 1,511
• Pending Sales decreased 4.5% to 857
• Inventory decreased 8.9% to 15,891

For the month of August:

• Median Sales Price increased 16.9% to $207,900
• Days on Market decreased 34.0% to 70
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 2.0% to 97.0%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 18.2% to 3.6

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, September 16, 2013

Remodeling For Multigenerational Living

Kitchen undergoing renovations
Source:  Tales from the South

Multigenerational households are on the rise, led by an increasing number of college graduates who come home to live while they search for employment. But that’s OK.

A recent survey from Coldwell Banker, in which people said five years is a reasonable amount of time to let your kids live with you after they graduate from college, suggests Americans have become more accepting of multigenerational living.

About 50 million of us currently live in multigenerational households. I can think of at least three things that will push that number higher in the years ahead:

1. Boomerang kids driven home by a tough job market and ginormous student loan debts.

2. Aging parents (over the next 40 years the 65+ population will reach 92 million) who’d rather live with us than move into assisted living.

3. A growing immigrant population that prefers communal living.

How Did We Get Multigenerational?

After chatting with friends last weekend, I discovered that when most of us bought our current home, we didn’t expect to have a multigenerational house. Instead, we thought things would go like this:

  • You buy the house.
  • You get a dog.
  • You have a few children who move out at age 22.
  • The dog dies.
  • You and spouse (and maybe another dog) live in the house alone for the next two decades.

In reality, something like this happened:

  • You bought the house.
  • You got a dog.
  • You had kids.
  • Dad died, and Mom moved in.
  • A friend needed a place to stay after rehab.
  • You hosted a foreign exchange student.
  • A kid moved out after college, and you turned her room into a gift-wrapping station.
  • A kid moved back in to save money while she looked for a job, and all the gift wrap ended up in the garage.
  • Your sister got divorced. She and her kids moved in with you.
  • You considered moving into a tiny condo to get away from everyone.

Multigenerational Remodeling Strategies

Almost everyone experienced a few of the situations on my list (although no one had all of those things happen). That inspired me to come up with a list of multigenerational options to consider when you remodel.

Even if you swear your parent would never move in and your children are gone for good, it’s still smart to incorporate multigenerational features when remodeling your home. The features are there if you need them, they’re great for hosting weekend guests, and they’re a marketable asset when it’s time to sell your home.

Here’s my short list of multigenerational tweaks you could incorporate when you’re doing home projects:

Finish the basement. Opt for a full basement bathroom rather than only a half bath. If the budget won’t stretch that far, at least rough in plumbing for a shower and sink in case you change your mind later and want to add a full bath and kitchenette. Soundproofing the ceiling keeps the noise of basement activities from floating upstairs and increases privacy.

Source:  Modern Basement by Minneapolis Design-Build Firms White Crane Construction

Remodel the bathroom. Put in a curbless shower to make the shower easier to use for folks of all ages.

Source:  Modern Bathroom by Cambridge Architects & Designers LDa Architecture & Interiors

Renovate the main floor. Adding a full bath will allow you to age in place by moving to the main floor and offering upper-floor living spaces to family members.

Source:  Traditional Bathroom by Rehoboth Beach Home Builders Echelon Custom Homes

Redo the kitchen. Adding a second kitchen sink makes it easier to have multiple cooks without spoiling your broth.

Source:  Traditional Kitchen by Wellesley Kitchen & Bath Designers Divine Kitchens LLC

Add a second entrance. Having your own front door, even if it’s around the back of the house, creates privacy. A second entrance also makes it easier for you to turn part of your home into a rental unit to boost your retirement income — if your local zoning allows that.

Source:  Farmhouse Exterior by Denver Architects & Designers Blueline Architects p.c.
Put in a wet bar. With all those people moving in and out, you’re definitely going to need a drink!

Source:  Traditional Kitchen by Mill Valley Architects & Designers Mahoney Architects & Interiors
Source:  Houselogic, article by Dona DeZube

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New listing: 6605 Pointe Lucy Lake - Chanhassen

6605 Pointe Lucy Lake, Chanhassen, MN 55317

New listing just posted:

New listing video just posted:


Home Information:

Beds: 4

Baths: 2.00

Sqft: 4001

Asking Price: $769,000

MLS #: 4411542

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Price Reduction: 7140 Hazeltine Blvd. - Chanhassen

7140 Hazeltine Blvd., Chanhassen, MN 55331

Reduced price listing just posted:

Reduced price listing video just posted:


Home Information:

Beds: 4

Baths: 2.00

Sqft: 7660

Asking Price: $1,499,999

MLS #: 4375652

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Weekend Happenings: Waconia's Nickel Dickle Day

Nickle Dickle Day
City Square Park
Sat., Sept. 14, 2013
8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Cost:  Free

Waconia will again host Nickel Dickle Day this weekend, a family fun event for all.  This weekend you can enjoy the 5K race, car show, fun crafts, paint ball, mechanical bull, inflateables for the kids, great music and entertainment, food vendors, and great shopping all over town.  And of course, come see all the decorated ducks race to benefit local charities in the community.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Awesome Outdoor Fireplaces

Fall is the time for bonfires.  The air is crisp and cool, darkness decends earlier, and the bugs are gone (Halleluia!).  While you can just plop some wood down somewhere on your lawn and call it good, it sure won't help your home's resale value (and with the dry fall we've been having, you may just find yourself overwhelmed with a large grass fire!)  

Firepits can be fairly easily completed by the average homeowner in a weekend with relatively little expense.  If you're willing to spend a bit more time and/or energy into your outdoor space, you can add more amenities to your firepit, like bench seating, patio pavers and landscaping.  Or you can create an entire outdoor room with the main attraction being a fully functional outdoor fireplace.  Let your imagination run wild.  And to help your imaginings, here are some inspirational pictures of some firepits/places that we love.

A simple DIY firepit for your back yard.  Just add chairs and a glass of wine...perfect!  (

This patio incorporates rock walls for additional seating and lighting and a fireplace.  Traditional Patio by Portland Landscape Architects & Designers beautiful bones and purple stones (


A simple concrete patio with a simple brick firepit make a perfect picture in this backyard.  But you might want to put it a bit further away from the house is the wind is blowing towards it, like in this photo.  Traditional Patio by Bend Architects & Designers Homeland Design, llc (

Nestled in the trees with natural landscape elements, this gas firepit with a gravel base is ready whenever you are.  (

Wicker furniture, a couple of candlelit lamps and an awesome fireplace would make anyone want to sit down for a few minutes and relax.  (

A sunken firepit helps reduce wind and provides ample seating around the edge.  We love how they kept the large boulders in the design.  (

Build into the side of a small hill, this wall and bench design blends into the landscaping.  A square, sunken firepit doesn't block any views.  (

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Weekly Market Update: September 9, 2013

Whether it's accommodative monetary policy, the promise of less shadowy shadow inventory or increased economic recovery, U.S. housing continues along a path of sustainable growth. Rising prices are drawing otherwise reluctant or previously underwater sellers. And buyers are grateful for any additional supply. Intervention from the Fed may or may not be on the horizon. Nonetheless, there's reason to be confident in positive market longevity.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending August 31:

• New Listings increased 16.3% to 1,359
• Pending Sales increased 22.9% to 1,243
• Inventory decreased 9.3% to 16,081

For the month of August:

• Median Sales Price increased 16.9% to $208,000
• Days on Market decreased 34.0% to 70
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 2.0% to 97.0%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 18.2% to 3.6

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, September 9, 2013


You've heard of the standard marketing approach to selling a home...great on-line photos and summary of your house, glossy brochures featuring your home's high points, open houses, and now video slideshows giving potential buyers a tour through your home.  But what if your home could be featured in a movie?!

High end real estate agents around the world are doing just that.  Using paid actors and a director, your home could be featured in a mini-movie that showcases all the wonderful features of your humble abode.  Well, maybe humble isn't the right word for it.  Your home could be the lead actor in a family drama or an action adventure.

Here is a video from the Wall Street Journal's online real estate magazine showing how some people are "going Hollywood" to sell their homes.

  To see the full article by Candace Jackson at The Wall Street Journal, click on "Your House Is Ready For It's Close-Up."

Source:  Michelle Schwake, Stafford Family Realtors; and The Wall Street Journal online.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Weekend Happenings: Nordic Music Festival, James J. Hill Days, Steamboat Days

Nordic Music Festival
Lake Minnetonka Regional Park
6900 Hazeltine Blvd.
Chanhassen, MN
Sat., Sept. 7, 2013
10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Cost:  Free

Musicians and dancers dressed in colorful costumes representing Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark will entertain throughout the day along with Nordic Crafters and food. Musicians from Norway and Finland will be on the program. A Viking Village will be set up and the Lutefisk Toss will return.

This activity is made possible, in part, by funds provided by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council through a grant from The McKnight Foundation and an appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature.

James J. Hill Days
Downtown Wayzata
Sat. & Sun., Sept. 7-8, 2013
10:00 am to 5:00 pm Saturday
11:00 am to 4:00 pm Sunday
Cost: Free  


Wayzata celebrates community tradition with the 39th Annual James J. Hill Days. Family-friendly activities all weekend long including a street market, beer tent, water-ski show, build your own boat races, dachshund races, kids zone, food trucks, coaster cart races, classic car show, and the annual James J. Hill Days Parade.

Steamboat Days
Downtown Carver
Fri.-Sat., Sept. 6-8, 2013
9:00 am to 1:00 am Friday and Saturday
9:00 am to 5:00 pm Sunday
Cost:  Free

Everything a small town festival should be.  Come to Carver this weekend on the beautiful Minnesota River to experience Steamboat Days.  The festival features a medallion hunt, car show, 5K run/walk, kickball and softball tournaments, street dances, burnout contest, Miss Carver coronation, church bazaars, food vendors and beer tent, pancake breakfast, parades, and fireworks on Friday and Saturday evenings.  There is a city-wide garage sale going on the entire festival weekend as well.  The event is topped off with the Grand Day Parade starting at 1:00 pm on Sunday afternoon.  This is a crowd favorite parade that runs 4 blocks and lasts 2 hours, so be sure to come early (parking is hard to find without a long walk) and bring a big bag for the candy and goodies.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How Much Mortgage Can You Afford?

You're finally ready to take on a mortgage on your first house, or your family has outgrown the home you live in.  How do you know how much you can afford for a new house?  Here are a few things to consider.

1. The general rule of mortgage affordability

As a rule of thumb, you can typically afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. If you earn $100,000, you can typically afford a home between $200,000 and $300,000.

To understand how that rule applies to your particular financial situation, prepare a family budget and list all the costs of homeownership, like property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care costs.

2. Factor in your downpayment

How much money do you have for a downpayment? The higher your downpayment, the lower your monthly payments will be. If you put down at least 20% of the home's cost, you may not have to get private mortgage insurance, which costs hundreds each month. That leaves more money for your mortgage payment.

The lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for and the higher your monthly mortgage payment.

3. Consider your overall debt

Lenders generally follow the 28/41 rule. Your monthly mortgage payments covering your home loan principal, interest, taxes, and insurance shouldn’t total more than 28% of your gross annual income. Your overall monthly payments for your mortgage plus all your other bills, like car loans, utilities, and credit cards, shouldn’t exceed 41% of your gross annual income.

Here’s how that works. If your gross annual income is $100,000, multiply by 28% and then divide by 12 months to arrive at a monthly mortgage payment of $2,333 or less. Next, check the total of all your monthly bills including your potential mortgage and make sure they don’t top 41%, or $3,416 in our example.

4. Use your rent as a mortgage guide

The tax benefits of homeownership generally allow you to afford a mortgage payment—including taxes and insurance—of about one-third more than your current rent payment without changing your lifestyle. So you can multiply your current rent by 1.33 to arrive at a rough estimate of a mortgage payment.

Here’s an example. If you currently pay $1,500 per month in rent, you should be able to comfortably afford a $2,000 monthly mortgage payment after factoring in the tax benefits of homeownership.

However, if you’re struggling to keep up with your rent, consider what amount would be comfortable and use that for the calcuation instead.

Also consider whether or not you’ll itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can’t also deduct mortgage interest payments. Talking to a tax adviser, or using a tax software program to do a “what if” tax return, can help you see your tax situation more clearly.

Source:  Houselogic, article by G.M. Filisko

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Weekly Market Update: September 2, 2013

Most economists expect the housing recovery to continue, even with rising mortgage rates. New household formations and tight supply should keep bolstering markets and shield homeowners from downside price risk. Price gains should inspire sellers to add new inventory to the market. Although inventory and other metrics will begin to taper from seasonal highs, they are likely to remain above last year's levels.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending August 24:

• New Listings increased 15.7% to 1,485
• Pending Sales increased 17.8% to 1,144
• Inventory decreased 9.2% to 16,180

For the month of July:

• Median Sales Price increased 16.8% to $208,000
• Days on Market decreased 31.4% to 72
• Percent of Original List Price Received increased 2.6% to 97.5%
• Months Supply of Inventory decreased 19.6% to 3.7

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Impressions: 5 Questions To Ask

You've decided to sell your house and have been told to get the house in tip-top shape.  You've spent hours fixing, decluttering and painting.  While most sellers are aware of the need to make the inside of their homes look their best, they often overlook the outside.  You may make sure the lawn is trimmed up and the sidewalk is swept, but do you really "see" what a buyer would see when first driving by your home?

Many house shoppers these days are independant, at least at the beginning of their shopping experience.  They look online for listings and then do a drive by the house.  What are they seeing?  You are used to living at your house and may not even notice some of the details but you can be sure that a buyer is looking at it from a different perspective. 

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself about your home:

1.  What story does my home tell? 

You may think of it as a refuge and safe haven.  But others looking with fresh eyes may see a different story.   Does your house say, "We're too busy to mow the lawn and touch up the paint on our house.  Don't bother looking inside, because you'll see the same thing."   Make sure your house tells them an inviting story, one that will make them want to take a second look. 

2.  When you drive up to your house, what do you see? 

Do you see overgrown shrubs and an unruly lawn?  Does your home feel nestled into its landscape?  Is your eye being drawn towards the front door and does it look inviting?   This, my friends, is called curb appeal.  Be sure your home has it!

3.  Where do visitors park, and how do they get to the front entrance from there?

Is there room in front of your house to park, either on the driveway or in the street?  Is the walk from the parking spot to the front entrance easily identifiable and enjoyable?  Can it be safely navigated in all kinds of weather? 

4.  What kinds of things are scattered about your yard on any given day?

Do visitors have to walk past garbage or recycling cans since pick up occurred that day? Are kids toys strewn all over the front yard? Are their “gifts” from your pets on the lawn? If the listing shows a sprinkler system, for example, do not have a sprinkler hose hanging out on the front lawn.  Be sure to pick up your yard each and every day and arrange to have your garbage and recycling cans pulled in if you can't be there to do it yourself.  In the back yard, be sure your deck or patio is organized and clutter free, just like your house, and be sure to clean surfaces and sweep.

5.  Is your house nicely lit at night?

Here in Minnesota from fall to spring, the chances of your house being shown in the dark after buyers are off of work is pretty high.  And sometimes people like to drive by in the dark just to see what the neighborhood looks like and how well lit your yard is (plus its easier to peek in the windows when it's dark outside).  Even if you live in a dimly lit neighborhood, be sure your house is a beacon of welcoming light.  Good lighting adds a romantic side to your home.  At the minimum, be sure to have your porch light on and outdoor garage lights, as well as warm glows coming from your windows.  But if you want to go the extra mile, put in lighted pathways and highlight landscape features using landscape lighting.  Buyers who are contemplating a purchase and doing an evening drive by for a bit of dreaming will fall in love!

Source:  Michelle Schwake, Stafford Family Realtors, and Styled, Staged and Sold blog.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day 2013

We hope you are all enjoying a beautiful day with family and friends today with a break from all your hard work!

Sharla & Eric