Friday, November 20, 2009

Could this be the WINTER to Move Up to a Bigger House? YES!!

So, your family has lived and loved your cute and cozy 1960’s rambler for a few years now. It was perfect for a young, just married couple when you bought it. The bedrooms were on the small side but there was room to grow and it worked perfectly when there were just two of you. Then came the puppy who grew into a huge licking Labrador. And later one baby, then two. Now suddenly 1500 square feet is overrun with chew toys, Little Tikes and Duplos. That cozy little starter home is now cramping your lifestyle. But with the flux in the real estate market, can you afford to move? In many cases, YES!
If the scenario above describes your situation, listen up. You could now be ELIGIBLE for the HOMEBUYERS TAX CREDIT. Yep it is not just for first time buyers anymore! Additionally, you can benefit from the situation that the first time buyer credit has created. The first time buyer tax credit has affected the starter home market in a very positive way. In the north metro areas including Lino Lakes, Blaine, Ham Lake, White Bear and Forest Lake, people are scrambling to find good starter homes for first time buyers prior to the expiration of the first time home credit. Many well priced, single family homes are seeing multiple offers within days of hitting the Twin Cities MLS. The demand for single family homes under $150K is the highest it has been in the past few years.
And better still, there is an amazing selection of homes in the move up category to select from. Historically, if a single family home was sold, that owner had to buy another home creating a chain effect into all different price points. But today’s real estate market offers a unique opportunity as many of the homes being purchased are bank-owned. No one is buying home on the other end. So there move up buyers are seeing a better selection of inventory in the higher price points at great prices.

So why move now? To take advantage of the tax credit, buyers must write up an offer for their new home by April 30, 2010. When the incentive is over, the demand for homes could level off a bit. So listing your home THIS winter could make sense as there is a significant demand for starter homes NOW while the deadline for the expiring tax credit is on the horizon.

Are you ready to take advantage of this perfect opportunity to purchase a larger home for your growing family? As a local north metro real estate specialist I can help you assess your current situation and see if is the right time for your family to make a move up!

Note: A special thank you to author and illustrator Elizabeth O. Dulemba
for allowing me to use her copyrighted family coloring page as art for my post. If you would like to see more of her coloring pages or her full color art for the children’s books she writes and illustrates, visit her website and blog at

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Foreclosure Inventory Down; House Prices Up—Are there Still Good Deals on Acreage and Lakeshore in Anoka County?

Absolutely! There are still GREAT deals on many acreage and lakeshore home throughout Anoka County (and Washington County too)!

$8000 tax credit caused a flurry of activity at the end of the summer. With the original end of November deadline looming, people rushed to snatch up deals on acreage and lakeshore homes throughout Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties. But now with the extension and expansion of the tax credit, many first time homebuyers and previous owners alike are excited that they too can STILL get a credit but wonder if they missed out on all the good deals. Not a chance. There are still deals to be found throughout the Twin Cities north and east metro!
Looking for a foreclosure, bank-owned or short sale but need to be able to live in the home immediately after closing?
Good news is that foreclosures are no longer always trashed, fixer-uppers. Today's foreclosures can be simply AWESOME! This economy has forced builders and responsible homeowners alike to let amazing properties go back to the bank. Many are still in pristine condition. Some still may require a bit of cleanup or a few cosmetic changes but there are many in move in condition too.
But not ALL deals are foreclosures!
Many homes priced to sell are people who have to sell do to a lifestyle change that is not financial. Whether relocating for a new job, getting married or having twins, people have to find new places to live. If a seller is motivated, they are pricing to compete with the foreclosure market. So don’t think the only deals are lender mediated or you could miss out on a beauty!
Here are a few of the treasures I noted while perusing the Twin Cities MLS in Anoka and Washington County today:
  • New Construction on 2+Acres in Ham Lake. Wooded backyard. Walkout basement. Custom built two story 4BR/3BA/3Car home with over 2500 square feet of finished living space. Down $30K Offered at $361,900

  • Like NEW Rambler on Egg Lake in Hugo. Beautiful views in awesome 2005 Built executive rambler w/granite, mstr suite and more. Awesome 4BR/3BA/3Car home with walkout and over 3000 square feet of finished living space. Sold for $539K in 2006 now offered at $399,900

  • Almost NEW Coon Lake Treasure Lakeshore PLUS Acreage !! 2005 built 5BR/3BA on almost 3 wooded acres and 200ft on Coon. Home has 1700+ sq ft finished w/lower level sheetrocked and wired for 1700 more. Priced under $380K.

  • 6200+Sq ft Ham Lake 2Sty on 3.5 Acres! 6BR/6BA/4 car built in 2005 with picture perfect landscaping, oak floors and huge master suite. Originally listed at $825K but short sale priced at $545K!

  • BRAND NEW 2BR/1BA/3Car Linwood Rambler on 2.5 Acres Main flr laundry, hickory cabinets, landscaped yard and framed for 2 BR and bath in lower level! Originally listed at $249K now $235K!

  • Amazing value on 100 Ft of Forest Lake shoreline. 1988 built 3BR/3BA/2Car remodeled inside and out with breathtaking views of Forest Lake available due to relocation. Tax valued at $530K and NOT a short sale but down $150K being offered at $374,900

  • 3BR/2BA/3CAR on 7 ACRES in Linwood! Built in 2006 custom built rambler in almost new condition. 3 BR on main, private master with whirlpool, front porch. Original asking price $349K but priced short at $249K.
If you are in the market for a great deal on a lakeshore or acreage home, time to get organized because the rules to buy are a bit different in this changed market. Many times you can be submitting your offer to a bank rather than a traditional seller and how they assess your purchase agreement is all business and less heart.
Eight Tips for homebuyers in this CHANGED real estate market:
  1. Don’t wait until after the holidays! Homes are being listed every day…even in November and December. If you wait until January 1st to contact a REALTOR and loan officer for preapproval, you will miss out on a deal or two. Many people choose to wait out until after the holidays…smart buyers will be ready to write an offer even if the home is listed a few days before Santa arrives!

  2. Banks LOVE clean offers. Heck…traditional sellers love them too! Buyers MUST be preapproved with credit checked and employment and funds verified. Documentation must accompany the offer or it won't be considered.

  3. Banks reject lowball offers...often without negotiation. They are a business and know the value of the asset they are selling. Traditional sellers often will be offended by an unreasonable offer and less likely to negotiate. Make sure your agent provides comparable sales to review before writing your offer on the purchase agreement so it makes good sense to both you as a buyer and the seller.

  4. Well priced homes get multiple offers. Serious buyers put in their best bid first.

  5. Banks sell homes AS-IS. Homes held in an estate or owned by a relocation company will also routinely require AS-IS agreements.What you see is what you get. Buyers must be prepared to make all necessary repairs out of their own pocket after closing.

  6. Banks will not pay for inspections in most cases. This includes the septic system and/or well. Be prepared as all inspections could end up being the buyer's responsibility. If you chose to inspect the septic or the county requires a septic compliance test, expect to pay $400-$500 for this inspection. A well test will run around $150. A whole house inspection is $350-$500. Conversely, traditional sellers and relocation companies will often negotiate to determine who will pay for some types of the inspections. A basic home inspection is usually paid for by the homebuyer.

  7. Personal property is not included as part of the sale when a lender owns the home. So if the appliances are at the home when you close, they are a bonus. The bank will not remove. But they don't guarantee will remain at the home or that they are in working order. This means if someone breaks in the home prior to the closing and takes them, the bank will not replace. This is not the case with a traditional sale. Make certain every appliance, as well as any other personal property, is listed in the purchase agreement if the home is sold by a traditional seller.

  8. Having your own REALTOR® to represent your interests is essential. The listing agent is under contract to represent the bank or seller of the property. In many cases, banks do not allow a dual agency so if a buyer contacts the listing agent to write the offer, the buyer does not have representation. This means all of your information goes to the seller...the listing agent is required to tell the seller and their representatives everything that you say about your financing and the amount you are able or willing to pay. But the listing agent is not required to tell you anything in return. The listing agent works only for the seller of the property. Having your own REALTOR® to represent your interests in the transaction usually does not cost anything…It is paid for by the seller.

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Almost Speechless Sunday--Gobble, Gobble on Anoka County Acreage!

Though I live on Minnesota Acreage, I have never been a hunter. But owning a few home with a few acres in Anoka County does present the perfect hunting opportunity now and then.

Living in slightly rural setting, we see observe deer run through the yard, eating crabapples and acorns off the lawn, or in darting front of our car now and then...And once in awhile there is an opportunity that is nothing short of GOLDEN!!

Just a few days ago, I heard quite a commotion in my backyard. It is only weeks prior to Thanksgiving and we have the good fortune to have a rafter of TURKEYS make a visit. We counted at least 40 of them.

Quite an opportunity to take a shot or two...with my camera! Enjoy!

FYI--A rafter is the correct term for a group or flock of turkeys.

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Expanded Tax Credit Might Make Moving in a MN Winter Worth the Effort

Everyone knows that S word associated with a Minnesota Winter: SNOW! The dreaded elements of the season that scare many "sunshine and warmth" lovers out of our great state do present problems when it comes to moving and selling a home.

But this year if you wait until spring, you could lose out big time.
The expanded and extended tax credit for homebuyers will expire in April 2010 just as the warm winds of spring make a comeback. If you are considering a move in the next 6-12 months, listing your home now could definitely be to your advantage.

Here are a few reasons…besides the $6500 tax creditthat might convince you to put your home on the market now:

  1. Buyers who look at homes in the winter months in Minnesota are serious about purchasing a house. There are less “snow” tire-kickers when you have to navigate to showings along icy roads.

  2. Not all first time buyers could find that perfect foreclosure home this summer. Many would prefer to work with a traditional seller who can provide a history of the home on a disclosure.

  3. Buyers like viewing homes where the utilities have not been disconnected, and this is true especially in the winter. As a traditional seller your home isn’t winterized and disconnected like vacant, foreclosed properties. Buyers will definitely feel a warm glow any home with the lights and heat on!

  4. Snow can cover landscaping flaws. If fido has left dead spots in the grass, now one will notice.

  5. Homes look very festive during the holidays! Of course don’t go overboard with the lights…This means NO Griswold decorating! But tasteful holiday décor will make a house feel more like home.

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Friday, November 6, 2009

It Passed! Details on the Extended and Expanded Tax Credit for Homebuyers

Did you hear it? That big woosh of air was all of those buyers, sellers, REALTORS, loan officers and title representatives that had a purchase agreement with a November 30, 2009 closing date breathing out a collective sigh of relief. An extension for the tax credit for first time homebuyers was approved by both the house and senate and is scheduled to be signed by the president today. Professionals in the industry were worried about the potential bottleneck of all the closings trying to happen before the original deadline because we all know, S*** Happens on the way to the closing table from time to time. (Yep that stands for STUF…wink, wink!) Most closings will go off without a hitch but occasionally there can be delayed a day or so. However, not closing on time could have cost some first time buyers big bucks had the extension not passed.

But, as many buyers, sellers and real estate professionals had hoped, the Homebuyer Tax Credit was not only extended but expanded to include homebuyers who have owned homes in the past. Specifically someone who has owned a home and lived in it for five consecutive years of the last eight, you could qualify for the up to a $6500 tax credit. There are guidelines and limitations so understanding the program is essential.

Here are a few key details of the plan:

  1. First time buyers qualify for up to $8000.

  2. Current Homeowners qualify for up to $6500.

  3. Purchase agreements must be written by April 30, 2010.

  4. Closing must be finalized by July 1, 2010.

  5. Income Limits are $125,000 for a single person or $225,000 for married couples.

  6. Home must not cost more than $800,000

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pohlad Grant Deadline Looming~Now FHA Approved!

The deadline is looming! Not just for the tax credit for first time homebuyer. Anyone interested in buying a home in the 55106 Dayton’s Bluff area, needs to pay attention to the December 31st deadline for this program too!

It’s been a few weeks since I had checked the Dayton’s Bluff website for information on the Pohlad Homebuyer Assistance Incentive Program. This is the program that caused so much excitement for buyer’s in the 55106 zip code earlier this year. But this morning when I clicked over I got a very pleasant surprise! The funds are now approved for FHA financing!

If you haven’t heard about it yet, this is a great program for homebuyers looking to buy in St. Paul’s 55106 zip code and available through the
Pohlad Family Giving Foundation. However, they are not just giving away money here. The funds are distributed at the time of the purchase of the home as a forgivable loan. So it is not as simple as a homebuyer purchasing a house and walking in to the Dayton's Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services of St. Paul to collect an $8000 check. That said, this is still an awesome opportunity if you want to live on the east side of St. Paul!

Here are some of the program's highlights:

*The funds up to $8000 are distributed in the form of a 7 year forgivable deferred loan.

*The loan will have an interest rate of 0%.

*Homebuyers must occupy the property as their principle residence for 7 years.

*Single family homes and duplexes purchases are eligible.

*The funds will be distributed on a first come, first served basis.

*It is only available in the 55106 zip code in St. Paul or 55411 zip code in Minneapolis.

* The funds can be used for down payment and/or closing costs including prepaids.

*First time homebuyers will have to take an approved homebuyer education class.

*Successful, prior homeowners will not have to take a homebuyer class.

*Funds are available to both first time homebuyers and previous homeowners alike.

*There is no maximum household income for the program.

*All homes must close prior to December 31, 2009.

If you are a home buyer interested in buying a home in the Dayton’s Bluff area and want to take advantage of this program, you NEED to be working with a REALTOR® and loan officer that understand the details of how the funding will best work for you. Must of the application process is supplemented by information provided from the mortgage lender or loan officer. Be certain that the people you select to work with really understand how the program works so you don’t miss out on this opportunity.

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm