Monday, June 30, 2014

Bring It Out Front

It seems that perhaps people are tired of closing themselves off in their backyards.  Front porches, patios, and decks are becoming increasingly popular.  Maybe people are missing the days when everyone had a front sidewalk and a front porch, and you could call out to your neighbors passing by and maybe stop on over for an iced tea.  Maybe people are just looking for a way to differentiate their homes from the sometimes cookie-cutter look of America's suburban neighborhoods.

Whatever the cause, we like it!  We thought we'd give you some ideas through pictures for ways that you can incorporate a spot in your front yard for socializing with your family and your neighborhood at large.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Spass Tagen, Art and Cruisers

Spass Tagen:  St. Boni Fun Days
Missile Park
St. Bonifacius, MN
Sat., June 28, 2014
11:00 am to 12:00 am
Cost:  Free to Attend

It's everything that a Fun Day should include:  Wiener Dog Races, BBQ contest, Farmers/Crafters Market, Beer Tent, Magician, Street Dance, Bingo, Kiddie Parade, Food Vendors, Kids games and bounce house, Fire Department activities, Raffles, Baseball, Music and so much more.  Don't miss it!

Wayzata Art Experience
Lake Street
Wayzata, MN
June 28-29, 2014
Sat:  10:00 am to 6:00 pm; Sun:  10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Cost:  Free to Attend

Celebrate art in an intimate setting on Lake Minnetonka.  Experience over 120 top artists juried into one of the most exquisite outdoor shows of the season.  Enjoy garden art, sculptures, paintings, mixed media, performance art, live music and delicious cuisine.

Tonka Cruzers Car Show
440 Water Street 
Excelsior, MN
Sat., June 28, 2014
9:00 am to noon
Cost:  Free to Attend

If you love old cars, you're gonna love this show.  Come to beautiful Excelsior to see all vintages of cars on display.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lawn Envy

There's always one.  One neighbor who has the most immaculate, lush lawn.  You feel like you can't even compete.  First, there's the time involved in maintaining such a perfect lawn.  Secondly, there's the cost associated with all the water needed, fertilizers and pesticides.  And third, if you have a conscience, there's all the water needed, fertilizers and pesticides.

What's a homeowner to do if he wants a beautiful lawn but in a time-friendly, cost-friendly and earth-friendly way?  We're here to help.

Water Correctly

First things first: If you don't have an automatic sprinkler system, install one. It takes the guesswork out of watering so you don't overdo it. Your goal is to moisten as much of the root system as possible at one time. Avoid frequent, shallow watering; soak lawns in clay soil once a week, and sandy soil every three days, depending on the season. Set the system to operate in late evening or early morning, when water doesn't evaporate as quickly and pressure is generally optimal. Don't water the entire lawn simultaneously; instead, rotate through the zones, covering each area at least twice.

Boost The Health of Your Lawn

Healthy lawns use less water and have fewer weeds and insects than neglected ones. But don't assume that means you must use fertilizer. Pick up a soil-test kit first to determine whether your lawn has any nutrient deficiencies. When mowing, set the deck to about 3 inches, and remove no more than 30 percent of the height. Leave clippings in place to recycle nutrients and moisture, as well as to shade the lawn. When a layer of thatch ½-inch thick forms just above the soil surface, use an aerator to remove cores of sod (for best results, wait until spring or fall). Then top-dress the turf with compost.

Make Mowing Easy

Properly mowed turf loses less water through evaporation, or, in garden-speak,evapotranspiration.  And a hard-to-mow lawn is more likely to get neglected.  So make cutting it as easy as possible. If you don't have a zero-turn riding mower, shape your lawn's corners with curves so you never need to back up. Curves also accommodate pulsating, revolving sprinklers, which are more efficient than oscillating types because they shoot water directly over the lawn rather than straight up. You can also lighten your workload by installing edging below grass height; that way you won't need to clean up the perimeter with a string trimmer.

Reduce The Amount Of Lawn

While you're reconfiguring the shape of your lawn, ask yourself when was the last time you played Frisbee in the front yard. Consider which areas of the lawn are underused, such as beneath trees or in out-of-the-way spots. Keep turf only where it serves a practical function, such as a children's play area. A simple conversion might involve replacing the lawn near your home's entrances with patios or decking. Remove grass under mature trees, where it likely struggles to grow, and surround each base with mulch or ground cover as far as the outermost edge of the canopy.

Additionally, you can carve out new planting beds for perennials and trees which require about half as much water as grass, once established. Less water used, less lawn to mow.

Choose Better Grass

Use water-efficient grass varieties that are suited to your region. Your cooperative extension office can recommend the most drought-tolerant grass type for your area and advise whether to plant from seed or sod. Eco-lawns that contain a mixture of meadow grasses and other plants have been developed for different areas of the country, as have alternatives to traditional turf grasses. Sedges and other ornamental grasses are popular choices for less manicured meadow plantings. Keep in mind that some of these plants have periods of dormancy, when the lawn will not look its best.

Here in the North the best grasses to use for your lawn are fine fescues (hard, creeping red, chewings, and turf-type sheep fescue).  They make a great drought-tolerant, low-maintenance turf.

Source: and Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Weekly Market Update: June 23, 2014

Some economists do not believe that housing has established enough upward momentum to warrant a declaration of recovery, yet many market analysts are observing the rule of The Tortoise and the Hare. Fast, energetic upward spikes in sales may be exciting, but slow and steady wins the race. This phase of stabilization will likely show itself in year-over-year comparisons that cause yawns, but this kind of race is ultimately good for the market as a whole.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending June 14:

 • New Listings increased 5.9% to 2,076
 • Pending Sales decreased 4.1% to 1,267
 • Inventory increased 6.5% to 16,857

For the month of May:

 • Median Sales Price increased 8.2% to $210,000
 • Days on Market decreased 7.0% to 80
 • Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.2% to 96.8%
 • Months Supply of Inventory increased 8.3% to 3.9

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

741 Oak Dr., Victoria, MN

741 Oak Dr., Victoria, MN 55386

New listing just posted:

New listing video just posted:


Home Information:

Beds: 4

Baths: 3.00

Sqft: 3,899

Price: $479,900

MLS #: 4496917

Monday, June 23, 2014

10 Inside Tips From a Designer Who Specializes in Small Baths

A New York City designer shares secrets to making a small bath both functional and beautiful.

Got a small bathroom to renovate? Go wild with texture and colors if it’s a rarely used guest bath, but stick to clean and simple in a master bath.

That’s the word from designer Jamie Gibbs, who transforms incredibly small New York City bathrooms into beautiful spaces. “I liked being shocked by details in a little space, especially if it’s not going to be used much,” Gibbs says.

His small-bath secrets:

1. Avoid textures in bathrooms that get daily use. In a heavily used bathroom, anything with texture becomes a collection spot for mold, mildew, and toothpaste. Say no to carved vessel sinks or floor tile with indentations.

2. Be careful with no-enclosure showers with drains right in the floor. These Euro showers allow for a feeling of openness, but the average American contractor doesn’t know how to waterproof the floor for them, Gibbs says. The tile seals can be compromised if not installed correctly, causing the materials to decompose, and water to leak underneath.

3. Use opaque windows and skylights to let light filter into all parts of the bath. A long skinny window with frosted glass means you don’t have to burn high-wattage light bulbs. Make sure water condensation will roll off the window into an appropriate place (i.e. not the framing or the wall) to avoid future maintenance issues.

4. Look for fixtures that have a single handle rather than separate hot and cold taps. “Space-saving gearshift faucets are a very good choice in small bathrooms,” says Gibbs. You’ll also save money by not having to drill holes in the countertop for the hot and cold taps.

5. Save space with wall-mounted toilets and bidets, but be aware that the water tank goes into the wall. That’s fine if space is such a premium that you won’t mind going into the wall to make any repairs. But if you share a wall with a neighbor, that’s a different issue.

6. Use a wall-mount faucet to make a reduced-depth vanity work in a small space. “I can get away with a 22” vanity instead of a 24” vanity with a wall mount faucet,” Gibbs says.

7. Check the space between the handles and the faucet of any space-saving fixtures. “If you can only get a toothbrush in it to clean, you’ll save space, but it’s functionally stupid,” Gibbs says. Make sure the sink is functional, too. If you’re using a vessel sink, make sure it’s large enough and not too high. “If it’s too high, you’ll knock it so many times that the fittings will come loose,” Gibbs says.

8. A pedestal sink is all form and no function. “It’s a great-looking sink, but there’s no place to [set] anything,” Gibbs says.

9. Wall-mounted vanities seem like they’re space savers, but they create dead space between the vanity and the floor — a space that often accumulates junk and never gets cleaned.

10. If you’re comfortable with it, go European and put up a glass walls between the bathroom and bedroom to create the illusion of space. Or put bathroom fixtures in the bedroom just outside the bath.

Source:  Houselogic, article by Dona DeZube

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Weekend Happenings: 2 Kinds Of Bands

Rock The Garden 2014
Walker Art Center/Mpls Sculpture Gardens
1750 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN
June 21 & 22, 2014
3:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Cost:  Single Day Gen. Admission:  $59, 2-day Pass Gen. Admission:  $100

Why Rock the Garden for one day when you can rock it for two? The Twin Cities’ favorite summer concert returns with the first two-day format in the annual event’s history. The weekend festival blowout reflects the hallmark eclecticism of the Walker Art Center and 89.3 The Current. From indie blues to surf rock, frenetic pop to post-punk, hard-charging rock to hip-hop, each day’s lineup offers “anything can happen” moments that you’ll be talking about for years to come!

Lake Waconia Band Festival
Main Street
Waconia, MN
June 21, 2014
6:00 pm
Cost:  Free to Attend

Call me a band geek, but I love marching bands.  I have many fond memories of time spent on football fields and main streets marching with my hometown band in parades and competitions.  If you also love marching bands, you're in for a treat this weekend.

The Lake Waconia Band Festival is an annual event that is held each year on the third Saturday in June. This year the Lake Waconia Band Festival celebrates it’s 16th year of filling our beautiful city with the sights and sounds of a marching band competition. Is there any better way to spend a Minnesota Saturday evening in June? The Lake Waconia Band Festival is a non-profit event hosted by the Waconia Band Boosters, sponsored by local businesses and made possible through the helping hands of over 200 volunteers.

This “Bands-Only” parade competition is one of the highlights of the summer marching season in central Minnesota and presents many of the best bands from across Minnesota and Wisconsin. The parade begins at 6:00 PM and travels along Main Street in downtown Waconia with breath-taking views of beautiful Lake Waconia. An awards ceremony is held at Bayview Elementary School immediately following the parade.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Old-House Features We Need To Keep

We have a love/hate relationship with old houses.  We love the charm and personality of old homes while we hate the small closets and poor energy efficiency.  So while we may lean toward newer houses because of the way we live today, there are still some great features of old houses that we should definitely keep around.

Dutch Doors

Popular with the 18th-century Dutch settlers of New York and New Jersey, so-called Dutch doors are split horizontally in the middle; open just the top to keep out animals while letting in light and air. 

The Sleeping Porch

Sleeping porches became popular in the 20th century, when they were advocated by health professionals who believed that the fresh air they provided bolstered immune systems. Whether that's true or not, there is a lot of appeal to a sleeping porch.  Falling asleep to the croak of frogs and chirps of crickets, cool breezes floating over you, waking with the birds and the sunshine...what's not to love!  All you need is a bed and a screened in porch and you're golden.

Transom Windows

Transom windows are those panels of glass you see above doors in old homes, especially those built in the Mission or Arts and Crafts styles. They admitted natural light to front hallways and interior rooms before the advent of electricity, and circulated air even when doors were closed for privacy. Transoms serve both purposes just as well today, and of course, the beauty of glass is timeless.

Laundry Chutes

If your laundry room is on the main floor or basement of a two story house, you may want to revive this extremely efficient mode of dirty laundry transport.  The added bonus is that kids love to use them so they are always willing to pick up their dirty clothes!

Under Eaves Hideaways

I will never forget the day when I was 8 and we first walked through our then 65-year old house and I spotted the little door just off the upstairs landing.  It was the perfect spot for a little kid to have a playroom. Builders today try to maximize storage space which is good, but save a little spot for the kids to have their own private getaway.  Childhood only lasts a few seconds.  You can always add that storage later...or save the spot for your grandkids.

Source:, and Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Weekly Market Update: June 16, 2014

Price growth. It has been the result of low inventory in the market these days, and it would appear that the duration of the summer market will continue to see an increase in year-over-year median sales price. If inventory makes a significant leap, perhaps we'll see a different sort of impact on housing prices. Until then, the longer buyers wait, the more risk they take of paying a little bit more for that house key.

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

 • New Listings increased 10.3% to 2,154
 • Pending Sales decreased 0.7% to 1,283
 • Inventory increased 6.2% to 16,453

For the month of May:

 • Median Sales Price increased 8.2% to $210,000
 • Days on Market decreased 7.0% to 80
 • Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.2% to 96.8%
 • Months Supply of Inventory increased 8.3% to 3.9

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, June 16, 2014

Garden Gates

We are in the midst of constructing a fence with a gate around our raised bed vegetable garden.  We once counted 16 deer in our yard one misty morning so we knew that a fence was essential.  However, I didn't want it to look like some rinky-dink fence that met the bare minimum of keeping critters out.  No, I want a great fence that is as beautiful to look at as it is functional.

The more I investigated, the more I realized that the fencing I saw was all fairly similar but what set off an amazing looking garden was the gate.  There are so many styles and ideas, that I figured I just had to share them with you.

Most of the gates shown below are not for vegetable gardens.  They are mostly gates being used in transition areas in your yard, like when you go around the garage.  A little fence and gate to delineate the front yard from the side/back yard could be just the thing your yard needs. Or if you live on a busy street, a fence and gate could be just what you need to create a little oasis in your front yard.  There's something about a gate that just makes you want to peek through to see what's on the other side. So have fun looking!

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Weekend Happenings: All About Dad

Father's  Day Cruise
Bayview Event Center
2 Water Street
Excelsior, MN
Sun., June 15, 2014
11:30 am to 1:30 pm
Cost:  $36.95 per adult, $26.95 children 2-10, under 2 free

Cruise beautiful Lake Minnetonka & celebrate Dad while enjoying a full Sunday Brunch Buffet to include: Variety of Fresh Fruit; Lemon Ricotta Waffles served with Warm Syrup, Fresh Berries, and Whipped Cream; Applewood Smoked Peppercorn Bacon; Wild Rice Egg Bake; Scrambled Eggs with Cheese; Sliced fresh Ham Steak; Coconut Chicken Breast; Chocolate Dipped Strawberries. Coffee, Tea & a full Cash Bar available.

Baker Park Reserve
2309 Baker Park Road
Maple Plain, MN
Sun., June 15, 2014
1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Cost: $12 ages 18+; $8 ages 3-17; children 2 and under admitted free

Baker Near-Wilderness Settlement Lodge

Treat Dad to a special lunch at noon of brats and burgers on the grill at the lodge. From 1-3 PM, families choose two activities such as rock climbing, archery, nature programs, and more.

Reservations required, by phone only; call 763.559.6700.

Stone Arch Bridge & Riverfront
Downtown Minneapolis
Fri-Sun., June 13-15, 2014
Cost:  Free to Attend

Okay, so this isn't exclusively a Father's Day event, but it's a great thing to do on the weekend, nevertheless.  And they do have a Pop Art Car Show on Sunday for Dad.  Come enjoy over 250 Artists, 3 performance stages, family art activities, the car show, and a motorcycle and off-road vehicle gallery.  The event kicks off with a concert on Friday night starting off at 7:00 pm.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

First Time Home Buyers Biggest Surprises

Buying your first home can be a huge step.  It is often the largest purchase a person will make in their life.  It should be a time of celebration.  Unfortunately, many people often have unexpected buyers remorse after purchasing their first home.  Here are some of the biggest surprises that first time home buyers experience.

1.  House Payment Shock

It seems many people, when buying their first home, fail to determine their final total mortgage payment.  Property taxes, insurance premiums, and association dues can all be factored into a final mortgage payment and this can throw many people for a loop.  Additionally, many people seem to have champagne tastes and a beer budget.  Figure out what you can afford monthly and look for appropriate houses within that range.

2.  Home Maintenance Costs

If you previously rented and had your utilities paid along with your rent, you may be in for a big shock once you are paying those utilities on your own.  If you happened to have bought an older home that is not very energy efficient, you're in for an even bigger whammy!  Electric, gas, water, sewer, heating costs, and garbage disposal add up.  You'll find yourself shelling out way more cash for those costs than you did when you were a renter.

In addition to utility costs, many forget the time and cost associated with simply maintaining your home.  Lawn mowers, rakes, shovels, snow blowers, furnace filters, water filters, light bulbs, cleaning supplies...the list could go on and on.  And if something breaks, there's no landlord to call to come and fix it.  You will foot the bill for every call to the plumber, the electrician, the HVAC guy and everyone in between.

3.  You Take The Good With The Bad

You think you've found the ideal neighborhood.  It's close to the park, it's got easy access to the highway, and all the houses around you are well maintained.  All good, right?  It doesn't take long for you to notice that the kids are at that park at 6:30 in the morning, the traffic noise from the nearby highway is deafening, not to mention all the road traffic in front of your house because it is a main thoroughfare to the highway, and all your neighbors seem to spend all their free time mowing or hammering something.  Welcome to life in a neighborhood.

4.  A Time Suck

Remember those days when you'd come home to your apartment, change into your workout clothes, go for a run, meet a friend out for dinner, then come home and veg in front of the TV watching fixer-upper house shows on HGTV?  Well, that fixer-upper you bought is now taking ALL of your spare time and money.  They make it look so easy and quick on TV but the reality is there can be months of work involved just to do one small project in your home, and that's if you have all the know-how to do it yourself.  Even if you hire it out, many times there will be scheduling delays or crooked contractors who won't complete the work.

But you didn't buy a fixer-upper you say?  Good for you.  But you think maybe you'd like to change the color of the paint in a few rooms, and there's that grass that keeps growing every week, and whoops, that latest storm ripped off all of your gutters and some of your shingles, and dang it, suddenly all your water is freezing cold.  Welcome to home ownership, my friend.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors