Barker and Hedges Real Estate Blog

Greening Minnesota ~ December

Almost didn't make it! But here it is, the Greening Minnesota, December Edition. Here, you can read about new developments in the local community which contribute towards a greener and bluer earth.

First, good news! 35 Minnesota fish and wildlife conservations projects will be getting $3.7 million in grants next year from the Outdoor Heritage Fund - created when voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008.

Next, Bloomington has a farmers market. So does Richfield, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Minneapolis. But not Edina. As soon as next summer, Edina might just have a farmer's market if a proposal that's going to the Edina Park Board in January makes its way through city review processes in time. The proposed location would be Centennial Lakes Park.

Also in Edina, as construction starts on its new public works building, one of the earliest jobs will be to drill its geothermal heating and cooling system. 124 wells will be drilled 250 feet deep and a closed network of pipes snaking up and down underground will be sunk into the holes and connected to the building. This type of system has been around for decades but improved technology is making them more efficient in extreme climates such as Minnesota.

The water used at the new Green Planet Car Wash at Dodd Road and County Road 50 in Lakeville is extensively filtered and reused in subsequent wash cycles, reducing water waste per car from the 100 gallons used by the typical car wash to less than five gallons. The water is clean enough to drink by EPA standards, but don't worry, they like to save it for the car wash.

More dirty work to clean up the environment? Okay. From $28 million construction project in Shakopee is emerging a plant which will take what's flushed down the toilet from as far away as Lake Minnetonka and turn it into enough energy to save $1 million dollars a year. Shakopee has also recently authorized rooftop wind turbines...

Snowpocalypse Aftermath in the Twin Cities

Now that the holiday storm has dumped piles of snow on the Twin Cities, colder weather is moving in, which will make it even more difficult for public works crews to remove the snow and ice from roads.

In Minneapolis, streets are fairly clean on busier streets. High-demand on-street parking areas will likely have curbside snow and ice until it warms up a little. Some potholes are forming alreadyand may not get filled immediately.

In Saint Paul, roads east of Snelling are good, while those to the west are a little rough still. Some St. Paul streets were missed during the snow emergency because of new plow drivers. If your road in St. Paul isn't cleared soon, might want to let them know.

There is a bright spot amidst the storm. Officials in St. Paul and Minneapolis are praising residents for heeding snow emergency warnings called on both Christmas Eve and Christmas. The total number of vehicles towed in Minneapolis was 1,211, compared to the 1,651 towed during the snow emergency that started Dec. 9. In St. Paul, where officials didn't deploy taggers ahead of plows, amazingly only one vehicle was towed. (With all the colleges closed for Christmas break and many people traveling for the holiday, St. Paul officials decided to lighten up). 1,000 metro-area households lost power and more than a 1,000 vehicles wound up in ditches.

Additionally, it appears there were only 2 weather-related fatalities attributed to the 4 day storm, which is incredible. Driving conditions were challenging, but authorities believe that so many people were hunkered down at home with family that there were just fewer people on the road in general. Many made plans to either travel ahead of the storm or changed plans to stay closer to home.

Something fun and worth checking out is this time elapse video of 40 hours worth of snowing in...

Doomsnow or Snowmagedon? Regardless, It's Here

Will it be a white-out Christmas? If you've been paying any attention, you know that a snowstorm threatens to turn last-minute shopping and holiday travel into possibly dangerous tasks. The forecast indicates there could be the deepest Christmas snows on record across Minnesota and parts ot the midwest, with the storm already well started as I write this and expected to linger well into Saturday.

The storm is capable of dropping 16 to 22 inches from Iowa to the Arrowhead. The heaviest snow is predicted for central and northern Minnesota. The snow will likely be heavy and wet, so be careful as there will probably be a lot of ice on the roads. Wind gusts could exceed 20 mph.

Will it really be Snowmagedon? Will the Doomsnow hit us as hard as they say? Time will tell, but the weather forecast guarantees that snow emergencies will be declared in Minneapolis and St. Paul over the holiday weekend. That will require most cars parked on streets to be moved at least once or be towed away at significant owner expense. Though we have information readily available for Minneapolis and Saint Paul snow emergencies, residents of other cities will have to look up snow emergency rules for their specific community. No one wants to spend Christmas cash on getting a car out of the impound lot!

Keep warm, travel safely, and have a happy holiday!


Strange-But-True: Instead of Tearing Down, Donate Your Unwanted House

When the Schrank family decided to sell their Prior Lake home and property, they were horrified to find that the new buyer wanted to destroy the house and build a new one in its place. The Schrank's are now donating the home to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

But it had to be moved to its new site before a new family can take residence in it. That was accomplished last week by Otting House Movers based in Lakeville:

The 30-Ton house, 64-feet in length, 32-feet in width took up both lanes of traffic, which created quite the chore Wednesday.  Crews had to cut branches from the tree-lined streets, Xcel Energy took down low power lines and some street signs were taken apart.

It took 4 hours to move the house 1.5 miles.

"It's always exciting to get a house donation, especially as rare as a donation that involves a house move," Sharon Rolenc said, from Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.  "It will go to a family in very high need of affordable housing."

Habitat for Humanity say they have fulfilled less than 1% of house-moving requests.  The Schrank's house met their standards because it is energy-efficient and the move was close in proximity.  Because the house was donated, the new homeowners will get a discount as well.  A family will be selected in the Spring.

For people who are considering a tear down to build a new home, it may be worth consideration to call the local Habitat for Humanity and find out if it is possible to give the house to a new family.


Be Careful on Lake Ice in Minnesota

It is the winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night. Even as the days grow longer from here on out, the cold season has just officially begun. Because of the unseasonably warm weather we had well into fall, the lake ice in Minnesota which has normally frozen solid... really hasn't yet. Especially when it comes to lakes in the southern half of the state.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommends that there be at least five inches of ice to support snowmobiles or ATVs and more than double that before it will support a car or truck onto a lake. In smaller lakes, there is less of a danger and ice has likely been able to form thick enough to support some of these activities. But the ice is dangerously thin in many places.

Just ask Dan Fruechte of Swanville, as his manufactured fish house has fallen partially through the ice on Long Lake. Equipped with a flat-screen TV and stereo, the house was worth about $15,000 and has maintained so much water damage it is totaled.

Not saying everyone has snazzy ice houses worth tens of thousands of dollars, but what would have happened had he and his son been inside? It just goes to show, just because you see other cars or houses on the lake doesn't mean the ice is thick enough. Be safe out there!


Twin Cities Real Estate Statistics: November 2009

Heavy buyer activity and a dwindling inventory led to a strengthening of Twin Cities home prices in November. According the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, the November median sales price for homes in the Twin Cities was $170,000 - a slight increase from October. This mark is 2.9% behind last November, the lowest year-over-year price decline in over two years.

The median sales price of traditional homes (excluding foreclosures and short sales) in November was $190,000, down 15.6 percent from a year ago. Since a heavy share of buyers in November were likely first-timers who typically buy in the more affordable price ranges, prices in the traditional segment have been weighted downward. Foreclosures posted a November figure of $127,500, up 2.0 percent from a year ago, while short sales prices were at $143,500, down 15.6 percent from a year ago.

There were 2,987 signed purchase agreements in November, up 10.2% from a year ago. It represents the 17th consecutive month of year-over-year increases in pending sales. Closed sales posted a huge 67% jump from a year ago.

The Months Supply of Inventory has dropped to 5.7 months, the lowest mark since April 2006. Traditional homes have 7.6 months of supply, foreclosures have 1.4 months and short sales have 12.8 months.

Wow. 12.8 months? Just shows how rough the economy is right now, with jobs and real estate in turmoil. Those numbers could go up, while prices and sales god down, as home buyer activity will likely decrease over the next few cold winter months.

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Twin Cities Residents Riding the Rails

At long last, the Hiawatha light rail line is finally complete. The last planned stop, the America Boulevard Station located in Bloomington at 34th Avenue, opened on Saturday. And it opened ahead of schedule, as the work wasn't even supposed to be finished until January.
The $3.3 million station was included in the original plans for the light rail line, but its construction was deferred when the south end of the 12-mile route was redesigned, said Bob Gibbons, director of customer services for Metro Transit. Money to build the new station came from the Bloomington Port Authority, Hennepin County, Metropolitan Council and the federal government.
The new station is northeast of the Mall of America and a short distance from Bloomington Central Station. Three hotels, an office complex and large long-term parking lots are located nearby. The area is being redeveloped and Bloomington MN officials view the new station as a key component to the plans.
"It serves a section of the Airport South district that we hope will become part of a new residential neighborhood," said Larry Lee, director of community development for the city. "It's especially important for residents, but ... tourists and business people [also] have the option of getting around by LRT instead of riding in a car."

That vision of a community built around transit is already a reality at the Reflections condo development by Bloomington Central Station, Lee said. Many couples who bought homes there have gone from two cars to one and some are living with no car at all, he said.
The north end of the line was completed in November when a new station opened in Minneapolis at Target Field. That station also serves as a link for Hiawatha riders to the Northstar commuter rail line.

Speaking of the Northstar, Metro Transit has announced that 33,112 people rode the...

Anoka County Home Weatherization Program Expands

157 residents were going to receive weatherization assistance from the Anoka County Community Action Program. Now, thanks to $1.6 million in federal stimulus money, the program will be available to nearly 300 more. Additionally, workers will be able to look more closely at more clients' energy use than they've been able to in the past. This will enable them to find more solutions to bring a home's utility costs down.

Anoka County's allocation is part of $131 million in stimulus weatherization aid being distributed throughout the state. The federal money allows ACCAP to triple its client load and raises the average allocation per home from $3,000 to $6,500.

The program is available to county residents who qualify for federal home heating aid. The cutoff is about 200% of federal poverty guidelines, or $44,100 a year for a family of four. Those with the highest energy consumption generally get first priority because unusually high energy bills signal that something in the home is malfunctioning. After that, seniors have priority, then disabled residents.

"Before they have the work they're turning to us saying they don't know where else to turn," said Donna Mattson, ACCAP's housing services director. "They're having trouble with their bills; this allows them to put more money toward other bills. Their furnace is dying or has gone, and they're just in a panic."

Sometimes, workers are able to solve problems that had caused a real hazard. In one mobile home, the furnace had been out for a year, but the client had sky-high gas bills because she was paying to run a leaking hot-water heater. She also had been heating the entire place using space heaters.

ACCAP has added 16 full-time auditor and staff positions, and 15 part-time contractor positions to accommodate the extra money and work. The ACCAP's goal is to weatherize 450 qualifying families' homes by...

Data Post December 10, 2009 - Forced vs. Unforced Registration Test

Website Data for December 3 - December 9, 2009

We saw slight up-ticks for Total Users and Uniques on both sites this week.  It's a little surprising that we haven't seen a significant drop in traffic during what is normally a "slower time" of the year.  Could it be the extended tax credit?  Time will tell.  Here are the numbers for last week:

Raw Data: (Unforced) (Forced)

 Total Visitors

1,169 1,360
 Unique Visitors
 1,030 1,166
 Avg Pages Viewed per Visitor
 Avg Time on Site per Visitor
 10 minutes 3.7 seconds 7 minutes 8.7 seconds
 Bounce Rate
 IDX Registrations 244
 Showing Request Forms
 Property Inquiry Forms
 Other Misc Forms
 Call In from Website

National and Twin Cities Real Estate Reports for October & November 2009

In Septemebr, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Detroit led 20 U.S. metro areas for home price improvements, both with 1.8% increases, according to the Case-Shiller home price index compiled by Standard & Poor.

In October, home sales nationwide climbed to their highest level since July 2007 as first-time home buyers rushed to take advantage of an expiring tax credit. In the Twin Cities, pending home sales were up 34.4% from a year ago, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.

Now a new report from the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors shows that the median sale price for a home in the Twin Cities throughout November came in at $170,000, down less than 3% from the same month last year. There were 4,304 closed home sales in November, an increase of 67% compared with 2,577 sales during November 2008. The November numbers are yet another sign that the real estate market in the 13-county metro area may have stabilized. The median sale price has remained relatively steady during the past six months.

The Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors shows the total number of homes listed for sale dropped to 21,959 in November, down from previous months and about 20% less than a year ago. That's about a six-month supply of inventory for sale. A five month supply is generally considered a balanced market. We're getting closer!

In a separate report, the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors indicated that the median sale price for homes being sold out of foreclosure or through short sales was $127,500 in November. That is a 2% increase from the same month last year. The flood of low-price foreclosed homes on the housing market has sunk median sale prices for over a year. The median sale price for all other homes was $190,000, down 15.6% from last year.

What's more, we mentioned earlier that Twin Cities building permits and units were both up in November 2009 compared to last year. All in all, the ...