Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly of Buying a Minnesota Lakehome in the Winter

According to the calendar, winter just started but we all know from the chiropractic visits to tend to our aching, shoveling-afflicted spines that Minnesota’s winter weather blew into town several weeks ago. Unfortunately this means all that picturesque lakeshore that defines our beautiful state is frozen and covered with a thick white blanket of snow.
If you’re considering buying a lakeshore home, that just about cuts off any opportunity of buying for the year; that is unless you assess the quality of the lake using an ice auger and depth finder when freezing your backside off fishing on the ice. Right?
Well, not so fast. Buying a lakeshore home in the winter can make sense…And save lots of money too. If you know the specific lake well or are not concerned about the quality of shoreline, winter can be a great time to write up an offer.
GOOD reasons not to wait:
  1. Motivated Sellers—Any seller that keeps Minnesota lakeshore on the market during the winter most probably needs to sell.
  2. Less Competition—With few buyers on the market there is less change of multiple offers on properties which make for easier negotiations with the sellers.
  3. Low Interest Rates—They keep telling us that these rates won’t stay around forever and they are starting to inch up again. A lower interest rate means more buying power.
BAD  and UGLY situations that could arise:
  1. Shoreline Problems—That picturesque beauty that was covered with snow could reveal low lake levels or weedy shoreline problems rather than the sandy beachfront you imagined.
  2. Septic issues—If the home is on a lake with a private sewage system, it might not be able to be fully assessed for compliance issues which could be costly if a new system is required.
Bottom line, winter can be an tremendous opportunity to get a deal on a Minnesota lake home but be advised if you don’t know the lake well; there are significant risks to making a purchase when the lake is covered with a thick slab of ice. Weigh your options carefully before deciding whether you should put in an offer on that seemingly perfect snow covered home on the lake or wait until April when the waves are once again lapping on the shore to put in your offer.

Copyright 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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

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:
Easement—A right given by the landowner for a specific use of a portion of his/her property granted to a third party. Once the right is given and recorded on the title it continues unless vacated by the entity that received it. Common easements include utility and driveway easements. There can be more than one easement on any given property. When buying a home it is important to understand where the easements are as they can dictate what you can and cannot do with the land.
For instance, a new septic system, storage shed or flower garden cannot be constructed in a utility easement as the easement holder uses the easement for access to under and above ground utilities. Likewise a drainage easement could literally wash away your landscaping investment.
Driveway easements allow access to a landlocked property. While such agreements often provide an acceptable solution for access, they can cause headaches for neighbors who aren’t respectful of each others.
Easement holder does not own the land but has a right to use the land as specified in the easement agreement. This differs from an encroachment where a third party uses the land without permission.

Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Almost Speechless Sunday--Waves of a Minnesota Winter Snow!

Being a REALTOR® who specializes in Minnesota Lakeshore and acreage, you may have been expecting a frozen lake shot or field sculpted into drifts from the record-breaking, "snow-mageddon" Minnesota blizzard of last weekend. We clocked in with 16-20 inches across the Minneapolis/St Paul metro; in fifth place for the most snow in one storm. To be honest with you, those winter lake and open field shots can be boring as they are often nothing but white.
However the wind did sculpt the first snowfall of the season into perfectly formed snow waves across our newly installed backyard landscaping. This was such a unique sight, I just had to capture it for posterity! Only Mother Nature could provide such a backyard treat!

Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm

Monday, December 13, 2010

After You're Done Shoveling, Start Raking!—Ice Dams are Preventable!

With the 16 plus inches of snow we were blessed with in Anoka County this past weekend (and even more in Washington County to the south and east) it looks like we are in for a good old fashion Minnesota winter. Heading to grandmother’s house this holiday, will take us all over lots and lots of white and drifted snow.

The snow is pretty for photos and fun for snowmobilers, skiers, boarders and sledders but not so great for our houses. With accumulated snow well into the foot range already, there is another necessary chore to add to the list to avoid homeowner headaches that come with the snow melt. We have to remove the snow from our roofs!

Though a shingled roof won’t
pop like the Metrodome did over the weekend (CLICK HERE to View), ceilings have been known to become waterlogged and collapse under the stress of too much snow and ice dams.

Avoid ice dams and rake that roof! Yep pull that funny looking backwards shovel with the extension pole out of the garage and carefully pull off the snow. Ignoring the problem could cost thousands of dollars to repair the damage to roof or interior due to ice and water when that foot of snow starts the freeze/thaw cycle over the next few months!

So how does a roof rake work? Carefully raise the rake over the edge of the roof as far back as the rake will reach and pull down the snow. Be certain to wear a hat, boots and gloves as most of the snow WILL land very close to you….if not right on your head! It’s not hard to do if the snow is fluffy. Even a novice like me can handle a roof rake.

Don’t have a roof rake? This is the year to buy one! It’s only a $20-30 investment and the pole is in two sections for storage. Not a do-it-yourselfer? Or have a two story home where the rake won’t reach? Call in a professional to remove the snow. This is not the year to ignore the snow and hope it won’t be a problem. It looks like we are in for a long snow-filled winter so take action now. Ice dams are preventable!

Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful--Ten Reasons Why NOW is a GREAT Time to Buy a Minnesota Home!

A fresh blanket of snow covers the landscape across the Twin Cities from Oakdale to Blaine and Ham Lake to White Bear Lake. There is a chill in the air...who am I kidding, the weather is biting cold this year. But winter is not a time to hide from the elements and wait until spring to make a home buying decision! Although making a move in a Minnesota winter’s snow and ice is not ideal, the timing could not be more perfect to buy a home and get a GREAT DEAL!

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

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

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

Reason 7—REALTORS have Tons of Time. Most REALTORs are not juggling several clients like they often have to when the weather is warm. They will be have to spend more time scouring the MLS to find the perfect home for their buyers!

Reason 6—Amazingly Low Mortgage Rates. Though rates have ticked up a bit from the extremely low 4% rate that were available last month, at 4.5 % rates are still at all time record lows. These rates cannot continue forever. A low interest rate translates to being able to afford a higher priced home and/or a lower payment!

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

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

Reason 3—Check that Fireplace. It's hard to determine if that fireplace will be perfect for toasting chestnuts when the temperatures are in the upper 90's on a July summer day. But now is the perfect time to see if that fireplace is operational. A cracked flue can costs thousands if overlooked in the warm weather so buying during the winter is a plus when considering a home with a wood burning fireplace!

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

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

Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm

Wordless Wednesday (Almost)--lolCat Ready for Winter! Are YOU?

Bundled up in his winter hat, our indoor cat is ready for the elements! This year there was snow on the ground in December and now our winter blast of subzero temps may make it's first appearance this week. (BTW this is WAY to early in my book!)
As Minnesotan's we need to be prepared for this weather with our winter survival kits in the car (in case we slide off the road) and extra supplies in the kitchen cabinets (in case we are snowed-in for few days). As a REALTOR in Minnesota, I know that I have been out in blizzards during past seasons either showing houses or writing up offers. We don't let the snow and cold weather stop us...but we are prepared.
So are you as ready for this early winter season as our "happy" cat?

Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A REALTOR® Working Hard to always have that “Little Extra”

Today I was working on pulling a CMA or comparative market analysis for a potential client. When I do a CMA, I spend quite a bit of time selected comparables and figuring out the optimal initial starting price as this is a difficult real estate market. What I do not spend a lot of time with is the collateral information that I put in with every CMA. It is the extra information that tells the new client “how I work”. I spend much time with this information because frankly, the way I work hasn’t changed since I started and wrote up the information several years ago.

For some reason today, the information on the first page just caught my eye. I am not changing a word but I do want to share what my business philosophy is. It is just one quote and 6 sentences. But this short statement gives insight into who I am and how I work.
“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”
~Barbara Jordan
As your REALTOR®, it is my job to understand your needs and respond to them promptly, professionally and with integrity. It is my pledge to provide you with sound real estate advice, helping you understand the wisdom of the decisions you make.

By being your REALTOR®, our relationship is built on trust. Value and service will be provided before, during and after the transaction, so that your changing needs are always addressed and satisfied.

It is not only my business philosophy, but also a commitment to provide you with exemplary personalized service beyond your expectations. My practice is to listen, hear and truly understand your needs; a quality of business conduct that often seems to have been forgotten in today’s fast paced, highly automated society.
Whether you are considering buying your first home or selling the home you have lived in for years, it is important to realize that not every REALTOR® works in the same way. While other agents may pay lip service to statements such as these, making promises that cannot always be delivered, I take an honest approach and work with you to find the best way to get the job done. I take time to explain the real estate market and if things change, work with you to adapt to the situation in a way that will work best for you. This is truly how I work; anyone who knows me can tell you this is who I am. If you want to work with me to sell or buy a home, I will be your partner in the process from start to finish.

Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm