Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Getting to Know the Area

This last weekend I had the pleasure of viewing homes with one of my clients in from out of state. We spend two days going between new construction and currently owned homes. A little less than half the homes were vacant, two being short sales and facing foreclosures. When I called the listing agents, they were pretty much begging me to bring a non-contingent buyer. We looked at the homes, but unfortunately there were better homes on the market.

Flying into town for a preliminary house hunt is always a good idea if you have the time. It allows you to get to the know the area, see how housing styles differ from your area, and come to terms with home prices here in the Twin Cities. Yes, the cost of living is higher here, and you get less home for the same price as in other parts of the country. But you will never know if you like a town until you see if first hand.

My clients never did find a home that they liked for the money. Their choice is to rent for a year while they look for the best home to fit their needs. This is becoming the new trend of real estate house hunting. With the down market, people are scared prices are going to go down more, and there just isn't any rush to purchase a home like there was a few years back.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ASID Showcase Home in Minneapolis this Year

For those of you who like to see major home renovations, including fantastic interior design, make sure to stop by this years American Society of Interior Design (ASID) Showcase Home. Minneapolis is home to the lucky home owner, Pat Fallon, who is moving into the Colonial located at 4300 Fremont Avenue South.

Mr. Fallon is the founder of Fallon Worldwide, an advertising firm who had created famous ad campaigns, including the CitiBank ads where identity theft victims talk with voice overs from the people who stole from them. He recently purchased the home, built in 1905, in 2007 for $1.4 Million.

The tour is packed full of ways to see the home. Either through cooking events, garden tours, wealth enhancement sessions, or wine & dines, there are many weekly events from May 16th to June 15th to enjoy a unique Twin Cities home tour. When I go to view the home, I will take a new exterior photo of the home so you can see the major renovation changes to this historic home.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A State of Water Towers

Every town around the Twin Cities has a lovely water tower hovering in the skyline. I just happened to be taking photos in Farmington for a client of mine, and took a few shots of the water tower as the sun was setting. I think it turned out pretty good.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Television is Not Always the Truth

This evening I had the privilege of being able to sit down for a few minutes to watch something on TV. I happened onto the show "House Hunters", and as fate would have it, the buyers were looking for a home in Minneapolis.

The show looked to be taped in 2005 with the buyers searching in the Southwest area of Minneapolis. The only problem I had with the show is that the photos they were showing of the area, were really photos of homes along Summit Avenue in Saint Paul.

Hmmm... Saint Paul....Minneapolis....yep, they are two different cities. Just goes to show you that you should not always believe what the television, or media for that matter, tells you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

So Much Wildlife

We have had so many ducks the past few weeks in the pond behind our home. Today, we had a new arrival. Known as the Hooded Merganser, this small duck (male and female photo above) breeds every year in Minnesota. The white strip on his head actually flares out into a large white crest for mating display. Unfortunately, it looks like he has found his mate so I have not seen his beautiful display..yet.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Confessions of New Construction, Part 9

Closing Day

The morning of closing, I walked through our soon to be home to make sure the last items that needed to be repaired were finished. Every thing looked good so we headed on over to the title company to sign the final documents. Most of the time, you will have two days before closing to do the final walk through. At this time, if you see anything that is wrong, you can bring it up before you hand over the money and sign for the home.

When it comes to preparing for the closing on your new home, a couple things to remember are:

  • make sure closing is not scheduled on a federal holiday - banks will be closed and you will not be able to pick up a cashiers check for your down payments.
  • close the second week of the month - if you close either late the first week, or during the second week, your first mortgage payment will not be due for 45+ days. However if you close as the end of the month, you will only have 30 days for the bill to come due.
  • close on any day other than Monday - first of all, it's Monday so everyone is going crazy, but closing on a Monday rarely goes smoothly because most title companies and lenders will not have the paperwork completed the previous Friday (HUD statement). If you close on any other day, you will get the paperwork on time and with less headache.
  • don't forget to bring your driver's license - one thing you must have, besides the funds you owe, is a valid driver's license. It proves who you are. There have been instances when people have "bought" homes using someone else's identity.

There will be a lot of signing, so come prepared to write. Don't be afraid to ask questions about what you are signing either. Too many times I see clients just sign, saying they will read the documents later. Be honest with yourself, you are about as inclined to read your mortgage documents as you are to read the dictionary front to back.

The nice thing about building new is that usually the builder will have a 3 month and 9 month checkup during the first year in which they can repair warranted items. So if anything major happens, or falls apart, write it down for the builder. For instance, one of the cabinet doors is falling apart in our kitchen, we have some nail pops in our ceiling, and a cold faucet handle does not work properly. No matter how small, make the builder aware so it can be fixed.

Read previous posts from the series below:

Part 8, Putting on the Finishing Touches

Part 7, Framing the House and Adding the Guts

Part 6, Finally, Construction!

Part 5, Digging the Foundation

Part 4, Staking the Lot

Part 3, Shopping Day

Part 2, Picking the Lot, and Part 2.1,

Part 1, Picking the Builder

**If you want to learn more about the luxury side of real estate in Minneapolis, check out my other blog.

Friday, April 18, 2008

How Not to Stage Your Home

While looking through homes for sale today for a client of mine, I came across this photo that is actually listed with the home.
  1. If you are a seller : don't you dare let your home look like this when a Realtor comes by to photograph your home. It will NEVER get showings.
  2. If you are the agent: don't you ever take a photo like this and post it with the listing. You are shooting yourself in the foot, along with the seller. Please take the time to move the items off the counter and then take a GOOD photo!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Quick Twin Cities Market Snapshot

The quick market analysis so far this year is that listings are up, sales are down. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some People are Worried

As Northwest and Delta praise their merger, residents of Minnesota are a little worried of what is really going to happen. Many home owners that live near the airport and are employed by Northwest are awaiting to see what is going to happen to their jobs. While Northwest and Delta claim that more jobs are going to be created, you have to wonder how that is possible since the Northwest headquarters will close down and relocate to Atlanta.

A month ago I sat down with a home owner to discuss the possible listing of their home. They were not listing because they had to, rather they were getting prepared to list in case the airline merger caused them to lose their jobs with Northwest. Best to be prepared for all possibilities in these turbulent times was their motto. It will be interesting to see how this merger is going to effect the local housing market, especially in Eagan, where most employees of Northwest live.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Nicollet Island Historic Home #2

This weeks historic home is located at 101 W. Island Avenue on Nicollet Island.

For those of you not familiar with Minneapolis, Nicollet Island is located on very small piece of land in the middle of the Mississippi River, just off downtown. This simple Greek Revival home is known as the R.M.S. Pease House and was originally located at 814 University Avenue. It was moved to its current location in 1986.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New Loan Program Offered

The Minneapolis Advantage Loan Program - Great News for Minneapolis Home Buyers

The Minneapolis city council has recently approved a new loan program for buyers who purchase a single-family dwelling, or duplex, in Minneapolis neighborhoods that have experienced higher than normal levels of mortgage foreclosures. The program offers a $10,000 zero percent interest loan that is forgivable over five years to anyone buying a home in which they will live in these key neighborhoods.

Minneapolis neighborhoods who could benefit from this program include Camden, Weber, Folwell, and McKinley, as they are offering an additional $4000 for homes bought in their areas. This brings the total offered to $14,000, and the city of Minneapolis is looking for other areas that will partner this initiative and offer incentives to home buyers.

The funds can be used for a down payment, or for closing costs. They can also be used by the buyer to offset any repairs/improvements that will be done to the home. Better yet, ANYONE can take advantage of this offer as it is not based on any home price!

So if you are thinking of buying in Minneapolis this year, make sure you ask your Realtor and lender about the Minneapolis Advantage Loan Program!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Showing Home Etiquette

One thing that surprises buyers that come to the Twin Cities to look at homes is the house etiquette they must abide by. The number one rule is that upon entry, buyers and agents must remove their shoes before they venture further into the home.

I have had many question the reason, but it is definitely easier to explain in the middle of winter. Take for instance today, which was covered in a nice layer of slush. Imagine if you were a home owner who had to clean up a mess of dirty slushy footprints all over your newly cleaned floors. It would make anyone mad. Luckily, most sellers help out and provide a large rug where we can put our shoes, and some are even nice enough to provide a chair to sit on.

I remember one buyer, having worn lace-up shoes, refusing to take them off when we went in to a vacant home. I made it plainly clear that just because no one lives here, doesn't mean we throw courtesy out the window. He got the point and took off his shoes.

So the best piece of advice I can give when shopping for your next home is to wear slip on shoes. Trust me, by the time you get to the fifth house, you will be soooo thankful!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

We're Home - Migration Returns to Minnesota

Yesterday the Woodducks came back to the back yard to check and see if their home was still attached to the tree. With the squater squirrels that took possession over the summer, the ducks have some spring cleaning to do on their home.

It was really interesting to watch them. The male, who is quite beautiful, staked out a branch near the box for about a half hour. Then he would hop branches, getting a little closer each time. Finally, he landed on the box, checked it out, then called the female over to give her final approval. If this isn't the same way couples pick a house in this market, then I don't know what is.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tweaking a Blog

Ok, as you might have noticed, the Minneapolis Real Estate Blog has been tweaked a bit. I added a photo of the downtown skyline and changed some text colors throughout the blog. I would like your honest opinion on what you think. Do the changes make anything harder to read, easier to read, not as boring, etc.

Some people have told me I should ditch Blogger for something else, but I like where I am right now. Do readers care what type of blog you have? I haven't run across any yet that do.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Some Agent Just Don't Work Short Sales

I have finally been able to get on the computer and do some reading of other blogs. Mike Mueller put out a great post last month on why agents might not want to list a home that is near foreclosure or a short sale. Here is an excerpt:

Why Your Favorite Agent Won't List Your Short Sale

So you've bought and sold ten houses in the last couple of decades. Every buy, every sale they were always there for you. They knew exactly what you liked and what you didn't like. They always returned your phone calls. You were much more than a team. They are and were your ONLY Real Estate Agent.

So why now, when you need to list your short sale property did they decline to list your home for you?

I can't speak for them personally, but I can give you a couple very good reasons why.
Visit Mike's post to

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Will I Ever Shake this Cough???

We took our kids to Chuck E Cheese two weeks ago and of course we all got sick. I have been sporadic with posting lately because after taking care of the two little sick ones, I am exhausted! Not to mention that I have this horrible cough that won't go away, and won't let me sleep either. So please forgive me for any awful posts, or any you find boring...I need inspiration, and the only thing standing in my way is coughing, runny noses, and fevers. Hey, I thought it was time for Spring....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Will of the People?

There has been a battle brewing the last few weeks on whether the local metro counties would approve an increase in the state sales tax by 25 cents. The additional funds would go to development of new rail lines and bus transitways.

This week, the final three counties voted, and approved to increase the sales tax up to 6.75%. That makes Minnesota, the six highest taxed state for sales taxes. I have a problem with an increases in taxes, as some of you might gather, and two problems I have with this recent vote include:

  1. There is no guarantee that the money collected will go to the projects it was voted for. Sure, the politicians tell us not to worry, and that the money will be allocated correctly, but let's get real. This new tax is estimated to bring in 100 Million dollars for 2009. That's alot of money for politicians to dip their hands into for other projects, and quite frankly, I just don't trust the Dems in power right now to keep their hands out of the cookie jar. Hennepin County, as part of their vote, thankfully added the provision that is the funds are used for anything else, then they will withdraw from the sales tax increase.

  2. Many voters objected to the tax increase. Case in point, in Washington County, a large amount of the public that attended the county meeting in Stillwater opposed the increase and voiced their objections; however, that did not stop the county from approving the tax increase. So it looks like the will of the people is being ignored, once again, in the state of Minnesota. Of course, it doesn't help that other county boards that had previously approved the measure were threatening the remaining counties with lawsuits if they did not agree to the sales tax increase. Wow, that a great way to get approval.

According to the Star Tribune, "Supporters said the agreement will make the Twin Cities more competitive with Denver, Portland and other areas with similar taxes, which gives them a source of funds to match federal transportation dollars that in some cases could pay for half the project cost." Umm...keeping up with the Joneses, last time I checked, was not a valid reason for increasing taxes.