Barker and Hedges Real Estate Blog

Home Staging - Size Does Matter

Adding art requires more consideration than picking between a nail or a screw.  

When selling a home, proportion and placement of home accents are just as important as choosing the style.  Improper placement of an art piece will cause focal point confusion; furthermore, choosing decor that is out-of-scale with the space will leave buyers questioning the quality of the home.  Take a look at the examples below:

Many amatuer decorators are under the impression that art work needs to be hung at eye-level; the problem with that theory is that what is eye-level for you isn't necessarily eye-level for the buyer.

In the photo to the left, the art pieces (hung at eye-level) leave too much space between the pieces and the furniture.  The phenomenon is called "floating art syndrome," and this room suffered from a double case with breakouts on both walls.

The perscription for this "illness" is to reduce and lower.  The photo below shows how the artwork has been condensed to the focal point of the room and lowered to create a more intimate atmophere.  (Dr. KFM has cured the patient, and this house is now sold!)

The next example (to the right) shows a bedroom with art work that is too small for the space.  Ignoring all the other obvious flaws displayed in the picture, this relatively small art piece is dwarfed by the king-sized bed.   If you thought the corrective measure would be to add a larger art piece, you would be right...

10 Tips for First Time Sellers

Last week, I wrote a lot of content to help first time home buyers prepare to buy their first home.  I provided information about “hidden costs” of owning your own home, budgeting tips for first time home buyers, and information on how people with bad credit can still purchase a home.  But sellers are important, too.  More to the point, what if you’re a first time home seller?  With inexperience and a sluggish real estate market making headlines nationwide, I could understand why selling a home for the first time could seem daunting. Here are some tips especially for those who may be trying to sell a home for the first time.
  1. It Can Be Done. Some 5.25 million existing homes were sold in 2001. 5.65 million existing home were sold even in 2007, the fifth highest year on record, though that was 12.8% short of the 6.48 million sold in 2006.  Even in this down market, other owners have sold their homes and you can, too!
  2. Don’t Go It Alone.  Though you knew it was important to have representation when you bought the house, it’s especially important to have a Realtor looking out for your best interests when you sell a home.  After all, it is your equity. And don’t just choose your cousin or best friend from high school, who happen to be Realtors, sell your house.  For your home sale to truly be successful, you must have a strong negotiator in your corner to help you get the both the best price and terms. This takes some research and interviewing multiple real estate agents until you find the right one for you.
  3. Times Have Changed. If it has been a while since you purchase your home, know that today's real estate market is a radically different place. Potential home buyers are very informed through use of the Internet,...

Bad Credit? You Can Still Own a Home

This week, I’ve been writing articles to help first time home buyers.  On Tuesday, I wrote about the hidden costs of ownership and yesterday, I wrote about budgeting tips to help you get into, and keep, that first home.  But what are you supposed to do if you have bad credit and you want to buy a home?  It would be great if every person in the U.S. who wanted to buy their first home could just be approved for a low-interest loan immediately. That’s not how it works though, as not every first time home buyer has good credit and a high score.

Don’t despair, though, there are still ways for people with bad credit to accomplish the American Dream of buying a home.  While having bad credit will mean that some first time home buyer programs will be unavailable, there are others which are still a good possibility.  Whether or not these programs are a good option for you will depend on the status of your individual credit situation.

Basically, the options of first time home buyers can be reduced to these two options.

You can buy a house now through Housing and Urban Development (HUD) first time home buyer loan programs From the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).  These programs should be the first place a potential first time home buyer with bad credit should look.  FHA first time home buyer programs guarantee loans through normal, local mortgage lenders with a reasonable interest rates and just a 3% down payment.  Additional information regarding Federal First Time Home Buyer Programs can be found here and here.

There are also local and regional first time home buyer programs for which individuals may qualify.  Some counties and cities within Minnesota have their own grant and loan programs for first time home buyers, including Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, and Anoka County. ...

10 Budgeting Tips for First Time Home Buyers

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the hidden costs of home ownership that first time home buyers might not have thought about.  It wasn’t meant as a discouraging article, it was meant to enlighten potential first time home buyers so they know what is in store for them.  Today, I’m going to give some budgeting tips to go along with those costs.  Following these tips could help first time home buyers reign in spending so they can buy the home they want and take good care of it.

Recognizing spending habits and making a budget is vital for first time home buyers.  The responsibility of owning a home requires good money management skills and control over impulsive spending.  For first time home buyers, creating a budget is the first step in saving money for a down payment before a home is bought and keeping ahead of finances after purchase.  Additionally, if a first time home buyer runs into financial difficulty, knowing how to properly budget can mean the difference between keeping that first home or losing it. Here are some budgeting suggestions for people seeking to buy their first home.

  1. When you create your budge, include all of your income and all your expenses. Plan your budget according to what your income is now, not what you expect it to be.
  2. Don’t copy someone else’s budget, their spending plan isn’t going to help your situation. Develop a spending plan specifically suited to your family’s or your individual income, expenses, necessities, and future needs and goals.
  3. Do what you can to plan ahead for the whole year.  By having this long view, you will you have sort of a “road map” to where you are going financially.  Having an extended budget will also help you determine how well you are following your budget plan.
  4. Take the time...

The Hidden Costs of Home Ownership

I’m going to write a few posts about important things first time home buyers should know before they take the leap into buying a home.  If you are considering purchasing a home in the Twin Cities area, there are things to understand or do which can make transitioning into home ownership much easier.  Additionally, simply having as much helpful information as possible could help you keep your first home once you have it.

First, as the title of this post suggests, I’m going to talk about the hidden costs of home ownership which a first time home buyer may not   Owning a home has been touted as the American dream for generations.  Because dreams are supposed to be perfect, the liabilities of owning a home don’t tend to be talked about.  Though buying a home offers advantages like housing security, tax advantages, and ultimately, no more housing payments after it’s paid off, if you are considering buying a home for the very first time there are some things you should consider first.  It is a mistake to believe that a mortgage equal to how much you pay for rent is all that is needed to become a homeowner.  Here are some costs of home ownership you might not have thought of which may impact the size of your mortgage, and the size of your home!

Appliances Most rental units have basic, necessary appliance like refrigerators and stoves installed.  Lucky renters may even have a dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer.  When you buy a home, unless the previous owner agreed to leave their appliances in the home, it is your responsibility to buy these items.  Some new homes have appliances installed, but even if you buy new construction, you will most likely need to purchase the necessary large appliance.  That being said, if the home you buy comes with all the needed appliances, they will break down eventually.   When...

Strange But True: Eat, Drink & Buy a House

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a while, as evidenced by my resource-article’s age of nearly one whole month!  That’s okay, as I recall there was another “Strange But True” around that time as well.  I didn’t want them to appear too closely to each other.  So, without much more delay, I’ll get to this Strange But True real estate related story.

As evidenced recently by our Minneapolis and St. Paul market analyses, the number of homes on the Twin Cities real estate has been pretty high in comparison to how many closed sales have been occurring.  Particularly, there have been an unusually high number of upper-bracket homes for sale out there.  Homes are also spending a lot longer on the market on average before they finally sell.  In this kind of atmosphere, doing all that is possible to make a home stand out amongst the rest may mean the difference between the house selling quickly and it languishing on the market for a while.

This brings me to the point of this post: real estate soirees.  Brunches, cocktail parties and progressive dinners that showcase a luxury property have become increasingly popular as a marketing strategy.  These events can vary from simple wine-and-cheese affairs to elaborate garden parties.  This non-traditional style of open house are not only taking place in the Twin Cities, but all across the United States. Agents who host the gatherings hope that by inviting influential business associates, neighbors and other agents, they'll be able to attract more attention to the house and in turn sell it more quickly.  Maybe even for a higher price than originally anticipated!

Last month (when the article...

Home Staging Tips for Fall

The transition from summer to fall signifies more than just back to school and football.  Individuals who are selling a house should use the changing of the seasons to re-evaluate the showing condition of their home. Home Staging Tips for Fall:
  • Curb Appeal:  Don't be too eager to winterize the lawn mower.  Even in cool weather, regular yard care should be exercised; a lush, manicured yard translates into a well-cared for home.  Be sure to cut back dead or dying perenials and replace with fall blooms such as mums.  Fallen leaves, sticks, and other yard debris should be gathered and moved to a compositing collection site.
  • Fall Decorations:  Both indoors and out, keep your fall decorations to a tasteful minimum.  Setting out too many (or too large) yard displays will not only decrease the visual size of your yard, but it will distract the buyers from what they really should be focusing on... your home.  Instead of setting up your impromptu grave yard for the kiddies, use neutral fall decor (such as pumpkins and small hay bales) that appeals to the adult buyer.  (see photo below)
  • Seasonal Scents:  Nothing conjures up warm memories of family better than the sweet, spicy scents of fall.  However, using artificial sprays may irritate some buyers; and lighting scented candles for showings can be a fire hazard.  Natural scents such as freshly baked spice cookies or simmering apple cider adds a fresh aroma without overpowering the buyer.
Making the effort to update your listing during the change of seasons will ensure that your home remains fresh and therefore attracts a greater number of buyers. KFM Staging & Design is a Minnesota home staging company that has been creating "First Impressions that Sell" in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and surrounding communities. ...

New Dog Park in the Twin Cities

South St. Paul opened its first off-leach dog park last month.  The 6.3 acre site along the Mississippi River used to be a demolition landfill. The dog park is the first in northern Dakota County.

The park itself is part of South St. Paul's long-term plan to transform the former 87-acre Port Crosby industrial landfill into a recreational area which has been named Kaposia Landing.  The city purchased the former landfill for $1 million in 1999 and secured $4.5 million from the Legislature between 2004 and 2006 to prepare the area. Cleanup involved clearing trees and brush and then covering all 70 acres with 526,000 cubic yards of fill dirt.

As a result, the park is wide open and ideal for dogs that need to run. The park is enclosed by a 4-foot fence and has two shelters and two disposal stations for dog waste.  Another $6 million would be needed to carry out South St. Paul's long-term vision for Kaposia Landing, which include plans for ball fields, volleyball and bocce ball courts, an outdoor performing arts area, picnic areas and river overlooks

The City of South St. Paul is asking dog owners to buy a $20 annual membership that will go toward maintenance and help officials compile a database of dog owners. Eventually, the database could be used as a way to notify owners of news and events at the park.

The Twin Cities is generally a very dog friendly area.  The City of St. Paul has one dog park. Minneapolis has seven, including one that opened a few weeks ago in downtown.  However, dog owners would like to see more.  Since they are relatively new, it will take some time for them to be built.  But all that is changing.  In 2006, there were about 700 dog parks in the U.S.; now there are close to 3,000. During August alone, 98 dog parks opened or were approved to be built....

New State Law Regarding Carbon Monoxide Detectors

It's September and it’s getting colder outside.  Soon it will be fall, the time to seal up homes for the winter, prepare to start the furnace, and getting ready to use fireplaces.  This is the time of year when many carbon monoxide leaks are found.

On August 1st, a new law went into effect within the state of Minnesota which requires that ever new and existing single family home have a carbon monoxide detector installed within 10 feet of every room used for sleeping.  Multi-family homes and apartment buildings must comply by August 1, 2009.

According to the State Fire Marshall website:
  • Every single family dwelling and every multifamily dwelling unit shall be provided with a minimum of one approved and fully operational carbon monoxide alarm installed within ten (10) feet of each room lawfully used for sleeping purposes.
  • If bedrooms are located on separate floors additional carbon monoxide alarms would be necessary within ten feet of these areas.
  • If bedrooms are located in separate areas (on the same level), additional carbon monoxide alarms would be necessary within ten (10) feet of these areas.
  • In lieu of installing multiple carbon monoxide alarms in the hallway, a separate carbon monoxide could be installed inside each sleeping room.
  • It is important that these devices be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s installations instructions and not be placed in ‘dead’ air pockets such as corners of rooms, at the junction of walls and ceilings or within thirty-six (36) inches of ventilation ducts.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms shall be installed at the height specified in the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms have an effective life-span of 5-7 years. Many manufacturers recommend these devices be replaced at six (6) year intervals.

Minneapolis Real Estate Market Analysis: August 2008

All through August of 2008, the number of new listings in Minneapolis decreased significantly this month when compared to last year’s statistics, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors’ Market Update for 100 Twin Cities Communities.  During August, there were 876 new listings. In August 2007, there were 1,099 new listings, meaning that there was a drop of -20.3%. In August, the Phillips and Northeast communities experienced the greatest decrease in new listings during August, with about -40% fewer than last year.  Conversely, the Camden and North communities each saw increases of new listings that amount to about 7%.  Here is an inventory of August 2008 new listings in Minneapolis by community and the percentage of change that has occurred compared to August 2007 (To see a Barker & Hedges article about July 2008 Minneapolis Market Activity, please click here.)

Camden 155 (+6.9%)
Downtown Minneapolis 104 (-29.3%)
Longfellow 51 (-21.5%)
Nokomis 108 (-30.8%)
North 120 (+7.1%)
Northeast 63 (-40.6%)
Phillips 13 (-40.9%)
Powderhorn 60 (-6.3%)
Southwest 93 (-23.8%)
University Area 17 (-37.0%)
Uptown-Lakes 91 (-28.3%)

Minneapolis’ posted new listing for the 2008 year-to-date slipped a full percentage point from last month’s gains.  From January through August of 2008, there were 8,086 new listings, compared to 9,305 during the same time period of 2007. That is a decrease of -13.1%.  The greatest fluctuations in new listings for the year-to-date have happened in the Uptown-Lakes and Downtown areas, which have experienced a drop in new listings of -27.4% and -24.2% respectively compared to last year.  The Phillips community is still in the lead for having the most new listings this year compared to 2007 with a 15.9% increase.  Here is a depiction of new listings in Minneapolis by community for the 2008 year to date and the percentage of...