When I was young, nursery rhymes and fairy tales were not politically correct, but they were most entertaining. The ugly duckling tale particularly impacted me as the poor little duckling had no clue how beautiful he would one day become.
Often in rehabbing houses, an ugly duckling becomes a beautiful swan. Such is the case with my own home in St. Paul. Our home was so ugly that our adult children questioned our sanity the day we moved in. In my mind, however, a swan was hidden behind the ugliness. For five years this was our home base:
Do I need to describe its ugliness? The roof was replaced the first week we owned the home because gallons of water poured through the ancient shingles. The fascia . . . ? We really think the last paint was applied in 1950! That ugly gray siding is "depression brick", the moniker for asphalt rolled roofing formed to look like bricks. It was popular in the depression making it at least 60-70 years old. Not to mention that it was missing in a bunch of places! The windows leaked, didn't stay open, and were riddled with rotten wood. That horrible beige paint on the basement foundation should have stayed in the store!
In my mind, however, the house looked like this:
The plan was to pay mega money to hire professionals to destroy the old siding and replace it with Hardi board, a cement look alike siding. Longevity was the key. My honey and I never wanted to paint this "painted lady" again.
But, the economy turned and the hubby was out of work. Lots of time combined with limited funds impacted our best laid plans. The hubby declared one day, "I'm going to remove some of that siding and see what's underneath. Maybe we can do a 'temporary' improvement with some minor repair and paint." I cringed. It was a huge project, but keeping the unemployed hubby busy was important.
The hubby, a reformed desk jockey, has outdone himself completely. What started as a temporary fix has become a permanent upgrade. Today our ugly duckling looks like this.
The ground work has been laid. The swan, complete with a golden sunburst for a brooch, is showing her beauty!
If you want to follow our progress, pictures can be viewed here.
Staging is all about dressing your home in its Sunday best (or maybe dressing your home for selling success?), but the current market downturn and the influx of short sale homes and foreclosures on the market are telling a sad story. Sellers who have lost their jobs, been unemployed for medical reasons, or got caught with rapidly rising mortgage payments are having a tough time emotionally. Staging a home takes a lot of energy and sometimes a few hundred dollars. Families in crisis may have to choose between a new can of paint for staging and a bag of groceries. If my kids were hungry I know which choice I would make.
Many of the short sale or foreclosed homes marketed in St. Paul are vacant. Many have been "swamped out" by a professional cleaning crew with big roll off dumpster boxes for the debris. Some homes clean up pretty well, but others need the attention of a new owner to regularly clean and love them back to their original beauty.
If, however, you are one of the home sellers still living in your St. Paul home and still hoping to find a buyer, clean your house until it shines. Whatever you do, take those cans to the recycling!
We looked high. We looked low. It wasn't there. Of course, the wooden bench it had been attached to wasn't there either! The tenant had moved from my Saint Paul duplex listing and with the tenant went the bench. With the bench went my $90 lockbox! Do you think I can write that off as a loss on my taxes?
I'm older than dirt. Well, maybe I'm a tad bit younger than dirt, but not much! I am old enough, however, to remember when avocado and BROWN appliances were all the rage. Dark Mediterranean wood and avocado appliances were recommended for our very first kitchen remodel in 1973. The contractor looked quizzically at me when I declined avocado. Nope, not going there! Beautiful, pristine, white appliances were installed and moved to the next home because they had not gone "out of style".
Fads come and go in housing just like in fashion. Skirt hems lengthen and shorten. Sleeves billow and become sleek. Necklines are jewel, cowl, crew, and turtleneck. Housing is the same. There is always something new to entice the consumer to make a change.
Some changes in housing occur because our lifestyles change. Examples of this kind of change include formal living and dining rooms being replaced by kitchens that open to great rooms. Master suites have supplanted the single shared bathroom and small closets taking up one bedroom wall.
Other changes occur because society gained wealth and home buyers could afford more oppulence. This kind of change includes hardwood floors, granite countertops, vaulted ceilings, and bedroom suites. Unlike the 1950's rambler which made housing affordable for the middle class, today's middle class is buying more square footage per person with many more amenities built into the home.
The January 21 edition of REALTOR® Online, a professional publication for REALTORS®, listed home fads that are becoming passe´. The list included:
Carpet - hardwood floors are "in"
Upscale kitchen finishes including granite countertops
Since the article is written for a national audience, some of these trends may not apply to the Saint Paul real estate market. For instance, granite is still a positive feature here although skylights never have been a real selling point because of Minnesota's snow. Carpet has lost favor compared to hardwood floors. Fireplaces? I can't imagine that they will ever go out of style in Minnesota, but one's budget is still the operative word in deciding whether to add one or not. Living rooms have lost favor compared to great rooms as we merge our formal and daily lives together calling for more family friendly homes.
Stainless or commercial appliances were not mentioned in the article. I truly wonder if they will become the avocado of the future!
No matter how much we protest or dislike the impact of the lender mediated real estate sales on the Saint Paul housing market, it is a fact of life. Lender mediated real estate sales are any sale in which the bank or lender has input into the decision about accepting an offer for the sale of the house. Prices in many neighborhoods have drastically decreased because of the number of homes on the market that are either bank owned (foreclosures) or are being sold for less than what is owed on the mortgage (short sale). Often the lender mediated prices are less than the sales from traditional owners who are not in financial trouble (Often the condition is less satisfactory as well.).
The following list ranks the Minneapolis/St. Paul Multiple Listing Service areas based on the percentage of lender mediated listings found in each metropolitan community during the 4th quarter of 2008. St. Paul neighborhoods are scattered throughout the list with the highest being St. Paul Central at 59.1% followed closely by Phalen at 58.8% and Hilcrest/Hazel Park/Dayton's Bluff with 56.0%. The lowest number of lender mediated listings was downtown Saint Paul at 10.8%. Statistics are quoted from "Foreclosures and Short Sales in the Twin Cities Housing Market Q4 2008 Update".
The days are getting longer and we've finally had our first day above freezing since who can remember when! The sun has been shining in St. Paul and it feels like a harbinger of good things to come. When the mounted police start clopping by the neighborhood, you know summer will soon follow.
Historically real estate sales begin to increase in the Twin Cities after the Super Bowl. Hopefully, this year will follow that same pattern as the snow melts and people begin to come out of their winter cocoons again.