Barker and Hedges Real Estate Blog

Greening Minnesota ~ November

Here is a round-up of some environmentally friendly practices and green space expansions being carried out in and around the Twin Cities metro area and Minnesota.

Power from a new 10-megawatt hydroelectric plant located along on the Mississippi River, just below the new Interstate 35W bridge at the Lower St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam,  will produce enough electricity for about 7,500 homes by the end of next year. The new $35 million plant is about 30% complete. Brookfield Renewable Power of Massachusetts, which owns it, will sell its electricity to Xcel Energy.

Members of the Pedro family, which had a longtime luggage business at 10th and Robert Streets, have donated the land to the city of St. Paul on the condition it be turned into a park. Trees and grass will replace the concrete and brick on one block of downtown St. Paul. According to the article, Carl Pedro Sr. left Italy for St. Paul in 1907 and opened his business, Pedro Luggage, in 1914. In the 1960s, the business moved into a building at 10th and Robert streets. It shut down about a year ago. There is no immediate plan or money for the park yet.

An agreement between Jeff and Hope Luedtke and the City of Andover will preserve 38 acres of the property through the city's first purchase under the open space bond proposal voters approved in 2006. The idea was to make sure that some of the city's open land would remain in its natural state, for the enjoyment of its citizens. The city and the Luedtkes hope to close on the $930,000 purchase by the end of the year. That would be a little less than half of the $2 million that Andover has set aside under the program to buy land and preserve it from development.

The 8-mile stretch of Nine Mile Creek running through Hopkins will be getting a facelift. Workers for the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District will relieve the creek of overgrown brush, soften the slope of its banks, line its bed with smooth river stones, and reroute it from a straight...

Data Post November 26, 2009 - Forced vs. Unforced Registration Test

Website Data for November 19 - November 25, 2009

It's now officially the "Holiday Season" so we'll see what impact that has on the weekly reporting for the last month!  For this week we saw nearly identical visitors and uniques on each website, but lower than expected lead actions (IDX registrations and inquiry requests).  This is likely due to the start of the usual "seasonal adjustment" for our local market.

Raw Data: (Unforced) (Forced)

 Total Visitors

1,222 1,404
 Unique Visitors
 1,030 1,136
 Avg Pages Viewed per Visitor
 Avg Time on Site per Visitor
 8 minutes 41.9 seconds 5 minutes 56.3 seconds
 Bounce Rate
 IDX Registrations 239
 Showing Request Forms
 Property Inquiry Forms
 Other Misc Forms

A Minnesota Thanksgiving

It’s turkey time. Hope you have yours on hand for tomorrow! About 46 million turkeys were eaten on last Thanksgiving Day.

For that, many can give thanks to Minnesota turkey producers! Minnesota produces more turkeys than any other state, raising about 45 million each year. North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, and Virginia round out the top 5 states.

Part of the reasons why Minnesota's 600 or so turkey farms are so successful is because of the close proximity of corn and soybeans. The state's turkey industry supports about 1,800 corn and soybean farmers.

Additionally, the University of Minnesota and the College of Agriculture and Animal Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine have helped farmers address the issues such as preventing disease and providing the birds with better diets.

When you overindulge in turkey and all the trimmings tomorrow, please don't overindulge in alcohol and then drive. Not only could you be placing the lives of yourself and others in danger, but DWI and DUI enforcement is has been increased in Minnesota over the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Strange But True: Skeletons in the Basement

When most people decide to sell their home, they take some time to spruce up the place for when potential buyers visit. They clear out the clutter, dust, sweep out the dirt, vacuum, and generally make it more inviting. It makes the home much more likely to sell. A house in Louisianna just might not ever be sold because of the sellers failure to clean out some of the skeletons in their closet. Or in this case, the basement.

A real estate agent showing a house in Gibson found about 100 human bones in a corner of the basement:

James Kenny, a forensic investigator with the Terrebonne Parish Coroner's Office, says the bones found Saturday were so old that dirt had saturated the marrow inside them. He says they probably are remains of Native Americans buried long before the house was built.

Kenny says he learned that the previous residents would often find bones while mowing the lawn or doing yard work, and would put them in the basement.

Half of the split-level house is on top of a circular mound, which parish officials suggest may be an Indian burial mound.

Now Louisiana state scientists will determine what will happen to them:

“Those bones have been out there since the 1800s,” said Gary Alford, senior investigator at the coroner’s office.

Gia Imbornone, a granddaughter of the home's previous owner and neice of the current owner who is trying to sell it, had a simple explaination for why the bones hadn't been handed over to authorities before:

“My grandma was a pack rat. She had those bones, and she kept them,” said Imbornone... “She just didn’t want to get rid of them because she thought it would be wrong.”

Even so, nearly everyone has at least heard of the Poltergeist movies. Some brave soul may want to buy this home, but it may take a while!

In the meantime, when listing your home on the market,...

Wells Fargo Partnering with Twin Cities to Reduce Foreclosures

Are you late on mortgage payments, facing foreclosure and have a loan through Minnesota's largest home lender, Wells Fargo? Don't ignore your mail.

San Francisco-based bank Wells Fargo & Co. will turn to the Twin Cities  for help in reaching troubled homeowners. Early next year, Wells Fargo and the two governments of Minneapolis and St. Paul will hold joint workshops where people late on their mortgages can apply to have their loan payments reduced.

Invitations to the events will have Wells Fargo's and the city's names on the envelopes and letterheads in the hopes of getting beleaguered mortgage holders' attention.

This is the first time that Wells Fargo has joined with city governments to reach struggling homeowners facing foreclosure. The partnership comes after the Mortgage Bankers Association announced that 6.98% of nearly 900,000 mortgage holders in Minnesota, or about 62,000 people, had fallen behind on their payments: A record high.

Wells Fargo isn't the first bank to work with the cities, but it is the largest. And it took two years and some urging from city leaders to get to this point. Read more about what it took to get Wells Fargo to the table.

The details of the program were vague, but this is what was printed in the Star Tribune:

There would be an unspecified number of workshops in which borrowers could apply for assistance through the U.S. Treasury's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), a program for reducing monthly mortgage payments. The bank has also agreed to help stabilize neighborhoods by identifying blighted properties and donating them to the cities or to nonprofit groups. On Friday, Wells Fargo presented each city with a $62,500 grant to help first-time home buyers with down payments.

So far, Wells Fargo, Minneapolis, and Saint Paul haven't set targets for how many...

Mortgage Delinquencies Reach an All-Time High in Minnesota

92,500 Minnesota homeowners are facing or are in foreclosure. The Mortgage Bankers Association says that roughly 62,000 Minnesota mortgage holders were behind on their payments in the third quarter, a record high. Loans in the process of foreclosure rose in the state and the nation from July through September of this year.

Nationwide, there are about 4.3 million mortgages that are at least 30 days past due. That's the highest since the association started tracking data in 1972. Minnesota ranks 39th in the number of delinquencies but 15th in foreclosures started. Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada lead the nation in mortgage problems.

The Minnesota Home Ownership Center, which provides housing counseling, is seeing demand for its services grow. The group counseled 12,000 individuals last year. They expect to serve 15,000 consumers by year-end.
Of concern to the state's housing experts is the shift from the bulk of troubled loans being the subprime variety to being prime loans -- a sign the rising unemployment is crimping the ability of some homeowners to keep current on their loans. Prime loans are available to borrowers who can prove their income, have good credit histories and who have shown that they pay their bills consistently and on time.

The number of delinquent prime loans in Minnesota climbed 5.17 percent in the third quarter compared with the second quarter and the percentage of prime loans in foreclosure grew 2.41 percent. Nationally, prime delinquent loans rose 6.94 percent and foreclosures grew 3.2 percent. The association's numbers aren't seasonally adjusted.
The trend seems to reflect of the state of the economy. People who have otherwise been able to make their payments are now being impacted by a decrease of income or unemployment. The effect the foreclosure homes may have on the market is to continue holding down prices and keeping inventory...

Data Post November 19, 2009 - Forced vs. Unforced Registration Test

Website Data for November 12 - November 18, 2009

The overall lead totals were down this week.  Visitors and Uniques were nearly identical to last week so I think we'll chalk the low lead totals up to time-of-year / approaching Holiday season.  What this does tell us is that we need a higher traffic volume to achieve our goals during a slower time...maybe a test for another day!  Here's the Data:

Raw Data: (Unforced) (Forced)

 Total Visitors

1,212 1,385
 Unique Visitors
 1,030 1,153
 Avg Pages Viewed per Visitor
 14.8 12.6
 Avg Time on Site per Visitor
 10 minutes 12.6 seconds 8 minutes 23 seconds
 Bounce Rate
 IDX Registrations 237
 Showing Request Forms
 Property Inquiry Forms
 Other Misc Forms

2 Twin Cities Art Fairs

There are two art sale events taking place in the Twin Cities area soon.

Weekend Art Fair in Minnetonka

Groveland Elementary School will host a holiday art fair Friday and Saturday at the school, 17310 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka MN. A portion of all sales will benefit the Groveland Green, Fit, Fun Playground. The playground, which was installed last summer, is designed for better access for kids of all abilities. Fundraising now will go toward a second phase scheduled for next summer. Hours are 6-9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. Friday night will be a preview session, with food and fresh cider served, and there will be an admission fee of $5 on that night. Admission Saturday will be free.

Edina Art Center's Annual Gift Sale

The Edina Art Center's annual sale has begun. It features one-of-a-kind items made by over 50 regional artists, including pottery, jewelry, art kits, ornaments, children's items and more. Decorative baskets, handcrafted recycled gift boxes, wrapping paper and gift tags are available for a donation. The Art Center is at 4701 W. 64th St. in Edina MN. The sale runs through December 23 and is open 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.


Data Post November 12, 2009 - Forced vs. Unforced Registration Test

Website Data for November 5 - November 11, 2009

Well, not much changed from last week.  The total visitors and total uniques are nearly identical and (unforced site) had slightly better non-IDX lead totals while (forced site) saw the same net total of non-IDX leads and an increase in IDX leads.  A few more weeks of testing and maybe we'll be able to make some sense out of these numbers!

Raw Data: (Unforced) (Forced)

 Total Visitors

1,220 1,415
 Unique Visitors
 1,048 1,214
 Avg Pages Viewed per Visitor
 15.1 11.7
 Avg Time on Site per Visitor
 9 minutes 58.3 seconds 7 minutes 30.1 seconds
 Bounce Rate
 IDX Registrations 660
 Showing Request Forms
 Property Inquiry Forms

Unique Homes ~ Bridge-to-Home Conversions

Nothing too big to report today, so today is a post Just for Fun. But it also may give you a new look at unique homes and creative architectural problem solving.

I can't quite remember how I stumbled across it, but I found this Radical Redesign: Bridge-to-Home Building Conversions. I could not believe that there areseveral bridges that have been converted into living spaces or vice-versa: homes and buildings that were designed to also be a bridge.

My favorite picture from the series is this one of a skinny stone house precariously perched on a stone bridge. It has been in Ambleside, England, for over 300 years. It is currently a store and visitors center.