Monday, March 30, 2009

Photographic Analogy of the Current Real Estate Market

The current real estate market is depicted by a late March photograph of the shoreline along Forest Lake in Washington County, Minnesota.

overcast sky, unstable ice
frigid water, rocky shore
waiting; secure in the knowledge that this season too shall pass.
value always returns

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 , Homebuyers Success Packet or sign up for Listingbook Twin Cities Home Search. 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 2009 Teri Eckholm

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Cleaning in Anoka County? Hazardous Waste and Compost Sites on Summer Hours

Whether you are ditching the hazardous waste when cleaning out the garage or dumping the leaves from an afternoon yard cleanup, Anoka county has you covered.

Got Hazardous Waste? If it is time for a trip to the Anoka County Household Hazardous Waste Facility (HHW) head to Blaine! The HHW is located at 3230 101st Ave NE in Blaine just west of the 35W and 95th Ave interchange and is open YEARROUND and is FREE to Anoka County Residents! CLICK HERE for Map and Directions.

Summer Hours (April through October)

Wednesday 2PM-8PM

Friday 9PM-3PM

Saturday 9PM-3PM

HHW accepts more than paint too. Drop off any household product that is labeled "Corrosive", "Flammable"," Poison", "Toxic" or "Warning". This includes old drain cleaner and mothballs from the hall closet and the insecticides and weed killer in the garage. Mercury thermometers, pool chemicals and used motor oil are also accepted. For a complete list of what is accepted at Anoka County the HHW Facility CLICK HERE.

Got Yard Waste?Acceptable materials include: leaves, grass clippings, weeds and soft-bodied green plant materials. No garbage allowed and must be debagged at the site.Cost $4.00 per load up to 4 cubic yards for Anoka County residents.

Bunker Hills Compost Site

Located at 13285 Hanson Blvd. Coon Rapids

Open April through November weather permitting.

Monday-Friday 10AM to 7PM (or Sunset if earlier)

Saturday 9AM to 5PM

Sunday 12PM to 5PM

Rice Lake Chain of Lakes Compost Site

Located at 7701 Main St, Lino Lakes

Tuesday 10AM to 7PM (or Sunset if earlier)

Thursday 10AM to 7PM (or Sunset if earlier)

Saturday 9AM to 5PM

Sunday 12PM to 5PM

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Signs of Spring--Ice Out is Getting Close on Forest Lake in Minnesota

Spring has sprung according to the calendar but in Minnesota we all wait for the ice out on the lakes as a true sign of that the season of growth is upon us. As you can see in this photo essay of shots of Forest Lake, there is still some work for the sun to do.

About a week ago, an early ice out was anticipated. We experienced several days with unseasonable 60 and 70 degree temperatures. The snow melted quickly but it takes longer for three to four feet sheets of ice to drop to the bottom of the lake.

This past week the slightly below average temperatures have slowed the progress. So while the few feet of open water laps the shore, the giant ice sheet prevents use of these Minnesota treasures. We are left waiting for more signs of spring to come to Forest Lake.

As I drove along North Shore Trail to the north side of the lake to take these shots, I passed several homes for sale. Lake homes don't sell well until the shoreline is visible.

Soon the buyers will be excited by the beauty of the lake and their will be more sold signs than for sale signs on Forest Lake lakeshore homes. That will be a real sign of spring!

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Friday, March 27, 2009

Uniquely Minnesota Artful Distractions—Homeowner Version: Giant Red-Headed Woodpecker in Forest Lake, MN

Winding around Forest Lake along North Shore Trail, it is always a good idea to keep your eyes on the road. Along this twisty-turny trail, there is a good view of an eclectic mix of lakeshore homes with huge mansions abutting the property with quaint lakeshore cabins.
Just off 97 and before the turn on Keather, if you look up, there is a wonderfully unique distracting piece of carved and painted art perched up on an overhanging limb. The woodpecker is about three feet long; just a bit bigger than the real Pileated woodpeckers that inhabit this area.

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Attn: Homebuyers—Are YOU a Veteran? Seven Steps to a VA Loan

If you can answer yes, the VA loan program is designed exclusively to help you buy a home. It is a GREAT option for financing your piece of the American Dream! And, it is one of the only ZERO down programs still available.

As a REALTOR® who works throughout Anoka, Chisago and Washington Counties, I have sold many homes using the DVA program. I have worked with sellers in Forest Lake and Coon Rapids who accepted offers from Veterans using the DVA financing program to purchase the home. I assisted Veteran home buyers to locate and purchase homes in Wyoming, Lino Lakes, Blaine and North Branch using their DVA eligibility option. All of the sales went of without a hitch. It is a wonderful program.

Additionally, I know and work closely with several lender resources that have experience working directly with the VA. We work together as a team to get veterans into the homes of their dreams!

Yesterday I attended a seminar in White Bear Lake given by the Department of Veterans Affairs on the home assistance program that is available for those who have served or are actively serving in the military. What a great benefit to our brave men and women who have sacrificed for our country. Low and no money down home loan programs are almost unheard of for today’s homebuyers. But the DVA has offered this option to eligible veterans since 1944 and continues the program today.
So, are you a veteran homebuyer?
There are many ways to take advantage of the DVA program. Whether you are buying a single family home, condo, townhome or even a duplex or four-plex, as long as you plan to live in the home, this is a benefit you have earned and should consider when buying or refinancing a home.

Seven Simple Steps to Buying a Home with a VA Loan:
  1. Apply for your Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Or ask your loan officer to request online using the webLGY application.
  2. Work with a REALTOR® to find your perfect home with a home seller that will accept DVA financing.
  3. Present the COE to your loan officer at the time of loan application.
  4. Loan officer will work with VA to order appraisal of home. A Notice of Value is issued.
  5. The lender bank will review all documentation and approve your loan if the established property value and your credit and income are acceptable.
  6. Attend the closing on your new home where the closer will go over all the loan terms and requirements as you sign the documents for your mortgage.
  7. The lender applies to the VA for evidence of guaranty.
On the surface, many of these steps are similar to applying for a regular loan but the benefits of coming in with a very low or maybe even no down payment are not. Veterans should note that you are not alone in the process; you will have professional assistance in every step of the way. Why wouldn’t you want to check out this unique opportunity that is only available to those who have served our great country?

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wetland, Lakeshore and Foreclosure--What Does a Minnesota Homeseller Have to Disclose?

Last week I received a text inquiry from someone who had read my blog asking if I had any homes currently listed on any of Minnesota's wetlands. I was excited as though I didn’t have any current listings on one of Minnesota’s greatest resource; I know there are many well-priced homes currently listed throughout Anoka, Chisago and Washington Counties on beautiful property with views of our Minnesota lakes and wetlands.
I made the connection and my “buyer” was calling not to buy, he had already bought a Minnesota wetland property. It was another question on Minnesota disclosures. What should have been disclosed to him before he purchased. As this was turning into a legal question, I directed him to call an attorney for legal advice.

But his question is valid, “What does need to be disclosed when selling a home in Minnesota?”

The advice I give to my clients, is to disclose anything and everything you would want to know as a prospective buyer. If your property is near lakeshore or wetland, there is a good chance the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has restrictions on what can be done to the landscaping. This is something that I would recommend that my sellers disclose as most buyers would want to be aware of any building restrictions.

These days so many properties are now bank-owned and lender mediated sales. Do foreclosures, REO properties and short sales have different disclosure requirements in Minnesota?

In a word; no. But sellers who have limited knowledge of the condition of the property do have options available. Often a bank will require that a buyer waive their rights to a disclosure and buy the property AS-IS I came across a great YouTube video from the Minnesota Association of REALTORS® where Chris Galler, COO of MAR, explains the Minnesota disclosure law as it relates to foreclosures in great detail.

Still confused about real estate disclosures? Let me help! If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional REALTOR®, give me a call or visit my website.

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Remember When REO Used to be a Rock Band?

In the early 1980’s, when someone was talking about REO they probably meant REO Speedwagon not a home owned by a bank. Yep, back in the day when many of my friends and relatives were buying their first house, few thought a foreclosure home was a good deal. There was a section in the paper at the time for HUD homes. They were all dumps in the minds of buyers. It was deemed “too risky” to buy a bank owned home. Better to leave those houses for an investor.

In 1981 when REO (the band) was tearing up the charts with the now oldie but goodie rock tune, “Keep on Lovin’ You”, interest rates were 17%. That’s not a typo…Seven-TEEN percent! Geez…it’s a wonder anyone bought a house in the 1980’s!

Back in the days of big hair and parachute pants, first time buyers had to scrimp on hairspray to save for a down payment AND closing costs. Sellers might pay a point or two to help bring down the interest rate but they rarely wanted to pay closing costs AND points. So a first time buyer needed to have thousands to put down on their first home.

There was no internet back then either so with REO belting out “Take it on the Run” on the cassette player, buyers would traipse around town with the Sunday open house ads looking to find a home. When they stopped in to talk to a friendly REALTOR®, there was no required agency disclosure. The buyers were supposed to instinctively know that the agent worked for the seller. Almost all agents were under contract to work in the best interest of the seller in those days no matter how nice the agent seemed to treat the buyer.

And believe it or not, despite all the cards stacked against them, many, many people bought their first homes in the early 80’s—It was the American Dream after all!

When someone is talking REO now, they are more than likely talking about Real Estate Owned by a bank. These foreclosed homes are no longer thought of as dumps for investors to deal with; they are opportunities. These homes are sold as-is but many are in amazing condition and at tens of thousands less than the homes sold for just a year or two ago. Some homes are even new construction.

Can you say affordability? It is off the charts when you consider a foreclosed home!
Check out this video which explains the 239% Affordability Index currently in the Twin Cities. (The music isn’t rock, but the information rocks!)

Today, interest rates continue to hover around 5%. FIVE percent guys…Your parents, aunts and uncles signed documents agreeing to over 300% more than the rate available in this market. What an opportunity for a buyer today!

In this internet age, first time buyers can prescreen houses online with photos, virtual tours and more. Less driving and more time viewing the homes you really want to see!

Now first time buyers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to representation too. You can hire a REALTOR® to represent your interests—Usually at no cost too! Since the early 1990’s, buyer’s representation has become a wonderful opportunity for home buyers to hire an agent to represent their interests. The seller still pays a commission which is split by both agents so there is no additional cost to have your own agent working for YOU!

And in 2009, first time buyers get an unprecedented $8000 tax credit to boot! This program isn’t going to last forever but if a first time home buyer (or someone who hasn’t owned a home in the last three years) buys a home between January 1, 2009 and November 30, 2009, they will get an $8000 credit on their taxes. There are a few details and restrictions
(read more here) but most first time buyers will get to take advantage of this program.

First Time Buyers! What are you waiting for?

If you are the fence about buying your first home, thinking their might be a better opportunity coming, think again! This is a great time to be a first time home buyer. People who bought homes in the early 1980’s did okay even with all the disadvantages they faced. First time home buyers today have opportunities only dreamed of when REO was on the Top 40 charts. Don’t miss out…It won’t be long before your best chance at the American Dream is just a retro memory!

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Monday, March 23, 2009

Time is Running Out! Trim Oaks by April 1st to Prevent Oak Wilt!

The snow is quickly melting away and spring has sprung! If your oak trees require trimming, do not delay. Oak wilt is devastating to the landscape across Anoka County. Oak trees should be trimmed in the late fall or winter months. If you have overgrown oak trees, trim them this week or wait until fall to avoid exposure to this tree-killing disease!

As a REALTOR who lives and works in the areas of Blaine, Ham Lake and Lino Lakes, I am very aware of how this tree-killing disease affects property values throughout Anoka County and the north metro. Two years ago I shared photos of a property in our Ham Lake neighborhood where the owners had been dealing with oak wilt for the past several years. In one summer alone this property lost 11 trees. While the amazing thicket of mature oak trees is gone, the new owners took the initiative to save the remaining oaks and with treatment and proper care no additional trees have been lost in nearly two years.

Oak wilt is not just a Ham Lake problem. It is prevalent in communities from Lino Lakes to North Branch and Forest Lake to Stacy. Whether you live in Anoka, Chisago or Washington County, if you have oaks on your property, you need to take precautions to protect them from this deadly disease.
What is Oak Wilt?
Oak wilt is a disease caused by a fungus which attacks the central system of the tree from the roots to the leaves. The tree attempts to block the fungus, but also blocks all water and nutrients to the branches and leaves. Eventually, the trees leaves wilt and it dies.

Oak wilt spreads through the root systems of near by trees and by fungus beetles that carry the oak wilt spores from tree to tree. For additional information on oak wilt from the
University of MN Extention Service CLICK HERE.

How to Protect YOUR Trees

The fungus beetles infect trees that have been recently injured or trimmed. These beetles are very active in the spring and summer months. Oaks should be protected from damage and not trimmed from April through July.

Trim large mature oaks now. As a preventative to spring storm damage, have your large oaks trimmed now so that heavy, dead branches won’t fall during tornado season and break other healthy limbs.

Tree trimming of mature oaks is best left to professionals especially near the power lines. The trimmer should use a bucket truck or a line/pulley system, NOT spiked climbing boots which can damage the tree.


Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Friday, March 20, 2009

Out-of-State Buyer Buys Dream Home from My BlackBerry Pics!

Relocating from out of state to Minnesota takes coordination and a little innovation doesn't hurt either...Here's the story: After weeks of narrowing down homes to view and a couple of long days seeing a half dozen or so beautiful properties throughout Chisago and Anoka Counties, my out-of-town buyer, Lyn, had found the perfect home. Unfortunately, someone else thought it was perfect too and an offer had been accepted moments before we had contacted the listing agent with ours. We were back at square one…and out of time!

My disappointed buyer had to head back to work and wouldn’t be back in town for weeks. Lyn really wanted to be living in Minnesota in weeks not months so we devised a plan where I would show homes to her fiancĂ©, James, and if something great came up we would set up a second showing and create a video of the house for her to check out.

A day later, James called as he thought he had found another perfect option! It never made Lyn’s or my list because it was just a bit higher in price than the rest. It was a new construction, short sale home in southern Chisago County just outside of Wyoming. The price was over $150K less than the original list price and house was a beauty!

The very excited James called with the address and after looking at the home, we decided we’d better see it that next day.

As soon as we stepped over the threshold, James and I both new this was perfect for Lyn! So perfect in fact that we wanted to share it with her immediately. James mentioned that he tried to take a photo with his phone yesterday so she could see the amazing wetland view but the photo didn’t turn out so great. I knew that the photos I had been taking with my BlackBerry Curve had been turning out pretty well so I figured I would take a picture or two and send Lyn an email of the indescribable view.

Lyn knew the time we had scheduled the showing and had called a few minutes after we arrived. James excitedly started describing the home. He rattled off descriptions of features in the kitchen with custom cabinetry and pantry, the fireplace and mantle, the upgraded light fixtures, the four season porch, the hardwood floors, the unique master bath layout, the windows, the view, the dropped-track ceiling in the master bedroom, the first bedroom, the ceramic tile, and the second bedroom. It was hard for him to give accurate descriptions of a home with so many unique, upgraded features.

I had just emailed the photo of the spectacular view through the window of the 4 season porch as he went on and on trying to depict the home adequately in words.

Then the light bulb moment! Photo everything and email them as James described the rooms.

I started snapping off view after view of the home and emailing the pictures. Lyn was opening them as quickly as they arrived. James took a quick look at my photo and was able to more accurately explain the home’s features to Lyn. After a two hour showing, I locked up the house and headed home to write up the offer. Coincidentally, this house also had another interested party writing up an offer. But this time we were able to get ours to the seller's agent in time for consideration. Had we waited to video the interior at a second showing, Lyn might have missed out again on a beautiful property.

Lyn saw the home for the first time on the day of closing. She thought it was “picture-perfect”!

Isn’t technology wonderful?

Copyright 2009

March 2009 Video Update--Twin Cities Real Estate Market on Path to Recovery

Spring has sprung and with it comes a new video from the Minneapolis Association of REALTORS. The March Monthly skinny once again shows that the market appears to be making moves in the right direction. Pending sales are up 7.4% from this time last year. This is great news but it is also noted that over 60% of the pending sales are lender mediated (i.e. bank owned or short sale homes). The affordability index is nearly 90% higher on lender mediated properties than on homes sold by traditional sellers.

What is the Affordability Index?

When the affordability index is at 239 as mentioned in the video for lender mediated homes, it means that the median Twin Cities income is 239% higher than what is needed to qualify for the median priced Twin Cities home.

Check out the video for more indicators that the Twin Cities housing market is on track for a slow but steady recovery.

Copyright 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Need Help with Your Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac Mortgage? Making Home Affordable is Here!

A new government help program just launched yesterday with to assist homeowners in restructuring their loans. The US Treasury Department’s easy-to-navigate website and telephone hotlines were activated on March 19, 2009, for the Making Home Affordable program. This program was created to assist the over 9 million homeowners with a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage refinance or modify their mortgage. The website is and the toll-free hotline numbers is 1-888-995-4673.

The site offers in formation on how to refinance to a new loan as well as steps to modify a current Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan. Easy step by step instructions are available so that you can quickly determine if you are eligible for the program. Not certain if your home loan is held by either Fannie or Freddie? There are weblinks and phone numbers to help you determine if your mortgage is held by either organization.

Copyright 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday--Melting Snow Creates a Misty Minnesota Sunrise

Melting snow creating fog is a beautiful sight in Minnesota.
The view is breathtaking with a glimpse of the sun
just before it rises across a Ham Lake field.

Spring will soon be here!

Copyright 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ice Out is Coming—North Metro Lake Ice is NOT Safe

It seems like only yesterday when Forest Lake was full of cars, trucks and ice houses all attempting to catch a fish or two on a beautiful winter day. This photo was taken in February when the ice was four feet thick. Ice houses had to be removed a couple of weeks ago but with our below zero temperatures just last week, people were still venturing out on the lakes in their cars thinking the ice was safe.

Since spring has almost sprung in the last few days, the 60 degree weather has made the ice very unstable. A car sunk into the slush on Rush Lake yesterday in northern Chisago County. It’s probably time to stay off the ice and take a break from fishing until the ice out. Use the time to get the boat ready for the fishing opener in May.

Copyright 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

Homebuyers in Anoka and Chisago Counties--Put a bit O' St Pat's Day Green into your Home Search!

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by bringing a bit of “green” thinking in your home search. Whether your home search is in Anoka, Chisago or Washington County, there is an opportunity to buy real estate that's a wee bit green. Spring is the time that many start thinking about making a move. Homes are more affordable than ever before and there is still an awesome selection of single family homes on the market for buyers to choose from.

Ton’s O' choices on the market!

  • Homes on lakeshore
  • Homes on acreage
  • Starter homes
  • Foreclosures
  • New construction
Here are just a few GREEN opportunities I found currently listed for sale in the north metro:

Consider a
home with a green shingled roof. There’s a beauty in Scandia on 3 acres. It is bank owned and seems to be quite a value with a price under $200K

How about a home in Blaine’s
Centennial Green development? This one is not a short sale or foreclosure and has a wonderfully remodeled kitchen.

Looking for
Lakeshore on Green Lake? This Chisago City home just listed and is a 3BR/2BA gem with 100 feet of shoreline.

Maybe living in a two-story home where life is evergreen is more your style—here’s a
5BR/4BA home on Evergreen Lane in Circle Pines. Save some green with a recent price reduction too.

But if going green on St. Pat’s means saving energy, why not consider this great
Lindstrom home with a Geothermal heating system?

If none of these dwellings are striking your fancy maybe you will need the expertise of a REALTOR® to bring a wee bit of the Irish luck to your home search. (Okay…I know Eckholm is a Swedish name but I am still a Flaherty at heart). Give me a call and I will help you find your perfect home and put my expert negotiation skills to work for you to keep more “green” in your pocket too. And that’s no blarney either!

Copyright 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Everyone’s a Bit Irish in Minnesota on St. Patrick’s Day!

Every March 17th there is a ton of fun afoot in the Twin Cities. This upcoming Tuesday will be no different I am certain. I knew there were parades on both sides of the Mississippi on St. Pat’s Day but full associations to celebrate Irish heritage in both Minneapolis and St. Paul? Who knew?

St. Patrick’s Day Association of Minneapolis has a full array of contests and events to mark this special day. In addition to the evening parade down Nicollet Mall, there is a Ms. Blarney and Wee Leprechan Contest. Yep, the cutest Irish lad or lassie can win a Wii. How’s that for a fun homonym tie-in? They have a serious side to their fun-filled event too…The proceeds from the sales of commemorative 2009 St. Patrick’s Day Minneapolis buttons will be donated to the American Diabetes Association’s Camp Needlepoint.

Not to be outdone, the
St. Patrick’s Association in St. Paul has a worst Irish Tenor Contest and annually crowns a Miss Shamrock and cast of Blarney Brothers to accompany the Shamrock princesses to events. This association puts senior citizens at the heart of their events with visits to area nursing homes and senior centers during March. They too, have a parade. The St. Paul parade runs along Fourth Street starting at noon.

Copyright 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009

MN Property Tax Forms Assistance Schedule for Anoka County Seniors

The postcards won’t be in the mail this year but the tax assistance clinics will go on.

If you are a senior citizen, aged 65 or over or a disabled person who needs assistance filing your M1PR form for a property tax refund, the help clinics will go on all over Anoka County as in past years, but the reminder postcards will not be sent. The schedule was mailed as part of the Anoka County News that was sent to every resident in March. If you recycled the newsletter without saving the schedule, here are a few of the dates in the communities that I serve.

What to Bring? You will need to bring a copy of your Federal Tax 1040 form showing your 2008 total household income.
  • Homeowners will need to bring a copy of your 2009 real estate tax statement.
  • Renters need the Certificate of Rent Paid or CRP that is given to you by your landlord.
Need to know additional dates and times? Contact the Anoka County Community Social Services Department at 763-422-7070
Need Help with Your 2008 Taxes? Free forms assistance is available for seniors, disabled adults and low to moderate income households at locations in Anoka County from February 2 through April 15, 2009. 

Copyright 2009

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Snow or No Snow…Don’t be a Turkey and forget to Spring Forward Tonight!

Springing forward is a bit of a let down when snow is still in the forecast. Springtime is one of my favorite times of year in Minnesota. It is the time of year when the snow melts and the ground thaws so quickly that the winter white world seems to change overnight into an array of green shades from lime to emerald. Flowers start budding. Birds sing late into the evening. Everything starts anew again.

Like last year, we are springing forward earlier than we had in the past many years of daylight savings time. As March is one of Minnesota’s
snowiest months, we will have a bit to wait before spring really arrives.
But having the sunset is an hour later starting tomorrow is a blessing in the spring real estate market. It means that showing those vacant foreclosures in the evening hours will no longer be an adventure! Viewing properties without an exterior light to shine on the ice on the unsalted stairway is treacherous. Starting tomorrow a bit of the challenge has been removed but the bargains are still available. The warm spring weather and green grass won’t be far behind!

Copyright 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Anoka County Tax Forfeited Properties Available Online

Did you know that you can see the properties that have been forfeited to Anoka County and available for sale right on the Anoka County website?

Currently there are three properties available in communities spanning the county. One is to the north in Linwood, while another is located in the south community of Fridley and then to the west in Coon Rapids. The site features links to both plat maps and aerial views.

Homes are sold with a sealed bid system. Complete instructions on how to properly submit a bid are posted. 

Copyright 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Struggling Celebrities in the Forest Lake/Ham Lake Area—The Carlos Avery Wolves

On a frigidly cold Saturday afternoon, a week or so before Christmas, my family and I took an opportunity and dropped by the Wildlife Science Center(WSC). We are fortunate to live quite close to this animal sanctuary and drive past its entrance just east of Lexington on Broadway daily. We made the stop after hearing that the center was struggling to make ends meet in the poor economy. They were having an open house to educate the public on their work as well as their plight.

According to the center’s website, they currently have quite menagerie of animals that call the Wildlife Science Center home. These Minnesota Wild animals include:

  • 43 gray wolves
  • 10 red wolves
  • 5 hybrids
  • 2 Lynx
  • 1 red fox
  • 1 skunk
  • 1 porcupine
  • 7 birds of prey
  • 3 bears
  • 2 gray fox
  • 3 raccoons
  • 2 New Guinea Highland Dogs
On our visit we were told that the dogs had the job of running around the yard in an effort to provide exercise for the wolves.

We took bit of a self guided tour but also stopped and talked for awhile to one of the volunteers. She pointed out to us the wolves, Truck and Growly Pants, that were the stars of the
Animal Planet special, “Growing Up Wolf”. Another notorious wolf resident was relocated from up north to the WSC after attacking Minnesota Explorer, Will Steger’s dogs. If not for the sanctuary, the wolf would have been most likely put down. We asked about the dogs and were told that they were resident to keep run around the outsides of the cages and exercise the wolves as they would chase them.
As we continued to walk around the center, we marveled at the differences in the wolf packs. Suddenly, we don’t know what started it but all heck broke loose and all of the wolves started racing around their enclosures and howling. It went on for several minutes and was hilarious! I have heard this sound many times before in my front yard about 3-4 miles away but never was at the center of it all.

Every weekend there is an opportunity to stop by and tour the Wildlife Science Center and see the animals. About once a month there is a special event with fun names like the Canine Carnival and Howl-O-Ween. From school field trips to the summer Wolf Camp, the center serves as a wonderful scientific resource within our community. If you would like to learn more about the WSC and how you can help the wolves, visit the WSC website and donation wish list.

Copyright 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

Foreclosure Disclosure in Minnesota—Despite Regulations, It is Still Buyer Beware!

Wise men say; only fools rush in…Wait a sec. I know that classic song is about falling in love. But since many home buyers do “fall in love” with a home and become a bit foolish, it applies.

A few weeks ago, I was with a couple who went a bit gaga over a bank-owned foreclosure listed by one of those agents specializing in REO homes. I’ll admit, this was an amazing home: Nice floor plan….Picture perfect condition…Terrific View…And a “just reduced” price tag that put the home in the category of phenomenal deal!

These buyers were not first time buyers, having bought and sold several times before, my clients were a bit savvy and wanted to write an offer on the spot. As their buyer’s representative, I advised them that the instructions from the listing agent required any interested parties email for instructions on how to write the offer. Offers not following the specific instructions would not be presented or accepted.

I sent off the email to the listing agent and momentarily received a return email with a 15 pages attachment with step-by-step instructions as to how the buyer’s agent was to fill out the purchase agreement so buyers could, among other things, sign away all of their rights to disclosures.

Some of the instructions were just plain crazy! For instance, the buyer could inspect the home but not turn on the water if the home has been winterized. How can a home be properly inspected without water? This home was on city water and sewer, but had the home had been on a private sewer system with a well, we are talking about some big ticket, critical components of a property, without a disclosure or ability to inspect.

As it turned out, I didn’t have to write an offer for this particular REO home. I did not have to explain to my clients how all the restrictions for an acceptable offer on this home would be slanted totally in the banks favor while put them as buyers at serious risk . Paraphrasing another musical classic, “you can’t always get what you want but sometimes you get what you need”; we received an email that another offer had been accepted. It was a solid, cash offer and no backups were being accepted.

Long story short…First priority was finding my disappointed buyers another home. My philosophy: There is ALWAYS another home. And sometimes the second home is much better. Within days, another better home was found.

But for me, the memory of the 15 pages of instruction manual remained. In fact, this was so alarming to me I kept the printout. I have sold other foreclosed homes where the agent did not spoon-feed the directions on how to write the purchase agreement. In other cases, the buyers requested the water be turned on prior to the inspection contingency timeframe counting. As my buyer’s representative, I discussed the specific terms as we wrote up the agreement and though a few standard instructions were indicated, like a special warranty deed is required and personal property cannot be part of the agreement, it is not always required with a litany of instructions to completely slant the sale to where the buyer must take an incredible risk.

Since 2002 there has been a mandatory seller’s disclosure statement in Minnesota requiring sellers to share all pertinent information to buyers of a home. The disclosure must be made in good faith and include all material facts pertaining to the adverse physical condition of which the sellers are aware that could adversely and significantly affect an ordinary purchaser’s use and enjoyment of the property and any intended use of the property which the seller is aware. The law does provide alternatives to the disclosure for those sellers who have not lived at the property like when the home is bank owned or is part of an estate. Sellers can have an inspector view the home and provide a written report of the condition. Or they can ask a buyer to sign a waiver that says the seller is unaware of the condition of the property and that they buyers waive their rights to the disclosure.

When buying an REO or bank owned home a buyer must be prepared to waive their rights to disclosures.

There are additional federal, state and municipal laws that require sellers to disclose the condition of the property prior to the purchase agreement. Homes built prior to 1978 require a lead based paint disclosure. The existence and condition of wells and private sewer or septic systems must be disclosed in Minnesota. Some septic systems will require additional inspections at a county or local level. Also it must be disclosed if the home has ever been used in the production of methamphetamine. It is important for a buyer to understand they have rights and to be very careful when waiving them away. It may not be the best decision to buy a foreclosed home without the assistance of an experienced professional REALTOR representing your interests. As tempting as it may be to buy that “picture perfect” home at the amazing price, it could end up costing thousands more without proper disclosures and inspections.

Copyright 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Attention First Time Home Buyers—Incredible Affordability and an $8000 Tax Credit Make 2009 the Year to Buy!

If you haven’t heard, the recently approved stimulus package had a wonderful provision for anyone buying their first home; An $8000 tax credit!
Here are the things to know about the $8000 Tax Credit in a nutshell:
  • The tax credit is for homebuyers buying their first home only.
  • The money does not have to be repaid.
  • The credit is capped at 10 percent of the home’s purchase price with a maximum of $8,000.
  • Homes must be purchased on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009. (Note not the credit is NOT available until the end of the year. Plan accordingly!)
  • Income caps to apply…Single taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000 and married couples with incomes up to $150,000 qualify for the full tax credit.
  • Additional questions on the $8000 can be answered by CLICKING HERE!
Now combine this with the Twin Cities highest affordability index for homes on record according to the Minneapolis Board of REALTORS® and first time buyers have an amazing opportunity! Get the skinny on the affordability index here.

So how does a first time buyer in Anoka County make the most of this opportunity?
Start researching now…not homes, check out professionals. Looking at homes may be fun and exciting but it is not the first step in buying a first home, finding a professional REALTOR® is!

Having a professional agent to guide you through the buying process doesn’t cost a penny!

As a professional Anoka County REALTOR®, I assist people in buying and selling homes in Blaine, Ham Lake, Forest Lake, Lino Lakes and Andover everyday! I can help spot that great deal quickly before it gets away. I can also point out homes on the market that may not be the best choice for a first time buyer. It all comes down to expertise!
One of my most important jobs is assisting the first time buyer to locate financing through a professional dedicated loan officer. My mortgage contacts work with my clients to help them find the best loan depending on their individual needs and situations. As a team, we work hard to be certain that our home buyers don’t write an offer on a home that they cannot afford. Buyers need to feel comfortable that they will be able to make the payment on their dream home…not just that first month but next year and the year after that.

Once preapproved the fun can really begin…Looking for a good solid foreclosure in Anoka County? Want a picture perfect home in Coon Rapids? Want a bit of land in Columbus or Lino Lakes? Looking for a detached townhome in Blaine? I help buyers define their dreams and pinpoint a handful of homes that meet your specific needs.

With the loan preapproval and home criteria is firmly established, the viewing of the houses can begin. With me as their professional agent at their side, my clients confidently view homes they can afford and would be proud to consider their home. After visiting a several…usually around 10-12, I assist first time buyers through the paperwork process as we write up the offer on their home.

Now that the offer is accepted, I assist the new buyers to find qualified professionals to inspect the home as outline in the purchase agreement and handle the process of closing the home in a timely manner. My first time buyers never feel abandoned or alone. We are a team until they get the keys to their dream home!

Copyright 2009