The end of 2010

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun.  It is New Years eve so today should have more than the average amount of fun for most of us.

For fun I chose one photo to represent each month of 2010.  I take so dang many photos it wasn’t easy.  I tired to capture the spirit of St. Paul and the seasons.

Happy New Year to all and please be careful out there tonight!

A decade of Success and failure

There was a lot of building in the last decade.  Some of the projects were a success and others were a failure.  The proposed “Bridges” project on the West side flats never got built, neither did the Penfield or the Farmers market lofts. The last two may be built one day but I don’t think we will see a project like West Side Flats in the next decade. 

The old power plant on the river was supposed to be upscale condos but that didn’t work out either.  The words “live here” that were painted on the building are starting to fade.  It was called Island Station and was going to be luxury condos with boat slips.

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Victoria Park

One of the biggest disappointments to me is the failure of the Victoria Park project which was slated to be the biggest single housing development ever to be built in St. Paul.  Part of it got built and as a result we have senior housing and a Mississippi Market on West 7th where the old tank farm used to be and that is a good thing, but very little housing got built and what did is now rental townhouses sitting on a vast empty lot and it looks like they are not all occupied.   There will be a city park on part of the site and that is a good thing but a new St. Paul neighborhood would have been a better even better.

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Spring Street

The River Park Upper Landing project was not a complete success but it all got built.  There are empty units down there and there are more rental units than origional  planned.  They are luxury rental units and every time I check  plenty of them available.   One of the best things about the project is that we have a beautiful park where there used to be roadway and concrete walls.  I enjoy the park and the Caribou coffee shop.   Shortly after or maybe even shortly before the project was completed new laws and rules were passed so that the housing we have along the river could not be built today. 

Last summer I attended  the Great River Park Master Planning Kick-Off on Harriet Island.  The park will have some additions and I for one would like to see some retail like a resturant or even a popcorn stand in the park.

The entire area along the river adjacent to downtown and along Harriet Island has seen a lot of imporvements over the last decade including the lovely park on Raspberry Island.  The river is a great natural resource and for many of us it is part of what makes St. Paul a great place to live.

There are other projects that are all but forgotten but there was a lot of new housing built in the last decade and some important infrastructure projects were completed too. 

There is a lot more housing in downtown St. Paul than there was at the beginning of the decade.  I remember people complaining about gentrification when affordable apartments were converted to condos.  Now we have come full circle and more rental units are being created and there is affordable housing most every where in the city.

A Sax Send Off

Bye!This is my last post on the Saint Paul Real Estate Blog for 2010 and, as it turns out, for the foreseeable future. I won’t get all waxy nostalgia on you about my last two years here, because you probably know little to nothing about me. But I will say that I’ve been honored to be part of this part of the Saint Paul landscape, contributing more than 100 posts to what I believe is one of the best blogs in the Twin Cities, nay Minnesota, nay the country!

I’ll keep checking back on the SPREB and may ask to post a guest blog if the situation fits. From here, I will go into 2011 with a very real goal of finishing a book idea I’ve been stewing on for a few years. I think I have a winning idea, and I need to see it through.

I may also revive my personal blog next year or I may just stick with Twitter for a time. I’m coming up on two years of microblogging, and I find it even more enjoyable and relevant today. So if you haven’t created a Twitter account yet, give it a shot and find me at @gsax and Teresa at @tboard. Through us, you can find an immediate plug into the vitality of what is happening around us in Saint Paul and real estate.

Before I make my final sign off, I wanted to share something deep and personal, because farewells are better from the heart.

I attended my mother’s father’s funeral yesterday. He was an old boozehound and lady killer from an era gone by. He was unapologetic of his nature, and the turnout for his service reflected the aftermath of such things. But my dear, troubled, deceased mother – also unapologetic of her ways – loved him, so I paid my last respects.

What in the hell does this have to do with this blog’s banner? Perhaps this is a stretch, but my prickly and imperfect grandfather was a Minnesotan through and through, and he spent his final days at a fine piece of real estate, the Minneapolis Veterans Home, overlooking the Mississippi River. He received a proud and moving military goodbye at a great plot in our local landscape, Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

He is quite literally representative of the people who serve on our police force, drive our cabs, own our pubs, buy our homes, patronize our businesses, feed squirrels in our parks. He is our neighbor across the street we’ve never spoken to during the 15 years we’ve lived here. He is the guy in the wheelchair that requires extra time to load onto the city bus. He is the annoying guy flirting with the cashier at the liquor store. He is the charmer with a quick joke and a wink at the blackjack table. He is the face your baby is fascinated with at the supermarket. He is us.

And he is the reason for me. And I am here to amuse and entertain you.

I’m glad I went to that service – for my mother, my uncle, my great aunt, and for the perspective of what it takes to make up a full-on, vibrant, urban, interesting, expressive, diverse community, warts and all.

Be cool to each other out there, Saint Paul.

I’ll see you at the Winter Carnival.

The best invention of the decade


On my look back over the last decade I can not ignore all of the inovations that have made life better for all of us.  Mobile apps come to mind and of course the internet which was not invented in the last decade but there is far more real estate data and information available to consumers than there was at the begining of the decade.   High speed internet access is far more common than it was a decade ago and that literally speeds up the home buying process.  

In my humble opinion one of the very best inventions of the decade for consumers was the do not call list.

The cold call is still taught to Real estate agents and some still use it. We are not above the law and if your number is on the do not call list agents should not be calling you without your permission and it is in violation of the rules to call and then apologize or to say that we don’t have the do not call list.  It is up to each agent to get a copy of the list and some real estate companies provide them.

When the do not call list came out it wreaked havoc in the real estate industry.   A good hard working Realtor was supposed to make calls each day so that they could get more listings.    If an agent did not have enough business their broker would ask them if they were making enough calls each week.

The script was pretty simple.  Agents would call and say that they had buyers looking for a home in the area and ask if the home owner knew anyone who wanted to sell their house.  It is a numbers game,  if a sales person consistently calls enough people every day the calls will result in listings. 

There are fewer home phones these days.  I still have one but I don’t answer it.  I have had the same number for decades and I guess I worry that some relative or friend that I lost touch with will call.  Most of the calls are from non-profits asking for donations or are robo calls.

A look Back on a Decade of home values

This is the last Monday of the Year and the last Monday of the decade so I thought some numbers would be nice.   I love numbers.  These were gathered from our MLS and are for non-commercial residential real estate in St. Paul, Minnesota from 2001 through all but the last week of 2011.  The data is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed but you get to see it for free.

The first chart shows the average sale price by year of homes in St. Paul.  You can watch them go up, and then back down again and up again.  We ended the decade with lower home prices than we started with. (To make the chart larger click on it)

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2001- 2011 average home prices St. Paul, MN

The recession ended in June of 2009 and it is possible that 2009 is also the year housing prices hit bottom.  In 2001 the average home cost $161,139 and this year the average is $149,369.

The second chart shows volume.  I like to look at the number of home sales along with home prices to get a more accurate picture of the market. 

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2001 2011 Number of Home Sales

I thought this chart was kind of interesting.  Home sales went way up last year when prices hit bottom and in 2009 we saw the greatest number of foreclosures on the market.

At this point I should make a prediction for next year.  I will predict that home prices will go up slightly.   I am still trying to decide if the number of home sales will go up.  The buying activity we saw in the middle of the decade was unusual.  My hunch is the number of home sales will remain at the level we saw this year. 

This week I will be writing about the past and the future.  I am not only a Realtor but I also own a home in St. Paul.  My interest in these numbers is personal and professional.

For more local numbers see local market conditions and home prices.