Friday, June 22, 2012

Technology Minute: QR Codes and Real Estate

Have you noticed the odd bar code boxes showing up on real estate signage and flyers lately? Do you recognize them as QR codes? Are you shaking your head wondering what a QR code actually is and does? Do you have a smartphone?

A QR code is very similar to a UPC bar code that is used in pretty much every store, from where you buy your groceries to where you shop for clothes. It gives detailed product information. In a matter of seconds, using your smartphone, you can get all the information you desire on the item at no cost and with less hassle.

With a QR code, you can read about the product, including a condo for sale, using your smart phone easily and fuss free. You can efficiently scan the "condo for sale" flyer you found on your doorknob or the for sale sign of the condo next door to your daughter and discover the details of the condo without having to make a phone call. You can be directed to a real estate website that will show you more condos and other resources, too, if you desire.

You can view pictures, videos, floorplans, community information and status - everything you want to know - instantly. I personally dislike having to wait for a call back when I want information, QR codes make sure you can find out what you need to know, when you want to know it!
So, please let me know what you think. I value your opinion and wanted to educate you on what and why those little fuzzy boxes exist. Do you love QR codes, too, or would you rather see my picture on a sign instead? Maybe both? :)

For further information on the Minneapolis Condo Market please contact Ben Ganje.

Housing Market: Positive News for Buyers and Sellers

Curious about what the real estate market is really like these days? You are not alone. In fact, many organizations are examining multiple factors regularly to try to determine the status of the condo market.

According to the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) released on Friday, April 5, 2012, 101 areas throughout the United States are showing signs of growth, in thirty-five states. That is great news for condo buyers and sellers, as it means the real estate market is improving throughout the country. It is reassuring news if you are a condo buyer as well, as it may give you a better idea of the stability of the area in which you hope to buy a condo.
It is interesting to note that the NAHB/FA report is based on the following three solid factors remaining steady over a six month period, rather than simply market speculation.
  • Employment Growth Statistics (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • House Price Appreciation (Freddie Mac)
  • Single-family Housing Permit increases (U.S. Census Bureau)
According to David Crowe, chief economist at NAHB, “The IMI is designed to highlight markets that are showing consistent improvement." Seeing that improvement as a great sign, Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Company agreed stating,“The fact that the number and geographic distribution of improving housing markets continued to expand beyond the 100 mark in April bodes well for the start of the spring home buying season, and should be an encouraging sign for those who are considering a condo purchase.” You can view the current report here to see specific markets and their ranking in the IMI.

For further information and trends about the Minneapolis Condo Market contact Ben Ganje.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oceanaire in Minneapolis moves to Nicollet Mall

Looking for a unique and delicious dining experience in downtown Minneapolis? Oceanaire may be the spot for you! 
  After spending12 years nestled in the Hyatt hotel, the award-winning Oceanaire Seafood Room made the big move to a more personal spot on 6th Street and Nicollet Mall in early January. 
  General manager Jake Uttich was excited to make the movefrom the skyway level spot to a much more accessible street location that allows more traffic, presence, and visual appeal. The interior remodel of the former M&S Grille includes a lavish granite bar, ocean-eske blue lighting throughout, and redesigned booths that set the new location apart from the old one. 
  Oceanaire management commented, “We’re so excited to bring our freshseafood into the heart of downtown Minneapolis. Our same talented chefs, oursame delicious menu and our same dedication to our guests move down Nicollet Ave just 7 short blocks.” 
  The short move will ensure that those who enjoyseafood will be able to continue with the same convenience as always. With fresh seafood shipped in daily from all over the world, Oceanaire is well wortha look in downtown Minneapolis.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More condo owners about to move into the Mill District!

The Downtown Council recently unveiled an aggressive plan for the city to double in size over the next 15 years. City Leaders are looking for more Minneapolis Lofts and Condos to be built around the new core areas around the city. The panel, lead by more than 80 people made up of business owners, community leaders and city residents sought to create a road map for Minneapolis to follow for the next decade and a half.

In the past the downtown council has created multiple plans of this type, 5 in all, stemming back to 1959 when the first plan was put in place to update the corridor on Washington Ave and Hennepin previously called the "Gateway" area--now commonly referred to as the Mill District and North Loop.

The most recent plan was unveiled to the city in the mid 1990s when Minneapolis Condos were a novelty and considered more along the lines of a pioneering concept for urban dwellers. Fast forward to 2011 and year to date we have seen close to 700 purchases downtown making it one of the biggest years for strong sales activity across the city.  As the market continues to pick up steam watch developers to unveil plans for new residential and commercial buildings in the Mill District.

Search for more information on Minneapolis Real Estate at my handy site.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

4 Things To Do Before You Buy A Condo And Need Financing

In the world of Minneapolis condos, financing issues can creep up and compromise a transaction any day of the week.  When your focus is in the urban markets you hear a lot of stories relating to buyers obtaining a mortgage and the hoops involved.   I have certainly had my share of these, too, even when the buyers are instructed, warned and threatened ... it happens.
  1. Do not quit your job. This is a common issue in today's fast paced world! People are continually changing jobs which somehow happen to be when they are close to buying a condo!  In the last 90 days we have heard about a few of these scenarios in which buyers have moved to a different job which makes the financing disappear.  Rule of thumb for financing: once you apply - freeze. When you close you can thaw.
  2. Do not charge anything on your credit card.  It happens. First time buyers are the worst. They hear the words "your mortgage application is approved" and immediately they start applying for credit cards (often to buy furniture for their new condo) or buy a new vehicle.
  3. Do not spend the money you have on hand. This one happens more often than number one but not as often as number two. When you fill out an application and say you have $31,500 in your savings account and $12,000 in your checking those numbers are verified and your closing costs/down payment has to come from that. If you bring a check from some account you never told your lender about that will halt the closing until those funds can be verified.
  4. Do not make any large deposits you cannot provide a paper trail on. Usually deposits over $500 have to be sourced meaning you will have to provide a verifiable paper trail of where that money comes from. The purpose of this is to show an interested party is not giving you the funds to make it happen. You can get a gift from a relative or "significant other" provided those funds are traced as well. In that case you need a specific letter you can get the form from your lender.
With the current lender guidelines there are plenty of other ways that financing can go south very quickly.  Rest assured there are other ways to blow it but these seem to be the most common and should also be the most obvious. When you know these in advance you can time your changes to make sure they don't interrupt or kill your chances at getting a new condo or loft!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top 5 Costs of Owning a Condo in Minneapolis

Top 5 Costs to Owning a Condo

1. Special assessments. HOA dues to maintain the complex come as no surprise to condo owners, but hefty special assessments to make unexpected (and unbudgeted) repairs to the roof, windows, boiler or even foundation often catch unit owners unawares. Even if your home doesn’t belong to an HOA, don’t be surprised to see special assessments tacked on top of your property tax bill, covering public services including things like street lighting, tree trimming, pest control, libraries, and even schools.

2. Utilities and services you didn’t need while renting. Many renters have never had to pay for things like gas, garbage, water and pest services, and they've also looked to their Electric, gas, garbage, alarm, water, pest, home warranty – which mitigates larger surprise costs of unexpected major repairs, gutter cleaning/maintenance, snow removal/winterizing, etc)

3. Private mortgage insurance. Today’s savvy homebuyers are well aware that they’ll have to pony up for private mortgage insurance, or PMI, if they’re putting less than 20 percent down on their mortgage. But the cost of PMI has spiked over the last year, and the amount definitely catches buyers off guard.

4. Penalties and fines. HOA rule violations, like parking in the wrong spot, installing hardwood floors in an upstairs unit, or painting your home a forbidden hue can result in surprising fines, on top of the costs of remediating the issue. Even single-family homeowners can get ticketed and/or fined by their city or town for violations like having overgrown weeds or other building code violations – especially those which create fire and safety hazards.

5. Items you didn't need while renting, but you do as a homeowner. This varies based on your climate and the type of home you own, as well as on the services you outsource, but can include landscaping equipment (e.g., lawn mower, snow/leaf blowers), washer/dryer, fridge, window treatments, and light fixtures.

Top 5 Hidden Costs of Renting a Condo

1. Opportunity Costs. When you rent, you lose out on the chance of equity – which can mean an increase in your home’s value but, even in a down market, can also mean the chance of ever owning the place you live free and clear.

2. Income taxes. If you earn above a certain level of income, the income taxes you’re paying as a renter will be substantially higher than they would be if you owned a home and could deduct your property taxes and mortgage interest.

3. Storage. Many a renter simply has too many personal belongings to stuff into their small apartment, so it’s not uncommon for tenants to also pay for a storage space, without calculating that expense into their “housing” budget.

4. Costs of improving the property. Long-term renters may paint, replace the flooring, and do other improvements to make the place livable. But since it’s not technically “their” home, when they do move out, all the cash they invested is lost. In fact, some landlords may require them the pay or forfeit deposit money to bring the place back to its original, neutral décor.

5. Lost deposits. Anyone who has rented more than a couple of apartments is well aware of the chances of losing some or all of your security or peet deposits, no matter how well you care for your home.

Reverse Offers: Defined and Explained

At the beginning of the housing crisis, sellers turned to gimmicky tricks like YouTube love letters about their homes and burying St. Joseph's figurines upside down in the front yard to try to move their homes off the market. These days, though, many sellers are getting smarter and more strategic, turning the transaction on its head to get buyers off the fence with a phenomenon called the reverse offer.

Usually, the buyer makes an offer for a certain price and on certain terms. A reverse offer goes in the opposite direction: from seller to buyer. In some cases, a seller whose home has been on the market for ages with lots of viewers, but no offers, may enlist their agent to go back and approach several or even all of the buyers who have come to see the property, and make an offer to the buyer. In other scenarios, the seller's agent extends an offer to a particular buyer who has come to see the property multiple times and seems very interested, but has been hesitant to make an offer.

Reverse offers generally offer to sell the home at a price lower than the list price, and they often sweeten the pot by throwing in added incentives like paying some or all of the buyer's closing costs, buying down the buyer's interest rate, paying for HOA dues or fees or even throwing property like flat-screen TVs, cars or other valuables into the deal.

Here are 3 best practices for sellers making reverse offers:

• Give the buyers a short period of time to respond. The whole point of a reverse offer is to create urgency where the buyer currently feels none. Extend a reverse offer with the caveat that it is only good for a day or two, to push the buyers into moving quickly. Similarly, if you have extended the reverse offer to multiple buyers, let them all know that this is the case and that the first buyer to bite takes the house.

• Great candidates for reverse offers include sellers facing lots of competition. If your home is nearly identical to neighboring homes for sale at the same price, or you are struggling to position it competitively with foreclosures and short sales in the area, consider making a reverse offer. A proactive, reverse offer differentiates your house in the minds of home buyers and, again, creates urgency to act on the part of buyers who otherwise have so many homes to choose from that they feel they have all the time, choice and bargaining leverage in the world.

• If one buyer has viewed your home repeatedly, check in with their agent directly or via Trulia’s contact form before making a reverse offer. Ask your listing agent to contact the broker for any buyers who have made more than one visit to your home, to inquire into what is keeping them on the fence. This will boost the likelihood of making a successful reverse offer by making sure the offer addresses the issues that have made buyers hesitant to pull the trigger.

Critics of the reverse offer express a concern that it may make a seller seem desperate. If you’re worried, hop over to Trulia Voices and ask the real estate professionals for their thoughts. However, when you talk to home buyers on today's market, their biggest beef is sellers who are unrealistic and inflexible, not sellers who seem overly motivated to sell.

No serious home buyer gets turned off by a seller who seems willing to go the extra mile to help them solve the problems that are stopping them from buying a home. Also, a reverse offer doesn't have to chop tens of thousands off the home's list price to work – a percentage point or two can often do the trick. In any event, sellers who extend a reverse offer don't limit their options for responding to low-ball offers from the prospective buyer in any way; if the buyer senses desperation and comes back with a low ball offer, the seller can still take it, counter or leave it, just like they would have been able to do before making the reverse offer (but they end up with a buyer, which they didn't have before the reverse offer).

Ten Documents You Will Need To Buy or Sell A Condo

Home buyers and -sellers alike often bristle with anticipatory irritation at the mere thought of all the paperwork they expect they’ll have to come up with to do their transaction, above and beyond the basic loan application, contract, disclosures and closing docs. And these worries start way in advance; it’s as though, before they even start visiting open houses, buyers begin to visualize - and dread - spending hours upon hours in the dank catacombs of the Vatican (à la Da Vinci Code) combing through ancient files, seeking some rare and precious artifact documenting their childhood dental history or genealogy.

In some respects, this vision of the experience of obtaining a home loan might not be far off - there are oodles of hoops through which to jump and, occasionally, the loan underwriter requests something sort of bizarre. But more commonly, there’s a pretty finite universe of documents you’ll really need to scrounge up to get your home bought - or sold. Here they are:
ID (e.g., driver’s license, state-issued ID, passport). Who must produce it? Buyers and sellers. Why? Uh, hello!?! Lender wants to know that you are who you say you are, buyers, and the title insurance company wants to make sure, sellers, that you actually have the right to sell the home. Funny enough, this commonly goes unrequested until you get to the closing table, when the notary requests to see it before signing, but some mortgage brokers and even some real estate brokers and agents may ask to see it earlier on.
Paycheck Stubs. Who must produce it? Any buyer financing their purchase with a mortgage. Sellers, usually only in the case of a short sale. Why? Buyers’ purchase price ranges are determined, in part, by their income. And short sellers have to prove an economic hardship.
Two months’ bank account statements. Who must produce it? Buyers getting financing; sellers selling short. Why? Buyers’ lenders now require proof of regular income and proof that the down payment money is your own. Short sellers? It’s all about the hardship.
Two years’ W-2 forms or tax returns. Who must produce it? Mortgage-seeking buyers and short selling sellers. Why? Banks want to see a stable, long-term income. They also limit you to claiming as income the amount on which you pay taxes (attn: all business owners!). And in short sales, again, they want documentation of every single facet of your finances.
Updated everything. Who must produce it? Buyer/mortgage applicants. Why? Because things change, and because the time period between the first loan application and closing can be many months - even years! - on today’s market. During the time between contract and closing it’s not at all unusual for underwriters to demand buyers produce updated mortgage statements, checks stubs, and such - and its quite common for them to call your office the day before closing to request a last minute verification of employment!
Quitclaim deed. Who must produce it? Married buyers purchasing homes they plan to own as separate property. Married sellers selling homes that they own separately, or joint owners selling their interests separately. Why? With the Quitclaim Deed, the other spouse or owner signs any and all interests they even might have had in the property over the the selling owner, making it possible for the title insurer to guarantee clear, undisputed title is being transferred in the sale.
Divorce decree. Who must produce it? Buyers and sellers who need to document their solo status or the property-splitting terms of their divorce. Why? Again, to ensure that the seller has the right to sell. Recently single buyers might need to prove that they shouldn’t be held to account for their ex’s separate debts or credit report dings.
Gift letters. Who must produce it? Buyers using gift money toward their down payment. Why? The bank wants to be sure the gift came from a relative, and is their own money to give. They also want the relative to confirm in writing that it’s a gift, not a loan - a loan would need to be factored into your debt load.
Compliance certificates. Who must produce it? Usually sellers, but sometimes buyers, by contract. Why? Some local governments require various condition requirements be met before the property is transferred, like some cities which require a sewer line be video scoped and repaired, cities which require a checklist of items be met before a certificate of occupancy be issued (usually relevant to brand new and really old homes, the latter of which are often subject to lead paint concerns) and energy conservation ordinances which require low-flow toilets and shower heads to be installed. Ask your real estate pro for advice about which, if any, such ordinances apply in your area.
Mortgage statements. Who must produce it? Any seller with a mortgage. Why? the escrow holder or title company will need to use them to order payoff demands from any mortgage holder who has to get paid before the property’s title can be transferred.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The life of a penthouse condo owner in a high rise

Lupu never longs for more light in his 10th-floor apartment in Long Island City, which is known as “PH1001.” He has sweeping city views, hears no traffic noise from below and, as the sun sets, he can stare out at No. 7 trains snaking toward Manhattan that look tiny enough to scoop into his hands.

“There is nothing like that feeling,” Mr. Lupu said while gazing at a twinkling skyline. “You feel like you’re on top of the world and you can conquer anything and anyone.”

As the designation of Mr. Lupu’s apartment suggests, he lives in a penthouse. But he certainly does not rule his building’s roost. There are eight penthouses in the building, and two floors of penthouse dwellers above him, including a politician and a hedge fund worker who enjoys body-building.

The word “penthouse” evokes images of lone perches atop of Fifth Avenue towers with incomparable park views. But the word has been stretched to its limit and beyond in the New York real estate lexicon, with some apartments being called penthouses for dubious reasons.

“It’s become such a generic term for anything on or near the top of the building with outdoor space,” said Barbara Fox, president of Fox Residential Group and one of four penthouse owners in her Upper East Side building.

She considers a penthouse “an afterthought to the building,” or a space added to the original structure. In many prewar buildings, penthouses historically were low-ceilinged, former maid’s quarters, Ms. Fox said, adding that it seemed illogical to have multiple floors of penthouses.

Ms. Fox’s understanding of the word penthouse is correct. But so is Mr. Lupu’s.


Among the definitions of the word “penthouse” in Webster’s New World College Dictionary are “an apartment or other houselike structure built on the roof of a building” and “a luxury apartment on an upper floor,” especially “the top floor of a building.” The New York City building code defines a penthouse as “an enclosed structure on or above the roof of any part of a building, which is designed or used for human occupancy.”

While it certainly sounds like the penthouse should be the highest space in the building, Mr. Lupu’s apartment, which is in the Vere condo, can arguably meet those definitions. It is set back from the rest of the building, effectively sitting on the roof of the ninth floor. The penthouses above him are sitting on his roof. Like the Vere, many newer buildings have staggered roofs and setbacks to create as many penthouses as possible in compliance with the building code.

Some people are disappointed when their penthouses do not live up to their imaginations. Indeed, like Andrei Vavilov, a Russian financier, sued the developers redoing the Plaza Hotel, saying the penthouse he agreed to buy for $53.5 million looked like “glorified attic space.” He ultimately settled.

Other penthouse-dwellers joke about their homes. Seth Bardelas, a 31-year-old sales executive at Microsoft, shares with a roommate a modest seventh-floor duplex with a deck in NoLIta for $3,800 a month. It is Penthouse D.

“When people hear it, if it’s family or friends, they kind of smile and go ‘Oh,’ ” he said. “Other people raise their eyebrows.” His friend Nate Solum takes every opportunity to keep Mr. Bardelas in check about his master-of-the-universe address.

“It’s definitely not a penthouse,” Mr. Solum said. “He’s really paying rent to get the title PH-D.”

Caroline Stevens, a documentary filmmaker, said she had always pictured a penthouse as being more glamorous than the place where she now lives. But the room on top of her duplex in an Upper West Side town house technically makes her a penthouse owner as well.

She compares reaching the penthouse with “climbing Mount Everest.” Her penthouse is filled not with expensive art but with her children’s pets — a dog, turtles, a parrot, a chameleon and fish in a saltwater tank.

“You think of penthouses as being glamorous elevator buildings,” Ms. Stevens said. “We’re like Animal Planet.”

When Fame Isn’t Enough

Movie lovers seeking an address with some cinematic history have a few choices in this market. An apartment that appeared in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” at 265 Riverside Drive, is for sale for $1.299 million. The current owner, Steve Goldberg, said he did not even know that the movie had been filmed there until after he moved in.

Cinematic history does not guarantee a fast sale.

The Staten Island house that served as the Corleone family compound in “The Godfather” hit the market in November for $2.9 million and has received no serious offers, said Connie Profaci, a sales broker.

The apartment on 21st Street appearing in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” remains for sale for $15 million. Arthur Gallego, spokesman for the sales broker, declined to comment.

Monday, December 13, 2010

American Academy of Neurology to be built!

The American Academy of Neurology is the world’s largest professional association of neurologists. Founded by the chair of the neurology department at the University of Minnesota in 1948, the American Academy of Neurology has more than 22,500 neurologists and neuroscience professionals dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. Mortenson Construction, along with ESG Architects Inc. and 20 Below Studio, will break ground on the new AAN headquarters in early 2011 with the building scheduled to be ready for occupancy in spring 2012. The five-story building features a sensory garden, roof-top terrace and state of the art meeting space capabilities. The Academy will also provide electricity to vendors of the Mill City Farmers Market through outlets strategically placed along the exterior of the LEED certified building. Exciting news for real estate in Minneapolis and more density to the Mill District!