Real Estate


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With the constant barrage of negative media surrounding real estate these days, it’s no wonder that newlyweds and other first-time home buyers are putting their dreams of buying their first home on hold. But 2008 promises to be as good a time as any to buy your first home and here’s why:

It’s a buyer’s market

With foreclosures adding houses to a market already hungry for buyers and economists predicting that residential housing sales and prices will not pick up until 2009, sellers who need to sell are lowering prices and often throwing in additional incentives.

Perfect timing is rarely achieved

Although you should educate yourself and use caution when buying into a declining market, a buyer waiting for prices to hit absolute bottom, usually waits too long and then pays the cost of buying into a rising market with increased home prices. If you’re planning on staying put for a while, now is a great time to buy your first home because the market will eventually balance itself and turn once again to a seller’s market and when it does, your home’s value will increase too.

Interest rates are low

Recent Federal Reserve decisions have lowered interest rates yet again making the Federal funds rate drop to 2.25% (down from 5.25% a year ago) and the prime rate drop to 5.25%. And today a Bankrate.com index showed that the national overnight average for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is being offered at 5.74% and a 15-year fixed at 5.09%, both of which are buyer-friendly rates.

Labor and materials are readily available

Even if you don’t qualify for enough financing to buy the home of your dreams due to tightening lending practices, it’s easier than ever to fix-up and maintain properties with the number of home improvement stores, tips, do it yourself classes and handymen readily available. And because new construction has slowed down in most markets and all trades that depend on it are eager for employment, buyers are likely to get better work, done faster and maybe a little cheaper in 2008 than at anytime in the future.  

A need to sell makes sellers flexible

Remember, sellers who don’t need to sell right now generally don’t have their properties for sale. And those who do need to sell tend to be more flexible in negotiations, so buyers should consider proposing terms that ask sellers to help make the deal work beyond just lowering their price. Sellers may have the ability to finance part of the purchase price to make it easier on the buyer, they may be able to fix or replace something that needs updating, and they can always pay more than the customary share of closing costs and taxes.

 

Happy House Hunting!! 🙂

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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 http://www.paradeofhomes.org.

Happy house hunting!!! 🙂

:: Kelly ::

Greetings everyone!

I wanted to take a moment and introduce myself. My name is Kelly Carlson, Marketing Manager for the Don Edam Group, and I’m going to be contributing to this blog (and to the real estate industry in general) in the days to come, from a completely new and different perspective than your typical real estate professional.

Hoping to utilize a trifecta of my favorite hobbies (trend hunting, exploring new places, and trying new things), as well as tapping back into the service journalism and editorial voice that my U of M education once afforded me, my intentions are to keep you posted on all the latest news, statistics, tips, and trends in real estate and to scope out and share with you all of the food and dining, shopping and style, arts and entertainment, health, education, and local events that make our Twin Cities neighborhoods unique and fabulous places to live!

Although I am relatively new as a licensed real estate agent, I’m excited to know that the combination my background, work and educational experience, and personal interests can lend something new to the industry. While my expertise (& nearly a decade of experience!) lies primarily in promotions, marketing, and trend research, I also have 2 years experience as a credit analyst for a local mortgage services company and 4 years experience in title insurance research, giving me a range of knowledge and skill that can only add to our clients’ success.

I get a kick out of being a social anthropologist and spotting changes in consumer behavior, scoping out new trendsetting products and services, and just about any super-smart thinking on where our societies are headed at large. I look forward to developing new and innovative ways of marketing your homes and neighborhoods so that others can see why you called it “home” for so long, and I hope you enjoy the information I can share with you about the people, places, and events that form our great Twin Cities communities.

In the meantime, happy house hunting and speedy sales to all! )

Kelly

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t takes flexibility, communication and realistic expectations to work successfully with an architect. Here’s a round-up (by MSN Real Estate) of some tips from architects and homeowners.

Pay attention to personality. Most people hire an architect only once in their lives. Searching for one is akin to finding a financial planner, architects say. Look for an architect who has designed projects that are similar in style and scope to yours. “There’s no substitute for experience,” says Todd Strickland, a partner with Historical Concepts, an Atlanta architectural firm. Because designing a home is such a personal project, it’s important that you feel able to communicate with your architect.

Liza Nugent, 41, and her husband needed an architect to combine their apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with a neighboring unit; they got referrals from friends. The first architect they called made a snippy remark about how “unsophisticated” co-op boards in buildings on side streets such as theirs make renovations difficult. “I thought, with that kind of attitude, we definitely wouldn’t get along,” Nugent says. After calling two more architects and interviewing three others, the Nugents picked a longtime acquaintance who had creative design solutions for their project.

Enlist an architect early. Most architects will do their best to design a structure to work with whatever plot of land you have to build on. But they also can help scout prospective land purchases. With a general vision of your house and a budget in mind, the architect can evaluate the pros and cons of a location that a client might overlook, such as whether a site is big enough to accommodate the dwelling or whether a neighbor’s right to a view will preclude building the 12-foot ceilings you want.

Is the site free of utility constraints? What about topographical features that could increase the cost of building? Paying for four or five hours of evaluation is likely to save money in the long run.

Bring visuals. Pictures help an architect understand your vision, whether it’s a rough sketch you’ve made, magazine photos of homes you like, or a coffee-table book featuring interiors by your favorite designer. Snapshots of specific lighting fixtures or cabinet styles are helpful, but so are pictures that convey intangibles: the sense of place created by sunlight streaming through a skylight, or a library room with a “warm” feeling.

Dallas architect Marc McCollom, who designs modern houses, says clients also should bring pictures of things they don’t like. Architects will regard the client’s visual portfolio as a cue for whether they’ll make a good team. “If they show me pictures with crown molding and decorative wallpaper, I shouldn’t take that job,” McCollom says. “I’m not going to be happy, and we shouldn’t work together.”

Find a listener. A relationship with a designer is like a marriage: Go with someone who listens, cut your losses with someone who doesn’t — or risk getting a house you don’t want to live in. When Jim Jenkins began a $1.5 million renovation of his Alamo, Calif., home, he hired a local who had designed other houses in the neighborhood. But 18 months into the process, the architect still hadn’t produced a design that the Jenkinses liked or that could get past the local homeowners association.

“He wouldn’t design what we were looking for,” Jenkins says. “My wife’s looking for something Caribbean and he kept thinking California Ranch.”

Jenkins pulled the plug on that designer and hired a Berkeley architect, Robert Nebolon. “He read the codes, had some creative ideas and within six months I got what I was looking for,” Jenkins says.

Clients need to listen, too. Telephones, faxes and e-mail aren’t the best ways to communicate about home design. Avoiding in-person meetings will delay construction. A good architect won’t act on any part of a project without clear approval.

Talk money upfront. A flat fee may be appropriate for projects whose scope is very defined. But construction projects often include unforeseen challenges, and for that reason most architects prefer to charge by the hour or by a percentage of building costs. Some architects charge by the hour in the concept stage and then charge fees ranging from 8% to 18% of construction costs after hiring. For projects costing $1.5 million plus, expect fees to range from 12% to 18%, says James P. Cramer, chairman of Greenway Group, a design-industry consulting firm.

Some architects ask clients for a wish list of features, fixtures and qualities along with an estimated budget. “Sometimes people’s expectations aren’t realistic, given what their budgets are,” says Manhattan architect Darby Curtis.

Consider full service. Architects will be as involved as you want them to be. They can simply do design conception and deliver drawings. Or they can visit sites, coordinate contractors and observe construction. Many architects advise clients to retain a designer through construction. “In the long run you’ll save yourself from headaches and extra construction,” Curtis says.

Have a strong marriage. Architects offer this last bit of advice in all seriousness. Money tends to cause stress in a relationship, and building a home involves a lot of money. Building a house together, McCollom says, “is not going to save your marriage.” Full Story

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Looking for a commanding view of the collapsing housing market? According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, some 138 mountaintop acres next to the landmark Hollywood sign in Los Angeles are going on sale Wednesday for $22 million.

Abutting the largest urban park in the country –- and just west of the giant sign’s H, the property atop Cahuenga Peak has been privately owned for years. Eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes bought it before World War II in hopes of building a mountain hideaway for his then-girlfriend Ginger Rogers. She demurred. It passed undeveloped into Mr. Hughes’s estate and was sold in 2002 to Chicago-based Fox River Co. for $1.68 million.

Two years ago, city officials, residents and conservationists launched a fundraising drive to buy the property atop the 1,820-foot-high peak, which affords sweeping views of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel mountains. Their stated goal was to make the peak part of Griffith Park, the municipal land that practically envelopes it. Safe to say, they didn’t raise anywhere near the current $22 million asking price.

Griffith Park has suffered two damaging wildfires in the past year. Any potential developer is certain to face obstacles getting building permits.

Still, rare hill properties in Los Angeles can attract determined buyers, while the overall housing market remains depressed. In Los Angeles County, notices of default outnumbered home sales in the fourth quarter of 2007, and the median price of homes continues to fall, according to DataQuick Information Systems, a La Jolla, Calif., real-estate research firm. From the lofty heights of Cahuenga Peak, the view isn’t necessarily rosy. Full Story

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According to Iconoculture’s latest consumer observations newsletter, a backlash against Mansion Mania is taking place in America and is seeking to put the squeeze on house size. Here’s what they say is happening and their comments about what this means to business…

WHAT’S HAPPENING

  • More than 300 communities in 33 states have tried to limit both the number of older homes torn down, the number of new homes going up, and the size of additions (ArchRecord.Construction.com 10.10.07). Why? It’s a backlash against McMansion mania.
  • The National Trust for Historic Preservation cites demolition waiting periods, size limits and creation of conservation districts as means some communities have used to limit bloated building.
  • City planners aim to encourage neighborhood collaboration with respect to home values, character and sustainability.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO BUSINESS

  • McMansions and SUVs — they’re flashpoints for ongoing debates about first-world consumption. Get realers want to see their fellow consumers use restraint, even if it has to come via government decree.
  • The current downturn of the housing market helps the mega-house backlash. New home building has slowed or stopped in most communities, as cash-strapped consumers make due with what they have. When the economy picks up again, homebuilders may respond with fewer, more modest constructions.

Full Story

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If you think you’re ready to tap some of the equity in your home, do your homework first. The time you spend now could save you heartache (and plenty of dough) in the future. Bankrate.com’s experts advise us of four steps to take before signing on the dotted line:

1. Consult your financial advisers.
Financial advisers know which questions to ask to understand your complete financial picture, including events on the horizon. Starting here can save both time and money while making the borrowing process less threatening. Any major financial decision should be weighed with consideration to its tax impact. Speaking with a tax professional can guide you to your smartest borrowing decision.

2. Comparison shop.
Shopping is an incredibly important but often overlooked step. At the very least, start with your primary lender. One easy way to find the best deal is to use the Bankrate home equity loan rate tables to find rates specific to your area. One bankruptcy researcher draws a parallel between consumer willingness to “run around to Kmart or Target to save 50 cents,” while the stakes of taking out a home equity loan are much higher. With these numbers, rates even 0.1 percent to 0.6 percent higher than the prime rate add up to thousands of dollars worth of additional interest payments. Be sure to shop.

This audio clip explains what lenders look for.

3. Understand the terms.
Home equity loan terms may be unfamiliar to you. What you don’t know could cost you your home. Most home equity lines of credit, known as HELOCs, are variable rate loans. Generally, a HELOC starts with a low teaser rate, then increases after a set introductory period. Find out the floor and ceiling rates. The initial rate is almost always at floor, or the lowest allowable rate, and the only way to go is up. Make sure you do the math and determine whether you will be able to afford the rate increases.

Use the glossary of the most commonly used home equity terms to help you understand all the details of the deals offered.

4. Know your rights.
The Federal Reserve says you should receive information in writing about each mortgage or home equity loan program you are interested in before you pay any fees. Be sure to read all the loan details and ask the lender or broker to clarify index rates; margins; caps; other ARM features, such as negative amortization; or anything else you don’t understand. After applying for a loan, you will receive detailed loan information from the lender, including the APR, a payment schedule and whether the loan has a prepayment penalty. A provision of the Truth in Lending Act gives you the right to cancel certain real estate loans within three business days without penalty. It is called the right of rescission. In home equity loans, you can rescind only when using your principal residence — not a vacation or second home — as collateral. Story

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