Barker and Hedges Real Estate Blog

Upcoming Twin Cities Real Estate Learning Opportunities

Upcoming Twin Cities real estate learning opportunities.

Buying Distressed Properties. Learn about buying a home that is vacant or condemned. The Powderhorn Residents Group, a Minneapolis nonprofit agency, sponsors the class, which is geared for owner-occupied homes, not for investors. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Free. Minneapolis Community Education, Henry High School, 4320 Newton Av. N. 612-668-1922.

Buying a Home. Overview of the steps involved, from the mortgage process to closing. 7 p.m. Wednesday. $15. Minneapolis Community Education, South High School, 3131 19th Av. S. 612-668-4326.

Community Land Trust. Learn about the City of Lakes Community Land Trust and affordable homeownership opportunities in Minneapolis. 6:30 p.m. Nov. 10. $5. Minneapolis Community Education, Henry High School, 4320 Newton Av. N. 612-668-1922.

Home Loan University. Learn about mortgages and the home-buying process. 7 p.m. Nov. 10. $15. Minneapolis Community Education, Northeast, 2955 Hayes St. NE. 612-668-1515.

Buying a Home. Topics include the best time to buy, tax advantages, financing and inspections. 7 p.m. Nov. 18. $15. Minneapolis Community Education, Roosevelt High School, 4029 28th Av. S. 612-668-4828.


Alfred F. Pillsbury Mansion

Alfred F. Pillsbury was the only son of Pillsbury Co. founder John S. Pillsbury.  Alfred was never excited about the family flour-milling business, however. According to local historians, he instead devoted his time to collecting art.  With a particular fondness for ancient Asian art, he amassed a huge collection of Chinese bronzes, jade and porcelain during his lifetime. Pillsbury was also a stamp collector, owned the first high-wheeled bicycle, and one of the first three cars in the City of Minneapolis.

By the time Alfred died in 1950, he had amassed an estate of $6 million. He left his art collections to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  The 900 pieces Pillsbury bequest to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts still form the core of the MIA's ancient Chinese, Islamic pottery and Chinese Qing period porcelain collections.

The English Gothic home in which he lived hasn’t been so greatly revered.  It can still be located at 116 22nd Street East in the Washburn-Fair Oaks Mansion District of the Powderhorn community of Minneapolis. The three-story, 8342 square-foot house was built of local Platteville limestone.  It was converted into a series of offices and later a boarding house. In 15 years, it changed hands four times.

Now with the loving hands of new owners Uri and Melissa Camarena, the Alfred Pillsbury mansion has been renovated and updated.  In keeping with its previous owner’s interests (and lets face it, the artistic nature of the Minneapolis – Saint Paul area in general), this private home moonlights as an arts venue.  About once each month, the Camarena’s open their home to host fundraisers for nonprofit arts organizations. They've also converted the former maids' quarters into a gallery to promote emerging artists.

The Camarena’s put a lot of work into the home.  You can read more about...

Fix It Before You Sell It?

The subject of many real estate-related conversations seems to be the number of vacant homes on the market.  Within the Twin Cities metro area and out around the rest of the country, foreclosures have increased the supply of available houses far past buyer demand.  To deal with the excess vacant houses, several suburbs are considering controversial policies which require home sellers to make repairs before the house can be bought. 

St. Paul began requiring vacant homes in rough shape be inspected and brought up to code.  Brooklyn Park requires that all houses be inspected and brought up to code before they can be sold.  Robbinsdale and Coon Rapids have had discussions on similar programs.

These cities are trying to maintain quality housing stock. At the same time, empty houses are falling into disrepair.  Investors are buying vacant houses in attempts to flip them, not bothering to undertake the necessary fixes.  People are buying houses at cheap prices without knowing that it requires up to $100,000 in repairs.  The effects can be devastating, on home owners and entire neighborhoods.

Often called "point-of-sale" ordinances, some people say that requiring repairs when homes are sold saves neighborhoods. Others say that it may keep home vacant by adding an extra step to an already complicated process, interfering with owners' rights, and burdening sellers. Opponents point to "truth-in-housing" programs are preferable, such as Minneapolis', which require an inspection for the sake of disclosure,...

The Emerald Ash Borer Threat

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is encouraging residents to take precautions against the spread of Emerald Ash Borer.  If you haven’t heard about this pest yet, the Emerald Ash Borer is an exotic beetle that attacks only ash trees.  The insect has already killed over 40 million ash trees across the country.  A considerable amount of damaged has occurred in southeast Michigan.  If allowed to spread, its effects could be similar to that of the chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease that devastated trees during the 20th Century.

The Emerald Ash Borer was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and probably arrived in the U.S. on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or airplanes originating in its native Asia. The Emerald Ash Borer was found in Ohio in 2003, northern Indiana in 2004, northern Illinois in 2006, and Wisconsin in 2008. It has also been found in parts of Canada, particularly, Windsor, Ontario.

Slowly, the Emerald Ash Borer creeps closer to Minnesota.  The bad news is that it can be spread from region to region somewhat easily.  Something as simple as firewood being transferred from a campsite can be a carrier of a creature that could destroy Minneapolis’ urban forest. More bad news is that there is no known way to cure the disease.  The good news is that the spread of Emerald Ash Borer can be delayed or minimized with assistance from people like you.

If you’ve lived in the state for a day, you know what is at stake here.  Minnesota has the potential to lose 867 million trees because it has one of the nation’s highest volumes of forestland ash on public property.  In Minneapolis alone, 200,000 ash trees make up 20% of all trees on public and private land within the city.

The Emerald Ash Borer kills trees over a period of one to four years. The adult beetles cause little damage as they nibble on...

First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit May Be Revised

I wrote earlier this year about how residents that purchased a home between April 9 of this year and June 30 of 2009 could receive a tax credit up to $7,500.  There is even more good news! Potential home buyers could receive additional tax and financing incentives in coming months.  It could come from either a post-election lame-duck congressional session or from the newly elected Congress arriving in January.

National housing industry trade groups are pressing hard federal officials for a second round of emergency economic stimulus legislation to encourage activity in the housing market. Though House and Senate leaders have not yet agreed on whether or not to hold a session immediately following the election, advocates would like to see action by the end of December.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is working on a plan for a more generous tax credit for home buyers, possibly ranging as high as $12,000.

The reasoning behind their push is pretty straightforward. The housing and mortgage crisis helped to trigger the current financial meltdown, but until the real estate market is put back on track, and the flood of unsold new and existing homes is decreased, a deeper recession could be unavoidable.

The NAHB also wants to make the new tax credit immediately spendable as cash for a down payment. This could be achieved through credit-anticipation loans from private lenders that would be repaid by buyers following receipt of the credit on their next federal income tax return.

The National Association of Realtors has its own proposed package to jump-start action on the real estate market. One of their proposals is to rework the current $7,500 first time home buyer tax credit enacted this summer by removing the requirement that the credit be repaid government over a period of years or when the property is sold. Under the Realtors' plan, the credit would...

Strange-But-True: A Different Sort of Lake Side Community

You’ve probably heard that if you buy a new home in a planned community, you can choose one that suits your lifestyle.  There are communities built specifically for families with plenty of green spaces and play places. Developments for active people have trails for biking, walking, and running.  Some neighborhoods are built specifically with seniors in mind.  Now there is a new type of community being built in Minnesota, adding to its 10,000 lakes.

Trophy Lake Estates in Center City, Minnesota, is one of three gated communities built around man-made lakes designed for water sports like skiing and fishing. Although new-home sales are slow, ground has been broken on a fourth “lake side” development in New Germany. The concept, which is popular in other states like Florida and California, is relatively new to the Twin Cities area, probably because we already have so many lakes.  But with all that lakeshore property snapped up, I suppose this as naturally the next step.

The developments are aimed to appeal to homeowners who want the fun of a lake cabin without having to travel long distances, spending money on gas. Additionally, it saves on maintenance, because one only has to care for a single property.

The development also has other features, like basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, play fields, and trails. The lakes are stocked with fish, so Trophy Lake residents can fish off the docks on their own shoreline.

tournaments on private man-made lakes in housing developments from Florida to California. He hadn't seen anything like it in Minnesota.

Specialty housing projects have been successful for golfers in the past. These communities, plus other “lake side” communities in other states, were the inspiration for the Trophy Lakes Estates projects.  The first Trophy Lake Estates, built on 66 acres in Glenwood in 2000, has 16 lots that line the shore of a...

Anoka's Historic Downtown District Project

Anoka city planners have a plan to try and draw more people to their historic downtown.  The city has partnered with Rottlund Homes on the $20 million Historic Rum River District project.  The plan will place senior condos and lofts along the Rum River.

The project will include two, three and four-story brick condo buildings with 92 units for people 55 and over.  Additionally, there will be two loft buildings with 100 units that will also house first-floor retail space. It is hoped that adding more residents in the downtown will turn the Main Street area into a prosperous commercial district.

The first senior condo building already began construction last month.  It will offer another housing option for longtime Anoka residents who wish to sell their houses but want to remain in the area.  This in turn will free up single-family homes in Anoka MN for young families and first-time home buyers to move into.

To capitalize on the development's proximity to the river, Anoka city planners also plans to build a park.  Riverfront Park will feature a fishing pier, walking and biking trails, and a playground.  What’s more, the downtown condo project will be just a few blocks away from a Northstar Commuter Rail station that open next year.

Rottlund Homes has not set a completion date for the project. It will be constructed in phases dependent on sales of the properties.


Dayton's Bluff Saint Paul Home Tour

A free home tour in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul will run on Sunday, October 26, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  Vacant homes will be the highlight of the tour.  People who would like to participate can climb aboard the home tour trolley and travel from place to place with ease!

Maps with the home information and locations can be picked up at the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council at 798 East 7th Street at the beginning of the tour.  Here, participants also can get coffee and hot apple cider.

Dayton’s Bluff is a great place to live.  It has a Historic District, great parks, wonderful people and very close to downtown.  Additionally, with the high cost of gas and the cost of living in general, homes in Dayton’s Bluff St. Paul are pretty much close to everything one would need.

Saint Paul Dayton’s Bluff spring Vacant Home Tour was a fantastic success, with about 300 people in attendance. Since then, eight of the twelve homes on the tour have sold.  This fall home tour will also have some great homes and great deals. For more information, call 651-772-2075 or visit

Upcoming Twin Cities Home Related Events

Here is a listing of upcoming Twin Cities home-related events.

Finding and Buying Your First Home. Topics include choosing a mortgage, first-time home buyer programs, government loans and negotiating the best price in a buyer's market. 6:30 p.m. Monday. $15. Minneapolis Community Education, Anwatin Middle School, 256 Upton Av. S. 612-668-2470.

Home Ownership. Overview of steps to take to buy a new home. Attendees will receive a copy of their credit report. 7 p.m. Tuesday. $15. Minneapolis Community Education, Southwest High School, 3414 W. 47th St. 612-668-3100.

Buying Foreclosed and Short-Sale Properties. Topics include how to find deals in the foreclosure market and negotiate with banks. For first-time buyers or experienced investors. 7 p.m. Wednesday. $15. Minneapolis Community Education, Anwatin Middle School, 256 Upton Av. S. 612-668-2470.

Home Inspections. Topics include what to look for when buying and selling and the Truth in Housing Law in Minneapolis. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. $15. Minneapolis Community Education, Anwatin Middle School, 256 Upton Av. S. 612-668-2470.

Mortgage Basics. An overview of the mortgage process. 7 p.m. Wednesday. $15. Minneapolis Community Education, South High School, 3131 19th Av. S. 612-668-4326.

Duplex and Multi-Unit Housing as an Investment. Topics include the tax benefits of owning real estate, how to find and evaluate property and how to do an investment property worksheet. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. $15. Minneapolis Community Education, Lake Harriet Community School, 4912 Vincent Av. S. 612-668-3330.

Minneapolis Rental Property Workshop. Topics include property management basics, working with housing inspections, tenant issues, risk of lead poisoning and Hennepin County Housing Court and mediation. 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday. $30. St. Mary's Greek...

"Your kids aren't THAT cute" and Other Things Your Realtor Won't Tell You

In the world of real estate, a seller has control over two things:  the price of their property and condition of their home.  While Realtors help sellers determine a price, many agents count on home stagers to deliver the "bad news" to their clients about the appearance of their house.


  1. "Your kids aren't that cute... pack the photos." 
  2. "Multi-colored carpet does not include stains."
  3. "Hummel collections are not considered focal points."
  4. "Toilet seat covers do not qualify as 'spa-like' accessories."
  5. "Mint green is not a neutral color."
  6. "Your dining table should never be used as long-term storage space."
  7. "Most buyers are not looking for Jeff Gordon themed houses."
  8. "No amount of scented candles are going to remove that odor."
  9. "Lack of lighting does not 'set the mood.'"
  10. "Crotch-sniffing dogs rarely make good hosts."
There is a lot of work that goes into properly preparing a house for sale on the real estate market.  This task is made easier by getting a professional evaluation from a trained home stager.   Stagers will identify the "red flags" that could hinder a sale as well as develop a plan that will make your listing stand out from the competition.

Home staging has been a secret weapon in the real estate wars, and it continues to win victories in the current makret.  Even though some Realtors may not want to deliver the bad news to...