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! )




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


Every parent of young children has an unwanted-toy graveyard somewhere in the home. Today’s prized playthings inevitably become tomorrow’s cast-offs, ready to be given away, discarded or boxed up in the garage. According to the folks at Springwise however, the alternative, offered by Texas start-up Babyplays, is to receive four to six toys by mail each month. Parents can keep the toys as long as they like, and send them back to receive a fresh batch. Monthly subscription rates range from $36.99 to $64.99.

Babyplays offers a range of age-appropriate toys, and depending on their membership level, parents can rent up to 10 toys a month. Besides reducing clutter, members can save money by renting instead of owning. You could call it the Netflix rental model applied to toys. We’ve seen start-ups tweak the rent-not-buy concept in innovative ways: a German company, Lütte-Leihen, sends parents a fresh batch of baby clothes that can be exchanged for new ones each month and the same model has been applied to women’s accessories, with companies like Bag, Borrow or Steal offering members access to designer handbags and jewellery.

A factor all of these firms must reckon with is the need to acquire an adequate inventory of items to accommodate customer whims—a potentially expensive proposition. That said, the rental model still has plenty of new potential applications. What’s key is that many consumers are becoming less interested in full ownership, opting instead for the convenience and flexibility of renting or fractional ownership.


With reports that foreclosures are up 51% from 2006 and that home ownership took a record plunge in 2007, RISMedia says it’s clear that 2008 will be a year of economic uncertainty, and at worst, a year of continuing downturn. As consumers continue to feel the squeeze, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) reminds homeowners and those eager to sell to look to ASHI Certified Inspectors when considering options for buying, selling or maintaining their home in a down market.

“ASHI has taken steps to arm its members with the resources and support to provide a diverse range of services for homeowners,” said Brion Grant, 2008 ASHI president. “We know that one-size doesn’t fit all in this market. From energy audits to maintenance inspections, phased-inspections and more, we’re arming members with tools to diversify their services so that they can meet the needs of the public.”

New Services for Homeowners

Energy audits are among the core services that ASHI is encouraging its members to fine-tune so consumers have the benefit of potential cost savings. In December, members of ASHI’s Blue Ridge Chapter (Virginia) participated in group training with a nationally certified energy auditing company to secure certification to perform energy audits in their region. “With the cost of fuel skyrocketing, energy audits can uncover inefficiencies and point to savings,” added Grant. “ASHI is working in conjunction with a certifying organization to provide opportunities for training and certification so that its members can offer this ancillary service nationally.”

Another service homeowners may not think about is maintenance inspections.

“Maintenance should be at the top of every seller’s list this year, said Grant. “In this market, home buyers have more properties to choose from, and will look closely at how well a home has been kept up.”

Homeowners who are serious about selling their home in 2008 should consider hiring an inspector to conduct a maintenance inspection, which includes checking everything from the foundation, roof and gutters, to a home’s exterior and interior walls, electrical wiring and plumbing. ASHI also offers a maintenance checklist, a list of items in the home that should be maintained annually or by season. Those interested in obtaining a copy of ASHI’s home maintenance checklist should contact a local ASHI Certified Inspector via ASHI’s Website

Services for Buying or Building a Home

With a record 2.18 million homes sitting vacant and sellers chomping at the bit to unload their home, buyers are at risk too. Before purchasing a home, ASHI encourages buyers to hire an inspector to conduct a pre-sale inspection to determine its quality, efficiency and safety. “There are a lot of people who are willing to do whatever it takes to sell their homes,” said Grant. “In a market like this, people are quick to jump in because of the rock-bottom price rather than the quality and safety of the home.” And, with many bank-owned properties being sold “as is,” meaning the seller will not be performing any repairs, pre-sale inspections can provide vital information about costly defects.

Phased inspections are also a good way to protect the interests of people who are building a home from scratch. By engaging a home inspector early on, even in the site selection, homeowners can benefit from having an inspector assess the quality of construction at every step. From pouring the foundation, to closing the walls, home inspectors can provide an unbiased assessment of a home that will save homeowners time and money.

“I wish forecasting the future was as easy as picking up a Magic 8-Ball,” said Grant. “‘Outlook good’ would be a welcomed relief from what we’ve seen over the last year. But Americans are resilient, and ASHI is committed to helping homeowners weather this storm.” Full Story


Finding sustainable and affordable ways to power the world is clearly a substantial and increasingly urgent challenge. And according to Springwise, Dutch startup Qurrent is taking the notion a step further with technology to enable neighborhood-wide energy networks.

Because of fluctuating patterns of consumption, homes with wind and solar energy generators can find themselves with surplus energy at some times of the day but not enough at others. Surplus energy typically gets sold back to the main grid, but as much as 30 percent of it gets lost along the way, according to EcoGeek. When a group of homes work together to manage their collective energy generation and use, on the other hand, higher levels of demand in one home can be matched with surpluses in others, thus evening out the group’s overall consumption and minimizing the amount that must be drawn from the main grid. Participating homes essentially form a “mini-grid” that shares energy internally before exchanging any with the main grid, thereby minimizing waste and maximizing efficiency.

To make it all happen, Qurrent provides a device for each participating house known as a Qbox. Each linked to a central Qserver, the Qboxes in the network monitor energy flows in each home and optimize them for maximum network-wide efficiency. They share capacities as needed among neighbours, and can also autonomously turn on devices such as washing machines and dryers so that they are run at the optimal time. A consumer could tell their Qbox that they want their laundry done by 6 p.m. and that it will take roughly 1.5 hours, for example. They can then go to work and the Qbox will decide when is the best time to run it, taking into account their production profiles and energy rates as well as those of their neighbors.

Qurrent won the 2007 Picnic Green Challenge for the best marketable green idea that could be developed and sold to consumers within two years. Along with the award came a EUR 500,000 prize, which reportedly will be used to pilot-test the concept in a Netherlands neighborhood.

When the market is slow it is especially crucial to be efficient with your time. Make sure that the majority of your efforts are spent on activities that bring immediate reward. According to RISMedia, one of the most effective ways to master time is to eliminate time-wasters from your life. You can do this by starting a “To-Don’t List.” Every successful agent has a “To-Do List” but the super-successful write down those things they will stop doing that waste their time such as:

Don’t work with unmotivated buyers. Stop working with buyers who won’t sign a Buyer-Broker Agreement with you. If they won’t commit themselves to an agent who will work hard on their behalf and show them all of the properties on the market how motivated are they?

Don’t work with unmotivated sellers. Owners who aren’t willing to price their properties to sell and make their homes show well aren’t motivated. If they want to “test the market” with a price that’s even slightly above market send them to your competitors.

Don’t work with clients you dislike. Perhaps you just don’t have much rapport with them but folks you don’t personally like will waste your time just the same. If buyers don’t intrinsically trust you’ll find they will be reluctant to make offers when you suggest at a price that is reasonable. Sellers who lack trust will be unwilling to price their properties to sell or spend the money to make it look its best.

Don’t run ineffective ads. If an ad doesn’t pay for itself stop it immediately. This means that you must track every ad to see how much business it brings in and if it isn’t measurable (such as vanity advertising) or doesn’t at least cover its cost dump it. Ineffective ads not only waste time but money as well.

Don’t hang around with negative people. In this market there are plenty of people filled with doom and gloom so avoid them. Don’t forget that real estate is cyclical. For example, in 1980’s interest rates were twenty-two percent and higher and yet plenty of agents made a very good living during this market and other challenging times. Spend your time with positive, upbeat people not those who brighten an entire room just by leaving.

What’s wasting your time? Make your own “To-Don’t List” and stick to it. Have a prosperous and productive new year. Story

Here’s a list of our favorite real estate-related websites and services (in no particular order) that we came across in 2007:

And here’s looking forward to a great 2008!!! 🙂

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