Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Realtor’s Role—A Glimpse and Opportunity to Become a Friend

This holiday season I was blessed with a ringing cell phone. Not just one client or contact but several. New prospects. Current buyers and sellers. Past clients and friends. And of course other agents.

Each situation and reason for calling was unique. As I consider each of these contacts I realize once again how my position as a Realtor provides a glimpse like a look through the keyhole into lives. Each phone call is the beginning to a story and often the caller is asking me to play a role. When I answer a call, it could be a romantic love story and exciting adventure or sad tragic tale. As a professional real estate agent, I play this role throughout the year but during the past few weeks many stories tugged at my heart.

Just before Thanksgiving, I received a call from a young man asking to see a listing of mine in Forest Lake. He and his fiancé just drove by the home and wanted to see it the next day as they were excited by the idea of purchasing their first home. Over these past few weeks, I shared many evenings of showing homes and meeting with their families. This excited young couple decided on property and if all goes according to plan they will start the New Year in their new home.


A week before Christmas I received a response to a newspaper advertisement for a Ham Lake lakeshore home. The gentleman caller is looking for something private on a full recreational lake. During the conversation he shared that he had just finished building a beautiful lake home in Alexandria two years ago. He had lost his lovely bride of 61 years a short time ago and he didn’t want to go there anymore. He was contemplating a new lakehome nearer the cities.

Last week I showed a home a few days before Christmas. It was perfect for my clients! I called the listing agent and left a voicemail. A day later I receive a call. The agent had a family medical emergency. He had another agent to handle his files but that agent decided to go on a holiday leave. Patiently and professionally, I dealt with the original agent. Unfortunately, the medical situation was serious and the family member died. Negotiations though delayed at times have been successful for both parties.


The calls don't always go as expected and the topics do not always stay exactly on real estate. A Realtor works with people and families all in different stages of life. This is important to me and the part of real estate that I truly enjoy.

As I review the holiday cards I receive from past clients sharing photos of growing grandchildren or news of adoptions and births, I realize that the role of Realtor is more than being a sales person or processor of paperwork. As I step into my clients’ lives to assist them with the sale of their property or purchase of their first home, I get a glimpse of their world and the opportunity to become their friend.


If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Monday, December 24, 2007

What Alvin and the Chipmunks taught me about Communication

On my seventh October birthday, I received one of my favorite presents; The Chipmunk’s Christmas album. I couldn’t wait to share it with my friends at school. I told all my school friends about it for nearly two months. My wonderful, understanding second grade teacher said I could bring it in the week before the holiday so I waited as patiently as a second grader can wait.

The day of the party, I walked into the classroom, carefully holding my prized vinyl disc with the smiling cartoon characters on the cover. And there was a substitute.
My beloved teacher was ill and wouldn’t be returning until after the holiday!

I was crushed as I loved my young teacher and wanted to share my favorite song with her. (Yes, it is Christmas Time is Here.) The substitute was a retired educator from a totally different era. In my youthful eyes, she looked ancient! She was very kind and said we would play the album after lunch.

The record was stored away until after lunch and recess. Finally, the moment to play my favorite song from The Chipmunks had finally arrived. I still remember standing over the record player as the teacher said, “That can’t be right…It sounds funny. We must have it on the wrong speed.” I tried to explain and show the 33 1/3 speed marker on the album as she adjusted the wonderfully, high childlike Chipmunk voices to an extremely slow speed adult voice just as Alvin shouted, “Okaaay Dave!” and broke into the painfully slow melody… “Christmas, Christmas Time is Here”.

I pointed out that “Dave” sounded wrong with such a slow voice and the Chipmunks were supposed to sound high and squeeky. They were Chipmunks after all! The retired substitute teacher never did understand. I was frustrated and started crying. My friends were bored. And the album was a flop at school as the substitute refused to play it at the correct speed.

Thinking back on that incident, I learned a lot about communicating. I learned that not everyone sees or hears things the same way. As a Realtor, communication skills are essential in working with buyers and sellers.

  • Where I may hear the freeway noise in the backyard of a property, a home buyer might appreciate the background sounds of the city so they don’t feel so isolated.

  • When I explain to a seller what needs to be done to put a home on the market, details must be provided. Clean, paint and declutter can mean different things to different people.

  • Background music in a home can be a wonderful staging touch but since a seller doesn’t know who will be coming into the home, soft instrumentals might be much safer than other music genre.

As Alvin, Simon and Theodore make their way into the hearts of a new generation, the communication lessons remain. Not everything sounds right to all people but it just maybe music to the ears of others.

Have a Very Merry Christmas!

If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Twas the Week Before Christmas and all through the County—I’m Showing Houses!

Here it is a week prior to the Christmas Holidays and I am frantically getting ready as I always do this time of year. But in the midst of shopping for presents, sending packages, wrapping gifts and baking cookies, I have to set up and show homes to clients.

A normal year would see a slow down around the holidays but this year real estate has been anything but normal. Buyers have been out there all year long but with change on the horizon for 2008 in the mortgage industry,
some buyers are very motivated to find the perfect home now!

So off we went this weekend for showings throughout White Bear Lake, Forest Lake and Hugo and Ham Lake….Surprisingly most of the homes we saw were well prepared for our visit. Christmas trees were lit and added extra sparkle. Sidewalks were shoveled at most homes. And the chocolate chip cookies were a nice touch…Hope they were meant for us and not Santa.

Not all stockings were hung with care in preparation for our visit. The one home owner that did not bother to shovel their driveway after the huge 8-12 inch snowfall last week, did miss out on a sales opportunity. The home was not bad inside but when a homeowner doesn’t bother to maintain the exterior, the interior is reviewed with an extra critical eye. The potential sale was lost as my buyers trekked up the hard packed uneven snow banks to the front door. The Rainbow Goldfish crackers left in a pile on the table were not as appealing as the cookies at the other home either.

Sellers make the most of this week and the opportunity it presents! If a buyer requests a showing on your home, make it available and make them welcome. Many buyers are very serious this time of year! A beautifully prepared home could mean the best present of all for a seller; an acceptable offer all wrapped up for the holidays!


If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

And the Winner is….The One Who DIDN’T Enter!

Ever hear the saying, "You can’t win if you don’t enter?"

Well, maybe you can. Before you enter that next drawing at your local department store, sporting event, or county fair, think twice.

Yesterday, I was listening to a local radio program as I cruised home from showing homes listed throughout Forest Lake and Ham Lake. In between Christmas carols, the DeeJays were fielding phone calls from people who had been scammed.

One gal called in with a story that got my attention. She had entered to win a prize at Spookyworld, a Halloween event in the Twin Cities, a few years back. A few days after the event, she received a call announcing that she had won the grand prize. What she didn’t realize was the caller had stolen the box of entries. She was told to claim her prize they needed her personal information. I don’t know if it was to direct deposit a cash prize or to notify the IRS of her winnings, but she was asked for and provided personal account personal information. She was scammed for thousands of dollars and it took over two years to straighten out the mess.

We are all certain that we wouldn’t be dumb enough to give out a credit card or social security number…but would we? This lady was convinced the call was legitimate by the fast-talking scam artist. After all, the caller knew she had entered to win a specific prize at Spookyworld and the day she had entered. He was very good; she was totally convinced she had won.

As a Realtor, I have often thought of putting a prize drawing box into businesses to collect names of people interested in learning more about buying a first home or relocating to Anoka County, Minnesota. Now I am no longer certain that is a great idea.

What if someone took that box and pretended to be me? I would feel terrible if a similar situation occurred. From this point on, every time I collect names and addresses, I will be vigilant to protect them as this scam was an eye-opener. I have always protected my clients' personal information as if it were my own and potential clients are no less important to me.

If the box is not locked down, think twice about that entry. And if someone calls saying you won a prize, don’t give out ANY personal information over the phone. Be cautious. Don’t get caught up in the excitement of winning and lose your identity!


If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Snapshot of Real Estate Across the Twin Cities and the US

This week I took part in a real estate experiment of sorts. Actually it was more of a survey of days on the market (DOM) for homes sold across the US. Several of my colleagues and I are tired of the gloom and doom numbers being touted by the national media. While things are slower in certain areas of the nation, the overall numbers are not as bad as the talking heads on the nightly news suggest.

See, real estate is local. Remember the real estate mantra…Location. Location. Location? We have to consider the location to get a true picture of the real estate market place.

Based on this theory,
Ashley Drake Gephart, Keller Williams Realtor in Albuquerque, New Mexico compiled current information from Realtors throughout the US for her post, US Real Estate Agents Weigh In. Ashley wanted honest numbers from communities across the nation from actual agents. So as she puts it, “without any fluff or twisting of numbers, here they are…”






Looking at these numbers without the added analysis from someone working the market, you might be concerned about a 248 DOM for November. But what I pointed out to Ashley is that Ham Lake is a very specific area in the north end of the Twin Cities. Only dozen or so properties sell each month. During November, three high-end properties were sold. These homes list priced at $475,000-$750,000 take a significantly longer time to sell as I have indicated in previous
Ham Lake market posts. The fact that three high end properties sold in one month, though skewing the DOM, is actually a good sign for the Ham Lake market.

Here is a picture of how the Ham Lake DOM stacks up against the county DOM for the north and northeast Twin Cities metro:




**All Statistical information based on information from the REGIONAL MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE of MINNESOTA, INC. for the period of 9/1/07 through 11/30/07.


DOM numbers are cumulative meaning that if a home was re-listed several times with the same or a different Realtor, ALL of the days on the market counted. It also includes every residential property whether in foreclosure or new construction; townhome or single family. When unique situations or designs are broken out, the numbers can change dramatically. Townhomes are taking longer to sell as are homes in foreclosure. New construction homes can be on the market for one day when a buyer sees a model but selects a different lot not currently MLS listed.

Note the other anomaly in Chisago County in October with a 229 DOM. Out of the 39 homes sold, one had a 1083 DOM. Yes, that is nearly 3 years! Some homes for whatever reason, can take that long to sell but it does not present a true picture of the market. Notice that in November, the Chisago County DOM was back to 130 days.

In my market, I tell people considering selling their home that the average time on the market in the north and northeast metro is approximately 4 months. The further from the Twin Cities and the higher your price, the longer it will take to sell your home. If your home is not in the optimal condition, it will take longer.

I also tell buyers looking to buy that first home or move into something bigger, it is a great time to buy! Just look at all of the options you have with so many great homes on the market AND low interest rates. A great combination for home buyers!

Bottomline here is this: If you want a true picture of the real estate market call an experienced Realtor who works in that community and ask. It’s not gloom and doom all over.

Need more information on the Albuquerque market or any of the other markets listed? Here are the links to the agents that provided the information for Ashley’s article.


FEATURED Listings in Ham Lake and Forest Lake Minnesota:

If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sticking with Home Buyers until the Dream is Reality

It’s a bright sunny early spring afternoon in 2006, my cell phone rings.
“Hi my name is Ben Johnson and you worked with my in-laws a few years back. They are in that great home in Scandia.”

“Sure, Ben, I know who you are. I spoke with your wife, Kim, a few years back but you weren’t ready to make a move then.”

“Well we are now! Could you show us a few homes tomorrow? We are interested in a few horse properties that are on the market in Isanti and Anoka Counties.”

“Great! I will set them up!”

So began the journey to the perfect home for the Johnson family. This story does have a very happy ending but the middle was rather a long drawn out process. Ben and Kim had a home to sell. When they sold their first home a decade before, it sold in a matter of days. Like most Twin Cities homeowners a few years ago, they were certain that their home would sell quickly, even in the slower market. Many people had said they were interested in the two-story, centrally located St. Paul home. But FSBO is not as easy as it would seem. After exhausting their contacts, they listed with me at the end of the summer of 2006.

From our first meeting, the Johnsons opted to sign a buyer’s representation agreement with me. I represented the couple in the search for their dream home. Kim and Ben’s dream was to live on acreage so they wouldn’t have to board their daughters’ horses. The Johnson’s wanted land to ride on and prairie views of beautiful private sunsets. Driving from North Branch to Linwood and Stacy to Scandia, we scoured the countryside. We found many perfect places for this family while they waited for their home to sell so they could write a non-contingent offer.

Over the holidays, the Johnsons chose to remove their home from the market. Their busy schedule included celebrating with a number of children and grandchildren. Showings didn’t fit in the plan. During the time their home was temporarily off of the MLS, a buyer contacted me as my sign was still in the yard. She was ready to buy and love the home from the outside and the photos online. The day the house re-listed, she wrote an offer which was accepted.

Of course this was the first big snowstorm of 2007 and the Johnsons and I trekked out in the elements to see new homes. After viewing properties from East Bethel to Chisago, the perfect home was found in Forest Lake. Unfortunately, the person buying their home wasn't a good buyer; the earnest money check bounced. So we were back to the drawing board.

A few weeks into March and my clients were more dedicated than ever to find the perfect home. Kim and Ben had just had a new roof put on the house and made every repair recommended by the truth-in-housing inspector. They decided to offer a warranty on their home so a new buyer wouldn’t have to worry about an older dryer or boiler. They lowered their list price and showings picked up. The home they had their eyes on in Forest Lake sold but new homes were coming on the market to consider.

As spring turned to summer, my clients were home sellers frustrated with the market. The Johnsons dropped the price again. Weeks later, we were contacted by an agent that another offer was coming in. Out we headed again to find a perfect place to call home. This time there were homes in Scandia, Stacy, Columbus, North Branch and Linwood to consider. Again a perfect Scandia home was located.

The offer did arrive by fax the next day. It was from an investor who wanted to close within days. When the sellers countered with a new closing date, the investor rejected the counteroffer and bought a different home. A week later the Scandia home went into pending. Another dream faded away.

As August approached, Ben and Kim remained positive and determined to have a new home for the school year. Another price adjustment and another offer came in. Third time was definitely the charm!

Now, it was crunch time! A perfect horse property was available. It was a second choice to the Scandia home. An offer was written, accepted and on a bright sunny fall afternoon, both homes closed. Their dream was finally a reality.

See, the lesson here is a professional Realtor is in it with you for the long haul. I stuck with my clients through flighty buyers and a rough market. I showed them homes in four counties and several communities for over a year until the timing was right.

When I checked in on the Johnson family a few weeks after closing, Kim and Ben were happy with their new home. Of course there were hiccups that need to be resolved but overall the family was satisfied and at home. Their children were adjusting well, the horses were grazing in the back and life was returning to a new normal on 10 acres in the country.

This is why I am a Realtor. I make dreams reality no matter how long it takes.

*The story is true though in interest of my clients’ privacy, I did change the names.


More Articles on Buying Real Estate that might be of interest:
Are You a BUBBA?
Rent VS Buy? It's Time to Revisit the Question!
How to Choose a Realtor—Why a Good Friend is Not Always a Good Option
How to Choo-Choose a Realtor and Avoid a Train Wreck!

****************************************************************************

If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Raking in Winter? Yeah, You Betcha!

Winter has come early this year. It looks like we will have a traditional white Christmas...or more accurately, a white December this year. Here we are not even a week into the month and Twin Citians are looking at record snow totals.

The snow has accumulated out of the inch range and into the foot range in Forest Lake and Ham Lake. As a home owner in Anoka County, where the snow has started to pile up, it was time to take action. To avoid the headaches that come with the snow melting off of the roof and refreezing at the eaves, here is a quick reminder.

Avoid ice dams, rake that roof! Yep, pull that funny looking backwards shovel with the extension pole out of the garage and carefully pull off the snow.
So how does it work? Carefully raise the rake over the edge of the roof as far back as the rake will reach and pull down the snow. Be certain to wear a hat, boots and gloves as there is a good chance that snow WILL land on you!

Don’t have a roof rake? This is the year to make the $20-30 investment. Ice dams will form early when the roof is not properly insulated. We take precautions along the edge of our additions as icicles have formed their most quickly in the past. Icicles, while pretty, are a clear sign of ice dam formation.

Not a do-it-yourselfer? Or, do you have a two story home where the rake won’t reach? Call in a professional to remove the snow. Ignoring the problem and repairing a roof or interior ceiling due to ice and water damage could cost thousands!


If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Forest Lake Skyscape Construction Continues


Residents and visitors alike do a double take as they pass through Forest Lake, Minnesota this December as construction continues on the new water tower.

Though the photo is not strikingly different from the
original I posted last week, if you look closely there are some marked differences. Note the yellow appendage to the tank bowl. Yes, folks that is a ladder. No fear of heights allowed when working on this project. Can you even imagine taking a hike up that ladder? Yikes.
Before the 12 plus inches of powdery snow that made skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers alike shout in exuberant exclamation hit Forest Lake this weekend, I snapped a shot of one of the huge sections on the ground that was being prepared to be lifted into place for the top of the tower. It is directly under the arrow. Can you see the edge of it coming up near the crane? It's HUGE!

Hopefully, I will be in town when one of the giant sections is raised into place. Of course, I think with all of the snow, it will be a day or two until this piece is dug out.
If you are buying, selling or relocating to Forest Lake, Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sleigh Bells Ring are You Listening?—Winter is a Great Time to BUY a Home!


A fresh blanket of snow covers the landscape across the Twin Cities from North St. Paul to East Bethel and Ham Lake to Scandia. Winter is not a time to hide from the elements and wait until spring to make a home buying decision! Although making a move in a Minnesota winter’s snow and ice is not ideal, the timing could not be more perfect to buy a home and get a GREAT DEAL!

Here are the Top Ten Reasons to Buy a Home THIS Winter!
Reason 10—Holiday Décor. Visiting homes this time of year will really put you in the holiday spirit. Many homeowners use this opportunity to deck the halls with hopes that there will be a purchase agreement in their Christmas stocking!

Reason 9—Check Window Efficiency. No that frost on the window is not a holiday decoration! Subzero temperatures really put windows to the test. Some windows will fog between the glass panes, others will ice up on the interior and then there are those that stay crystal clear in the cold. This energy efficiency test can only be done when the temperature is extreme outside.

Reason 8—Low Traffic/Less Competition. While most Minnesotans are shopping at the Mall of America for gifts or attending “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie Theater, savvy home buyers are visiting homes with their Realtor!


Reason 7—Realtors have Tons of Time. Most Realtors are not juggling several clients and will be able to spend more time scouring the MLS to find the perfect home for their buyers!

Reason 6—Tightened 2008 Mortgage Guidelines. In the first quarter of 2008, most borrowers who have good credit, but have FICO scores below 680, will be required to pay more points at closing or incur a higher interest rate. The amount that a borrower could be forced to pay, even if they've never been late on a payment, could be as much as 2.00% in points or an interest rate that's 1.00% higher than the going rate.

Reason 5—Check the Heating System. Whether the home is heated with a forced air furnace or a hot water boiler, checking out the heating system in the summer is hard to do. On a cold Minnesota evening, a furnace problem is very obvious!

Reason 4—Builders Discounts. New Construction developments hoping to clear inventory before the end of the year will often slash prices. Buyers ready to buy non-contingent are in the best position for a deal…Especially when they are accompanied by their agent to assist with the negotiations!

Reason 3—Low Interest Rates. Just after Thanksgiving, interest rates dropped to the lowest point in 25 months! If you don’t buy now, you could miss a great opportunity to cash in on the lowest rates since October 2005.

Reason 2—Amazing Inventory. Whether you are looking for a starter town home, a single family home, a private country estate, a McMansion or a lakeshore paradise, there are probably a slew of properties for you to select from. A search of lakeshore in Anoka, Chisago and Washington Counties alone, yields nearly 100 available homes. Now that is a great selection!

And, drumroll please, The Number 1 Reason for Buying in the Winter—Motivated Sellers. Homes that stay on the market in December and January in the Twin Cities are homes that need to be SOLD! If they are motivated enough to suffer through a Christmas Eve showing, they probably are willing to negotiate on the price as well!
****************************************************************************************************

If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Uniquely Minnesota Artful Distractions—Hometown Version: Giant Polar Bear in White Bear Lake

Buying a car in the north and east Twin Cities metro usually means a trip down Highway 61. It is the mecca of new and used cars! Ever since I can remember one a huge Uniquely Minnesota Artful Distraction, the big polar bear at Polar Chevrolet, has been greeting auto buyers from the shore of Goose Lake just outside of the city of White Bear Lake. There were years where the polar bear donned sunglasses and a painted swimsuit in the summer or a scarf to ward off the winter cold but this year he is just bare.

For nearly half of a century, the giant bear has towered over cars enticing buyers and delighting youngsters. As toddlers, my own kids loved to pass the bear as we traveled up from North St. Paul to Forest Lake. From time to time we still take the slower route up Hwy 61 when returning from Maplewood Mall or my Keller Williams Real Estate office in Vadnais Heights. It is always fun to pass by and wave at the huge bear!


Other Uniquely Minnesota Artful Distractions:
If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Thousand Dollar Gamble—Why Buyer’s Representation is Essential!

I love working with home buyers! First Time Buyers. Move up Buyers. Relocation Buyers. You name it—I love it!
That is why a few weeks ago when a young couple called for a showing on a home I have listed, I was excited. I pulled together my Home Buyer’s Packet with information and tips for anyone considering making a move and headed off to the home.

Now I know that most people do not fall in love with the first home they are shown. But, I am also aware that buyers scour the internet for weeks, even months prior to calling a Realtor. So after a few pre-qualifying questions, I knew this young couple was ready to buy their first home.

I arrived to the home first and turned on all the lights to brighten up the place. A few minutes later several cars pulled up. The young couple and both sets of parents got out to inspect the property. After looking everything over, I asked the young people the big question:
While you are out looking at homes, are you looking for a Realtor at the same time?
Usually the answer is vague so I am ready with my speech about choosing a Realtor. This time one of the dad’s spoke up.
“They don’t need an agent because the will get a better deal without one.”
OK. I just met the young couple and their parents so I had to tread lightly here. I wanted a further explanation of what this guy was thinking, so I asked. It was his belief that with both sides of the commission on the table a better deal could be negotiated.

Well maybe, but usually not. Yes, there can be variable commission rates with dual agency so the offer could be a bit more attractive to a seller. But that amount is negligible in the grand scheme of things when buying a first home.

The total commission paid by the seller on a $200,000 home will run anywhere from $8,000 to $14,000. Now unless the agent is the listing broker, a percentage of the commission will go to the brokerage; usually 25-50%. Now we are down to a total commission for the agent of $4,000 to $7,000. How much of that will the buyer see in a lower purchase price? Maybe $1,000 to $2,000.
Is it worth a thousand bucks to gamble that a great agent is going to be the listing agent on YOUR dream home?
In the alternative, if a first time buyer signs a buyer’s representation agreement with a Realtor, the savings can be in the tens of thousands. When you work with a Realtor to show you properties, that agent will help you through the negotiations, prepare a market analysis for the neighborhood, and assess each property with you. When you walk into a home unrepresented, the listing agent is working for the seller until you sign and agree to dual agency. The agent owes the fiduciary duties only to the seller, including disclosure and confidentiality, so everything you say about your financing and interest in the home is disclosed to the seller as required by the listing contract.

Minnesota state law requires that I disclose that I am working for the seller when I first meet with buyers. When I explained the
Minnesota agency disclosure document to this young couple, it was the first time they had seen or heard of it after viewing several homes with various agents. It was obvious to them that not all agents are following this law.

This is where I will leave the story of these first time buyers but I want anyone considering buying a home to remember this, buyer’s representation with a Realtor will save you money. Here are a few examples of how this savings can work:

New Construction—When buyers visits a model home, the sales agent in the house will quote the list price and discounted savings that the builder is offering. That's it...End of Story. But, if buyers sign with their own agent, often a better price can be negotiated with the builder. I had clients who saved an additional $15,000 last year on their dream home from the price quoted by a sales agent. Had my buyers walked into the model without me as their Realtor, they would have paid more for their home.

Existing Homes—As I walk through each potential home with buyers, I point out concerns to address in the purchase agreement. Will the upgraded fixtures stay with the home? Is that discoloration a moisture problem? The carpet, roof, furnace needs replacing, can it be done prior to closing?

As a buyer’s agent, I will discuss these issues with you on the home and assist you structuring an offer addressing the defects in the home and repairs that will be needed. I also assist my buyers in determining a fair initial offer on the home based on comparable homes that have been recently sold in the area. If the home is overpriced, we can often negotiate a lower sales price. If the roof needs replacing and we are able to negotiate a new roof, that can be $4000-6000 in savings alone.

Will the listing agent point out all concerns or that the home is overpriced? The answer is no, as they are working for the seller.
Unless it is a material fact about the property, there is no duty to disclose to the unrepresented buyer.
Septic Systems and Wells—These are important and very expensive issues when considering purchasing an
acreage property. Some Realtors who work mostly in the Twin Cities will not know how to address these home features. If after agreeing on a price for the home, the septic or well does not pass an inspection, who pays the thousands of dollars for the repair or replacement?


If you are looking at an acreage property, having a Realtor that understands how the testing process works and how to write a purchase agreement to address these important issues is essential. The cost of replacing a failing septic system can be well over $10,000, not including replacing landscaping for the new drain field. Wells can have a similar price tag if complete replacement is required.

Service Professionals—Whether you need a loan officer, title company or inspector, many Realtors have a list of service professionals at their fingertips to get the job done efficiently and at the lowest possible cost to you. Most buyers do not have first hand knowledge to make a great selection for these professionals. When making the single largest purchase in your lifetime do you really want to take your chances asking DEX? I work in this industry everyday and know when it is worth it to pay a few dollars more and when the savings is not worth the cost.

The bottom line when buying a home is, you need a knowledgeable advisor in your corner. Partner with a Realtor you trust before you find that dream home. Not only can it save you thousands, it can save you headaches as well.



More Articles on Buying Real Estate that might be of interest:

Ready to buy in the Twin Cities without taking a gamble? If you are considering buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Skyscape Under Construction in Forest Lake, Minnesota


Like a transformer in slow motion, the new Forest Lake water tower began to take on its final shape this past week. The construction process is quite a sight to see! Piece by piece concave metal is lifted into place and welded to the base, creating the “bowl”. This past spring the original old “tin-man” type water tower was removed from its place along Lake St. The new tower is located near the compost site just off of Broadway.


If you are buying, selling or relocating to Forest Lake, Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Forget Sleigh Bells, Sirens Announce Santa’s Annual Ride!


You’d better watch out and better not cry—He’s coming soon through a Ham Lake neighborhood soon. Santa Claus is coming to town!

One of the most fun and unique experiences that our family looks forward to every December is when Santa rides through the city on a fire truck, passing out candy canes to the good little residents of Ham Lake. Santa’s fireman helpers use this opportunity to collect non perishable food items to stock the Ham Lake food shelf for the holidays. This trip to the end of the driveway or road is not just for the kiddies; Santa passes candy canes, donated by the Ham Lake Chamber of Commerce, out to the young and young at heart.
As Ham Lake is a rather large area geographically and the fire truck is not as swift as flying reindeer, Santa makes his pre-Christmas visit on a 3-day schedule from 6PM to 9PM.
Thursday December 6: The width of the city from the south border to 145th Lane.

Friday, December 7: The width of the city from 145th Avenue to Constance Blvd.

Saturday, December 8: The width of the city from Constance to the city’s north boundary.

New homeowners and past residents alike enjoy this unique Ham Lake Christmas tradition. Don’t miss out on the fun! Mark your calendar, listen for the sirens and bring the food donations to the end of the driveway. It is a great way to get into the holiday spirit.

Looking for a new home for the holidays? If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a
FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Monday, November 19, 2007

Time to Give Thanks to a Dear Friend--But How Do You Say Goodbye?

Everyday for the past several years, after I sent my family off to school and work, I have a faithful companion by my side. He would follow me into my office and be my alarm if when someone drove up the driveway or knocked on the door. Sitting at my feet, thumping his tail, Tikki has been our family dog for nearly 16 years. I am lucky and thankful for my wonderful canine companion!

Tikki is an Australian Shepard mix that was thrust upon us by some family friends years ago. He was a playful pup that grew up with the kids. Tikki's sheparding instincts kept the kids from running too far. The boys weren’t too happy about the dog biting the tops of their shoes. When you are a wobbly toddler it doesn’t take much to knock you down!

When Tikki joined the family, we still lived in a North St Paul neighborhood. He had a fenced yard and great insulated dog house for protection. Although, he only went inside the structure once, to pull out all of the insulation! Tikki preferred the company of his boys! He loved to run and play with his kids! He was tough on the house though. Puppy chewing was a problem, but with training we kept the damage to a minimum. Dog hair was another issue all together. Having baby gates allowed us to keep the family pet confined to the downstairs and the hair problem to a minimum.

When we moved to our Ham Lake
acreage, Tikki was in his glory. He had more room to run; more places to explore. We added to kittens to the family and our pet allotment was complete.

Two and a half acres in the country beats a double city lot any day! Tikki spent entire days on the front porch in the sun watching for bunnies and squirrels to chase; gophers and moles to dig up in the yard. He never did get one of those fast moving rodents but did manage to a scare up a mole once on a walk with my son. I don’t know who was more alarmed, the mole, the dog or my son as they were all within inches of each other.

In the past few years we have noticed that Tikki was slowing down. People would make comments like, “You still have Tikki? How old is he?” And “15 years, that’s old for a dog.” We started to research older dog health. My husband designed a website,
www.olddogpaws.com with the information that we compiled. It was a goal to keep our friend as an integral part of our family for as long as possible.

A year or so ago, we noticed that Tikki’s limp had gotten worse. His bark had turned into a raspy noise that we call the “old dog bark”. His back right leg would shake and go out on him completely from time to time. We would watch, worry and warn our boys that their beloved dog wouldn’t be with us forever.

Around this same time, my husband and I started that big discussion remodel or move again. With Tikki aging, the discussion turned into a big circle and has put
everything on hold. The dog could never be confined to one room and his toenails would ruin hardwood floors like they have ruined the decade old vinyl flooring in our kitchen and laundry room. Accidents have been happening more frequently which damage new carpet, sometimes beyond repair. Being in real estate, it is hard to watch your pet destroy parts of your home. One door has been scratched up as he recently started to paw at the door to get our attention. He is no longer able to bark. Repairs would have to be made to sell. New flooring could be damaged if remodeled so we continue in a holding pattern for our friend’s sake.

Then suddenly last fall, one of our beloved family cats died of heart failure. The boys were devastated as there was no preparation and no time to say goodbye. For the past year, thankfully, our Tikki-Dog stayed with the family, somewhat healthy and able to help the boys through their sadness.

About a month or so ago, we noticed the limp was getting worse. Tikki didn’t want to go inside the house after walking and doing his business. He couldn’t walk up the steps with his arthritic back legs. Looking closer his right leg had started to atrophy and twist. He rarely put pressure on his right foot at all. His thumping tail wagged no more.

We can no longer avoid the inevitable. My husband and younger son built Tikki a ramp a few weeks back…Carefully designing one that is sturdy but is not permanently attached to our new cedar steps. Now Tikki can go in and out of the house more easily. But as days go on we realize that the time is getting closer to when we will have to say goodbye. We live in Minnesota and the ice and snow are coming. Tikki needs strong back legs to avoid slipping on the sidewalk in the winter.

Last week, after a particularly bad day, I made the call to the veterinarian for information on euthanasia. Even though it was only for information so we know the procedure when the time comes, even thought nothing is scheduled, I broke down on the phone. There is a reality that hits when you form the words; have the discussion. It is very hard.
My family continues to take Tikki’s condition day by day; spending time with our friend. Petting him and talking to him. But we know that actual day to say farewell is coming soon. We are thankful for the many years we have had with our beloved pet. But how do you say goodbye to a friend who has been at your side for a third of your life? Or, like my boys, all of your life? The answer is very, very slowly.

Well, today’s not the day…Come on Tikk…Let’s go for your walk!


If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Forest Lake High School Rangers are Pounding Nails Again—New Home Under Construction!

After the successful sale of last year of the home built by Forest Lake construction students in the parking lot of their school, the are at it again! The 3BR/2BA rambler built by Forest Lake High School Students in the previous year sold for $65,000 and was moved by its new owners to its permanent location this past spring. The proceeds from the sale of the home were put right back into the next project. That new construction endeavor began with the school year in September.

I have it on good authority that because of this real world building project, the shop classes in Forest Lake High School have a waiting list! Beginning woodshop is the stepping stone to working on this new home construction project.

As you can see, the first quarter students made excellent progress on the home. The framing is done and the windows are in and roofing finished; the siding is also nearly complete on the modest rambler. It looks like this time there might be a detached garage for sale along with the house. The roofing is well underway for that structure too. Just in time for to keep the elements out as old man winter is starting to arrive in Minnesota. Our first big snow could be any day. Working in a real environment gives a real timeline to the construction process.

As a Realtor in the north metro, I have watched the construction of many homes throughout the Forest Lake School District. From what I can see, there is not a crew out there that can match the passion and dedication as the construction students of the Forest Lake Rangers! It will be a fun project to watch to completion!

More Articles on Forest Lake Minnesota that might be of interest:

Featured LISTING in Forest Lake:20685 Georgia Ave N, Forest Lake, MN 55025
If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Friday, November 16, 2007

Uniquely Minnesota Artful Distraction—Homeowner Version: D’oh! Homer at Home in Centerville


Now what can I say about this permanent lawn sculpture except the homeowner must have a great sense of humor and fun! Homer Simpson in all of his colorful glory was spotted by my teenagers in the front yard of a home between Centerville and Lino Lakes.
It is definitely one for the collection of Uniquely Minnesota Artful Distractions as when my son first saw it I was distracted by the exclamation, “Look! There is a giant Homer Simpson in that yard!” On our next trip down to the Twin Cities, taking the short cut from Columbus through Centerville, we slowed down and there was Homer in all his glory. This piece of chainsaw art is carved right out of what must have been a massive tree where it stood in the front yard of the home. Not the lawn decoration for every family but for lovers of the Simpson’s, it is "¡Ay, caramba!" or a great surprise!


Other Uniquely Minnesota Artful Distractions:

If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Take the Home Off the Market or Stay the Course—What Should a Seller Do During the Holidays?

It is getting to be that time of year again. The holidays are upon us but the house hasn’t sold.

What should a seller do?
At first inclination most sellers opt to withdraw their home from the market believing that the preoccupation with the holiday season puts few buyers in the market. While there is truth to this belief, sellers can be ignoring another more important truth: Buyers looking at houses during the holidays are V-E-R-Y serious buyers.


There are not many tire-kickers running around with a Realtor when there are presents to buy and gifts to wrap. November, December and January showings are a seller’s opportunity as most homes that buyers visit at this time of the year are vacant. A buyer’s choices are down to model homes, empty relocation properties and foreclosures. A welcome home filled with the colorful sights, delightful sounds and wonderful aromas of the season give a unique opportunity for those wanting to sell.

Tips for Showing & Selling During the Holidays
  1. Decorate! Tastefully of course. This might not be the year that you do the Griswold display of lights as in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but a decorated tree, candles and wreaths can add a special touch.
  2. Bake and leave out a Christmas Cookie or two. Why should Santa have all of the extra calories?
  3. Keep the home fires burning! Make sure the fireplace is burning bright, warm and welcoming!
  4. Play holiday music. Leave out the barking version of Jingle Bells and go for instrumentals or uniquely Minnesota regional artists like The Blenders.
  5. Shovel and salt the sidewalk and driveway if necessary. No one wants to spend the holidays in the emergency room with a twisted ankle.
  6. Leave the front light on! Don’t forget it is dark out during those early evening showings. Make certain buyers and their agents are able to see their way to your front door and lockbox.
If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Friday, November 9, 2007

Unbelievable! Guess Who Wants an Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner?!

This one is too good not to share…Since living in Ham Lake we have had our encounters with wildlife but with less than two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, this is one for the books.
Moments ago, I was pulled away from answering emails and blogging on the computer in my home office due to a weird thumping noise. I was confused since it was just me and the pets at home. It wasn’t the dog with his thumping tail. He was next to me. I thought maybe the cat was playing with something in the bedroom. No…nothing upstairs. The noise was coming from the basement…maybe the cat had something downstairs…that can’t be good as in the country, we get mice from time to time.

Nope! It was this guy and he scared me out of my wits! He was tapping at the glass of our basement window. I had to get a photo to prove it to everyone.

This is my third encounter with wild turkeys in Ham Lake. The
first one didn’t go so well and we are still cleaning miniscule shards of glass off the dashboard of the minivan. The second one was last year when one bird got trapped in the batting cage netting out back. But this one trying to get a free invite to Thanksgiving? Good thing I am not a hunter! :)



Featured homes in Ham Lake and Forest Lake:3608 Woodland Drive
20685 Georgia Ave N

If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com

Thursday, November 8, 2007

It’s Hard to Show the Unhandy-Andy, Weasley Burrow!

As a Realtor, showing homes can sometimes be more of an adventure than others. This past summer, I had a wonderful family of clients looking for a hobby farm so they would no longer have to board their horses. They wanted to be located near the schools and employment in the Twin Cities, needed a minimum of 5 acres and the ability to keep at least 2 horses on the property. Age and condition of the home were secondary considerations as long as it was in the price range and met the three main criteria.

So we began the journey! We scoped out homes from Scandia to North Branch! We trekked all over Washington, Anoka and Chisago Counties and checked out properties from Linwood to Stacy, even a few in northern Ham Lake and East Bethel.

On one such adventure, we visited a home that sounded in the MLS like a real find. A 1998 built split level home with a 3 car garage, 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, and a mother-in-law apartment. Pulling up to the home, we noted the unique layout…A standard split level home was enhanced with an additional third garage stall and an apartment above. Since the home was a walkout, the third stall was at a lower elevation than the other two. It was unusual but not concerning.

Entering the main front door, the home did appear to be a standard 2 bedrooms up and two bedrooms down split but that is where the normalcy ended. The upper level deck was an obviously-abandoned, work-in-progress, missing railings and several floor boards. When you walked through the two car garage of the main home, there was a service door that lead to a long dark hallway. If you took a sharp right, you would fall down steep stairs. We headed straight and went into a weirdly designed mother-in-law apartment complete with swinging saloon-style doors to gate off the kitchen and fake parquet inlayed floors. At this point, I turned to my sellers and stated, "Oh my gosh, we are in the Weasley house!"
Okay, maybe it was because I had just stayed up several nights in a row to finish the final installment of Harry Potter but this home hit me as a knock off of
the Burrow. If the Potter Series is only in film version in your mind, you might miss the analogy as the Weasley home only makes a quick appearance in one film. J. K. Rowling gives architecture a whole new meaning in the wizarding world with moving staircases and disappearing/appearing townhomes. (Can you even imagine a muggle Realtor trying to find Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black’s family estate at 12 Grimmauld Place?) But the description of the Burrow is very vivid in the literary version as a convoluted maze of a home.
My clients agreed and couldn’t leave the property fast enough. It actually took longer for the homeowners to leave the house than it did for my clients to view the home and make their decision.

The sad thing is this wasn’t the only Weasley home that we visited before the clients located their dream home. In many country homes people are foregoing common sense, reason and building permits when putting an addition on a home or making home repairs. We saw an odd, 3-story home where the additional floors got smaller just like a home created by Dr. Suess. Then there was the home that had a spiral staircase removed to put in hardwood but the owner didn’t make the opening large enough for an adult human to go up and down. In another home, with a very rustic interior must have been a bit drafty in the winter winds as they had used expanding foam insulation between the boards in the main family room!

I avoid listing Weasley homes. If an unhandy-Andy did improper home “improvements” or added onto the home without permits, I won’t list the home until the repairs are made and properly documented.
We are still in a buyers market in the Twin Cities. There are dozens of properties listed that buyers can choose from. Homes with weird layouts, mismatched siding, unfinished decks and stairs that go nowhere, don’t sell. Buyers have options and will move on to the next home. So before you head out to Home Depot or Menard’s for the next weekend project, ask yourself if relocation is possible in the near future. If it is a possibility, make certain the work is done correctly and properly permitted.

As much as the Weasley family loved their home and it worked for them, I wouldn’t want to have to sell it!


Featured homes in Ham Lake and Forest Lake:
If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. 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 2007 www.terieckholm.com