Douglas County Hospital Expansion

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The Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission just released their 2009 Annual Report.  In there, the hospital story is pretty cool…

Douglas County Hospital has made significant progress on a new 100,000 square foot addition to their facility which will be operational in the summer of 2010.  With a total estimated cost of $30 million, this expansion will include a 3-story addition on the south side of the current facility with space for Heartland Orthopedic Associates, P.A., additional inpatient rooms, and an Obstetrics Unit.  The project costs are being financed through Douglas County Hospital savings and the issuance of tax-exempt revenue bonds.  No tax payer dollars are being used to finance this project.

Douglas County Hospital is one of only eight County-owned hospitals remaining in Minnesota, and has been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Hospitals” in the nation in both 2002 and 2008.  Douglas County Hospital was selected from amongst 3,000 peer hospitals based upon hosptial-wide performance in five clinical areas.

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Consumer Confidence UP in January

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The Consumer Confidence Index rose in January and the December report was slightly better than previously reported.  The CCI rose to 56.5, its highest level in 17 months.  Both the present situation and expectations series increased while labor market conditions improved slightly.

Great news, there are more positive aspects to this story yet.  More on that later.

I gotta ask, is anyone reading this stuff?  Or am I the only one?  Please blog me back with comments, positive or negative.   All comments are welcome.  All of this info connects the dots in my world of real estate…even here in little old Alexandria.

Source:  The Conference Board and Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

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National Housing Sales Data

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Here’s some good data for my Alexandria friends:   In reading the report from the National Association of Realtors, there are lots of “green shoots”.  If you read the”news media”, they have a tendency to take the same housing report and give it a negative spin…for instance; I found this on-line from the Washington Post-their headline:  “Existing-home sales take biggest fall in at least 40 years.”  What?  That’s their NEGATIVE headline.  They go on to tell the story how the December drop-off in sales  was the largest fall in one month.  They fail to mention that this is due to the earlier deadline of the Tax Credit.  Whew, I have a hard time dealing with the news media’s negative spins…

Anyway, the National Association of Realtors Economics Research Division reports the data, I’ll quote their report, take a look :

After a rising surge from September through November, existing-home sales fell as expected in December after first-time buyers rushed to complete sales before the original November deadline for the tax credit.  However, prices rose from December 2008 and annual sales improved in 2009, according to the National Association of Realtors.

EXISTING HOME SALES – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – fell 16.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.45 million units in December  from 6.54 million in November, but remain 15.0 percent above the 4.74 million-unit level in December 2008.

For all of 2009 there were 5,156,000 existing-home sales, which was 4.9 percent higher than the 4,913,000 transactions recorded in 2008; it was the first annual sales gain since 2005.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there were no surprises  in the data. “It’s significant that home sales remain above year-ago levels, but the market is going through a period of swings driven by the tax credit,” he said.  “We’ll likely have another surge in the spring as home buyers take advantage of the extended and expanded tax credit.  By early summer the overall market should benefit from more balanced inventory, and sales are on track to rise again in 2010.   However, the job market remains a concern and could dampen the housing recovery – job creation is key to a continued recovery in the second half of the year.”

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $178,300 in December, which is 1.5 percent higher than December 2008.  “The median price rose because of an increased number of mid-to upper-priced homes in the sales mix,” Yun said.  It was the first year-over-year gain in median price since August 2007.

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz., said market conditions are challenging in some areas.  “There’s a shortage of lower priced homes for sale in much of the country, resulting in multiple bids in some areas,” she said.

Raw unsold inventory has been trending down.  As the market heats up again this spring, buyers may need to be prepared to move quickly on a particular home – the best advice is to begin working with a Realtor now to be able to use the tax credit and benefit from the increased buying power in the current market,” Golder said.

Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 6.6 percent to 3.29 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.2 month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 6.5 month supply in November.  Raw unsold inventory is 11.1 percent below a year ago, is at the lowest level since march 2006, and is 28.2 percent below the record of 4.58 million in July 2008.

Distressed homes, which accounted for 32 percent of sales last month, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes in the same area.  For all of 2009, the median price was $173,500, down 12.4 percent from $198,100 in 2008; distressed homes accounted for 36 percent of total sales last year.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment ratefor a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.93 percent in December from 4.88 percent in November; the rate was 5.29 percent in December 2008.

Single-family homes sales fell 16.8 perent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.79 million in December from a pace of 5.76 million in November, but are 12.7 percent above the 4.25 million level in December.  For all of 2009, single-family sales rose 5.0 percent to 4,566,000.

The median existing single-family home price was $177,500 in December, which is 1.4 percent above a year ago.  For all last year, the single-family median was $173,200, down 11.9 percent from 2008.

Existing condominium and co-op sales fell 15.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 660,00 in December from 780,000 in November, but are 34.7 percent higher than the 490,000-unit pace a year ago.  For all of 2009, condo sales rose 4.8 percent to 590,000 units.

The median existing condo price was $183,700 in Decmeber, up 1.0 percent from December 2008.  For all of last year, the median condo price was $176,100, which is 16.1 percent below 2008.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest fell 25.8 percent in December to a level of 1.15 million but are 8.5 percent higher than December 2008The median price in the Midwest was $143,200, which is 1.8 percent above a year ago.

Source:  National Association of Realtors Economic Research Division

Thank you NAR, true and honest facts, and no spin.

Also, I seen that a publication in Louisiana pingbacked my blog on “The Best Alexandria”.  There’s a Alexandria, Louisiana…in my blog, I said that the one in Minnesota was probably the best, even though I had never been to the others…little prejudice there.


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Transaction Fees

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A phenomenon that appears to be coming more common coast to coast are Transaction Fees, charged to the consumer by real estate companies.  In an effort for real estate companies to shore up their bottom lines they have taken on the task of collecting their commission AND a transaction fee from their customers for doing their business.  Its a free market, business and consumers are entitled to engage in whatever the market will bear.

I have always been opposed to these extra charges.  I don’t charge them, never have, never will.  In my opinion, a fair fee for good service, that’s what business should be all about.

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It's ALL About Real Estate!

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I love this stuff!  For my Alexandria Blog readers,  Here’s some tidbits:

  • HOUSING STARTS END 2009 ON A WEAK NOTE.  Housing starts fell 23,000 units to an annual pace of 557,000 in December as the second straight rise in multi-family activity was unable to offset a drop in single-family building.  Permits were up sharply.  SINGLE-FAMILY HOUSING STARTS : December @472K.  Single-family activity has come up off the bottom registered in early 2009 and we do not expect a retest of these lows.  However, strength from here may be somewhat limited.
  •  MORTGAGE BACKED SECURITIES.   Ben Bernanke and other members of the FOMC have made no secret of their intention to end the Fed’s quantitative easing program.  Most of the lending facilities will expire early this year and the Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) purchase program is expected to wind down at the end of March.  Ending the Fed’s unconventional easing measures is an essential precondition for any subsequent  tightening.   The Fed cannot start tightening policy until it stops easing.  The switch from easing to tightening will not be instantaneous.  The Fed will need to review the economy’s performance in the absence of quantitative  easing and there is some discussion that MBS purchases will continue beyond March 31. 
  • CONSUMER CREDIT INSIGHTS. De-levering Continues at Full Tilt.  Despite solid retail sales in November consumers slashed their credit usage by another record amount.  Revolving credit outstanding declined by more than $13 billion in November alone and is down nearly $90 billion over the past year.  While we expect the economy grew strongly in the fourth quarter on the back of a massive swing in inventories, consumers cannot be counted upon to use their credit cards to propel the economy forward at the same pace into 2010.  We expect that most consumers will remain more cautious in their use of credit over the medium-term as the lessons of the past decade are fresh in their minds.  At the same time consumers are likly to continue adding to their savings at the fastest pace since before the housing boom.     As we move through 2010 we expect that interest rates will trend higher and consumer rates are likely to be affected as well.  Most notably the Fed’s plan to end purchases of MBS at the end of the first quarter should put upward pressure on mortgage rates even as we expect treasuries to be moving higher.  The Fed has artificially compressed the spread between the 30-year conventional mortgage and its traditional benchmark the 10-year Treasury.  When the Fed stops soaking up MBS issuance the spread is likly to widen considerably.  As a result, we expect mortgage rates to climb back above 6 percent by the middle of the year.  This may constrain origination activity.


Any bloggers out there?  Send some comments back, it’s a little lonely out here in cyber-space!

Source:   U.S. Department of Commerce, NAHB and Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

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Morning News from "The Best Alexandria!

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Well there is always Alexandria, Virginia; or Alexandria, Egypt; or Alexandria, New Hampshire; or Alexandria, Louisiana; or Alexandria, Kentucky; or Alexandria, Indiana; or Alexandria, Ohio…it’s kind of crowded out there with Alexandria’s.  I gotta believe that the Minnesota one is the best?  I’ve never been to the other Alexandria’s, so there may be some prejudice there.  But we folks up north here do like our Alexandria, MN.

Anyway, couple things in reading some reports that I need to file:

  • Businesses feeling more confident about the recovery!  Novembers 0.4 percent gain in inventories marks the second straight monthly build, and implies that most firms have renewed confidence in their businesses.  Inventory-to-sales ratios are approching normal levels.
  • Retail sales:  Holiday Season Ends on a Sour Note.  Sales at the nation’s retailers fell 0.3 percent in December.  The holiday season still came in better than originally expected as sales in holiday categories for November and December were up 1.5 percent…versus last year for the November through December period.  Compared to most estimates before the season, which were looking for small declines, this is a solid performance.


I will add some more stuff later in the day.



Source:  U.S. Department of Commerce and Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

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Condo/Townhomes.Lakeshore-Alexandria, MN: Closed Annually

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In doing research for Condo/Townhome sales in the Douglas County area, the Condo/Townhome sector in our local MLS  has two sections for placement of ones townhome.  They are Condo/Townhome Residential and Condo/Townhome Lakeshore.  I already did the report this week for the sales in the residential section, with this report today on lakeshore condo/townhomes; that will bring my blog up to speed through 2009.

So with that my Alexandria readers, here’s this report of Condo/Townhomes Lakeshore closed in Douglas County for each given year:

  • 2009                             11 Closed Sales
  • 2008                             15
  • 2007                             16
  • 2006                            17
  • 2005                            11
  • 2004                            20
  • 2003                            21
  • 2002                            32
  • 2001                            21
  • 2000                           26
  • 1999                            24
  • 1998                            21
  • 1997 19
  • 1996 14
  • 1995 11


Source:  Greater Alexandria Area Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service

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Alexandria, MN Retail Sales

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I received this from the AAEDC as well.  I thought that it would be interesting to see what the Gross Retail Sales pattern has been.  Here’s what I got:

  • 2007 – Alexandria:  GROSS SALES/$876.15 million.  TAXABLE SALES/$474.25 million
  • 2006 – Alexandria:  GROSS SALES/$832.88 million.  TAXABLE SALES/$443.78 million
  • 2005 – Alexandria:  GROSS SALES/$750.24 million.  TAXABLE SALES/421.50 million
  • 2003 – Alexandria:  GROSS SALES/$579.74 million.  TAXABLE SALES/$313.82 million

Data is updated each spring, but unfortunately is always two years behind – this year, 2008 data will be released.



Source:  Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission

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Douglas County Unemployment

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In talking with Pat Kalina from the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission about the unemployment stats, the level of unemployment for our geographic area is probably best described by Douglas County’s borders instead of just Alexandria City Limits. 

With that, as of November 2009, the unemployment rate of Douglas County was 5.7%.


Source:  Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission

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Condo/Townhome Sales. Residential-Alexandria, MN: Annual Report, 2009

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It is my work to know and understand the Alexandria marketplace to the nth degree.  More knowledge of the marketplace, I feel makes me a better real estate agent.  To this end, I absorb any and all data that I can find that pertains to real estate.  And quite frankly, that is just about everything that I find.   It seems that most everything connects back to the very soil on which we live, work and play.  Maybe that’s why I stayed with the job for almost 28 years now.  I’d have thought my a.d.d. would have kicked in long before and found me some new adventure elsewhere.  That didn’t happen, and I don’t see it happening in the future either.

Enough of that, the condo market…let’s take a look.  This market has had it’s “glory days’ too.  But even in the best of times, the sales in the condo sector for Douglas County were comparatively 15% of what was sold in the single-family housing sector (condos: 60 sales in 2004 vs. houses: 398 sales in 2004).  In 2009, the sales ratio has fallen to less than 9% against the houses sold.  There are a number of factors that this can be attributed to.  The most predominant would be the foreclosure business.  I do not have a good handle on the percentage of sales that took place last year were bank owned.  When a foreclosure sale takes place, it is a “dead end” sales transaction.  The home is empty, thereby displacing no one.  A vast majority of the condo/townhome sales are from singles to empty nesters that are down sizing upon the sale of their home.  When their home doesn’t sell, or at the price they were expecting, their next move becomes in jeopardy.

We have another full year of foreclosures and unemployment issues.  Unless we strike oil in the streets of Alexandria, MN, I don’t expect any cataclysmic market swings.  So with that, here are the numbers…

Sold and Closed in Douglas County from January 1st, 2009 to December 31st 2009…and in the Residential Condo/Townhome section (there is a Lakeshore Condo/Townhome section); there were 24 properties sold.  I ran the report back to 1995 just to see, but after 1998, the computer data becomes a little sketchy).  Nonetheless, here’s how it stacks up:

  • 2009                                  24 Residential Condo/Townhomes Closed
  • 2008                                  27
  • 2007                                 38
  • 2006                                 49
  • 2005                                 37
  • 2004                                 48
  • 2003                                 40
  • 2002                                 25
  • 2001                                 21
  • 2000                                34
  • 1999                                 18
  • 1998                                 17
  • 1997                                 9
  • 1996                                 
  • 1995                                  x


Source:   Greater Alexandria Area Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service

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