Green is the new black during this, the final weekend of the 2008 Parade of Homes Spring PreviewSM presented by Builders Association of the Twin Cities’ members.

This year’s Guidebook includes plenty of great Green articles to help us make sense of this growing movement and the homes in this year’s 14-home earth-friendly mini tour are built to showcase Green building practices, products and design, and many of them will host education seminars and other interesting events to give home buyers a better understanding of their Green options.  

Some of the seminars that are taking place this weekend include: “Landscaping for a Green Community”, “Light up Your Home AND Your Energy Bill” and “Geothermal Heating and Cooling: A Systems Approach.” And I’m thinking about checking out an event with eco-friendly design expert, Jackie Kanthak, who will be will answering questions, giving green design ideas, and offering advice on the the hard to find eco-friendly products for the kitchen and bathroom.

Green or not, the homes on parade cover a broad spectrum of prices to fit the needs of every buyer, ranging from the lowest priced home by S.W. Wold Townhomes, Inc. in Cambridge, priced at $119,900, to the most expensive home by Stonewood LLC, located on Loring Drive in Minnetrista and priced at $2,950,000.

So come on out this weekend to take advantage of the longer days and beautiful spring weather that’s rolled our way, and peruse the preview parade!

For more information go to

Happy house hunting!!! 🙂

:: Kelly ::



Over the past few years, swapping clothing, books, music and movies has taken off around the world, with groups meeting for swaps offline and online. Now, according to the kids at Springwise, flat-pack behemoth IKEA is organizing a furniture swap at its Amsterdam store: a husselmarkt. The swap, which will take place on February 9th, will let up to 250 people bring in furniture—which doesn’t have to be made by IKEA—and swap it for items brought in by others. IKEA will also add 12.000 euros worth of furniture to the mix.

The event is part of a marketing campaign that encourages customers to think like designers, which includes experimenting by rearranging furniture they already have (roughly translated, husselen means to shuffle, or move around). To help people redesign their living spaces, IKEA offers a tool on that lets users draw a room as it’s currently arranged, and then move around pieces on-screen. Any furniture that no longer fits their rearranged room can be brought to the husselmarkt.

It might seem contradictory from a business point of view: if people swap, they’ll buy less. But IKEA knows that once a consumer rearranges a room, or gets a new couch (even if it isn’t strictly new), they’re likely to want a new rug, lamp or table to complete the makeover.


You’ve all had that experience with a client where you drive up to a house and they don’t even want to go inside. It’s an immediate “un-appeal.” You may know the inside of the house shows much better, but you just can’t convince them to spend the time to even go inside. In today’s market where lots of choices in housing are available to the buyer, why should they?

RISMedia offers us some easy, inexpensive fixes that will help create that outside appeal and get you one giant step further to a sale.

1. Paint or stain the front and garage doors, especially if they show any weathering. These are the first visuals where a potential buyer focuses. If garage doors are metal and dented, they may need to be replaced.

2. Any old, basically abandoned sheds or small structures, must be removed, the area graded and the grass replaced.

3. Change any dated, outside light fixtures.

4. Fix that driveway. If it is blacktop, make sure cracks and crumbling areas are dug out and filled and then the whole driveway sealed. If it is cement, have large cracks filled and repaired professionally. The buyer must at least feel they can drive the moving truck in confidently!

5. Make sure landscaping bricks are in their proper placement. Mowing, weed-whipping sometimes moves them and this is something the homeowner rarely notices, but makes the property look unsightly.

6. Fill in bare dirt under large shade trees. Plant shade-tolerant plants in defined planters or groundcover. Landscape properly for that area.

7. All landscaping beds should be cleaned out and updated for the time of year it is in your region. Place new bedding material down.

8. Have trees and bushes pruned and trimmed. If a bush or tree is looking old or about to expire, remove it and replace it with a similar size and type if you can. If there is a tree limb(s) over the roof, have them removed.

9. If the house needs painting and a full paint job is not in the cards; have it touched up professionally in the worst, most visible spots. Paint shutters and fix them if they are hanging crooked. At least this may help get your client in the front door, even if they negotiate a full paint job into the sale later.

10. If the house is sided, have it power-washed and have gutters and windows cleaned. Window cleaning inside and out makes the house feel updated and fresh, rather than old and dingy.

11. Make sure grass is in good shape, weeds are removed, trimming done regularly. So many sellers fall down on this job the minute the house is listed, and this is critical to selling a house quickly, especially one where the owners have already moved out. In snowy climates, removal must be done regularly too. If owners have moved out, make sure you have an HWA Home Warranty to re-assure buyers.

12. Keep garbage and recycle containers inside the garage, along with all toys and equipment. Make sure the garage is neat and organized. Painted walls and floors also go a long way in this area and are inexpensive to do.

13. Decks should be washed and repainted or re-sealed; plantings around them cleaned, weed-free and looking good. Patio furniture should be in excellent condition. Even though it is in the backyard, this is the area where the family can envision enjoying the warm days and the new yard.

14. If the roof has missing shingles and they can be replaced inexpensively, suggest this be done as it may save negotiation over a completely new roof. Roof repair needs and costs should be minor or the homeowner might as well replace the entire roof.

15. If the homeowner wants to do a bit more, suggest solar lights lining the driveway or installing a more attractive front door with lead glass inserts and replacing plain doorknobs with something more custom.

16. If you have an evening showing, make sure lights are on outside and inside the house. This is warm and inviting.

17. If it’s a holiday season, by all means decorate the home! Just like sugar cookies or vanilla scent on the inside of the house, this really says “it’s a home” and I can see myself enjoying life here! In the least, always have some greenery or flowers for the season on the front step or porch; even a birdbath with a little garden around it says home.

Remember, most home buyers cannot visualize even these simple changes and clean ups in a house and the ones who can, will be looking for a reduced price. So to sell the house at top dollar and quickly, make it “appeal” to the many who will be seeing it rather than the few who are looking for a “fixer upper.” These people know what they want, go after it and need less assistance.

Finally, have neighbors or friends look at the finished results to see if you or the home owner has missed anything key that would be quick and easy to do. Use this article in your listing presentations so they can get started right away on these easy, inexpensive fixes and adapt the ideas to their home. When that home looks fabulous, update that picture on the Internet! This is especially important if the season has changed too and it’s a reward to your client too! Story


Shopping has always been a social activity, but only recently have sites like Stylehive, Crowdstorm and ThisNext begun to make its social aspects explicit with ways to make recommendations, seek advice and discuss products online. Now, according to the folks at Springwise, Design My Room brings segmentation to the game with a site focused specifically on interior design.

“Give your room a makeover” is the proclaimed purpose of Design My Room, which launched into beta in August. The site lets users test out interior designs either on sample rooms provided by the site, or by uploading a photo of the real room they have in mind. They can paint, furnish and decorate the room by selecting from thousands of products—from sponsoring brands Armstrong, Benjamin Moore, Kohler, Smith & Noble, Whirlpool and others—and then dragging and dropping them wherever they want. Rooms created by professional designers are also available for inspiration and copying. Users can save multiple versions of their room and offer them up for rating and comments to friends or the site’s audience at large. Then, once they’ve settled upon the look they like, shopping for the items they’ve chosen is made easy via an automatically linked shopping list, which keeps track of their selections all along.

Basic members of Design My Room are given one free project, which they can save and redesign as often as they like. A “plus” membership enables 5 projects for USD 4.95 a month, while premium members get 25 projects for USD 9.95 per month. Uploading a room photo costs an extra USD 25.

“When my wife and I renovated three years ago, we had to sign out samples from retailers and lug them around—a heavy piece of granite, a cabinet door, ceramic tiles, carpet swatches, paint chips. They must have weighed 50 pounds,” explains Jesse Engle, vice president of business and product development at Massachusetts-based Swatchbox Technologies, which created “Next time, we do it all on the site.”

In addition to the obvious benefits for users, category-specific sites like Design My Room give brands a clear line of communication with the consumers most likely to listen. Style-forward consumers are eager to create and share content, acting as curators for peers who are looking for inspiration.


We’ve all seen those fashion faux pas: muscle shirts that only accentuate middle-age spread, or tight, low-cut jeans that turn soccer moms into muffin-top casualties.

According to MSN Real Estate and, you can make a home unfashionable in the same way by choosing the wrong pre-sale improvements.

Few real-estate agents will object to any upgrades made to your house prior to putting it on the market. But rushing ahead with improvements you think will elevate the asking price can seriously deplete financial reserves that should be used to fix more fundamental flaws.

Making targeted improvements

There are age-appropriate makeovers based on the vintage of your home that may yield a faster sale at a better price. Such targeted improvements also save you money when compared to full-monty, state-of-the-art renovations throughout the home.

A great starting point, says Sid Davis, a Salt Lake City real-estate broker and author of “Home Makeovers That Sell,” is to spring for a pre-sale home inspection. At an average cost of $300 to $350, you can find your home’s flaws, have a handyman fix them and document the work in a pre-sale buyer’s folder.

And to uncover the top age-appropriate home improvements and repairs, Bankrate asked Combs, LeForce, Davis and Wendy Patton (co-author of “Making Hard Cash in a Soft Real Estate Market“) to share their suggestions for houses by era: pre-1960s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Here’s a quick list of upgrades for the ages and what you should look for first to avoid a home-makeover misstep:

  • Pre-’60s homes: Add power, check pipes, remove carpeting
  • ’60s homes: Replace windows, update cabinets, evict termites
  • ’70s homes: Update kitchens and baths, lose wild colors
  • ’80s homes: Upgrade countertops, ditch wallpaper, detail
  • ’90s homes: Upgrade appliances, clean or replace carpeting

Read on for the full story and further explainations.


Want to sell your home in 2008 — or simply want to keep its décor fresh so that it doesn’t begin the slow slide toward avocado-toilet and lava-lamp oblivion? You’re in luck: MSN Real  Estate asked several top experts who keep tabs on trends in home design, furnishings and remodeling to weigh in on what’s hot — and what’s decidedly not — in 2008.

Their opinion: The American house of 2008 will be smarter, greener and sleeker than before. But here’s the trick: Homeowners want a home that will work now — and 10 years from now.

Here’s an abbreviated rundown of what’s hot — and what’s not — for your home in 2008.WHAT’S IN

  1. The destination bathroom
  2. The smart house, operated by phone
  3. Turning the house inside out (the trend of bringing the indoors outdoors )
  4. The return of glamour in furniture and décor
  5. Concealed appliances
  6. Home elevators
  7. Bolder Fabrics
  8. The colors of 2008 (a “spice-inflected” palette of colors)


  1. Living Rooms
  2. Oversized furniture
  3. Dark and heavy (textures on walls, deep, rich colors, lots of molding, etc)
  4. Mosaic tile
  5. The Taj-Ma ceiling (tall ceilings)

 Full Story


Think you might try to sell your house in a few years? Then now’s the time to do what you can to make your house market ready, says Bill LaHay in a Universal Press Syndicate story published by the Orlando Sentinel.

While most people have heard of readying one’s house just before putting it up for sale, keeping one’s home maintained during your entire ownership is both a time saver and a money saver, he says.

Among his tips:

  • Don’t let routine maintenance slide – repair leaky faucets, replace cracked window panes.
  • Create a “wow” feature to make your home stand out from the crowd, such as a large bank of windows to bring the light in, or detailed woodwork.
  • Keep consistent when it comes to quality — if you spring for top-of-the-line countertops but go cheap on the floors, buyers will be more apt to notice the poorer-quality flooring. Full Story

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