Saint Paul Real Estate Blog

Healthier Indoor Air Radon Mitigation Standards Pushed for New Homes Constructed in Minnesota

Rules for mitigating radon gas inside homes constructed in Minnesota are some of the strictest in the nation, but the state Department of Health, concerned the rules don't go far enough, has a new request for builders.

Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless gas that can be found in soils throughout the United States, including Minnesota. Much like the name suggests, radon is also radioactive. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as many as 800 Minnesotans die each year from radon-induced lung cancer.

Though passive radon vents are already required by Minnesota law, the State Department of Health (MDH) is now asking builders to voluntarily install attic fans that can more actively draw out the toxic gas. So far, only a few builders have signed on to the MDH program. The agency even offers discounts on radon-venting fans to builders if they agree to install them in all of the new homes they build.

Few prospective home buyers are probably thinking about radon poisoning when touring their potential new home. They are more likely to be more concerned about details like hardwood floors and available kitchen storage space. However, a home's radon risk should be of concern, especially for families with children. And though Minnesota's building code is intended to remove some of the burden on homeowners for dealing with radon by requiring all new houses to have a radon-venting pipe, they may not exist in homes built before the code was passed in 2009.

But James Kelly, supervisor of the indoor air program at the health department, says the vents aren't perfect because they rely on the passive movement of air.

"It's like venting a chimney. In some cases your chimney works better than others. Some days, if the wind isn't quite right, you don't get enough draw," he said. "If you add the fan, you're creating a little bit of suction and actually getting pressure in...

August Twin Cities Real Estate Sales Activity Offers Mixed Results

There have been noteworthy shifts for Twin Cities real estate. Buyer activity is increasing, while sellers are making fewer concessions to sell their homes. Falling supply and improving absorption rates in many communities also suggest that the market is regaining its balance.

Aaccording to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, a few indicators posted improvement over August 2010. New Listings in the Twin Cities region decreased 10.7% to 6,144. Pending sales were up 46.4% to 4,358. Inventory levels shrank 21.4% to 23,502 units. The Median Sales Price decreased by 10.9% to $156,000. Days a property typically spent on the market increased 7.4% to 136 days. Absorption rates improved as supply of inventory was down 18.9% to 7.1 months.

Two other recently released reports show mixed information. Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 major metro markets dropped 4.5% in June from last year. Meanwhile, the U.S. national index released every three months by Case-Shiller, rose 3.6% in June from May but was down nearly 6% year-over-year.

While no one knows exactly why the Twin Cities market is posting such heavy yearly declines, experts suspect foreclosures are the primary culprit. Minnesota, which don't require home foreclosures to go through the court system, may be getting homes back on the market and resold more quickly than other areas.

However, home prices have been ticking up month-to month in the Twin Cities area recently. Spring buying helped increase home prices up for a third straight month in most major U.S. cities in June. The Twin Cities and Chicago led the month-to-month gains among the top 20 metro areas, both markets up 3.2% from May.

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