Melissa Birch's office is next to beautiful Lake Calhoun, but the Coldwell Banker Burnet and J.D. Garber associate works with a lot of Downtwon condo buyers - including artists and lots of first-time buyers.
Q: Can you tell readers a little about yourself and your work?
A: I host free homebuyers workshops at Patrick's Cabaret and other venues in South Minneapolis (for information, see the end of the story). I've been an artist for 15 years, and enjoy helping my fellow artists and Gen X-ers buy property and save money.
Q: Talk about the growth of Downtown. Which part seems to be the hottest?
A: Elliot Park is the one to watch. It's just a matter of time. We haven't seen any drastic market changes from the condo conversions that are happening or have happened there in the recent past, and certainly we'll have a better sense in a year or so what impact [upscale condo towers such as] Grant Park has had on the area. It's still too early to tell.
Q: Which neighborhoods seem to be the up-and-comers right now - areas of the city people may not have considered a few years ago but are now eyeing as good investments?
A: City-wise, Northeast or "Nordeast" has been up-and-coming for a while. There are still many great values over there, and it's a burgeoning hub for artists of all kinds. Everything just east of downtown and the River is growing quickly. The Powderhorn neighborhood in South Minneapolis is also thriving. One can get into a variety of properties in that area now, and it's great for buyers that want a fixer-upper. There is so much revitalization happening, in Powderhorn and the Philips neighborhood as well, with the Sears building (an old Sears store being remodeled into condos and stores on Lake & Chicago) serving as a catalyst for potentially great things.
Q: What happened to the idea that we're entering a "buyer's market" phase?
A: We are now in a pretty balanced market. Fall was pretty sluggish and there was a lot of inventory left over from the summer. We've seen a lot of overpricing on sellers' parts, and that tends to slow things down a bit.
As for multifamily units - duplexes, triplexes and such - that's just a wild market. Its highs and lows are extreme; the buyer demographic is all over the map. It's simply harder to generalize trends when you're talking about multifamily properties.
Q: Do you have any tips for sellers?
A: Do your homework and trust in your real estate professional. Pricing is king, and time is money.
Q: How about tips for first-time buyers?
A: It's easier than you think, and it's free to get preapproved for a mortgage and start planning. And this is the time to buy in Minneapolis. Appreciation rates are astounding. Interest rates are still unbelievably low.
All it takes is a desire to start, and careful planning and organization. There are so many good resources on the Internet, and it's a great way to get familiar with the homebuying process in the beginning.
[Editor's suggestion, start with the Minnesota Attorney General's guide for first-time homebuyers at www.ag.state.mn.us/consumer/housing.]
Q: Is there anything of which first-timers should beware?
A: Potential buyers: keep your finances off the Internet. Steer clear of those pop-up mortgage ads. When you're shopping around for the right loan, talk to real people and use reputable institutions. It saves hassle at the closing and will make the whole process run much more smoothly.
Melissa Birch will hold her next free homebuyer's workshop Tuesday, March 8, 5:30-7 p.m. at Patrick's Cabaret near Lake & Minnehaha. Call 386-7809 to reserve a spot and see www.houseswelivein.com for more information.