Real Estate Investment News Items Reflect Wide Gains

July 20th, 2015

U.S. Report & Our Twin Cities Real Estate Investment Outlook

Last week’s reporting showed the same kind of upward movement that’s become commonplace for Twin Cities real estate investment news watchers. A standout: Corelogic’s finding that national home prices in May increased by 6.3%, marking the 39th consecutive monthly year-over-year increase.

Actually, to a lot of us, that looked stronger than expected: the steady increase in U.S. sale prices had seemed to have leveled off in the 5% range for the most part…Corelogic’s own Chief Economist had prognosticated, “We expect house prices in our national index to be up about 5 percent in the next 12 months” just 30 days ago.

Those who track U.S. real estate investment performance for its Twin Cities implications, two other interesting observations were noteworthy. First, even including distressed sales, prices have now risen to within 8.4% of the April 2006 peak—what is generally considered an unsustainable “bubble.”  Yet it’s impossible to find any expert who believes the current price levels are indicative of anything of the kind; nor that the expected continuing rises would expose those making residential real estate investments to equivalent risk levels. Except in a very few localities, there is scarcely any “bubble” speculation to be found—even as national price increases continue to outpace inflation.

Part of the reason is that supply continues to be tight; distressed property sales continue to decline; and overall U.S. economic conditions are perceived to be improving, however gradually. Corelogic also keeps track of sales and momentum for different price ranges, which perform differently, as real estate investment analysts know. The lowest-priced tier, which represents to most modestly priced 25% of homes, has now actually surpassed its pre-crisis peak…and the highest end of luxury residences (the top 25%) are within 5.7% of their peak.

The second point made in last week’s reporting was continuing good news for those whose real estate investment portfolios include rental properties. Apartment vacancy rates “are down to their lowest level since the 1980s” according to Economist Frank Nothaft. “Rents are up, and apartment building values are at or above their prior peaks.”

The robust performance wasn’t confined to multiple-unit housing, either. Following the housing crash—between 2006 and 2013—3,000,000 detached single family homes were added to the nation’s rental stock. They now make up 40% of the market. In terms of their real estate investment performance, the combination of rising rental rates and shrinking vacancy rates are exactly what investors hope to see. For regular homeowners, too—even those with no plans to sell anytime soon—those 39 straight months of steady price appreciation is comforting news. And if you are watching this summer’s Twin Cities real estate listings for the investment opportunities they represent, I hope you’ll give me a call!

Think Like a Skeptic When Picking a Twin Cities Home for Sale

July 16th, 2015

Picking an Area Home for Sale When Good Choices Abound

If you are among this July’s consumers who are actively shopping for a home for sale in the Twin Cities, you have probably already taken a look at the Twin Cities listings and most likely jotted down some addresses you’d like to examine in detail. Then, if you find yourself in the happy situation of finding more than one Twin Cities home for sale that passes your first in-person tour visit, the tough question arises about how to pick between two or more quality homes. Should you depend upon your emotional leaningseven if a few practical details seem to point you in the opposite direction? Or should you simply let price be the determining factor? Or is there some other criterion the most experienced house hunters rely on?

Of all the factors that could go into that decision, truthfully, pointing out which are the most important is always a subjective exercise (all except for one I’ll bring up last). Here are some of the most useful ones:

o     Compare the neighborhoods, and take a close look the adjacent streets. Drive by the properties at different times of the day and at least once on a weekend.  See how the neighbors keep their homes.  Neglected lawns (or bars on too many windows) are not signs you may want to ignore—just as uniformly well-kept landscaping should count on the positive side.

o     Next visit to the candidates, do a consciously thorough walk-over. Pace the perimeter of the home and lot. Look for fencing issues you might need to address, or even how intrusive neighbors’ windows might be. Check for signs of water pooling anywhere on the lot with an eye to whether drainage problems could become an issue when the rains come.

o     If there is another home for sale on the street, drive the immediate area looking for more. If there is more than one home for sale, check the web to see if there are too many—or enough that it indicates that values are in flux. If it appears there are many—but no reason other than chance—it could be a good sign that your offer will be very welcome!

What is that less subjective factor (the one I said I’d bring up last)? It’s one that calls for becoming more skeptical than you really are: one that has you pretending to be a member of the public at large who doesn’t feel particularly drawn to either of the homes for sale you are comparing.

Put yourself into that mindset—then judge which of the homes will be easier to sell in a future where you have decided to move on. Deep-six your idiosyncratic leanings, and concentrate on elements that the majority of people would agree are those that add or subtract resale value. Experienced house hunters have bought and sold often enough that they are keenly aware of how much easier it is to sell a home that has universal appeal—even over one that’s more personally attractive. Keeping aware of the personal factors that may make you comfortable but which could adversely affect resaleability will help you determine a property’s future value to others (and, many would argue, that is the real value!)…

This summer, we’re fortunate to have a market that offers many Twin Cities homes for sale offering exceptional value. I hope you’ll give me a call to help find your family’s next home!

Hire a Twin Cities Professional Property Manager? Pros and Cons

July 15th, 2015

A Property Manager Can be a Landlord’s Key Resource

At first blush, deciding to hire a Twin Cities professional property manager may seem counter-productive. Whether you bought the property you will be renting out specifically for that purpose, or else are simply holding onto your former home rather than selling it, the expense of employing a Twin Cities property manager will materially reduce the cash benefit your rental promises to throw your way.

In fact, many new landlords don’t seriously consider hiring a property manager. It’s an offshoot of their own long-time home owning experience. They’ve learned to handle the residential maintenance issues that crop up from time to time, so it seems unnecessary to hire a professional manager for the occasional problems they know how to solve themselves. They may acknowledge that there will be twice as much to handle, it still may seem to be a needless extravagance. After all, the two great benefits of becoming a landlord are to build equity and generate income, so why give away part of the latter?

One cogent reason is the principal difference between managing a rental and your own household. In your own home, you aren’t answerable to any outside entity. When a faucet starts leaking or a circuit breaker blows, you are free to ignore it until the weekend or whenever it’s most convenient. That’s simply not true for a conscientious landlord. Even with a cooperative, understanding tenant, in a way, you almost become your tenant’s employee (or at least it can seem that way when the phone rings at an inconvenient moment). A good tenant rightfully expects his residence to be maintained promptly and diligently; it’s your part of the rental bargain.

Another factor that argues for opting for a reputable Twin Cities property manager goes to another difference between managing your own residence and a rental. The professional has so much experience in all aspects of property care that he or she is considerably more likely to have dealt with any given situation. Likewise for handling the technicalities of attracting and interviewing tenants, and seeing that contractual issues are completed correctly—tasks that need to be handled with legal exactitude.

There are plenty of reasons that can make hiring a property manager a sensible move, starting with those quality of life issues—your life! For retirees or others with abundant spare time, they may not be as significant; but for fully-employed persons, the time factor and necessity to “be on call” can be crucial. I always recommend giving the professional management option full consideration. Of course it’s always possible for a first-time landlord to test the waters for a while before making the decision—though it’s important to realize that one false step can escalate into costly legal troubles when it comes to national and state civil codes, fair housing laws, and tenant rights. Ignorance of the law will be no excuse for do-it-yourself landlords who are unlucky enough to find themselves on the wrong side of a tenant dispute—so be sure to educate yourself and have access to a reputable Twin Cities landlord-tenant attorney

If a Twin Cities income-producing real estate investment opportunity is something you would like to explore, this summer has produced some properties with terrific potential. Give me a call anytime to discuss how best to explore what’s out there!

Twin Cities Real Estate Marketing in a David vs. Goliath Scenario

July 13th, 2015

Twin Cities Real Estate Marketing is a Risky DIY Project

If you are bound and determined to try to sell your Twin Cities house without the aid of a real estate professional, you will quickly discover that one critical element that can’t be overlooked is marketing. Just planting a ‘For Sale by Owner” (FSBO) sign on the front lawn and taking an 8-line classified ad in the Twin Cities paper is a good first step—but that’s all it is. Not only must you immediately embark on a do-it-yourself real estate marketing campaign, you will be doing so against competition from all the similar properties which will be promoted by the veteran voices of the real estate industry. It’s a true David and Goliath situation; but Goliath isn’t just a giant—he’s a superbly well-organized giant. If you’re going to be a David, you’d better arm your sling with more than pebbles!

Start with the product you will be marketing. While you are putting your house into top-notch presentation shape, first banish any temptation to overlook areas that need elbow grease or budget dollars to bring them up to top condition. Any defects that go uncorrected will be reason for lowered offers (or no offers at all). Remember that competing properties have Twin Cities real estate marketing channels open to them, and will have been put on the market after consultation with experienced hands. Your ultimate ace in the hole can only be that of having a desirable property, well-situated and clean as a whistle. But that ace will only be relevant if your marketing effort brings a critical number of potential buyers through the front door!

Another key will be to hire the best real estate photographer in Twin Cities, and on the appointed day, to give her or him reason to relish the day’s project! Photographers are in the business of presenting eye-pleasing products, but they can’t create what isn’t there. On the day of the shoot, arrange to be at the photographer’s side to help clear or rearrange objects that the lens ‘sees’ as superfluous or obstructive. When spaciousness is mission critical—as it is in real estate marketing—less is always more. The pro you’ve hired will be used to working with professional real estate agents (who sometimes pay their fees), so be quick to help where needed. The difference between great professional real estate photos and poor ones taken by an amateur is more critical in a FSBO situation, where the seriousness of the endeavor is automatically subject to scrutiny.

Ditto, the video or virtual tour. Real estate marketing in Twin Cities does not in all instances require a video component—but most FSBO campaigns are launched without even considering the option. What is not optional in any serious offering is a well-written, technically correct Twin Cities listing, so you should do your best to use every web outlet available to position your offering online, including a web site that facilitates gathering data from interested parties. There are also services that, for a price, will help you place your listing. Generally, you pay more for more exposure—frequently six to 10 times the base rate—with the enhanced deluxe packages usually including an MLS insertion, which is vital. When you remember that you are competing against Goliath, it’s no time to skimp!

You should also consider creating, printing, and distributing flyers, photo ads in the local press (real estate magazines, newspapers, etc.)—everywhere you are used to seeing Twin Cities real estate brokerage ads. All of which points to what most Twin Cities home sellers eventually conclude: rather than reinventing the wheel, the other option is to team up with an Twin Cities real estate marketing professional…

If that’s your choice, I hope you’ll count me in!

The Magic Word for Growing Your Twin Cities Property Value

July 10th, 2015

Four Foolproof Steps to Increasing Your Twin Cities Property’s Value

 

As soon as you decide that you will be putting your twin cities property up for sale—whether soon or at some point in the foreseeable future—it’s also time to get strategic about growing your property’s value—starting with a generous dollop of objectivity.

The difficulty stems from a truth about how everybody perceives much of their property’s value. We escape from hurly-burly of daily living by retreating to the comfortable confines of our home—our place. A good part of its value to us and to our family is its sheer familiarity—the “hominess” that makes it our personal haven. But some of the very things that make it so comfortable to us will be off-putting to outsiders—and they are the prospective buyers.

Our great leather easy chair (the dark brown one that’s gotten a few shades lighter where we sit, and a little off-color where the spills happened) may look a bit peaked to the untrained eye, but it’s been that way for years: who cares? The back door needs to be bolted to stay shut…we do that without even thinking about it—hardly an issue! The sofa may sag, but it sags exactly right (for us)! The bathroom window that’s sort of stuck (okay, maybe it’s painted shut)…etc. etc. etc.

Professionals are of one voice about the real value you add to a property when you go to the trouble of systematically depersonalizing it. It helps to approach doing that seriously and deliberately—to tackle it in an organized manner. There are any number of ways to go about that, but here is one way that will pay off:

Step 1

Make a list. Starting from one end of your twin cities property, note with pencil and paper every nit-picky detail that is other than what you would expect to find if it were a brand new home. This is not as easy as most people assume, because there will be such a great number of details, that

a) it will be very tempting to start skipping some of the minor ones, and

b) you will find it hard to resist the urge to start fixing the easy ones as you go along (don’t do it: you’ll derail the list-making!)

Step 2

After a decent interval, sit down with the list and re-classify each item into an Easy Self-Fix List and a Professional-Attention-Needed List.

Step 3 Get bids from the appropriate twin cities professional tradespeople, calculate which fit your budget, then schedule the work.

Step 4 Get started on your own endeavors to address the Easy Self-Fix List. You’ll be able to organize your own efforts to finish up about two weeks after the last of the tradespeople are scheduled to finish their projects (a two week grace period is realistic: you are aiming to finish everything about the same time).

Following these four steps will put you well on your way to increasing the value of your area property. And at any point in the process—from before Step 1 to the satisfying moment that closes Step 4—give me a call to discuss how to convert all that increased value into a profitable home sale!

Twin Cities Homes for Sale Get Boost from National Forecast

July 9th, 2015

Expectations Mount for Uptick in U.S. Housing

Suppose you are a Twin Cities homeowner who intends to move to a different home eventually, but for the moment, you aren’t under any particular deadline pressure that would dictate when you have to put your home on the market. In that case, you’re likely to keep tabs on overall market conditions, awaiting what looks like circumstances favor those with homes for sale.

Twice a year, the National Association of Realtors® issues their economists’ midyear forecast—it appeared last week. For those with homes for sale in the Twin Cities (or anyone thinking about adding theirs to the homes already for sale), the outlook was heartening.

The forecast was for the greater U.S. economy to improve, bouncing back from the weather-blasted winter stall which made the first quarter a disappointment. Subsequently, consumer spending opened up, causing expectation that the GDP would rise in the remainder of the year. Overall, the forecast for 2015 was positive, though lukewarm. As a whole, the year promises to be “not bad but not great.”

On the other hand, focusing narrowly on the outlook for U.S. housing market activity—homes for sale—the upside momentum was already decidedly more in evidence. The prospects for any single one of the Twin Cities homes for sale depend upon a combination of factors, but if national activity is any reflection, the latest numbers packed what you could call a “6-7-8-9 punch”:

  • Existing home sales in May notched a high water mark not seen in 6 years (and the 2009 level had been artificially inflated because of an $8,000 homebuyer tax credit).
  • New home sales hit the highest level in 7 years.
  • Housing permits to build new homes registered an 8 year high.
  • Pending contracts to buy existing homes for sale reached a 9 year high.

Examining the demographics behind the figures, it was clear that, for the first time in quite a while, first-time buyers are back. Last year during the same period, only 27% of buyers were first-timers. They now make up a more normal 32%. As prices brought by homes for sale continued to rebound, institutional investors were disappearing from the scene, creating a more typical mix of buyers.

A major part of the reason why homes for sale were fetching “stronger than normal home price growth” had to do with a shortage of inventory—ascribed to the volume of new homes being built (or not being built). The rule of thumb is generally for about 1.5 million new homes to be constructed per year, a mark that’s failed to be realized for a number of years. In 2009, only 550,000 home were built—and the total had barely reached a million through last year. But now, with optimism among homebuilders at newly robust levels, it’s expected that normal output will have fully resumed by 2017.

The other major factor boosting sale prices was the specter of mortgage rate increases. Rising mortgage rates “initially rush buyers to decide”—just the kind of sign that could tip the scales for a homeowner who’s been waiting to add their property to the homes for sale in town.

Debate Rages over Effectiveness of Twin Cities Open Houses

July 7th, 2015

Are Open Houses in the Twin Cities Still Effective Selling Tools?

 

For years, there was little debate about the need for open houses in the Twin Cities: almost without exception, unless the seller of a Twin Cities home objected, at least one or two open houses were an accepted part of how most real estate agents went about marketing the property.

Today, along with all the other changes that define modern real estate marketing, the potency of open houses is up for serious debate. Virtual online tours are increasingly popular among Twin Cities real estate sellers and buyers—the ‘use’ statistics that tell agents how often the different parts of their sites are viewed prove that. Since open houses were formerly held in order to display a property to members of the general public—and since virtual tours do the same thing—it’s truly a question that deserves a hard look.

Here are three of the main reasons I see frequently cited for why open houses are still useful—and some both pros and cons for each:

1. Open Houses Can Bring Higher Prices

Pro: Open houses are most important for high demand properties when there is low inventory for similar homes. It can be possible to stage open houses in combination with delayed offer reviews—in this scenario, the seller hosts several open houses leading up to a final date when he or she will review competing offers.

Con: The same is accomplished with well-produced virtual tours. Interested viewers then contact the agent, who is able to qualify the prospects who will be invited for an actual on-site showing. Competing offers are just as likely to develop.

2. Open Houses Are More Convenient for Sellers

Pro: People want to sell their Twin Cities homes as quickly as possible if for no other reason than they must keep their houses spotless and organized while on the market. Open houses are one way for sellers to have to prepare fewer times for their home to be displayed to buyers.

Con: Virtual tours accomplish the same thing for a far broader cross-section of the public. Professional photographers use their photo session to record the property at its spotless best, which is then on display 24/7/365—not just for one or two days!

3. Open Houses are More Convenient for Prospective Buyers

Pro: Interested parties can pop in for an on-site tour without the hassle of contacting the agent and scheduling an appointment—basically, of making even a minor level of commitment in advance of knowing much about the property. Open houses thus broaden the property’s exposure.

Con: Serious home shoppers are going online en masse; the effort expended on an open house is better spent preparing for interested, qualified buyers.

Every Twin Cities home for sale presents uniquely individual marketing opportunities and challenges. Ruling out open houses (or ruling them in) as a one-size-fits-all solution is not the way I expand the reach and appeal of the properties I represent. To talk about how we can maximize your own Twin Cities real estate opportunity, just give me a call!

 

Is that Sound You Hear the Twin Cities Mortgage Rate Alarm Bell?

July 6th, 2015

Heads-Up: Twin Cities Mortgage Rate isn’t Standing Still

In case you set your alarm clock to go off when it was time to buy a home, that clang you may be hearing from somewhere in the distance could be it (figuratively speaking, of course). The reason has to do with the direction of Twin Cities mortgage rates (among others).

Now, I realize this could come across a little bit like Aesop’s boy who cried ‘Wolf’ since a year and a half ago the experts were unanimous in predicting that mortgage rates would rise throughout 2014 (to at least 5%, if I remember correctly). And not only did they not jump—after a short rise, they actually fell!

The experts were wrong. To the extent I agreed with their call, I was, too—but at least I wasn’t lonely. And I also try to be clear that predicting the future of any financial movement is never a sure thing. The same is true today…but

Last week, less than a week after the Federal Reserve monetary policymakers emerged from their meeting, Bankrate web commentator Janna Herron published a view that sent alarm bells ringing in my head. It makes so much sense, I feel compelled to share it. Already publicized in the rest of the media was the announcement that 15 of the 17 Fed officials now agree that they expect to raise the federal funds rate at some point within the next 6 months (and one expert was quoted as expecting that as early as September or October). Fifteen out of 17 is a 88% majority, so it couldn’t get much clearer. The funds rate has been cemented to the ground at precisely zero for almost seven years. Since 2008.

Twin Cities mortgage rates are based upon that Fed funds rate. When it rises, mortgage rates have to rise, or lenders would have to be reclassified as charitable enterprises (not likely). The reasons given for the Fed governors’ near-unanimous prediction are both the rise in the pace of job gains and, as was reported, “The Fed also noted improvement in housing.”

Now, that news may have prompted Twin Cities mortgage-rate watchers to sit up and take notice—but not necessarily have them hearing alarm bells going off. But there were two other pieces of information:

  • First, the current national mortgage rates reported last week rose.  They were pegged at just over the 52-week average for 30-year fixed loans, but at 4.13% it remained below the 4.33% of a year before. In other words, still (perhaps momentarily) in the historically basement-level range.
  • Second, new mortgage activity began to rise, moving 1.6% up from a week before. Applications had been dropping, but now they were on the move. This while home builder confidence levels soared, with expectations hitting the highest levels in nearly a decade.

As with any batch of economic numbers, the signs can be interpreted in multiple ways, but one way sure does seem to stand out: mortgage rates are attractive now, housing activity is almost certainly on the rise, and mortgage rates and monthly payments are very likely to become more expensive. The same thought may be occurring to more and more people as we enter the summer home-buying season: “What if I could pay less every month for the same home…for the next 30 years…”

Note to Twin Cities home-buyers. Listen carefully: that could be the sound of your own alarm bell going off! If you think you hear it, now would be a great time to give me a call!

Twin Cities Homeowners Cheered by U.S. Foreclosure Trend

July 1st, 2015

Foreclosure Starts Continue Downward Momentum

If you are one of those Twin Cities homeowners who has been gladdened to see property values continuing to rebound, you have also been pleased at the steady decline in the wave of foreclosures that were part of the global financial crisis. When the subprime mortgage crisis triggered widespread financial dislocation, many homeowners felt the repercussions. Every Twin Cities foreclosure that resulted weighed on neighborhood property values, which reflect the dollar amounts paid when nearby homes change hands.

Even most people whose livelihoods were unaffected—who kept their jobs or businesses and continued to make their mortgage payments without difficulty—could have suffered as a result. When the apparent equity of a home dwindled, so too was the amount lenders were willing to lend for refinancing. The comfort provided by fat home equity lines of credit (the HELOCs) suddenly melted when their maximums were cut, or even withdrawn altogether. HELOCs, after all, were a major component in the foreclosure phenomenon. The whole atmosphere caused confidence to be shaken.

But ‘buy low, sell high’ is a proven investment strategy—and ‘buying low’ is an opportunity that typically arises when fear is in the air. Many large institutional investment outfits looked at the situation and apparently asked themselves, what’s more “real” than real estate? They dived into the panic, buying up distressed residences in droves, paying rock-bottom foreclosure prices.

For many homeowners, though, the real effect was psychological. After all, when your major asset is your home, any Twin Cities foreclosure can be seen as having the effect of bringing your apparent net worth down.

RealtyTrac is the national scorekeeper for foreclosures and REOs (Real Estate Owned, or bank repossessions); and last month they continued to provide comforting news. Although there are ups and downs in the month-to-month stats, the overall trend continues to decline from the high in September 2013. In fact, there was a small uptick in REOs in April, which might seem like bad news; but REOs are actually completed foreclosures—at the same time, foreclosure starts continued their long slide downward.

Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac was quoted with more good news, confirming that “the overall increase in foreclosure activity in April is a continuation of the clean-up phase” of the housing crisis. But even better was this: “Foreclosure starts nationwide are now running consistently below pre-crisis levels.”

It does seem as if this season is a choice time for sellers to enter the revived market. If you would like to explore the possibilities for your own property, or are ready to start the search for a Twin Cities home of your own, please do give me a call!

 

Few Twin Cities Listings Will Top This One!

June 30th, 2015

File Under Now We’ve Heard Everything: Actor’s New Listing

Putting together a Twin Cities listing is serious business. It has to be brief, to-the-point, and at the same time, engaging. The photos and language of a Twin Cities listing is the tip of the marketing spear: if it’s dull, and just a repetition of the specifics that are enumerated in the columns of numbers that follow, it’s less likely to get more than a glance from potential buyers.

At the same time, every Twin Cities listing has to be fastidiously accurate. If it exaggerates or mischaracterizes a property’s features, it will waste time and effort by creating traffic from prospects who were never going to be interested in the first place. They’ll be rightly annoyed. A well-crafted listing for a Twin Cities home will highlight the distinctive features that make it stand out from the crowd. It will attract qualified buyers who will want to investigate further.

As a matter of course, we in the real estate profession check out lots of listings from many other areas. It’s part of the job, keeping abreast of what is new elsewhere—comparing how others in other areas meet the challenges of language and imagery. Of course, after years of experience, you encounter few surprises.

But last week there was news of a listing unlike any other. I’m not sure that the details and language are going to be useful for describing many Twin Cities properties, since this detailed a foreign estate (on the Côte d’Azur) being put on the market by “a talented artist and musician.” The asking price is $33+ million, so it’s also a bit pricey for most buyers. But as an attention-getter, this listing ranks right up there at the top.

First off, the talented artist and musician is Johnny Depp, whose comings and goings generate headlines at all times. The listing language, in fact, is most precisely quoted by the Australian Domain real estate site—rather than a French source. The Australian public has been keeping track of Depp because of his continuing brush with authorities there over alleged dog-smuggling activities (his Yorkies, Pistol and Boo, are now safely out of the country). Domain tells us that the estate consists of “more than a dozen buildings, including a main house, several guest cottages, a chapel, a bar & restaurant, a workshop/garage, a staff house and much more.

Students of listing lingo might decide that this descriptor belongs in the ‘subtly understated’ category, particularly when the “much more” is teased out: the estate, it turns out, is actually a small Provençal village. More than a decade ago, Depp bought an entire early-19th-century village. It may have been a bit run down—but it did include its own church (the actor turned it into a guest cottage, with the confessional becoming a wardrobe). Depp took on the project as a sort of extreme DIY project. The restaurant became his dining room. He brought in a covered wagon for another guesthouse (it’s unclear how that worked out).

Not every Twin Cities listing rates being quoted in a feature story in The Wall Street Journal, but this one surely did. “A wine cave in the main house has a Pirates of the Caribbean motif,” according to the Journal (as one reader commented, “Go get’m Sparrow!”).

You don’t have to have a French village, though, if you are thinking of adding your own estate to this summer’s Twin Cities listings. Just give me a call!