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With housing prices edging up, some buyers think outside the box

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Prospective buyers who expect to swoop in and snatch a bargain on a new home may be out of luck. The Star Tribune reports that the average price per square foot for new homes listed through the Multiple Listing Service is at a four-year high.

"The days of low bids and relatively inexpensive construction costs are clearly numbered,” said Stephen ­Sandherr, chief executive of Associated General Contractors of America.

The newspaper concluded that prices are up because demand is increasing even as the industry struggles with a shortage of skilled construction workers, surging prices of materials and a tight market for developable land. The median sale price of new houses nationwide rose 15 percent in April, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

MPR reports that some prospective buyers in the crowded market are trying to stand out with sellers by writing personal, heartfelt letters that they hope will sway the deal their way. In the real estate industry, they're known as "love letters."

Buyers compose emotional appeals to express their fondness for the home or their appreciation of the neighborhood. MPR quoted a letter from a couple who wanted a house in the wooded suburb of North Oaks.

"We see ourselves bird-watching from Adirondack chairs on the front lawn or in the gazebo, surrounded by the home's lovely, mature trees," their letter to the seller read.

Such tactics don't always work, but real estate agents say that because homeowners make attachments to their property, the transaction is not always just about the money, and that often such a letter can be the tipping point to accepting an offer.

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