Archive for the 'Home Repair' Category

For Minneapolis Duplex Design, Check Out A House

said on June 24th, 2013 categorized under: Home Repair


houzz_logo jpgI have a confession. I’m not much for duplex decorating. And yet, I suddenly and rather inexplicably have found myself hopelessly addicted to the web site and app

Whether you’re thinking of remodeling your duplex, or just like to see photos of amazing multi-family properties, Houzz probably has what you’re looking for.

Touting itself as the leading online platform for home design, Houzz allows you to browse 1.5 million photos for ideas, collect them in your own Ideabook, and connect with professionals in the area who can help you achieve similar results in your own remodel.

The site’s search function allows you to put in exactly what you’re looking for and get thousands of visual results.

Try it and you’ll discover some of the most amazing duplexes you’ve ever seen.

From A House To A Duplex And Back Again

said on August 5th, 2010 categorized under: Home Repair


masonry constructionThere are two kinds of duplexes in the Twin Cities; those originally built as duplexes, and those that used to be houses.

Generally speaking, those that fall into the latter category often never seem to flow right. There’s always a kitchen in a former bedroom, and a couch and TV stuffed into a corner somewhere.

There’s another problem with metro housing. Many times, there aren’t single family homes big enough to accomodate growing families.

As a result, several times a year I’ll have someone ask me about the process of converting a duplex back to a single family home.

Fair warning. While the process isn’t necessarily complicated, it isn’t something you can just undertake on a whim either.

The city of Minneapolis requires a duplex home owner get Zoning and Plan Review approvals before they will issue a building permit to change the use of the property.

To achieve this, someone from the Zoning department will verify that the conversion is in keeping with the city’s zoning ordinance. After receiving a stamped approval, the duplex owner must then meet with a Plan Reviewer who will make sure your plans comply with housing and construction codes.

The reviewer will need to see floor plans drawn to scale that detail the new layout of the property, as well as the significant changes you’d like to make.

The plans need to be for each level of the home, including even the basement and attic. They must also be thorough enough to include locations of windows, doors, and stairways. They should indicate where new walls are to be built, doors and windows moved to, kitchens removed and so forth.

Ultimately, it may be most useful to have both before and after plans along.

Go Green And Save When You Fix Your Minneapolis Duplex

said on March 8th, 2010 categorized under: Home Repair


recyclage ecologie symboleWhen I sit down with someone considering buying their first rental property, I always go over not only the potential revenue the property can generate, but also the certain and probable expenses.

The one expense most prospective owners (and to be honest, listing agents) seem to omit most often is the cost of repairs.

Let’s face it. No matter how new or old your duplexor house is, sooner or later something’s going to break, become outdated or wear out.

I have fixed numbers I use as projected repair costs for each unit per year. Of course, some years nothing breaks and others, everything does. So my estimates are just that; estimates.

It’s usually about then that I also share the names of some of my favorite local shops.

Of course, when and if  something needs repair or improvement, the obvious locations to look for supplies are Home Depot, Menards and Lowe’s.

However, if the repair or upgrade isn’t urgent, it might be easier to stay under budget by shopping at a couple of local treasures.

Building Materials Outlet (formerly Cannon Recovery) is just over the Mendota Bridge in Eagan. For over forty years they’ve specialized in liquidating excess inventory from national distributors and manufacturers.

While their inventory isn’t as reliably consistent as the retail stores, the savings are significant. On any given day you can find French doors, new windows, rolls of carpeting or pallets of tile for as a third less or more than at traditional home improvement stores.

Another local institution that’s not only a great place to save money, but also a green solution is The ReUse Center in Minneapolis.

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13 Inexpensive Ways To Improve Your Minneapolis Duplex

said on February 1st, 2010 categorized under: Home Repair


A row with colorful silk tulipsThe spring housing market begins one week from today.

If you’re thinking about selling, that’s important information. However, it’s equally important if you’re a landlord facing a spring vacancy.


Many of your usual prospective tenants are going to be looking for houses in order to beat the April 30 first time homebuyer tax credit deadline, resulting in more landlords competing for fewer prospective tenants.

What’s more, many homeowners unable to sell their property for what it’s worth have turned them in to rentals, meaning there’s far more competition out there than ever for rental dollars.

Here are ten ways you as a landlord can compete:

1. Get your vacant unit so clean that your mother would stay there.

2. Give every room a fresh coat of paint.

3. If the kitchen cabinets lend themselves to it, apply a fresh coat of paint and updated hardware. You’d be surprised how inexpensive hinges, knobs and drawer pulls can be. Replacing them can immediately give a kitchen a face lift.

4. If your kitchen counters are dated, replace them. You don’t have to put in granite, but many of the larger home improvement chains offer relatively inexpensive laminate counter tops with a similar look and feel to high end stone.

5. Replace switch plates. At pennies a piece, the return on the investment here is significant. Filthy switch plates imply a history of grime. Painted-over switch plates send a message of laziness.

6. Paint the front door. It’s tough to paint in the winter, I know. But you could remove the door, taking it to the warm basement long enough to get it painted and dry. It may be possible to cover the opening with plastic while you’re waiting.

7. Shovel the sidewalks. Fallen on ice yet this year? Enough said.

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Warranty - One yearI don’t know whether to call it a trend or a theme, but this week my real estate business has had one.

First, the pilot light on the furnace in a buyer’s new property went out the day before closing. Next, the forced air furnace in one side of a duplex a buyer is considering came back with a yellow flame; which may or may not be the sign of a cracked heat exchanger (which can result in the unit producing unsafe levels of carbon monoxide).

Then I got a call from a rural tenant stating they had no water in the house or any of the outbuildings on the property.

The theme for the week could be “things break”. However, there’s another one here; whenever possible, get a home warranty.

It seems like everyone from Best Buy to car dealers offer an extended warranty these days. And we’ve all had experiences where the coverage they provided were not worth the additional cost.

I haven’t found this to be the case with most home warranties, however; especially when a client is purchasing a foreclosed property.

Many foreclosures not only have deferred cosmetic maintenance, but the mechanicals like the furnace or boiler and water heater have been ignored as well.   Most banks aren’t in the business or maintenance or repair, so whatever’s wrong with the property will most likely be the buyer’s responsibility.

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Minneapolis Duplex Owners Answer "D: None Of The Above"

said on August 6th, 2009 categorized under: Home Repair


3d human with a red question markSometimes I think I should write questions for “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire

See, I get a lot of questions I can’t answer in my job. They range from, “Why did the seller think put a toilet in the closet?” (Answer: “I dunno”) to “How much does it cost to put a new boiler in a 4500 square foot triplex?”

While I don’t think I’ll ever have an answer to the first question, from time to time I’ve been able to answer the last by calling a contractor friend for a favor…or 12. I swear, sometimes I can (understandably) actually hear them roll their eyes over the phone.

In an attempt to answer without using my “Phone A Friend” lifeline the other day, I stumbled on one of the most useful websites I’ve ever found.

It’s actually called

Need a wedding dress? They can give you a ballpark idea of what you’ll need to spend. But more importantly, to this conversation anyway, they can give you ranges for any kind of home improvement you could think of.

While not exact, the prices the site provides are in keeping with figures local contractors have shared.

How much for the boiler? Now I can answer. Anywhere from $3500 – $7000 (dependent on energy efficiency, BTUs, etc.).

I don’t think, however, I’ll ever have an answer as to why some owners make some of the “home improvements” they do.

What Should You Improve In Your Minneapolis Duplex?

said on June 26th, 2009 categorized under: Home Repair


can of green paint and brushOne of the challenges facing many duplex and single family home buyers in today’s foreclosure-laden real estate market is that many of these properties havea significant amount of deferred maintenance.

And it’s tempting, regardless of the type of property purchased, to “Pimp My Ride” with every conceivable improvement featured on HGTV or in the aisles of Home Depot.

Before you max out your credit cards, spend all of your $8000 first time home buyer tax credit or burn through your 203(k) construction loan, it’s important to stop and think who you’re improving the property for, and just what your return on those expenditures will be.

Just as improving a kitchen or adding landscaping increases the value of  a single family home, upgrades to duplexes do as well.  Before you start putting granite countertops in your rental units, however, it’s important to ask yourself a couple of questions.

First, if your intention is to ultimately sell the property, think about who your eventual buyer might be. Is your property one that lends itself to an owner occupant? To answer this, simply ask yourself whether you would live there.

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HGTV Rehabs Minneapolis Duplexes Too

said on June 22nd, 2009 categorized under: Home Repair


scottmcgillivray_s3x4_alBelieve it or not, there’s a home improvement show for duplexes.

While it hasn’t gotten a ton of press, if you’re going to be home Wednesday night, you might want to check out the HGTV show, Income Property.

Hosted by Scott McGillivray, the premise is basically this.  First time homeowners buy a duplex or a single family home and gets in over their head. Either the rental unit is trashed, resulting in a longer term vacancy or, the owner of a house is financially strapped and needs to generate extra revenue in order to make the mortgage payment.

In the case of the latter, the solution is to turn a portion of their home (usually the basement) into an apartment.

The property owner is given the opportunity to either have the show do a “Lipstick Job”, which is typically a fast turn so the unit can be rented immediately. Or, they can have the big, extensive rehab.

The show has useful tips for both new property owners and experienced investors, including which materials to use to attract tenants, how to decide whether the cost of a renovation will generate an appropriate return, and which repairs and upgrades should be tackled first.

“Income Property” airs in the Twin Cities on Wednesdays at 8:30 pm.

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One of the greatest challenges for any first time investor or homeowner is finding reliable handymen and contractors for repairs or home improvements. And while I am always happy to pass along names and numbers of service people either I or my clients have been happy with, sometimes I don’t have the right person for the job.
While Angie’s List is always a viable option, a client called this morning with what may be a wonderful alternative; Service Magic.
Like Angie’s List, Service Magic lists and works with reliable contractors who they’ve screened. They also ask customers for reviews of the services performed which they then make public.
Where they differ, however, is their web site asks you for a description of the job you need done. They then figure out what type of contractor you need, then have up to four pre-screened contractors who do that type of work contact you.
My client reported she was thrilled by the caliber of people sent (which included Sears ), the speed in which they contacted her and the quality of work done.
It’s always nice to have these kind of resources on hand.

Bailout Bill Helps Minneapolis Duplex Owners Go Green

said on October 20th, 2008 categorized under: Home Repair

1 Comment »

While it hasn’t received a great deal of media coverage, The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, also known as the $700 billion bailout bill included several incentives for investors to go green.
For the next eight years, anyone who builds or renovates a multi-family, commercial or retail property and includes alternative energy features, particularly solar panels will receive a 30 percent tax credit.
Property owners who add small wind power (capacity of 100 kw or less) will also be eligible for a 30 percent tax credit, up to $4,000. This is in addition to any tax credits offered locally or from the state of Minnesota
The bill also offers a 10 percent tax credit for specific combined heat and power systems, as well as for geothermal heat pumps.
Taxpayers faced with the Alternative Minimum Tax will see their income tax limits increased through the use of energy tax credits. Alternative energy tax credits may now be carried over to the property owner’s next tax year.
It looks like a good time to go green.
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