Barker and Hedges Real Estate Blog

Greening Minnesota ~ December 2010

With all the white stuff that has been flying lately, December has been a slow month for green news in Minnesota. There are still a few stories worth noting.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has filed suit against the 3M Co., demanding that it pay the cleanup costs for decades of pollution caused by chemicals that have seeped into the Mississippi River and the drinking water of communities across the eastern Twin Cities metro area. The suit was filed in Hennepin County District Court after months of fruitless out-of-court settlement talks between the state and Maplewood-based 3M.

Forty-six new solar-powered parking meters went online in downtown Minneapolis recently. And quite literally. The meters are solar-powered and use Minneapolis’ Wi-Fi to allow credit card payments, but also accept quarters and dollar coins. In the future, even more older meters, which have been in use since 1992, will be coming down.

About $1 million has been awarded to projects that will light buildings, parking lots and trails, power a drinking water well, and heat water for campground showers via solar energy at parks and nature centers around the Twin Cities and the state. The money is  funded by the clean water, land and legacy amendment approved by voters in 2008. A majority of the park and trails fund goes to acquire and improve recreation areas.

The Xcel Energy Foundation has announced nearly $465,000 in grants in Minnesota. The money went largely to local theaters and arts groups, but some went to environmental groups. It was part of $4.25 million the utility's foundation has doled out this year in the eight states it serves. In Minnesota, about $141,000 in environmental grants went to support nonprofit projects that focus on the connection between the environment and energy.

That's the green news around Minnesota. Have a happy and prosperous New Year and celebrate the arrival of 2011 safely!


A Perfect Storm Helps December Home Buyers

The weather outside might be frightful, but the climate of the Twin Cities real estate market is a day at the beach for well-qualified home buyers.

According to the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors, November's median home price in the 13-county Twin Cities metro area dropped 2.5% to $165,700 in November. Home sales declined 39.1% while pending sales, an indicator of future activity, were down 3.3%.

A report from Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors shows a small improvement on the housing supply front. It shows that while housing inventory levels are still increasing, the rate of increase has been tapering off. Active listings are down 9.6 percent from last year.

Additionally, the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller home price index indicates Twin Cities home prices dropped 2.1% from August to September. Among the 20 cities the index tracks, that drop was the second worst. Cleveland had the biggest decrease.

Finally, the snow from December and the holidays may become a perfect storm that continues to keep people from buying this month, further suppressing sales and home prices. The middle of this holiday season could very well add up to a primed buyers' market.


What $267,000 Buys in Blaine MN

Here is MLS # 3998015


This single-family houseis located at 913 104th Lane NE in Blaine, Minnesota. This 2-story home is a new construction home that will be completed in 2011. It has 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and 1,898-square-feet of space.


This beautiful home features a sleek gourmet Kitchen with granite countertops and Knotty Alder cabinets, maple hardwood floors, and ceramic tile. Large panels of windows and smaller windows in unique places allow for plenty of natural lighting in almost every room of the house.




The yard for this property includes sod and an irrigation system. The home has a two-car garage.

This new house in the new Blaine Haven Development could be yours for $267,000!

Browse more Blaine MN Real Estate


Super-Sized Homes Are Out, Super-Small Homes Are In

The American home got supersized during the housing boom. In the era of the McMansion, a ginormous house was a symbol of status, but to current home buyers they are the epitome risk and high overhead. Today's home buyer wants something a little smaller.

After decades of expanding, the average size of new single-family American homes completed in 2009 dropped to a nationwide average of 2,438. That's about 100 square feet smaller than 2007, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

"There's so much more concern about very big homes," said Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West, University of Nevada-Las Vegas. "People used to buy as much house as they could afford. Now they're saying, 'Even if I could buy that, do I really want to?'"

The recession and the availability of money is obviously part of why homes have shrunk. Smaller houses cost less to heat and cool, with the added benefit of being easier on the environment. Even those who can still afford supersized homes are scaling back. In the realm of real estate, Americans are trending toward valuing quality over quantity.

"We were bloated," said Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. "It made architects cringe, there was so much wasted space. There's a shift back to 'What do I really need?' vs. 'What will impress my neighbors?'"

Some people are taking the trend a step further and living in micro-sized houses. Tumbleweed Tiny House Company produces miniature homes that pack a range of amenities in spaces smaller than some people's closets for $40,000 to $50,000 ready-made. Alchemy Architects' prefabricated weeHouse concept, introduced in 2003, now represent half of the firm's business.

According to Geoffrey Warner, principal architect. "It's fueled our practice," he said. "A home...