Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Today we simply would like to wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

From Stafford Family Realtors

LED Holiday Lights: 6 Need-to-Know Tips

If you are anything like us, you are prepping your home for Christmas already! We can't wait to get the lights on - and once they are lit, they will be on all season long!

If you haven't made the switch to LED lights yet, here are some helpful tips to help you decide!

LED holiday lights vs. old-fashioned bulbs: 6 tips to help you decide which is right for you.

Should you chuck all your good old holiday light strings and buy new LED holiday lights? Here’s how to decide.

1. LED holiday lights save you money. LED lights use up to 90% less energy than traditional holiday lights, according to the U.S. government’s Energy Star program.

That could possibly result in a $50 energy savings for the average family during the holidays.


2. But LED lights typically cost more than old-fashioned holiday lights.
100-bulb string of LED lights: about $20 to $46
100-bulb string of conventional lights: about $7 to $12
This cost can be offset by manufacturer coupons and sales!

3. LED holiday lights last and last. LED bulbs can keep your season bright for as long as 100,000 hours.

4. You can string a BIG strand of LED lights. Safety wise, you shouldn’t connect more than three traditional light strings, but you can connect up to 87 LED holiday light strings, totaling a whopping 1,500 feet. Put those Griswold's to shame!


5. LED lights reduce the risk of fire. They stay cooler than incandescent bulbs, according to Energy Star.

6. How about that hue? Some people stick with their old lights because they don’t like the brighter hue that white LED holiday lights emit. Manufacturers now offer a “warm white” bulb that more closely mimics the glow of an incandescent light. Be sure to read the label to choose a bright or warm white and to ensure what you’re purchasing is Energy Star-certified.

By: G. M. Filisko

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tips on How To Prepare Your Home for Holiday Guests

Is your home ready for holiday visits from friends and family? Here’s how to prepare for the invasion.

Even if you have a dedicated space for your guests, preparations for the troupes of visitors takes time and planning.


The day before guests arrive is no time to pull apart junk drawers and clean out linen closets. Declutter guest rooms and public areas - foyer, kitchen, living room, den, and dining room. Remove anything unnecessary from countertops, coffee tables, and ottomans. Here is a tip:

If you run short of time, bag up the clutter and store it in car trunks, basements, and out-of-the-way closets.

Light it Up: Even if you can walk thru your home blindfolded, remember that your guests can’t. Make sure your porch lights have fresh bulbs and consider adding motion-activated night lights in hallways, bathrooms, and bedrooms for anyone who might be sneaking to the kitchen for pie in the middle of the night. 


Kid Safe: Ask your visitors with small children to bring hardware that keeps their small ones safe, such as baby gates and cabinet locks. Transfer toxic cleaners and medicines from base to wall cabinets.

Make a Good Impression

Your home’s foyer is the first place guests see.
· Polish and tighten door hardware, and oil hinges to prevent squeaks.
· Remove scratches from hardwood floors, stairs, and wood railings.
· Select a large Welcome mat for your front door to protect floors from mud and snow.
· Clear out shoes, umbrellas, and other clutter from your entryway closets.

Prep Kitchen

If you are like us, your Kitchen is the Home Base. It is where everyone will congregate throughout the day and evenings.

· Consider moving your coffee station in to your dining room so guests have more room to roam.
· If you like to visit while you’re cooking, place extra stools and chairs around the perimeter of your kitchen so guests can relax if they aren’t going to help.


Sleeping Arrangements
· While it may be simple, don’t forget to change those sheets and shake out the comforters.
· Make sure lamps are in working order & there are batteries in the remote for TVs.

· Be sure to be well stocked with toilet paper, towels, and travel sized toiletries
· Fresh Towels are always a thoughtful idea ;-)
· Also, outfit each tub with a bath mat (to avoid falls) and each toilet with a plunger (to avoid embarrassment).

Original Article By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Weekly Market Update: November 16, 2015

In a continually improving economy, what we might expect to happen is happening in the housing market. Sales and prices are generally up in year over-year comparisons, and new listings are replenishing the market at a fairly steady clip. More sellers are still encouraged to enter the fray, as lower inventory continues to remain a point of some concern.

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

 • New Listings increased 7.5% to 1,183
 • Pending Sales increased 10.7% to 907
 • Inventory decreased 16.2% to 14,850

For the month of October:

 • Median Sales Price increased 4.4% to $217,000
 • Days on Market decreased 2.8% to 70
 • Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.1% to 96.2%
 • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 25.6% to 3.2

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, November 16, 2015

Design Trend: Brick In Kitchens

One trend that is growing in popularity is the use of brick in kitchens.  Whether the home has a brick wall that has been exposed or adding brick to a new build, the result is always beautiful.

Brick adds instant texture, variations of color and a focal point, no matter where it is in the room.  Brick also can meld with almost any design style.  It looks great in industrial, modern, traditional, and rustic interiors.

Having trouble envisioning the look?  Today we'll look at some fabulous uses of brick in kitchens so you can see how wonderfully versatile this design trend is.

I love everything about this kitchen...stainless counter, pretty stove that is modern but doesn't look cold, exposed brick and grey painted cabinets!:

I am loving the use of exposed brick in this kitchen. My all-time favorite kitchen. Hands down.:

There's nothing in this kitchen that I don't love. I love the brick accent wall, the oversized chalkboard message, the open shelves, the white cabinetry...:

Reclaimed Thin Brick Veneer - Thin Brick Veneer, Brick Backsplash, Interior Brick Veneer:

Exposed brick wall designs define one of the most spectacular and unique latest trends in modern kitchens. Interior brick wall designs add exquisite and very original architectural features to modern:

Nice matching of upper wall tiles with chunky wooden table . Spot the Belfast sink and bridge mixer kitchen tap in the corner - lovely :):

La mezcla rústico Moderno:

Brick Walls in Kitchens + loads of white + built in seating for dining = X:

A pine ceiling gives the kitchen a country vibe, while its inky black paint job ups the space's cool factor and creates a focal point at the center of the home.:

Amazing kitchen:

The 11 Best Kitchen Islands | Page 2 of 3 | The Eleven Best:

Chloe Sevigny's New York Apartment is surprisingly down to earth but then she has this country kitchen that you just don't get in a NYC apt unless you're Chloe Sevigny:

Accent your Kitchen with Brick.  RCP carries a wide variety of Brick and Brick Veneer.  We have 6 Store Locations in the San Diego area. Come by to view our wide selection of Brick for your own project.:

Dream Kitchen - LOVE all the different textures:

If you have an old home and you know you have brick walls in there somewhere, even if its the chimney from the old furnace, see if there's a way you can expose it.  Or consider adding some brick veneer as a backsplash.  There are so many ways to incorporate this beautiful trend.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Weekend Happenings: November 13-15

Autumn Festival

Canterbury Park
Thursday, Nov. 12, to Sunday, Nov. 15th, 2015
Cost: Adults $9; Seniors $8; Children Under 10 are Free.
Use promo code afshow2015 for $1 off Shakopee advance purchase tickets

Hundreds of the nation’s finest artists and crafters come together at Canterbury Park in Shakopee to display and sell their handcrafted works. Consistently voted one of the Top 100 Shows in the Country, Autumn Festival offers patrons the opportunity to enjoy shopping the handcrafted wares for artwork, unique home décor and furniture, gifts personalized right at the shows, holiday furnishings, or baby and children’s treasures. Stage entertainment, hourly gift certificate winners, plenty of food and drink, lots of family fun, and free parking! 

A Nordic Christmas: Myths, Legends and Fairytales

Saturday, Nov. 14th - Jan. 10th.
American Swedish Institute
2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55407
Holiday Museum Admission: $10 adults, $7 ages 62+, $5 ages 6-18 and students with ID.

The American Swedish Institute's 2015 holiday season highlights the joyful yet mischievous stories of tomte from Sweden, nisse  fromDenmark and Norway, joulupukki  from Finland, and of coursejólasveinar (13 yule lads) of Iceland. Years ago, many people truly believed in the power of these netherworld figures of the dark forests and foggy lakes and islands. Their stories have been passed down from generation to generation as honored tales that have become interwoven with Nordic wintertime celebrations. Each country’s myths, legends, and fairytales are showcased in the ASI Christmas Rooms – elaborately decorated rooms throughout the historic Turnblad Mansion.

For the 2015 holiday season, ASI collaborates with The Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) to share holiday traditions and fairytales from across the Baltic Sea in a sixth Christmas Room. Winter folklore lives on in the Russian legend of Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and his little helper, Snegurochka, a blue and silver clad snow-maiden (the daughter of Winter and Spring). The pair delivers holiday gifts to children across the vast country in celebration of the New Year – the honored time for merrymaking and singing.  TMORA docents will be on site each Saturday (1-3 p.m.) to share these stories and traditions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cottage Style Homes

In days past, cottages were found mostly in the woods or on lakeshores.  They were known for their small size and simple floor plan, usually two rooms up and two rooms down.  But in addition, they had unique properties that made them look quaint and charming, like steeply pitched roofs, dormers, and slanted-roof additions.

Over the years, this look has come to symbolize a cozy retreat, a haven away from the business of life.  With the advent of ginormous homes packed right next to one another in "executive" neighborhoods, its no wonder that many find this smaller but unique home appealing.

Rather than put their money into a lot of square footage, many are opting to put their money into a smaller footprint but with more quality and uniqueness in each square foot.  But unlike the simple and modest cottages of the past, these modern equivalents are packed with modern amenities in electrical, plumbing, and appliances, while keeping the quaint appeal of a simple cottage.

Today, we're giving you some beautiful cottage-styled homes to peruse.  Maybe you'll decide to incorporate some ideas into your home or build a new "old" cottage.


Traditional Exterior of Home with Quorum pearson 1 light outdoor pendant, Pathway, Glass panel door, Fence
Source:  Zillow Digs

Cottage Exterior of Home with Eldorado stone countryside cypress ridge, Fence, Barn door, Pathway, Raised beds
Source:  Zillow Digs

Craftsman Exterior of Home with Fence, Pathway
Source:  Zillow Digs

Cottage Exterior of Home with French doors, Pathway
Source:  Zillow Digs

Eclectic Exterior of Home with Glass panel door, Fence
Source:  Zillow Digs

Cottage Exterior of Home with Aspen log storm mountain rustic bed, International concepts solid wood porch rocker
Source:  Zillow Digs

Eclectic Exterior of Home with D.C. America 2-ft 5-ft White Aluminum Attached Pergola, Fence, Glass panel door, Pathway
Source:  Zillow Digs





Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Weekly Market Update: November 9, 2015

Weekly figures show seller activity switching between year-over-year gains and losses while buyer activity steadily marches higher. That type of environment has translated into inventory declines between 12.0 and 17.0 percent over the last several weeks. Interest rates are still around 4.0 percent, but a surprisingly strong jobs report could spell upward rate pressure.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending October 31:

 • New Listings increased 1.9% to 1,096
 • Pending Sales increased 0.6% to 933
 • Inventory decreased 16.2% to 15,440

For the month of October:

 • Median Sales Price increased 4.9% to $218,000
 • Days on Market decreased 2.8% to 70
 • Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.1% to 96.2%
 • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 25.6% to 3.2

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, November 9, 2015

Media Rooms For Today's Families

For a few years, home theaters were the rage.  It was cool to have a big screen showing the latest movies, rows of seats and dim lighting.  And they are great if you are a huge movie buff.


But many families have found that they want to use the space for more than just watching movies.  Kids like to have their friends over for gaming, and families like to invite people over for the big game.  A home theater set-up isn't ideal for those situations.

As a result, many people have started converting their home theaters to more entertainment-friendly media rooms.

How is a media room different from a home theater?

Seating Is Flexible

Instead of rows of seats all facing the screen, media rooms have more flexible seating.  They may still have rows, but at least one of those rows will have the chairs facing each other so conversation can take place.  Other options include chairs and couches that all form a U-shape around the screen to allow for viewing and conversing.  Still others opt for seating that you can move around where you want it.





Let In Some Light

Home theaters are notorious for their windowless dimness.  But when people are trying to hang out together and talk, they would appreciate actually seeing the faces that they are talking to.  Media rooms have ample lighting which can even include (gasp) windows.




Cutting Edge Technology

Gone are the days of TVs with a DVD player.  With the cloud and streaming technology, the way we watch TV on any given night has drastically changed from even 10 years ago.  Today's media room should be outfitted with the latest in connectivity.  You may still have your gaming devices and DVD players, but you can just as easily stream the latest game and use your phone as your remote.




Whether you have a home theater or a flexible media room, the main idea is to enjoy time with family and friends.  This is the perfect room for a quiet family night or entertain.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Weekend Happenings: November 6 - 8, 2015

Night Trains

Bandana Square
1021 Bandan Blvd. E, St. Paul
Saturdays, Nov. 7, 2015 to Feb. 27, 2016
6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Cost:  $10 per person, Free for kids 4 and under, Group rates available

Night Trains Season is a special Holidays tradition at the Twin City Model Railroad Museum beginning the first Saturday in November (November 7, 2015) and running every Saturday evening from 6:00 to 9:00 pm through the last Saturday in February (February 27, 2016).

Night Trains Season comes to the dozens of model railroad layouts in a magical way, the lights are turned down, the buildings and street lights glow warmly, setting the scene for specially lighted models of vintage passenger trains. The make believe town of Matlin is buried in a blizzard, and throughout the Museum the layouts are adorned with miniature Christmas lights and decorations.

Landmark Center Gala - Once Upon A Time

Landmark Center
75 5th St. W., St. Paul
Nov. 6, 2015
5:00 PM - Reception; 7:00 PM - Dinner
Cost:  $150 (tax deductible portion - $85)

Celebrate the roaring twenties!  Travel back in time to the glamorous age of the Roaring Twenties when flappers with short bobs danced the night away, the Charleston and Tango were the steps of the day, and Prohibition was in full force.

Your presence generously supports Minnesota Landmarks' annual slate of nearly one hundred free or affordable cultural programs. Your support ensures that young people, adults and families can come together to celebrate, imagine, create and learn, all within the walls of our beloved Landmark Center.

Special Guest Artist Butch Thompson
Black Tie Optional, Period Costume Encouraged

Eden Prairie Art & Craft Show

Grace Church - Gathering Hall
9301 Eden Prairie Road, Eden Prairie
Nov. 7, 2015
9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost:  Free to attend

The Eden Prairie Lioness would like to invite you to our 2015 Artisan, Shabby Chic, Craft & more Fair to be held at Grace Church on Saturday, November 7, 2015. Over 100+ vendors on display. The doors open at 9:00 and close at 4:00. 

This year is our seventh annual event and the Lioness have worked hard to find quality artists, re-purposed shabby chic and crafters to bring their unique and hand crafted wares to you. We hope that you will be as delighted as we are with the variety and quality of the items offered.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Twin Cities: Best Of The Best

I'm sure you've read articles that rank metro area cities by some criteria or another.  Whether it's great for retirees, millenials, or people raising a family.  Whether it's great for being green or having the most coffee shops.  If you can think of a criteria that makes you want to live somewhere, there is a ranking of cities out there.

That's all good.  But how do you know which metro area is the best overall?  One website has determined to try.  Patch Of Earth is a website whose tagline is, "Smart News & Ideas, Handpicked Daily".  They determined that the best way to figure out the top cities was to figure out which cities consistently ranked high on some of the most major lists.

And the winner is?  (Drumroll, please.)  The Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro Area!

Seems our Twin Cities show up in the top 10 in 5 of the 7 major lists which puts them in the number one spot overall.

So congratulate yourselves on picking a great place to live!

Click HERE to read the entire article and to see the other top places to live in the US.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors and 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Weekly Market Update: November 2, 2015

Data analysis from September national numbers revealed that new home sales under-performed slightly from what was originally expected. Some say this indicates market cooling, but with October giving way to November, it means we will soon have another month of sales to prove or disprove naysayers.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending October 24:

 • New Listings decreased 2.5% to 1,233
 • Pending Sales increased 10.7% to 934
 • Inventory decreased 15.7% to 15,650

For the month of September:

 • Median Sales Price increased 8.1% to $221,650
 • Days on Market decreased 8.5% to 65
 • Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.0% to 96.6%
 • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 23.9% to 3.5

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, November 2, 2015

Getting Ready To Sell: Two Approaches

Getting your home ready to sell is a Big Deal!  A home owner that's done their homework can sell their home quickly and for a better price than someone who just slaps their home on the market without doing anything.

If you want to sell your home quickly and for top dollar, there are a few things that you can do to greatly improve your chances of success.  And there are two ways to go about it: do it all yourself or hire it out.  Understandably, if you do it all yourself you will save a lot of money but you will spend it a lot of time (and effort) to do it.  If you hire it out, you won't personally have to do much except write out a number of rather large checks to someone else.

Today, we'll lay out the things you definitely should do to sell a house.  We'll let you know who to call to hire it out or what you need to do yourself to get it done less expensively - and when to know which option makes the most sense in any given situation.

Deep Clean Everything

If the only thing you do to your home is really clean it well, you'll already be above a lot of the competition.  One thing new buyers hate is the idea of living in someone else's dirt.  You want your home to sparkle inside and out.


Hire It Out
Call all your top cleaning professionals.  Carpet and furniture steam cleaners, house cleaners to do a thorough deep clean, gutter cleaners, lawn maintenance professionals, etc.  Depending on where you live, hiring all these professionals can cost a couple of thousand dollars.

Rent a steam cleaner, break out the cleaning supplies, and get to work.  Deep cleaning your own home, inside and out, might cost you a couple of hundred dollars but you'll be spending weeks getting it done.  If you have the time and are able, this is the way to go to save significant money.

Declutter and Depersonalize

You want your home to look clean, uncluttered and fairly impersonal.  Think of a luxury hotel.  Nice decor but suitable to many tastes.


Hire It Out
Hire a professional organization consultant who will help you sort through everything you have and help you get rid of the things you don't need and find an organized way to store the things you want to keep.  You can also rent out a storage facility to store any things that you don't need until after you move.  You will still have to participate, but you'll have a lot of help.

You can tackle this project yourself if you can be tough on yourself.  You need to really assess whether you can part with items, and then actually do it.  You can peruse websites on organization for ideas on great ways to store items.  And you might have friend that will let you store some of your stuff until you move.

Update Your Kitchen

The kitchen is the one critical room when it comes to selling a home.  Make sure it is beautiful and functional.  If your kitchen is very outdated or just doesn't work well, then consider an upgrade.


Hire It Out
With kitchens, you can really go all out.  You can completely re-do the kitchen with all new cabinets, new flooring, upgraded countertops, and top end appliances.  And there are professional designers and builders to help you with the entire process.

If you can't afford an entire kitchen upgrade, do whatever you can do get your kitchen looking it's best.  If you can afford it, upgrade some or all of your appliances.  Consider repainting or staining your cabinets a different color.  Install new kitchen hardware.  If you can't afford new countertops, consider a faux-granite paint job.  Install undercabinet lighting to brighten the space.

However, if you are not a handy person, consider hiring out any major work.  It's better to spend the money to have it look good than to invest a lot of time and turn it into a hack-job.  Buyers know good (and bad) work when they see it.

Use Paint To Freshen Rooms

Living in a home inevitably leads to scuffs and marks on the walls.  A fresh coat of paint goes a long way to making a room feel clean and new.  Paint will also help you neutralize the color of your home so that it is appealing to the widest number of buyers.


Hire It Out
You can hire a designer to help you come up with a neutral color scheme that will flow from room to room effortlessly.  Then hire professional painters to paint each room.  You'll only be slightly inconvenienced for a couple of weeks.

Painting is one thing that most folks can tackle themselves and still get stunning results while saving a lot of money.  Do your research on how to successfully prep a room for painting and for the best painting techniques.  One place not to skimp on, however, is the paint.  Choose good quality paint and your paint job will go much smoother and faster.

Update The Lighting

If your light switches and outlets are old and yellowed or broken, replace them in your entire house. Bright any dark areas in your home with new lighting.

Hire It Out
Hire a professional to install dimmer switches where possible and rewire if the switches are in inconvenient places.  Install new lighting where ever you find dark spots like in closets, in the bathtub area, and long hallways.  Adding motion sensors and flood lights outside improves the safety of your home.

Most home-owners can handle changing out a light switch.  But unless you know what your doing when it comes to electrical issues, leave any re-wiring to the professionals.


You may have a great house but if it's sitting on a boring plot of grass with one measly tree in front, buyers won't want to buy it.  Keep your lawn looking great, have a few (but not too many) plant around your home, and plant a few fairly mature trees if you don't have any.


Hire It Out
Hire professionals to make your lawn look its best.  Hire a landscape designer to help you design a beautiful garden plan for your entire yard and hire them to plant it all, too.  Hire professionals to install mature trees throughout your yard.

If a fully revamped landscaping plan is out of your budget, then just clean up what you already have.  Prune trees and bushes, weed your gardens, and mow your yard.  Keep everything looking good in every season.  And use pots to your advantage, especially around your entryway.

Garage and Exterior Doors

Curb appeal is a necessity.  Most buyers shop online before ever going to a realtor, and most listings show the exterior of the home on a listing.  Make sure you home looks it's very best.


Hire It Out
Replacing your front door and your garage doors has a great return on investment.  If your siding is lacking, consider replacing it with cement board siding and some stone treatment.

If all that just isn't in your budget, you can still upgrade the look of your exterior with paint and adding new hardware.


Most home buyers these days are looking for hardwood flooring throughout the house.  If you have it in your home, it's a definite plus.


Hire It Out
If you have wall to wall carpet, consider having it ripped out and install hardwood throughout the main living areas.

If you live in an older home, chances are pretty good that you might have hardwood under the carpets already.  Check in an inconspicuous area, and if you do have them, pull up the carpets and refinish the wood floors that are already there.  If you don't have it, but still want hardwoods, consider installing it yourself if you have the skills.  You might want to consider having someone else do the finish work of sanding and staining.

The One Thing Everyone Should Do

No matter who you are, whether you have a ton of money to throw at projects, or you are saving every penny by doing things yourself, the best way to insure that you get top dollar for your home is to hire a Realtor.  This is the biggest investment you probably have, so leave it to the professionals to help you with the ins and outs of real estate transactions.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors