Monday, January 26, 2015

Down Payment Assistance is Available in Ramsey County for YOUR 1st Home!


Considering purchasing a first home in Ramsey County in 2015? There are many opportunities to explore before you write your offer. First time home buyers in Ramsey County have a number of amazing, often overlooked programs available to them. There are specific qualifying guidelines so it is essential to find a loan officer or mortgage broker that is well versed in the details to take advantage of these unique opportunities.
First Step In Buying a Home: Get Preapproved!
For most Minnesota first time buyers the first step is, where do I start? Your very first step towards buying your first home is to contact a real estate agent to help you a mortgage professional who knows how to work with first time buyers. Contact me and I can direct you to a local loan officer that understands mortgage assistance programs in the Minneapolis/St Paul area. The loan officer will counsel you step by step until you are pre-approved and help determine which are the best options for your financial situation. Once you know exactly how much you qualify for, we can start a home search in a price range with payments well within your budget. 

Minnesota Down Payment Assistance

There is an excellent program for down payment assistance available in the Ramsey County area. Ramsey County includes the communities of St. Paul, Maplewood, Roseville, Shoreview, New Brighton, Little Canada, North St Paul, Vadnais Heights and White Bear Lake. The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency offers a program called StartUP which can be used for either up to 5% or $5,000 worth of assistance on a Ramsey County home valued at up to $310,000. This StartUP down payment assistance is a second mortgage on your home but has no interest and requires no payments until you pay off the home. One of the unique features of the funds in this program is that it can often be used in addition with other assistance programs. 

Down Payment Assistance through Ramsey County

Ramsey County offers another great down payment assistance option for Minnesota first time home buyers up to $10,000. The FirstHome assistance program can be used with many loan programs such as VA, FHA, and conventional loans. The program can also be used with the StartUP assistance from Minnesota Housing if you qualify. Like all other programs Ramsey County has certain qualifications that the Ramsey County first time home buyer must meet. Meeting with an loan officer familiar with the program for your pre-approval is essential as they can help you determine if you are eligible for the Ramsey County FirstHome program.
Neighborhood Stabilization Program in Ramsey County Qualified homebuyers also have an opportunity to purchase newly remodeled and rehabilitated Ramsey County homes. These homes are amazingly updated and give the first time homebuyer a perfect start to home ownership. They are reserved only for first time buyers that meet the income guidelines outlined by the Ramsey County program. Several of these homes come on the market every year in communities throughout the county.


Ramsey County down payment assistance programs can be used with a variety of mortgage loans. Most typically they would be used with an FHA loans to help with the 3.5% down payment. However, if you already have a sizable down payment but need some help getting to 20% down to eliminate the need for mortgage insurance, it is possible these programs could help if you meet the income restrictions.  If you are a veteran, these programs can also work with a VA loan if you meet the qualifications.

Homebuyer Classes Required to Qualify

Most of these programs for down payment assistance will require that you attend a class for first time home buyers called the Home Stretch Workshop. Don’t worry…these are not like high school classes. There is no test at the end. They are informative and fun.
You will need to plan for a full day of classroom training. There are many dates available to accommodate home buyers schedules including evenings and weekend options. Verify that the workshop you register for will satisfies both the state and local community program guidelines if you are using more than one program. Register for YOUR HomeStretch Class Online by Clicking HERE. 

Information about Ramsey County
Ramsey County is one of the eleven counties in the Minneapolis/ St Paul metropolitan area. It is the home to the state capital of Minnesota, St. Paul. With a population of over 500,000 it is one of the most densely populated counties in the state if not the entire U.S. First time home buyers  in Minnesota can benefit from the Ramsey County First Home program with down payment assistance up to $10,000.

NEED HELP BUYING  A RAMSEY COUNTY HOME? Let me be your professional guide. If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional REALTOR®, give me, Teri Eckholm of RE/MAX Results, a call or visit my website for a FREE Home Buyer Success Guide or FREE Home Value Report. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District. Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

Copyright 2015 www.terieckholm.com

Monday, January 19, 2015

Be as Sly as a Fox when Buying your Next MplsStPaul Home


Como Park Zoo has always been one of our favorite destinations on a weekend afternoon, even on a snowy winter day. With big flakes falling we were graced by the presence of this white fox, which often hides in his foxhole instead of greeting zoo visitors. Smart little guy that he is, he embraces the snowy winter weather because he can enjoy a bit of solitude rather than the loud noisy throngs of humans that are usually just beyond his fencing.

See there are some things Minnesotans don’t like to do in the winter…especially in the snowy months of January and February. Moving to a new home tops that list.


No it is not fun to move furniture when there is ice on the sidewalks.  Going to showings involves carefully removing boots to avoid tracking snow into the homes you view.  Driving from listing to listing in blizzard like weather can be treacherous. But like the fox in the solitude of the often busy zoo, it can be very smart to consider purchasing a home in the dead of winter.


Right now, interest rates are low. There are fewer buyers in the market for higher priced homes but many first time buyers for starter homes (but more are in the process of getting qualified for the spring housing rush). Home owners who want to sell in the spring are just starting the process of getting their homes ready to sell.


If you are a move-up buyer who currently owns a home and wants to move up to a larger property, this is an especially smart time to speed up your time frame. There are always first time buyers in the market looking for starter homes. With year-round demand for a smaller, lower priced homes, a savvy move-up home buyer could have their starter home or townhome listed and sold quickly and at a higher price in the winter than if they wait until May. They are often able to negotiate on that larger home more effectively as they can avoid dealing with the contingency of selling their current home. 

Often sellers who list in the subzero temps of winter get more for their properties than when the spring market hits. Yes, there are more buyers in the market in May when the weather is warm, but there is more home inventory too. This actually causes less demand because buyers have a greater selection of properties. However, higher priced and newly constructed homes that that move up buyers are considering, do not seem to be affected as drastically by this winter pricing bubble. It presents an unique opportunity to get more for your current home without paying more for the home you plan to buy.   

Looking for more ways to be a SMART Buyer?  Let me email you my Buyer’s Success Guide


Thinking of selling in 2015? Let me be your professional guide. If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional REALTOR®, give me, Teri Eckholm of RE/MAX Results, a call or visit my website for a  FREE Home Value Report. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

Copyright 2015 www.terieckholm.com

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Carbon Monoxide is a SCARY Gas!

 
It happened again. Two healthy adult women and their German Shepard lost their lives this week in Lindstrom, Minnesota due to carbon monoxide poisoning.  What a senseless tragedy.  CO detectors are very affordable yet this home did not have a CO or smoke detectors. 

The scary thing about CO poisoning is that this gas unlike smoke, it has no odor or color. People have ZERO warning that there has been any exposure to anything. Most people die or become seriously ill when breathing in this gas because they think they just have the flu or a virus. The initial symptoms are similar to many illnesses: nausea, headache, fatigue. When a person has been seriously exposed, there is confusion. This, combined with severe drowsiness, is often a lethal combination as the affected person or persons cannot think straight and often just lie down and go to sleep without knowing that they are being poisoned. 


Almost 5 years ago, a law went into effect in Minnesota requiring that every new and existing single family home have a carbon monoxide detector installed within 10 feet of every room used for sleeping. Multi-family homes and apartment buildings were required to comply in August 2009. Yet sadly, enacting a law did not stop these tragic events that affect entire families.

Legislation won't save lives but detectors will. This law is only on the books in Minnesota because a large number of people have died needlessly. Protect yourself and your family by purchasing a CO detector.  For around $30, it is one of the best insurance investments you can make.

Don’t Wait Until You Sell Your Home
 
Many people don’t know about the law or comprehend the hazard until have their home inspected prior to moving. No one comes and verifies that a CO detector is installed in Minnesota homes. But homes are often inspected at the time of sale. Then both home sellers and buyers are put on notice that it is extremely hazardous not to have them installed.


Whether you plan to move in 2015 or not, get a Carbon Monoxide detector in your home today. Laws aside, it just makes good sense to have CO and smoke detectors in your Minnesota home.  Go out today invest in the safety of your family. Not because it is the law, but because it can avoid a tragedy like the one in Lindstrom.




Tips to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  • Don't leave a fire to burn out and smolder in your fireplace. 
  • Don't use your stove, range, oven or dryer as a heat source.
  • Never leave your car to warm up in your garage-Even with the door open.
  • Never barbecue inside your home or garage.
  • Have furnace and other fuel burning appliances checked regularly by qualified professional and verify that all appliances are adequately ventilated.
  • Check periodically that your vents and chimneys are not blocked by a nest, snow, ice or other debris.
  • Purchase and place Carbon Monoxide detectors within 10 feet of every bedroom in your home.
Best Locations for Maximum Safety

Homeowners are often confused as the best location for a CO Detector in your home. The Minnesota State Fire Marshall gives these directions:
  • Every single family dwelling and every multifamily dwelling unit shall be provided with a minimum of one approved and fully operational carbon monoxide alarm installed within ten (10) feet of each room lawfully used for sleeping purposes. 
  • If bedrooms are located on separate floors additional carbon monoxide alarms would be necessary within ten feet of these areas.
  • If bedrooms are located in separate areas (on the same level), additional carbon monoxide alarms would be necessary within ten (10) feet of these areas.
Thinking of selling in 2015? Let me be your professional guide. If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional REALTOR®, give me, Teri Eckholm of RE/MAX Results, a call or visit my website for a FREE Home Buyer Success Guide or FREE Home Value Report. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

Copyright 2015 www.terieckholm.com

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Is Buying a Home in Minneapolis/St Paul a Good Investment in 2015?


Owning a home is still the American Dream. But is buying a home in the Twin Cities metro area a good investment in 2015? According to Forbes.com it is!

Forbes just released the list of the top 20 cities of where investors should buy housing in 2015. Minneapolis/St. Paul/Bloomington came in at #17. These are all cities with strong population and job growth and relatively affordable home prices.  According to Forbes research, Twin Cities market is currently undervalued by about 7% and has a good rental value. 


So if buying is good for an investor, is it also good for the average first time home buyer? Absolutely! 


But buying a home is an investment.  So buy smart and treat your purchase like the investment it is. 


Key considerations of a home purchase

  • Buy Smart--Price, Interest rate, Type of Mortgage and Resale Potential are all part of the equation. 
  • Maintain and Protect Your Investment--Adequate insurance and scheduled maintenance are essential. 
  • Don’t Jeopardize Your Investment--Be cautious when considering an equity loan.
One of my favorite type of client to work with as a REALTOR® is a first time home buyer. It is rewarding to educate them on How to Buy Smart. Buying smart is not as simple a foreclosed property at a good price. It is a combination of a buying at a good price with a mortgage at a low interest rate; preferably with a fixed rate of interest so it will not fluctuate into a payment that is not affordable.  

But it goes beyond the financials. A smart home buyer, always considers resale. If a home has negatives that cannot be repaired or replaced, it might not be the best investment. Homes on busy roads, near power lines, industrial areas, gun ranges, rail road tracks, cemeteries and airports could be considered less desirable to many buyers. I had one buyer who wanted to be miles away from any golf course due to the chemicals applied daily to keep the grass green. Granted some people would not mind any of these locations, but a location cannot be changed so it is important to weigh any negatives carefully.
 

Likewise an unusual floor plan or unique style to the home can be a deterrent. I showed a home once with the only kitchen in house on the lower level of the home. My buyers weren’t impressed and thought it odd. And honestly in all my years as a REALTOR® showing hundreds of homes, I’ve only seen one home with the main kitchen in the basement.
 

The best way for an home buyer to avoid a misstep in a housing investment is to have a good team of professionals to assist you through the entire home purchasing process. I partner with my clients and help them through every step of the process from loan preapproval through closing day. With an knowledgeable professional at your side, purchasing smart is much easier. 

Is 2015 the year YOU will INVEST IN YOUR FIRST HOME? 
Let me be your professional guide. If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional REALTOR®, give me, Teri Eckholm of RE/MAX Results, a call or visit my website for a FREE Home Buyer Success Guide or FREE Home Value Report. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

Copyright 2015 www.terieckholm.com


Friday, January 9, 2015

Downsizing in 2015 with a Skinny Banana Muffin



It's a tradition to make a New Year’s resolution.. Yet sadly by the second week of January, most people have given them up if they have ever really acted on them at all. My husband and I made a resolution to downsize. We actually started last year and are continuing into 2015. We resolved to work out on a regular basis and eat better. If our resolutions are successful, our sizes will continue to go down. 

In the past year, I did come up with a way to modify our favorite Banana Muffin recipe into a "skinny" version and downsize its calories. It is made without any fat and very limited sugar so it is pretty healthy (about 2 points if you are using the new WW plan).  The trick to keeping giving them a moist texture without butter is by FREEZING the bananas and using lots of them.  Once thawed, the bananas will have a syrupy liquid that comes out of skin with the banana. This works as a great liquid alternative and doesn't have the fat or calories of margarine or butter. I've made these at least twice a month and they always turn out great!


Skinny Banana Muffins

7-9 frozen bananas thawed.
2 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup Truvia for baking
¾ cup zero calorie Sucralose sweetener for baking.
1 cup liquid egg whites
2 half cup containers of natural strawberry applesauce without sugar.
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon real vanilla (I use Watkins double strength)
½ Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional but recommended)

Smash thawed bananas with applesauce. Mix in egg whites. Add sugar substitutes. Mix in dry ingredients & vanilla. Add ½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. Spray muffin pans with non-stick spray and place in preheated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. Remove when golden brown on top. Makes 24 muffins. Will stay fresh on counter for 2-3 days or 7 days if refrigerated.

We are also starting the process of downsizing the stuff in our home so we can eventually move to a smaller home. This will take a bit longer. After being in the same house for 17 years and having a HUGE garage; we have “treasures” to dispose of before we will be able to downsize to a smaller living space. But the process has been started. 


Are you resolved to downsize your Minneapolis/St Paul home in 2015? Contact me for a FREE Home Value Report


If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional REALTOR®, give me, Teri Eckholm of RE/MAX Results, a call or visit my website for a FREE Home Buyer Success Guide. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.


Copyright 2015 www.terieckholm.com

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Home on the Market? Pack Up the Holiday Decor ASAP!

 
The holidays are a wonderful time of year to sell a home. The MLS photos with a smattering of colorful lights and a festive wreath on the door add sparkle to a listing’s appeal…well that works in December anyway.  By mid-January, the holiday decor looks a bit sad. The appeal that the festive decor added weeks before the holiday has the extreme opposite affect just a few weeks after the new year has begun. As the calendar approaches February, Christmas decorations can make a house look unkempt and even a bit depressing to a home buyer.

A few years ago I was out with a client driving through neighborhoods on a bitter cold winter day searching for her new family home. We drove by a house that wasn’t even on the market but it had several blowmold plastic Christmas characters scattered across the snow covered front lawn. My buyer couldn’t contain her disdain and said, “It’s time to pack up that crap. The holiday is over.” I was taken aback because we were just days into January. This wasn’t a client that hates the holidays but she did think people should keep their yards looking nice. I give people a pass when the temps are subzero but if you’re my home selling client and hope to sell your home, I would recommend removing the plastic penguins and Christmas lights sooner rather than later. 


Reminders for January Home Sellers:

  • Take down the tree and remove plastic Santa and/or grapevine reindeer from your front yard.
  •  Remove colorful holiday lights (white lights are okay especially if showing in the evening).
  •  Remove Christmas wreath, tinsel and garlands.  A winter themed wreath on the front door is acceptable if it is not made of pine with a big red holiday bow. 
  •  Make sure all online photos are free of Christmas trees, lights or holiday decor.
Thinking of selling in 2015? Let me be your professional guide. If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional REALTOR®, give me, Teri Eckholm of RE/MAX Results, a call or visit my website for a FREE Home Buyer Success Guide or FREE Home Value Report. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

Copyright 2015 www.terieckholm.com

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

It’s Cold. It’s Snowy. Why Should I List My Minnesota Home Now?


Tonight Twin Citians will be facing some of the most brutal cold in Minneapolis/St Paul so far in 2015. People from other parts of the country think we must be crazy to live where temperatures reach into the double digits below zero. Who in their right mind would contemplate listing their home for sale when it is so darn cold? 

Smart sellers, that’s who. 


There is a misconception out there; People think no one moves in January in Minnesota. It’s so darn cold we all must be literally frozen to the ground. But Minnesotans don’t hibernate.  We go to work, the gym, restaurants and generally live our lives embracing the cold. Believe it or not, there are Minnesotans who want to move in the winter. And with the very low interest rates, there are many homebuyers with good intentions and New Year’s resolutions to purchase a first home or move up to a bigger home, better school district or closer to their new job. But since sellers don’t always believe this, our housing inventory is very low at this time of year. 


Most home sellers mistakenly think it is best to wait until that “hot spring market” when the weather is warm and grass is green.  They assume they will get a better price for their home if they wait until May or June to sell. In my experience, if a homeowner can get their house on the market early, they are more likely to get top dollar and multiple offers. I recommend to my clients to  try to get listed
before the Parade of Homes starts at the end of February if at all possible. 

My reasoning?  It comes down to basic supply and demand. There is a demand for affordable starter homes right now and very little housing supply in January and February. If you can get your home listed soon, you might be hanging the sold sign sooner than expected (and for a good price too!)

Thinking of selling in 2015? Let me be your professional guide.
If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional REALTOR®, give me, Teri Eckholm of RE/MAX Results, a call or visit my website for a FREE Home Buyer Success Guide or FREE Home Value Report. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

Copyright 2015 www.terieckholm.com