Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Weekly Market Update: November 24, 2014

Consumers are already starting to lean toward 2015, so let's look ahead ourselves before we hit the weekly tabulations. With virtually no inflation to speak of, interest rates should remain low for the foreseeable future but could flirt with 5.0 percent toward the end of next year. Both new and existing inventory levels should rise – which is more of a continuation than a new development for many communities. Prices are also expected to increase but not by much, which should help first-time buyers. Job growth is likely to continue, and wage growth is expected to pick up.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending November 15: 

 • New Listings decreased 14.5% to 857

 • Pending Sales decreased 1.6% to 749

 • Inventory increased 3.5% to 16,692

For the month of October:

 • Median Sales Price increased 6.7% to $208,000

 • Days on Market decreased 4.0% to 72

 • Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.6% to 95.2%

 • Months Supply of Inventory increased 13.5% to 4.2

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, November 24, 2014

Decorating For Thanksgiving

Even though Thanksgiving is a week later this year it still seems to have snuck up on me.  Does anyone else feel the same way?  So I find myself, the Monday before this thankful holiday, wondering where to start!

This post is born out of my desperation.  I want my house to look inviting and warm, but also don't want to bust the budget or take years off my life in the process.  I've found some great ideas to help  my home and yours look great this Thanksgiving so that we'll be breathing actual Thanks instead of panting in exhaustion!

The Table

Let's face it, this is where all the action is...if you don't count the football that's on TV.  So focus your attention here.  If you don't get to anything else, then it will still be a success if your table looks good.  And before we go any further, here is the proper way to set a formal table.


The Centerpiece

Here are some great ideas for centerpieces for your table.  Most grocery stores or garden centers still have lots of squashes, pumpkins and gourds available so snatch them up.  Candles are always good at giving some mood lighting.  Other ideas are cranberries, dried corn, greenery, pine cones, even branches and feathers.  Use nature to inspire you.






The Place Settings

If you have fancy china, then by all means use it.  When else are you going to get the chance?  Even if it's got baby blue flowers all over it, break it out.  China should be used.  Or maybe you have grandma's turkey plates...perfect.  But you can create a beautiful place setting with everyday dishes as well.  And even with paper plates.  Hey, who wants to spend MORE time in the kitchen washing dishes, right?  In reality, people are there for two reasons:  the food and the other people present.  The dishes are very secondary, so don't sweat it.  Make it look nice and neat then plop some turkey and mashed potatoes on there and everyone will be happy.





The Place Cards

Not everybody wants to designate where people sit, but if you do there are a number of ways you can go about it.  If you're a paper crafter, you're already set.  But if you're thinking, "Not so much!" then here are a few ideas you can use.  You're welcome.





The Food

The real star of the show should be the food.  And food, in and of itself, is beautiful.  So use it as part of your decorating.

Fruit and Veggie Trays

If you want to make beautiful fruit and veggies trays for any occasion, then make Pinterest your best friend.  There are so many ideas out there.  But really, the colors of fruits and vegetables are so beautiful that you just have to place them on a plate to make them look good.  I've shared a few that I love.

Again, desserts are beautiful!  Not much adornment is needed.  Just place your desserts out and people will be oohing and ahhing.

If you'll be having people over the entire day, you may want to have some appetizers on hand while they are waiting for the main meal to be served.  Here are some good ideas for an appetizer table.




Other Decorating

If you're still feeling ambitious, there are a lot of little touches you can do throughout your home to add that special feeling.  Have fun with it.  Keep your eyes open throughout the year to pick up other Fall/Thanksgiving decor when it's on sale or clearance.









Remember Why

With all this awesome decorating going on, it can sometimes slip our minds why we're doing all of this.  Place plenty of reminders throughout your home and practice the art of giving thanks for all things.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Weekend Happenings: From The Heart and Ladies Night Out

2nd Annual "From The Heart" Holiday Show
Excelsior Elementary School Auditorium
441 Oak Street, Excelsior
Sat., Nov. 22, 2014
4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Cost: non-perishable food & monetary donations gratefully accepted

Painting by Reed White 

Benefiting the ICA Food Shelf and featuring local talent. Honoring the memory of Excelsior’s own notable personality Mr. Jimmy. Admission: non-perishable food & monetary donations gratefully accepted.

Crowne Plaza Hotel
3131 Campus Drive, Plymouth
Sat., Nov. 22, 2014
5:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Cost:  Free

Macaroni Kid Ladies Night Out

Stop by for chocolate tasting, massage, cooking demonstration, raffle drawings, giveaways, and lots of FREE samples! The first 50 ladies will receive a swag bag! There will be 15 min mini sessions with a lot of the vendors that have a booth.

The raffle drawings will take place every 30 mins and you'll have to be present to win. If you RSVP and check in at the Macaroni Kid table you will start off with 1 raffle ticket. You will have the chance to buy extra raffle tickets and 100% of the profit will go to a non-profit.

The giveaways will be announced the next day via e-mail.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Skinny On Smart Thermostats

Everything else is turning "smart" these days, so why not your thermostat?  There are a few new wireless devices on the market that are a step above your everyday programmable thermostat, like the NEST and Lyric wireless thermostats.

What's so great about them?  Well, they have a sleek design.  They mimic the round thermostats of years gone by.  They have a very simple readout display as well.

NEST wireless thermostat

Honeywell's Lyric wireless thermostat

But the true beauty of these devices lie in their wireless programmable capabilities.  With simple instructions, they help you navigate the process of connecting your thermostat to your wireless router network, and installing the apps for your phones, tablets and other devices.  

Without moving from the couch, you can turn up the heat using your tablet.  You can even do so while you're away from home.

Adjusting the Lyric thermostat using a cell phone in a coffee shop

Another cool feature of both the Nest and Lyric, is their ability to sense when you're away from home.  The thermostats can sense movement within the house and can also tell when your phone (and anyone else's in your family) has traveled more than a quarter mile from home and will adjust the temperature for your "away from home" setting.  It can then sense when you return and adjust accordingly.  How cool is that?

And, living up to their "smart" monikers, there are several other features which help you save money on your energy bills.  It will balance humidity and temperature to achieve the perfect comfort level for your home.  It can learn how long it takes your house to warm up and cool down and will show you that on its display.  It can tell when it is in direct sunlight and will make adjustments to the correct temperature for the rest of the house.  It finds out ways to lower your energy bills while keeping you comfortable and automatically does them for you.  Some models even have voice control. These things are almost smarter than me!

Completed DIY thermostat installation

The one drawback to a wireless thermostat is the price.  Clocking in at $200 and up, these smarties are definitely more expensive than their predecessors, but with all the energy saving features, you will likely recoup the difference in a couple of years.

And to really make your energy savings as big as they can be, do everything you can to make a tight, energy efficient home by sealing air leaks, replacing windows, adding insulation, and replacing doors.  You'll have a perfectly comfortable home year round.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors.

Weekly Market Update:

As fall finally goes dim, winter emerges as the prevailing wind through the marketplace. While optimism serves as a white rose through this phase, moderate unemployment rates have given pause to overabundant optimism. All the same, the desire for homeownership remains high among those willing to absorb some risk while attracting enthusiasm. 

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending November 8: 

• New Listings decreased 2.8% to 1,104 

• Pending Sales increased 2.0% to 826 

• Inventory increased 4.1% to 16,972 

For the month of October: 

• Median Sales Price increased 6.7% to $208,000

 • Days on Market decreased 4.0% to 72 

• Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.6% to 95.2% 

• Months Supply of Inventory increased 13.5% to 4.2

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Weekend Happenings: Bones, Crafts & Butterflies

Guthrie Theater
818 South 2nd St., Mpls
Nov 13-23, 2014
Showings at: Thurs & Fri 7:30; Sat 7:30 & 9:00; Sun 7:00 & 8:30
Cost:  $26-$30

The year is 2314. Archaeologists have discovered a 300-year-old colony in what used to be called North America. You are invited to the opening night gala exhibition of the artifacts they uncovered. Move freely through exhibits, life-size dioramas, and reenactments of the daily life, rituals and battles of the “Ancients.” This mind-bending interactive theatrical event allows you to see today through the cracked lens of tomorrow.

Relics is an hour-long on-your-feet performance throughout the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio and its lobby. Wear comfortable footwear, as for a museum exhibition, and prepare to explore!

Canterbury Downs
1100 Canterbury Rd, Shakopee
Nov 13-16, 2014
Thurs./Fri. 11am-9pm; Sat. 9am-7pm; Sun. 10am-5pm
Cost:  Adults $9; Seniors $8; Children Under 10 are Free

Hundreds of the nation’s finest artists and crafters display and sell their handcrafted works. Our Arts & Crafts tour of shows are consistently ranked in the Top 100 Shows in the Country by Sunshine Artist Magazine. Stage entertainment, hourly gift certificate winners, plenty of food & drink, lots of family fun, and free parking!

Science Museum of Minnesota
120 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul
Oct 3, 2014 - Jan 8, 2015
8:00 am to 5:00 pm Mon thru Sat, shows run every hour
Cost:  Members are Free, Non-members Adults $8, Children 4-12 and Seniors 60+  $7

The monarch butterfly is a true marvel of nature. Weighing less than a penny, it makes one of the longest migrations on Earth across a continent to a place it has never known. Follow the monarchs' perilous journey and join hundreds of millions of real butterflies in the remote mountain peaks of Mexico, with breathtaking cinematography. Be captivated by the true and compelling story of an intrepid scientist's 40-year search to find the monarchs' secret hideaway.  Watch the Official Trailer above.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Be Safer At Home

Home should be a place where you feel the most comfortable and the most secure.  Along with practicing safe habits, be sure that your home is as safe as it can be for every possible scenario.  

Safe From Intruders

It's a safe bet to assume that most people lock their doors and windows when they aren't home and at night, and if you're not doing that, get into the habit.  But we urge you to lock everything when you're home during the day as well.  And by all means, keep that garage door closed while you're home as well.  Here are a few other key tips for keeping your home safe from intruders:

Inside your home:

  • Install a security system or at least put up a fake decal in your window
  • If you have a security system, make sure the keypad is in a spot not visible from a window or glass door
  • Place a deadbolt on your doors.  Don't forget sliding glass doors - these should have a bolt that drives into the framing at the top or bottom of the door.

Outside your home:

  • Join a neighborhood watch program and have signs installed throughout the neighborhood
  • Plant thorny bushes directly below first floor windows.
  • Don't stack wood next to the house where intruders can use them as leverage to gain access to higher windows.
  • Install motion detection lights around all sides of your house.
  • If you live in the country, consider a motion activated signal at the beginning of your driveway.  It will sound a signal when someone approaches your house.

Safe Habits

  • Find clever ways to store your valuables...in air intake vents, a hole in the top of your door, or even in your kids' drawers where burglars are less likely to look.
  • Keep your car keys on your bedside table and hit the panic button if you hear suspicious activity
  • Let your dog bark...barking dogs are great deterrents to intruders
  • Check your windows after the handyman has been in your house.  They may have unlocked a window for easy access in the middle of the night.
  • Keep your phone's ringer on low so it's harder to hear when it goes to voicemail when you aren't at home.
On Vacation

  • Don't pack your car the night before, wait and do it quickly in the morning.  This is a dead giveaway that you're leaving.
  • Have a neighbor take in your mail, pull back your garbage cans, and shovel your driveway while you're gone.  Crafty burglars have been known to leave pizza ads in doorways to see how long it takes people to get them.
  • Put your lights and TV on a timer so that they will go on and off at the normal times.

Safe From Disasters

We always think that bad things won't happen to us...but they do.  Be smart about mitigating how much damage a disaster can do to you and your home.

Fire Safety

Teach your kids about how to be safe with fire and in the kitchen and keep matches and firestarters out of reach of small children.  Here are a few other tips:
  • Have a plan.  Make sure you have a family meeting to discuss what to do, how to exit, and where to meet up in the event of a fire.
  • Install fire extinguishers on every floor of your home.  But teach your family when it's safest to leave the house instead of fighting the fire.
  • Consider upgrading your smoke detector.  Most people have a simple ionization detector which can take a long time to go off while the smoke increases and the fire spreads.  Consider a dual sensor which contains a photo-thermal sensor that can detect smoldering burns that cause a lot of smoke as well as a heat sensor to determine if there is an actual fire.
  • Make a way to exit a second floor safely using rope ladders or other devices.  Be sure everyone knows how to use it.

Weather-related Safety

Here in Minnesota our biggest concerns when it comes to weather are tornadoes in the summer and blizzards/cold weather in the winter.  Here are a few tips regarding weather related emergencies:

  • Invest in a weather radio to alert you about severe weather in your area.
  • When the threat of a tornado is present, go to the basement or a small interior room in the house that doesn't have any or has very few windows. If possible take cover under something sturdy like a strong table. 
  • Teach your kids the signs of frostbite.  Dress appropriately for severely cold temperatures and always bring hats and mittens, even if your just going to practice.  You never know when your car might slide into a ditch and you'll have to walk somewhere or wait in a cold car.
  • Have a warm blanket, water and a some non-perishable food in your car in case you go off the road in a winter storm and get stuck.  Stock your car with flashing lights or flares.  
  • Always leave the house with a fully charged cell phone and consider purchasing an emergency charger. 
  • Consider purchasing a gas generator for power outages.
  • Be sensible about snow removal.  Many people die each year from heart attacks while shoveling snow.
  • Be extra vigilant about fire safety during cold weather.  This is when many people use fireplaces and electric heaters.
  • Don't leave your pets out in the cold.  Bring them in after they do their business.

Know Your Neighbors

Probably one of the most important but overlooked aspects of home safety is to know your neighbors.  When you don't know your neighbors you are immediately more suspect of everything they do and you're more fearful about approaching them.  You also won't know if someone is supposed to be in your neighborhood or not.

If you know your neighbors, you will be more aware of when something isn't quite right in the neighborhood and they will understand you and your habits as well.  Your kids will know who is safe so that they can run to a neighbor's house in the event of an emergency.

So plan a block party and form a neighborhood watch program, stop and chat when you take a walk down your street, invite neighbors over when you're barbecuing or for a beer after work.  Be interruptable.  You'll feel safer and enjoy your neighborhood more.

Teach Your Kids and Have a Plan

I can't think of anything worse than being in an emergency situation and not knowing how my kids are doing and if they know how to get back to me.

  • Be sure everyone in your house knows how to dial 911 and how to stay on the line and impart the necessary information.  
  • Kids should know your address and home phone number as well as mom and dad's cell phone numbers.  Then if they end up in the custody of the police or emergency personnel they will know how to contact you or at least get them home.  Make up a tune, write it on a card that they keep in their backpack, program it into their electronic devices.  Just make sure they know it or have access to it.
  • Have emergency people lined up to care for your kids in the event you cannot be located.  Make sure it's someone your kids know and trust.
  • Periodically go over emergency plans in your home.  Where do they go, what do they do, who can they call, and how will they get back to you or you to them.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors