Tuesday, October 26, 2010

“They Don’t Need an Agent!”—How First Time Homebuyers Find their Way Home!

My cell phone rang as I pulled into the parking lot of my RE/MAX real estate office in White Bear Lake one afternoon. The caller said he and his fiancée had just driven by a listing of mine and could I show them the inside. My first question is always, “Are you working with a real estate agent?” “No”, he answered. The meeting was set for the next evening.

The young man and his fiancée arrived with an entourage of parents and assorted other friends and relatives. Being first time buyers, they wanted assistance and approval on their very first home purchase. Looking over the home from top to bottom, they liked what they saw but needed time to think. I asked the question I always ask, “When you are shopping for a home, are you shopping for a REALTOR®?” One of the dads quickly answered. They don’t need an agent and won’t be signing any contract with a buyer’s agent. They will get a better deal working directly with the listing agent.

I explained why this wasn’t true but could tell from the look on this dad’s face, he wasn’t about to believe me.


I avoided the debate but went on to explain agency to the young couple. I asked them to sign the disclosure on agency as required by the State of Minnesota. Buyers need to understand that with any of my broker's listings, I am under contract to work for the seller and protect their interests. However, if the couple decides to sign a buyers’ representation agreement with me, they would be in a DUAL agency when looking at any property currently listed with RE/MAX Specialists. They had seen many homes over the last several weeks with dozens of other REALTORS®, but I was the only listing agent who explained agency to them or asked them to sign the required disclosure.

Days later, a decision was made; the young couple wanted to make an offer on my listing. A contract was signed for buyers’ representation for the specific home only. Dual agency now applies. As an agent working for both parties, I could not do anything that would hurt either the buyer or seller. Because the agreement was only for the specific home, I could not discuss other property options. An offer was presented, but terms could not be agreed upon. The buyers went away.

A few weeks the price was reduced on my listing. I called this young couple to see if the lower price would be enough to renew their interest. It would. But there was also another new construction house in a different area that was being considered.

Another showing. They were sure that they had it down to between the two homes. I could see the indecision and confusion on their faces. I asked about the other home they were considering to help them contrast it to my listing to help my selling clients and put their home in a better light. As with most homes, neither home was a perfect fit. I am a firm believer that after weighing all of the pluses and minuses, homes will sell themselves if they are the right home. A week passed. No offer came forth.

Finally a phone call came from the young man. We have made a decision. We are not going to offer again on your listing. It is not the right home for us. In fact, neither home is right. We are starting over and think we need our own agent. "Would you help us find a home?"

Now as their buyers’ representative, I got to work. For the next few weeks, we visited half a dozen or so homes from the hundreds currently on the MLS that met their criteria. Traveling from Stillwater to White Bear Lake and Hugo to Forest Lake, we narrowed down the field of potential homes to a couple of favorite houses. Finally, one sparked enough interest for a second showing with the parents, but this home also had a few quirks that raised concerns. That same evening, since we were out, I set up another showing for a home in a development that hadn't considered but I knew would be a very good match for their needs. As it turned out, the second home was perfect for these buyers!

With the perfect home, there was no delay or hesitation in signing the offer. Things fell into place. With every visit to the home for the inspection and showings, the young couple became more excited about their first home.

At the final walk-through, with minutes to go before they were to receive the keys to their first home, I asked them, “So, are you glad that you decided to sign with a REALTOR®?”

They answered together, “Yes!! You made it so much easier to find the right home! Especially for first time buyers.” I don’t make this stuff up…Those were their exact words.

After the closing, I received a hug and sincere, “thank you for everything”, from my young clients. As they set off to begin life in their dream home a thought struck me, I absolutely LOVE my job!

Counties in Minnesota.




Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm 

Monday, October 25, 2010

First Time Homebuyer’s Real Estate Word for Today is Fiduciary


A couple of weeks ago, a friend mentioned a new company had opened in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. He later realized it was just Fair Isaac now going by the new name, FICO. I was taken aback by the confusion because most people living in the Twin Cities north metro are aware the business analytics company, Fair Isaac Corporation, has been located in Shoreview for decades. What surprised me is that few outside the real estate and mortgage industry may have made the connection that FICO is an acronym for the Fair Isaac Corporation.

Once again, I was a bit surprised that such a simple term I use everyday as a REALTOR® would be unknown to others. But then it got me thinking of all the times a glazed look came over a buyer’s eyes when I talked about escrow or earnest money. These can easily be confused with other real estate and mortgage terms like down payment or cash to close. It is totally understandable because most homebuyers do not buy houses everyday.There are so many terms that could possibly confuse a First Time Homebuyer that I thought an online glossary of real estate terms might be helpful. So over the next several weeks I am going to have a series of posts for the first time homebuyer with explanations of the most often used (and sometimes confusing) real estate terms. This way you can skip buying that big “how to buy a house” book or attending that
First Time Homebuyer Class and have a quick resource at your fingertips. Today’s Real Estate Term is:

Fiduciary—A relationship of trust created when a buyer or seller signs a contract with a REALTOR®. After a contract is signed, a real estate agent has several fiduciary duties that protect their client not just through the transaction but beyond it as well. This means as a first time buyer, once you sign a contract with an agent, that agent cannot tell others anything that is private about you or your situation to anyone. In Minnesota, these duties require your agent to be loyal, confidential, and obedient with your instructions. They are accountable to you and must disclose any information they learn that would benefit you in the purchase of a home. Throughout the transaction and afterward, they must use reasonable care to protect you and your interests.

It is important for a first time buyer to understand this term because every seller that is listed with a real estate broker has a contract in place. This means when a buyer calls the listing agent for information or stop by at an open house, the friendly REALTOR® asking you about your ability to buy a home is under contract with and WORKING for the SELLER. This agent has a fiduciary duty to disclose everything you have said to the seller of the home. But it is not a two way street. The friendly agent cannot tell you anything about the seller that the seller doesn’t want you to know. Because of their contract, the agent cannot say why the seller is moving or if a price reduction is in the works.

As a home buyer, it is essential to interview potential agents to assist with the home search as soon as possible in the process. When good match is found, sign a contract with a REALTOR® so that your interests and information are protected. Then REALTOR® can make calls to other agents on homes, set up private showings and assist you through the homebuying process. The agent will work for YOU! The contract does not have to be a long term commitment. I often sign up new clients for a couple of weeks and extend the contract once we have formed a stronger relationship. Rest assured that even if you decide to part ways with your agent, the fiduciary duty to keep your information private continues forever.



Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Selling an Acreage Home? You have to Walk the Walk or at least the Property!



I met with a potential client awhile back. He was interviewing real estate agents as he was going to be relisting his Anoka County acreage home that had been unsuccessfully under contract for a year. As part of my job as an acreage REALTOR®, I walked with the seller around the house, through the barn and looked out the barn’s backdoor at the 30+ acres of woods and wetland. Looking out the door, I asked if there was a path that goes through to the perimeter of the land so buyers could walk the property. He confirmed that there was but then said something else.

“The previous agent never stepped one foot further beyond where you are standing now to see the land. I don’t think he wanted to get his shoes dirty.”

Wow! I was flabbergasted! How do you sell a home on acreage without walking the land to see what you are selling? And this agent had over 12 months to take that walk too! It was no surprise to me that the home did not sell.

Selling a home on acreage isn’t rocket science. But like rocket science, there is research and work involved. From getting the septic compliance checked to understanding what a Minnesota unique well number is, there are details that need to be reviewed when an acreage home is listed. Preparing the exterior is kind of like staging the inside of the home. Marking a trail for the potential buyer to follow sets the stage for the buyer to fall in love with the entire package. A significant portion of an acreage home’s total value is often tied up in the value of the land. Buyers need to see the land, online and in person, in order for the home to sell.

A few weeks later, I did list that house. When I came to take photos not only did I take the basic interior and exterior shots, I took additional time and walked the land with the seller. During the tour of the land, I took photographs that showed the appeal of the acreage. He pointed out landmarks and details that would buyers would want to know about the property. I took photos from various points along the path. Interestingly, many of the potential buyers who called to see the land also walked the land with me and remarked that they remembered the shots as ones they saw on the internet. These pictures were important as they created excitement about the property and were photos that could never have been seen from the backdoor of the barn or home.

The home was SOLD. Not to a buyer that I brought through the home and property, though I walked several parties through the acreage over the time it was listed. It was sold by another REALTOR® who was able to take his buyer along the mapped and marked trail through the acreage. Whether selling a couple of acres or the back 40 or more, preparation is the key to a successful Anoka County acreage sale!




Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Attention Homeowners! Essential Fall Maintenance or "Honey Do" List


There was a nip in the air this morning. Leaves have turned gold, red and yellow and now are blowing all over Anoka County. The fallen acorns have attracted white-tailed deer as they feast in Ham Lake, Columbus and Lino Lakes backyards. It is time to get those autumn chores done to protect our home and investment from the winter ahead.
As a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities metro, I know how important it is to maintain a home in throughout the year. Winters can be mild or brutal in Minnesota depending on the year. Whether the Almanac or the weatherman predicts a few snowfalls or many blizzards, getting your home ready in the fall can prevent winter damage and costly repairs in the spring.

Here are a few reminders of repairs and preventive maintenance tips for all homeowners to consider do every fall:



  1. Clean Gutters of leaves and other debris that might clog the drainage. A blocked gutter can cause an ice dam when the snow flies.

  2. Winterize the lawn tractor or mower and get that snowblower tuned. If you have a plow service, make contact and update your contract prior to the first snowfall.

  3. Change security lightbulbs in hard to reach outlets. It would hazardous to climb ladders to reach the tip of a garage over an icy driveway.

  4. Unhook, coil and remove hoses from water spigots. Turn off and winterize sprinkling systems. Turn off water to outside spigots if not frost-free to prevent burst pipes in subzero temperatures.

  5. Have the annual furnace cleaning and tune-up to be ready for those first cold evenings. Remember to change the furnace filter every month for best efficiency…even if the packaging says “6-month filter”. QUICK TIP: Change filter when you make your monthly mortgage payment so you don’t forget.

  6. Check all windows and doors to see if new caulk or weather-striping is needed.

  7. Fall is the perfect time to paint with the low humidity and crisp breeze. Check deck, siding and trim for peeling paint.

  8. Fall is the last chance to seal the asphalt driveway prior to winter freezing. Fill cracks and topcoat if necessary.

  9. Inspect the roof for missing or damaged shingles. Verify that the flashings are sealed from rain and snow.

  10. Snap a few fall photos while the mums and trees are vibrant with color! Golden yellow oak leaves and vivid red sumacs will look awesome in the local MLS if you decide to sell your home over the winter.


Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm

Friday, October 15, 2010

Top 10 Reasons People L♥VE to Call OAKDALE, Minnesota HOME!

Oakdale, Minnesota has its roots in agriculture, railroads and resorts. Early settlers to the area in the 1800’s chose the name for the groves of trees that enhanced the landscape. It started as a township organized in the 1850’s but it was over a century before Oakdale became a city. At one point Hudson Road at the south end of the city was an established stagecoach route to Chicago. Two railroads stations were an important part of putting Oakdale on the map. Lake Demontreville was once a popular summer home area for wealthy city dwellers, though it was once a part of Oakdale Township, it is now in neighboring Lake Elmo. From its humble beginnings, Oakdale became a city in 1974 and is noted worldwide for being headquarters for 3M and Imation. It is no longer a farming community. In the 1990’s the city became a growth suburb and expanded in population from just over 18,000 to nearly 27,000 residents which is where the estimates are today.

Here is a top ten list of reasons why Oakdale Minnesota is such a great place to live:

#10—Oakdale Summerfest. The annual event held every June features everything to celebrate summer! Parade, Oakdale royalty coronation, carnival rides, baseball/softball tourney, crafts and more are combined to make this a memory-making event for area residents.

#9—Fish or Swim. Oakdale’s Tanners Lake is fabulous places to share a day with friends at the beach or on the dock! Tanners is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.

#8—Tee Off at Oak Marsh. Play 18 holes among the wetlands on this centrally located 70 par course. Not a golfer? The pros at Oak Marsh can help you learn. Even if golf isn’t your thing, you can enjoy a fantastic dinner and view. The
Oak Marsh clubhouse is known for hosting everything from class reunions to wedding receptions as it boasts a full service banquet facility.

#7—Awesome Schools.
Castle, Eagle Point, Oakdale and Skyview are the public elementary schools within the borders of Oakdale. All are part of the North St. Paul/Maplewood/Oakdale District 622 along and Skyview Middle School and Tartan High School. GO Titans! Additionally, there are several private schools in the community including Paidea Child Development Center and Transfiguration Elementary

#6—Parks and Open Spaces. Dozens of
parks and open spaces to explore, picnic and play at are scattered throughout the City of Oakdale. There is one a short walk or bike ride away from nearly every residential community. Explore and enjoy!

#5—Industrial Innovation! Oakdale can celebrate being home to innovative corporations including
Imation and 3M! Okay technically 3M Corporation is on Oakdale/St. Paul border but many Oakdale residents work at this company that is world renown for creating exciting new products.

#4—Entertainment! Looking for a great movie or place to eat? Oakdale has an eclectic variety of choices for every age group.
Yelp and Metromix searches for Oakdale indicate there are culinary choices including Mexican, Chinese, Italian and Lebanese dining options.

#3— Discover Nature. Hands on exhibits and 220 acres of prairieland to explore make
the Oakdale Nature Preserve and Discovery Center a fun family destination. Discover art; learn about nature; hike, bike & cross-country ski along miles of trails; or just sit back and enjoy view of the 28 acre lake from the observation dock. There is much to do at this award winning facility in the heart of Oakdale.

#2—Eclectic Options for Living. Whether you want the convenience of a low-maintenance townhome a 1950’s rambler or bungalow, or a recently constructed, modified two-story, you can find an affordable option to rent or purchase in Oakdale.

#1—Friendly People. The number one reason for living in Oakdale is the welcoming community atmosphere. Isn’t that what most people search for in a place to call home?



Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Haunted House in Forest Lake, MN? Or Just a Nightmare on Jason Street?

As a REALTOR® I know a Minnesota does not have to disclose paranormal activity when selling their home but this is one haunted house I wanted to share with everyone in the north and east Twin Cities metro.

Paranormal activity runs rampant at this house just north of the lake, but this haunting is only once a year and is all in good fun!


Last Halloween, I had the chance to visit this fantastic (and FREE) haunted house in Washington County just off of North Shore Trail. Chris Costello has set up his home on Jason St., in Forest Lake, MN for the past few years with monsters and creatures that are more treat than trick on Halloween.

I took several photos of the festivities that were part fundraiser for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign but mostly just fun! Everyone’s all time monster movie favorites were there including zombies, mummies and Frankenstein!


Some were stationary displays and more than a few were very dynamic….you never know which characters were going to jump out at you until they do! But all in all it was a very PG and family friendly event.

Hopefully weather will permit and all the festivities will be a go again this Halloween. It is said that the display grows bigger each year!


So if you have already picked up your pumpkin at Lendt’s in Wyoming and Nightmare at Pinehaven Farms is a bit too frightening, maybe a drive over to Jason Street will be perfect activity for your family.

If you want to learn more about Chris’ annual event watch the first installment of the documentary originally produced for LATV Cable Channel 10 below




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Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lendt’s Pumpkin Patch—A Not-to-be-Missed Tradition in Wyoming, MN

Fond autumn memories--Holding tightly to my kindergartener’s hand as we stepped off the schoolbus into the Lendt Pumpkin Patch! We walked hand in hand to the tractor for our ride into the field to pick out the perfect orange beauty to carve into a jack-o-lantern for our front porch step. With dozens of other excited children and their parents or grandparents by their sides, we sat on our hay bales for the bumpy ride across the well worn track. A few minutes later tractor pauses and everyone scrambles out to find their idea of perfection. Large or small, every pumpkin was a beauty in the eye of the pumpkin picker! Within minutes, everyone had a golden prize and boasts were heard among the kids as to which pumpkin was more perfect. Wonderful memories were made that day! A couple of years ago, I drove through Wyoming on the way to visit the home of a listed client. The pumpkin patch field abuts an acreage development where I have worked with several buyers and sellers over the years.

It too was a bright sunny October afternoon. As I passed
Lendt’s, I had to stop and snap a few pictures of the beautiful orange fruit peeking out from the greenery along Highway 22. They still are some of my favorite fall photos…so I had to share them again. Every time I see them I am transported back in my memories to that first visit with the tractor full of excited children and their treasured pumpkins. A fall visit to this Wyoming Minnesota pumpkin patch is a wonderful family tradition! And when you can pick your own for only $3 bucks, it is still very affordable too!




















Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday--Beautiful Minnesota Acreage!


While beautiful farms with rolling fields of grain do come to mind when many think of Minnesota acreage, there are many other options for homebuyers. These photos were taken last weekend as we cruised along I94 near St. Cloud and yes, there were lots of farms along the way. But closer into the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area in Anoka, Washington, Chisago and Ramsey Counties where I do the majority of my sales, Minnesota acreage could be a smaller hobby farm, a mix of woods and wetland perfect for hunting or just a private two-five acre estate where homeowners have more "elbow room" from the neighbors.



Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm

Friday, October 1, 2010

First Time Homebuyer’s Real Estate Word for Today is Equity


Last week a friend mentioned a new company had opened in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area but later realized it was just Fair Isaac had changed its name to FICO. Most people living in the Twin Cities north metro are aware the business analytics company, Fair Isaac Corporation, has been located in Shoreview for decades. But I hadn't realized that few outside the real estate and mortgage industry have made the leap that FICO is an acronym for the Fair Isaac Corporation. Once again, I was a bit surprised that such a simple term I use everyday as a REALTOR® would be unknown to others. But then it got me thinking of all the times a glazed look came over a buyer’s eyes when I talked about escrow or earnest money. These can easily be confused with other real estate and mortgage terms like down payment or cash to close. It is totally understandable because most homebuyers do not buy houses everyday.
There are so many terms that could possibly confuse a First Time Homebuyer that I thought an online glossary of real estate terms might be helpful. So over the next few weeks I am going to have a series of posts for the first time homebuyer with explanations of the most often used (and sometimes confusing) real estate terms. This way you can skip buying that big “how to buy a house” book or attending that First Time Homebuyer Class and have a quick resource at your fingertips. Today’s Real Estate Term is:

EQUITYThe amount of ownership one has in a property is the equity. This means if a home is appraised at $200,000 and the homeowner owes the bank $150,000, he would have $50,000 in equity.

An FHA buyer initially has very little equity because of the very low down payment required for the loan (usually 3.5%). Whereas a conventional buyer, who puts down 20% or more on the home, will have a greater percentage of equity.

It is important for a first time buyer to understand this term because it can be used in property descriptions. A home that is in a “negative equity" position is a short sale. This means the homeowner owes more to the bank than the home is worth in the current real estate market.

Other real estate ads will describe homes as an “equity builder”. This is where a buyer can build equity in the home faster by making improvements like finishing a basement so the home increases in value more quickly than if nothing is done on the home.

Another term used by REALTORS® in advertisements is “sweat equity”. This is similar to an equity builder but often describes a home that could need significant work to bring the property to its full value.




Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/