Real Estate Blog

Holiday decorating started early this year thanks to the early snowfall that fell in November. That means we've had opportunities to enjoy beautiful displays of Christmas lights a bit longer this holiday season. If you're looking for an evening activity to keep the kids occupied, check out these great neighborhood holiday light displays:

* Downtown Minneapolis - The Holidazzle light parade is gone, but it has been replaced by the Minneapolis Holiday Market in Peavy Plaza along Nicolet Mall. The plaza is decorated in lights and includes vendors selling hand-crafted items, food and drinks. It is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily until Christmas Eve. Also downtown, Macy's continues to host its Santaland Display. This year's theme is "A Day in the Life of an

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When family comes to town for the holidays, there are only so many times you can cook up a big meal and then serve leftovers. Eventually, you'll need a break from the kitchen and you'll want to plan a great family get-together out on the town. Check out the following restaurants to consider for your holiday night out!

* Buca di Beppo - With locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as three surrounding suburbs, your family will be able to enjoy a feast of Italian dishes without having to drive a long distance. Meals are served family-style, which is perfect for the holiday family gathering. For a large group, make certain you call ahead to make a reservation.

* Louis Ristorante & Bar (third floor of Cossetta Alimentari) - This Italian

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A gas you can't see, can't smell and can't feel is becoming more involved in home sales as buyers are starting to demand testing for it. That gas is called radon. It occurs naturally as materials in the soil break down, and homes with basements and ground-floor levels could have this gas enter from the ground.

Radon exposure can cause lung cancer. One house might have it, and the neighbors might not. Or, worse yet, all the houses on the block might test high for radon.

Homeowners selling their homes who have tested for radon need to disclose the results. Buyers also have the option of testing for radon during the inspection process and before finalizing the buyer's agreement. There will be an additional fee to conduct it.

At this time, the state

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There's good news for Minneapolis residents thinking about listing their home in the near future: houses are selling at a faster rate and for a higher price than even a year ago.

A report released by the Minneapolis AREA Association of Realtors found that across the Metro, homes are being listed at prices 10 percent higher than last year, and median sale prices were up 8.3 percent from a year ago, too.

Condos and lofts, which are a large part of the downtown Minneapolis market, saw the largest jump in housing sales. The market is seeing greater demand from buyers, who are competing against each other to pay asking price, or close to it. Because of this demand, many condos are selling through pocket listings, which means the property never gets

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The housing market in the Twin Cities has greatly improved in the past two years, and while we're not yet at the prices and rate of turnover we saw before the collapse, things are definitely picking up. As a result, as a homebuyer you might face the need to act quickly when you find a house you love, and you might need to make an offer at full price, or close to it.

In the Twin Cities condo sales category, which makes up much of the downtown Minneapolis market, prices last year increased 15.9 percent to an average of $146,000. If you're thinking of buying soon, keep this average price increase in mind. Interest rates are still very low, of course, and this can help you extend your maximum budgeted price. For single-family homes, which make up much of

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The winter months in Minnesota take a toll on everything, which is why it's so important to prepare your home for the cold season. Here are some tips to prepare for the big chill so you can be sure your family will stay warm and cozy inside all winter long:

* Turn off all outside water faucets - If you have a sprinkler system in your yard, connect with a professional company to blow air through the lines so they're clear of water. If you just have exterior faucets, turn them off inside, then go outside to let the water flow until the pipe is cleared. Turn off the faucet when done, and if you'd like, cover the faucet with an insulating cover to protect it from the elements.

* Clean the chimney and air ducts - Your heating vents and chimney flue are

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There's nothing better than spending the afternoon at the zoo with your kids. And when the zoo has an amusement park next door, your afternoon is just about perfect. Add in the fact that the visit is very affordable – a low-cost recommended donation is all that is requested of visitors – and there's no reason why you shouldn't spend every afternoon at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory.

Even if you don't have children, the Conservatory is a great opportunity to enjoy beautiful gardens at all times of the year, especially in the middle of winter. The rainforest garden is a great place to soak up some humidity and breathe in the scents of green plants when everything outside is white and frozen.

After you've seen all the animals and visited the gardens,

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Take a short drive west of downtown Minneapolis on Highway 55 and you'll cross through the middle of Theodore Wirth Park, the largest park in Minneapolis. From the highway it looks like a large green space, but when you get into the park on your own two feet or on a bicycle, you'll see there's plenty you can do here.

Biking, golfing, hiking, boating, swimming, sledding and cross country skiing – Theodore Wirth Park is full of activities to keep you fit all year round. But it's also a place to relax, and you can do this by taking time to enjoy the butterfly garden and bird sanctuary or while reading a good book on the beach.

The park has been a part of the Minneapolis Park Board since 1889, and the addition of Glenwood Lake – renamed Wirth

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To see one of the most beautiful parks in Minneapolis, follow the winding path of Minnehaha Creek westward to where it makes a scenic drop over Minnehaha Falls. People come from all over the state to view and photograph this beautiful site, and the creek isn't the only scenic part of this park in Western Minneapolis. The park is atop towering bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

The Minneapolis Park Board says Minnehaha Park is the most visited each year, drawing in more than 850,000 people annually to see the 53-foot waterfall, enjoy the splash pad, bike the meandering trails or enjoy a picnic in one of the many shelters. And a good number of those visitors stand in line for food at the Sea Salt Eatery every summer.

One of the best ways to

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Neighborhood parks often act as the center of a community. They're where young couples stroll while holding hands and talking about their futures. New parents bring their young children to the playgrounds to burn off that excess energy. Children of elementary-school age cause chaos while zooming around on their bikes. Teenagers love to hang out in the neighborhood park, playing a pickup game of basketball or laughing with friends. Older couples, too, will find a comfy bench where they can sit back and observe it all.

Developers in Minneapolis and St. Paul recognized the need for neighborhood parks over the years, which is why you'll find small green spaces and large urban parks scattered throughout the Twin Cities. Some of these parks are known for

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