It's that time of year. Mice are seeking shelter from the weather. Think your house is mouse proof? Probably not. Here's a little excerpt from a story in the Wall Street Journal by J.S. Marcus about what one couple did when they discovered a mouse - or hundreds - in the house.
"A mouse infestation is every homeowner's nightmare, but for Swedish architects Gert and Karin Wingardh, it proved to be blessing in disguise. Addressing a rodent invasion forced them to redo their coastal retreat north of Gothenburg, Sweden, transforming an existing hodgepodge of old and new structures into a striking contemporary home.
The couple bought the house, which dates to the 17th century, in 1992 for 1.3 million Swedish kronor, or about $182,000. A lawyer had been using the structure, originally built as a traditional Swedish cottage, as a summer home when the Wingardhs found it. The 750-square-foot house was ramshackle, but a teardown wasn't an option. A new couple, they needed the house immediately as a year-round residence for their blended family, including three children from previous marriages and a new son on the way.
"We both had just divorced," says Mr. Wingardh, now 63 years old, "and when you're divorced, you're devoid of money."
In just a few weeks, Mr. Wingardh had a solution: add two wings to the house, one for the children's bedrooms and sitting room, the other for an open-plan studio. The work, which took about nine months, tripled the size of the house. A few years later they redid the kitchen and added a ground-floor library. Around that time, they acquired a neighboring plot of land for about $14,000.
The house became a weekend home and summer refuge in the late 1990s, when their young son reached school age and the family relocated to Gothenburg proper.
But there was a problem. An ad hoc 1980s extension by the previous owner had provided "a freeway" for mice to enter the house, says Mr. Wingardh. By 2007, the problem had gone from bad to worse.
"The construction engineer told us to tear the house down," says Ms. Wingardh, 60, "because it would be easier just to rebuild it." But the couple was attached to their layers of additions, especially the cozy library, painted a deep red, and the quaint, low-ceiling kitchen. Plus, they had already spent more than $400,000 on the various renovations.
Click here to see photos and the rest of the story.
An infusion of cash is expected to help a Twin Cities non-profit help about 20 Twin Citians with credit problems become homeowners. U.S. Bank has invested $2.6 million investment in the Sustainable Home Ownership Program (SHOP) Bridge to Success Fund, which also received funding from clients of the bank's high net-worth wealth management unit Ascent Private Capital Management.
SHOP is a partnership between Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation and Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, which sells houses, like the one in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood pictured above and below, to people who are ineligible for traditional financing on a contract for deed that enables them time to resolve credit issues and eventually get permanent financing. That process usually takes 5 to 10 years.
Investors also include the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and the nonprofit Family Housing Fund are also investors. SHOP is apparently one of the first programs in the country to take the approach. The program was applauded by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Here's what Phillip Trier, market president for U.S. Bank in the Twin Cities, had to say about the company's involvement in the program: “In addition to soliciting private business investment, SHOP provides an attractive, socially-responsible investment opportunity for individual high-net-worth investors. Hopefully, it can serve as a template and help generate capital to support homeownership nationwide.”
Here's a great way for house/design/decorating geeks to enjoy these waning days of summer (or are these the budding days of fall?): Check out the 7th Annual AIA Minnesota Homes by Architects tour Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 20 and 21) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tour, which will set you back $20 ($10 for a single home visit or $15 if you buy online), features several houses throughout the Twin Cities metro. For more info, a map and descriptions of the houses, click here.
Here's how the folks from CityDesk described their entry, shown above and below:
"Located on the site of a former Independence, MN farmhouse this compact modern home takes formal and material cues from utilitarian agricultural structures. The planning of the home emphasizes connections between interior spaces and the surrounding rural landscape. The compact floor plan is designed to shape a courtyard patio that extends the kitchen space outdoors via a nearly twenty foot wide floor to ceiling patio door opening. The primary first floor living space is rotated toward a tree-lined creek to the southeast. A floating wood stairway (that connects all three levels of the home), along with the second floor master bedroom, feature large window openings that frame views of the natural wetland occupying the property to the east. Like the utilitarian barns and silos visible on surrounding properties, the home utilizes a palette of industrial yet warm materials. Exposed site cast concrete walls and weathering steel corrugated siding express a practical beauty and textural richness. A shed like massing shelters the structure from north-west winter winds and opens living spaces toward sunny views to the south and east."
This isn’t your average remodeling project. During the next couple of weeks, a federally funded team of contractors and building scientists are transforming a modest house in north Minneapolis into a demonstration house that will be used to educate builders, contractors and housing program managers about the latest construction technologies.
The house is owned by Urban Homeworks, which is also providing some of the labor. Building scientists from the University of Minnesota are among 10 teams from across the country that were selected by the Department of Energy’s Building America program to explore new ways of increasing the energy efficiency and durability of houses. The NorthernStar Team will focus on three key elements of the house.
The foundation and roof are being retrofitted with external insulation and moisture management systems that don’t require replacing the roof decking or excavating the foundation. And the house will get an innovative new high-efficiency space and water heating system.
The house, which will eventually be sold, is at 1401 16th Av. N. in Minneapolis. If you have questions about the techniques you can stop by the house, or call Tom Schirber, a fellow at the U’s Cold Climate Housing Center, 651-276-0670 Here's a pic taken this week by Shirber showing crews that are working with Urban Homeworks tearing off the roof in preparation for a new external insulation system.
The U.S. Census Bureau said this morning the number of new housing starts, including all building types, during August fell 14.4 percent from the previous month largely because fewer apartments and other kinds of multifamily housing were built. That report doesn't include metro-level data, but earlier this month we reported that the construction scene in the Twin Cities showed a similar decline in annual and month-to-month permit activity during August due largely to fewer permits for apartment buildings, which accounted for 26 percent of all new units compared with a 50 percent average for the year.
Nationwide last month there was only a slight decline in the number of new single-family houses, which were down 2.4 percent compared with the previous month. Total starts were 8.0 percent higher than August of last year, and single-family starts were 4.2 percent above the year-ago pace.
Brad Hunter of Metrostudy said that new home production has been gyrating month-to-month, but is likely to end "flat." That's despite the strongest builder confidence in nine years, as reported earlier this week by the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. Hunter said that increase is a sign that home buyers are adjusting to higher home prices. They're also feeling more confident about their personal finances.
This chart from the Builders Association of the Twin Cities shows construction activity for the Twin Cities metro using data from the Keystone Report.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of the “The Splendid Table,” and her husband, Frank, are ready to downsize, so they're ready to sell.
The eight-bedroom brick house was built in 1911 and is on a double lot in Crocus Hill neighborhood in St. Paul. And yes, it has a big kitchen, including "Babe," a six-burner, 17,500-btu Wolf range she bought with her first royalty check.
Here's how Kasper described the house during a 2008 visit with my colleague, Connie Nelson: "It's a bastardized neo-classical with a 1950s rambler - complete with a picture window - stuck on the front. It's wacky. And big. There are parts of this house I haven't seen in three years."
Here's what attracted her to this house? "We bought it in part for the dining room. When it's gussied up and there are candles everywhere, it's all about romance. And it was the cheapest house in the neighborhood."
Her favorite room: "My kitchen is home to me. It's a working kitchen and most working kitchens aren't very glamorous. When you're in a kitchen every day, you start to understand what's necessary and how some things that look good aren't going to work."