Trends


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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 ::

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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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U.S foreclosure filings continued their upward climb in December, rising 97% from the previous year and 7% from the month before. Total foreclosures rose 75% in all of 2007.

According to MSN Real Estate’s latest report, hardest-hit markets were along both coasts, which experienced a more severe boom and bust in the latest cycle, as well as areas hard hit by auto-industry layoffs such as Michigan and Indiana.

The surge in foreclosures is expected to continue at this same pace until after the next wave of risky loans resets in the middle of 2008.

2007 foreclosure filings by state

Rate Rank

State Name

Total # of filings

% chng. from 2006

% chng. from 2005

Total # of properties

%Households

1

Nevada

66,316

215.12

758.68

34,417

3.376

2

Florida

279,325

123.96

129.25

165,291

2.002

3

Michigan

136,205

68.32

282.22

87,210

1.947

4

California

481,392

237.99

681.95

249,513

1.921

5

Colorado

71,149

29.96

140.12

39,403

1.919

6

Ohio

153,196

87.93

207.35

89,979

1.797

7

Georgia

99,578

31.07

118.43

59,057

1.566

8

Arizona

69,970

150.91

160.7

38,568

1.516

9

Illinois

90,782

25.29

94.3

64,310

1.25

10

Indiana

52,930

11.31

73.57

27,980

1.027

11

Tennessee

45,834

24.56

65.66

25,914

0.983

12

Texas

149,703

-4.57

9.22

84,469

0.936

13

Missouri

32,022

80.93

176.74

23,492

0.906

14

New Jersey

53,652

34.06

52.75

31,071

0.902

15

Utah

9,668

-25.87

-16.19

7,438

0.852

16

Connecticut

23,470

100.05*

111.38*

11,860

0.833

17

Maryland

25,109

455.26

388.41

18,879

0.83

18

North Carolina

37,426

66.52

135.07

29,101

0.739

19

Mass.

41,487

161.14

751.36

17,737

0.66

20

Idaho

6,032

140.51*

119.83*

3,640

0.611

21

Washington

23,705

27.95

59.47

15,184

0.573

22

Oregon

10,746

12.25

56.76

8,461

0.543

23

Oklahoma

13,594

-12.78

0.71

8,256

0.52

24

Virginia

24,199

456.3

728.73

16,307

0.514

25

Minnesota

13,615

127.11*

506.73*

11,557

0.513

26

Arkansas

14,310

26.44

23.58

6,406

0.513

27

New York

57,350

10.19

54.72

38,688

0.493

28

Alaska

1,650

54.64

17.69

1,332

0.486

29

Wisconsin

17,503

131.15*

241.79*

12,133

0.486

30

Nebraska

3,971

30.88

91.84

3,636

0.474

31

Rhode Island

3,241

153.80*

7804.88*

1,838

0.41

32

New Mexico

3,893

-26.04

-46.55

2,994

0.357

33

Iowa

7,404

114.92*

251.90*

4,103

0.314

34

Pennsylvania

34,089

-11.07

18.98

16,379

0.302

35

Kentucky

8,793

23.45

76.96

5,105

0.274

36

Montana

1,378

29.27

52.6

1,150

0.268

37

Alabama

7,903

81.76

83.07

5,572

0.268

38

Delaware

1,430

225.00*

342.72*

999

0.266

39

South Carolina

5,038

-27.56

-33.76

4,247

0.22

40

New Hampshire

N/A

N/A

N/A

1,238

0.212

41

Louisiana

7,331

151.58*

90.61

3,968

0.204

42

Kansas

4,978

20.85

161.31*

2,434

0.203

43

Hawaii

1,270

88.71

-60.39

966

0.197

44

Wyoming

497

21.52

99.6

356

0.151

45

Mississippi

1,997

91.65

4.55

1,409

0.114

46

North Dakota

308

74.01

86.67

250

0.082

47

West Virginia

1,135

30.31

10.95

460

0.053

48

Maine

N/A

N/A

N/A

286

0.042

49

Vermont

61

35.56

1.67

29

0.009

50

South Dakota

N/A

N/A

N/A

24

0.007

District of Columbia

800

607.96*

393.83*

777

0.28

U.S.

2,203,295

74.99

148.83

1,285,873

1.033

*Actual increase may not be as high due to improved or expanded data coverage in this state.

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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.

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According to the Center for Media Research and the BIGresearch Consumer Intentions & Actions Survey in February, over 8,000 consumers provided unique insights & identified opportunities in a fragmented and transitory marketplace. On the downside, only one in four (26.2%) are confident/very confident in chances for a strong economy in February, a five year low. A sinking housing market, credit collapse, and record prices at the pump provides the impetus for only half as many consumers holding high hopes for the future than in February 2007.

Consumers Anticipating a Strong Economy
Date % of Respondents
February 2003

30.8

February 2004

49.3

February 2005

47.7

February 2006

44.5

February 2007

53.2

February 2008

26.2

Source: BIGresearch, February 2008

On the upside, Phil Rist, Vice President of Strategy for BIGresearch, concludes that “Many Americans will be wisely using their rebate checks to save, spend, and pay down debt, so the overall result will be positive for the U.S. economy… some will splurge on big ticket items, many… will use the checks for important day-to-day purchases.”

While women will spend a larger percentage of their rebate check than men (42.2% vs. 38.7%), both genders will plan to set aside the same percentage for savings (18.7%) Young adults 18-24 will spend more of their checks (46.2%) than any other age group. And:

  • 30.3% contend they’ll save the money in their piggy banks
  • 25.4% will use it to pay down credit cards, while
  • 15.7% say they’ll pay down debt (installment loans)
  • 14.6% reveal that they’d purchase necessities with their checks, with 22.5% of those earning under $50,000 buying necessities 

And while 39.7% of those aged 18-24 are the most likely group to save their checks, 14.9% of this age bracket is the most likely to use their checks toward paying off student loans. 13.3% will buy apparel, and 11.2% expect to purchase electronics.

While confidence in the economy is plummeting, only two in five contend that they’ve become more practical in their purchases, down a point from January, and still on the rise from ’07.

50.4% of the respondents contend there will be “more” layoffs in the next six months, up from 41.5% in January and the highest reading since March ’03 (50.4%). While consumers foresee a dreary outlook for employment, it seems they have the “it’s not going to be me. 5.5% fear becoming laid off, up slightly from January’s 5.2%.

With pump prices rising to today’s average $2.972/gal (source: AAA), driver’s budgets are increasingly strained by additional fuel expenditures.  While 40.5% are attempting to cope by simply driving less, 35.3% say pump pressures have led them to reduce dining out and 33.6% decreasing vacation/travel/ 29.8% are spending less on clothing. while 22.4% are delaying a major purchase, such as a car or furniture

Seasonal demand for spring merchandise, such as Easter apparel and lawn & garden supplies, lifts the 90 Day Outlook from January, according to the BIGresearch Diffusion Index, but the current economic outlook is expected to put a damper on spending compared to February 2007.

Consumers aren’t as likely to be considering purchasing high-dollar durables in the next six months compared to last month and last year. Purchase intentions are down for computers, furniture, home appliances, housing, jewelry, DVD/VCR, and digital cameras…major home improvements and vacation travel flat from January (though still down from ’07), while TV remains flat from last month and rises from last year.

Six month purchase intentions for autos remain stable from last month at 11.8%. Among those planning to buy, 43.5% still plan to buy new, while 16.7% aren’t yet sure. The average price auto buyers are planning to spend has lowered from $21,150 in January to $19,830 this month.

For more from BIGresearch, please visit them here.

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Whether you have your own office or are part of a larger office environment, you can make some dramatic changes for your pocket book and the environment quickly and easily. Here are some ideas from RISMedia to get you started.

Use both sides of writing paper. Copy documents on both sides as well. This reduces paper costs enormously and saves a considerable amount of wasted paper.

Statistics: It is estimated you can save 20% on paper by everyone following these simple rules. This can save $70 per employee, per year or $7000 in just a 100 employee office! An employee in a typical business generates 1.5 pounds of waste paper per day, most of which is NOT recycled.

Paperless payroll can create a large savings as well. Asking receivers of your e-mails and documents to only print them out if it is absolutely necessary. Create a common statement that is at the bottom of all your e-mail communications.

Buy office supplies that disintegrate in landfills. Avoid aluminum, PVC, and styrofoam.

Buy recycled paper that is PCF (processed chlorine free). Use unbleached or uncolored paper. If you need to use colored paper, use pastels. Buy products in bulk to minimize packaging.

Statistics: A ton of 100% recycled paper saves the equivalent of 4,100 kWh of energy, 7,000 gallons of water, 60 pounds of air emissions and three cubic yards of landfill space. In the U.S., 40% of solid waste is paper!

Change light fixtures to compact fluorescent lamps. Replace old fluorescent lighting fixtures that are likely using T-12 lamps with T-8 fluorescent lamps. You’ll get better color, less flickering and use 20% less energy.

Use occupancy sensors in conference, break and bathrooms. They are easy to install and relatively inexpensive.

Statistics: Changing to more efficient lamps can achieve 50-80% savings, and they last 10X longer. Lighting is generally 29% of the energy use in an office.

Need new heating and cooling equipment? Opt for the highest energy efficiency equipment possible. Go to the ENERGY STAR Website for information. Turn your thermostats down by one or two degrees and save about 10% on your electricity bill!

Statistics: Heating and cooling office space is responsible for 40% of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. and it eats more than 70% of electricity usage.

If you are searching for office space, look for green certified buildings. Contact the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the US Green Building Council to start.

Tax Savings: Building owners and tenants who can reduce energy costs by 50% or more can get a tax deduction. Go to the government’s ENERGY STAR Website for more information. Many local utility companies are now offering energy audits for free. Contact your local utility and get started.

Use power strips for all equipment that can be turned off at night in your home, as well as your offices.

Statistic: 40 watts of energy can be lost for each piece of equipment remaining plugged in, but not in use.

Upgrade older computer equipment by adding memory capability or RAM and make repairs.

Always purchase new energy efficient equipment if you must replace it, and make sure it has expandable memory slots. For computers the Green Electronics Council’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool can help.

Place equipment into sleep modes automatically – screensavers do not count – they actually waste more energy.

Always recycle older equipment & cartridges with the manufacturer or at recycling drives in your community. Never just throw away cartridges or equipment in the garbage.

Recycle cell phones and rechargeable batteries at sites such as http://www.call2recycle.com

Statistics: Office equipment typically uses about 16% of energy costs. If every US computer and monitor were turned off at night, the nation could shut down eight large power stations and avoid emitting 7 million tons of CO2 every year. And the energy savings in just your own office will add up to real dollars!

Have a recycling program for paper, glass, plastic at your office. Many times recycling bins are provided free of charge. Search the Internet or phone book for your city’s program and get started. Make sure everyone knows where the recycling bins are and what you expect.

Reward employees for good energy conservation and recycling behavior. You can even give incentives for ride sharing, bicycling and walking to work, paper savings, energy savings and more. Communicate what they have saved in money, energy and materials. Create office Green Guidelines.

You will find many ways around the office to eliminate landfill waste and conserve energy if you look. Even smaller items like eliminating styrofoam coffee cups, plastic forks, knives and spoons. The kitchen is a great area to review. And, again, it will save money too!

If you are too busy and have a large office or numerous offices, consider hiring an energy manager/transportation coordinator. This person can pay for himself in a very short time and preserve the environment for future generations. Full Story

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When it comes to the environment, being a good global citizen starts at your doorstep. From recycling to using alternative cleaning materials, minor changes at home can add up to real benefits for the planet, not to mention your own health and happiness.

It may be a cliché, but the best way to be Earth-friendly is to cut down on what you consume and recycle whenever you can. The U.S. generates about 208 million tons of municipal solid waste a year, according to the National Institutes of Health. That’s more than 4 pounds per person per day. Every little bit helps; recycling just one glass bottle saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.

Here are 10 more easy ways from MSN.com to green your home:

1. Green up your appliances. Getting rid of that old refrigerator in the garage could save you as much as $150 a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Appliance use comprises about 18% of a typical home’s total energy bill, with the fridge being one of the biggest energy hogs. If any of your appliances is more than 10 years old, the EPA suggests replacing them with energy-efficient models that bear their “Energy Star” logo. Energy Star-qualified appliances use 10%-50% less energy and water than standard models. According to the Energy Star site, if just one in 10 homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would be equivalent to planting 1.7 million new acres of trees.

Also, consider what you put in that energy-efficient refrigerator. Pesticides, transportation and packaging are all things to consider when stocking up. Buying local cuts down on the fossil fuels burned to get the food to you while organic foods are produced without potentially harmful pesticides and fertilizers.

2. Watch the temp. Almost half a home’s energy consumption is due to heating and cooling. 

  • Turn down the thermostat in cold weather and keep it higher in warm weather. Each degree below 68°F (20°C) during colder weather saves 3%-5% more heating energy, while keeping your thermostat at 78°F in warmer weather will save you energy and money. A programmable thermostat will make these temperature changes for you automatically.
  • Clean your furnace’s air filter monthly during heavy usage.
  • Consider a new furnace. Today’s furnaces are about 25% more efficient than they were in the 1980s. (And don’t forget to check out furnaces carrying the Energy Star label.)
  • To keep your cool in warmer weather, shade your east and west windows and delay heat-generating activities such as dishwashing until evening.
  • Use ceiling fans instead of air conditioners. Light clothing in summer is typically comfortable between 72°F and 78°F. But moving air feels cooler, so a slow-moving fan easily can extend the comfort range to 82°F, according to “Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings” by Alex Wilson.

3. Save water. The Web site “Water — Use it Wisely,” created by a group of Arizona cities, lists 100 simple ways to save water. We’ll share just a few here:

  • Put an aerator on all household faucets and cut your annual water consumption by 50%. 
  • Install a low-flow toilet. They use only 1.6 gallons per flush, compared to 3.5 gallons per flush for pre-1994 models. If you have an older model, adjust your float valve to admit less water into the toilet’s tank. 

Of course, you don’t need products to save water — behavioral changes also add up quickly: using a broom instead of the garden hose to clean your driveway can save 80 gallons of water and turning the water off when you brush your teeth will save 4.5 gallons each time.

4. Clean green. Stop buying household cleaners that are potentially toxic to both you and the environment. In his book, “The Safe Shopper’s Bible,” David Steinman suggests reading labels for specific, eco-friendly ingredients that also perform effectively. These include grain alcohol instead of toxic butyl cellosolve, commonly found in carpet cleaner and some window cleaners as a solvent; coconut or other plant oils rather than petroleum in detergents; and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus, rosemary or sage rather than triclosan, an antifungal agent found in soaps and deodorant. Or, skip buying altogether and make your own cleaning products. Use simple ingredients such as plain soap, water, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), vinegar, washing soda (sodium carbonate), lemon juice and borax and save money at the same time. Check out these books by Annie Bertold-Bond for cleaning recipes: “Clean and Green” and “Better Basics for the Home.”

5. Let there be energy-efficient light. Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) use 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and last up to 10 times longer. Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 32-watt CFL can save $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

6. Save a tree, use less paper.  You can buy “tree-free” 100% post-consumer recycled paper for everything from greeting cards to toilet paper. Paper with a high post-consumer waste content uses less virgin pulp and keeps more waste paper out of landfills.

Other tips:

  • Remove yourself from junk mail lists. Each person will receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail this year, which adds up nationally to 4.5 million tons, according to the Native Forest Network. About 44% of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread, and ends up in a landfill. To stem the flow into your own home, contact the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service at P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512, or download the online form. Opt out of credit card or insurance offers at OptOutPrescreen.com or by calling 888-567-8688, a single automated phone line maintained by the major credit bureaus.
  • Buy unbleached paper. Many paper products, including some made from recycled fibers, are bleached with chlorine. The bleaching process can create harmful byproducts, including dioxins, which accumulate in our air, water and soil over time.

Finally, here’s a third answer to the old “paper or plastic” question: No thanks. Carry your own cloth bags to the store to avoid using store bags.

7. Want hardwood floors? Opt for bamboo. Bamboo is considered an environmentally friendly flooring material due to its high yield and the relatively fast rate at which it replenishes itself. It takes just four to six years for bamboo to mature, compared to 50-100 years for typical hardwoods. Just be sure to look for sources that use formaldehyde-free glues.

8. Reduce plastics, reduce global warming. Each year, Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags — from grocery and trash bags to those ultra-convenient sandwich bags. Unfortunately, plastics are made from petroleum — the processing and burning of which is considered one of the main contributors to global warming, according to the EPA. In addition, sending plastics to the landfill also increases greenhouse gases. Reduce, re-use and recycle your plastics for one of the best ways to combat global warming.

9. Use healthier paint. Conventional paints contain solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause smog, ozone pollution and indoor air quality problems with negative health effects, according to the EPA. These unhealthy ingredients are released into the air while you’re painting, while the paint dries and even after the paints are completely dry. Opt instead for zero- or low-VOC paint, made by most major paint manufacturers today.

10. Garden green. First, use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers. Compost provides a full complement of soil organisms and the balance of nutrients needed to maintain the soil’s well-being without the chemicals of synthetic fertilizers. And healthy soil minimizes weeds and is key to producing healthy plants, which in turn can prevent many pest problems from developing to begin with.

  • Use native plants as much as possible. Native plants have adapted over time to the local environment and support native animals. They also use less water and require less of your attention.
  • Focus on perennials. Gardening with plants that live for more than one year means you don’t have to pay for new plants every year; it also saves the resources used commercially to grow annuals.
  • Stop using chemical pesticides. American households use 80 million pounds of pesticides each year, according to the EPA. These toxic chemicals escape gardens and concentrate in the environment, posing threats to animals and people, especially children. A better alternative is to try a variety of organic and physical pest control methods, such as using diatomaceous earth to kill insects, pouring boiling water on weeds or using beer to bait slugs. You can find more non-chemical pest control tips at the National Audubon Society’s site.

Finally, consider using an old-fashioned push mower. The only energy expended is yours. Full Story

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