Saint Paul Real Estate Blog

National Real Estate Market Report

According to a report released by the National Association of Realtors on Monday, sales of existing homes rose in July much further than expected as buyers snapped up deeply discounted properties.  The number of unsold properties, however, also hit an all-time high, an indication that the housing slump is far from over. Prices nationwide are not expected to hit bottom until early next year.

Home sales rose 3.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5 million units, up from June's downwardly revised rate of 4.85 million units. Sales had been expected to rise by only 1.6%. Though its the third monthly sales increase this year, the number of unsold single-family homes and condominiums rose to 4.67 million, the highest number since the NAR began tracking data back in 1968.

The report revealed that home sales were about 13% lower than a year ago. Nationally, the median price for a home sold in July dropped to $212,000, down by 7.1% from a year ago.

Until the inventory level is reduced, the housing slump is likely to persist. It doesn’t help that the inventory level is being driven higher by a new wave of mortgage foreclosures. Moody’s predicts that almost 2.8 million U.S. households will either face foreclosure, turn over their homes to their lender or sell the properties for less than their mortgage's value by the end of next year.

One key unknown for the U.S. housing market is the future ability of mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to supply money for loans. The two government-sponsored companies have dramatically cut back the availability of mortgages as they cope with mounting losses from foreclosures.

According to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, ...

Minnesota State Fair Eco House

This home is the ultimate in Green Living!

The 2,000-square-foot flat-roofed Minnesota State Fair Eco House was designed by SALA Architects. It showcases green building features such as a solar water-heating system, passive heating and cooling features, rain screen system and energy-efficient fixtures and appliances.

The home, furnished by Natural Built Home, will be open for tours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 21 through Sept. 1 as part of the Eco Experience in the Progress Center Building, at the corner of Cosgrove Street and Randall Avenue.

Fair admission: $11 adults, $9 seniors, $8 ages 5-12. 651-288-4400.


Buried Treasure for a Later Generation

On Tuesday, a time capsule was installed in the lobby of the newly renovated Warren E. Burger Federal Building and U.S. District Courthouse in downtown St. Paul.  The building will reopen to the public on September 15 after a three-year, $70 million renovation project.

Among the items interred include:

  • A BlackBerry smartphone
  • 2008 election paraphernalia
  • Biographies of federal judges and other noteworthy Minnesotans
  • Photographs
  • News stories
  • A map of Great Britain hand-drawn by former U.S. Supreme Court chief justice Warren Burger

The building's nine federal courtrooms have been remodeled and four new courtrooms have been added. The heating and air conditioning systems were replaced. The Saint Paul building's exterior and interior have had facelifts, among other improvements.

The time capsule is scheduled to be opened in the 2067, which is the courthouse's centennial. A plaque will be placed on another wall in the lobby so that future generations don't forget it's there.


The Great Minnesota Get-Together

This week on Thursday begins an event which many people wait for all year.  It’s commonly called the Minnesota State Fair and often referred to as the Great Minnesota Get-Together but I think most people can agree it’s the 12 Best Days of Summer.  Beginning August 21 and going through September 1, you can get all manner of foods on a stick, music concerts and entertainment, exhibits, and more.  Last year the Minnesota State Fair was attended by nearly 1.7 million people.  Each year it seems to grow as one of the largest attended state fairs in the nation!

Entertainment at the 2008 Minnesota State Fair includes more than 100 acts at eight free venues, and a lineup of top stars that includes Toby Keith, the Backstreet Boys, and the Black Crowes.  The Great Minnesota Get-Together also features more than 450 food choices.  Let’s not forget the hundreds of agricultural, educational and commercial exhibits and attractions.

It also has a long and deep history.  After four years of territorial fairs, the first Minnesota State Fair was held in 1859 near what became downtown Minneapolis.  That was just one year after Minnesota was granted statehood, which means watch out for next  year’s State Fair celebration when it celebrates its 150th anniversary!

Anyways, back to the fair.  During the fair's early years, the site of the exposition rotated with stops in Minneapolis, Saint...

The Sunray-Battlecreek-Highwood Neighborhoods of Saint Paul

The neighborhoods of Battle Creek, Highwood and Sunray make up the southeast corner of St. Paul. The neighborhoods' borders are Minnehaha Avenue to the north, McKnight Road to the east, the Mississippi River to the south, and the western border is comprised of Hazelwood Street, Birmingham Street and Warner Road.

Due to the steep and heavily wooded bluffs east of Highway 61, not to mention the vast stretches of marsh land surrounding Pig’s Eye Lake, the Sunray-Battlecreek area remained undeveloped until after World W II.  That is with the exception of Highwood, where an unsuccessful attempt was made in the late 1880’s to develop a commuter suburb.  Some unique Queen Anne and shingle style homes from this time period can be found along Point Douglas Road and East Howard Avenue.

A majority of the rest of the houses within Sunray-Battlecreek-Highwood were built during the 1970s and beyond.  Originally, they were mainly bedroom communities for the large 3M Corporation factory and head quarters.  Minnesota's largest employer, 3M is located at Interstate 94 and McKnight Road...

Saint Paul Real Estate Market Analysis for July 2008

Once again, new listings for homes fell in Saint Paul, Minnesota, during the month of July, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors’ Market Update for 100 Twin Cities Communities. During July of 2008, there were 599 new listings in the City of Saint Paul. In July of 2007, there were 692 new listings, which is a drop of about -13.4%, a bit worse than June's drop of 8.9%. The Mac-Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul experienced the greatest decline in new listings this month at -56.9%. The West Side/Cherokee neighborhoods experienced the greatest increase in new listings over last year at 41, a whopping 86.4% more listings when compared to July 2007’s statistics.

Looking at posted new listing for Saint Paul real estate the 2008 year-to-date, from January through July, there were 4,369 new listings in the city, compared to 4,841 during the same time period of 2007. That means there were 9.8% fewer new listings so far this year. The most dramatic changes have happened in the St. Anthony/Midway neighborhoods, where new listings have decreased by 29.8% while the Phalen neighborhood’s new listings continue to increase with 12.1% more houses for sale than last year.

Yet again, a reduction in the amount of listings has not meant fewer closed sales on homes in Saint Paul MN. At 300, there were 5.3% more...

Lowertown Market and Condo Project on Hold

The Farmer's Market Flats project at Fifth and Wall streets in Downtown Saint Paul is on hold once again.  The proposed 15,000-square-foot indoor market and housing complex has been going in fits and starts over the years.  The latest delay seems to be that developer Brian Sweeney has withdrawn from the project.

I won’t really get into the specific of the situations, but for the past few months the project has been stalled due to several lawsuits and countersuits. At the moment, the future of the Farmer’s Market Flats project is unclear, but Mayor Chris Coleman and other city officials say that they're committed to seeing the project through to completion.  The city and HRA have pledged up to $1.4 million in financing on the $13.5 million project.

The plan is for Farmers Market Flats to have a 15,000-square-foot indoor market area, which would be owned by the city and leased to the St. Paul Growers' Association, which runs the market.  The project has been in the works for about 20 years. A previous developer pulled out of the deal in 2006, and Sweeney stepped in last year.

Despite the soft real estate market and abundance of condos in the Twin Cities, he said he sold 32 of 48 condos. The units were priced between $144,000 and $244,000.  The buyers' deposits have been returned.

Right now, the main concern is getting the land back under Saint Paul’s control.  Sweeney is helping to facilitate this.  It could happen by October.  Despite moving aside, Sweeney also said...

Saint Paul Trees Need Your Help

The benefit of trees provide to society, particularly in densely populated and upwardly developed communities such as St. Paul, are far-reaching. They lower heating and air conditioning costs, prevent erosion, provide wildlife habitats, increase property values, provide shade shade on hot sunny days, and are visually appealing against the hard surfaces found in the city.  Whether you realize it at first or not, trees make our lives better.

Publicly owned trees which create St. Paul’s urban forest are essential to the vitality of a city as any other component of community infrastructure.  Like streets, sidewalks, public buildings, and recreational facilities, trees are a major capital asset.  They gain value over the years as they mature and grow.  However, to reach this maturity, they must be maintained. 

Saint Paul residents are being asked to water their trees because of the shortage of rainfall this year.

The city's forestry experts are offering a host of suggestions on how to water trees:

  • Water trees in the early morning or evening.
  • Smaller trees need to be watered every other day for 30 to 60 minutes; a slow trickle of water the tree's base is best.
  • Larger trees need watering two to three per week for one to two hours; use a trickle or slow stream around the drip line. That's where water would drip during a rainfall.

City of St. Paul officials say that a tree that needs watering often has yellowed, drooping or wilting leaves, or a premature loss of leaves.


Irish Fair of Minnesota

St. Paul is a city famous for its Irish heritage, with about 12 percent of residents claiming roots in Ireland, it’s no surprise that it’s the location of the largest free celebration of Irish heritage in the Upper Midwest.  The three-day Irish Fair of Minnesota, now in its 30th year, opens this Friday on Harriet Island in St. Paul.  This event attracts well beyond the "heritage circle," though, as last year it drew an estimated 100,000 people, about 35 percent of whom have no Irish blood at all.

The weekend is a celebration of all aspects of Irish culture.  It show a reverence for Irish immigrant settlers in Minnesota and at the same time, it recognizes the impact immigrants are making today.  Additionally, the Irish Fair Legacy Fund awards grants to Irish cultural groups and non-Irish immigrant groups in Twin Cities communities and beyond.  For example, money has gone to Irish music youth workshops, English learning classes for new Americans, and sewing skills for Somali women.

The festival will have music, sporting events, dancing and workshops on Gaelic language, genealogy, Irish instruments and crafts. Boxing exhibitions, popular at past festivals, will continue through the weekend with scrappy Irish boxers in 1920s-style attire. The fair also will feature its second Idol Contest, with competing music or dance acts that are Irish or Celtic in nature.

About 50 vendors, 15 artisans and a dozen community organizations will sell products or set up exhibits...

Saint Paul's Six Point Plan

Mayor Chris Coleman has releases a six-point economic development plan for the City of Saint Paul. It was devised in conjunction with major St. Paul business organizations and states goals and responsibilities for improving commerce.

Acknowledging that St. Paul can do more to attract new businesses and keep the ones it has, the plan outlines common-sense ways for the city to:

  • • Cut through some of the red tape.
  • • Retain businesses and recruit new ones.
  • • Revitalize downtown as well as neighborhoods
  • • Ensure the schools are doing their part to build an educated and skilled workforce.

If St. Paul is going to become a better place to do business, it's going to take teamwork.  But it's not the city that creates jobs and wealth, according to the plan it is the businesses and nonprofit organizations.

In the past, the city has offered tax incentives to companies such as Lawson and Gander Mountain. It also made a forgivable loan to the downtown Macy's -- as long as it doesn't leave before 2012. But St. Paul, like other cities across the United States, isn't flush with cash these days. Tough economic times have slowed investment and put pressure on many existing businesses.

It has taken about two years and many meetings with members of the Capital City Partnership, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, St. Paul Port Authority and St. Paul Riverfront Corporation...

Interest Free $7,500 for First Time Home Buyers

A home purchase tax credit is available now through a housing bill approved by Congress in July. If you have never owned a home or haven’t owned a house during the past three years, and you can close within the qualifying dates, you may be eligible for up to a $7,500 credit against your federal taxes for 2008 or 2009 ($3,750 if you file taxes as a single person).

If you have or will close on a house between April 9, 2008, and June 30, 2009, you could be eligible for the tax credit.  It can be a new or old home, a house in any location or condition, and within any price range so long as it is bought during the selected time period

Essentially, Congress is offering tax credits to draw in more first time home buyers in order to jolt housing sales and sell off high real estate inventories.

Close on a house before next June 30, and you could claim a credit of up to 10 percent of the purchase price of the property up to a maximum of $7,500. If your adjusted gross income exceeds $150,000 ($75,000 for singles), the credit maximum begins to decrase in increments. You cannot claim the credit if you are a nonresident alien, financed the property using a state or local housing agency tax-exempt bond mortgage, or do not plan to use the house as your principal residence.

After you’ve purchased the home, the IRS will reduce your tax bill by up to $7,500 for either this year or next. Moreover, the new home purchase tax credit is what the government calls "refundable." If your tax bill is less than the credit amount, you get the difference back from the Treasury. For example, if you're a qualified buyer of a house this year and you owe the IRS $3,500 on your total 2008 income tax bill, the $7,500 tax credit would not only “pay” your taxes, but you would also receive a $4,000 refund.

If you own a...

Como Zoo’s Newest Resident

A Chilean flamingo is the first flamingo in Como Zoo’s history to have a baby chick.  Como has been exhibiting flamingos since the late 1960s. 

The small hatchling burst from its egg on Thursday in the Zoo's Bird Yard.

Due to their unusual breeding practices, many zoos and other institutions have been unsuccessful producing flamingo chicks.  But with increased research, zoos have been becoming more successful in recent years.  In fact, within the past week Lincoln Park Zoo and Denver Zoo reported their first eggs in history too. 

Como keepers attribute the success on a few other factors.  The birds were outside a little earlier this season, as well as the wetter than normal spring. This hatchling is one of three eggs laid in late June, the other two appear not to be viable. 

Flamingo are most known for their remarkable pale pink to salmon and red coloring, but they don’t look this way when they hatch.  Flamingo chicks are born white and turn grey after a few weeks.  It is after a year or so, and with a proper diet, that they begin to develop their pink coloring.  Alpha and Beta carotene pigments in a flamingo’s diet create the brilliant hues.  These pigments are added to the diets of captive flamingos. 

For over 100 years, Marjorie McNeely Conservatory and Como Zoo in Saint Paul, Minnesota has charmed, educated and entertained millions of children and adults while fostering an appreciation of the natural world.  Como Park Zoo and Conservatory welcomes 1.7 million...

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