Posts tagged as:


Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Luxury Real Estate Listings

Minneapolis Luxury Homes for Sale

So you’ve decided that your next home will be in Minneapolis and now you have to find somewhere to live. Minneapolis is a pretty big city, so where do you begin? While the task might seem daunting, luxury homes in Minneapolis are quite easy to find as most of them are located in the Chain of Lakes region southwest of downtown, as seen in the listing snapshot showing current luxury homes for sale in Minneapolis.

Probably the most important decision to make is how much you want to spend on your new home as it will determine on which lake you can afford to buy and of course how close to one of the lakes you can live. The most expensive and prominent area of the Chain of Lakes is around Lake of the Isles and just northeast of this area – calledLowry Hill. Some of the premier mansions were built in this area by prominent architects and are in wonderful condition. Others are in need of repair and updating so you will want to take that into consideration as well, but no matter what condition they are in, prices for these homes can range from $2 Million- $7 Million.

Surrounding Lake Calhoun and Lake Harrietare old historic and luxury homes nestled along beautiful landscaped streets that are a little more affordable when compared to Lake of the Isles – by affordable, prices start at $800,000 and go up to $2 Million. No homes sit directly on the lakeshore, but are located starting a block away. One of the biggest draws to the area are the trails surrounding the lakes, which accommodate cyclists, joggers, walkers, and rollerbladers.

Now that you have thought about the price tag of your new Minneapolis luxury home, it’s time to drive around the area and see which lake you like the best. While all three are close together, each lake along the Chain of Lakes as its own atmosphere. Lake Calhoun has a younger vibe, with families and young entrepreneurs, not to mention the close proximity to Uptown which features shops, restaurants, and a local bar scene. Lake of the Isles has a more upscale feel with the more expensive homes, featuring neighborhoods that twist and turn along winding streets and a hilly landscape. The southern most lake, Lake Harriet, is more structured with cottage style homes and gardens, not to mention a fantastic park on the northern shore. Residents can enjoy concerts at the bandstand, ride the trolley, or enjoy swimming or boating on the lake.

Purchasing a luxury home in Minneapolis is a big decision, but one that can easily be helped by talking to a real estate agent. Many times I find that the home is what buyer’s fall in love with, not necessarily the lake it sits near. If you are ready to start shopping, you can begin your real estate search here, or give me a call – I’d love to help!


Probably one of the last things a luxury buyer thinks about when shopping for a new home is how he is going to insure it and how much is it going to cost. One of the hardest things to figure out is WHO is going to insure it. Luxury homes are not insured by every insurance company out there, and most likely, buyers will have to choose from a small pool of companies.

For instance, Minneapolis and St. Paul have an extensive inventory of historic homes with many showcasing architectural elements that would cost a fortune to reproduce today. Sorry, but Allstate just won’t do.  Buyers and home owners can’t just pick any insurance company to cover these beautiful and rare items; therefore, the best way to protect your home is to choose an insurance company that has a specific policy covering old homes.  Placing a value on items can be tricky, so agents can come to your home and evaluate original stain glass windows, rare woodwork, imported tile, expensive wall coverings, stone carvings…you name it, they have the expertise to value your home’s special attributes.

The initial appraisal and inventory of your home is crucial. Agents will take photos and detailed notes of everything in your home, so that should a disaster strike, your home can be reconstructed as best as possible to its original state. Most of these special insurance companies will go above and beyond the policy to make sure your home is returned to you better than before, even updating your home to current code at no additional expense to the home owner.

 Some companies that you might look into for insuring your luxury home include:

  •  HUB International – can quote from the Top 5 upscale insurance companies
  • Fireman’s Fund
  • Chubb 
  • AIG/Chartis
  • ACE
  • PURE

Many of these companies offer increased coverage for Wine Collections, Jewelry, multiple properties, flood insurance, Kidnap and Ransom, Fine Art, etc.

Home Owners, you aren’t left out of this conversation either.

 Over the years, million dollar mansions are updated and improved, but many homeowners neglect to call up their insurer and inform them of the improvements, leaving their home undervalued. When disaster strikes, homeowners could find themselves in a tough place when they don’t get the correct dollar value to replace their home and personal items. It is suggested that homeowners update their policy every year to make sure they are fully covered.

And don’t let the declining real estate market, which might state the value of your home has decreased, affect the insured value of your home. Home values have little to do with how much it will cost to rebuild and replace everything lost, so don’t get caught in that trap.


In light of recent experiences I have encountered with local Twin Cities home builders, I make it a point to tell buyers that they should thouroghly research any builder they might contract to build their new home. Some builders are barely keeping their business above water, and others are slowly sinking, but if you spoke with these builders, most likely they would tell you they are doing” a lot” of business. Don’t believe them. Here are some tips to consider when building a new home:

  • Ask the builder how long they have been in business under the current company name.If it is a short period of time, ask them if they, or anyone involved with company, has been a builder/contractor under a different name. Believe it or not, there are some fairly sizable builders in the Twin Cities who have declared bankruptcy, gotten in trouble with the state, etc, and closed their doors, only to open up under a brand new entity name. Of course, they don’t disclose this to potential buyers.
  • Ask the builder if their company name is the same as their legal corporation name. Sometimes builders “Do Business As” (DBA) a different name. You can research both names with the Minnesota Secretary of State and find out if they are in good standing.
  • Ask for the Builder’s License Number. They should be able to give it to you on the spot. If they don’t, consider this a red flag. Once you have the number, research the builder with the Department of Labor and make sure their license number corresponds with what you were given. Believe it or not, some builders have been using another builders license number to pull permits, illegally of course.
  • Find out who owns the company. Go to the Judicial website and see if there are any active judgments against the owner and/or the company. Pending cases brought against the builder by clients or trade professions could be a red flag.
  • Ask for References. Don’t just get the good, but also ask to speak with someone who was not happy to see how the builder resolved the issue. It could give you a clue on how the builder professionally handles complaints.
  • Don’t just take the builder’s word for it. I can’t tell you how many times I have been lied to by a builder as an agent, and it just makes me more mad when I meet buyers who were lied to as well. If you have contracted with a builder, make sure all permits are pulled for the work being done. Once again, some builders are doing work without a permit, and when the city finds out, and the project shuts down, the buyer is the one left in limbo. Don’t be afraid to call the city and ask them if proper permits were pulled.
  • Find out who holds the escrow money. I don’t like the escrow money being held by the builder. If a builder cannot finance the permit on his own, then I question their financial standing. I have run into buyers who have had problems with builders and had to cancel the contract, only to find out the builder has spent the escrow money and doesn’t have the funds to pay the buyers back. It just turns into an awful mess. See if the money can be held by a title company.
  • Don’t go with a builder just because they have a great lot. The worst thing you can do is fall in love with a lot that is owned by a builder that you are not excited about. Trust me, it is the kiss of death! I know two buyers currently (not my clients) who went with a builder because of the lot and the homes are falling apart. They were warned about the builder, but they said they would take their chances because they were so blinded by the lot.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask everything you can think of, and don’t hold back even on the things that seem minor. 

These are just a few things to think about. “Google” the builder, too, and see what pops up. For instance, a  recent article in the Star Tribune highlights how some local builders have lost their license recently or been fined in the past few months.


A few months ago I reported that financing for the upper bracket home market in Minneapolis and St. Paul was having some difficulties. Banks were being very cautious for million dollar loan requests, and the new norm for down payment was at least 30%.  The word of the day was “documentation”, and banks required a ton of it. Now it looks like banks might be easing up on luxury home buyers…well, maybe just a little bit.

According to Lisa Wells of Residential Mortgage Group, the luxury real estate market is getting a little easier to finance, but still remains cautious. She says, “Loan amounts for 1 million or less are pretty decent for interest rates and the underwriting process, but buyers still need 2 years of solid income and at least a 700 credit score rating.” It appears that a down payment of 20% is also OK, but if you want a better interest rate, than banks would like to see at least 25% down.

If you require a loan amount of over $ 1 Million, things will be a little bit different. Now two appraisals are required by the bank, with the lower of the two used for the loan.  The borrower must have at least 12 months of payments in the bank in a liquid reserve and ideally more, and of course a high credit score.  Ms. Wells says she has found that final loan approval in the million dollar plus market, even if the buyer meets all the requirements and guidelines, “is still left to the discretion of the Underwriter, and that she should have a very, very strong borrower with 35%-40% down.  The thought out there is the upper bracket market still might have some downward pressure, and therefore, anything with loan amounts of $1.5 Million or more is just hard”.

Home owners looking to sell this year should realize that there is a real obstacle with million dollar home financing, as buyers must be able to come up with the dough. Price is not always the reason for why your luxury home hasn’t sold – it could be the lack of qualified buyers. With the tougher rules in place for loan approval, sellers should require that all buyers be pre-approved. In this way, Twin Cities home owners can have a little bit of comfort that a financial capable borrower is knocking on their door.


Contrary to what you might think, when you get the call from your listing agent that a buyer wants to look at your home for sale, the buyer already knows what your home looks like. They have toured it, peeked in the windows, driven by it at night, walked through your bedroom – you name it, they’ve done it. Surprised?

Today’s real estate market is shopped by buyers from the convenience of their living room couch, from their office, or on their lunch break. In fact over 45% of Minnesota buyers, according to a survey conducted by the Minnesota Association of Realtors, found their home on the Internet. Buyers are touring your home before they even make the call, so in this case, don’t you think it best to put your best foot forward from the very beginning?

I recently wrote about the old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression”, which was in relation to how you have a buyer enter your home. This can also hold true for photography. So many times I see photos like the one below of a multi-million dollar home ( in the photo below, the home is listed for sale at $2.9 Million) where the lazy real estate agent has gone in with a point and shoot camera and done the work themselves. Sadly, high-end buyers are going to pass this home up when they are searching online because it doesn’t grab their attention. Instead of seeing the beautiful architectural and historical details of the home, they see a lop-sided photo of some wood and a partial table.

bad luxury minneapolis home mls photo

Example of a bad MLS photo of home currently for sale in the Twin Cities

 As a seller, you would think you would be pretty upset to find out your agent is marketing your property in this manner. But believe it or not, I find that in most instances where I ask a seller whose home has not sold, to take a look at the photos in MLS, the first thing they say is that they have never seen the photos of their home. What?  A good real estate agent should be showing a seller their marketing pieces, and as a million dollar listing, a good real estate agent should be having a professional photograph the home. Sellers have only one chance to grab a buyers attention, so proper angles and lighting are extremely important to highlight every detail of the listing.

When it comes time to sell your home, please make sure you choose an agent who specializes in luxury home marketing. It’s not about selling your home, it’s about marketing your home. Any agent can try and sell a home, but it takes a true professional to market it correctly.

So, when is your first showing? As soon as the buyer clicks the mouse. Do you want that buyer to click on through to the next home, or stay on yours for a while and enjoy the view?


Twin Cities Luxury Home EntrywayMost retail businesses have their customers enter through a main entrance. This entrance is attractive, easy to enter, and immediately lets the customer know what the store represents. They want you to feel at ease and like what you are about to see because as the old saying goes, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression”. Businesses know that if you walked in through the back door, you would most likely would turn around and walk right back out. Simple concept, right?

So why do I see so many home owners not thinking about the importance of a buyer’s first impression? I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into a home via a backdoor or garage. Trust me, it doesn’t start the showing off with a bang as usually the first thing the buyer sees is a basement door, mudroom, or kitchen.  You don’t want them seeing your muddy shoes or kids backpack – you want them to see the beautiful foyer, grand staircase, or open floor plan. Even if you don’t use your front door, it is extremely important to have any potential buyer’s enter through it.

Buyers are pickyer than they have ever been, and they will quickly write off a home with just one small negative. Do yourself a favor, spruce up your front entrance and make the “window of your home” more presentable. It will give a better first impression to a buyer, and give you, the seller, a better chance of getting that offer you have been waiting for.


Some of you might be wondering where I have been the past month. While I hate to be away from the blog so much, it happens sometimes that other parts of the business take me away from writing. I have to say that the reason this time is a good one, as I have just done something I have been dreaming of doing ever since I entered real estate – opening my own real estate brokerage.

The company is small to start out with, but that’s the way I like it. Too many real estate brokerages spend tons of money of what I call “Go Big, Go Large”. Their money goes to expensive offices that no one visits, nor any agents actually work from. Overhead eats them up, and their agents suffer. The old way of running a real estate company is dying. I plan on being a part of the new way.

Kirby Fine Homes Luxury Real Estate Brokerage 

My boutique firm sells real estate in the Twin Cities, including Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Lake Minnetonka, and the surrounding Metro areas/counties. While we cater to all price ranges, special emphasis is given to luxury properties, historic homes, and waterfront/lakefront real estate. By keeping the firm small, we will be able to better serve our client’s needs with personal attention. Clients will not be lost in a shuffle of a big box firm where no one knows their name.  While our goal is to be the best, it is not to be the biggest. Think “Jerry McGuire” if you will.

Being as I have just opened Kirby Fine Homes, it will take time to get everything in place. This year a new website will be developed for the brokerage, and knowing me, an Internet presence will quickly be established. I am very excited about this new venture, and can’t wait to see what 2011 brings for the local real estate market!

“Kirby Fine Homes – Opening Doors to the Most Exceptional Homes in the Twin Cities”


1 comment

With winter quickly approaching in the Twin Cities, luxury home prices remain stagnant and overall continue to fall. Popular areas such as Edina and Lake Minnetonka are holding on, but as it happens ever year around this time, buyer activity decreases with the coming cold.

Luxury Home Market Twin Cities

Twin Cities Price

Inventory for upper bracket homes across the Metro area remain high as home sellers keep properties on the market in hopes of finding that one buyer who will purchase their home. Typically luxury inventory hits rock bottom around Christmas and New Years, as sellers concentrate on other things as buyer interest declines. As spring approaches, sellers get back on the selling wagon when buyers perk up from a winter of slush. With such a vast difference in locations across town, it is obvious that a micro analysis would need to be done for each specific city to see how the luxury market fares individually.

Minneapolis St Paul Luxury Home Market Inventory

Regional Inventory for Twin Cities

  But probably the second most important statistic for home owners, behind price, is the number of days it takes for a home to sell in today’s real estate market. Known as Days on the Market (DOM), luxury homes are seeing some good news! The average amount of time a luxury home sits on the market, that being for homes priced above $500,000, is steadily declining in the Twin Cities. Currently sitting around 140 days, the contributing factorsmost likely result from a declining of the number of  homes on the market (meaning less choices for buyers) and a decrease in overall prices.

Minneapolis St Paul Days on the Market Stats

Twin Cities Days on the Market Luxury Homes


If you are interested in a free micro market analysis of your home, please contact me !


I remember eight years ago when we bought our first home…just married, and transferring to a new city from San Diego, we had no idea what  life would be like living on the Gulf Coast. Being the savvy Internet gal I was at the time (and still am), I shopped for homes on-line, narrowing down the list of homes my husband had to see when he went house hunting. (Yes, that’s right, when HE went house hunting. Unfortunately, I could not get time off work, but he received 10 days.)

There was one home in particular that caught my eye – a For Sale by Owner (FSBO in real estate speak) home that had the prettiest back yard.  I called the owner right away and told her my husband would be in town in a week and set up an appointment to view the home. For days my husband viewed homes with a real estate agent, taking pictures of each, drawing up a pros/cons list, and then emailing me everything each evening so we could discuss our thoughts. He did a really good job!

The last home he saw was the FSBO. Right away he knew it was the one. See, I love to garden, and the back yard of this home was full of Gardenias, Azaleas, Oleanders, Camellias, a beautiful Magnolia tree, and my husband knew that it was “me”. It was apparent that the original owners of the home were gardeners, too, as the landscaping was fantastic. Long story short, we bought that home, and lived there for three years. I have to say that I cannot think of a better place to begin a family than that small home. It was perfect, and so you can imagine how hard it was to leave when it came time to transfer to another city.

For the last five years, every now and then, I have thought back to that home with fond memories. I have always wondered if the couple who bought the home from us took care of it the way we did – did they make sure to drink in the smell of the Gardenias as they sat on the patio late in the evening? Did they enjoy watching the different colors bloom throughout the yard? I hoped so.

Well, two weeks ago we flew back to the area to visit a dying relative and some of our old friends. Being busy as vacations are, it took us till the last day to finally drive by the old house to see what it looked like. As we drove up, I could tell right away it was no longer the house we had enjoyed. Every bush in the front yard had been pulled up and replaced with a Palm Tree. And the fragrant Viburnum that stood by the front door was gone too. Being as a road was directly behind the house, we were able to drive by and peer through the slats of the backyard fence. To my utter shock, we found that the owners had pulled up everything but the trees. ALL the beauty was now gone and it was hard to choke back the tears of sadness and disbelief.

It’s hard to return to your first home to see everything that made you fall in love with it destoyed. I am sure this does not happen to everyone, as usually most buyers improve a home and the property, but it seems to happen to me. ( The same thing happened to my childhood home, according to my brother, with the new owner pulling out everything but the trees, and I still to this day refuse to drive by it.)

What is it that makes your first home magical?

I believe it is the simple fact that after years of being taken care of by your parents, the first home purchase is all YOURS. You made it happen. Your money financed the home. It’s your piece of the American Dream. Sadly, our dreams are not always the same as someone else’s – that’s just life. But in the end, no matter what happens to the home we first bought, we will always have the fantastic memories we made in it. Those are the parts of life that really matter and the parts that no one can ever take away.


Lake Minnetonka Sailboats

Sailboats on Lake Minnetonka

If you are looking for the premier place to live in the Twin Cities, then look no further than Lake Minnetonka. Located just 8 miles west of Minneapolis, or 20 -30 minutes depending on traffic, residents have access to numerous highways to get them around town and enjoy the best of both worlds – quiet lake living combined with all the local big city amenities.

Buying a Lake Minnetonka home can be a little overwhelming at first due to the shear size of the lake. With over 140 miles of shoreline and numerous bays, real estate options are endless. Some buyers narrow down their choices by choosing the town on the lake they wish to live in– Wayzata, Shorewood, Deephaven, and Excelsior are the most popular Lake Minnetonka eastern towns, with Orono, Spring Park, and Tonka Bay covering the center of Lake Minnetonka, and Mound, Minnetrista, rounding out the western side.

Some buyers look to the house as the number one determining factor on where they will be living. Most of the waterfront homes cost $1 Million and more so be prepared to spend some money on your home. Home styles differ greatly around Lake Minnetonka– Cape Cod, Victorian, Cottage, Modern, Cabin, Lodge, just to name a few. Most of the lakefront homes have their own docks, but some neighborhoods have deeded access to a bay, giving home owners the same opportunity for boat storage on community docks. With boating, fishing, skiiing, and all the fun lake living has to offer, docks are a major “must have” for life on Lake Minnetonka.

Exposure could be important to finding the perfect Lake Minnetonka home. Do you like sunrises or sunsets best?Want both? Then figuring out which way your future home faces could help the home purchasing decision. Lake Minnetonka waterfront homes have fantastic views, especially in the fall when leaves change color, and if you like to garden, consider the amount of tree coverage on the lot, as that will greatly affect what types of plants you will be able to grow.

But the number one action to take when buying Lake Minnetonka waterfront property is to search the current homes available for sale. Make notes on what you like and don’t like and start narrowing down the choices. Before you know it, you will have a handful to see and soon will be on your way to owning your own piece of lake paradise. Happy shopping!

Search Lake Minnetonka Homes for Sale