Friday, March 30, 2012

Minnesota Homebuyers Targeted with Grant Deed Scam

Does a Minnesota Homeowner need copy of Grant Deed?

I received an email late in the evening earlier this week from one of my clients regarding a letter they had received in the mail. Sherry and her fiancĂ© had bought a home this past fall and received this letter strongly urging them to purchase a grant deed for their files. My clients are very educated but the wording was strange and so they began to question their instincts…Did they need this “grant deed and property file” as the Record and Retrieval Company of Champlin was suggesting?

The short answer is no.

My clients were right to contact me before parting with $87 of their hard-earned money for what is just above a scam in my book. My first instinct screamed “SCAM” as real estate professionals rarely use the term “grant deed” in Minnesota (but it does make it sound official doesn’t it?) At a closing, my clients receive all of the documentation they required regarding the purchase of their new home from their closing agent. She creates a file with all of the signed paperwork and places it is a storage folder with the business cards of their closer, loan officer and REALTOR® attached. The closer then files the deed at the county. Now, should my clients ever require a copy of the deed to their home, they can visit the county offices and purchase a copy directly for a very nominal fee (i.e. significantly less than $87!)

This “scam” of selling inexpensive documentation for a high fee started making the rounds in Minnesota early this year according to the Minnesota Better Business Bureau. The MN BBB refer to this offer as “shady” rather than an out-an-out scam. Shady or scam, it is not a good deal and not something a homeowner needs to keep on file. My suggestion, if you receive a letter from the Record and Retrieval Company of Champlin, file it directly in the recycling bin!

Copyright 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Irish Eyes are Smiling in Minnesota on St. Patrick’s Day!

St Patrick's Day Events in St. Paul Minneapolis

March 17th an official holiday is a semi-official holiday in Minnesota! Growing up as a Irish-woman in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area made St. Patrick's Day a fun event. (Okay...I'm only a quarter Irish but on St. Pat's day, whose counting?) From time to time our family attended the parade on the east side of the river in downtown St Paul. One time we even jumped into the parade and strolled down the street under the “Flaherty” banner. 

There were meals of home cooked corned beef and cabbage, though I much prefer a Shamrock Shake. We didn’t dance, but sang the “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” almost throughout the month of March. It was my Prussian grandmother's favorite song after all! It is always fun to celebrate our heritage.

With the unofficial holiday falling on a Saturday this year, the parades are certain to draw a crowd. There are two different Irish Associations with an array of St. Pat's events in the Twin Cities. The St. Patrick’s Association in St. Paul has a worst Irish Tenor Contest and annually crowns a Miss Shamrock and cast of Blarney Brothers to accompany the Shamrock princesses to events. This association puts senior citizens at the heart of their events with visits to area nursing homes and senior centers during March. And of course, there is a parade. The St. Paul St. Patrick's Day parade runs along Fifth Street starting at noon.
Not to be outdone, the St. Patrick’s Day Association of Minneapolis has a full array of contests and events to mark this special day. In addition to the 6:30 evening parade down Nicollet Mall, there is a Ms. Blarney and Wee Leprechan Contest. Yep, the cutest Irish lad or lass wins a Wii. How’s that for a fun homonym tie-in?

Can't make it to the parades? Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day online with some fun and interesting Irish websites:

May you have all the happiness 
and luck that life can hold—
And at the end of all your rainbows
may you find a pot of gold.  

Traditional Irish Toast

Copyright 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Looking HOT from the Street!—Curb Appeal Tips to SELL your Minnesota Acreage Home Quickly

Curb Appeal Tips to Sell Home Fast

CURB APPEAL that Screams, "BUY ME!"
Inventory is down in the Minneapolis/St. Paul north and east metro but what will happen come spring? If all the calls I have been receiving from interested home sellers are an indication, the market is going to be competitive. This means that homeowners that want to see a sold sign in front of their Minnesota home sooner rather than later, will make Curb Appeal a priority as they prepare their home inside and out!

Last week, I had the opportunity to show a “just listed” Forest Lake home a few days after our massive spring snowstorm. The unpaved, unplowed 400 foot long driveway was a muddy mess but that was only part of the immediate turn off for my buyer. The front yard was a disaster with debris and dirt from the driveway to the front door. It was less than welcoming; it was a turn off!

Selling a home in this changed real estate market is tricky. Whether you are selling a lakeshore cabin, an executive, acreage home or a convenient townhome, your house needs to look HOT from the outside in! As a REALTOR® in the north and east Minneapolis/St Paul metro area, I have been showing homes all over Anoka County and Washington Counties, from Blaine to Lino Lakes and Forest Lake to Hugo. As the snow melts, some yards are looking not only boring but down right dirty. The market is starting to pick up and soon buyers have dozens of homes to choose from. Decisions can be made in a split second from a photo on the computer screen to the moment a potential buyer drives up to the curb. It takes only a few moments for a buyer to assess a home’s potential.

In this market, buyers are putting homes into two categories: Well-Maintained Homes to pay top dollar for and Not-Maintained Homes to get at rock bottom prices. A serious homeseller does not want his home in the second category as it includes most foreclosures, short sales and other less than desirable properties. In my 10 Tips For A Quick Sale, jazzing up the Curb Appeal is the number one recommendation I give to homesellers.

Screaming “Buy Me” from the Curb Stand in the street and look at your property from a buyer’s eyes. If your home is not screaming, “Buy Me” from the curb, now is the time to spice up the exterior! Here are a few quick tips and reminders:

  • Flowers add color! Since spring gardens haven’t bloomed yet, try a dried floral wreath or colorful flag.

  • Spruce up the landscaping with new wood chips. Make certain all of the landscaping bricks in the retaining walls and pavers in the sidewalks are secure.

  • Pick up all debris and trash from the yard!

  • Rake any leaves as soon as the snow melts.

  • Fix up that banged up, rusty mailbox at the end of the driveway.

  • Seal coat the blacktop drive as soon as weather permits.

  • Move Boats, Trailers and Campers to another location.

  • Wash dirt and cobwebs from front of home paying special attention to door where buyers will enter. Paint door if necessary.

  • Replace tattered American flags with new ones. (Remember proper to dispose of old one properly.)

  • Repair any wind damage to gutters, siding, shutters and storm doors. If the shutters or trim has faded, replace or repaint.

  • Paint or stain siding, porches and decks as necessary.

Though sprucing up curb appeal may seem like common sense to a home seller, it is amazing how many homes on the market have awesome interiors but dumpy exteriors. Addressing curb appeal is one way to get serious homebuyers through the door!

Copyright 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

First Time Homebuyer’s Real Estate Word for Today is Truth-In-Housing

First Time Homebuyer Word Truth in Housing

In a past episode of Cash Cab, an Emmy award winning television game show, a taxi full of contestants with stumped by the acronym, FSBO. As a REALTOR® in the Minneapolis/St. Paul north and east metro, I was a bit surprised “For Sale By Owner” eluded them. That is until I remembered the times a glazed look came over my buyer’s eyes when I mentioned escrow and earnest money. These real estate terms are easily be confused with other real estate financial terms like down payment or cash to close. It became apparent to me that a buyer’s confusion is very understandable; after all homebuyers do not buy houses everyday.

I thought a glossary of real estate terms might be helpful to the First Time Homebuyer. Over the past year and throughout 2012, I will present and explain terms often used by REALTORS® in a series of posts for the first time homebuyer.. This way a first time homebuyer can skip buying that big “how to buy a house” book or attending a non-required First Time Homebuyer Class and have a quick resource at your fingertips. I am continuing the series with Today’s Real Estate Term:

Truth-In-Housing Inspection A truth-in-housing inspection is a pre-listing, point-of-sale inspection required by a local municipality. The inspector will perform an inspection of the home and note hazardous and sub-par features of the home. In Minnesota, there is no Truth-In-Housing inspection requirement to sell your home at the state or county level. There are however a number of communities in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro require a pre-inspection report. These inspections have many names including: Truth-in-Sale of Housing Disclosure, Time-of Sale, Time-of-Sale Code Compliance, Dwelling Maintenance and Occupancy Code Compliance, Housing Code Compliance Inspection or Housing Maintenance Code Inspection. Some of these inspections are done by inspectors that are city employees while other communities have licensed private home inspectors to perform the inspection of the home. But in many cases, it will be the homeowner’s responsibility to select a private inspector to perform the inspection prior to listing the home for sale.

Note: There are a few counties that do have point of sale requirements for septic systems. Always check with your city and/or county regarding whether or not they have point-of sale or truth-in-housing inspection requirements as cities do update and change requirements from time to time.

The Twin Cities communities that currently require a home inspection are:Private Inspectors (Selected by Homeowner)
  • Bloomington
  • Hopkins
  • Maplewood
  • Minneapolis
  • St. Paul
  • South St. Paul
City Inspectors
  • Brooklyn Park
  • Crystal
  • New Hope
  • Osseo
  • Richfield
  • St. Louis Park
 Truth-in-Housing versus Buyer’s Home Inspection.
 First Time Buyers can and should have a potential home inspected prior to buying it. An offer or purchase agreement can be written with an inspection contingency, allowing the buyer time to hire and review the home with an inspector. This contingency can be written into the contract to purchase whether the city requires a truth-in-housing inspection or not.  It may seem a bit redundant to re-inspect a home that has a point of sale inspection. However, the benefits of walking through the home with an inspector as he points out specific concerns of the structure far out weigh the monetary cost for the first time homebuyer.

Copyright 2012