Saint Paul Real Estate Blog

Rice Park Holiday Tree Lighting

The public is invited to join Mayor Chris Coleman for the ceremonial lighting of the holiday tree at Rice Park in Downtown Saint Paul and the grand opening of Wells Fargo WinterSkate at Landmark Center.  The festivities take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, November 29. Along with the Saint Paul Police Band Drum Line, the celebration will include the St. Paul Figure Skating Club and the cast of Ordway Center for the Performing Arts’ Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.

Saint Paul is the holiday destination for family fun and cheer,” Mayor Coleman said. “With Rice Park decorated for the season, the refrigerated ice rink open to the public, White Christmas playing at the Ordway, and Holiday Lights in the Park at Phalen Park, Saint Paul is a magical place. Thanks to the work of all of our partners, I encourage all residents to come skating, enjoy the lights and partake in the food, culture, and entertainment options the city has to offer.”

The Mayor will make the initial flip to the switch on a 90-foot tall, 27,000 pound tree.  The Rice Park tree will remain lit by more than 30,000 energy-efficient LED lights, 24 hours a day through the end of...

More Accurate Appraisals of a Trend

When it comes to setting a price for selling a home that’s correct for the current market, many aspects are taken into account. One that is seeing a great amount of emphasis right now are “comps”: the comparable sales of other properties in your areas.  Used as standards in home real estate appraisals, buyers and sellers haven’t needed to be concerned about “comps” as long as real estate values were on the upswing.

In this slumping market, mortgage lenders have recently been placing a great deal of importance on these benchmarks. Because of the swift decline in home prices, instead of accepting comparable property sales statistics from homes that closed six to 12 months ago, lenders and mortgage investors now insist that appraisers include the most recent comparable home sales. They now prefer that the stats from closings occurring during the last 90 days to support their evaluations.

Lenders and investors are also pressing for more all-inclusive data on local listings, pending sales and listing-price to selling-price ratios before agreeing to fund a mortgage for any amount.  As a result, more and more home sales are being complex or delayed as buyers demand that sellers reduce their prices to mirror the lower loan amounts their lenders are willing to give.  Prices are even being renegotiated after names have already been signed to contracts.  In some ways it can help the buyer because they get to pay a lower price, but if the sellers don’t like the new terms talks of a sale can end abruptly. When lenders and sellers won’t compromise, sure sales have fallen through.

Some supporters say the standards are producing appraisals that are much more sensitive to short-term changes in local price shifts.  Challengers of the new...

The Hamline-Midway Neighborhood of Saint Paul

The Hamline-Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul can be found in the northwestern portion of the city.  It is bordered by Pierce Butler Route to the north, Lexington Parkway to the east, University Avenue to the south, and Cleveland Avenue to the west.  The name Hamline-Midway comes from the fact that the neighborhood is midway between the two downtown centers of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The Midway neighborhood is home to 75,000 people and employs 50,000.

Hamline-Midway is a bustling urban neighborhood with a mix of both residential and commercial properties. It includes St. Paul's primary warehouse district, a passenger rail terminal, and Midway Center, one of St. Paul's key shopping districts. Residents enjoy the convenience of being within bussing and walking distance of shopping and dining. The neighborhood's main commercial districts are along Snelling and University Avenue. Grocers, department stores, small shops, quality restaurants, just about everything you want or need can be found within its borders. In keeping with Saint Paul custom, there are also a number of great neighborhood parks here.


Saint Paul National Night Out 2008 Participation High

The citizens of St. Paul and Minneapolis are leaders when it comes to their participation in National Night Out events. The City of Minneapolis ranked at first in the category for cities with a population of 300,000 or more, and St. Paul was the highest achiever for communities with populations between 100,000 and 299,999.

Saint Paul residents have increased their observance of National Night Out, which occurred on August 5th of this year.  St. Paul moved into first up from its third-place finish in 2007. Rochester moved up to third this year after ranking fifth in 2007. Orlando, Florida, came in second.

Across the river, more than 60,000 residents gathered at 1,111 events held in Minneapolis to increase neighborhood solidarity and bring people together to develop anti-crime and drug programs. This year marks the sixth time in eight years that Minneapolis has finished at the top in its category. San Antonio, Texas, was the second place finisher for this category. The Washington, DC, area came in third.


How Foreclosures Affect Your Home Sale

Though for the past several months, the number of pending home sales has gone up and the excessive inventory of unsold homes has been slowly going down, the Twin Cities real estate market still faces some challenges.  Rising unemployment, sagging wage growth, higher down-payment requirements, and stricter mortgage qualifications are all weighing progress down. Moreover, the rising number of Twin Cities foreclosures sales and short-sales taking place are particularly hitting home sellers hard. 

A sharp rise in foreclosures across the country is being blamed for declines in home prices that have shaken the economy. The foreclosure crisis has directed lenders and the government to launch extensive efforts to keep people in their homes, even if it means renegotiating the terms for hundreds of thousands of loans and in some cases, banks taking a loss. Most worrisome, the high foreclosure rate means home sellers must cut their prices to compete with short sales and foreclosure sales.

While about one-third of all home sales in the metro area during the July-September quarter were "lender-mediated" transactions, in some communities they represent more than 60% of sales so far this year, according to data compiled by the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.  In Brooklyn Center, for example, 64% of home sales so far this year have been lender-mediated, while in Edina only 8.3% were. Regardless of what community you live in, if there are foreclosure homes or houses involved in short sales on your block and you’re trying to sell yours, it will influence your sale...

Gifts for Saint Paul Arts Groups

Saint Paul, and the Twin Cities area in general, really love the arts.  The arts scene right here in our neck of the woods, as it turns out, is loved by others from outside Minnesota, too!  Eight Twin Cities arts organizations will share about $5.3 million worth of grants from the New York-based Wallace Foundation.  The money is meant to grow audiences and encourage student participation. In addition, the foundation will give $1.6 million to Arts Midwest and the Minnesota Community Foundation over four years to create a learning network to available to all Twin Cities arts organizations. The total sum of $6.9 million is the largest single-year commitment Wallace has made to local arts organizations.

Six groups will receive grants of $750,000 over four years. They are MacPhail Center for Music, Minnesota Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Ordway Center and the MIA. Northern Clay Center will get $500,000, and Mixed Blood Theatre won $300,000.

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, also known as the SPCO, is now in its 50th season. With its share of the grant money, it will move from a traditional model to grass-roots marketing, including face-to-face and word-of-mouth contacts. The emphasis would be on the 20- to 30-year-old...

Winter Carnival Rice Park Holiday Tree for 2008

The 2008 Rice Park holiday tree was transported to its festive destination on Saturday.  The park becomes a hub of activity during the holidays and the Winter Carnival, an annual St. Paul event. The 90-foot-tall, 27-foot-wide blue spruce is the third Rice Park holiday tree. 

There is some Minnesota local history attached to this particular, which made it perfect to serve this purpose.  Peder and Karla Christensen planted the tree in the early 1900s when they moved from Denmark to America and started a rose nursery in Maplewood.  Several generations had grown up with the tree just a short distance away from the home the Christensen family continues to own.  But now the 27,000 pound tree had overgrown its environment and posed a threat to the home should a storm ever topple it.  Because members of the family had worked with the Saint Paul Winter Carnival for over 30 years, donating the tree was the perfect solution. 

The Christensens' application to donate the tree was one of 150. Another 90-foot tree was in the running, but that owner decided to keep it. The Christensens' tree fit the bill — it was the right height and right type and the owners were ready part with it.

A 6 foot tall star stands atop the tree, which sits in a 4-foot hole reinforced by a 78,000-pound concrete anchor....

Downtown Saint Paul Development Canceled

Opus Northwest in Minnetonka, the developer hoping to put a $200 million office, hotel and housing project on prime riverfront real estate in downtown St. Paul, has given up its exclusive rights to the property.  Citing the economy, it canceled the $10 million deal with Ramsey County for a six-acre site along Kellogg Boulevard that contained the old West Publishing complex and the adjacent vacant county jail. The developer forfeits a $125,000 deposit and the county is allowed to put the land back on the market.

Opus Northwest had proposed a 22-story office tower with up to 500,000 square feet of space and a 30-story tower with room for a 250-room hotel and 100 condos. The developer could not find a company to anchor a planned office tower, which is something they required of themselves to start the project. Although it no longer has exclusive rights, Opus intends to continue to market the property.

Part of Opus' challenge in landing an office tenant is because Saint Paul typically has had one of the Twin Cities' softest markets. A recent report released by Bloomington-based NorthMarq put St. Paul's midyear vacancy rate at 25.7%, compared with 15.4% for the Twin Cities overall. The project above the Mississippi River would have given St. Paul its first new office tower nearly ten years and significantly increased Class A office space.

Downtown Saint Paul has only 1.6 million square feet of Class A space, compared with 13.2 million square feed in downtown...

Saint Paul Real Estate Market Analysis for October 2008

New listings for homes in Saint Paul, Minnesota, fell again during October according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors’ Market Update for 100 Twin Cities Communities.  Throughout the month, there were 515 new listings in St. Paul.  During October of 2007, there were 603 new listings.  That is a decrease of about -14.6%.  Normally, I list the neighborhoods here that saw the greatest decreases in new listings, but there are many which saw decreases of 20% to over 45%.  The only neighborhoods which saw any significant increase of new listings were the Phalen and Merriam Park neighborhoods of Saint Paul

Posted new listings of Saint Paul real estate for the year to date were at 6,062 from January through October.  That is a decrease of -9.4% from last year’s 6,688 during the same time period.  Merriam Park, West 7th, and St. Anthony / Midway continue to experience great decreases in new listings.  The Phalen neighborhod and West Side / Cherokee neighborhoods are the only ones to have seen any increases in new listings for the year to date.

Now for a really good number: The amount of homes sold within Saint Paul,...

Moscow on the Hill

The other day, one of my friends had a birthday.  As is customary, the birthday boy got to choose the activities.  What did my eccentric friend want to do?  Have dinner at Saint Paul’s Moscow on the Hill, the city’s finest, and only, Russian restaurant.  Chefs at the Moscow on the Hill restaurant prides itself on offering authentic and traditional Russian food and drink.  I thought that because I went to St. Paul’s only Russian restaurant recently, my Friday post this week would be a review of the lovely experience I had there. 

We had dinner early, with everyone arriving at the restaurant by about 5:30.  The servers were very attentive with keeping drinks flowing and water glasses filled.  The atmosphere was laid back, with dimly-lit rooms, traditional artwork, and Russian and other European styles of music playing softly.  Later in the night, there was live music, as a musician with an accordion played music for the people dining.

Everyone ordered something different.  I ordered the Chicken Kiev with potatoes and sautéed vegetables.  The chicken was fantastic; the frozen stuff at the store doesn’t even give it justice. The outside was extra-crispy, the chicken was juicy and tender, and the inside was filled with herbs, butter, and bacon. My arteries may be a little worse for the wear, but it was delicious.  The potatoes were mashed and pretty normal, the vegetables were nothing special, but there was a sauce on them that was fantastic I couldn’t...

New First Time Home Buyer Resource for Minnesota

As real estate prices tumble and the amount of programs to help out homeowners, many Minnesotans are considering buying their first home soon.  However, there are a lot of low-quality websites out there that don’t provide a lot of useful information for the potential first time home buyer.  It can make researching the process of buying your first home a longer process than it has to be.

Because of the lack of real, comprehensive information for first time home buyers considering buying a home in the Twin Cities area, we have launched the Minnesota First Time Home Buyer Website.  At this site, readers will find information about federal first time home buyer programs, Minnesota state first time home buyer programs, and Minnesota county first time home buyer programs.  In addition, there is information regarding first time home buyer programs for Minneapolis and Saint Paul and neighborhood programs. 

At this first time home buyer website, you can learn about mortgage terms and use a mortgage calculator to roughly estimate how much you could hypothetically spend on a home.  You can register for a home buying seminar to learn an abundance of information about the home buying process.  Though not every...

New Mississippi Market to Break Ground

Mississippi Market announced that the ground breaking on their new store will take place on November 7th.  Mississippi Market is a Saint Paul-based natural and organic food cooperative that has more than 8,000 member-owners. The new store will be located at West 7th St. and Perlman St. S. in the Victoria Park neighborhood of St. Paul.

The public is invited to help celebrate this momentous event in Mississippi Market’s nearly 30-year history. The West 7th and Perlman store will replace Mississippi Market’s aging location at Fairview & Randolph in St. Paul.

Store manager Gail Graham will turn over the ceremonial first mound of soil, accompanied by co-op employees and the new store’s architectural and construction teams.  The new Mississippi Market iis scheduled for completion in Summer 2009.

Consumer owned and operated since 1979, Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op is St. Paul’s premier destination for natural foods and health products. It is a Certified Organic Retail Operation that strives to provide high quality, fair-priced goods and services, promote cooperative principles, and work toward a sustainable local economy and global environment. The Mississippi Market is an institution where like-minded families and individuals can come together and celebrate the joy of eating locally, healthily and responsibly, right here in our own City of ...

Increase in Tax Credit for First Time Home Buyers?

As I mentioned in a previous post, first time home buyers could receive a tax credit up to $7,500 on first homes purchased between April 9 of this year and June 30 of 2009.  There could be more good news in the works! Potential home buyers could receive additional tax and financing incentives within the next few months.  It could come from either a post-election lame-duck congressional session or from the newly elected Congress arriving in January.

To encourage activity in the housing market, national housing industry trade groups are pushing federal officials for a new round of emergency economic stimulus legislation to jolt the housing market into action. Though House and Senate leaders have not officially agreed on whether or not to hold a session immediately after the election, advocates would like to see actions to be pursued by the end of December.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is creating on a plan for a more substantial tax credit for home buyers that could range as high as $12,000. The reason behind the push is fairly clear-cut: The housing and mortgage crisis helped to set off the current financial meltdown, but until the course the real estate market is on is corrected, with the glut of unsold new and existing homes sold, a deeper recession could be in the cards.

The NAHB also wants to make the new tax credit immediately available and able to be spent like cash for a down payment. This could be accomplished through credit-anticipation loans from private lenders that would be repaid by buyers after they get the credit on their next federal income tax return.

The National Association of Realtors has a different proposed package to shake up some...

Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Celebrates 50 Years

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is inviting people from around the world to celebrate its 50th anniversary season - literally.  This January, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) will host an International Chamber Orchestra Festival in the Twin Cities, featuring three European orchestras and one from the U.S. 

Hailing from Europe are the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, London Sinfonietta, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra from San Francisco also will perform.  Each of the visiting orchestras will have one week of performances. The musical programs will include baroque music, works by Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart, as well as some modern pieces.

The International Chamber Orchestra Festival will run for 17 concerts over a four week period.  The dates are January 8th through the 30th. The concerts will be performed at the Ordway Center, the SPCO Center in downtown St. Paul, and seven other venues. 

This is a moment like no other in the SPCO’s 50-year history: a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of five leaders of the chamber orchestra world.  For information, see the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra website.


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