Barker and Hedges Real Estate Blog

Greening Minnesota ~ January 2010

There are a lot of environmentally friendly projects getting underway in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota. And we're even saving all the rail news for a separate, future post!

Amid rising concern over the effects that road salt has on Minnesota's lakes, streams and groundwater, public works officials around the state are trying out new methods to spread salt on pavement, moistening rock salt so it sticks better, and working to establish a less-is-more culture, while also keeping motorists safe. The impacts are salt run rampant statewide after decades of dropping a pound of salt onto every 10 feet of highway without much thought. In addition to the environmental impact, money has also become a key motivator. The new techniques use less salt, costing cities and counties less.

The new Target Field ballpark for the Minnesota Twins will have a sustainable water system that will capture, conserve and reuse rain water. Minneapolis-based Pentair Inc. is building and...

Strange But True: You Could Own the School... Literally!

The Robbinsdale School District has to determine what to do with 7 expendable buildings. Members of the district's Divestiture Plan Advisory" Committee will meet with the public on Thursday to solicit ideas on how to put them to better use or sell them. The buildings include an elementary school in Plymouth that was shut down to save money.
Committee chairwoman and Robbinsdale school board member Sherry Tyrrell said possibilities include selling the buildings, putting them to some kind of new use for the district, or even razing them and holding on to the property until the commercial real estate market improves. Leasing them is unlikely because the district would still have to maintain the buildings.
In addition to the Pilgrim Lane elementary school in Plymouth, other buildings on the list include New Hope Elementary School, the old Highview Alternative School, the Winnetka Learning Center, and Hosterman Middle School, all of which are in ...

Twin Cities Home Builders Optimistic About 2010

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, there has been some activity in the local Twin Cities home building industry in 2009, making home builders more optimistic about the industry’s recovery. Though the uptick in activity is moving slowly, it could pick up some speed in 2010.

According to the Keystone Report, which tracks permit activity in the 13-county metro area, residential construction in the Twin Cities declined for the sixth year in a row  in 2009 as measured by planned housing units. Metro area cities doled out 2,599 permits for 4,405 new housing units, a far cry from the peak of 11,472 permits for 19,000 units in 2003.

But builders are encouraged by 2009's strong finish. In the last two months of 2009, the Twin Cities saw 523 homebuilding permits for 997 housing units, up from 365 and 644 in the comparable 2008 period. Residential permits issued in just December 89% higher than in the same month 2008.


Battling the Emerald Ash Borer

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has awarded $1.9 million in grants to cities and organizations to arm themselves in the fight against the destructive emerald ash borer.

The emerald ash borer was first found in May in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of Saint Paul. It has since been discovered in Falcon Heights and on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus. More than 100 infested ash trees have been destroyed so far.

St. Paul will get $723,000 to help manage infestation in the city. The University of Minnesota will get $200,000, and Falcon Heights will get $77,400 to fight the pest. The Agriculture Department also awarded $875,000 in grants to 15 cities and agencies to prepare for infestation, including Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Roseville and St. Louis Park.

The St. Paul City Council recently adopted an ordinance declaring the emerald ash borer a public nuisance, which gives the city the authority to inspect trees on private...

Twin Cities Real Estate Figures Through December 2009

A few Twin Cities real estate reports have come out recently for the area. They may all paint slightly different aspects of the picture, but together they give great perspective.

We'll start with the first report to come out. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index released at the end of December indicated that the Twin Cities home prices declined by .5% from September to October, which followed a 1.9% increase during the previous month. Overall, the report found that home prices in the Twin Cities metro area had dropped 8.4% in a year.

However, a separate report issued earlier in December by the Twin Cities Realtors association painted a slightly brighter picture of the local housing market. Their survey found that the metro area's $170,000 median sale price in November actually increased slightly from $169,000 in October. While $170,000 is down 3% from 2008.

A report from this month from the same group further ingrains...

Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour Application Deadline Looms

The application deadline to recruit or nominate a home for the Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour is January 21. Already 30 homeowners, neighborhood representatives, contractors and architects, have signed on and tour organizers have a goal of 50 homes. The Tour, in its 23rd year, takes place April 24 and 25, 2010.

The show exists to display what people can do to adapt and expand existing homes, so they can stay in the city rather than moving out to gain more space. It is a nice way for home remodelers to get feedback on what they've done to improve their homes. And it's a good way for enthusiastic homeowners to promote their neighborhoods in case people are looking to move into the city.

Need ideas for remodeling? Many of the participating Minneapolis and Saint Paul homeowners on this tour have mentioned gaining a few of their own ideas from previous tours.

For more information on the...

Strange-But-True: Minneapolis Assessor Contests His Home's Valuation

Many people were upset with their home's assessed values last year. Even Minneapolis' tax assessor wasn't satisfied with his property tax statement.

Minneapolis City Assessor Patrick J. Todd maintains his northeast Minneapolis home was valued at far more than it was worth when he bought it. He appealing to the Minnesota Tax Court to contest the value of his home, which was set by the office he heads. You read that right.

"It's one of those properties where the owner never called [the assessor's office] to say the value was too high," he said.

That's an understatement. He bought the 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom home as investment property in July 2008 for $90,000. On January 1, 2008, the home had been assessed at $166,500 with a tax bill for payable 2009 of $2,239.

The reason behind the discrepancy is easy enough to explain. City assessors don't usually set foot on every property every year. Assessment is done...

Minnesota Educators Honored

Minnesota schools aren't new to the news.  They make headlines in one way or another every year for their excellence. The first mention of Minnesota educators in the New Year has already occured! Two of our teachers were among over 100 who were honored at the White House this week.

Barbara Stoflet, a math teacher in Minnetonka, and Kari Dombrovski, a science teacher in St. Cloud, received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. It is the nation's highest honor for teaching in those fields.
Related Links

Data Post December 24, 2009 - Forced vs. Unforced Registration Test

Website Data for December 17 - December 23, 2009

Here are the numbers for this week.

Raw Data: (Unforced) (Forced)

 Total Visitors

 Unique Visitors
 802 912
 Avg Pages Viewed per Visitor
 Avg Time on Site per Visitor
 9 minutes 2.3 seconds 7 minutes 48.9 seconds
 Bounce Rate

Data Post December 17, 2009 - Forced vs. Unforced Registration Test

Website Data for December 10 - December 16, 2009

Here are the numbers for the 2nd week in December.

Raw Data: (Unforced) (Forced)

 Total Visitors

 Unique Visitors
 858 983
 Avg Pages Viewed per Visitor
 Avg Time on Site per Visitor
 10 minutes 45 seconds 6 minutes 10.9 seconds
 Bounce Rate