Monday, February 25, 2008

I Want it NOW!—Immediate Gratification is a Good Thing in Real Estate

This is a world of immediacy…We drive thru for instant food. We communicate with instant messages. We are trained for immediate gratification. It is recommended in today’s changed real estate market that people SLOW things down. And this is great advice when it comes to most parts of the home buying transaction but when it comes to possession, immediate gratification is best.

Immediate Possession is a very good thing for both the home buyer and home seller. In Minnesota, possession time can be negotiated, but it is in everyone’s best interest that the buyer be given the keys and complete possession of the property at the time of closing.

As a Realtor who works with first time buyers, move up buyers, downsizers and everyone in between, I have balanced the moving day obstacle for clients on more than one occasion. When there is a chain of sales in one day…i.e. The first time buyer buys the home from a seller who then goes to the next closing to become a buyer who buys the home from a seller who will go to another closing…You see where I am going here. This moving chain can have kinks in it when sellers don’t understand possession.

Minnesota purchase agreements allow the possession time to be negotiated. When working with a buyer, I always recommend that we ask for immediate possession at the time of the closing. When reviewing a purchase agreement with a seller, I always recommend immediate possession. (See a pattern here?)


This way when buyers go to the final walk through check out their soon-to-be new home, they can drive directly to the closing, sign the papers and get the keys. The seller being out of the home prior to the walkthrough limits the opportunity for damage or other conflicts to occur.

On occasion, the seller might request 24 or 48 hours after the closing to have all property removed. If a buyer agrees, this can cause problems for the buyer and seller. Here's why: the buyers now own the home and it is their homeowners' insurance at risk. What if something is stolen or damaged? Who is responsible and how is it resolved when there is a loss and the transaction is complete? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer and the situations can get ugly and end up in court.

Here are some situations that I have heard of occurring from other agents when possession was not immediate.


  1. Pets left unattended in home. Sellers arrived to the closing and told the buyers they would need to stop to pick up the last load of laundry and their dog after the closing. They were going to use the electronic entry to get into the home. The buyers said okay as they had to do errands prior to moving in. When they arrived, the seller’s dog had been left unattended in the second bedroom for several hours and had soiled the light colored carpet. The sellers did not clean it up and left as a welcome gift for the new home owners.

  2. Take your time! Though immediate possession had been written into the purchase agreement, at the closing the sellers and buyer started talking as there were a few items that had not yet been removed. The buyers gregariously told the sellers to take their time as they were tied up and wouldn’t be moving in until the following Monday. When they arrived at their new home several days later, the seller had left all of their garbage inside of the garage and the every door to the home unlocked. Luckily the home had not been damaged but as it was very warm, it took several days for the garbage odor to be completely removed from the residence and the buyer was stuck paying for the trash removal.

  3. Squatters! Buyers for a large family home were agreeable to allowing an additional weekend for the sellers to move the remaining personal items to their new home a few houses down. Then the buyers had to come over several more times as the sellers refused to relinquish the extra keys. It wasn’t that they weren’t moved in to the new place nor needed more time to get their possessions; they just sat in the driveway of their old home drinking beer with the neighbors for several evenings until the agreed four day possession time ran out. During this time they flat out refused to let the buyers into their new home.

I could go on and on here but you get the picture. Immediate possession prevents problems from occurring. Sure in the first two instances, if a buyer had not agreed to arbitration, they could go to small claims court to get reimbursed for the damaged carpeting or trash removal fees. But that is not the point. When these situations occur, the buyer’s dreams of homeownership have been tainted! After weeks of waiting to move into their perfect home, having a previous owner with lack of sense and compassion ruin the final step is quite a blow. Immediate possession prevents 99% of these situations. Concessions can be negotiated at closing if the final walkthrough doesn’t go as planned but once the paperwork is signed, it is up to the legal system. Prevention is preferred.

So slow down when reviewing the details of buying a home but insist on immediate possession when getting into your new property. It protects buyers and sellers in the transaction. In particular part of the home buying process, immediate gratification is a very good thing!

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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 2008 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Uniquely Minnesota Artful Distractions—Hometown Version: Giant Mouse and Buffalo in Center City

Several years ago, I was headed down the stretch of the two-lane Highway 8 from Forest Lake through Chisago, Lindstrom and Center City when this huge rodent and a herd of Buffalo took my eyes from road. As a Minnesota Realtor, I had been driving to list my very first house in Chisago County and was I was distracted by a giant mouse with a cheese wheel, an array of colorful flags and a herd of buffalo! Buffalo in Minnesota? It was quite a distraction!

The turn for Shafer was just ahead, but the unique display at this huge farm with the giant roadside art was worth a second look. I hadn’t been aware of this family owned bison farm and cheese store but made a mental note to bring back my family to see the Minnesota bison herd.

Center City is on the map for being home to the world renown Hazelden Treatment facility. But for most Minnesotans, Eichen's has much more appeal.

During the period I had my Shafer home for sale, I passed by the Eichtens Hidden Acres farm and cheese shop on more than one occasion. It is more than just a bison and cheese store and restaurant, Eichten’s is an icon in the area. Family owned and operated, their cafĂ© serves bison burgers, Dutch Gouda cheese and ice cream for the less adventurous.

If the second largest herd of real bison in the state of Minnesota aren’t visible from the road, their other family friendly giant buffalo certainly will be! (Where do 300+ giant bison hide anyway?!)

Other Uniquely Minnesota Artful Distractions:

Don't be distracted when making important real estate decisions! 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 2008 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Express Commute to Downtown Minneapolis from Forest Lake—Fast and Easy!

Forest Lake residents who work in downtown Minneapolis can skip the frustrating traffic jams and backups! A new commuter station, or transit center, began offering express bus transportation in January. No need to drive 35 down to the 95th station either…The new Park and Ride station is located a hop, skip or jump from most Forest Lake homes!

As a Realtor, I get questions regarding the commute to downtown from Forest Lake all of the time. It is a concern for anyone considering a move to the Forest Lake or Wyoming area. A normal traffic free commute from Forest Lake by car to downtown Minneapolis is about 30-40 minutes. Add in rush hour traffic and the delays can stretch the ride into the city by 20-30 minutes especially in light of the 35W bridge collapse and detours. The best option was the nearby, very busy, Park and Ride at 95th Avenue in Blaine, just south of Lino Lakes. Great option…no doubt, but the new station is…A Welcome Relief!

The new Forest Lake express route started without a lot of fanfare but with a good number of excited riders! The station is not yet open but rides have begun.


The free parking and convenient location has attracted several commuters.

It is located on the Hardwood Creek Trail just west of Highway 61 and 202nd Avenue about a mile south of Forest Lake High School.

Great for parents of students who may have to drop off a student the high school, Century or Southwest Junior High as it is just minutes south of any of these schools.

The transit center, scheduled to be complete in early March, will be heated or cooled as weather dictates and have bathroom facilities for commuters.


***Check out the Route 288 schedule HERE! ***

Departure times run at approximately 30 minute intervals between 5 AM to 7 AM and get commuters downtown in an approximate 45 minute ride! Using shoulders and commuter lanes gets the riders to their downtown workplace destination quickly. Return express rides to Forest Lake start just before 3:30 in the afternoon and run approximately every 25-30 minutes until 5PM.

If you are considering moving to the north metro but avoided Forest Lake and Wyoming due to the commute, it is time to think again. This route will make your commute to downtown Minneapolis a breeze! Communities like Chisago, Scandia,Stacy and Lindstrom also will benefit as the transit station location is easily accessible from these communities as well.



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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 2008 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why Pay a Home Buyer’s Closing Costs?

When I list a home for sale, I give always give the seller a net sheet with estimates of closing costs that will be associated with closing the home. One of the items on the list is “Seller contribution to the Buyer’s Closing Costs.” Every now and again, I hear a seller scoff at this item on the list and get a response to the effect of, “I don’t want to pay my own closing costs. Why would I want to contribute to the BUYERS?”

I love when that question is asked. The answer is very simple:
So they can BUY your house!

Today most buyers are required to put down a minimum of 3-5% of the purchase price of the home as a down payment. The closing costs for a buyer include title insurance, home owner’s insurance, appraisals, loan origination fees, name search fees, filing fees and more. As a Realtor in the communties of Anoka County and the north metro Twin Cities, I see these closing costs will run anywhere from $3000-$7000 for a first time buyer. Couple this amount with a required down payment and few buyers have the funds to purchase a home.


So buyers have the option of waiting and saving for additional closing costs or asking for seller assistance. In many cases a financial institution will allow a seller to assist a buyer by paying either points to reduce the interest rates and/or closing costs.

How does this work? Let’s say that a home is on the market for $200,000. The buyer writes their offer for $195,000 and their financial institution allows up to 3% seller’s assistance with fees and closing costs. They decide to ask the seller in their purchase agreement document for $5000, thus the net offer to the seller for the home is $190,000.
If a seller does not want to pay the closing costs, the buyer in many cases will not be able to purchase the home. It the offer is accepted, the seller’s proceeds at closing would then be reduced by the $5000. Sellers do not have to come up with the funds in cash if there is sufficient equity in the home to cover both the buyer's and the seller's costs.

When an offer comes in on a home, it is sometimes confusing to sellers what the sale price versus net number is. In the case above, the $195,000 would be the sale’s price on the purchase agreement but by paying the $5000 in closing costs, the seller’s net number is really $190,000 less the seller's own closing costs including all fees and commission.

If as a seller you decide to counter on the original offer, you can counter on the sales price of the home or the amount of closing costs paid. When counter offers are involved, a seller needs to make certain that they understand what the net proceeds will be in each offer and counter offer.

This is where the assistance of a good, professional Realtor comes into play. As a real estate agent, I provide my clients with a seller's net sheet that outlines all costs and fees that has been updated after receiving the offer. When counter offers start going back and forth, I reiterate at each step what my seller's net number to help eliminate the confusion.

Assisting a buyer with closing costs can be the ticket to getting your home sold in this changed real estate market. Understanding the process is simple with the assistance of a knowledgable real estate agent!

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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, February 16, 2008

It’s Springtime! Our Sunglasses are on! We have a Full Tank of Gas! Let’s Go House Shopping!

It’s almost springtime and you are getting that bug. You know that little feeling that tells you that this is the year to buy a new home.

Interest rates are low. There is a great selection of new and existing homes. And frankly, you are just tired of renting!

So how do you go about finding a home? Most people start on the internet. If you are reading this, it is a good bet that you started with an online search. But after spending days, weeks and months online, now its time to venture outdoors and see some houses.

So on a perfect winter Sunday, you start driving by some of the properties that were presented so beautifully on the computer screen. You see the real estate signs and the open house arrows, you drive slowly up to the home but the car won't stop. You are frozen with questions.

What will you say to the agent in the home?

What do you do?

Relax. You are not alone. Many first time home buyers panic outside of an open house because the are unsure of what will be expected of them after they walk through the door. Heck, some aren’t sure before they step over the threshold whether or not to ring the doorbell or just walk in. So you are in very good company.

Here’s a few quick tips for getting the most out of attending real estate open houses.

  1. Get out of the car! Sounds so simple but you can tell more about the home from the inside of the house than the inside of your car.

  2. Walk right in! If you feel self conscious, ring the doorbell for fun first. That way you can be certain it works.

  3. If the agent doesn’t say “Hello”, say it first. Let them know you are just checking out the place.

  4. Take a look around. Check out every room, closets, basements, attics and ask the agent questions about the home.

  5. While you are checking out the house, check out the agent. Size up the person to see if he or she is someone that you would want to represent you in the purchase of your home.

Here’s the thing, the first home you visit may or may not be the perfect home for you. Heck, probably not even the second or third one will have that "IT" factor for you.

But stopping in open houses gives you a unique opportunity to size up Realtors to see if there is one that you would want to work with. If you take a Sunday and go to 6-7 open houses, you will meet 6-7 different agents. Some you will like; some you will hate; and one you will downright love to work with.

When you connect with one, sign that buyers’ representation agreement, visit with a loan officer for pre-approval for a loan, and then have them show you everything home on your short list. Not all home owners allow open houses. Working with one agent will save you time and frustration and allow you to see all of the homes you have on your short list in one day.

So what are you waiting for? Get in the car and get out there. Your perfect home and Realtor awaits!

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Looking for a great open house for this Sunday in the Twin Cities North Metro?

Open House 20685 Georgia Ave Forest Lake, Sunday February 17 from 1-3 PM

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 2008 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Friday, February 15, 2008

Town Hall Meeting Update—More Questions than Answers as the City Water/Sewer Debate in Ham Lake Continues

It was a full house at Ham Lake City Hall this past Tuesday night. People from all over the city came to view the five options for growth being considered by the Task Force. Most of the standing room only audience was there to hear about the potential for city water and sewer as Ham Lake is currently a community with 100% individual septic systems and wells. The cost estimates for assessments running into the tens of thousands, brought out many concerned residents.

The Town Hall meeting regarding possible changes to the City of Ham Lake was brief but thorough. It was given by the two consultants with Bolton & Menk that were hired to set up and run the community development task force. Neither the Mayor nor any city officials, though present, addressed the public during the hour plus event.


The Five Alternative Visions being considered were presented, followed by a brief question and answer session. The consultants indicated the meeting was an opportunity for the community to view the alternatives but the final decisions on the plan would be made at a later date by the city council. Their opening remarks of how they had never seen such a big turnout for an event like this was an indication of how passionate Ham Lakers are about the subject of city water and sewer. (The crowd filled the meeting room and overflowed into the lobby seating area.)

Two of the visions were most concerning. Vision #1 would provide city water and sewer to a 115 mixed use village center with wastewater management provide by East Bethel. Vision #2 expands this plan with utilities for the village center and 1700 acres of surrounding residential areas with wastewater management provide by the Metropolitan Council.


The presentation began with slides that compared the Highway 65 corridor in the city of Ham Lake to several other Twin Cities completed village communities located in St. Louis Park, Burnsville, New Brighton and the newly developed Hugo area. Two of these were completely city- redevelopments with utility infrastructure already in place. It was also pointed out by a member of the audience that two of these commercial endeavors while better positioned to jobs, airport and downtowns than Ham Lake, still suffered significant financial difficulties. The presenter did concede that this could be true.

I reviewed documentation on the Ham Lake city website addressing
Ham Lake Development Needs. These include the following needs: failing septic systems in the commercial area at the corner of Highway 65 and Crosstown, a lack of an city image, poor frontage roads, a need for trails around McKinley Elementary and upgrading Lexington Avenue. I don’t know how many of these needs were addressed with the plans other than upgrading the septic and creating an image for the city in the plans.

Many new questions and problems will come from some of the proposals, specifically the mixed use, village community center concept with city utilities and high density residential. My biggest question is, “Why?”

The Answer: The City of East Bethel is doing it. This seems to one standout reason for installing city water and sewer and creating this neighborhood village-type shopping and residential center. East Bethel has recently committed to pursuing this concept with its own sewage system, so Ham Lake should likewise, seize the opportunity or be left behind. If Ham Lake doesn’t do it now, the community will have missed a growth opportunity and residents will have to drive two miles further north to shop in the East Bethel or five minutes south to Blaine.

Some questions that I still have following the Town Hall meeting are as follows:


  1. Finite lines for the proposed Sewer Area. It was said that the potential sewer area had finite lines and would only affect 7% of the area of Ham Lake with the rest remaining rural. One of these lines borders a new development on Crosstown that will have individual septic systems and wells. Not one lot has sold in two years since the development opened. Now I ask you, do you think a developer would ask for a variance to have city water and sewer cross the “finite” line so that the properties could be more affordable?

  2. Lake Netta is very near the 7% area with the finite lines. If septic systems start failing in this area, do you think there will be requests and variances to protect Lake Netta as well?

  3. If the answers to questions 1 and 2 are yes; Do one really believe that if city water and sewer are introduce in one area of Ham Lake, it won’t be introduced little by little to all parts of the city eventually?

  4. When looking at similar community developments, why wasn’t the recent project in the City of Ramsey reviewed? I would think that much could have been learned from their project as they are in an area the most similar to Ham Lake with many acreage properties on well and septic and have similar commute issues as they are located in the northwest suburban area. According to the 2005 profile on Met Council website, this 370 acre mixed use development is profiled as a conscious effort to redefine rural Ramsey’s identity. Could it be it wasn’t included because the Ramsey project is now considered a financial failure and in foreclosure?

  5. In looking at the other cities, what were the cost overruns for each of the projects? Why weren’t these costs added in as part of the cost equation?

  6. A statement was made existing homeowners would not have to connect their home to the water and sewer lines. The cost outline was for new homes only. A significant part of the 7% area included existing homes. Does this mean there would be no cost to that homeowner who does not connect? Or would there still be a substantial cost in assessments for city water and sewer being available in the street whether a resident chose to connect or not?

  7. Why aren’t all property owners citywide being assessed for this new development as they too would benefit from the community expansion and be end users of the new village center?

  8. As many property owners have more than one acre lots, will the fees be assessed based on current property identification numbers being counted as one assessment or per acre or some other smaller unit? The question was asked, but no firm answer was given.

  9. How can home owners, many struggling with financial issues or on fixed incomes, be expected to pay assessments that are exceeding 10-20% of their current property values?

  10. Why is there only an 800 resident phone survey being used rather than a citywide vote? If all city residents aren’t to pay for the new infrastructure, shouldn’t the end users who will be required to pay these assessments have a stronger voice in the issue?

  11. Will it really come down to a vote of the city council without a majority vote of Ham Lake citizens?

  12. Are there any legal options either as individuals or a class action that affected home owners have to delay this process until additional information can be gathered and reviewed?
Unfortunately, I don’t have answers to these questions. I had more questions than answers after the presentation this past Tuesday.

Today, I took a further step and look up the original information presented to the city council in January. It is worth looking at…especially page14 of the presentation describing how the improvements will be paid for…Up front, fully funded by the users. The costs projected at over $32,500 are in 2007 dollars without interest. Here is a link to the
slides used in the January presentation. There are differences with the Alternative Visions sheet passed out at the Town Hall meeting and this earlier presentation. Note that Alternative #5 for remaining status quo has no cost or even a page outlined in the January presentation. My guess is that is because there would be no cost if your well and septic are in good working order. This was changed in the public proposals to include a cost to the residential user of $22,000-$30,000 for a new well and septic system.

As a resident of Ham Lake I have concerns for my property value and possible assessments. As a Realtor working in the Ham Lake area, my clients have these concerns and questions too. If you are a Ham Lake resident, I invite you to leave your questions and comments regarding the proposal and Town Hall meeting here as well.



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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 2008 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Love at First Sight

Decades ago as a young man walked through the door of a neighborhood restaurant. His eyes met those of a young girl. In that instant, their lives changed. It was years before they married and there were many ups and downs. But they are still together and in love today.

A few years ago, another young woman shares a conversation with a young man in a record shop. After a few minutes she leaves. The young man followed her out the door and said, “If I let you go without asking for your number, I will regret it the rest of my life.” This couple is engaged and plans to be married in the next year or so.

I know that look…As I was that first young girl. My niece was the second.

Funny thing is that when I see that look these days, it is when my buyers fall in love with a house. After showing house after house to my clients, whether they are fi
rst time buyers or moving up or downsizing, I can see it in their eyes when we have found the one!
  • It is not always the best house.


  • It is not always the most expensive.


  • The homes are not always perfectly staged.

But something about the property strikes the heartstrings of the buyer and I can see it in their eyes.

I am a firm believer in houses selling themselves.

For most home buyers, a housing purchase is unlike any other investment; it is an emotional decision. My job as a buyer’s representative is to provide stable, unbiased support and assistance through the process. So while my buyers are starry-eyed looking at the paint colors and room sizes, I check out the nooks, crannies and disclosures to point out things that might be overlooked. While not an inspector, I will point out questions to ask of the sellers and home inspector should the buyers decide to write an offer. Sometimes flaws are hard to see with stars in our eyes.

Falling in love at first sight is a wonderful experience whether with another person or a home. It is important to take the time to get to know that object of your affection before making a commitment. A professional Realtor can guide love struck buyers through the process so that they get a good deal on their dream home. My job as a real estate agent is to look out for my buyer’s best interests so they can remain in love with their dream home as long as the live there.

Have a Wonderful Valentine’s Day!
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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.




Monday, February 11, 2008

Ham Lakers Have Spoken—City Water and Sewer may be the Mayor’s Dream, But Not Theirs!

In a somewhat biased Lakes and Loons survey, Ham Lake residents were allowed the opportunity to log on and give their opinion on the proposed ideas for city water and sewer in Ham Lake, MN. What was their opinion? In a word, NO!

The Lakes and Loons staff did what they could to verify one vote per resident so there is some legitimacy to the polling process. At this first chance for Ham Lake residents to voice their opinion on the subject, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of leaving things as they are. With 186 respondents, a whopping 183 said no to city water and sewer for the City of Ham Lake.

I don’t know what kind of margin for error would be considered in this survey but whatever it is; this survey needs to be seriously considered by the Task Force and Ham Lake City Council. With survey numbers like this, a community wide poll might be a consideration prior to moving forward on any type of city water/sewer system. FULL SURVEY RESULTS.

When the Lakes and Loons February issue arrived in our mailbox, I spent over an hour reading the full two page spread of comments with my husband. There were over a hundred comments. Many respondents were senior citizens and long time residents questioning the logic of the proposal and how they were expected to pay for it. Several people vowed to move. A few thought the mayor should move. Many questioned what is the Met Council and what does it do?
READ COMMENTS HERE

As a Realtor and resident of Ham Lake, some of these comments are concerning to me. First of all, anyone in Ham Lake that is considering moving has now been put on notice of potential city water and sewer assessments. This information about potential and proposed assessments must be disclosed to any and every potential home buyer. With the real estate market slowdown, this will make selling any Ham Lake home extremely difficult, if not impossible, until the situation is resolved. Any home could be sold but the price concessions would have to be drastic to outweigh a potential $20,000 plus assessment.

As for what the Met Council is and the role it plays in the decisions being made in Ham Lake, I had this same question. I did some research on the Metropolitan Council website and discovered that in addition to providing funds for developing parks and walking trails, they are an integral part of the Twin Cities wastewater treatment system. The Met Council is receives 42% of its funding from user fees for waste water treatment and transit service.
Read about the MET COUNCIL and what they do here.

Ham Lake residents will have their opportunity Tuesday, February 12, 2008 to voice their opinions on city water and sewer at a Town Hall meeting. It is scheduled to start at 7:00 PM at City Hall with a Task Force presentation on all five proposals. Plan to attend and let your voice be heard.


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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 2008 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rethinking the 2008 Bridal Registry—China, Silver and a New Home?

Wouldn’t it be great to take one of those little barcode readers beyond Target’s towels, toasters and flat screens and head out to the nearest neighborhood and tag something that a new bride and groom really need, their first home? Shopping the Parade of Homes or at a Sunday Open House, you could click on your favorites and receive the front door key just in time to be carried over the threshold. Only in a perfect world, right?

I know it is a crazy idea but brides and grooms getting married this year are going to face a tougher time finding a loan as first time buyers. Zero down loans have all but disappeared from the landscape and first time buyers will need cash in their pockets to put toward a new home. As mortgage programs continue to change and evolve over the next year, there is a reality to saving for that down payment. A forward thinking young couple might want to divert some of their wedding funds and gifts into an real estate investment in which they can begin their lives together.

Starting this year, new home buyers are going to NEED a down payment for a house. Not just a few bucks either. In most cases a buyer will require a minimum of 3-5% to put down. With an average Minnesota starter home in the $200,000 price range, 2008 brides and grooms will need to save at least $6,000-$10,000, plus closing costs.

But all is not lost for first time buyers, but a little forward thinking is in order. There is a lot of money involved in most weddings; both on the party planning and the gift recipient side. A savvy bride and groom might be able to figure away to have the perfect wedding AND a dream home.

New Home Gift Registry Young couples getting married register for gifts to let their friends and family know exactly what they want and need. If you need a house, why not let your guests know? Maybe the insert in the wedding invitation should read:

“The couple is registered for a small number of necessities at Target, JC Penneys and Macys. If you would prefer not to shop, they are also saving for a down payment for a new home and would a appreciate monetary gift toward their dream.”

I don’t know what
Miss Manner’s would say about but I think a financial wiz like Susie Orman would applaud the idea.

Wedding Budget With the average dream wedding going for over $20,000, maybe a little arranging of the budget is in order. Those saved dollars from the dream wedding can go toward that dream home instead. Now, I am not suggesting cheaping out on anything or everything, just take a look at where you can economize on your budget. Maybe you can go forego the fancy invitations or select a less expensive dress. Maybe that trip to Hawaii would be a better choice for your fifth anniversary and a road trip to the Duluth to create newlywed memories along the north shore of Lake Superior should be considered instead. Whether on wedding details, reception or the honeymoon, a 25% savings on the average wedding is $5000 cash that could go toward your dream home.


So brides and grooms start thinking about your future lives together and create a plan for your dream home. Though those scanners will not work outside of the Parade of Homes, I do! As a professional Realtor, I have helped many young couples find the home of their dreams. I know the north and east Twin Cities housing market and can help you spot a deal from Forest Lake to Andover. I will assist you in writing a fair offer and negotiate a deal so your dream can become a reality. Working with an agent to find your first home, takes the stress out of the home buying process so you can focus on preparing for your big day.




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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 2008 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Avoid Being “The Biggest Loser” in this Changed Real Estate Market!

For the past couple of years now, the term “Buyer’s Market” has been synonymous with the real estate market. Obviously this is the opposite of the “Seller’s Market” term that had been used for the prior decade. I too, tossed around these descriptions until recently. A few months back, I decided when I use these terms I negatively affect half of my clients.

A buyer’s market, defined as a market with many sellers and few buyers, gives the impression that all buyers are winners making the sellers the losers. Likewise, in a seller’s market, with fewer sellers than buyers, there was an implication of the sellers getting the upper hand in every deal.

But here’s the rub: In this market, not ALL sellers lose and not ALL buyers win.

A seller that purchased a home in the early 1990’s, maintained it properly, diligently made payments and didn’t refinance out all of their equity can sell a home today at a handsome profit. This seller is in no way a loser.

A buyer who purchases a foreclosed home from a bank without a disclosure for a price well below the value of neighboring properties then discovers toxic black mold in the walls costing, a failed septic system or cement in the plumbing with unexpected repairs in the tens of thousands is not a winner.

These situations are part of today’s CHANGED real estate market. Yes, that is how I describe the market now. I avoid the phrases, “buyer’s market” and “seller’s market” and used "changed market" instead. Face it,
the market has changed. But there can be winners on both sides of the transaction.

Here’s a case in point: A savvy young couple, who wanted to take advantage of the glut of new construction models on the market last year in the Forest Lake area and sell the Anoka County starter home they had outgrown, were winners! They negotiated with a major builder on a perfect model and saved over $30,000 on the price. Then after making all necessary repairs, they listed their home at a rock bottom price equal to what they had paid for it four years earlier, and sold it in less than 60 days.
Did they lose money on the sale of their previous home? Probably. But this educated couple realized they were not losers. Their gain from the builder far outweighed the money they lost on their sale. Had it been a hot “Seller’s Market” they might have sold their starter home for a few thousand more but the builder would never have negotiated the drastic price reduction. All parties in this transaction were winners all the way around…The buyer of the starter home got a great deal. The move up couple sold quickly and got and awesome deal. The builder reduced their home inventory. Win. Win. Win.

This is just one example of the success stories I have witnessed this past year in this CHANGED real estate market. I know of dozens of examples of other individuals and families, both buyers and sellers, who are winners in this market.

Is it your turn to be a winning home buyer or home seller? If you are thinking that now is the time to make a move but the constant gloom and doom of the media has you sitting on the fence about buying or selling, contact a Realtor to help you assess your situation. Getting professional real estate assistance from the get-go is the best way to win in this changed market.

The young move-up couple in the previous story had contacted me months prior to finding their dream home to figure out a plan of action. I give sellers throughout the north and east Twin Cities metro area realistic facts about how to get their homes ready and where they need to be priced. They were prepared and ready to negotiate realistically with buyers when an offer came in on their property.

Sellers who are upside-down with their mortgage can also be winners in this market. Being upside-down is when you owe more money on a home than it would sell for on today’s market. Working with a Realtor that knows how to work with a bank to negotiate a short sale for their home and save their credit rating is a win for that seller. A foreclosure on a credit rating will become a huge red flag that will stay on your credit report for nearly a decade.

When I meet first time buyers, I give them a packet of information on how to buy a home so they are prepared for what to expect in the process. Before we start deciding whether to look at homes in Forest Lake or Hugo, I make certain my buyers are pre-approved for a loan with a reliable mortgage broker who will get the job done. Clients understand exactly what they can afford and what their payment will be. Then I discuss with my buyers the opportunities and pitfalls when looking at foreclosed homes, short sales, new construction and owner occupied homes. Prepared clients are then ready to jump on the perfect house and when the situation arises. With my expert assistance, buyers understand how to finesse a low offer as a starting point to negotiations so they can get their dream home at a price acceptable to both parties.

Are you ready to make a move? Team up with a great Realtor and get educated! Whether buying or selling a home in today’s market, there is no reason to be the biggest real estate loser. Win-win sales are possible and are my goal in every transaction!
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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.