New Look, New Dog, New Pizza…same old weather (includes Pizza Joe’s review)

A week of change!  We've been working on updating the look of this site and went live with it on Sunday night.  Here it is!  You're looking at it.  It's not perfect, but I think that's okay considering that we help people buy and sell houses for a living, not design websites!  Let us know what you think.  Like it? See a glaring error?  Tell us that too!

Second, my family and I adopted a new dog on Sunday.  He was formerly known as Chevy Chase, but we have fittingly renamed him Clark W. Griswold.  He's a ~7 month border collie/lab mix.


Clark W. Griswold
Clark W. Griswold 2

He is very exited to meet all his neighbors around Lake Nokomis and the Minnehaha Dog Park.

And lastly, news for everyone in the East Nokomis area.  I tried our new pizza joint last night.  Pizza Joe's moved in to the space formerly occupied by Ginelli's.  Ginelli's was a favorite of my neighbors and mine.  Would Pizza Joe's successfully replace it?

Well so far so good.  We tried to order on their website and ran into some errors.  When we called to follow up, they were unbelievably nice.  The manager was clearly excited at a chance to make some new customers.  We ordered two pizzas:  a build your own with peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and a sausage.  We had our choice of three different crusts and went with the "hand tossed."  Both pies were well received.  The sauce was good, the toppings fresh, the cheese gooey, and I heard from the others that the sausage was good. 

Was it as good as the late great Ginelli's?  Well…no.  But it was better than any of the chains for sure.  It held up well against the local joints too. I like the choices and flavor of Parkway Pizza better, but their bitter crust cannot be eaten alone and you end up with a plate of "pizza bones."  And Pizza Joe's was cheaper!  I'm not a huge fan of Joey D's..err…I mean Chris and Rob's pizza, but I know that others are.  I guess I could see myself order from any of the them depending on what I'm in the mood for and what crowd I'm feeding.

Welcome to the neighborhood Pizza Joe's!

What Can I Do To Help With the Economical Crisis?

Well if you have lots of money and job security, go on a shopping spree!  And try to by local products at local shops.

But if you're just doing okay and have a stable home environment, adopt a pet.  They are the silent victims of the foreclosure crisis.  Many families have had to give up their dogs and cats in order to find a new place to live.  There have even been stories of families visiting their beloved pets at the shelter until they were adopted.

Angel

If you are looking for a animal companion, please consider adopting a pet from a humane society or other shelter instead of from a breeder.

www.animalarkshelter.org

www.midwestpetfinder.com/minnesota_shelters.htm

What’s Up With This $7500 Tax Credit?

Good question.  Congress has been passing laws faster than the industry knows what to do with them.  The current law, as was passed last year, gives a $7500 credit on your tax return for qualified first-time buyers who purchase a home between April 9, 2008 and July 1, 2009.  Except it isn't a credit.  It's a zero interest loan that must be repaid on your future taxes over the next 15 years.

As you can imagine, this did little to stimulate the housing market.  It doesn't increase your ability to purchase a home.  It just makes expenses easier to handle once you're there…eventually…when you get a refund…that you pay back.

The new stimulus plan that passed the house on Wednesday turns that credit into a…CREDIT!  If the bill becomes law, that $7500 would become a straight-forward credit on your 2009 returns.  It would retroactively include purchases made since January 1, 2009 and extend through either June or August (depending on the bill). 

Will this simply be a windfall for the qualified first-time buyers who were going to buy anyway?  Or will this be enough incentive to convince someone on the fence to buy?  It still won't give you $7500 to use towards your down payment.  But knowing it's there in 2010 may just be the assurance you need, that you can afford to buy in this well priced market.

2009 U.S. Pond Hockey Championships

2007_rinks

The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships return again to Lake Nokomis this weekend (January 23-25), and it sounds like an icy blast of arctic air will arrive just in time to scare away any thin skinned spectators.  The website for the event even includes safety tips for cold weather!

And remember, it was warm weather than brought the tournament to Lake Nokomis in 2007 from Lake Calhoun.  The ice just wasn't good enough after the mild winter.  We're glad to see them back here for a third year.  I bet the new Caribou will do a lot of business this weekend.  If you want to help out a local coffee shop, try crossing over the lake to Nokomis Beach Coffee.  Great coffee and locally baked pastries will surely warm you up.  Plus hot soup and sandwiches!

I’ll List Your Home For Free!

Let's save money  Will_work_for_food 

There have always been choices when it comes to hiring a real estate agent.  From do it yourself brokers that put your home on the MLS with pictures you provide for an upfront fee, to full service companies that charge up to 7% of the sale’s price.  Then within each company there are many different agents with different styles, experiences, talents, and ethics.

It’s a lot for the consumer to sift through.

I want to discuss one of the options:  Free.

There are several companies and agents who are trying out a plan where they charge no commission to list your home.  In turn you must agree to work with them on the purchase of your next home, where they will be paid a cooperating commission from the listing broker of that home.

And they do everything a full service agent does, except for open houses.  But you are free to hold your own.

Yeah, right.

Trust me.  Don’t expect them to do anything other than put your home on the MLS and put a sign in your yard.  And they may charge a fee for that much.

Here’s why I don’t like it:

1)        It’s not free.  You still have to pay the cooperating broker that represents the buyer.  That’s typically 2.7%.

2)       You’ve now entrusted what’s most likely your most valuable asset to someone who has told you that what they do is of no value.  If it was of value, they would charge you for it.  I’m willing to cut your hair for free.  Any takers?

3)       Saving $6,000 in commission and then selling your home for $10,000 less than a good full service agent could negotiate for you is hardly a deal.

4)       You have a no-value, limited-service agent on your side.  The buyer may have a full-service, full-value agent on theirs.  Good luck.

5)       The financial incentive of your agent is not connected to the price of your house.  It’s only connected to the price of the next home you buy.  Their best case is to under price your home and sell it quickly at minimal expense to them. 

And remember, I’ll LIST your home for free too.  But I will charge a commission when I SELL it.

What? You want me to talk about pie some more?

I know you've been on the edge of your seats wondering how my Baker's Wife pie experience was this Thanksgiving.  Well wait no more.  Here are the results:

Cherry Pie

Good, but not as good as I remember it.  I think the novelty wore off.  Still a safe choice for the holidays.

Pecan Pie

Now we're talking.  I love pecan pie, so maybe this is irrelevant to those of you who don't like nuts.  But this pie was tasty.  The pecans were perfectly roasted.  I don't know if he cooks it longer, or hotter, or if he pre-roasts the pecans, but it works.  And to prove it was better, my dog Nigel took both half eaten pies off the counter while we were out.  He ate the pecan, and he left the cherry untouched.

Pie

Let me once again write about my favorite subject:  A Baker's Wife. 

This is not an ad.  I am not a paid spokesperson.  I'm just a concerned pie eater.

Order your pie now.  The cherry pie is one of the best things I've eaten.  And to be clear, I don't like cherry pie.  It's that good.  Maybe if you're a cherry pie lover you'll find this wonderfully tart pie a disappointment.  Maybe you'll find something that you love about other cherry pie lacking in this scrumptious slice of Thanksgiving celebration.  Maybe.  But I doubt it.

Bakers_Wife_Display

Best Halloween Display in Minneapolis!

If you live in the Ericsson neighborhood, you've probably already discovered Polly and Gregg Hanson's annual Halloween display.  They (okay, mostly just Polly) have been growing and improving their "graveyard," as Polly calls it, for 10 years.

As the owner of Virginia Rose Estate Sales, the Hansons are in the perfect business for finding odd and discarded pieces add to the scenery.  Polly says that she tries to avoid store bought items, although with their reputation they often recieve gifts that do have commercial origins.  The hard work and commitment to producing something orginal that you can't simply buy at Menard's really shows.  Go check it out before the spooky season is over! 

The home is located at 4228 30th Ave S.  Enjoy the pictures:

      From street  

Big picture  Skelly 

 Mummy  Al frankenstein  Side of house

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Haunted_house Your haunted house is the prefect place for a Halloween party.  Other parties have to spend lots of money creating the illusions of ghosts and ghouls.  It takes lots of wires, motors, and smoke machines.  You, however, were lucky enough to end up with a truly haunted house.  Sure the spirits keep you up at night, but all your friends say you have the best Halloween parties.  I mean, no one is willing to spend Christmas at your place.  But once a year, October 31st, it's all worth it.

But now, you decided to take a job in Salem and you have to sell your home.  Do you advertise that it's haunted?  Perhaps people will pay a premium for poltergeist.  Or do you paint over the bleeding wall and keep it all a secret? 

I'm not going to tell you what to do, but you should familiarize yourself with the law.  The state of Minnesota requires a nine page disclosure.  In which, it is necessary to disclose any material facts that would affect the normal use and enjoyment of the home by any future buyer.  But you are in luck.  There are a few exceptions to this rule.  And one of them is haunted houses.

Page 9, lines 39-42:  There is no duty to disclose the fact that the property…was the site of a suicide, accidental death, natural death, or perceived paranormal activity.

But I assure you, after the new owners move in and meet the neighbors, they'll learn all about your paranormal parties.  And expect their lawyer to come knocking, regardless of duty to disclose.

Stock Market vs. Real Estate Market

Heard any news about the real estate market lately?  It’s for real. Prices are lower. Homes are being foreclosed on. The bad mortgages are affecting everything in the financial markets. But are houses really the worst investment you could have made?

Since 2001, the average price of a single-family home in Nokomis has gone from $170,066 to $222,542. In Longfellow, the average price was $155,226 in 2001 and $192,772 today. And that number doesn’t consider that many foreclosed homes in rotten condition are skewing the numbers lower. In the same time, the Dow ended up right where it started. Simply, your investment did better in the housing market than it did in the stock market.

But that’s not the whole picture. How many memories have you made in your home? How many have you made in the stock market? Remember that time that you had your entire family over to your stock portfolio for Thanksgiving? Remember your first Christmas tree in your stock portfolio? Remember watching the snow fall out the window of your stock portfolio? No matter how cold it got, your stock portfolio always kept you warm at night.

You don’t have to invest in the stock market. But you do have to live somewhere. And in the long run, it’s better to own that home than to rent it. That doesn’t mean you should buy a home you can’t afford, or buy any home before you can afford it. But the dream of owning your own home is still a valid one. But if you treat it like the stock market and think that you can buy and sell at will as you try to build your fortune, your dream will return the favor just as reliably as the stock market. But put your dream of family and love into that home, and it rarely disappoints.