Wednesday, April 30, 2014

'Manhattanization' Hits US Downtowns

Driven by young professionals and empty-nesters, high-rise apartments are sprouting up across the country.


It would be hard to confuse Minneapolis for Manhattan, but the Nic on Fifth might just make it possible.

The Nic on Fifth is a new 26-story apartment building that sits smack on a light-rail stop and boasts amenities like a pool deck and a private dog park. From the top floor you can see miles of the Mississippi River and the field where the Minnesota Twins play.

When the building opens in August, it will be one of two new rental towers that are stretching this city's skyline and — with monthly rents ranging from $1,450 for a studio to $9,000 for a penthouse — charging prices rarely seen in the Twin Cities.

Minneapolis isn't the only place building upward. While the U.S. housing market as a whole may still be creeping back from recession, downtowns around the country are seeing a veritable boom in high-rise apartment buildings.

This year, some 74 rental towers are on pace to be completed, and there are 81 on the books for 2015 — the highest number since at least the 1970s, according to Axiometrics, a Dallas apartment-research firm that defines a tower as 15 stories or more. At the same time, strong apartment rents and sluggish demand for office space have resulted in some high-rise buildings being converted to apartments.

Overall, the growth has been largest in denser and pricier markets like San Francisco, New York and Chicago. But in percentage terms, the increase has been most dramatic in smaller cities like Minneapolis, which is building apartments, including high-rise apartment buildings, at the fastest pace in decades.

In Austin, Texas, the seven apartment towers that will be completed between 2013 and 2015 compares with four from 2005 to 2012, according to Axiometrics. Houston has eight apartment towers set to be completed in 2014 and 2015, compared with six from 2005 to 2012.

This past week in Kansas City, Mo., developers broke ground on the One Light building, which will be 25 stories tall and the first new apartment tower in the city's downtown since 1976.

"It's the Manhattanization of America and it's happening in cities that never had rental high rises," says Mark Humphreys, chief executive of Dallas-based Humphreys & Partners Architects, which specializes in apartments and condominiums.

The growth in new rental towers — which are usually woven into downtown office centers — is being driven largely by young professionals starting their careers, along with empty-nesters who are in some cases downsizing from bigger homes in the suburbs. Together, they are helping downtowns evolve from places centered mostly on working and entertainment to more complete neighborhoods, with grocery stores, community centers and community services.

Minneapolis resident Dan Born, who moved to the city from San Francisco to work for a software firm called Code42, pays about $1,800 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in a building close to downtown. Mr. Born, 29, said he travels a lot for work and doesn't know how long he will be in Minneapolis, so he doesn't want to be tied to a property. He also likes being close to downtown, he said.

"At some point I'm going to have to bite the bullet [and buy a home]," Mr. Born said. "But I don't feel like I'm stable enough for that investment,"

The influx of new residents has brought Dan Collison's church back from the brink. He is pastor of First Covenant Church, which has been in downtown Minneapolis since the late 1800s.

Over the past half century, as parishioners fled to the suburbs, Sunday attendance dwindled to as low as 50. Today, helped by more people living downtown, Sunday attendance has jumped to around 300, Mr. Collison said.

Rising demand for rental apartments across the country reflects a confluence of trends. Mortgage-qualificati​onstandards are easing, but home loans remain hard to get for people with low credit scores. With most Americans seeing slow growth in their paychecks, many who want to buy a home either can't get a loan or are still saving for a down payment.

As a result, rents are setting new records. Despite the new supply, Minneapolis's downtown rents rose 9 percent last year, and the vacancy rate was a 4 percent at the end of 2013, according to Marquette Advisors, a real estate research firm. That is up from 1.9 percent in 2012, but the city has added close to 1,000 units over the year. With rents going up and only a limited amount of space, developers are building skyward.

For developers like Minneapolis-based Opus Group, the apartment boom has helped to offset a weak market for high-rise office construction. Tim Murnane, chief executive, notes that apartment buildings have accounted for about half of the company's business over the past three years, compared with just a fraction of that in previous years.

The risk for developers is that they overdo it, building too may apartments and causing rents to fall. But with thousands of new residences now in the area, the evolution of downtown is likely to continue.

Steve Cramer, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, notes that in the late 1990s he was appointed by the city's then-mayor to head Minneapolis's community redevelopment agency. One of the group's goals was to get a single grocery store to open downtown, but it failed.

"We could not offer enough subsidies," he said. "Today there are three within a mile of each other, and it's because all these people are living downtown."

Source:, Article By Conor Dougherty, The Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Weekly Market Update: April 28, 2014

Science fairs, book swaps and spring sports have kept winter-weary minds off of what superficially appears to be a mixed beginning to what is typically a cheery second quarter. Most economists, however, believe that the coalescence of market normalization, an improving sales mix and good housing starts are all working behind the scenes to alleviate the growing pains of a market in recovery. Housing is already starting to see signs of upward price pressure, rising consumer confidence and some inventory relief.

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

 • New Listings decreased 2.8% to 1,571
 • Pending Sales decreased 5.3% to 1,227 
• Inventory decreased 0.5% to 14,148

For the month of March:

 • Median Sales Price increased 7.6% to $189,950
 • Days on Market decreased 12.0% to 95
 • Percent of Original List Price Received remained flat at 95.0
 • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 6.1% to 3.1

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, April 28, 2014

We Long For Storage Space

A place for everything, and everything in it's place.  It's an old adage that rings true.  We like stuff, and we like a place for all our stuff.

I recently read a blog article about a report Ikea did on how American's live life in their homes.  The article mentioned that we crave comfort in our homes and are getting greener in our choices (you can read the entire blog article HERE), but what stood out to me was the universal need for more storage.  Most people want more kitchen storage and 54% of Americans stash stuff under their beds due to lack of storage.

We've blogged about creative storage ideas for wine and shoes along with many other solutions.  We've talked about maximizing the space you already have by using the space behind the door and organizing the spaces you already have.

Even though we've covered many topics on our blog before, it seems there is a never ending supply of great storage ideas out there.  The kitchen, the mudroom, the toy room, the master bedroom, the garage, the media room...seems that we all want to know how to keep our stuff in its place while still looking good.

With that in mind, here are even more clever, beautiful, and smart storage solutions that we love.  We hope you'll use these in your home.  Remember, good storage space is always a big selling point.

Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Thursday, April 24, 2014

8980 Knoble Ct., Eden Prairie, MN

8980 Knoble Ct., Eden Prairie, MN 55347

New listing just posted:

New listing video just posted:

Description:  Loaded with Old World charm, this Tudor-style home is nestled on a quiet cul-de-sac in the heart of Eden Prairie. Enjoy gracious room sizes, beautiful millwork throughout, updated bathrooms & a finished lower level. Walk to schools, parks, dining & shopping!

Home Information:

Beds: 4

Baths: 1.00

Sqft: 34,90

Price: $475,000

MLS #: 4470642

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How To Woo Young Homebuyers

The millennial generation is becoming an increasingly important part of the housing market. According to a 2013 National Association of Realtors study that looked at generational housing trends, millennials (or, Generation Y), those born between 1980 and 2000, are the second biggest segment of the buyer market, behind only Generation X, which covers those born between 1965 and 1979.
Together, these two generations represent today's young buyers, and broadly speaking, they tend to fall into one of two categories, says Margie Gundersheim, a real estate agent with Keller Williams in Newton, Mass.
"They're young professionals who prefer a turnkey home that needs little or no work," says Gundersheim. "(Or they're) creative/romantic buyers who want to invest sweat equity and money over time, and put their personal stamp on the property and add value for the future."
But while those two groups may seem like they want entirely different things from a home, many agents say that younger buyers of all stripes have a lot of the same "must-have" features on their lists.

Updated Kitchen And Bath

We all want to buy a home with new kitchen and bath fixtures, but new fixtures are especially important for today's young, budget-conscious buyers, says Jack Curtis, a real estate agent in Dublin, Ohio.
"The primary reason younger buyers seek updated kitchens and baths is because they have limited budgets," Curtis says. "Most of their savings will go toward the down payment and furnishings. Kitchens and bathrooms are also the most expensive parts of a home to update, and young homeowners cannot afford to sink a lot of money into those areas."
While updated kitchens and bathrooms may bring in a younger crowd, remodeling costs should give a seller pause. After all, if those updates aren't in a young buyer's budget, they probably aren't in a seller's budget either. Unlike a new roof or plumbing, bathroom and kitchen fixtures are also a matter of taste, so not every buyer will like what you pick, according to Curtis.

Big Kitchen, Open Floor Plan

A generation ago, formal dining rooms may have been on every buyer's wish list. But today there really isn't much appeal to the formal dining room, according to Lou Cardillo of The Lou Cardillo Team in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
"The kitchen has become the hangout room along with the family room," says Cardillo. "An open space that can easily transition from kitchen to TV room is high on the list of the perfect home for young buyers. In essence, the kitchen is the new living room."
Along similar lines, Curtis says today's young buyers are also more attracted to an open floor plan, rather than a layout that compartmentalizes the home. Again, the reason has a lot to do with how younger homeowners entertain.
"They want people to flow through the home during gatherings, rather than be sectioned off in rooms," Curtis says.

Home Office

More than 13 million Americans work from home, and all signs point to that trend continuing, which makes a home office important for many buyers.
"Home offices have vast appeal," says Paige Elliott, a real estate agent with Dave Perry-Miller & Associates in Dallas. "Most agents will point out that a room could be used as an office or other flex living space, especially if it is currently used or staged as a bedroom."
Home offices aren't just for those who work from home full time, according to Cardillo.
"As technology continues to make us more mobile, young buyers have more options than ever to work from home, depending on their job," says Cardillo. "Having a dedicated space is important because it will help keep them focused and concentrated on work while they are at home on a Skype call, planning a presentation, setting up their workday or simply paying bills."


A generation ago, buyers didn't care about a home's technological capabilities. Either it had cable hookups or it didn't. Today, buyers want to know about the home's technology. They want to hear about cell service and Internet, not cable and telephone.
"Most young homebuyers laugh at a landline phone, and even if they buy a house that has a jack, it is rarely used," Cardillo says.
In some cases, a house's appeal can be increased or diminished because of the strength of a mobile carrier's signal or its Internet service provider options, Cardillo says. While cellphone and Internet services are out of the seller's hands, Cardillo says sellers or their agents should be prepared to field questions on that front.
"Internet and cell service matters a lot to this generation, and they're going to ask, so you need to have answers," he says.

The Cable TV Effect

Whether we admit it or not, we've all seen at least a few of the home shows on cable networks like TLC and HGTV. But while those shows can be fun and informative, they also do a lot to shape buyer expectations.
"Real estate shows on TV have impacted all buyers on the way they look at houses," Elliott says. "But young buyers will often comment on how a house is, or isn't, staged."
Either way, staging is a critical part of selling your home, Hyland says.
"Staging a home is always helpful as it helps people to feel at home the moment they walk through the door, as opposed to having to imagine what it could look like once they move it," Hyland says. "Buyer expectations are often met, and at times, exceeded by staging a home."

Online Photos

If you're serious about attracting young buyers, you need to think about how your property shows online, Elliott says.
"Younger buyers start their searches online," Elliott says. "The home must have professional photography that shows the home in its best light, or they will move on before ever stepping foot in the door."
Looking at the data, it's hard to underestimate the importance of a quality online listing. According to the most recent analysis from the National Association of Realtors, 90 percent of buyers use the Internet to search for homes. By comparison, real estate agents were the second most common resource for finding a home, with 87 percent of buyers citing an agent's help as a key factor.
The most telling piece of data may be what happens after buyers see an online listing. According to the NAR, 62 percent of buyers said they walked through a home after viewing the listing online, and 76 percent said they at least drove by the home because of an online ad.

To see more of what younger buyers want, go to the original article at MSN Real Estate.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Weekly Market Update: April 21, 2014

There's no dainty tiptoeing through the tulips this spring, as market flower fields are blooming with speculation. Sales and new listings are up, and hope for a fluorescent spring market is flourishing. An increase in inventory is the desire at this point in the season, as more properties for sale should nudge first-time home buyers to sow their fledgling seeds in the housing market and encourage move-up buyers to say goodbye to familiar flower beds in favor of an upsized plot across town.

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

 • New Listings increased 19.9% to 1,925
 • Pending Sales increased 1.8% to 1,157
 • Inventory decreased 2.4% to 13,736

For the month of March:

 • Median Sales Price increased 7.6% to $190,000
 • Days on Market decreased 11.1% to 96
 • Percent of Original List Price Received remained flat at 95.0
 • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 6.1% to 3.1

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Thursday, April 17, 2014

1903 Parkway Ave., Shakopee, MN

1903 Parkway Ave., Shakopee, MN 55379

New listing just posted:

New listing video just posted:

Description:  A MUST SEE!! Beautifully updated with new flooring & carpet, freshly painted w/upgraded appliances in Kitchen. Enjoy spacious room sizes, a heated 3-car garage & wonderful lot that backs to the neighborhood park. Walk to shops, restaurants & schools!

Home Information:

Beds: 3

Baths: 2.00

Sqft: 1,969

Price: $249,000

MLS #: 4467937

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kitchens: Open or Closed?

Lately we’ve noticed chatter on some of our favorite idea sites, including Pinterest and Houzz, debating whether it’s better to have a kitchen that’s walled off from the rest of the house, or one that opens up to adjacent family rooms and dining areas.

The debate is timely. For years, designers, architects, and homeowners have been touting the benefits of open floor plans.

 But all that openness has been around for awhile, and for some folks the pendulum is now swinging back the other way.

 Which is better? We’ve got the answer.

 Opening Arguments: The Open Kitchen 

 The idea of the open kitchen has been around since the 1990s and continues to be popular.

 For example, in 2006 the American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported that “the integration of kitchens with informal living space (great rooms) remains a popular design.” The report added that more than half of design firms were experiencing increased interest in open space floor plans.

 Fast-forward to a 2013, and AIA reports that all is well with the open kitchen: “Integrating family space with kitchens remains a very popular design option.”

What’s good about it? Advocates say their open kitchen:
  • Keeps the family in touch by integrating meal prep with nearby activities, such as watching TV in the family room. 
  • Invites guests into the hub of the home, and facilitates conversation between guests and home cooks. Eliminates walls that reduce natural daylight. 
  • Adds a sense of volume, especially in modestly sized homes. 

Closing Arguments: The Closed Kitchen 

 “Closed” doesn’t mean claustrophobic. It means that kitchen access is limited to doorways, and that food prep and cleanup is hidden from view.

 The most-popular reasons for having a closed kitchen include:

  • Messes are hidden. 
  • More walls mean more cabinet storage, countertop work space, and room for appliances. 
  • Guests aren’t inclined to enter the kitchen and disturb the cook. 
  • Cooking odors are confined to the kitchen. 
  • The dining experience is more formal. 
A Houzz commenter posts: “I prefer a closed off kitchen. When I cook I like privacy and silence. I often make things I have never made before when entertaining and need to be able to concentrate without questions or recommendations on how to do something differently.”

The Verdict: It’s the Scullery for You 


“There’s a middle ground that’s becoming much more common,” says Seattle kitchen designer Richard Landon, who likes to incorporate small prep kitchens or “sculleries” (as seen in the right side of the image above) that are walled off from main kitchens.

The idea, says Landon, originates in England, where sculleries were used for washing dishes and laundry, and for messy tasks, such as plucking chickens. Landon puts cleanup sinks, wall ovens, and dishwashers in his sculleries to keep clutter concealed.

Meanwhile, he might put a cooktop and small bar sink in the open kitchen area to maintain a communal atmosphere.

 “The kitchen is still the hub of family life,” says Landon. “To me, a completely closed-off kitchen is at the far end of the spectrum.”

 To add a scullery during a renovation, Landon advises to look for adjacent space, such as a pantry or closet that can be converted. Lacking that, consider rearranging the kitchen altogether to accommodate a prep kitchen.

 “You can do a lot in just 40 sq. ft.,” says Landon.

 Get the Best of Both Worlds 

 Ideally, the best kitchen is a compromise: One that closes off the smells and mess, and yet doesn’t isolate the cook.

Here’s how you can achieve that ideal mix.

Adding a pass-through window is a simple way to connect spaces without tearing out the walls of a closed-off kitchen.

Speaking of walls, taking out a non-bearing wall (cheaper and safer than a bearing wall for sure!) and replacing it with a half wall or peninsula is a somewhat expensive but most-obvious way to open up a closed kitchen. Good idea: Hire an architect or designer who can make sure the end result is a happy one.

Folding or pocket doors separate the kitchen from living areas by opening up when you want continuous flow and closing when you don’t. (Swinging French doors are pretty but take up too much space.) Sizes for pocket and sliding doors range from small (24 inches wide) to huge (16 feet or more). Use a clear or translucent glass door to keep light flowing.

A peninsula separates your kitchen from nearby living spaces. Include upper cabinets with glass fronts that establish privacy yet let light through.

Add a raised bar/eating counter to your island. Face the raised part toward your living areas so it blocks views of food prep areas. Kitchen countertops are typically 36 inches high; raised counters are 40-46 inches high.

A half wall 40-50 inches tall built between the kitchen and living area establishes physical and visual boundaries for your kitchen. Top the wall with a glass partition to reduce noise, yet allow light transmission. 

A range hood or downdraft unit ensures your cooking area is properly vented to the outside so that odors are kept out of living and dining rooms.

Quality, sound-dampening appliances cost more but won’t interfere with nearby conversations. 

An extra-large, extra-deep sink is a godsend for quickly swallowing messy dishes and pans. Ditto for a second dishwasher.

Source:, article by John Riha

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Weekly Market Update: April 14, 2014

April reporting brings hope as tulips and FOR SALE signs begin to brighten the housing landscape. Along with that hope is a little uncertainty about some regions' year-over-year sales and inventory figures. Fear not, however, because rates are still lower than most years in modern memory, there's proof of an improving mix of properties for sale on the national landscape and upward price pressure continues to motivate potential home buyers. Watch listing activity closely for more hints as to what may be unearthed next.

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

 • New Listings increased 6.1% to 1,839
 • Pending Sales decreased 7.1% to 1,026 
 • Inventory decreased 3.6% to 13,241

For the month of March:

 • Median Sales Price increased 7.6% to $190,000
 • Days on Market decreased 12.0% to 95
 • Percent of Original List Price Received remained flat at 95.0
 • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 6.1% to 3.1

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, April 14, 2014

5 Popular Spring Colors For Sellers

Is it time to add some fresh splash of paint to the house interior? Do you plan to sell the house this year or in the near future?

If you want to be up on the popular trends in house-painting, then be sure to consider painting rooms according to this year's trends in colors.

Some of the top trends in interior painting include these five tones.

  • Grey: Warm grey, in particular, is making a comeback in homes because it's neutral but can be matched with various bright colors in furniture and décor. It is also a smart choice because when you want to sell, you won't need to paint over bright colors to depersonalize the house for buyers.
Stafford Family Realtor's Listing
3850 Lone Cedar Lane, Chanhassen, MN 55318
  • Earth tones: Browns and greens are good colors that homeowners are infusing into their homes these days. It's usually coupled with eco-friendly alternatives such as LED lighting, double-paned windows and"green" flooring options like bamboo or vinyl tile. It's a good way to help a home blend into the natural landscape and is easy to match with furniture and décor.
Stafford Family Realtor's Listing
27725 Lake Virginia Drive, Excelsior, Minnesota, 55331
  • Pastels: Popular during the spring with holidays such as Easter and the equinox, pastels can be great for walls of bedrooms, dining rooms and living areas. If you're starting a family, pastels are warm and comforting for nursery design. You can match pastels with one another or choose brightly colored furniture and décor.
Stafford Family Realtor's Listing
5579 Bristol Lane, Minnetonka, MN 55343

  • Blue: One of the trends popular this year is the use of different shades of blue. Blue evokes images of the sky, ocean and other comforting images that homeowners find appealing. It's used in living areas and bedrooms frequently and can be a light robin egg's shade or a darker navy shade, depending on preferences. Blue matches with colors such as brown, green, purple and red when it comes to decorations.
Stafford Family Realtor's Listing
19002 Barrington Drive, Eden Prairie, MN 55346

  • Pantone radiant orchid: Pantone's radiant orchid shade was announced as the color of the year for 2014, and many homeowners may choose to decorate their homes in this shade. It's a purple shade that works well in bedrooms and for decorative pillows or curtains to go with more neutral walls. If you decide to paint a room this color, be aware that next year's top color may be completely different.
Photo credit:

Once you decide which color or colors you'd like to paint your rooms, the next step is to buy the paint and start preparing the walls. While homeowners can pursue this as a DIY project, deciding on paint types and prepping the space to avoid splotches and drips can be difficult and time-consuming.

Consider hiring a house painter who's knowledgeable about various paints and can help you select the best type for your needs. The cost to paint a home interior averages between $1,800 and $2,300, though it varies by location. Homeowners in Washington, D.C., might pay between $1,900 and $2,500, while residents in Los Angeles can expect to pay between $2,300 and $3,200 for the same services.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Jim Gaffigan & Textile Sale

Comedian Jim Gaffigan
Orpheum Theater
910 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN
Fri. April 11
7:30 pm and 10:00 pm showings
Sat. April 12
7:00 pm and 9:30 pm showings
Cost:  $39.75 to $49.75

Feature image

Looking for clean but hilarious comedy this weekend?  Then head out to see Jim Gaffigan.  Here's what City Pages has to say about him:

"I'm not against recycling, but there's a certain sense of inconvenience," says comedian Jim Gaffigan. "My wife might ask if I rinsed out a soda can. I'll be like, 'I haven't even showered today. I should probably clean myself up before I start washing the garbage.'" While that joke gets a laugh from the audience, Gaffigan's "inner voice" may feel compelled to comment on it out loud. "Oh, he doesn't understand the Kyoto agreement," he'll say in a soft voice, almost under his breath. Indeed, it's the "inner voice" that has seemingly made his already hilarious set that much funnier, and become a trademark of sorts for Gaffigan. It's something people zero in on when they talk to him about his set. "Initially, I used to always say that we all have voices in our heads that are saying things," explains the Indiana native. "People would be like, 'Well, not really.' But I think with most creative people there is this inner critic that is kind of with you when you're writing." Since making the leap from advertising to show business nearly two decades ago, Gaffigan has become one of the biggest standup comedy draws in the country, regularly selling out theaters. After 20 years of doing standup, Gaffigan feels he's still growing. "After 10 years, I realized that I didn't want to rely on irreverence or cursing to get laughs. You get a lot of mileage out of a curse word with an audience, and it's not that I don't think dirty comics are funny, it's just that there are certain tricks you can do in the performance to get the audience on your side, whether it's acting or comedy, and I just try to weave those things in." What's odd about this is that he curses a lot in real life. "But when I hear someone do it onstage I'm like, 'Whoa! Settle down, weirdo.'"
— By P.F. Wilson

World's Largest Textile Garage Sale
U of M Reuse Program Warehouse
883 29th Ave. SE.
Minneapolis, MN
Fri. April 11, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm 
Sat. April 12, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Cost:  $25 for Friday night preview sale, $1 on Saturday


If you are looking for something that you can’t seem to find anywhere else, chances are you’ll find it at the 14th Annual Textile Garage Sale. The University of Minnesota’s Reuse Program Warehouse will be full of donated items such as sewing machines, looms, fabric, tools, beads, buttons, books, textiles and so much more. In the past, this event has attracted over 1,000 crafters, and this event is the largest fundraiser for the Textile Center each year. All proceeds support the Textile Center’s programs and services throughout the year including classes, library, summer camps, gallery exhibitions and much more. 

From 3:00 pm until 4:00 pm on Saturday, you can purchase everything that you can fit into a paper bag for just $2. The items that don’t fit in the bag are yours for 50 percent off.