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real estate

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”


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Today I am in Austin, TX for a luxury home conference and had the opportunity to tour some beautiful homes currently for sale. While the Texas climate is completely different than Minnesota, I did find one thing that Austin and Minneapolis – St. Paul have in common… a river runs through them.

As most rivers do, they shape the future of any city. Without the Mississippi River, the Twin Cities as we know it might not exist –  lumber and flour barons would never have come to the region to make their fortunes. I am sure the same goes for Austin and the Colorado River (not the one you are thinking of, this one is all Texas).

So, it should be no surprise that some of the highest priced real estate involves water. In Austin, million dollar luxury homes sit on top of limestone bluffs over-looking various man-made reservoir lakes on the river. With sweeping views of the landscape, how could you not love gazing out at this every morning?

Austin Blufftop Panoramic Water View

Of course the really expensive homes must sit on the water. I am told by the agents here that waterfront homes double the price of the home, which is not too different than the Twin Cities. Homes on the Mississippi River, or any of our large lakes like Lake Minnetonka can result in millions of dollars more in a home’s price.  The home below had stone steps literally taking you down into the river (really cool!) not to mention a nice breeze coming off the water.

Austin Waterfront Luxury Home

Many times I find that not-so- luxury homes are still pretty expensive if they sit on the water. The current trend is to tear these houses down, and build a big luxury mansion in its spot. However the economy is slowing tear-downs in Minneapolis and the Metro area, with property owners rethinking the amount of money they want to sink into a large project.

Just remember, waterfront homes come with a heavy price tag so be prepared when its time to go shopping! Don’t suffer from sticker shock!


Luxury Grand Hotel Downtown Minneapolis

Luxury Grand Hotel

Looks like the Grand Hotel in downtown Minneapolis has sold for $33 million to Pebblebrook Hotel Trust. According to Business Wire, the new owner plans on investing $4.5 million into building renovations. The building will continue as a top luxury hotel for Minneapolis.

The building was originally opened in 1915 as the Minneapolis Athletic Club, built by Bertrand and Chamberlin. Its short stature of 12 stories can be attributed to a 1920’s height restriction.

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North Oaks, located north of St. Paul, is a private community featuring many luxury homes. Like most of the luxury real estate markets in the Twin Cities, it too has taken a little of a beating this year.

According to recent statistics for 2010, closed sales for the year are up 26.9%, while listings are down almost 30%. While this might sound like welcome news, the fact of the matter is prices have suffered and thus is most likely the reason for increased home sales. Both Median and Average Sales prices are down between 12-14%. Of course, North Oaks, being a prestigious community is holding its home values better than other parts of the Twin Cities.


North Oaks MN Real Estate Market Update

Average days on the market is pretty high, currently around 234 days, but that is to be expected for expensive homes. Another important number is the Housing Supply Index which falls in around 16 months. This means that it would take approximately 16 months to sell all the current inventory in North Oaks.

If you have further questions about the real estate market in North Oaks, MN, please feel free to contact me!


Days on the Market for Twin Cities Luxury HomesReal estate agents in the Twin Cities metro area are pretty lucky. We have Realtor associations that produce outstanding market statistics, which other cities across the nation lack. One bit of data that is extremely important to us agents, and our seller clients, is the number of days that a home is actively for sale before a buyer produces an acceptable offer – otherwise knows as DOM, “Days on the Market”.

When these numbers are compiled, they are usually presented in generalities. We might have a number that is averaged out for a certain county, city, or neighborhood, but usually the detailed numbers per zip code are over looked. All price points are usually included, so the statistics can be skewed depending on how many high-end, or low-end homes are included.  For instance, the current DOM for the Twin Cities market is 118, so an agent that comes into a luxury listing appointment using this generic stat in their CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) could be doing the seller a disservice. 

Instead, the agent should be taking into account the area the seller lives in, and presenting those statistics. As an example, in Excelsior, where homes are much more expensive, the average days on the market is around 79. Wayzata is 144. Around Long Lake, it’s up to 173. The difference is staggering for luxury homes, especially if there is a lake nearby, or if the number of homes available to purchase is less. My main point is that when dealing with upper bracket real estate, sellers should be making sure they get the most accurate and detailed market statistics available for their home. And the only way to do this is choose an agent who specializes in the luxury home market.


Ever want to know what an expensive home will cost you in the Twin Cities? Well if you are looking for a historic home and you have a couple of million dollars to spare, here are three great choices scattered across the Metro area.

St Paul Historic Italianate Home for SaleBuilt in the 1860’s, this Italianate Farmhouse in Saint Paul boasts 4000 square feet, four bedrooms, and two acres of land/gardens – all for $2.5 Million. Listed with Coldwell Banker Burnet. 

Cedarhurst Historic Mansion in Cottage GroveThe Cedarhurst Mansion in Cottage Grove will only cost you $2.5 Million, but you’ll get a historic home built in 1911, 10 acres of land, and over 12,000 square feet. Listed with Edina Realty.

Historic Frank Lloyd Wright Estate for Sale in Stillwater

For a simple $2.4 Million, you can own the Lovness Estate in Stillwater, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built by the home owners in 1957. Sitting on 20 acres, the home has two bedrooms, a separate cottage, and comes with original plans to build three more small cottages, all designed by Mr. Wright himself. Listed with Sky Sotheby’s Realty.


Check out this luxury mansion in the Hamptons that has been dubbed “The Sand Castle” and boasts over 31,000 square feet!


Lake Minnetonka has its share of expensive luxury homes that are currently for sale, most of them being in the multi-million dollar range, and it always comes as no surprise that the most expensive home in the Twin Cities is located on the lake. Currently the top honor goes to a listing with Coldwell Banker Burnet in Orono that is priced at $11.5 Million. 

Most Expensive Lake Minnetonka Home for Sale

1655 Bohns Point Road, Orono

Located on the prestigious Bohns Point, the home features sweeping views of Lake Minnetonka on 3 acres of lakeshore. With over 9000 square feet, including a 1 bedroom/1 bath carriage house, the home has 7 total garage stalls. Make sure you can pay the taxes. They come in at a staggering $75,000 per year! 


It continually amazes me how home owners don’t realize the poor quality of photos that their real estate agent is using to market their Million dollar homes here in the Twin Cities. Just today, I have been going through luxury homes stretching from Stillwater to Lake Minnetonka, and probably 90% of the homes priced over $800,000 have agent taken photos that are out of focus, tilted, angled, poor lighting….you name it, these photos stink!

In case you wonder if they really make that big of a difference, well I have to tell you that they do. If a buyer is looking at purchasing a luxury home, they want to see the home showcased at its finest. This means that quality photos must be taken by a professional photographer, and edited in the best way to show the homes highlights. Hey, I consider myself a decent photographer, but I leave the high-tech photo business to the professionals when it comes to my luxury listings. This means I spend money to get the quality I expect and the quality my clients deserve.
After all, what are they paying me for? My job is to market their luxury home to a luxury audience. Agents that bring their point-and-shoot cameras into a million dollar home should be kicked out on the spot. They don’t know what they are doing, and the people who will suffer for it are their clients.
Want to know why your home has been languishing on the market for over a year? Over two years? Take a look at the photo below. It represents the only photo for a $1.5 Million listing in Minnetonka. The description in MLS sounds great, but there are no photos to back it up. Do you think a buyer would really want to set up an appointment for this type of listing?
Or how about this home below that started out at $2.4 Million in Eden Prairie? It is has been on the market for a while, and now is reduced $500,000. Could it be that the really poor photos, and there are more, are killing any potential sale for this home? I certainly think so.

As a home owner looking to sell, you really need to question the agent you use and how they are going to professionally market your luxury home. Luxury home specialists know that money has to be spent on quality photography and marketing pieces to attract buyers. Ask your agent for marketing examples and past experience in the luxury home market before you sign a year long listing because if you don’t, the quality you could be getting could resemble the photos above.