Saint Paul Real Estate Blog

In-Law Units, Granny Flats and Accessory Dwelling Units

For decades, American houses got bigger and bigger, even as family sizes got smaller and smaller. As the housing market collapsed, including the downturn of the Twin Cities real estate market, and the economy soured, more extended families began sharing space, including unemployed young adults moving back with their parents and financially strapped senior citizens moving in with their grown children.

Author Michael Litchfield thinks this trend will continue, as Americans increasingly question whether they're making the best use of their space. In his new book, "In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats" (Taunton Press, $24.95), he shows how to create secondary living spaces -- also called in-law units, granny flats and accessory dwelling units.

Additionally, TATA, which brought a $2500 car to India, is now is taking orders for an entire house (without garage for the tiny car) for $720. That's $3.34 per square foot and perfect for use as a Granny Flat!

Read this Star Tribune article and TreeHugger blog post to learn more about these options.

Additionally, read about locally made Flat Pak houses, one of which is on display at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.


July National, State and Twin Cities Foreclosure News

A recent report show that foreclosure filings have declined since last fall. However, this real estate snap shot isn't a completely pretty picture.

RealtyTrack, an Irvine California firm, has reported foreclosure filings have slowed and are down 25% nationally during the first half of 2011 as compared to the first half of last year. The rate is 29% lower compared to the rate from the second half of 2010. Still, a depressing total of 1,170,402 foreclosures were filed through the end of June, 2011.

The length of time from default to foreclosure to auction has grown.  U.S. properties foreclosed in the second quarter were in the foreclosure process an average of 318 days from the initial notice to the completion, up from 277 days in the second quarter of 2010. New York leads the nation in the length of its foreclosure process at an astounding 944 days. Florida was next at 676 days. At the other end of the spectrum, Texas’ process took 92 days.

The longer length of time for the foreclosure process could be a good or a bad sign. On the one hand, banks are still processing a high-number of defaults, which may be slowing the foreclosure process. On the other, many programs are being developed and offered to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. This is also true for Minnesota.

On a completely related note!

The Washington County Library and the Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority are offering free foreclosure counseling and information workshops on Thursdays in July, providing advice from trained foreclosure-prevention counselors. The events will include a 45-minute presentation summarizing the foreclosure process. Participants will also have an opportunity to meet individually with a foreclosure-prevention counselor. No pre-registration is required.

"The value in speaking to a county foreclosure-prevention counselor is identifying options,"...

Federal Program to Help 1,400 Minnesotans Facing Foreclosure

[UPDATE: The application deadline for this program has been extended through Wednesday, July 27, 2011]

A new program offering money to catch up on delinquent loan payments is accepting applications in Minnesota. Qualified applicants should hurry, as the time frame for joining this program ends July 22.

The Emergency Homeowners' Loan Program will provide up to $50,000 in interest-free, forgivable loans to qualified borrowers. The national program is designed to bring selected homeowners current on their loans, and to assist with future mortgage payments over two years. The loan is forgivable for homeowners who stay in their homes five years beyond the program's two-year duration.

The loans are available to borrower(s) who:

  • Had income declines of 15% or more due to unemployment, underemployment or illness.
  • Have not made a mortgage payment in three months and who have received a foreclosure notice.
  • Live in the mortgaged property.
  • Meet income requirements: Applicants may make no more than $75,000, or 120% of area median income, whichever is greater. In the Twin Cities metro area, that's around $100,000 for a family of four.

Time is short for applying. Applications will only be taken through July 22. An extensive application must be filled out, and eligible participants will be selected via lottery.

Julie Gugin, director of the Minnesota Homeownership Center, which coordinates a network of foreclosure prevention counselors around the state, said two-thirds of homeowners who seek counseling are behind due to income or medical issues. "This program will offer an important lifeline to a large segment of homeowners who otherwise struggle to find options to stay in their homes," she said.

Minnesota is one of 32 states sharing a $1 billion pot to stem foreclosure. The state will receive $55.8 million for this program. It should reach 1,405 Minnesota home owners. Officials...

Tips for Selling a Home in a Down Market

Warmer weather tends to spark movement in the real estate market. Moving is easier and people want to be settled in their new home by fall for school. Even so, selling a home right now isn't exactly an easy proposition. It takes a little more work to sell a home than in previous years. Here are some top home selling strategies to keep in mind.

Price it right. There are about seven homes on the market for every buyer right now. Pricing it right from the beginning increases chances of selling a home quicker and avoiding price reductions. This is especially true if it has more features than other homes nearby, which can place it at the head of the pack.

Know the agent. Finding an agent with experience selling homes in the local market will help ensure correct pricing. When choosing a real estate agent, find out how long on average it usually takes him or her to sell a house. It's best to choose an agent whose properties sell in an average of three or four months, which generally indicates the agent understands how to price the market.

Make the repairs. A few years ago, it might have been enough to just amp up the curb appeal a little. People selling in today's market will have to do more than that. With foreclosures and short-sales as they are, there are plenty of "fixer-uppers" available to buyers priced low. Fix the roof, tighten the leaky pipes, refinish the hardwood floors and replace the drafty windows among other modest repairs to clinch the deal.

Spruce up the place. Appearance is still critical. Reduce the clutter in every room, especially when it comes to personal items or potentially offensive things. Update light fixtures and cabinet hardware in bathrooms and kitchens. Clean the carpets and polish the floors. Put a fresh coat of paint on the walls and on the front door. Trim the lawn, overgrown bushes and trees. It could be helpful to hire a professional stager.

Make it comfortable....

Mixed Results for Recent Twin Cities Residential Sales

For people with the money for a down payment and are able to get a mortgage loan, this summer is turning out to be an excellent time to purchase a Twin Cities home.

Prices plunged 11% in April compared with a year ago, with the Minneapolis –  St. Paul Metro Area continuing to lead declines among major cities. The nation's housing market could be headed for a double-dip fall.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index of 20 cities dropped 4% in April from a year ago, the steepest decline since late 2009. But no metro area prices sank like the Twin Cities, the only one posting a double-digit decline in prices. It was the third straight month the Twin Cities led declines among the country's largest cities, falling 10% in March and 8% in February. There's no clear reason for why Twin Cities home prices have tanked.

[Thomas Musil, a real estate professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul] said "the most plausible explanation" was that the home buyer tax credit that expired at the end of April last year pushed activity higher, so that this year's numbers, without the benefit of the tax credit, are unusually low by comparison.

Musil speculated that it's possible lenders are more efficient in selling off the foreclosure inventory in the Twin Cities market than other places.

In related news, existing homes may get a boost from higher sales prices of new homes. Nationwide, the median sales price of new homes rose 2.6% from April to $222,600. That's more than 30% higher than the median sales of price of older, re-sale homes. Though there are many benefits to owning a brand new home, purchasing an existing home also has its benefits.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if it is the best time for you to be buying a home. With new or existing homes priced low and interest rates at historic lows, it could be the right time for you to step...

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