Thursday, July 31, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Weekend of Art

It's the weekend for Art Fairs and Festivals. You'll have plenty to see and do if you love art this weekend.

Uptown Art Fair
Calhoun Square, Minneapolis
Aug 1-3, 2014

Powderhorn Art Fair
Powderhorn Park, Minneapolis
Aug 2-3, 2014

Loring Park Art Festival
Loring Park, Minneapolis
Aug 2-3, 2014

It's that time of year again. When the heat rises and folks from the cities, the suburbs, and beyond come to downtown and south Minneapolis in search of art. As usual, they will find this at three enormous art festivals this weekend. The Uptown Art Fair is the biggest of the trio, with over 350 artists from around the world taking over Hennepin Avenue from 28th to 31st , as well as some side streets, for three days. There will be lots to do here in addition to the art, such as cooking demonstrations, competitions, a beer and wine garden, live music, and family activities. Meanwhile, the Loring Park Art Festival isn't doing too shabby either, offering two days with over 140 artists, strolling musicians, food, and performances. New this year will be Shakespeare in the park by Minnesota SkyVault, live art creation from local talents, and the opportunity for folks to make their own art to take home. Finally, Powderhorn Art Fair is still a delight, with over 180 artists by the lake. Distinct from the other two fairs is Powderhorn's community showcase, featuring work from local artists and even quite a few from the neighborhood. All three events are free. The Uptown Art Fair's ( hours are noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Powderhorn Art Fair ( and Loring Park Art Festival's ( hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Source:  Jessica Arbruster for CityPages

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Where To Begin?

If you're thinking of updating your home, you might be overwhelmed by how much needs to be done.  Where should you start?  You should definitely list your priorities but, as always, keep in mind the resale of your house.  You never know when life circumstances will change and you will need to sell your home.

With that in mind, the best places to start on your renovation would be the ones that potential buyers would find most desirable.

1.  Kitchen As Living Space

Kitchens these days are much more than a place to store and cook food.  They are the center of home life and as such should be able to accommodate friends and family and the way they live.  Kitchens that open to living spaces or kitchens that include lounge seating are very wanted by buyers these days.  Be sure to include plenty of outlets to accommodate technology since kitchens are also where most people do homework, send e-mails and even work from home.  Include updated finishes like stainless steel, solid surfaces, updated hardware and you're good to go.

2.  Spa-Like Bathrooms

After spending all that time in the kitchen with family and friends, it seems people need a little spot to get away and a bathroom that functions like an oasis retreat is one of the top things people want in a home.  Walk-in showers, standalone tubs, and resort-like finishes are defining characteristics of a spa bathroom.

3.  Outdoor Spaces

If your idea of an outdoor space is your well-mowed lawn, then you might want to read on.  People are trying to maximize their living spaces by moving outdoors.  Adding a deck or patio, opening up a front porch,  or creating an outdoor kitchen or fire pit are great ways to extend living spaces to the outdoors.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Weekly Market Update: July 28, 2014

Finding the truth behind housing statistics is like debating the best beer for summertime. On the beer side, you might pick an American wheat, Belgian white, shandy, Kolsch, cider or maybe a Coors Light if you’re into the pickup truck and dirt road scene. On the housing side, you might say we’re too heavy toward a seller’s market as prices rise, that another buyer’s market is over the horizon if inventory pushes up or that things are just right for the first time in years. No matter where your submarket sits on the scale, it’s safe to say that MLS data is the best base for a meaningful opinion and that a doppelbock is not a good base for an outdoor barbecue in the middle of July.

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

• New Listings increased 10.4% to 1,913
• Pending Sales decreased 1.0% to 1,145
• Inventory increased 8.9% to 18,011

For the month of June:

• Median Sales Price increased 4.7% to $219,900
• Days on Market decreased 6.8% to 69
• Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.3% to 97.2%
• Months Supply of Inventory increased 10.5% to 4.2

Monday, July 28, 2014

Save Money On Your Renovation

No doubt about it, renovations can put a major dent in your bank account.  But the damage doesn't have to be that extensive if you plan ahead a bit and take some of our advice.

1.  Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning is the number one thing you can do to make your project run smoothly and thus reduce or eliminate any project changes which always add cost.  You may think designing the space yourself would be the most cost savings approach, but hiring an architect to help you with the parts you don't know will save you money in the long run.  If you're determined to do it yourself, find every book and article on the subject of do-it-yourself renovating so that you know what you're getting yourself into.  Take your time, think things through, and plan as best you can for anything that could go wrong.  Have a Plan A, a Plan B and even a Plan C.

2.  Find Inexpensive Materials

While you're taking your time planning, you can also be scouting out sales in local housing supply stores.  Faucets, lighting, appliances and many other parts of your project may go on sale before you're ready to start work.  You can also check out online places like Craigslist and eBay to see what gems might be out there that others are selling.  Also check out your local Restore.  Someone else's trash, could be your treasure.  Be sure to scout garage sales, auctions, estate sales or leftovers from other constructions sites.  Keep your options open and be creative.

3.  Use What's Already There

Save money on lighting by utilizing natural sunlight to it's best advantage.  Keep plumbing fixtures in place like sinks and toilets.  If you have a trailer, use it to haul your supplies yourself rather than having them shipped and if you don't have one, consider buying one.  It will pay for itself many times over.

4.  Be Flexible And Go For Fakes

Expensive hardwoods are beautiful but pricey.  Research all your options to find something more inexpensive but still beautiful.  Many laminate countertops can now mimic the look of pricier granite and other solid surfaces.  Think outside the box when it comes to materials.  Maybe that salvaged tin bucket for $2 would work wonders as an over the count sink light after spending a few more dollars on wiring materials.  Spend more money on things that will give you long term efficiency and save in energy costs like LED lights or energy efficient windows.

5.  Think To The Future

If you know you have a dream in mind that you just can't swing right now, then do what you can now but plan for the future.  If you know you want a new gas range at some point but have decided to make due with your 20-year old electric range for now, be sure to plumb in a gas line now so that when the funds open up for the new appliance, you'll be ready to go.  Do as much as you can now to get to your dream renovation that you can, and you'll be that much more ahead of the game when you're ready to take the next step.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Minneapolis & St. Paul

1st Annual Lowertown Blues Festival
Mears Park
221 E. 5th Street
St. Paul, MN
Sat., July 26, 2014
3:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Cost:  Free

Mears Park

This first annual event was put together by the Minnesota Blues Society and the Lowertown Blues Festival Committee with support from the City of St. Paul. The mission is to bring awareness to St. Paul and St. Paul’s Lowertown redevelopment, and to showcase the awesomeness of Lowertown with music and the arts.  They have a stellar line-up of performers including Shemekia Copeland, Hamilton Loomis, The Lamont Cranston Blues Band and Sena Ehrhardt.

Feel free to bring chairs and coolers but leave the beer and other alcoholic beverages at home. No worries, though. You can purchase beer, wine, ice cream and other food items throughout the festival.

Central Ave. from 18 1/2 to 26 Ave.
Minneapolis, MN
Sun., July 27, 2014
10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Cost:  Free

Open Streets Minneapolis: Central

For the past three years, streets in Minneapolis have transformed to allow residents to experience their city in a whole new way — by bike, by skateboard, however they please. We call this Open Streets Mpls, and it has grown from one event in 2011 to four in 2013. In 2014 we are planning six events all across the city!

We see Open Streets Mpls as the perfect chance to promote healthy living, local businesses, sustainable transportation and civic pride in Minneapolis. On multiple days throughout the year, we create miles of safe, car-free streets so that residents of all ages can walk, bike, shop, participate in spontaneous play activities, and get to know one another.

We hope you'll join us this year on a street in your own neighborhood, and enjoy it from a different perspective. Come wander the Open Streets and have some fun! You can even bring your dog.

Throughout the day there will be all sorts of activities for the entire family to enjoy including bike clinics, demos, games, live music and more. And of course, there will be plenty of food as well. Metro Transit is offering free rides to the events (you can load your bike on the front of the bus), and to get your pass, please click here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When Should You Replace?

If you are selling your home or are considering buying an older home, you might be wondering when it is appropriate to replace some of the key components of your house.  Obviously, if you want a different style of appliance, then go ahead a change it out.  But what about the furnace?  Read on for a guide on when to replace the components in your home.

Heating and Air Conditioning

Regular maintenance is the key to keeping these essentials in working order and making them last as long as they should and beyond.  If the furnace has been well maintained you can expect that it should last 15 to 20 years while the A/C has a maximum lifespan of 15 years.  Even if you aren't close to these maximum numbers, keep a close watch for any of these signs that they may be failing:

  • Uneven heating from the furnace
  • Not very cold air from the A/C
  • Burning smells from the A/C
  • Very dry conditions from the furnace
  • Increased need for maintenance
  • Increasing utility bills
If it's time to replace the A/C, recommends replacing the furnace, too, if it's 15 years old or more. The reason is that they usually share a blower, and if the furnace is old, the newer, energy-efficient A/C may not work optimally with the old furnace's blower.


Obviously, active leaks in your roof are a sign that you need to replace it.  But less obvious signs include missing, broken or deformed shingles or seeing shingle granules in your gutters.  Life expectancy for most shingled roofs is only about 20 years.  Slate roofs, concrete or clay tiles can expect to last about 100 years.


Sadly, the quality in most appliances, even high end ones, has decreased as time goes on, therefore the life expectancy of them has decreased as well.  Thirty years ago, you could buy a refrigerator and expect it to last 30 years.  These days, you're lucky if your brand new appliance lasts even 5 years.  

That being said, the amount of use an appliance gets and how it is maintained will lend you the longest duration.  According to most manufacturers, gas ranges have the longest life span at 15 years.  Dryers and refrigerators are expected to last 13 years, washers - 10 years, dishwashers and microwave ovens - 9 years, compactors - 6 years.  


Experts in carpet say that the maximum lifespan of a carpet is 20 years.  After this amount of time the carpet fibers tend to wear out and can cause an indoor air quality problem. With that said, however, many carpets need replacing after 10 years from lack of cleaning, high traffic areas that are worn down and permanently stained, damage/rips/tears, and persistent odors.  

Electrical and Lighting

electrical, light switch

Copper plated wiring, copper clad aluminum, and bare copper wiring are expected to last a lifetime, whereas electrical accessories and lighting controls are expected to last 10+ years.  Regardless of the lifespan, if you notice switches working intermittently, sparks or any other unusual things with your accessories and controls, definitely replace them as this could be a fire hazard.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Weekly Market Update: July 21, 2014

We are within one of the most affordable home-buying environments in history, but prices are up and rates may well go up, too. Rising prices provide empirical evidence of healthy demand. If inventory is able to replenish itself over the course of the next several months, sales could break up the sluggishness seen in some markets. There are those who believe that millennial buyers are being seduced away from homeownership by the agility of urban renting. That doesn't appear to be the case. Housing is enjoying brisk activity, and people are talking positively about residential real estate again.

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

 • New Listings increased 8.7% to 2,091
 • Pending Sales decreased 8.4% to 1,231
 • Inventory increased 7.8% to 17,606

For the month of June:

 • Median Sales Price increased 4.7% to $219,900
 • Days on Market decreased 6.8% to 69
 • Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.3% to 97.2%
 • Months Supply of Inventory increased 10.5% to 4.2

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cool Concrete

Concrete has come a long way.  What was once considered an industrial-only application is now used in residential homes and comes in many different styles and hues.  If you're looking to use concrete for your floors, we've found a number of different techniques and colors that can make any floor shine.

Stained, stamped and polished, these concrete floors would look elegant in any home.

Using interesting staining and etching techniques can result in some amazing looking floors.

Concrete blends well in a contemporary setting.  Stamping, stenciling and coloring the floor lends to some of these beautiful floors.

If you want durability but love the look of wood floors, you can achieve even that with concrete.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Aquatennial, Raspberry Festival, and Crazy Days

Minneapolis Aquatennial
Throughout Minneapolis
July 18-26, 2014
Events Daily
Cost:  Free to the Public


The Minneapolis Aquatennial is the official civic celebration of the City of Minneapolis.  For 75 years this has been a favorite celebration for the entire twin cities area.  With a ton of fun events scheduled throughout Minneapolis each day of the Aquatennial, there is sure to be plenty for you to see and do.  

Aquatennial Flagship Events include the Star Tribune Beach Bash on Sunday, July 20, featuring the Xcel Energy Sandcastle Competition and Aquatennial Milk Carton Boat Races; CenterPoint Energy Torchlight Parade on Wednesday, July 23; and Target Fireworks and pre-firework festivities on Saturday, July 26.

You can find more information about all the events at the Aquatennial Website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Downtown Hopkins
July 12-20, 2014
Events throughout the day
Cost:  Free to Attend


The Hopkins Raspberry fest has been going on for almost a week now but the big events are happening this weekend.  Friday night brings a street dance; Saturday is Family Day with kids actvities, music and bands, good food, craft show, beer fest, softball tournament, another street dance and even a pro wrestling event; Sunday culminates the festival with the Raspberry Run and the Grand Parade.  You won't want to miss any of this fun Festival.

Downtown Excelsior
July 17-20, 2014
Thurs, 7:00 am early bird sales
All days, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Cost:  Free to Attend

Come find fantastic bargains, tons of food, and tons of fun in downtown Excelsior as they celebrate Crazy Days.  Early bird sales start at 7:00 am on Thursday morning.  Thursday night will be Girls Night Out with lots of specials.  There will also be lots of food, farmers market, flea market, moon walk, a historic walking tour and a special Kid's Day on Saturday. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stage Your Mudroom?

Mudrooms are a functional space in our homes and as such, they don't always look as orderly and polished as the rest of the house.  But if you're selling your home, this space needs to look it's best and show buyers that it is indeed a valuable space to have in a home.

The mudroom above is well designed and functions well for this family.  But it's not the prettiest thing to look at even though the built in bench and hooks are beautiful.  Despite how functional it is, it can look more like a messy eyesore than a must-have space.

Whether your mudroom is a series of built-in lockers or you just have some hooks on the wall, be sure to showcase the space in it's best light.  The idea here is to de-clutter the space but leave in a few things to let buyers know what the space is meat to be.  Keep it neat and orderly and the space will shine.

Remember to stage your mudroom.  Don't leave it empty, but don't leave it cluttered and messy either.  Instead add just a few key details to make buys think, "Wow, this would be a great space to have!"

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors