Monday, December 31, 2012

Facts about the Minnesota Homebuyer in 2012

Here are a few quick facts to show how Minnesota's real estate market compares to the national home sales. In the 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers complied by the National Association of REALTORS®, there were a number of interesting facts about our local Minnesota market. When information is reported by the media, it is often the national averages. But real estate is local. Here are few more facts from the 2012 report:

Facts about the Minnesota Real Estate Market in 2012

  • 41% of recent home buyers were first-time buyers in Minnesota, compared to a national level of 39%.
  • The average age of a home buyer in Minnesota was 37 years old. Nationally the typical buyer was a bit older at 42 years of age.
  • Household income of typical Minnesota buyers was $80.600; $2K higher than the national average. 
  • 58% of 2012 Minnesota home buyers were married couples compared to a national average of 65%.  
  • Interestingly 19% of buyers were single females in Minnesota which is higher than the national average of 16%.
  •   In Minnesota, 90% of buyers financed their recent purchase compared to 87% nationally. In both cases the average amount financed was 91% of the purchase price of the home.
  • Of Minnesota buyers who financed their homes, 27% found the loan process somewhat difficult and an additional 10% found it very difficult. Comparatively nationwide the numbers were 23% and 17% respectively.
  • 88% of Minnesotan's would refer their agent or use them again.
  • Minnesota home buyers used a real estate agent 95% of the time; this is 6% higher than the national average.
  • 93% of Minnesota home buyers used the internet. This number rises to 97% if under 44. This is higher than the national averages of 90% and 96% respectively.
  • Only 10% of Minnesotan home buyers bought new construction homes. This is much lower than the 16% sold last year nationally.
  • Detached single family homes made up 73% of homes sold in Minnesota compared to 79% nationally.
So what do these facts show? 

Home buyers in Minnesota are continuing to educate themselves on the real estate market. They are increasingly using the internet for their home search but will retain the services of an agent for the actual purchase. If a home buyer plans to finance their Minnesota home purchase, they know if may be a bit more difficult than it was in years past. They are open to buying townhomes, twin homes and condos but are still cautious on new construction. If their agent does a good job, they will refer them to their friends. 

As a Minnesota REALTOR®, I am not surprised by any of the results in this report. I know home buyers in this area of the country are very astute in the process.  They use the internet in combination with their agent to make informed, thought out decisions on their new home whether is it a first purchase or not. They are loyal and reward good service. And I for one, enjoy helping fellow Minnesotan's navigate the process of buying and/or selling their homes.

Copyright 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pack It Up! Test your Moving Skills

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to drop off one of my Christmas packages in person. I have been taking the easy way out and letting the postal service do the bulk of the work but I do like to add a personal delivery where it makes sense.

This client just sold his east Twin Cities metro home and after a month of packing and unpacking was down to the very last box. I said, “You know if you don’t get that one done, it will remain unpacked until you move again.” (I’m speaking from experience as there is one unpacked box from our move 16 years ago on a shelf in our basement.)

He responded, “I’m not moving again for a very long time!”

Funny…when we listed his house, he and his new fiancée had planned to sell her home too and start their new life in a brand new neighborhood. It is funny how quickly thinks can change...I just smiled.

Packing is a chore but it is a very big part of moving. This morning I ran across a fun interactive game that might be of interest to anyone planning a move soon. It gives the player a chance to test his/her packing skills by loading a simulated moving van, which is actually just a cube, with boxes as they come off the conveyor belt. So far, the men are getting higher scores than the ladies, even though many more women have tried playing the YOU-PACK-A-CUBE Game. It's on Facebook so you have to have a Facebook Account to play. I wasn't very good at the game but it was fun to try...and a bit addictive. My excuse...I do better when packing boxes, cars and vans in person.

So take a break from wrapping presents and baking cookies to test your packing skills…And when you are ready to make that move, give me a call!

Copyright 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Seasonal Scents can Help Sell Your Home!

Whether your home is on the market before, after or during the holidays, scents can affect the sale. A beautiful home staged wonderfully can be overlooked if the family cat is front and center…especially when the buyers don’t even see the feline. Often one whiff of an unemptied litter box can be enough to send a carload of potential buyers rushing out the door. 

So what can a cat loving, home seller do? 

Beyond the obvious of emptying the box prior to a showing, there are a few things that could be helpful. One option is to light scented candles but there is a potential fire hazard, especially with kitties in the house. Another is to use plug-in air fresheners but that can seem artificial and bother some home buyers with sensitive noses. I prefer a natural air freshener. Here’s a great seasonal recipe for a natural potpourri that can be stored and used for a few weeks. I have the basics to the recipe below. 

And if you are looking for a budget-friendly DIY present to give to family and friends this year; natural holiday potpourri can be packaged as a gift too!

Natural Stove Top Potpourri for the Holidays

  • 1 orange quartered (Fresh is not required)

  • 1/2 cup whole fresh cranberries

  • 1 Tablespoon. whole cloves

  • 2-3 sticks of cinnamon

  • a dash of grated nutmeg

Place ingredients in saucepan. Add ½ cup water and simmer on low heat until house smells wonderful.

Cool and store in refrigerator until next use.

Copyright 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Avoid Working with an Imposter REALTOR®!

No, I’m not suggesting that your agent has forged their real estate credentials…let me explain. Years ago I was out at Maplewood Mall in the upstairs food court eating lunch with my sons and teenaged niece (she’s a 30 something now so it was awhile back). As we shared our fast food fare, an attractive middle-aged woman dressed in very trendy clothing passed by but she was simply trying to hard to appear youthful. My niece mumbled under her breath, “Imposter Mom”. I had never heard such a thing but found it rather funny. Especially when the gal was well out of earshot, my niece emphatically added, “Imposter Grandma’s are the worst!”

My niece explained to me that an “imposter mom” was someone her mom’s age who impersonated a teenager in dress, hairstyle, make up etc. It’s a 40-something who steals her daughter’s latest issue of Seventeen Magazine and tries to be cool. It really doesn’t work. I thought it was hilarious and begged my niece to let me know if I ever was to cross that line.

So this conversation came to mind recently as I hear from people regarding working with real estate agents that are somewhat lacking in the professional department. These agents appear to be REALTORS®. They have real estate licenses, business cards and most even have that handy dandy key that opens those fancy electronic Supra lockboxes. But something is missing and it will come to light soon after the buyer or seller signs the contract. They discover their agent isn’t working full time in real estate. Some don’t want to pay the fees to get access to the electronic lockboxes. Some just don’t work enough to understand how to write a contract clearly as the forms change annually.

I have had the opportunity to work on the other side of a few deals with these imposters. There was the contract with a teacher who only planned to sell in the summer but took listings all year round anyway. Another deal was with a daycare owner who could only return calls after 6 or at naptime. And then there was the agent who worked full time retail who was impossible to get a hold of because of a constantly changing schedule. There are also agents who call or cancel appointments of properties with secure Supra lockboxes because they do not own an electronic key and cannot get into a listing.

As a cooperative agent, it is frustrating to work with an imposter real estate agent, but as a client, it could be down right infuriating! When a buyer signs a listing agreement or contract for buyer’s representation, it is important to ask a few questions regarding how much time and effort your REALTOR® will be putting into your sale or purchase. Finding a home or buyer for your home will take time and hard work on the part of your agent. Your REALTOR® should make the process easier from the time you sign your contract to closing day.

  • How long have you been licensed to sell real estate?
  • How many homes have you sold this past year? In your career?
  • What percentage of your business comes from past client referrals?
  • Are you a real estate agent or a REALTOR®?
  • Do you work full time in real estate?
  • Do you work individually or as part of a team? If part of a team, are do all team members have similar expertise and quality of service?
  • How many clients, buyers and sellers, do you currently represent?

Did you know? Not every real estate agent is a REALTOR®. A REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and abides by their code of ethics.

Finding the right real estate agent to work with means you will have to take the time to weed out the imposters. See I can overlook the bad styling of an imposter grandma, in fact sometimes they can provide a good chuckle. But in my mind, an imposter REALTOR® is the worst! Buying and selling a home is too important to be represented by someone who is less than 100% a professional.

Copyright 2012 Teri Eckholm

Monday, December 3, 2012

Having Breakfast at Keys? Save the Hash Browns!

I usually keep most of my posts to real estate and buying homes in the north and east Minneapolis/St Paul metro but I came across a photo of  potato soup made in a crock pot a few weeks ago that looked oh so good that I thought I might give it a try. The main ingredient was frozen hash browns…not a staple in our house. I love well made hash browns from restaurants but the ones from home are usually less than edible. So I kind of stored away the idea in my computer…because well, at this time of year the back of my head gets a bit full.

So a week or so ago we were having breakfast at Keys Cafe in Forest Lake. If you have ever ordered a Keys breakfast whether at the original restaurant in St Paul or one of the 8 other locations across the Twin Cities, you know you’d better be hungry. Their servings of hash browns are enough to feed most families for a week. Unfortunately, we are never THAT hungry and we usually just have to throw the leftovers out. (Reheated breakfast food falls in the inedible category too.)

This time we boxed the potatoes up, took them home and I found that online recipe. After reading the comments, I made a few changes to make sure there was sufficient flavor. We don’t like celery flavoring so switched it up with broccoli. It turned out fantastic! So give Keys a try…and bring home those hash browns as the secret ingredient for dinner tomorrow!

Cheesy Potato Broccoli Crockpot Soup Recipe

1 -32 oz package of frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed or frozen (add any leftovers from breakfast too)
1/2 cup fresh chopped onion
1 cup frozen broccoli
1-32oz carton chicken broth
1 cup water
3 tablespoons Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 -8oz pkg shredded three cheddar blend with Philadelphia Cream Cheese flavoring (or any Cheddar blend)
1/4 cup real bacon pieces (from jar or homemade)
1/4 cup chopped green onions

1. In 3-4 quart crockpot or slow cooker, mix potatoes, onion, broccoli, broth and water.

2. Cover; cook on Low heat setting 4 to 5 hours.

3. In small bowl, mix flour into milk; stir into potato mixture. Increase heat setting to High. Cover; cook 20 minutes or until mixture thickens. Stir in cheese until melted. Garnish with shredded cheddar, bacon pieces,green onions and pepper.

Copyright 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Coved Ceiling? What the Heck is That?

I was recently asked this question by a friend after posting a description of a new listing I have in Como area of St Paul. This home is a typical 1950’s one and a half story bungalow but it is loaded with details only seen in the finest homes constructed today. Coved ceilings and other vintage details are not unique to homes in St Paul. They can be found in many homes across the north and east Twin Cities metro. But they are rarely seen outside the 1940-1960 construction period. The craftsmanship of homes built in the 50’s was in the details….the hardwood, the arched doorways and the coved ceilings.

So what is a coved ceiling anyway? In a nutshell, it is an architectural detail where the ceiling is rounded instead of coming to a 90 degree angle at the edge. Many of these 50's era ceilings also featured detailed swirled finishes rather than blown popcorn look finish of the 70’s and 80’s or the knock-down look (flattened popcorn) seen in homes today. I did a quick bit of research and coved ceilings can be added to a home today; but it is labor intensive and will add to the cost of construction. That is what makes a well maintained older home so desirable. Touches like coved ceilings, built-in cabinetry and arched doorways are only affordable when buying a vintage home.

Copyright 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Going it Alone is a Thousand Dollar Plus Gamble

Working with home buyers is fun and rewarding. It can be the best part of my job as a REALTOR®  Whether they are First Time Buyers. Move up Buyers. Relocation Buyers--You name it—I love them!
That is why when a young, pre-approved couple called for a showing on a home I have listed awhile back, I was excited. I pulled together my Home Buyer’s Packet with information and tips for people in the process of buying a home and headed out.

I've been doing this for some time now and realize that most people do not fall in love with the first home they are shown. But, home buyers today are better informed. They scour the internet for weeks, even months before calling or emailing a REALTOR®. So after a few pre-qualifying questions, I knew this young couple was ready to buy their first home.

I arrived to the home first and turned on all the lights to brighten up the place. A few minutes later several cars pulled up. The young couple, both sets of parents and a few assorted siblings got out to inspect the property. After looking everything over, I asked the young people the big question:
"While you are out looking at homes, are you looking for a REALTOR® at the same time?"
Usually the answer is vague so I am ready with my speech about choosing a real estate agent. But before I can start my spiel one of the dad’s spoke up.
“They don’t need an agent. They will get a better deal without one.”
OK. I just met the young couple and their parents so I knew it was in my best interest to tread lightly here. I wanted a further explanation of this guy's reasoning, so I asked. It was his belief that with both sides of the commission on the table a better deal could be negotiated.

Interesting theory...I've heard it before, but that's almost never what really happens. Yes, there can be variable commission rates with dual agency so the offer could be a bit more attractive to a seller so maybe some of that could get passed to the buyer. But that amount is negligible in the grand scheme of things when buying a first home.

The total commission paid by the seller on a $200,000 home will run anywhere from $8,000 to $14,000. Now unless the agent is with a very small independent firm and also the listing broker, a percentage of the commission will go to the brokerage; usually 25-50%. Now we are down to a total commission for the agent of $4,000 to $7,000. How much of that will the buyer see in a lower purchase price? Maybe $1,000 to $2,000.
Is it worth a thousand bucks to gamble that a great agent is going to be the listing agent on YOUR dream home?
In the alternative, if a home buyer signs a buyer’s representation agreement with a REALTOR
®, the savings can be in the tens of thousands. When you work with a REALTOR® to show you properties, that agent will help you through the negotiations, prepare a market analysis for the neighborhood, and assess each property with you. When you walk into a home unrepresented, the listing agent is working for the seller unless you sign a contract and agree to dual agency. The agent owes the fiduciary duties only to the seller, including disclosure and confidentiality, so everything you say about your financing and interest in the home is disclosed to the seller as required by the listing contract.

Minnesota state law requires that I disclose that I am working for the seller when I first meet with buyers. When I explained the Minnesota agency disclosure document to this particular young couple, it was the first time they had seen or heard of it after viewing several homes with a variety of agents. It was obvious to them that not all agents are following this law.

This is where I will leave the story of these first time buyers but I want anyone considering buying a home to remember this, buyer’s representation with a REALTOR will save you money. Here are a few examples of how this savings can work:

New Construction—When buyers visits a model home, the sales agent in the house will quote the list price and discounted savings that the builder is offering. That's it...End of Story. But, if buyers sign with their own agent, often a better price can be negotiated with the builder. I had clients who saved an additional $15,000 last year on their dream home from the price quoted by a sales agent. Had my buyers walked into the model without me as their REALTOR
®, they would have paid more for their home.

Existing Homes—As I walk through each potential home with buyers, I point out concerns to address in the purchase agreement. Will the upgraded fixtures stay with the home? Is that discoloration a moisture problem? The carpet, roof and/or furnace needs replacing, can it be done prior to closing?

As a buyer’s agent, I discuss these issues with my buyers on each home and assist in structuring an offer addressing the defects and repairs that might be needed. I also assist my buyers in determining a fair initial offer on the home based on comparable homes that have been recently sold in the area. If the home is overpriced, we might be able to negotiate a lower sales price. If the roof needs replacing and we are able to negotiate a new roof, that can be $4000-6000 in savings alone.

Will the listing agent point out all concerns or that the home is overpriced? The short answer is no, as they are working for the seller.
Unless it is a material fact about the property, there is no duty to disclose to the unrepresented buyer.
Septic Systems and Wells—These are important and very expensive issues when considering purchasing an
acreage property. A REALTOR® who work mostly in the Minneapolis/St Paul metro might not know how to address these home features. If after agreeing on a price for the home, the septic or well does not pass an inspection, who pays the thousands of dollars for the repair or replacement?

If you are looking at an acreage property, having a REALTOR® that understands how the testing process works is essential. The cost of replacing a failing septic system can be cost $10,000-20,000, not including replacing landscaping for the new drain field. Wells can have a similar price tag if complete replacement is required.

Service Professionals—Whether you need a loan officer, title company or inspector, a REALTOR
® will usually have a list of service professionals at their fingertips to get the job done efficiently and at the lowest possible cost to you. Most buyers do not have first hand knowledge to make a great selection for these professionals. When making the single largest purchase in your lifetime do you really want to take your chances finding someone on Google? I work in this industry everyday and know when it is worth it to pay a few dollars more and when the savings is not worth the cost.

The bottom line when buying a home is, you need a knowledgeable adviser in your corner. Partner with a REALTOR
® you trust before you find that dream home. Not only can it save you thousands, it can save you headaches as well.

Copyright 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Essential Paperwork when Selling a Minnesota Acreage Home--Disclosures!

Selling a home requires a bit more paperwork than just a listing contract. There is an important form, the seller’s disclosure, that is essential to complete if you are selling a residential property in Minnesota. There are alternatives for owners who have not lived in the home like bank representatives in the case of foreclosure or the personal representative of an estate, but most sellers do complete this for in its entirety.  

The current seller's residential real estate form is nine pages long. That probably seems like a lot of pages, but if your home was built after 1978 or does not have city water and sewer, there are even more. 

If a home was constructed prior to 1978, the seller must fill out a two page federal disclosure regarding lead based paint. If a home has a septic system, the seller needs to complete a three page disclosure for subsurface sewage treatment systems. And if a home has ever had a well for water, there is a specific three page disclosure for wells. This must be completed whether the well has been sealed or is currently in use.  And a handy-dandy location map is required for well/septic systems too.There is an additional disclosure form if a home has ever been used for the production of methamphetamine, but thankfully, most home sellers do not have to complete that one.
So the grand total of required disclosure paperwork for acreage homes in Minnesota is 16 pages—or 18, if built prior to 1978. That’s a lot of paperwork for listing your acreage home but it is essential. More importantly it is essential to that it is completed completely and correctly.
One of my pet peeves is when the well disclosure isn’t properly completed. There simply is no excuse on a recently constructed home

One of the first questions on the form…and probably the most important is, what is the Minnesota Unique Well Number and the depth and type of well. Often this is blank. I understand that most people have no idea of what the exact information is off the top of their heads. But for homes constructed after 1975, this is very simple information to obtain. There is a website and look up tool for wells in Minnesota.

I have a link to the Minnesota Department of Health’s Unique Well Number LOOK UP TOOL on my website so all my clients can easily locate this essential information. Every well constructed since the late 1970's has been tagged with a metal tag and its unique number. The numbers are logged and tracked by the MDH. So even if it is 30 below and Minnesotans are experiencing a horrific blizzard, a homeowner can log on to the website and find the necessary information to complete their disclosure form. (It's soooo much easier to find this time of year!)
Once located, I recommend that sellers print out a copy of the report and attach to the disclosure paperwork because it shows all the necessary well construction details (i.e. who constructed, when, depth, type, etc.) 

HELPFUL TIPS FOR USING THE LOOK-UP TOOL I have noted a few important tips for using this website because it can be a bit frustrating if you are not familiar with it. Here are a few quick tips to simply your look-up experience:
  1. Use Internet Explorer as your browser. The site doesn’t work well with newer browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome. There isn’t a mobile app for this yet either.
  2. Disable pop-up blockers. The map and information will show in a pop-up window and it looks like the site isn’t working if you have pop-up windows blocked.
  3. The information posted will not always show the current owner but the name of the owner or builder that filed the original paperwork.
  4. Sometimes the well will not always be listed by street address but still can be found by looking at the plat map of the street.
Take the time to fill out the form correctly as this is important information for the new buyer. Buyers appreciate when the seller takes the time to put the correct details on the disclosures. It takes a bit of time and research, but in the end, your buyer will have all the information needed to make an informed decision. Since many other sellers leave this information blank, sellers who go the extra mile will make their home stand out from the rest!

Copyright 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gobble Up Some Interesting Facts about Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is so more than just turkey dinner with pumpkin pie for dessert. It's not just day of football games and planning a Black Friday shopping strategy either. It's a time for families to come together and express their gratitude for everything they have in their lives. Thanksgiving is a holiday that is rich with history...and some interesting facts:

  • The first Thanksgiving celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was held in 1621 and lasted three days. The menu did not include turkey and mash potatoes. However, lobster, rabbit, venison, chicken, fish, squash, beans, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, maple syrup, honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, and goat cheese are what historians believe were consumed in the first Thanksgiving feast.
  • In 1789, George Washington was the first to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation. He asked Americans to be thankful for the "happy conclusion to the country's war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution."
  • Pumpkin pie was missing from the first Thanksgiving due to a lack of eggs, milk and sugar. But there is a record it was on the menu for the second feast.
  • New York was the first state to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday in 1817.
  • In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a 'Thanksgiving Proclamation' to officially set aside the last Thursday of November as the national day for Thanksgiving.
  • The date remained that way until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up a week, to November 23, to spur economic growth and boost sales. But not all states adopted the change. It was two years before Congress passed a law on December 26, 1941, declaring that Thanksgiving would occur every year on the fourth Thursday of November.
  • The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was in 1924. The annual event stretches for more than 2 miles and boasts over 2 million spectators lining the streets to watch every year.
  • Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey and two dressed turkeys to the President of the United States. The live turkey is not eaten but "officially pardoned" and allowed to live out its days on a farm.
  • In the US, about 280 million turkeys are sold for Thanksgiving celebrations. The birds are roasted, baked and/or deep fried and an estimated 90% of Americans have turkey for their holiday feast.
And if your family plans to sit down to dinner as picture perfect as a Norman Rockwell painting, think of this, the pilgrims didn’t have forks at the first Thanksgiving. They used spoons and fingers! Nothing can be perfect…just be thankful!


Copyright 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

On or Off the Market this Holiday Season? What Should a Home Seller Do?

Thanksgiving is only a week away...the relatives are planning for a visit...the turkey is in the freezer and grandma's secret stuffing recipe has been pulled from the vault. Yes, the holiday season is almost here but the house hasn’t sold.

What should a home seller do?
A first inclination for most home sellers would be to withdraw their home from the market for a few months. This is especially true in Minnesota where a white Christmas is pretty common. There is a belief that the home buyers will be preoccupied with the holiday season and only a handful of people in the market. While there is some truth to this belief, sellers can be ignoring another more important truth: Buyers looking at houses during the holidays are V-E-R-Y serious buyers. 
There are not many tire-kickers running around with a REALTOR® when there are presents to buy and gifts to wrap. November, December and January showings are a seller’s opportunity as most homes that buyers will visit at this time of the year are vacant. A buyer’s choices are down to model homes, empty relocation properties and foreclosures. Just imagine how a buyer perceives a warm home filled with the colorful sights, delightful sounds and wonderful aromas of the season. Staging a home for a sale during the holidays is a unique opportunity giving the traditional home seller the edge!

Tips for Showing & Selling During the Holidays
  1. Decorate! Tastefully of course. This might not be the year that you do the Griswold display of lights as in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but a decorated tree, candles and wreaths can add a special touch.
  2. Bake and leave out a plate of Christmas Cookies. Why should Santa have all of the extra calories?
  3. Keep the home fires burning! Make sure the fireplace is burning bright, warm and welcoming!
  4. Play holiday music. Leave out the barking version of Jingle Bells and go for instrumentals or uniquely Minnesota regional artists like The Blenders.
  5. Shovel and salt the sidewalk and driveway if necessary. No one wants to spend the holidays in the emergency room with a twisted ankle.
  6. Leave the front light on! Don’t forget it is dark during those early evening showings. Make certain buyers and their agents are able to see their way to your front door and lockbox. 

  Copyright 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Act NOW on that Real Estate SLEEPER Before it is SOLD!

Maybe you don't know what I mean by a "sleeper". Well, if there's a home you have been watching for a  few months that seems to be priced right but just isn't selling. It's not a short sale but it just isn't moving. In some ways, compared to some of the homes recently listed, it is a steal of a deal. Yet you are kind of waiting on the sidelines, not sure if now is the time to buy a home. You are timing the market so to speak, waiting for the perfect moment to make your move and watching to see if seller of that real estate "sleeper" is going to drop the price. Well wake up bargain hunters...You might not be the only one with an eye on that sleeper and if you wait too long it will be SOLD!

A real estate "sleeper" is a home that is priced fantastically and is a great deal but few people, if anyone, is paying attention to it. It is a solid property, in a good location, structurally sound and priced well but has not sold. In a buyer's market where there is significant home inventory but few buyers, sleepers are abundant. And surprisingly, while inventory has gotten tight with few new listings coming on the market, there are still some sleepers out there too!

How does this happen? Maybe the home was originally over priced and though price reductions have brought it into line, it is continues to be overlooked. Some buyers only look at just listed homes and avoid houses that have high days-on-market statistics.

Possibly several very similar homes went on the market at the same time and maybe this one just didn't compete as well in decor. Picture for a second, three homes listed during the same week in a cookie-cutter development where all the homes have roughly the same floor plan. All the home are the same age, condition, and priced very well, but only one homebuyer comes through the neighborhood during the first few weeks. So after 30 days, there are two sleepers left that didn't sell. Since the two houses are essentially the same as the neighboring home that sold, it's wasn't because the homes aren't properly priced. This is another scenario that will cause a sleeper.

But if you are sitting on the sidelines and just watching your perfect home for another price reduction, beware. I have recently had a buyer working through the numbers and watching a sleeper in northern Washington County. In this case, nothing was happening on the property but there was one price reduction, then another and suddenly the home was SOLD straight into pending! In this particular cases, if wasn't the cookie-cutter variety either. It was a beautiful new construction model in Scandia. The home was in a perfect location with a nice private lot. 

And then are my listed homes after being on the market for a few months suddenly will have over half a dozen serious buyers take a look at the home. Agents and their buyers are nonchalant when I stress the home has had a sudden surge of interest. Many even "pooh-poohed" the idea and mildly accused me of trying to coerce an offer. When the first offer came in, sellers don't want to wait and see if another offer might materialize. They make their decisions and the homes are suddenly sold!

If the sleeper phenomena had happened only one time this past year, I would consider it a fluke but I have experienced this situation on homes throughout Ramsey, Washington, Chisago and Anoka Counties recently. In some cases I was the listing agent and others I was representing buyers.

So homebuyers heed my warning, if you are on the fence watching a sleeper, now might be the perfect time to make your move...Before someone else beats you to it!

Copyright 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Smoke Alarm is Possessed (Or How Do I Shut the Stupid Thing Off?)

As a REALTOR® showing houses, I often have to show homes in an environment with chirping. Many vacant homes can be filled with an annoying sound of a battery that needs to be replaced in a smoke alarm. No big deal. It is an easy fix. But some homes, and these are often occupied, have missing smoke alarms and that is another story all together.

I picture someone being woken up from a sound sleep at 2 AM to a house full of shrieking alarms. With their hearts racing, the family jumps from bed and has to decide whether to run outside in their PJ’s and wait for the fire department to find the cause for the alarm or search to see if it is a false alarm. In my experience, this situation never happens during the day. It’s the middle of the night when the smoke alarms malfunction…Always! It’s like the stupid things are programmed to go off  as a defect only after a house has become dark and quiet for 1-2 hours—It’s either that or they are possessed.

I speak from experience…Last night’s experience to be exact. At 1:30 we got the unexpected and unwanted wake up call out of a sound sleep. Usually we just have to find the Firex alarm with the blinking red light and pull the battery. If the device is functioning properly, the house will go quiet and we can replace the battery in the daylight. Last night, we pushed every reset button and the 7 shrieking alarms didn’t stop.  Now fully wide awake, I realized it was time to pull the battery. Yea!! Silence!!

About 15 minutes later, resettled in bed and just about to drift off…BAM! They ALL go off again! Now we are half deaf due to having 4 alarms on the bedroom level of our two-story home, all shrieking at once. We start thinking, is something maybe burning in the attic or walls that we cannot see/smell? My husband offers to check outside to see if there are flames shooting from the roof (and get away from the noise) while I start unplugging the alarms. When I got to the one with the red blinking light…silence! We still had two of the hardwired devices plugged in; one on the main level and one in our bedroom. We were able to go to sleep without further worry of an unseen threat. But after about 30 minutes of ear piercing, mind jarring noise, it wasn’t easy.

We had been through this once before. With seven alarms hardwired into our home, it is always an adventure to pinpoint a malfunction. We even have spare alarms for the process now. But it is a job best done during the day with a clear head.

We don’t just slam in new batteries and hope that would resolve the problem. We have done that in the past but replacing the battery won’t keep a defective alarm from an unwanted, heart-stopping wake up call.   

Here’s our process for finding a malfunctioning smoke alarm:
1.      Disconnect all the alarms.
2.      Remove the battery of the first unit.
3.      Push the test button until all of the charge is drained.
4.      Wait a 10-15 seconds.
5.      Install a brand new battery.
6.      Reconnect the alarm to the ceiling.
7.      Wait an hour or so.

If all remains quiet, with an exception of a double beep from the alarm noting it reset approximately 10 minutes after the install, we are good to move on to next smoke alarm.

I know it sounds like a pain in the neck to do it this way but it is cheaper than replacing all alarms. (We have done that too!) It was obvious last night that we had a defective alarm. That sound barrier shattering noise that wouldn’t stop had us ready to take a hammer to every alarm….but common sense prevailed. We know it is foolish not to have fire alarms in our home so we won’t just leave them down or in disrepair. But we don’t want to end up with another middle of the night wake up call either. This step by step process will keep us safe and get the defective unit that triggers the long term shrieking out of house for good!

As  Daylight Saving Time ends today, it is the day to Change Your Clocks and Change Your Batteries! And don’t forget to change the backup battery in the carbon monoxide detector too.

Copyright 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Invested are YOU in Selling Your Home?

When a home owners contact a REALTOR® for a market analysis, they often have a myriad of questions to ask me as their potential agent about what I can do to get their home sold. They want a person with a good, solid track record of getting a home sold quickly and for the best price possible. This is what I want too and it does take a good strong marketing plan. One key to the process is when I work with a motivated home seller who is on the same page with me and who asks, “What can I do to make my home appealing to a buyer?” And even if the home seller doesn't ask, I will work the topic into the conversation. There is nothing worse than trying to represent an apathetic or reluctant home seller.

If a homeowner doesn’t want to do the work and partner with me to get there home sold, it will be an uphill battle to the closing table. It is imperative for a home seller to be totally invested in the home selling process. And this starts even before the home is listed on the market.

Steps to being an INVESTED Home Seller!

  • Preparation—Having the home freshly painted, cleaned and staged are essential before the home is listed. Special touches really do add a welcoming touch like a seasonal wreath on the front door. Dust free vents, spotless floors, cobweb-free ceilings and light fixtures do make a difference.
  • Pricing—Listen to the advice of experts when it comes to setting the price. Don’t go by an old appraised value or what your dad said he would ask for your home. Unless Pops is a real estate professional, it is best to stick to the market statistics to come up with your list price.
  • Presentation—Interior and exterior appeal should be optimized for each and every showing.  Beyond clean and staged, light a fire in the fireplace, place a plate of warm cookies on the counter and make a potential homebuyer feel welcome!
  • Availability—Allow buyers in! Don’t say no to a showing unless it is absolutely necessary. Sometimes relocation homebuyers are just in town for a limited time and make their decision based on the homes they see that day. If you refuse a showing, you might miss out.
A potential home seller really wants and needs for their listing agent to be invested in getting their home sold quickly. But all the marketing in the world cannot get a home sold if the homeowner isn’t invested in getting the home sold too!

Copyright 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's Not Your Grandma's Kitchen Linoleum!

Faux Ceramic Tile Vinyl Flooring

Our kitchen, laundry and main hallway flooring was a beautiful white geometric design. It was a very popular pattern when we purchase our home in the late 1990’s but a decade later, it was just ugly.  

Being a REALTOR® and knowing we would be moving within a few years, we didn’t want to over remodel our home but knew we had to make changes during our kitchen remodel in 2010. We decided on an upgrade of hardwood for the kitchen and adjoining family room we were converting into a dining room but what to do with the hallways and laundry? In my mind’s eye, I saw ceramic tile but it didn’t calculate as a wise investment. Our second thought was a laminate floor that looked like tile. However the flooring store professionals talked us out of that one—best not to use Pergo-type products anywhere that is damp due to potential peeling of the image. So, we finally opted for an upgraded vinyl that looked like tile. Some of the faux-ceramic tile products have a visible texture so one has to reach down and touch it to see if it is tile or not. It was the perfect choice! The first day after the vinyl floor installation, our milkman was making his weekly delivery and asked when we had the ceramic tile installed. Bingo! Now, two years later and it still looks new! And best of all, it was just a fraction of the cost of ceramic or laminate flooring.

It is essential to make smart choices when upgrading features in your home. This is especially true if you plan to move someday. Not every home has the value or location to support high quality upgrades. Sometimes a good, budget-conscious alternative is the way to go. Over upgrading is one of the saddest news I have to deliver when people ask a market analysis. There is often a misguided expectation of receiving a dollar for dollar return on the remodeling investment. The reality is more of 25-30% return on investment on average for most remodeling projects. However, not doing anything when your home is out of date or deteriorating can affect the bottom-line when it comes time to sell. This is where a REALTOR® for life comes in. If you are unsure of whether you need to install the most expensive or just a good quality alternative product in your next remodel, give all me. I can help you decide whether your upgrades will make sense for the neighborhood. 

Copyright 2012 Teri Eckholm 

The Right Treat is no Trick in the Halloween Capital of the World!

Halloween is on the minds of many this time of year and at a real estate closing there's no exception. In the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" we are known to be "Minnesota Nice" so when a home is sold by a traditional seller to a new home buyer, all parties sit down in the same room for the closing transaction. After all the signing is done, the title company representatives  leave the room to make copies of the documents and to prepare the checks from the final settlement. During this time,  home sellers take a few minutes to explain some idiosyncrasies of the home and pass over the keys, Often these are expected concerns like how to change the code for the electronic garage door opener, which is the best cable company in the area or where the water shut off is located. Buyers will question what day the trash is picked up and what the schools are like.

As a REALTOR in Anoka County, Home to the Halloween Capital of the World, I have seen the  the questions and necessary information traded between the seller and the new homeowner become a little more festive in the days before the big holiday. New homeowners from neighborhoods big and small often want to know how many kids are in the neighborhood  which quickly translates to how many bags of candy will be needed.

A few years ago I attended a closing for a home in Anoka County. The seller lived on a dead end street with only a handful of neighbors as is quite normal in this area filled with acreage homes. The seller made certain to pass on the request of the  the 6 year old (and recently front-toothless) girl next store who had already come over and let it be known that  "Reethe's Pee-thes"  were her preferred Halloween Candy. The seller made sure to add the necessary lisp for effect. It is good to share a light-hearted moment after all the stress of buying/selling is complete!

Have a festive, fun and safe HALLOWEEN!

Copyright 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Don’t Wait Until Next Spring to Sell Your Minnesota Home!

As a REALTOR® in the north and east Minneapolis/St Paul area, I hear it all the time...Potential home sellers lamenting about how it is too late in the year to sell their Minnesota home. It’s late October now, so soon the snow will fly and no one will be buying. “We missed the market this year so we will have to wait until spring to sell our house now!”

My response is quite simple. “If you can list your home now, you REALLY should.”  

And the reasons are equally simple:
  1. Low Inventory
  2. Continued Demand

The Minneapolis/St Paul metro area has become a year round market. Sure, more people do move in spring and summer but traditional sellers have an opportunity to shine if they list their homes when there are mostly distressed homes on the market. These very low interest rates and increasing news reports about how home prices are edging up, have gotten buyers off the proverbial fence and into the market. Home buyers are waiting for well maintained and well priced homes to hit the market. This is an opportunity few home sellers will take advantage of because they think people do not want to move in the winter. And some people don’t want the inconvenience of showings during the holidays.

But in my experience, the buyers looking in the fall and winter months are very serious about buying a home. Home buyers are tired of viewing bank-owned properties that need work and have no disclosures. They are frustrated with short sale homes that they will have to wait months for possession. Most buyers prefer to buy from a traditional seller….and buyers do worry that prices and interest rates could edge up in the spring. So home buyers are looking in October and will be looking in November, December and January too. But a well prepared home seller might not have to wait that long. In the past few weeks, homes that I have listed received offers within days of hitting the market. Pricing and preparation were key to getting the quick offers. These are not flukes either. I have seen many well priced listings fly off the MLS in October.

Quick Staging Tips for Selling Your Home this Fall:

  1. Rake leaves and clean gutters—Unfortunately, this may need to be done daily if you are getting lots of showings. But buyers cannot assess the condition of the lawn, sidewalk and roof if it is covered with leaves.
  2. Heat up cinnamon sticks—Put a few cinnamon sticks in a pan on the stove or in a microwave dish with water just before a showing so it smells like an autumn festival!
  3. Turn on the gas fireplace—If you've got it, flaunt it! A crackling fire adds ambiance and makes a house feel like home!
  4. Pumpkins and mums—Accent the entry with a pumpkin, colorful mum or other fall décor to give seasonal curb appeal. 

Copyright 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Evergreen? Well, Maybe

It's fall in Minnesota. We are fortunate to live in a state with four seasons and autumn is definitely full of color. In a month or so, we could be almost all white as our winter season blows in. But  when the golds and crimsons and rust colored leaves are but a memory, the greens of the pines and firs will still be a part of our landscapes. 

This summer has been brutally dry. It's been a very long time since our lawns and trees in Anoka County have received a good, soaking rain. In fact, September was the second driest on record in Minnesota. Our trees are suffering along with our lawns. As a REALTOR® I know that a wooded landscape can add significant value to a home. It provides curb appeal and beautifies the exterior. If you have evergreens, they may not show the signs of stress right now. But the drought conditions could mean your pines won't be green come spring. In fact, they could be dead. 

Keeping your evergreens green will mean more than adding a quick watering to the fall "Honey Do" List. In Anoka County, much of the soil is sandy and doesn't hold in the water like clay or black dirt. It is recommended to give pines a good soaking before the ground freezes. To do this it's a good idea to run a sprinkler for few hours or put the hose down at the base of the tree for a good 15-30 minutes so the water has time to soak down into the roots.

Take a little time while enjoying the fall colors to protect your evergreens so they will continue to provide beauty to your landscape for year to come.

Copyright 2012