Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Weekly Market Update: June 29, 2015

Interest rates do not seem to be going up anytime soon, but some have an inkling that they will ascend during the dog days of summer or as the leaves fall. For the time being, sellers are selling and buyers are buying within the existing framework, and it is a glorious time for consumers and agents alike. With a general nationwide increase in both new listings and closed sales, markets across the country have seen upward mobility with housing. Now let's see if the local market is following the prevailing national trends.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending June 20:

 • New Listings increased 7.5% to 2,051
 • Pending Sales increased 13.9% to 1,366
 • Inventory decreased 7.3% to 16,732

For the month of May:

 • Median Sales Price increased 6.5% to $223,755
 • Days on Market decreased 5.0% to 76
 • Percent of Original List Price Received increased 0.7% to 97.5%
 • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 9.8% to 3.7

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, June 29, 2015

Design Tricks for Open Floor Plans

Open floor plans are fabulous.  They allow for lots of interaction and give a spacious feeling to any home.  But they do come with some decorating challenges.

Today we offer advice on how to handle open concepts designs to create a cohesive space.

Play Off Of The Kitchen

The kitchen is the priciest portion of an open floor plan, as well as the costliest to change.  It makes sense then to base the rest of the houses off of the design of the kitchen.  Choose your colors and material choices based on your kitchen.  Your cabinets will inspire your wood tones or colors, your appliances and hardware will inform your metal finishes.  Repeat these elements throughout the living and dining spaces.

Country Kitchen with L-shaped, Flat panel cabinets, Pental aspen honed marble, Hardwood floors, Simple marble counters

Unify With Flooring

A single flooring material throughout the space will allow for the most flexibility while allowing you to ensure that the spaces flow together well.  Designate different zones with area rugs.

Craftsman Great Room with Wood panel ceiling, High ceiling, Hardwood floors, flush light, Loft, Pendant light, Area rug

Limit Your Color Palette

Since there is so much to see in an open floor plan, sticking with a few closely related tones for furnishings and decorations helps give a sense of calm and unifies the space.  Coordinate throw pillows, decorative elements, and even dishes if they will be on display.

Traditional Great Room with Built-in bookshelf, Pental Custom African Ivory Polished Granite, Crown molding, stone fireplace

Add Focal Points

While limited colors are a good thing, you don't want your space to be too monotonous.  Add a focal point to each room to liven up each space.  Focal points can be almost anything from a beautiful chandelier to a back splash to a piece of art.

Traditional Great Room with Stair runner, Built-in bookshelf, Box ceiling, Carpet, Open concept, Hardwood floors, Chandelier

Have An Away Space

As great as an open concept is, there is a limit to how much people may want to be together.  Have a room or space away from the main living areas where people can go for a quiet moment to read, rest or relax.

Traditional Home Office with Crown molding, Ceiling fan, Hardwood floors, Built-in bookshelf

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors, all photos from Zillow Digs

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Weekend Happenings: June 26-28, 2015

Twin Cities Jazz Festival

Mears Park & various locales
221 E. 5th St., St. Paul
June 25-27, 2015
Various Times
Cost:  Free

The Twin Cities Jazz Festival holds its 17th annual event this June in the downtown Saint Paul. Recognized as one of the region’s premiere music festivals, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival is a three-day festival with performances on four public stages as well as at dozens of local clubs. The festival attracts top Jazz artists to Saint Paul to share the joy of jazz with thousands of people. Admission remains free due to the support of many generous sponsors and supporters.

St. Boni Spass-Tagen Fun Days

Missile Park, St. Bonifacius
June 27, 2015
11:00 AM to Midnight
Cost:  Free

Enjoy a small-town community festival in St. Boni this weekend.  Events include: Kiddie parade, food vendors, wiener dog races, magician, live music, bbq contest, beer tent, farmers/crafters market, kids games, raffle, and evening street dance.

City wide garage sales are taking place in conjunction with the festival from June 25th through the 27th.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Home Office Essentials

If you're like me, you're blessed to be able to work from home.  While there are challenges, like having to intercede in your kids' arguments from time to time or getting distracted by the dirty house that needs cleaning, in general it's a great advantage for families.

If you're considering setting up a home office, there are some essential components that you'll want to consider to make the most of your working-from-home situation.

An Appropriate Place

If you're just going to use your office to find new recipes or to pay the bills, it probably doesn't need to be very private.  You can pop a desk in just about any room.  But if you are working long hours, need privacy, and have to concentrate, you'll want a more private space.

Ideally, you would have a separate room that you can convert to office space.  But it isn't necesary.  The space doesn't need to be completely closed off, but you do want to add visual cues to separate the office space from the surrounding area.  Psychologically, this helps you move from home mode to work mode.

Contemporary Home Office with Hardwood floors, Office chair, Dark hardwood floors, Window seat, Beadboard ceiling

Contemporary Home Office with Built-in bookshelf, Hardwood floors, Ave Six Avenue 6 Dorado Office Chair

Traditional Home Office with Hardwood floors, Built-in bookshelf, Rattan utility baskets

Noise Control

If you have to be on the phone a lot or if your work entails you to make noise, you'll definitely want some elements that help absorb and reduce noise.  A solid door helps shut off the space.  Soft elements like carpets, upholstered chairs and draperies all help to absorb sound and will keep you from sounding like your in a tin can when people call.  

Traditional Home Office with Safavieh Bowie Side Chair (Set of 2)

Modern Home Office with Upton Home Vivica Cream Reptile Contemporary Desk, Carpet, flush light

Modern Home Office with nuLOOM Serendipity Houndstooth Area Rug, Carpet, interior wallpaper, flush light, Laminate floors

Proper Office Furniture

Most offices need a surface for a computer, a printer and a phone.  You also need ample space to for a work surface.  A minimum of 42 inches is recommended with 60 inches being a great amount of surface space.

Additionally, you'll want an ergonomic chair if you will be sitting for long periods of time.  And tailor your storage needs to your situation.  If you need a lot of reports on hand, that will require different storage than fabric swatches.

As far as lighting is concerned, hopefully you're lucky enough to have a window.  Regardless, you'll want an ambient light source that will brighten the entire space, as well as task lighting for your desktop.  Uplighting works well for ambient light if there is not overhead lighting available.

Contemporary Home Office with Modrest Mid-Back Office Chair, interior brick, Hardwood floors

Traditional Home Office with High ceiling, Hardwood floors, Built-in bookshelf

Modern Home Office with Aosom Mid-Back Leather Synthetic Office Chair

Power Needs

If you're converting a spare bedroom or a space in your basement into a home office, chances are that you do not have great electrical options for all the computers and accessories you need in a home office.  An electrician can take stock of your situation and outfit you with plenty of power.  

Unless you're completely old-school, you're going to need a high speed internet connection.  There are lots of options to go with, but you'll likely want to get the highest speed you can afford. Time is money, after all.

Contemporary Home Office with Pendant light, simple marble tile floors, Offex Black Leather High Back Executive Office Chair

Contemporary Home Office with Wall sconce, Modway Articulate High-Back Mesh Executive Office Chair, Pendant light

Personalize It

Since you have to spend a lot of your day in your office, you might as well make it a space that suits you and that you enjoy being in.  Take some time to make it function exactly how you want it. And then incorporate some design elements that you love.  Whether its lots of color, artwork, or personal mementos, make the space your own.

Contemporary Home Office with Skylight, Flash Furniture High Back Ribbed Upholstered Leather Executive Office Chair, Carpet

Contemporary Home Office

Eclectic Home Office with Pendant light, Container store bigso bold box white, Built-in bookshelf, Carpet, Ceiling fan

Contemporary Home Office with Ave Six Mid-Back Trinidad Office Chair

Traditional Home Office with Ikea Galant Storage Combonation, Heirloom Wood Counters Distressed Black Walnut Plank, Area rug

Home Office with Crown molding, Built-in bookshelf, Hardwood floors, Box ceiling, French doors, Wall sconce, Chair rail

Source:  All images from Zillow Digs, Article by Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Monday, June 22, 2015

Enhance Your Privacy

If you ask most homeowners what they look for in a great back yard, you'll hear the word "privacy" come up again and again.  We might love our neighbors and have inviting front porches, but most people also want a space where they can shut out the world and have some downtime with their family.

However, unless you live in the country and have many acres for your yard, privacy can be hard to come by.  Today we offer some tips for gaining privacy in your back yard.


The most obvious choice is installing a fence around your yard.  There are so many varieties and types of fences, you could get overwhelmed with the choices.  Start by identifying what your budget is, and then how much privacy you are hoping to get from the fence.  Do you want ultimate privacy with no visual space?  Or do you want some air circulation?  Do you need to enclose the entire yard or can you make due with a partial fence.

Make a list of everything you want your fence to accomplish, then find one that suits your budget and sense of style.

Traditional Landscape/Yard with Bloodgood Japanese Maple, Arboria Rosedale 7-ft. Cedar Pergola Arbor, Fence, Wood fence

Contemporary Patio with Trellis, Exposed beam, Exterior paint, Fence with integral planters, Small rock ground cover, Lawn

Traditional Deck with Custom fence, Fence, Wood fence, Raised beds, Pathway

Plants & Trees

A hedge, a row of evergreens, even gardens with tall plants can all give you effective, and beautiful, privacy.  Remember that unless you want to invest a lot of money on mature trees and plants, this option could take a while to become the privacy border that you desire.  There are faster growing varieties of plants, like bamboo, that will give you complete privacy in a short amount of time.

You can always do a phased approach.  Plant slow growing trees but also plant faster growing shrubs.  The shrubs will create a privacy screen in a few years and give your trees more time to reach maturity.

Traditional Exterior of Home with Private backyard, Pathway, exterior stone floors, Trellis

Traditional Swimming Pool with Private backyard, Outdoor pool, Lugano Chaise Velour Cover, Transom window, Lap pool, Pathway

Contemporary Patio with Fence, exterior stone floors, Built-in bench seating, Outdoor cushion, Private patio, Raised beds

Be Inventive

If you have portions of privacy through fencing or plants, you can find creative ways to fill in the gaps.  Install trellises, screens, even curtains.  Here are some options you might want to try.

Contemporary Deck with Gazebo

Asian Deck with Raised beds, Crate & barrel ventura bunching table, Fence

Contemporary Deck with Transom window, French doors, IPEDPOT B-grade Ipe Decking, Decorative wood deck inset, Fence

Contemporary Deck with Fire pit, exterior stone floors, Coral Coast Valencia Outdoor Toss Pillow - 20 x 20 in., Fence

Traditional Patio with exterior tile floors, Pathway, Trellis

Traditional Exterior of Home with Trellis, Outdoor fireplace, Pathway, Raised beds, exterior stone floors, Outdoor dining set

Sources:  Photos from Zillow Digs, article by Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Weekend Happenings: June 19-21, 2015

MN Vikings Gridiron Gallop

Lake Nokomis
28 Av S & 52 St E
Minneapolis, MN 55417
June 21, 2015

Cost: 5k Run/Walk: $30 in advance $35 on race day Fun Run for Children (ages 10 and under): $10 in advance $15 on race day

Do something healthy with or in memory of Dad this Father's Day. Chad and Jenni Greenway will host the 6th Annual "Gridiron Gallop" 5K Run/Walk. There will be Viking player and cheerleader appearances with autograph opportunities for registered runners. Funds from this event go towards the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) youth athletic programming.

•All children Fun Run participants receive a commemorative medal
•Awards presented to 5K age division winners
•All registered participants are eligible to win awesome Viking prizes
•All pre-registered participants are guaranteed a commemorative T-shirt

Race cancellation and weather policy:
Events may be delayed, shortened or in rare circumstances cancelled, due to inclement weather. This includes lightening, wind, heat, snow, or the threat of imminent severe weather that may harm or injure participants, staff, set up crew and bystanders. Event time frame includes setup, race and teardown. All possible attempts will be made to contact those involved by email, website and social media. No refunds or transfers allowed.

Rock The Garden

Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls
June 20 & 21, 2015
3:00 PM to 10:30 PM
Cost:  SINGLE DAY: General Admission: $64; VIP Green Room: $100; VIP Skybox: $200. 
TWO-DAY PASS: General Admission: $112; VIP Green Room: $160; VIP Skybox: $350

Copresented by the Walker Art Center and 89.3 The Current

Why Rock the Garden for one day when you can rock it for two? The Twin Cities’ favorite annual summer concert returns for two days this summer. The weekend festival blowout will showcase some of the best music from our backyards and around the world.

The 2015 lineup features 10 bands ranging from Minnesota punk legends and stars of Afrobeat to scions of rock-and-roll history.

The weekend kicks off on June 20 with buzz-worthy local rap and R&B group thestand4rd, Lucius’ luscious pop harmonies, Aussie Courtney Barnett’s jangly rock-pop, and folk stalwart Conor Oberst. Wistful Glasgow-based Belle & Sebastian will headline night one.

Day two, June 21, brings Sean Lennon leading the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger’s psych sound, JD McPherson’s raucous retro-rockabilly, joyful Afrobeat grooves of Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, and epic return of punk pioneers Babes in Toyland. Headliner indie icons Modest Mouse will cap off the weekend.

Minneapolis Challenge

Rock Bottom Brewery
800 LaSalle Ave., Mpls
June 21, 2015
2:00 PM race start
Cost:  $55

Sunday marks the sixth season for the Minneapolis Challenge, an urban adventure race that pits teams of two people or more against each as they solve clues, strategize the best route and discover unexplored corners of the city.

You need not worry if you are not in the best shape; this race exercises your mind more than your body and is a great way to spend a Sunday (Father’s Day, no less!) with friends and family exploring our beautiful city.

Plus, once you cross the finish line, you can indulge in food and drink specials and partake in the crazy costume contest, if you wish.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Attic Conversions

If you live in an older home, chances are you have a good amount of attic space.  And the good news is that converting this space to a bedroom, office, or play room is a great way to gain more space with significantly lower cost than adding on to your home.  You already have the floors, ceiling and walls in place, so it's just a matter of finishing it off.  Because of this, they are have a great return on investment, around 72%.

We've gathered some images of beautiful attic conversions to give you some ideas for how you can use your attic space.

Craftsman Attic with Pastel 30-in. Oxford Swivel Bar Stool with Arms - Autumn Rust, Carpet, Pendant light, Exposed beam

Traditional Guest Bedroom with flush light, Skylight, interior wallpaper, Finished attic, Carpet

Contemporary Attic with High ceiling, Wall sconce, Hardwood floors, Exposed beam, Semi-circular sectional

Traditional Master Bedroom with Built-in bookshelf, stone fireplace, French doors, Carpet

Contemporary Closet with flush light, Carpet, Shaw PetProtect Bitzy 7L60700120 Marley Fashion Forward Indoor Carpet

Contemporary Living Room with Accent pillows, Table lamp, Sofa, Exposed beam, Pendant light, Reclaimed Teak Console Table

Traditional 3/4 Bathroom with Rain shower, Avanity Madison 28 In Mirror Cabinet, Glass panel, frameless showerdoor, Flush

Contemporary Home Gym with High ceiling, Carpet

Traditional Home Office with Highland Plaid 22601, flush light, Wainscotting, Moore 60" Media Console, Carpet

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Weekly Market Update: June 15, 2015

As we approach the halfway point of the year, we'll begin to see some midterm report cards from anyone who wants to share an opinion or write a headline. If you have been reading these weekly excerpts, you already know that we are tracking along a predicted path. The residential real estate market was expected to be good at this point. Hiring is up, unemployment is low, sales are up, rates are low, prices are up and inventory is low. The gentle sway of up and low is making for an enjoyable ride, with no bubbles in sight.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending June 6:

 • New Listings increased 1.4% to 2,183
 • Pending Sales increased 10.9% to 1,413
 • Inventory decreased 5.2% to 16,253

For the month of May:

 • Median Sales Price increased 6.7% to $224,000
 • Days on Market decreased 5.0% to 76
 • Percent of Original List Price Received increased 0.7% to 97.5%
 • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 12.2% to 3.6

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, June 15, 2015

Home Inventories

No one wants to think about the possibility of losing everything they own to a fire, flood or tornado.  But sadly, these disasters do happen and they can happen to you in the blink of an eye.  

While it's great that you have insurance, did you know that you need to have an itemized list of your belongings in order to get the payout from your insurance company?  You may be able to list a number of the things you own, but would you be able to name everything?  Would you have the information you need about antiques, value of jewelry, or custom pieces?

Home inventories are a great way to itemize all your belongings so that in the event of a disaster, you can get back the maximum amount for your valuables and be able to reclaim your life.  The other upside of an inventory is that it may highlight that you are currently under-insured.

Take Photos And Video

Plan to spend a good chunk of a day to video record your belongings and itemize your belongings.  Go room by room and be thorough.  Zoom in on brand names and serial numbers.  Add these to your list along with estimated value and a receipt if you have one.  Use a spreadsheet to keep everything clear and concise.  Or use Evernote, One Note or Google Docs for easy document storage and retrieval from anywhere.  Be sure to keep a copy of your itemized list on a jump drive or external hard drive.  And keep that in a fireproof location at your home or at a secure off-site location.

There's An App For That

To make things even simpler, you can find an app for your tablet of phone that will do much of the work for you.  Many insurance companies my already have an app that you can use.  Check with them first since their app will likely include any requirements specific to their company.  "Know Your Stuff" is a free online inventory service provided by the Insurance Information Institute.

Know Your Stuff

Keep It Up To Date

A home inventory is great as long as it reflects your current possessions.  If you last did an inventory five or more years ago, it's probably time to update it.  Review you list and determine where you need updates.  Then plan to review and update your list every few years.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors