Finance & Commerce spotlights the Rare Form model!


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Top Residential Transactions: Agent matches old homes, young buyers

By: Anne Bretts February 24, 2014

2151 Bayard Ave., St. Paul

When David Johnston and Sara McFarlan of St. Paul wanted to sell the 1935 Craftsman Tudor they had loved for three decades, they called an agent who usually specializes in home sales in south Minneapolis.

Steve Imhoff said he had sold one home on the Highland Park street for a client and then another through a referral when the owners of 2151 Bayard Ave. called and told him they liked the approach he uses in his Minneapolis company, Rare Form Properties. That approach brought Johnston and McFarlan a full-price offer of $670,000 in just four days on the market. Buyers Abigail and Kevin Mosher closed Oct. 18.

Imhoff, who started out working for a traditional brokerage, describes himself now as a mix of entrepreneur, free spirit and housing matchmaker.

“I live in Kingfield,” he said. “I basically market Craftsman architecture. We cherish and we try to match homes with people who appreciate them.”

“We” includes a group of other Minneapolis entrepreneurs who operate as a kind of co-op. The group includes a local design firm he declined to identify, mortgage consultant Paris Alves, photographer Michael Speake and contractor Eric Berg.

Imhoff predicts that over the next decade or more, most of the group’s matches will come between retiring Baby Boomers and young urban professionals making the leap from renting to buying in the city — and willing to live with small closets and quirky features to get classic architecture in walkable neighborhoods. He even targets potential buyers, helping them get into the market by finding them duplexes with rental income or apartments they can rent in the kind of homes they one day will buy.

He puts his money where his mouth is.

“I really don’t think you should have to spend 6 percent of your home’s value to sell it,” Imhoff said. He shaves a point or more off the usual rate and has sellers invest the money in strategic improvements designed to attract hip, young buyers. The team usually works with a seller for a month or more to prepare a home to get top value.

Imhoff said the couple at 2151 Bayard were typical sellers.

“The house is free and clear and they’ve been there 30 years, and what they net on that home is really important to them. It’s what they’re going to have to invest in the last house they ever buy.”

Imhoff said the approach is working well enough that he’s gearing up to make a leap of his own. He’s looking for an office.