Saint Paul Real Estate Blog

Woodbury MN retail center in the works

A new grocery store and shopping center is being built to accomodate Woodbury MN residents.

The tentatively named Bielenberg Gardens project is the first part of a high-density "urban village" master plan the City is drafting for the southwest corner of Bailey Road and Radio Drive. Woodbury has determined that is the suburb's next area for residential growth in the future.

One of the Twin Cities fastest-growing suburbs in the past decade, Woodbury experienced a wave of construction of malls, shopping centers and stores, but much of it was in the city's north near Interstate 94. The suburb's south has fewer basic services, and the new project's developers -- Bloomington-based United Properties and local residential land developer Tim Thone -- say the shopping center will fill the gap in necessities not just for southern Woodbury, but northern Cottage Grove.

This Woodbury MN project is one of the few such neighborhood retail centers in the works around the Twin Cities. About half of the proposed 120,000-square-foot center will be the grocery store. Pending city approvals, there are plans to break ground on the 28-acre development next spring. It would open by the fall of 2012.

The working name of Bielenberg Gardens is a reference to Woodbury's first mayor, Orville Bielenberg. His farm once stood nearby.


June is Home Ownership Month

For many citizens, owning a home is the definition of American independence. Because of how important home ownership is to Americans, June has been declared National Home Ownership Month. The theme this year is "Rural Housing/Rural Jobs."

During the kickoff of National Homeownership Month, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack drew attention to the important role buying a house plays in creating jobs, maintaining viable communities and contributing to the economy. Since the beginning of the fiscal year, which began in October 2010, USDA Rural Development has financed about 80,000 home loans for rural residents.

"Housing drives rural economies and supports healthy rural communities," Vilsack said. "About 50 million Americans call rural areas home, and safe, sanitary housing is a basic human need in rural America. USDA Rural Development's housing programs do more than provide a place for families to live. They stimulate economic activity through single-family home construction, rental assistance for those who need it, and funding for eligible very-low-income homeowners to enable them to keep their dwellings in good repair."

The economic impact of housing development goes far beyond home sales and construction. According to the National Association of Realtors:

The sale of an existing median-priced home ($173,000 in 2010) generates $58,529 in economic activity. This includes $15,570 in direct real estate industry support (fees for real estate agents, title companies, mortgage brokers); $5,235 in furniture, home furnishings, landscaping, etc.; and $9,987 in stimulated economic activity. New home sales generate even more economic activity, including the costs of construction materials and construction jobs, according to NAR.

Home ownership doesn't just benefit the individuals who live within a house's walls. Home ownership helps communities...

Some good news for Twin Cities real estate in May

The local real estate market is making some progress, according to data released by a Twin Cities Realtor organization.

Figures from the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors show that pending sales for May 2011 were up 13.2% from the year before, with 4,428 contracts signed. Part of the improvement is due to a drop in pending sales in May of last year, following the end of the federal first time home buyer tax credit.

Though the median sale price of homes decreased 12.6% to $152,950, the median sale price of non-distressed properties rose 1.4% to $200,700. Foreclosure prices were down 16.4% to $104,450, and short sale prices were down 5.6% to $135,000.

About 4,968 non-distressed properties entered the market in May 2011, more than the 4,202 of May 2010. Distressed properties - foreclosed homes or those bought as short sales - accounted for about a third of all new listings in May, the lowest percentage in more than a year.

"Both the foreclosure rate and the distressed-sales rate hit 7-month lows in May." said Brad Fisher, president of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. "It is reassuring to have more traditional product entering the market relative to other segments, as today's new listings are tomorrow's closings."

All of this is welcome news for both Twin Cities real estate professionals and home sellers in the area.


Many believe down payments for homes are out of reach

It's a great time to buy a home - if you don't have to first sell a home. And you have good credit. And money for a down payment. Though mortgage experts say that loans requiring less than 20% for a down payment are available, don't expect much if you don't have some money saved. Wait, it's a great time to buy a home, but for whom?

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s (NFCC) May online survey, the dream of home ownership is out of reach for many. The NFCC asked consumers about their ability to meet current down-payment requirements for buying a home in today’s market. Of the more than 2,000 respondents, 49% admitted that they’d never be able to save enough money for a down-payment on a home.

That's nearly half! This is discouraging news for Realtors, lenders, potential home buyers, even existing home owners.

Historically, finding the money for a down-payment was only a problem for first-time home-buyers.  After buying the first home, between the equity growing due to making monthly house payments and the value of the house appreciating, buyers could satisfy the down-payment requirement on the new home from the proceeds of the sale of the former house.  This is often no longer the case.

Due to today’s turbulent housing market, the problem has now spread to those who currently own a home.  Many mortgages are underwater.  Thus, even if the homeowner is able to sell their current house, there may be no profit available to satisfy the down-payment on the next home.  Exacerbating the problem is that as home prices have decreased, many lenders have increased the down-payment amount required to obtain a mortgage loan.

The rest of the survey results show that 20% of the respondents said their mortgage would require a lower down payment, 18% said they would have to borrow the down-payment no matter how...

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