When Maia Homstad purchased a home in Minneapolis' Seward neighborhood nine years ago, she envisioned making updates here and there. But she never imagined she would be spending her time treasure hunting during the process.
The day before she was to close on the home, the nephew of the previous homeowner revealed that his uncle had hidden money in the house.
The uncle and his two siblings were born and raised in the home by their mother, a seamstress. The uncle was in the U.S. Navy and worked for the city's parks department, living in the home most of his life.
When relatives were cleaning out the home after the uncle died, they found cash hidden throughout the house — taped behind mirrors, sewn into couches and tucked underneath mattresses. The family believed they found everything that had been hidden before selling the place.
"It was quite a surprise. You would not look at this house and think there's got to be buried treasure there. It really is a very modest house. It's more like a cozy cottage than a mansion," Homstad said.
The hunt begins
So when Homstad purchased the home, which was built in 1900, she and her nephew did their own treasure hunting for fun and games.
They tapped onto walls for hollow spots whenever hanging a picture. They searched nooks and crannies such as crawl spaces in the basement and above a kitchen addition. They scanned every square inch inside closets and underneath carpeting. She once even had an archaeologist she knew search the yard with a metal detector.
"It's a two-story cottage that is 865 square feet, so it doesn't take long to go through," she said.
At one point, it was time to stop playing games and get serious about home improvement projects she had been planning. But then Homstad decided she could do both.
"Of course, we had to do our own search when renovating," she said. "We thought this is an opportunity to really get in there with the flashlight and see if there are missed spots."
Homstad plugged away at projects. The eat-in kitchen's dark walnut-stained cabinets were resurfaced and painted white and the countertops were replaced. A new gas range was put in. A white subway tile backsplash was added. In the bathroom, wallpaper was removed, fixtures were updated and new travertine flooring was put in.
Windows throughout the home were replaced, including installing a larger window in the living room for more light. Plumbing, electrical, heating and insulation were updated. A new water heater was installed and the laundry was relocated from the basement to the main floor. A new roof was put on, and the house was repainted inside and out.
Whenever she took on a project where loot could be hidden, Homstad paid extra attention.
But all the searches proved fruitless.
Another person's treasure
Now, Homstad has hung up her treasure hunting hat for good. She recently put the two-bedroom, one-bathroom home on the market.
She does not guarantee that a new homeowner will find any hidden treasure, saying "I don't want to explode expectations." But the home does have other perks.
Homstad said that the home, especially the kitchen, fills with great natural light, that most everything has been updated over the years.
Listing agent Michael Jordan said there are other pluses, too.
"I think this home is in such a wonderful location and the tree-filled lot offers some nice privacy," he said. "This home is just one block away from historic Milwaukee Avenue, arguably one of the best urban sidewalks in Minneapolis.
Homstad said being just steps from Milwaukee Avenue means regular access to the bike- and pedestrian-only mall.
"It's a lovely place to walk your dog. There's a next generation of young families that have moved into the neighborhood the last few years, so that's fun with a lot of little kids running around," she said. "And there's a lot of neighborhood pride here. Seward went through such a major revitalization in the 1970s, and people really invested a lot in making this a great community, and that bond persists."
And still, there's always that possibility that maybe, just maybe, there's a little hidden treasure to be found.
"The new owners are welcome to give it a try. But they have to buy it first," Homstad said. "I'm ready to pass the torch to the next owner/treasure hunter. Maybe they'll have more luck than I did."
Michael Jordan (Michaeljordanrealty.com; 612-280-6969) of RE/MAX Advantage Plus has the $270,000 listing.