Barker and Hedges Real Estate Blog

Rain Garden Workshops

Registration is open for Metro Blooms’ rain garden workshops. The Minneapolis nonprofit organizes two-part rain garden workshops across the metro area.

Professional landscape designers and master gardeners teach attendees the best techniques for planting rain gardens, which are designed to capture and slow rainwater runoff. These low-maintenance gardens contribute to improving water quality in local lakes and waterways by filtering pollutants out of rainwater. Rain gardens can also reduce stream bank erosion and preserve wildlife habitat.

The 2 part workshops cost $10 each. Attendees learn about rain gardens in the first session. When they return for part B, they’re asked to bring a sketch of their property so they can receive help from the landscape designers and gardeners for their specific spaces.

The first session of the spring was scheduled for the Southwest Community of Minneapolis. Metro Blooms experts will be at the Lynnhurst Recreation Center, 1345 W. Minnehaha Ave., 6:30 p.m. March 16. More classes will follow soon. They fill up fast, so sign up now!

Visit the Metro Blooms website and register for classes at


Strange But True: The Igloo and The Ice House

The cabin fever caused by winter's snowy weather and cold temperatures seem to have inspired some creativity. An igloo in Ohio and a house encased in ice in Detroit are drawing national headlines.

First, Jimmy Grey, of Aquilla, Ohio, has been out of work for almost a year. To keep himself busy, he took advantage of the heavy snowfally to build an extreme igloo in his family's yard. The "man cave" has 4 rooms, 6-foot tall ceilings, and an entertainment rooms with a flat-screen TV, cable, and surround sound. He says when he has friends over, cold temperatures mean the beer never gets warm.

Next, two artists who have encased one of Detroit's thousands of abandoned homes in ice, hoping to draw attention to the foreclosure and housing crisis that has battered the nation. Photographer Gregory Holm and architect Matthew Radune, of spent weeks spraying water on the home for the Ice House Detroit project. The city's foreclosure rate is among the country's highest. View pictures of this eerily beautiful ice encased home. You can also read the Ice House Detroit blog written by the artists.

They aren't conventional, but they certainly are strange and unique. Stay tuned for the next "Strange But True."...

Twin Cities Real Estate Market Snapshot for January 2010

Even during the traditionally slow winter selling period, the Twin Cities housing market saw home sales prices increase slightly in January 2010 compared to last year. It is the first year-over-year increase in over 3 years. The number of houses sold remained essentially flat compared to January 2009.

"We've safely weathered the worst of the housing market decline, despite continuing worries about future home foreclosures," said George Karvel, a real estate professor at the University of St. Thomas.

The Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors reported the January median sale price to be $157,000, a 1.3% increase. That was the first time since July 2006 that the median sales price was higher than previous year, according to the Realtors association. Though the 1.3% isn't a vast increase and it doesn't mean that the Twin Cities real estate market has for sure bottomed out or had a reversal, it is still welcome news.

MAAR indicated the rise in the median selling price was entirely due to "lender-mediated" sales, meaning foreclosures and short sales. The average lender-mediated selling price was up 3.3%, to $125,000, while the median value of traditional homes sales was down 7.9%, to $198,000.

The Realtors association also pointed to future risk factors in the housing market, including unemployment and foreclosures., Though foreclosures were down in 2009, it's still too soon to tell how many are in the pipeline for 2010. Additionally, the end of the federal home buyer tax credit could affect the home sale rate. If the credit isn't extended again, it will expire on April 30. It's getting to be crunch time, so if you want to take advantage of the first time home buyer credit, you need to be into the process by now.

In related news, the extension and expansion of housing tax credits has likely contributed to an increase in building permits in January. Residential...

Minneapolis and Saint Paul CityLiving Program Revived

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman have jointly announced that $41 million in new funding has been pumped into the CityLiving Program. CityLiving assists first time homebuyers with purchasing homes in either city.

The CityLiving Program offers below-market interest rates on mortgages in addition to help with down payments and closing-costs. Hmebuyers’ household income cannot exceed $92,290 and the purchase price for a single-family home can’t be greater than $276,870 in order to quality for the funding.

“More people owning homes in Minneapolis and Saint Paul means more prosperity, more civic engagement and more vitality in our Minnesota’s core cities — and that’s good for everyone,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak in a statement. “For nearly 30 years, Minneapolis and Saint Paul have worked together through the CityLiving program to help 30,000 first-time homebuyers enjoy the benefits of city life.”

In addition to the $41 million, each city has $500,000 available for assistance with down payments and closing costs.

The CityLiving program is funded through bonds sold by the cities. Though the CityLiving initiative has been around for 30 years, it was not available last year because the credit crunch prevented the cities from selling the necessary bonds.

Read more about the CityLiving Program in Minneapolis and CityLiving Program in Saint Paul.


Get to NOMI - Valentine's Day Home Tour in Minneapolis

Twin Cities house hunters may not know that there is affordable housing as well as plenty of parks, new restaurants and other amenities to be found in north Minneapolis' Camden and Northeast communities. A group of residents has been working to change that perception by starting a grass-roots neighborhood campaign called Get to NOMI to attract prospective buyers by promoting the area's positive attributes. NOMI stands for North Minneapolis.

Joel Breeggemann, co-founder of Get to NOMI and a home owner in the Webber-Camden neighborhood, says "We want to show people that these neighborhoods are just as desirable as others in Minneapolis and St. Paul."

The group has organized a Valentine's Day, self-guided tour of 20 houses currently on the market in several north Minneapolis neighborhoods. The homes are a mix of foreclosures and owner-occupied residences that range in price from $99,000 to $249,000.

"It's a perfect opportunity to scoop up deals that are still available," Breeggemann said.

The homes are available for the tour from Noon to 3 p.m. on February 14. There is also a "Meet and Greet" being held before the tour where interested buyers can talk to residents. That is taking place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the 42nd Avenue Station coffee shop, 4171 Lyndale Av. N. This is also the location to pick up tour maps.


Related Links

Strange But True: Own a Piece of Minneapolis Skyway

An 83-foot piece of the Minneapolis skyway has been taken down from the sky and put up on the market. It could be yours for just $49,500.

This section of skyway was built in the late 1970s and spanned across 5th Street. It connected J.C. Penney and Powers department stores, which closed in the mid-1980s. Powers was leveled in 1993, and instead of taking down the skyway, it just sort-of dead-ended on the other side of the street. When light rail came, the skyway segment needed to go.

Minneapolis architect Ben Awes and his City Desk Studio partners offer in a Craigslist ad an array of possibilities for the 1,380-square-foot structure, all 140 tons of it sitting behind TCF Bank Stadium: office, bridge over a creek, ice rink warming house, etc.

"The one we are most excited about right now is a Minnesota State Fair booth," Awes said Thursday, two days after posting the ad with a starting price of $49,500. "Can't you imagine the Skyway Pronto Pup?"

It's made of steel, glass and concrete and it has duct work and lighting still in place. Some suggestions offered by the CraigsList ad include skating warming house, hunting lodge, or a cabin.

"Frankly, considering what cabins can cost on the North Shore," Awes said, "you can have the ultimate modern building on a world-class location."

There sure have been a lot of strange real estate stories lately. Really hope we get to find out how this skyway will be used in the future. This is the fourth time this particular section of skyway has been up for sale. Check out the article for the Craigslist link.


Edina High School a Silver Medal School - Again!

U.S. News and World Report magazine recently named Edina High School a silver medalist school based on students' performance on state assessment tests and readiness for college. This is the second consecutive year Edina has been named a silver medalist school. High schools that receive a silver medal ranking are in the top 2% nationwide.

Edina High School was just out of reach of the gold medalist category, which includes schools with the top 100 scores in the nation. However, the school had a college readiness score of 58.2, the highest of any Minnesota school.  Minnesota did not have any schools representing the gold category.

U.S. News and World Report considered 21,786 high schools in 48 states plus the District of Columbia. To determine it's list of top-performing schools, the magazine reviewed state assessment data in reading and math. To make the cut, schools had to prove that their entire student body performed well, not just a few students. Just 1,750 schools qualified for the next level. 100 of those were gold ranked, 461 were ranked in the silver category, and 1,189 schools were ranked in the bronze category.

"This is a very thorough analysis of school performance and participation," said Superintendent Ric Dressen. "It's a great accomplishment and speaks to the success of our entire K-12 system."

Edina High School is also consistently ranked as one of the top 100 schools in the nation by Newsweek. In 2008, it received a ranking of 91 and was the only Minnesota school to make the top 100. View the list of other Minnesota high schools with silver rankings.

Edina MN isn't satisfied, though, and is working towards giving it's students an even better education. 150 students at South View Middle School in Edina have been taking part in a pilot program designed to give each student a laptop to use at school and home for schoolwork. The goal is to increase...

Strange But True: Home to be Raffled Off for Charity

For $50, a raffle ticket, and a little bit of luck, a 7,400-square-foot, 7 bedroom mansion in Athens, Ohio, could be yours. And a new car, and utility and taxes paid for 5 years.

Sometimes referred to as "the castle house," the 80-year-old estate is being raffled off by owners, Dr. Ernest de Bourbon and his wife, Jennifer, to raise money for local nonprofit May the World Dance, which helps poor children with obesity and related health problems. The contest, billed as the "Ultimate Life Makeover," is designed to revolutionize the life of the winner, who will be announced July 4.

The winner -- to be chosen through a drawing -- will receive the title to the house, a new car valued at less than $20,000 and money to pay the income tax on the house. In addition, five years of utility bills and property taxes will be covered, provided that the winner lives in the house for those five years and maintains the original integrity of the home.

"It is a life-changing event, which is what we wanted it to be," Dr. de Bourbon said.

Tickets are obtainable by buying $50 in goods or services from Artemis Laser & Vein Center in Dublin, Ohio, by donating $50 to the charity, or by providing four hours of service to the charity. Minnesota residents willing to relocate to Ohio would probably just want to make the donation. And if you win, could we be your seller representative? Just sayin'. ;)

More about this amazing house:

The home, which the Athens County auditor values at about $500,000, was completed by prominent Athens businessman D.R. Zenner in 1930. It presides over an east Athens street like something out of The Canterbury Tales.

In fact, the Chaucer stories are depicted in a series of stained panels on the home's lead-glass windows. Otherwise, the house is all dark oak, heavy timbers, limestone and arches.

The living room features a mantle imported from England,...

Eagan Takes a Preemptive Strike Against Emerald Ash Borer

Eagan is striking a preemptive blow against the emerald ash borer. The city's weapons of choice? An $89,000 grant and some chainsaws.

Come spring time, Eagan city workers will be evaluating boulevard trees and removing any that have defects which could make them attractive to the emerald ash borer. If a tree is deemed vulnerable, the resident will get an offer for a city worker to remove it to help stave off the nasty beetle. Residents with vulnerable trees on their property, provided they're on boulevards where the city has the right-of-way, will be able to get replacement trees free. The types of trees to be offered are hackberry, honeylocust, bicolor oaks and Kentucky coffee trees.

Minneapolis, Saint Louis Park, and Eagan MN received the 3 largest of 15 grants awarded by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture from the Outdoor Heritage Fund and the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment approved by Minnesota voters in November 2008. Cities that have found the beetles, including St. Paul, are receiving bigger grants to battle the ash borer.

"We don't have it yet," added Paul Olson, Eagan's superintendent of parks, "but this is a lot like controlling a major forest fire with a firebreak. We'll be taking out high-risk ash trees, but also using insecticide trunk injections to preserve high-quality ash trees."

Eagan has already taken an inventory of its trees, identifying about 100 that are at currently at risk and need to be removed. About 20 ash trees on boulevards will be treated with pesticides for protection. Eagan has a total of 3,600 ash trees in the city right of way.

The grant covers only the boulevards. Private homeowners can pay for their own protection or removal, but city officials will come out and help assess risks and any possible infestation....