Monday, July 13, 2009

Yes Virginia, There Really are Multiple Offers

I know many of you won't believe this, but the dirty little secret that the local media isn't reporting is that homes in the lower price range are flying off the racks. Yep...just like a bridal store having a super cheap sale on gowns with women knocking each other out of the way as they try to snatch up the latest deal, so too are investors and first time home buyers trying their best to win that little cottage home, out doing each other with above list price offers.

Like I said, you don't believe me, do you?
Last month I experienced this phenomenon first hand with a duplex I listed. With-in five days, I had five offers, all above asking price. There must have been some telepathy in the air because almost all of them were around the same price. I actually had to tell them to resubmit their "highest and best" offer. Who ever did the best, gets the house. Let me tell you, it was competitive bidding and I was truly surprised at how high some of the offers got.

Even better, I know an investor couple who are snatching up dilapidated foreclosures and rehabbing them to flip. Not only do they have to bid against other offers each time they find a home, but when it comes time to sell the property, they have to deal with multiple offers from first time home buyers. (They do fantastic rehab work by the way!)

So yes Virginia, there are some segments of the real estate market that are doing quite well. Multiple offers do exist and are getting more common.

It makes is hard to explain to a buyer why they need to offer above listing price if they want to get a home, especially when all they hear about is how cheap homes are. But if you want to purchase a home in decent shape and at a great price, be prepared to pay for it because in this market you'll be just like those brides you see on television...pushing and yelling your way to that perfect find.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ways NOT to Sell a House

There are obvious ways that should not be pursued when trying to sell a home. I really don't care what type of home it is, or what the circumstances are for the sale (foreclosure, short sale, etc), but there is just no excuse for the agents listing these homes to take photos like the ones below.

First of all, I do believe tomorrow is the fourth of July, NOT the fourth of January. Snow has not been seen in Minnesota since March, so why is the photo of this home still in the MLS? The white wire reindeer just scream "Buy Me".

Now this home is a distressed property...I cannot remember if it is a short sale or foreclosure, and every listing photo of this home shows trash and clutter just like this photo. I have to ask, why even bother? No buyer is going to jump on this home, unless it is an investor looking for a steal. It definitely doesn't have the "cozy" feeling that a first time home buyer is looking for in today's real estate market.

I guess I am constantly amazed that agents out there feel photos like these are acceptable. It doesn't take much effort to pick up some trash, or take a new photo in the summer. Sellers, please take a look at the photos taken by your agent to see just what type of marketing they do. Trust me, if you have photos like these, your home is NOT going to sell anytime soon...unless you list it for $1.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Keep Your Home Information Confidential

When selling your home, it is extremely important to keep confidential information confidential. Any details given out could harm your position with a buyer who is interested in your home. Knowing things like your motivation or personal circumstances are great for a buyer, but they can easily take advantage of these facts and offer you less than you would like, or deserve.

Case in point, a recent seller was having some work done on their home while it was on the market. Nothing major, just some finishing touches to the rehab work that was recently completed. While a buyer viewed the home one day, a sub-contractor was working in the home. Naturally, the buyer and his agent struck up a seemingly innocent conversation with the worker. After a few minutes, the buyer started asking some questions about the work, which led to other questions of why the owners were selling, and what their motivation was. Knowing some of this information, the worker answered the questions. Not knowing it at the time, this worker gave up some confidential information that should have never been communicated.

A few days later, the buyer made an offer, with some peculiar requests regarding the work, as well as a low offer price. It was obvious that the buyer was privy to information they should not know. When they were called out by the listing agent, they simply said the construction worker had told them. At this point, the seller's realized their position was compromised by loose lips and they had no option but to negotiate with the buyers.

Who knows if the offer would have been better, had the buyers not been privy to certain facts. And there was no way the sellers could have known that an innocent conversation with the contractor would mean money out of their pockets. They learned a very valuable lesson that day. Don't tell anyone about your circumstances that you wish to remain confidential. This includes your real estate agent, if you truly want to keep something secret.

(this post does not pertain to information or material facts about the property that must be disclosed according to state law)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Copyright on my Minneapolis Blog

(I placed this post originally on my Historic Home Blog today, and thought it best to bring it on over to my other blogs, as an FYI about copyright and not stealing my photos and content.)

A recent incident that is now recurring is forcing me to write this post about copyright of photos used on this site. (Notice the "Do not Copy" notice on the leftside of this blog.) To some people, it is ok to go onto the Internet and lift photos of other peoples work. They then use these photos on their websites without permission. They either do not care or don't know the law, but either way, what they are doing is stealing....oh, and Copyright infringement.

As a visitor to this blog, I am sure you can easily see that I travel around the area taking photos of historic homes (and other places around the Twin Cities), then post them to my blog with a story about the home. It's what I do, and the whole reason for this blog, which is to educate locals and others about the great historic resource we have in Minnesota through our homes and buildings. Taking these photos takes time, energy, patience, and creative thought.

What many people fail to realize is that even though the Internet is public domain, the content is not free for all to use. The general rule of thumb (in this instance) is that once a photo hits a hard drive, it is considered copywritten. The photo does not have to have a copyright notice on the photo, nor a big C. In order to use a photo, one must obtain permission from the source. So for those people out there that "right click and save" and then use the photo, you are committing copyright infringement.

Any excuse you give does not matter. Taking something created by another without permission is wrong.

I could go into greater detail, but I don't want to clutter up my nice blog with a post such as this. I just want you to know, that I work hard to write this blog, so please do not steal my stuff. Simple as that.

If you want to learn more about Copyright law as it pertains to blogs and websites, please visit a great lady's blog regarding copyright law, Lenn Harley, for in depth articles on the subject.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Minnehaha Falls

A great place to visit in Minneapolis is Minnehaha Falls on the east side of town. The evening I took this photo last weekend was Prom night, so we had to find a spot around the prom goers getting their photos taken, in order to take a good picture of the falls.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Writing a Post Everyday...Does it Really Matter

I have been thinking lately how life is keeping me from blogging everyday. I used to write everyday the first year or more of this blog, but am finding it difficult to keep up. Business has picked up and so has life with two kids. There are some other successful real estate bloggers in town who write everyday, but I just can't post 30 times a month without staying up till midnight every night. I like my sleep, or I can't function.

I can tell my readership has suffered because of this. Google analytics tracks my blogs and lets me know how many visitors I have daily. Needless to say, my readers have decreased. Google has dropped my site in page rank just this past week. Oh, well, what can you do? Obviously, writing a post everyday does really matter if you want your blog to rank high in Google. If it ranks high, more people visit you and possibly come back to read some more. The more people who visit, the more Google likes you. It is a vicious cycle!

So I would love for those that read me to stick around and visit every now and then. Or drop me a line and let me know what you love or hate about the blog. Trust me, I miss blogging everyday, but never can find enough time to do it anymore.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spoon Gets It's Cherry Back

On Friday, the art piece "Spoon and Cherry" at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, got its cherry back, after a few days of getting a new paint job. I took this photo yesterday, which was hard considering the amount of photographers there and prom goers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We Need Your Help to Stop the Minnesota House of Representatives

Below is a press release sent to Minnesota Realtors regarding some important tax law modifications that will negatively impact homeowners in our state. Please take the time to read the below information and take action via the link below. All of us need to come together to protect our real estate market.

From the Minnesota Association of Realtors:

"On Monday, the Minnesota House of Representatives Tax Committee released a "delete all amendment" to HF2323 and added provisions that are negative for real estate in the Omnibus Tax Bill. Authored by DFL Representative Ann Lenczewski, it contains a number of tax law modifications that hurt all Minnesota home owners. We need you to review and distribute this "Call to Action" to your clients, customers, and friends.

BACKGROUND: The Minnesota legislature and many other state governments find themselves in a situation familiar to many Minnesota households – their expenses have outpaced their revenue. Whether it is your family budget, a business budget or government budget, when expenses are higher than income you have to make choices. Since 1992, even with all of the Budget Shortfalls Minnesota has faced, the spending has increased each and every year. In fact, Minnesota State spending has gone from $14.5 billion in 1992/93 to $34.6 billion in 2008/09 – that’s a whopping 138 percent increase.

To resolve the budget shortfall, legislators have a number of options: 1) raise taxes to cover the government spending; 2) reduce spending to equalize the revenue projected; 3) raise revenue and reduce spending. The House/Senate DFL plans focus on option 3 – raise taxes and reduce spending. Governor Pawlenty has proposed a plan focused on reducing spending and raising revenue without raising taxes.

HOUSE TAX BILL HURTS REAL ESTATE. The DFL House Tax Plan raises revenue by cutting a number of income tax deductions. Of significant concern to Minnesota REALTORS® and homeowners, the DFL House plan eliminates two major real estate tax deductions: the Mortgage Interest Deduction and Real Estate Property Taxes. The bill also eliminates provisions of the Relative Homestead Tax.

Elimination of Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID)– a feature of the tax code since 1933, the MID has helped numerous generations achieve the American Dream of owning a home. A significant public policy objective for decades, homeownership stabilizes families, neighborhoods and communities. The House DFL Tax Bill eliminates the MID for homeowners and replaces it with a "housing credit" for qualified homeowners. The maximum credit is $420, which is equal to 7 percent (7%) of up to $6,000 of mortgage interest paid during the taxable year. However, no credit is applied to the first $4,000 of interest paid. Therefore, a homeowner must pay at least $10,000 in MID in order to receive the full $420 credit. As an example, if a homeowner has mortgage interest of $8,000 in the tax year, the credit equals $280. ($8,000 - $4,000 = $4,000 x 7% = $280).

This provision hurts young families disproportionately because mortgage debt loads are highest when people are establishing their households. This provision changes the financial plans numerous families have made when purchasing a home and increases the financial difficulties many are facing during this economic downturn. At a time when housing is finally getting a financial foothold why eliminate a tax provision that has helped millions of families achieve the "American Dream?"

Real Estate Property Tax Deductibility –This public policy provision has been included in the tax code since 1933 and allows taxpayers to deduct property taxes paid from their income. The House DFL Tax Bill eliminates the deductibility of real estate property taxes at a time when local property taxes continue to increase faster than Minnesotan’s income.

Relative Homestead – If you own identical houses, with identical values, with identical tax rates you would assume you would pay identical taxes – Right? Not if the House DFL Tax Bill becomes law. In a provision of the bill, authored by a DFL legislator, families that provide housing to other family members will pay more taxes on the second home. The goal of the provision, as stated by the legislator, is to stop parents from buying homes for their college students. MNAR pointed out that this is a small piece of the overall program and instead the proposal will be hurting families trying to assist other family members who may have gone through job loss, divorce or other financial difficulties. Isn’t it better to have families provide for families instead of government?

These provisions have been designed according to the author to make the Minnesota tax system more progressive and to raise revenue to fill the state’s pending budget shortfall. Because real estate related public policy provisions of the tax code benefit the upper 50% of tax payers – Top 50% begins at $40,061 according to the Tax Incidence Study ( ). At a time when the housing market is beginning to stabilize, this House DFL sponsored proposal sends the wrong message to struggling Minnesota households.

The Minnesota Association of REALTORS® has a long and respected position that government, at all levels, needs to "Live Within Your Means." Just like families sitting around the kitchen table trying to make ends, Minnesota's legislative body should not be adding to the long-term financial burden of Minnesota homeowners. The House DFL Tax Bill penalizes families who have invested in the American Dream and provide for the backbone for stable communities.

ACTION REQUEST: To fight this unbelievable proposal we are asking that you take three steps:

  1. Please contact your legislator and let them know how you feel about this proposal. Please find attached a list with legislator contact information or use this link:
  2. Forward this email to your clients, customers and friends. Let them know what is being proposed and give them the web address above to review the bill.
  3. Go the extra mile and CALL your legislator about this tax bill. Let him/her know your concerns and how it will impact your clients, your family and your business. Let your Representative know that it is time for our elected officials to "LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS" by prioritizing spending and not raising taxes.
    You can access the bill summary (48 pages) at:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Newly Released Market Report from Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

The newest update is in from the Realtor Association, who actively tracks real estate market statistics like none I have ever seen.

"Hopeful signs of a Twin Cities housing market recovery carry on thanks to a combination of no growth in the spring supply of homes for sale and still-improving sales figures.

Helping to keep inventory down is slow new listing activity, a metric that has been sluggish all year. For the week ending April 11, there were 20.7 percent fewer new listings than there were during the same week in 2008. Pending sales are still trending in the opposite direction, up 21.9 percent in year-over-year numbers to 1,046 for the week. That's only the second week of 1,000-plus pending sales or more since May 2007. If these two metrics persist, the market could be in for some serious re-balancing.

With the Housing Affordability Index reaching 218—an increase of 40.8 percent over last year—it seems to be an awfully good time for buyers to get off the wall and on the dance floor...being mindful that 29.1 percent of the dance partners are lender-mediated."

Don't forget the Monthly Skinny Report video below:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring is Finally Here

I planted some pansies last week, as they are the first real flowers you can plant in the Spring that survive the cooler temps. Over on my garden blog, I have started writing on what is peaking out of the ground. Hopefully this drizzle rain of the last two will help them grow a little higher.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea Parties and the Media Discrace

I have to say, it is really disappointing that in today's society, only certain people are allowed to voice their opinions in opposition. After watching the news clip I have included below, of a CNN reporter cutting off a demonstrator who is just trying to point out why he is there, I have to say that I am just sick and tired of the media bias.

Journalism is dead. What we have instead are airways and channels of editorial reporting, where so called "reporters" give us their opinion and political beliefs on topics. Kind of like bloggers. We give our opinions and beliefs in matters, but we don't hide behind the belief of being professional journalists. Heck, I'm a Chemistry major for goodness sakes. English writing was never one of my best subjects, but blogging has helped me get better.

But back to the reporter. If there is one thing I have learned when working as a professional, it is that you NEVER cut someone off when they are speaking. And the second thing you never do is become condescending to that person when their beliefs are different than yours. Obviously, this reporter, needs to go back to etiquette school and learn some manners. Not that I do already, but I won't be clicking the remote to CNN anytime soon.

The last thing I will say is that I am very proud of those that made it out yesterday to show their disappointment and anger over the growing government and increasing taxes. I spoke with numerous family members and friends across the nation who went to their local Tea Parties, and everyone of them said the demonstrations were peaceful. Nothing like what was being reported by the likes of CNN.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Where Have I Been?

Well, to answer it, very busy.

Birthday Party
Sick with the Flu for a week
Closings and new Listings
Volunteer Work
Reading Books that have been on my shelf for a Year
Visiting Family
Waiting for Spring

But now I think I am back. Has anyone even missed me?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Minneapolis Advantage Loan Program up for Round Two

To all you home buyers out there looking to buy a home in Minneapolis, listen up, as you might be able to take advantage of the Minneapolis Advantage Program. It helps potential buyers purchase a home in neighborhoods beseeched with foreclosures. Last year was the pilot program and it went very well (see more below), and this year will most likely prove to be another huge success.

Two hundred loans at $10,000 each will be provided on a first come, first serve basis as of April 1, 2009. The funds can be used for closing costs, down payment assistance, or small repairs to the home, and if you keep the house for five years, the loan is forgivable. As with last year, only certain areas of Minneapolis apply, so you will have to be purchasing a home in one of these neighborhoods to qualify.

Income Requirements and Program Guidelines

If your income is less than $64,720 (less than 80% of the area median income), you may qualify for the following program:

  • Minneapolis Advantage Program – Federal Home Loan Bank, Guidelines

If your income is less than $97,080 (less than 120% of the area median income), you may qualify for the following program:

  • Minneapolis Advantage Program – City of Minneapolis, Guidelines

2008 Results for the Minneapolis Advantage Pilot Program

Last year, every real estate agent in town was excited to see the loan program offered by the City of Minneapolis. However the program was such a success, that before anyone knew it, the funds were all used up. Only $500,000 was available at the time, so 50 lucky home buyers were able to qualify for the $10,000 (just a quarter of what is now being offered). Here are some of the statistics for the Advantage Program in 2008:

  • 62% of the homes purchased were foreclosures
  • 50% of the homes were sold for under $100,000, and 82% were under $150,000
  • 80% of the homes bought were located in North Minneapolis
  • 78% of purchases were from first time home buyers

You can even see where each home is located by viewing this map.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Gardening Itch is Here

Now that we have had a couple of "warm" days (above 40 degrees), I have been out in the garden taking inventory of what spring bulbs might be peaking out of the soil. So far, some of my Iris bulbs are coming up and I can't wait to see if they bloom this year.

We have a lot of great garden centers here in the Twin Cities - Bachmans, Linders, etc, and it is hard to drive by them because I have that garden itch. Of course, they don't have anything right now except seeds. Speaking of which, my current indoor garden project is growing tomato plants from seeds. The first post for this year on my garden blog is my tomato experiment.

If you have that spring garden itch too and want to get some ideas of great garden centers around Minneapolis and Saint Paul, check out this forum, which has some locals give their opinions.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

To Walk or Not to Walk, That is the Question

It seems like almost daily that I hear from a seller questioning whether they should walk away from their home, or stick to the commitment they made to the bank. Across the country, thousands of sellers are potentially facing foreclosure, and many are just not sure if it is better to find a way to keep their home, or take the easy way out and damage their credit score in the process.

Sometimes I get aggravated by those who openly choose to walk away when they shouldn't, as witnessed in a post I wrote last week, but I do truly understand the whole ordeal. Today I read an interesting article from which looks at some home owners across the nation, and the dilemma they face....and the reasoning by their decisions to either walk, or not. It helps to put a human face on the issue.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lake of the Isles in Winter

I was showing homes last week around Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis and noticed the ice rink on the Lake, created by clearing off the layer of snow. For those of you who don't have raging hockey fans where you live (or frozen lakes, for that matter), it is quite a common practice here in Minnesota. Some people even bring hockey nets out onto the ice to make it more playable. It costs a lot to rent ice at a formal rink, so we just go and use the ice mother nature creates for free!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

the $8000 Tax Credit for First Time Homebuyers

I dove into the Stimulus Plan on the House Appropriations website to try and find out what kind of agreement the Senate and House of Representatives came to regarding the First Time Home buyers Tax Credit. Not the most fun reading, but extremely important to know about for any serious real estate professional.

Currently, a taxpayer who is a first time home buyer (someone who has not owned a home within the previous three years) was allowed a refundable tax credit of the lessor values of $7500 or 10% of the purchase price of the home. The credit was allowed for homes purchased between April 9, 2008 to July 1, 2009. However it would have to be repaid, interest free, over a period of 15 years, or recaptured at the time of sale.

The stimulus package modifies the current rules, but also keeps the following in place:
  • the tax credit phases out for individual tax payers you have a modified gross income of $75,000 to $95,000 ($150,000-$170,000 for joint filers)

  • tax payers can claim the purchase of a home on their 2008 tax return (thus the reason for the credit beginning on December 31, 2008), even if they buy their home, for example in January of 2009
The new agreed to provisions that go into effect December 31, 2008 and are:
  • extends the current home buyer tax credit for qualifying home purchases to December 1, 2009

  • increases the maximum credit to $8000 ($4000 for a married person, filing separately)

  • waives the recapture of this tax credit for homes bought between December 31, 2008 to December 1, 2009

  • if the home is sold, or ceases to be the primary residence, within 36 months of the closed date, then the rules of recapturing the tax credit apply (currently over a time period of 15 years)

The part that really stinks about the revisions is for the first time home buyers who closed on their home between April 9, 2008 -December 30, 2008. It appears they will still need to repay the tax credit of $7500 over a period of 15 years, just as originally written, and none of the new revisions will apply to them.

Don't worry though, at least you get a tax credit. We closed on your new home in March 2008, and even though we are only 30 days out for qualifying, no soup for us!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This Just in From the Minneapolis Association of Realtors

"For the week ending January 31, new listings continue at a lower level than seen last year, clocking in at 1,635—a 15.3 percent drop. Conversely, pending sales continue to raise sand with 673 recorded for this week's report—25 percent above last year. Basically, this is all welcome news. Having fewer listings on the market, combined with an increase in pending sales, helps to reduce the Months Supply of Inventory to 13.5 percent when compared to last year at this time—down from 8.9 to 7.7 months. This means it will take the current supply of houses for sale 7.7 months to sell (on average).

The Percent of Original List Price Received at Sale continues to fall, with the January figure of 89.5 sitting at 1.6 percent less than 2008. It's important to consider sales prices of foreclosure homes and how they affect this figure.

Our new Housing Affordability Index jumped to 202 in February. This is a new record and means that the median family income is 202 percent of what is necessary to qualify for the median-priced home. Again, we must consider how the sales prices in the lender-mediated market are affecting this figure, but we can say with some confidence that there are a number of very attractive buying opportunities in the local housing market. If we are able to maintain these trends, we'll be well on our way to killing the blues. And to this current market malaise, we'll be singing "gone, gone, gone (done moved on)."

Monday, February 9, 2009

Who are the Next Businesses to Fail?

I just read an interesting article which predicts the next 15 companies that could likely fail in 2009. While some of them are no big surprise, like Chrysler, who should have failed decades ago, or Blockbuster, who has been struggling ever since online video rentals have taken off (I am an avid Netflix fan), some are rather surprising.

Well, OK. Krispy Kreme is really not that surprising. They over expanded in the United States and stretched themselves too thin. Sometimes, staying small is the best plan for long term survival. But one that I was surprised to see is Realogy, the largest real estate brokerage in the country:

"Realogy Corp. (Privately owned; about 13,000 employees). It's the biggest real-estate brokerage firm in the country, but that's a bad thing when there are double-digit declines in both sales and prices, as there were in 2009. Realogy, which includes the Coldwell Banker, ERA, and Sotheby's franchises, also carries a high debt load, dating to its purchase by the Apollo Group in 2007 - the very moment when the housing market was starting to invert from a soaring ride into a sickening nosedive. Realogy has been trying to refinance much of its debt, prompting lawsuits. One deal was denied by a judge in December, reducing the firm's already tight wiggle room."

It will be no surprise to me if some real estate brokerages go out of business in 2009 and 2010. Many just over expanded and overspent during the fat years, and left nothing for the lean years. I believe that the local Realtor association has said about 15% of the agents in town have left the business.

The funny thing about this, to me at least, is it seems many people and businesses should have reread the Biblical story of Joseph. See Joseph could interpret dreams and when Pharaoh had one he couldn't decipher, Joseph came to the rescue and predicted that Egypt would see 7 years of famine after 7 years of feast. Their solution? Put some food aside during the seven years of plenty, so they would not suffer from hunger during the famine. Hmmm...there's a novel idea.

But so many businesses, including our local governments, saw the money flooding in and decided to build larger buildings, expand, grow, grow, grow, and were so blinded by the wealth they violated history, and are now paying for it. Cities in Minnesota are right now debating on whether to cut school funding and after school programs...because they are facing a budget deficit. You've got to be kidding me. I don't see them proposing to cut a few of those high paying government jobs.

Please, can someone answer how governments survived 5+ years ago, before the boom, on a budget, but cannot do it today?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Who has the Most Foreclosures in the Twin Cities?

The fourth quarter market data is out for the Twin Cities, featuring market saturation of Lender Mediated sales and inventory. The silver lining from all this data is that for the first time since 2003, quarter to quarter results has declined. In fact, the closing quarter of 2008 saw a decrease of 4.3% in lender mediated listings. Yeah, I know, not a staggering number, but I'll take it.

Want to know who has the most foreclosures? The numbers below are the percentage of homes in the specific area currently either in foreclosure or short sales. Take a look at the report to see where your area falls in the foreclosure mess.

Top Five Areas with the Most Foreclosures:

  1. Brooklyn Center - 65.9%

  2. North Minneapolis - 64.9%

  3. St. Paul - Central - 59.1%

  4. St. Paul - Phalen - 58.8%

  5. Big Lake Township - 56.8%

Bottom Five Areas with the Least Foreclosures:

  1. Edina 5.2%

  2. Minneapolis - Central - 7.9%

  3. St. Paul - Downtown - 10.8%

  4. Minneapolis - Calhoun/Isles - 11.6%

  5. Victoria - 12.5%

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Don't Lose Your Voice

Once again, I am recovering from some evil thing the kids brought home from pre-school. Let me tell you, it has been so much "fun". This one has been a real kicker...I have lost my voice and am going on day four of barely being able to talk. Talking to clients on the phone has proven difficult as no one can understand me. Add to that a transaction that has been trying to close for the last two months and I have to email everyone back and forth (talking is proving too difficult). Of course there are some, like my husband, who might prefer the lack of speech. Unfortunately for him, I can't hear that well either, so what ever "smart" comment he is saying to me is falling on deaf ears. Maybe this illness isn't so bad after all?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Braving the Cold to View Art in Saint Paul

I had some free time in Saint Paul today and thought I would stop by Rice Park to see the ice sculptures done a few days ago in celebration of the Winter Carnival in Saint Paul.

It was really, really cold and my hands were hurting after a couple of minutes. Kind of hard to take a photo with heavy gloves on. I can only imagine how cold the artists became while carving this beautiful pieces of art.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Will the Proposed Stimulus Plan Really Work?

CNN released an article today letting us take a peak at where the $825 Billion will go if Barack gets his way with the new stimulus plan he is pushing for acceptance. Looking at the numbers, I see a lot of items that leave me wondering how exactly they are going to stimulate the economy.

Take for instance the $10 Billion going to research facilities. Um, how is that going to stimulate the economy exactly? Or $500 Million going to better airport screening detectors? I guess I am just having a hard time seeing how some of these items are going to help. The only good thing I do see is some money going to help housing, but in the long run, it just isn't enough. I honestly don' t think any of this money is going to stimulate anything but our national debt.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Modular Construction in Minneapolis

In the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis, a community filled with historic homes and bungalows built in the 1920s, stands a recently constructed "modern" home. To say it sticks out like a sore thumb is pointless, but it is not so obnoxious that I hate it. In fact, the warm colors and use of wood take away some of the edge found on many homes with the modern style.

Located at 4221 Ewing Ave S in Minneapolis, the original 700 square foot home that graced the lot was torn down and replaced with a pre-fabricated modular building designed by architect Geoffrey Warner. It is comprised of four sections that were made at a factory, shipped to the homesite, and placed atop a concrete foundation.

While modern architecture, at least in residential homes, is not easily embraced in the Twin Cities, you can find it sprinkled about the metro area. This home, known as the WeeHouse, has about 2800 square feet. It was sold early 2008 for a price of $749,900.

Each Monday, I will be featuring a Minneapolis home that I find interesting. The Weehouse is the first featured home, so please visit often to learn more about home styles in Minneapolis!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Best Place to Get an Honest Design Opinion

I ran across an interesting blog this weekend that will take your questions and answer them. Written by designer Annie Elliot, the Bossy Color Blog talks about interior design and what to do about it. We all know the dilemma. You walk into your home, take one look at that white wall, and wonder what in the hell you can do to make it look not so white.

Well, we are all saved because now we can actually get some free advice, turning our homes from boring to posh with some paint and other design techniques. Like I said before, Annie's "you asked..." section, looks at questions posted by her readers, photos included, and finds solutions to their design challenges. I think I need to submit some questions for her myself!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's Fre-Fre-Freez-Freez-Freezing Here!

Wow! It is really cold today. I really don't want to go outside, seeing as my face might get frozen off, but alas, I must bare the -10 degrees and show a home later.

If you are moving to Minneapolis or Saint Paul from the southern states, today might scare you silly. Don't let it. It doesn't get this cold all the time. Just make sure you have all your winter gear, including a pair of long johns (thermal ware to some of you) and you should be fine. Of course if you plan on moving to the northern part of the state, near Canada, well, I think it is 40 below up there right now....see, that is even too cold for me. I'll just stay nice and warm down here in the Twin Cities.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Be Honest to the Listing Agent

The one thing that every transaction needs is honesty, even before anything is written on paper. Listing agents, well, some at least, put a lot of effort into marketing homes. Their time is very precious and worth money. So when a potential buyer calls them to request a showing, most agents will ask if the buyer is working with another agent. (Heaven forbid we get in the way of an agency relationship. )It is a well known courtesy, not to mention good manners, to inform a listing agent if you are currently represented or not.

However it happens every now and then that a buyer calls to inquire about a home and requests a showing and is less than honest about their situation. Just the other day I showed a listing of mine to a buyer who spent an hour in the home. I had asked my questions before hand to make sure I wasn't stepping on a buyer's agents shoes. But just as the buyer was walking out the door, he turned around and let me know that "by the way", if he decided to put in an offer, such and such agent will be sending it over to me. You've got to be kidding me.

See, the whole problem stems from the lack of manners. The buyer's agent should be the one showing the home, not me. Now I am OK with an agent calling me and asking if I could please show her buyer a home because the agent will be out of town. But I am not OK with an agent sending her buyer out to me, unannounced, so that I can do all the work. Trust me, there are plenty of agents out there that would much rather pick up a check then lift a finger or break a sweat, and they really annoy those of us that take this job seriously.

You know who they have met them plenty of times.

One reason you really need to tell another agent if you are represented or not, is the fact we agents are bound by ethical rules. We can't get in the way of another agents relationship with a client, or we might be found in violation of the Code of Ethics. No agent wants that headache.

Another reason is called confidentiality. If you walk into a listing without your buyer's agent, and start gushing out your life story, then the listing agent is obligated to tell the seller anything she might hear. Since no fiduciary duties are owed to the buyer, it is fair game on anything you say. However, if you had been honest about your representation, then the listing agent will not play 20 questions with you during the showing. Well, I don't at least.

Thirdly, time is money. Having to take time out to show a home, and then actively "sell" the home to the buyer, only to have another agent show up after the fact, really gets on a listing agent's nerves. Not only is it bad manners, but it wastes time, energy, and money. We all hate to have our time think about the other party before you lie about having a buyer's agent.

Trust me, it will make for a smoother transaction if you are just upfront and honest from the very beginning. So next time, please let the listing agent know before hand if you are represented or not...for real.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Outdoor Hockey in Minnesota

Throughout the Twin Cities, park after park has outdoor hockey rinks for the public to skate on and warming houses to catch a break from the cold. Rinks are usually open till March, depending on the weather.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Short Sale Does Not Equal Foreclosure

There seems to be a misconception out in the public, and among some real estate agents, that a home being marketed as a short sale will shortly (no pun intended) become a foreclosure. I hate to burst the bubble of anyone waiting for a home they really love to go into foreclosure, just because it is a short sale, but that will not always happen.

Short sale, in the simplest definition, just means that a home is being sold for less than the current mortgage. It has nothing to do with the owners ability to make payments, in most cases. Yes, there are those short sales where the owner is reducing the price to entice a buyer, before the bank forecloses, but many sellers in today's real estate market are selling due to relocation out of the area, downsizing, etc. Not every homeowner out there is having financial trouble.

Case in point, I had an agent present his buyer's offer on one of my listings recently. When the sellers refused to come down to the buyer's price, the agent asked me when the home was going into foreclosure and when the redemption period would start. I laughed out loud and simply stated that the owners are not going into foreclosure, and that the reason the buyer's offer was rejected was due to it being 20% below list price. Obviously, this agent was not well educated, or just had no clue. Anyway, it was good entertainment... most likely influenced by the media.

If you were to listen to the nightly news or read the local paper, you would think that 90% of the homes for sale are bank owned. Many buyers believe they can low ball every seller, because the media says sellers are desperate. Folks, it just isn't true. Just because it is a buyer's market, doesn't mean that sellers have to take any offer that comes across their table.

Now, back to the short sale. With the decline of market value here in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, some home owners who purchased in the last four years are finding their homes are worth less than what they owe. Some do not have the cash to make up the difference when the home sells, so the only solution is negotiating a short sale with the bank. They can however, still afford their monthly mortgage payments.

Bottom line: Don't get sucked into the trap of assuming a short sale, or low priced home is going into foreclosure. Usually, it just isn't so.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Make Sure You are on the Same Page when Purchasing a Home

When shopping for a new home, especially if you are a new home buyer, it is important for you think about what you want before you buy. One thing I have my clients do before we go house hunting is to sit down and make a list of the things they MUST have in the new home, and the things that would be nice to have, but don't really need if it came down to a hard decision. By going through the action of putting something on paper, a home buyer is forced into reality.

One reality often discovered is the fact that two home buyers may not want the same things. Take for instance a couple I worked with recently. The husband was happy with a home that needed a little work because the home was in a good location and would hold its value in the future. Any updating they did would only add more future value to the home. The wife however would rather buy a completely updated home and pay more for it now. Every home we entered was picked apart by one or the other. Needless to say, they were not on the same page.

It came to a point when I stopped the process and asked them to sit down at a meeting. I told them it seemed they were not ready to buy a home because they didn't really know what would work for the BOTH of them. If they cannot agree or compromise on the amenities they want, then what was the point of wasting everyone's time. Funny enough, they both agreed that a huge talk was in order. One week later, they came back to me with a revised list of "have and have-nots"...we found a home with-in a few days that both loved. Once they faced the reality of the decision making process, they found something both could live with.

In other cases, I have shown buyers what they think they wanted, only to find out it was the exact opposite. In instances like this, it works out really well if I show them two extremes in their price range, and then they can tell me which better suits them...kind of like telling them to rate a home between 1-10.

Here are some things to consider when buying your next home:

  • Location - many people just can't compromise on this, but if you can't afford the neighborhood or town you want to live in, then go further out to a neighborhood you like and can afford

  • Price Range - make sure you can afford the homes you view. Don't even think about looking at homes outside your price range that you could only afford with a low ball offer. It wastes every one's time.

  • Lot - think about if you want a large lot, small lot, trees, etc. Do you love to work in the yard? Do you hate to mow grass? Figure this out and you can greatly narrow down the homes to view.

  • Wood - do you hate oak cabinets? Now a days, many home buyers do and want different types of wood in the home. You will have to think about replacement costs for any wood you hate, or if you even want to go through the hassle. I know I hate oak and wouldn't even consider a home with these types of cabinets...unless it was for the right price.

  • New vs. Old - This is a big decision factor. In today's real estate market, new construction home builders are giving some pretty good incentives that rival resale homes. It could be a good way to go, especially if you would like help with closing costs as some builders are offering up to $7500 toward these costs.

So the bottom line is this, KNOW what you want BEFORE you go house hunting. And if there are two or more people involved in the decision making process, take a look at the reality of your situation and find a happy medium in which all of you can live with.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Final Entries in for the 2008 Magnificent 7 Best Consumer Articles

Back in February of 2008, one of my posts was featured in Larry Cragun's Magnificent 7 monthly contest over at the Real Estate Undressed blog. It was an article on how some home owners can't handle the truth about the condition of their home, and thus, blame the agent for an honest opinion.

At the end of the year, Mr. Cragun runs through all these posts and picks the top 7 for 2008. A few weeks ago, he posted the Nominee 7 for the month of November, and will be choosing the Final top 7 for 2008 winners sometime in January. Feel free to read through all the entries and see which Consumer Articles you find to be most helpful. I will let you know who the final winners are when Larry gives us the heads up.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Winter on Crystal Lake in Burnsville

I was in Burnsville recently shopping and thought I would pop on over to Crystal Lake and see how it looked in the winter snow. No one was there and hardly any foot prints were in the recently fallen snow. Needless to say, the sun was blinding off the snow so I used the trees as a filter.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Here's To a New and Better Year

Don't we all wish for the next year to be better than the last? I know I always do...and I make goals, both business and personal, to help keep me on track to having a better year. I think the real estate market will do better than last, though it will still be "sluggish" compared to years past. But keep your chins up...unless we strive to make our lives better, they never will be.

I look at my kids and wonder how they are going to change, how much they are going to learn and grow in 2009. Call me silly, but I find the unknown exciting. If I knew exactly what was going to happen to the real estate market in the next year or two, the challenge of furthering my experience would cease to exist and I would grow bored. Some things turn out the way we hope, and many others don't. But we pick ourselves up, keeping living and learning.

And of course you still need the humor and fun that goes along with life. I guess that is why, even though I like the unknown, I will still keep my magic 8-Ball around for those emergency, want-to-know future questions.

Happy New Year!