Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Minneapolis Market Update - July 2007

Each week members of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors are given up-to-date market stats on the local real estate market. We all know the market has been sluggish this year and many are concerned and want to know when it plans on waking up. Too bad we can't give it a shot of espresso.

Buyers are just not buying right now and homes are taking a long time to be absorbed. The Minneapolis market is flooded with homes and has approached the supersaturation mark. There are currently over 35,000 residential properties for sale in the 13-county metropolitan region, up 12.0% from this time in 2006 and 56.7% from this time in 2005, according to MAAR.

Seller activity remains flat, and buyer activity is even slower, with the number of newly signed purchase agreements declining by 10.2% from this time last year. With buyers so few when compared to the amount of homes available, sellers have to price their home competitively and make sure it is "showroom" ready.

I honestly have to say that I don't see this trend changing any time soon. I saw the same thing happen in Florida in 2005, at least a year and a half before the disease hit Minnesota. Like an illness, it will take time to recover, but don't expect it to happen overnight. Hopefully once Spring hits again, the market will be reinvigorated, but sellers should not hope for prices to reach 2005 levels for many years to come. Maybe some orange juice would help instead?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Playground Central

One thing is for sure in Minnesota, they have some of the best play grounds I have ever seen. Not only do they have plenty of swings, slides, and fun things to climb over and under, but there is literally a playground every half mile. Where I live, I believe there are at least 5 sites available to children in a one mile radius. The one pictured above is in Prior Lake and is one of my son's favorites as they have a pirate ship!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More than Just a Backyard

Yes, that's a putting green in the photo. I took the photo this weekend as I was viewing a home. The seller loves golf so much that if he misses a day, he has his own practice range in the backyard.

More and more, sellers are turning their backyards into more than just some pretty landscaping and a pool. Owners are looking to make the land "theirs", either through golfing, rose gardens, swimming ponds, Japanese rock gardens, etc. If you have the acreage, I have seen shooting ranges, horse pastures, extravagant fire pits, and dirt bike trails.

But the main goal is to actually use the land for something the owner can enjoy. Too often, backyards become just a green grass landscape. Take hold of your backyard and turn it in to something extraordinary...like a putting green!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Sure Way to Kill a Deal

If you want to make sure you never get an offer on your home, then have these little creatures at the front door waiting to greet your guests. They like to secretly jump on people, but wait until they leave the home to let their presence known.

A year ago I was showing a four-plex to a young couple who were looking to invest. The last unit we looked at had ugly emerald green carpet, and smelled terrible. (It was vacant). We walked outside and started talking about drawing up an offer on the complex. That's when I started itching my feet. I looked down and discovered by legs were covered by hundreds of fleas, as were my clients.

Let me tell you, I hate fleas. They make my skin crawl.

So instead of talking about an offer, we were combating the fleas. We all tried getting as many off as possible, then jumped in our cars to go home. I was bitten the entire drive. Once I got home, I had to strip down in the garage so as not to bring them into my home and onto my pets, then take a shower to get the rest off. My clients later told me a similar story.

Needless to say, they bought another complex instead of that one. Yes, fleas killed that sellers deal as the buyers were going to make an offer. But the thought of having to kill the fleas, tear out the carpet, etc, was a project my clients would rather not do.

So if you have pets, I cannot stress the importance of making sure you do not have fleas. If you plan on moving out before the sale, make sure you bomb the place or replace the carpet. Fleas seem to multiply once the animals leave and attack the next source of food they see...us humans.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Looking for a New Identity

North Minneapolis Seeking to Re-invent Itself

If you would like to give your input on how you would like to promote the North Minneapolis area, now is your chance.

The Northside Marketing Task Force is inviting you to attend the final two public sessions to give ideas on the public perception of the area. Results will include a new logo, new brochures, slogan, and ads.

  • July 26, 7-9 pm, Webber Recreation Center, 4400 Dupont Ave N
  • July 30, 7-9 pm, Minneapolis Urban League, 2100 Plymouth Ave N

Snacks will be provided!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wildflowers along the Mississippi River

I was walking along some bluffs today and saw this beautiful wild flower called Tall Bellflower.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Best and Worst School Districts

Forbes magazine recently came out with a report on the Best and Worst School Districts in the nation. The premise is whether you are getting your monies worth through the ever increasing property taxes residents pay to support local education. Unfortunately not a single Minnesota county made the list for being a "best" school district. Our neighbor, Wisconsin, had four counties make the list.

It makes you wonder, how do Minnesota schools rank? There is a great website out there called Great Schools which has an extensive data base of information for Minneapolis Schools and St Paul Schools. You can also view information on private schools, parish schools, and charter schools.

To read the article, visit the Forbes website.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Builders Housing Outlook Not the Best

This says it all...

Builders look for market to flatten

Compared through the same point a year ago, this year's building activity is down slightly more than 31 percent. Many builders are looking towards the second half of the year as another phase of the adjustment—a flattening out.

According to statistics compiled by the Keystone Report for the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), there were a total of 773 units permitted in June 2007, down from 1,176 units permitted in the same month a year ago. Year-to-date activity continues to lag last year, with a total of 4,523 units permitted thus far, down from 6,585 units permitted through the same point last year.

"The next six months will be a telling sign of where our market is headed," says 2007 BATC President Michael Noonan. "According to a recent forecast by the National Association of Home Builders, the Twin Cities market may begin to flatten out over the remainder of this year, then slightly rebound throughout 2008."

Noonan cautions against expecting a sudden torrent of activity. Instead, the market will return slowly to healthy and sustainable rates of production.

Minneapolis leads the metro in year-to-date activity with 410 units permitted. St. Paul ranks second with 368 units permitted, followed by Woodbury with 250, Lakeville with 179, and Chaska with 161.

read more of the full press release

Source: Builders Association of the Twin Cities

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The International Airport

The main airport serving the Twin Cities is the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport (or MSP for online booking). It is easily accessible from surrounding communities, and is only 15 minutes from both Downtown St Paul and Downtown Minneapolis.

The main terminal, named after Charles A. Lindbergh, sees most of the international and national flights, and is the main hub for Northwest Airlines which handles about 80% of all air passenger traffic in and out of the Twin Cities.The second terminal, the Hubert H. Humphrey, handles charter flights and smaller airlines. Six smaller regional airports are available as reliever destinations including:
  • Airlake
  • Anoka County-Blaine
  • Crystal
  • Flying Cloud
  • Lake Elmo
  • St Paul Downtown
In late 2005, a new north/south runway was completed as part of a $3 Billion expansion project, giving an increase of 25% in traffic capacity. While this is good news for the city, it meant that outlying suburbs who enjoyed very little overhead traffic and noise, now will get to have direct traffic right over their homes. These towns are Burnsville, Eagan, Apple Valley, and Bloomington. Should you like to see flight paths and how they affect the area you might be moving to, the MSP website has a great interactive map for your convenience.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Second Home Property Specialist

Being a Minneapolis Luxury Home Specialist, I have sold many properties these last few years where the homeowner was buying solely to have a second home, or wanted a condo on the Gulf Coast of Florida for their summer enjoyment. At the beginning of the year, I decided to go ahead and obtain my certification as a Resort and Second Home Property Specialist.

After a couple months of education classes, including working online with buyers, training in 1031 exchanges, market demographics, etc, I finally became certified last week. I am officially a Charter Member, a title bestowed upon the first 250 Realtors who become RSPS members in the nation. Currently there are only 158 of us out of 2 Million + Realtors nationwide, and I am only the 4th in Minnesota.

The new certification program recognizes the vitality of the second home market. Serving the resort and vacation real estate market has come of age at a time when the second home market has never been stronger and savvy buyers increasingly demand the expertise of a real estate professional with proven knowledge of resort and second-home market conditions. A 2005 NAR study showed substantial growth in the second-home market. The study indicated that investment property and vacation homes make up a significant portion of the overall housing market, accounting for more than one-third of residential transactions. Acquiring a second home has grown in popularity over the last 10 years and in particular since 2003. Sales of second homes increased 16 percent in 2004 from the year before. NAR also estimates that 36 percent of buyers who purchased a second home bought a property that was more than 100 miles away from their primary residence.

Being licensed in Florida, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, I have the unique opportunity of providing clients the best of both worlds. Not only can Minnesotans have the warm weather get away when they are freezing, but my clients in Florida have a chance to own that cabin in the woods where they can curl up to a cozy fire. What ever you desire, now you can contact a specialist who has taken extensive education classes in order to represent you better. Maybe you can even take pity on this real estate agent and loan me your condo for a week?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blogging Not for Dummies

Us bloggers live in our own little world as not everyone out there knows we exist. My husband actually created my blogging world since he is the one who bought me my first book about blogging. Now, three blogs later, and two more in the works, he jokingly says he wishes he never bought me that book.

So when I told him I had to visit a bunch of local bloggers yesterday in St Paul, he just said "Have Fun!". Blogging has let me meet a lot of interesting people on line, including other real estate agents in states across the country. For a Realtor, having trusting people you can refer clients to, should the need arise, is essential to a sound business plan.

The Blog Tour hit St Paul yesterday and brought out the top local bloggers. It was nice to finally meet everyone in person, as some I have been speaking with on-line for a couple months. If you get the time, check out some other Minneapolis and St Paul bloggers who are making an impact on the blogosphere:

Monday, July 16, 2007

Minneapolis Historic Home #2

This weeks Historic Home is 2504 40th St West.

In Southwest Minneapolis, just between Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, sits a remarkable home unlike its neighbors. Built in 1906 for Frank E. Lovell, this Swiss Chalet style home was designed by Lowell Lamoreaux and is in fantastic condition. The balcony sweeps around the home and offers views of Lake Harriet.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Local Towns Rank Best

Best Places to Live in Minnesota

Money Magazine recently released the 2007 Best Places to Live, and a couple of our Minneapolis suburbs apparently made the grade. The report specifically looked at towns with populations of between 7,500-50,000, as well as areas that "offered the best combination of economic opportunity, good schools, safe streets, things to do and a real sense of community".

Chaska was the top city from Minnesota, coming in at #8. Pros included:
  • Quality of jobs
  • Beautiful setting
  • close proximity to technology and biotech firms
The magazine didn't think to highly of our winters and named it as a con.

The other two local towns that placed were:

Apple Valley # 28th
Vadnais Heights #36th.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Cafesjians Carousel at Como Park

The Carousel at Como Park is a site to behold. To help preserve the ride for generations to come, a special pavilion was built next to the Como Zoo and Conservatory.

Originally built in 1914 at a cost of $8500, Austin McFadden has it commissioned for use at the Minnesota State Fair. He ran the carousel and watched years of families enjoy the hand carved horses. Privately owned for its entire life, the public was saddened to see it put up for auction in 1988.

After reading about the upcoming auction, a family in St Paul wanted to save the historic landmark and discovered that for a purchase price of $1.1 Million, the entire structure could be theirs. The story behind how they funded the purchase is wonderful, with many local residents digging into their piggy banks to help out anyway they could. One benefactor was instrumental in saving the carousel at the auction, Mr. Gerard Cafesjians.

Restoration of the Carousel was begun in 1990 and took 10 years to complete. It is believed to be one of only three carousels in the United States with almost all of its original paint still intact. One of my favorite features of the ride is the band organ. While not original, as the first was destroyed in a 1939 fire, it truly makes you feel like a kid again with the authentic band music as you whirl around.
The historic carousel is open from May to October and only costs $1.50 to ride. Children under one year of age and adults over 90 ride free. It is interesting to note that the ride does not operate if the temperature falls below 45 degrees or rises above 95 degrees.

Detailed driving directions are available if you would like to visit!

Don't forget to visit the Como Zoo and Conservatory while you are there.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Unofficial Driving Guide to Minneapolis

Ok, so every city has the rules of the road that we learn in driver's Ed, but every city also has the "real" driving we see others perform everyday. I thought about this post as I was driving yesterday and decided to share some insights to Minnesotan driving.

  1. The Passing Lane - no longer do you pass on the left. Minnesota drivers love to go five under the speed limit, in the fast lane. They refuse to get over, so you can pass them, so you are left to either spend eternity behind them, or move to the slow lane and jockey for pole position.
  2. Speeding Up - My husband calls this "the test of manhood". If you try to pass a driver on the right side because they do #1 above, those drivers will choose to speed up so you cannot pass them. It's like you are questioning their manhood and so now they must show you their worth by not letting you pass.
  3. Driving on Your Bumper - also, another test of manhood. If you are lucky to get around said driver of #1 & #2, you have insulted them and now must endure them riding on your bumper for miles to come. Sometimes you might even get an evil look as you pass. Don't worry, these types hate to speed, so after a couple of miles they will eventually back off.
  4. Bad Traffic - Ok, moving away from the above, we now go to the phrase I laugh at every time I hear it. Minneapolis and St Paul residents will tell you traffic is very bad here. I beg to differ. After living in San Diego for three years, and also having to drive to LA every now and then, I know for a fact that traffic here in the Twin Cities is NOT bad. Try sitting on the 805 during rush hour, or better yet, the 15 through Riverside, then you can talk to me about heavy traffic.
  5. No Speeding - I have never been to a state where so many people drive at or below the posted speed limit.
  6. Can't Handle Curves - again, I have never seen a state where drivers cannot keep speed around a gentle interstate curve. Ninety degree turns are something else. I like cruise control, but nothing frustrates me more than having to put on my brakes because someone is scared of going the same speed around a 10 degree curve.

So there you have it, some local driving tips and things to look for should you find yourselves in Minneapolis, St Paul, or anywhere else in Minnesota.

If you have some driving insight that you would like to add to this "unofficial guide", add a comment!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Cheaper than Rent

If it Sounds too Good to be True, it Probably Is

Most of us have heard this phrase sometime in our lives and we usually live by it. But in some cases, the deal just sounds good. Take for instance the flyer I received in the mail from a local real estate company. Their goal is to prospect for renters that could be future home owners.

They have two photos of homes on the flyer, and in the upper corner of each home it says something like this: "Own for Zero down for $1052 per month P.I.*". Sounds pretty good, don't you think? (rents in the complex are between $1300-1600 per month)

Well, I noticed the little asterisk at the end of the statement, so I looked at the bottom of the page for the additional information. "Monthly payment is for 6.125% interest only". Wow, 6.125 is less than today's rate so they must be offering you a deal, right? Naturally our eyes travel to the rate, but what you might miss is the next piece "interest only". There's the catch.

I have a problem with this type of advertising because I consider it dishonest. Most people who are renting would love to own and would jump on this ad. But once they speak with the agent and lender associated with the ad, they will soon discover that on top of this price, one must add taxes and insurance. Getting someones hopes up, only to dash them a few minutes later, is not my idea of professionalism.

Here are my problems with the ad:
  • Advertising an interest only loan in the market today is just foolish. Interest only loans are just as bad as adjustable rate loans. Buyers can afford the loan today, but will they be able to in the future?
  • Interest Only means you are not paying any principal on the loan, and thus, never paying down the loan. To start to pay principle, you will have to refinance the loan, and with the way rates are going, your new rate could be a whole % more than the 6.125 shown in this ad.
  • Many renters do not have the best credit, so they would never be able to qualify for an interest only loan. The lender knows this and wants to find them another type of financing. One major problem is that it is a "bait & switch" type of advertising. So the monthly mortgage rate you called about, most likely won't be available due to lack of credit qualifications.

So the moral of the story is to listen to your gut. If is sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. Make sure you read the fine print for the real truth behind an ad. And of course if you have questions, don't hesitate to call a professional for more information.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Weddings in the Midwest

The motto for Real Estate has always been Location, Location, Location! But for a wedding, sometimes it is Date, Date, Date.

Today was 7/7/07. The news reported that there would be around 30,000 weddings across the nation today, just because of the date being all sevens. Well, we just came back from attending a wedding in the middle of Iowa today, and yes, they did get married today because of the date. So I was able to be a part of the celebrations across the nation. Wow, was it hot!

We have been away from the Twin Cities for a week now, and I have been trying to get posts in when I can. Tomorrow we journey back home and I will be able to get some quality posts out...if I have recovered by then.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Best Places to Golf in the Twin Cities

Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs have some fantastic golf courses.

I tried golfing when I lived in Florida, but it was always too hot, and I could never get a tee time early in the morning as the retired residents had those spots filled up for what seemed like years. Now that I am living in Minneapolis, there are endless opportunities for finding a good golf course, whether public or private.

Minneapolis has some renowned courses, and one even designed by Arnold Palmer himself. Check out some Hot Deals for golfing.

If you don't know exactly where a course might be available to your locations, view this map to see some of the best golf courses across the Twin Cities.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Skinny on Minneapolis Home Owners Associations

So you found that perfect condo or home, in the perfect neighborhood. You figure out what your monthly mortgage payment will be, how much taxes you will owe, the home owners insurance, and finally any Private Mortgage Insurance that you hate to pay. But don't forget the most overlooked fee to home ownership...the HOA fee.

Home Owners Associations have been popping up everywhere there is a new development for the last 15 years. Many times they are good for the neighborhood as they keep things neat and tidy. Other times it seems all they do is collect an annual fee, and let the neighborhood go to pot. In my real estate career, I have heard many a horror story, but let's face it, they are here to stay.

So what are things to look for, know, or ask, when you are buying a new condo or home in Minneapolis?

Here are a few ideas:

  • How much is the fee and when is it charged? Monthly or annually?

  • Can the HOA put a lien on your home if you don't pay?

  • Get a copy of the Home Owners Association documents before putting in an offer and make sure you are ok with the rules

  • In Minnesota, if you are looking to purchase a condo, the law says you have 10 days to review the documents. If you dislike anything, you can cancel the contract with no penalty.

  • If buying new construction in a subdivision, what percent of completion is the subdivision at? Many times the developer will not turn the neighborhood over to the home owners until he has sold 75% of the lots.

If you are not sure, ask your real estate agent for help. Most of the time the agent will already have these questions answered for you.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Aren't Vacations Grand

My posts have been off the last few days as I am visiting my family in Indiana. We decided to drive instead of fly because we love the summer scenery of the Midwest countryside. The corn is getting higher and everything is a beautiful green.

When ever I travel to other parts of the country, and they find out I am a Midwesterner, they always comment in this way:

"OH, well, you were too nice to be from here, so I knew you must be from somewhere else".

Then they follow up with something like this after I tell them where I am from:

"Midwestern people are so down to earth".

I think one of the best places on Earth is the Midwest. We do have hockey after all! So if you want to learn more about Minnesota and the Midwest, just keep reading my blog.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Minnesota Farm Land

We have been having a great summer so far this year, at least in my opinion. I grew up in a small town in Indiana, that was surrounded by farms. Minneapolis is very similar as you can drive just a half hour out of the city and be in farm country. We have some of the most beautiful scenery with rolling hills and acres of corn fields, reminding me of southern Indiana. If you want real estate with 2 or more acres, you have to travel to the far suburbs to find a great piece of land. Seeing the profit to be made, many local farmers are selling off their tracts of real estate to developers.