Just Listed brings you the latest news and information from the Twin Cities-area commercial and residential real estate market and beyond from veteran reporters Jim Buchta and Kristen Leigh Painter.

New leadership at Builders Association of the Twin Cities

Posted by: Jim Buchta under Architecture Updated: January 16, 2015 - 8:04 AM

The Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), the trade group that represents metro-area homebuilders, has a new board of directors and a new president with something of a sparkling résumé. Chris Contreras, vice president of sales and marketing for Ryland Homes in Eden Prairie, was elected by the group’s membership to a yearlong term as the association’s president. His duties will include leading a 17-member board, and overseeing the activities of the 1,100-member trade association. 

BATC provides marketing, advocacy and networking opportunities for area builders. BATC runs the biannual Parade of Homes house and several other events aimed at promoting the industry. Contreras was sworn in by past president Curt Christensen, owner of Lee Lyn Construction. Contreras’ focus this year will be on increasing membership, advocacy and strengthening the association’s brand.

“Our industry is facing a number of very important challenges right now that could have a major dampening effect locally,” Contreras said. “We need to come together as BATC members and get involved to make sure our industries’ concerns are heard.” 

Before stepping into the homebuilding industry, Contreras worked for more than a decade as a regional manager for a large-volume jeweler. In 2003 he was a sales agent for Ryan Homes and joined Ryland Homes in 2004.

Contreras has served on a number of committees, including the Parade of Homes committee for three years, and the large-volume builder committee, which he chaired in 2011-2012. He served as BATC’s treasurer in 2013, and vice president in 2014.

He lives in Prior Lake with his wife, two children and extended family.

Mortgage rates decline for the third consecutive week causing refinancings to surge

Posted by: Jim Buchta under Buying Updated: January 15, 2015 - 1:26 PM

Mortgage interest rates fell for the third consecutive week, and borrowers have taken note - mortgage applications surged last week mostly because of an increase in refinancing activity. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.66 percent during the week ending Janary 15, the lowest level since May 2013 when it averaged 3.59 percent, according to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey. It was also the first time the 15-year fixed rate mortgage dipped below 3 percent since the week ending May 30.

Lower rates are helping keep mortgage lenders busy, mostly with refinancings. Mortgage applications last week increased 49 percent from the previous week, according according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending January 9. That was the largest weekly gain since November 2008 with the refinance index increasing 66 percent to the highest level since July 2013.

2014 Twin Cities real estate wrap-up: Sales sagged, but prices climbed

Posted by: Jim Buchta under Buying Updated: January 14, 2015 - 11:19 AM

Home sales in the Twin Cities metro sagged last year, but all other indicators improved. That's according to year-end data released this morning by the Minneapolis and St. Paul Area Associations of Realtors. Here are some of the highlights:

  • There were 49,541 sales, down 6.9 percent from last year but the second highest figure since 2005.
  • The median price of those sales was $205,739, up 7.2 percent and the highest level in seven years.
  • Last year there were 73,768 listings, a 2.3 percent increase from 2013 and the highest number of choices for buyers since 2010.

Month by month, here are the total sales going back to 2010:



Fewer of those sales in the same timeframe have been from foreclosures or short sales: 


Finally, here’s the monthly change in the median sales price for homes since 2010.

Stay tuned for more details later today at www.startribune.com.

47 percent of homebuyers didn't comparison shop for mortgage

Posted by: Jim Buchta under Buying Updated: January 13, 2015 - 4:38 PM

Americans love a bargain, but when it comes to buying a house, they don't always get the best deal. Only 47 percent of all Americans compared lenders when shopping for a mortgage, according to a surveyof 2013 mortgage applicants by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The group found that even seemingly insignificant variations in mortgage rates can make a big difference in a family's finances. The esearch showed the rate on a 30-year fixed rate conventional loan could vary by as much half a percent point. The difference, for example, between a 4.0 percent and 4.5 percent interest rate translates into a savings of about $60 per month. Over the first five years of the mortgage, that saves about $3,500 in mortgage payments. And the lower interest rate also means that you’d pay off an additional $1,400 in principal in the first five years. Always smart to remember that the cost of a mortgage goes beyond the rate, there are closings costs and other fees to consider. Here's a link to a helpful guide to shopping for a mortgage.

Have you recently attempted to comparison shop for a mortgage? If so, send an email to my colleague, john.ewoldt@startribune.com.

- Jim Buchta

Chicago firm to buy Knollwood Mall in St. Louis Park

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter under Buying Updated: January 13, 2015 - 7:16 PM

Knollwood Mall is in the midst of renovation, which may have been just what the shopping center needed to attract a new suitor.

Heitman, a real estate investment management firm in Chicago, is purchasing the 60-year-old shopping center, according to St. Louis Park city officials. The chief executive of New York-based Rouse Properties revealed the sale's pricetag of $106.7 million during its third-quarter earnings report in November, but didn't reveal the buyer's name.

Knollwood was Rouse's only Minnesota real estate investment.

The mall, which sits near the northeast corner of Highways 7 and 169, is in the final stages of its $32-million makeover that is transforming it from an indoor to outdoor shopping center.

"We have executed a contract to sell Knollwood Mall upon completion of our redevelopment, demonstrating the value we are creating throughout our portfolio while recycling capital to reinvest in higher yielding growth opportunities," said Andrew Silberfein, Rouse's president and chief executive officer, in its third-quarter earnings statement. 

Built in 1955, the shopping hub has survived multiple owners and disruptive trends in the Twin Cities retail market. The viability of the location is bolstered by its busy commercial neighborhood where the average household income is $93,000.

The property sale is expected to close this month, and possibly as early as this week, said St. Louis Park officials. Rouse and Heitman did not return phone calls.

Construction at the Knollwood shopping center has gutted the interior of the building. Knollwood Mall is undergoing a much-need facelift that involves converting the mall into a power-center, with stores accessible form the parking lot. Photographed on 6/20/14] Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune bbisping@startribune.com

Construction at the Knollwood shopping center has gutted the interior of the building. Knollwood Mall is undergoing a much-need facelift that involves converting the mall into a power-center, with stores accessible form the parking lot. Photographed on 6/20/14] Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune bbisping@startribune.com

Construction at the Knollwood shopping center has gutted the interior of the building. Knollwood Mall is undergoing a much-need facelift that involves converting the mall into a power-center, with stores accessible form the parking lot. Photographed on 6/20/14 by Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune.

Shops at West End in St. Louis Park sells for $117 million

Posted by: Kristen Leigh Painter Updated: January 12, 2015 - 2:52 PM

The Shops at West End changed ownership hands last month in a $117-million sale.  

The property was bought by a subsidiary of New York-based American Realty Capital on Dec. 23 from Duke Realty, according documents filed by the buyer.

West End is known as a lifestyle center, featuring a mix of shopping, entertainment and dining. The shopping complex is more than 381,000 square feet and currently has 41 tenants. It's 93 percent leased, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The three largest tenants -- Cub Foods, Latitude 360 (scheduled to open early this year) and ShowPlace Icon Theatre -- occupy 43 percent of the entire complex. 

Meanwhile, a Florida-based development company is proposing a five-building project in the West End district on a 13.48-acre site also owned by Duke Realty. DLC Residential's plan is making its way through the approval process in both St. Louis Park and Golden Valley since the property crosses city boundaries.

The West End Redevelopment area includes 49 acres of land at the southwest corner of I-394 and Highway 100. The mixed-use hub is now home to The Shops at West End shopping center, The Flats at West End apartments, the Moneygram and 1600 office towers, and several restaurants. The Millennium at West End apartment complex is currently under construction. 

If DLC gains both cities' approval, the site would see an additional 363 apartment units, 2,600 parking stalls, 150 hotel rooms and 706,000 square feet of office space.

The Shops at West End when it was under construction in 2009.The Shops at West End under construction in 2008. Star Tribune file photo.


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