Thursday, May 29, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Grand Old Day

Grand Old Day
Grand Avenue
St. Paul
Sunday, June 1st, 2014
8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Cost:  FREE

Grand Old Day, Saint Paul's first rite of summer, is where to go when you’re looking for things to do in the Twin Cities. It’s the kick off to Minnesota festivals season, and is the largest one-day festival in the Midwest.

Grand Old Day is one of the best Minnesota festivals for people of all ages and interests. Whether you're looking for the best summer parades in Minnesota (complete with candy, of course!), Minnesota outdoor music festivals, some of the best fair foods Minnesota has to offer, or just some good old family fun in the sun - St. Paul's Grand Old Day is the place to be!

Listen to music on 5 stages throughout the day, enjoy inflatable bounce houses, a petting zoo, face painting, over 150 food vendors, craft beer sampling, beer garden, interactive sports, and of course the parade.  What's not to like?

The event will be held rain or shine and there are free MetroTransit passes that you can get here.  Check them out on Facebook or check out the schedule of events for all the latest information.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Weekly Market Update: May 26, 2014

Higher prices gave sellers reason for optimism in early 2014. As prices stabilize, some are sensing the formation of a counter-trend. Silly rabbits. Price alone does not determine the state of the housing market. Number of sales by housing segment, the types of households being formed and the availability of well-paying jobs all play important roles to housing health. As the summer months approach, things like inventory of homes for sale, new listings and number of days on market until sale, along with pricing, will help predict the direction of the housing market.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending May 17:

 • New Listings increased 10.0% to 2,039
 • Pending Sales decreased 8.3% to 1,175
 • Inventory increased 4.1% to 15,432

For the month of April:

 • Median Sales Price increased 7.5% to $196,129
 • Days on Market decreased 8.2% to 89
 • Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.1% to 95.9%
 • Months Supply of Inventory increased 2.9% to 3.5

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

17197 Vantage Ct., Eden Prairie, MN

17197 Vantage Ct., Eden Prairie, MN 55347

New listing just posted:

New listing video just posted:


Home Information:

Beds: 4

Baths: 2.00

Sqft: 3,692

Price: $464,900

MLS #: 4484795

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Landscaping Essentials

Landscaping is sometimes an afterthought for people.  They like the inside of their home to look good and function well, but when it comes to the outdoors some decide it's not really needed.  But according to landscape economist John Harris, good landscaping can add up to 28% to the overall value of a house and cut it's time on the market by 10% to 15%.

With that in mind, let's look at 3 essentials that every landscape should have and 3 nice-to-haves.

Essential #1:  Trees

Did you know trees can reduce stress in just 5 minutes?  Just picture a house without trees vs. one that has mature trees throughout the yard.  You can see the value.  And the National Tree Benefit Calculator can tell you the value of those trees.

The calculator examines how a tree species in a particular ZIP code affects:
  • Property values.
  • Storm water runoff. Trees block and suck up water running off your property, preventing pollutants from entering community waterways.
  • Carbon dioxide reduction. CO2 contributes to climate change.
  • Energy savings: Shade trees cool homes in summer; windbreaks help warm them in winter.

Multiply those benefits by the number of trees on a property, and the value and savings can climb.

Monetary value aside, trees are just nice.  They nestle your house to the surroundings, provide a place to climb and build tree forts, and give birds a sanctuary.

Essential #2:  Native Plants

Native means that a particular plant, shrub, or tree has always grown in this region which means it requires very little maintenance and can handle whatever weather your region throws at it.  This means it will require far less money for you to maintain native plants that non-native plants.  And the more lawn you replace with garden beds, the more savings you will find.

Here in Minnesota, we have several beautiful native plants, shrubs and trees to choose from.  Just ask your garden center.  Does this mean you should never plant something that isn't native to the area?  Absolutely not.  Plant what you love (that will survive in your gardening zone).  But know that native plants are just easier and healthier because they are tailor made for their surroundings.

Essential #3:  Outdoor Lighting

When interviewed about what what homebuyers really want, outdoor lighting consistently tops the list of outdoor features that people want.  According to the NAHB Survey, 41% say it's "essential" and 49% say its desirable.

But that’s not the only reason it’s one of our landscape essentials.
  • Tasteful lighting paints your home at night, highlighting your other great landscaping choices and directing guests to your home’s focal point — the front door. 
  • It protects against slips and falls.
  • It makes a property a more difficult target for intruders. That added security can reduce burglaries, and therefore claims. Some insurance companies give 5% to 15% discounts to homeowners with reduced or zero claims.
  • It makes your home feel homier. Soft lighting on a wrap-around porch or just a front stoop feels warm and inviting.
Nice-To-Have #1:  Fencing

Nice fences can add value to the house.  And they provide privacy, set boundaries, keep pets and kids in while keeping intruders out.  But not all fences add value.  If your fence is unmaintained and in disrepair or if it looks just like every other fence in the neighborhood, it's not doing much for you in terms of value.

In fact, in terms of value alone, you'd be wiser to spend your money on shade trees over fencing.  However, if you need a fence or you just like the privacy of a fence, be sure to invest in a nice one that goes with your house style and be sure to maintain it.

Nice-To-Have #2:  Retaining Walls and Terracing

Retaining walls and terraces are used in sloped areas of your yard.  They tend to be in areas that are hard to mow, have erosion issues, and are rarely used for anything because they are so sloped. 

Installing a retaining wall or terrace lets you reclaim that space to be used for plantings or walkways.  But it can come at a hefty price of $15 to $40 per sq. ft (including labor) depending on the materials used.

Nice-To-Have #3:  Walkways

Walkways welcome guests to your home. So, you can let visitors trudge through wet grass to your front door, or you can lay down an attractive path. We vote for the attractive path.

You can go whole hog and install a solid stone walkway, which ranges from $11 to $17 per sq. ft.; or use pavers, $9.50-$17 per sq. ft. To save money, lay stepping stones with grass between, $1-$3 per piece.

Walkways are another keep-up-with-the-Joneses upgrade. If you get too fancy, you won’t see a return on your investment; if you don’t meet the standards of the neighborhood, appraisers will punish you.

Source: and Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Summer Begins

Memorial weekend is the beginning of summer for most Minnesotans and many head on up to the lakes area for the weekend.  But if you don't want to fight the traffic and are looking for something to do at home this weekend, or any weekend this summer, then check out some of the links below.  These sites have events that can keep you busy this weekend and almost every day throughout the summer.  What fabulous resources we have at our fingertips!  Take a gander and have a great summer!

Minneapolis Music and Movies in the Parks

Celebrating over 100 years of free entertainment in Minneapolis parks.
Enjoy more than 250 FREE concerts and movies in Minneapolis parks this summer.
Take a night to relax in your parks.
Summer will be over before you know it!

If you love 5K's and all the stuff that goes with them, then follow this link to find one for just about any day of the summer.  

For those who would rather pedal their way through life, this link will bring you to bike races throughout the entire state.

If all that exercising seems like too much work and you'd rather mosey along eating food, listening to music and people watching then check out all the fairs and festivals that are happening around the area this spring and summer.

8364 Allegheny Grove Blvd., Victoria, MN

8364 Allegheny Grove Blvd., Victoria, MN 55386

New listing just posted:


Home Information:

Beds: 5

Baths: 3.00

Sqft: 3,282

Price: $369,000

MLS #: 4482918

2715 Fieldstone Dr., Victoria, MN

2715 Fieldstone Dr., Victoria, MN 55386

New listing just posted:


Home Information:

Beds: 5

Baths: 2.00

Sqft: 3,304

Price: $439,000

MLS #: 4482741

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Eating Outdoors

Yesterday was warm and gorgeous.  And for those of us that endure the long, cold, and dark winters of Minnesota, those first warm, sunny days bring a leap of joy to our hearts and make us long to spend every spare minute outside.

My kids insisted on a picnic last night which was just a blanket on the grass - probably the most simple and perfect way to eat outside.  But there are oh so many beautiful and stylish ways to eat outside as well.

If you long to spend more time outside this summer, then consider finding a spot to put a table and chairs so that you an eat outside.  Yes, there's a little more involved with getting the food and plates, and glasses, etc. out there, but it is worth it!  You find that you linger longer over conversations, letting the dishes sit and the kids run, while you enjoy the songs of the birds and the feel of the warm breeze. It's like a mini vacation in the middle of the week.  And it's so totally worth it.

Outdoor dining room - this may just work on the patio under the deck - was searching for idea for the concrete wall

I should have this in my backyard!



Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Weekly Market Update: May 19, 2014

April showers bring the Speedwell. This could have been the mantra if 1620 had gone differently (go ahead and Google it). Either way, the May flowers are rising high even as mortgage rates stay persistently low, which helps boost affordability regardless of rising prices. More mortgage applications means more first-time buyers dipping into homeownership. Lower unemployment levels will also help direct buyers toward the rosy scent of a new home.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending May 10:

 • New Listings increased 6.5% to 1,979
 • Pending Sales increased 0.1% to 1,264
 • Inventory increased 3.5% to 15,009

For the month of April:

 • Median Sales Price increased 7.6% to $196,425
 • Days on Market decreased 8.2% to 89
 • Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.1% to 95.9%
 • Months Supply of Inventory remained flat at 3.4

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

7875 Harvest Ln., Chanhassen, MN

7875 Harvest Ln., Chanhassen, MN 55317

New listing just posted:

New listing video just posted:


Home Information:

Beds: 2

Baths: 1.00

Sqft: 1,451

Price: $179,000

MLS #: 4481728

Monday, May 19, 2014

The 5 Worst Things You Can Do Before Buying a Home

Cynics may scoff, but getting under contract on the right home can turn even the most stoic shopper into a bit of a dreamer. From paint colors to planting a garden, picturing yourself in that property is critical for many buyers.

But leave a little room for pragmatism. Remember that getting pre-approved for a mortgage and even under contract isn’t a guarantee. That prefix is there for a reason. Loan pre-approval is not loan approval.

You’ll have more hurdles to clear before a lender legally commits to funding your home loan. Buyers who don’t know any better can inadvertently add obstacles to that path – or even kill the entire deal – between contract and closing day.

Some missteps can be costlier than others. Here’s a look at five of the worst things you can do before buying a home.

1. Go Credit-Crazy

It’s almost become cliché in the mortgage industry, but the warning still bears repeating: Don’t buy a truckload of furniture until after your loan closes. The prohibition goes beyond sofas and settees – avoid obtaining credit for any major expense, such as a car, a boat or, yes, a new bedroom set.

Be careful with even minor expenses. If you absolutely need to obtain new credit or accrue debt before closing, talk with your loan officer as soon as possible.

New payments are going to affect your monthly debt-to-income ratio (and residual income on a VA loan), and not in a good way. Hard inquiries on your credit report could also lower your credit score. That might hurt your interest rate if you haven’t locked or even knock you out of qualifying range all together.

2. Shuffle Dollars and Cents

Lenders will scour your most recent bank statement as part of the pre-approval process. It’s not like they forget about it after that. They’ll take another look at your assets and bank records again during the underwriting process.

You’ll need to explain any unusual deposits or withdrawals. Lenders will require clear documentation and a paper trail if you’re putting gift funds toward a down payment or closing costs. Stuffing a wad of undocumented cash into your account is going to raise some red flags.

3. Get Behind on Bills

Having a late payment hit your credit report before closing can devastate your deal. Payment history comprises about a third of your credit score.

One solitary 30-day late payment can clip 60 to 110 points from your credit score. Maybe not a huge deal if you had an 800 score, right?

Possibly. But if that 30-day late blemish is a mortgage or rent payment, some lenders will boot your application altogether. Many will require at least 12 consecutive months of on-time payments to qualify for a home loan.

4. Co-Sign on a Loan

Co-signing a loan is arguably a bad financial move whenever you make it. But it’s especially risky during the mortgage lending process. It means you’re financially liable for someone else’s debt.

Yes, that someone else might be the most responsible person on the planet. Lenders will still need to factor that new monthly obligation into your overall affordability profile. Adding one more debt to the list could stretch too thin your debt-to-income ratio and assets.

5. Changes in Employment

Probably goes without saying, but losing your job is going to be a big problem. Even job-hopping can present some major hurdles. Lenders crave stable, reliable income that’s likely to continue.

Lenders are likely to slam on the brakes if you take a new job in a different field. Or if you decide to start your own business. Or even if you get a promotion but see some or all of your income shift to a commission basis.

The bottom line: Any change to your employment is significant. Keep your loan officer in the loop, and ask questions when in doubt. The last thing you want is to waste time and money on a home loan you’re never going to get.

Throughout the mortgage process, it can also be helpful to monitor your credit scores for changes so you can know whether you need to address any problems. To do that, you can use a free tool like’s Credit Report Card, which updates your credit scores and an overview of your credit report every month.

Source:  This article was written by Chris Birk and originally published on

Saturday, May 17, 2014

950 Iris Circle, Victoria, MN

950 Iris Circle, Victoria, MN 55331

New listing just posted:

New listing video just posted:


Home Information:

Beds: 0

Baths: 0.00

Sqft: 0

Price: $279,000

MLS #: 4480340

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Mainstreet Days and Fitness & Waffles

Mainstreet Days
Downtown Hopkins
Sat., May 17, 2014
9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Cost:  Free


Mainstreet Days is an annual event on Mainstreet, featuring a variety of arts, crafts, and food vendors. Entertainment for the family includes train rides, a balloon twister, mechanical bull and more. Live music.

Gear West Fitness & Waffles
1786 W. Wayzata Blvd.
Long Lake
8:30 am - Trail Run & Trail Hike
9:45 am - Waffles

Gear West will be hosting runs and hikes on local wooded trails followed by a delicious breakfast of waffles and coffee. You can also bike to Long Lake to join the group for waffles. These events will allow Gear West to showcase it's unique proximity to the forests at Wolfeld Woods and Wood-Ril, the Luce Line and Dakota Trails and miles of quiet roads.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

8137 Savanna Valley Way, Victoria, MN

8137 Savanna Valley Way, Victoria, MN 55386

New listing just posted:


Home Information:

Beds: 4

Baths: 2.00

Sqft: 3477

Price: $375,000

MLS #: 4479572

2314 Hunter Dr., Chanhassen, MN

2314 Hunter Dr., Chanhassen, MN 55317

New listing just posted:

New listing video just posted:


Home Information:

Beds: 4

Baths: 2.00

Sqft: 2,646

Price: $469,000

MLS #: 4478756

Why We Love 6605 Pointe Lake Lucy in Chanhassen

If you've been following our blog for any amount of time, you've noticed that we like to talk about houses and how they relate to your life.  Yes, we do include real estate news and trends, we highlight local events, and we keep our eye on the Twin Cities housing market.  But our real passion is houses.  And while we do post our listings every week and we do have a page that quickly highlights our listings (the Live page if you haven't ever made it that far), we really don't talk much about each listing and what we love about it.  And the fact is, we do love every house that we list.

We decided we would like to show you some of our listings and what we love about them.  It's a no brainer, really.  It fits in with what we do on this blog anyway, and it might get you talking with those you know about this cool thing you saw in this one house, and hey, weren't you guys in the market for something just like that?  We are, after all, in the business of selling houses so why not show off our inventory.  

We will always include a link to our website that will give you all the pertinent information about the listing, but we are using this to highlight the subjective stuff like the flow of the house, the beautiful floors, that amazing view, and so on. So without further adieu....

Look at this beautiful, well-kept house!  Gorgeous landscaping, mature trees, and very clean looking.  Words that come to my mind are "high end", "pristine", "comfortable", and "established".  It just makes you want to drive up and look in, doesn't it?

Could this place BE better located?!  5 minutes to Downtown Chanhassen AND Downtown Excelsior, both of which have awesome shopping.  Minnetonka schools.  Close to Hwy 7 and Hwy 5 for quick access to the 494 loop.  Lakes all over the place!!

Here's a close up of the front entry.  My eye is caught by that awesome stone wall.  And what a cool house number plate!  I LOVE the twisty plants even though I know that they will go with the current owners, but it lets me see that you can really highlight some potted plants here.

Here's the inside front entry where you can still see those awesome plants!  Spacious spot with art niches.  Nice touch.  Airy, open, inviting.

Let's cut right to the heart of the home where we see this open concept kitchen/breakfast/family room.  Love the flow of the space while the little wall maintains a bit of remove from the eating/cooking portions of the area...separate but still connected.  LOVE all the windows.  Just look at all of that greenery outside and the brightness that it brings to these rooms.  The white woodwork and the warm wood floor and cabinets work really well together, keeping it from being too monotonous.  Good sized spaces, doesn't feel crowded at all.  Great family space.

Very attractive and functional kitchen.  Look at that pantry wall!!  Stainless appliances, beautiful earth-toned tile backsplash, undercabinet lighting, granite counters, plenty of counter space and I love the glass-fronted cabinets for displaying things.  Great kitchen!

It's so nice to have a formal dining room for special occasions.  This one has this beautiful built-in buffet.  Pretty overhead light, too.

Here's the office which is located next to the foyer.  This place feels calm and inviting.  Notice the french doors which is a nice touch.  Love the double corner windows.  This would also make a great music room or away room if you want a little peace and quiet from the rest of the bustling house.

Heading upstairs we see the master suite.  Beautiful wood floors are continued up here.  Gorgeous vaulted ceiling and huge windows bring in the greenery of the outdoors.  The master bath is very spacious with a big shower and nice tile accents.

Check out this awesome basement!  Talk about party central.  Daylight windows bring in tons of light and keep it from feeling to basementy.  Big space for playing, fireplace for relaxing, bar and wine cellar for entertaining.  More beautiful wood floors throughout the basement.  Invite me over when you buy this place...I want to have some fun here!

Okay, I just drooled a little bit.  If you have a creative streak, you would spend the majority of your time in this space.  Craft room, sewing, drawing, you name it.  It would also work great as a kids playroom and study area.  And the fireplace goes through the wall into this space as well!! Love!!

I just had to show this lovely stained glass window in the main floor half bath.  

Laundry would be a breeze here!  Look at all that space for sorting clothes!  And check out that cool light fixture.  I also adore the half window door to outside...let in light where ever you can.  A door also let's you close off this space if you want to reduce the noise.

What a beautiful back yard with that deck and all those trees.  Makes me want to sit out there with my morning coffee and listen to the birds.

So, there you have it.  Our first installment of Why We Love...  I hope you enjoyed it.  Maybe it will give you some ideas for your own house.  Or maybe you'll pass it on to a friend who is looking to buy.  Or, maybe you'll buy it!  

If you'd like to know more about this listing you can follow this link.  Or if you'd like to schedule a private viewing of this property, click here to contact us or give us a call at 952.470.2575.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors