Real Estate News

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012


Winter’s doldrums got you down? Grab a screwdriver and a hammer and fight back with easy home repairs that’ll raise spirits and get your house ready for spring.

Accomplishments — even little ones — go a long way toward a sunny outlook. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, quick home repair chores you can do when you’re mired in the thick of winter. For max efficiency, make a to-do list ahead of time and shop for all the tools and supplies in one trip. On your work days, put the basics in a caddy and carry it from room to room, checking off completed tasks as you speed through them.

What to look (and listen) for

In each room, look around and take stock of what needs fixing or improving.
Focus on small, quick-hit changes, not major redos. Here are some likely

1. Sagging towel rack or wobbly toilet tissue holder. Unscrew the
fixture and look for the culprit. It’s probably a wimpy, push-in type plastic
drywall anchor. Pull that out (or just poke it through the wall) and replace it
with something more substantial. Toggle bolts are strongest, and threaded types
such as E-Z Ancor are easy to install.

2. Squeaky door hinges. Eliminate squeaks by squirting a puff of powdered graphite ($2.50 for a 3-gram tube) alongside the pin where the hinge turns. If the door sticks, plane off a bit of the wood, then touch up the paint so the surgery isn’t noticeable.

3. Creaky floor boards. They’ll shush if you fasten them down better. Anti-squeak repair kits, such as Squeeeeek No More ($23), feature specially designed screws that are easy to conceal. A low-cost alternative: Dust a little talcum powder into the seam where floorboards meet — the talcum acts as a lubricant to quiet boards that rub against each other.

4. Rusty shutoff valves. Check under sinks and behind toilets for the shutoff valves on your water supply lines. These little-used valves may slowly rust in place over time, and might not work when you need them most. Keep them operating by putting a little machine oil or WD-40 on the handle shafts. Twist the handles back and forth to work the oil into the threads. If they won’t budge, give the oil a couple of hours to penetrate, and try again.

5. Blistered paint on shower ceilings. This area gets a lot of heat and moisture that stresses paint finishes. Scrape off old paint and recoat, using a high-quality exterior-grade paint. Also, be sure everyone uses the bathroom vent when showering to help get rid of excess moisture.

6. Loose handles or hinges on furniture, cabinets, and doors. You can probably fix these with a few quick turns of a screwdriver. But if a screw just spins in place, try making the hole fit the screw better by stuffing in a toothpick coated with glue, or switching to a larger screw.

Safety items
You know those routine safety checks you keep meaning to do but never have the
time? Now’s the time.

7. Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. If you don’t like waking up to the annoying chirp of smoke detector batteries as they wear down, do what many fire departments recommend and simply replace all of them at the same time once a year.

8. Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. You’re supposed to test them once a month, but who does? Now’s a great time. You’ll find them around potentially wet areas — building codes specify GFCI outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, and for outdoor
receptacles. Make sure the device trips and resets correctly. If you find a faulty outlet, replace it or get an electrician to do it for $75 to $100.

Another good project is to replace your GFCIs with the latest generation of protected
outlets that test themselves, such as Levitron’s SmartlockPro Self-Test GFCI ($28). You won’t have to manually test ever again!

9. Exhaust filter for the kitchen stove. By washing it to remove grease, you’ll
increase the efficiency of your exhaust vent; plus, if a kitchen stovetop fire breaks out, this will help keep the flames from spreading.

10. Clothes dryer vent.  Pull the dryer out from the wall, disconnect the vent pipe, and vacuum lint out of the pipe and the place where it connects to the machine. Also, wipe lint off your exterior dryer vent so the flap opens and closes easily. (You’ll need to go outside for that, but it’s quick.) Remember that vents clogged with old dryer lint are a leading cause of house fires.

11. Drain hoses. Inspect your clothes washer, the dishwashers, and the icemaker. If you see any cracks or drips, replace the hose so you don’t come home to a flood one day.

12. Electrical cords. Replace any that are brittle, cracked, or have damaged plugs. If you’re using extension cords, see if you can eliminate them — for example, by replacing that too-short lamp cord with one that’s longer. If you don’t feel up to rewiring the lamp yourself, drop it off at a repair shop as you head out to shop for your repair materials. It might not be ready by the end of the day. But, hey, one half-done repair that you can’t check off is no big deal, right?

Monday, January 30th, 2012

As the first month of the year trots onward, so do home buyers. They posted increased activity levels compared to the same week in 2011. Seller activity slowed compared to last year, however. Inventory declines effectively positioned many local markets into a more balanced state – particularly toward the end of last year. Increased seller activity in the coming months could slow or even reverse that trend. Don’t fret. Not only is an increase in new listings perfectly normal for this time of year, but improved absorption rates and seller concessions could begin to stew into seller confidence.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending January 21:

  • New Listings decreased 8.2% to 1,092
  • Pending Sales increased 29.0% to 730
  • Inventory decreased 23.2% to 17,822

For the month of December:

  • Median Sales Price decreased 6.5% to $145,000
  • Days on Market decreased 2.1% to 141
  • Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.7% to 90.6%
  • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 33.7% to 4.7

Click here for the full Weekly Market Activity Report.

From The Skinny.

Posted in The Skinny |
Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that mortgage applications increased more than 23.0 percent from the week prior. The fine print stated that most of the increase was driven by refinancing activity, given record low rates. Residential construction data also provided glimmers of hope. By now, many have surely noticed that the supply-demand balance is changing. What some may not realize is that this is a leading indicator, while home prices are a lagging indicator. Price appreciation is the final phase of recovery. Excess supply is down–in some areas, it’s way down. Purchase demand in most areas strengthened throughout the second half of 2011. For sellers, it’s less scary out there. For buyers, it’s still a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending January 14:

  • New Listings decreased 5.2% to 1,216
  • Pending Sales increased 28.4% to 728
  • Inventory decreased 23.8% to 17,690

For the month of December:

  • Median Sales Price decreased 6.5% to $145,000
  • Days on Market decreased 2.5% to 140
  • Percent of Original List Price Received increased 1.7% to 90.6%
  • Months Supply of Inventory decreased 35.6% to 4.6

Click here for the full Weekly Market Activity Report.

From The Skinny.

Posted in The Skinny |
Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Posted in The Skinny |
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Decreased supply, high demand and low prices are among the encouraging developments in 2011 that give cause for optimism in 2012. Consumer purchase demand increased absent any outside incentives. As the active supply of homes for sale decreased dramatically, absorption rates improved to levels not seen since 2005. Unprecedented low interest rates and record housing affordability resulted in an 8.2 percent increase in home sales for the area.

2011 by the Numbers

  • Consumers purchased 41,429 homes, up 8.2 percent from 2010 and—excluding 2009—the highest since 2006.
  • Sellers listed 68,875 new homes on the market, down 15.8 percent from 2010 and the lowest level since 2002. Inventory levels dropped 28.7 percent from 2010 and are at the lowest level in 8 years.
  • Months supply of inventory—the time it would take to sell off all active properties—dropped 36.5 percent to 4.5 months.
  • The median sales price fell 11.7 percent to $150,000.
  • Precisely 50.0 percent of all closed sales were either foreclosures or short sales, up from 47.9 percent in 2010 and 48.9 percent in 2009.

“We are pleased with the recovery we saw in 2011,” said Richard Tucker, President of the St. Paul Area Association of REALTORS®. “Median sales price reflects the mix of properties sold during the year—and in 2011 a lot moved in that lower bracket. Price increases will be the final piece of the recovery.”

Distressed properties were the driving factor of home prices, selling for roughly 60 cents on the dollar compared to traditional homes.

“Homeowners need to remember that median sales price does a better job of reflecting what’s going off the market as a whole than representing the home values in a given area—each area is unique,” said Cari Linn, President of the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®.

Improvements in the local economy will boost the Twin Cities real estate market in 2012. The outlook is positive: steady hiring, lessening layoffs and record low unemployment are all reasons the area continues to outperform the nation.

For other year-end residential real estate statistics and for stand-alone December 2011 data, please visit and

Posted in The Skinny |

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