Sunday, January 27, 2013

What’s YOUR House Style?

One of the most difficult things for some home buyers to decide is what style of home they want to buy. Sure you’ve got the three bedrooms, two and a half bath and 2 stall attached garage down but architectural style isn’t always something a buyer thinks about until after seeing a home or two.

Looking at listings on the internet, a home buyer is able to view the images of many types of homes. Some will have descriptions like, ranch, contemporary or bungalow. But many buyers have know idea of what these styles are...heck, some real estate agents will misuse the terms too!

I just came across this awesome tool for home buyers! It is an Architectural Guide to Residential Homes  The guide defines with drawings and descriptions what 33 popular styles of homes look like and the history of that design. Home buyers who review this information will have no trouble determining whether a saltbox or Tudor is their favorite style when their REALTOR® asks! 

Copyright 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

Trim Oaks NOW in the Frosty Winter Months to Prevent Oak Wilt!

It's going to be crazy cold this weekend...You know what I mean. That bone-chilling, below zero for a high, weather love to hate. We love boasting how tough we are as Minnesotans who can endure temps that can turn and ordinary banana into a hammer in a matter of minutes. But we hate having to be out in it ourselves for any length of time. Good think these temps really only show up every few years. The ice fishermen and Winter Carnival people are going to love it though.

One thin that these cold January temperatures are perfect for is trimming oak trees! You heard me...trimming an old in the winter is the BEST time. It prevents the spread of oak wilt because the beetles are dormant in the cold weather. By spring, when these devastating creatures become active again, the cuts where branches were trimmed will have healed.

Oak wilt is devastating to trees in Anoka and Chisago counties as massive oaks are destroyed when this disease spreads. Smart landscaping and maintenance requires you trim oaks in the winter months—before April in Minnesota. Now in this frosty January weather, it is the perfect time to avoid exposure to this tree-killing disease.

Oak Wilt Devastates Acreage A few years back I shared photos of a property that is in my own Ham Lake neighborhood where the owners had dealt with oak wilt on their acreage property for several years. Or, more accurately, they ignored it until the city red-tagged the trees every at the end of the summer. In one season alone, this property lost nearly a dozen trees. (Read Oak Wilt—A Minnesota Tragedy) While the beautiful thicket of mature oak trees is now long gone, I am very happy that the new  property owners took the initiative to save the remaining oaks. With treatment and proper care, they have lost only one small tree in the past several years.

Oak wilt is not just a problem in Ham Lake and Anoka County. It is prevalent in communities from Columbus to Lino Lakes and Forest Lake to North Branch, Scandia and Linwood. Whether you live in Anoka, Chisago or Washington County, if you have oaks on your property, you need to take precautions to protect them from this deadly tree-killing disease.

What is Oak Wilt?

Oak wilt is a disease caused by a fungus which attacks the central system of the tree from the roots to leaves.  When the tree attempts to block the fungus, it also blocks all water and nutrients to the branches and leaves. The leaves then wilt, brown and eventually, the tree dies.

Oak wilt spreads through the root systems of near by infected trees and by fungus beetles that carry the oak wilt spores from tree to tree. For additional information on oak wilt from the University of MN Extention Service

How to Protect Your Trees

Keep oaks trimmed and healthy. Trim large mature oaks now as January/February are excellent months to prune oak trees.  If you have your large oaks trimmed now it is a preventative to spring storm damage when heavy, dead branches can fall during tornadoes or straight line winds.

The fungus beetles infect trees that have been recently injured or trimmed. These beetles are very active in the spring and summer months but not active at all during the winter. Oaks should be protected from damage and not trimmed from April through July.

Tree trimming of mature oaks is best left to professionals especially near the power lines. The trimmer should use a bucket truck or a line/pulley system, NOT spiked climbing boots which can be damaging to the tree.

Selling a Home with Oak Wilt?

Be honest and disclose!  A seller might be tempted to cut down a diseased tree and not say a word to a new buyer. This is not only unethical it could cause expensive legal problems after the sale. Even if a seller doesn’t say anything about oak wilt infected trees that were removed prior to listing the home, most neighbors will. Cutting a tree diseased tree does not prevent the spread of oak wilt. It is likely other trees are infected. If more trees die and the buyers were not properly informed, the seller could be in a legal battle with an irate buyer. Bottom line: There is a question regarding diseased trees on the Minnesota Sellers’ Disclosure Form. Fill it out honestly and be prepared to remove the diseased trees properly and safely, if asked. It is never a good idea to not tell the whole truth on the property disclosure form.  

Copyright 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wordless Wednesday (Almost) I Smell Fabulous!

Cinnamon loves playing with ribbons and this one that came with my Christmas gift is no exception. She smells nothing like Coco though...and when your home is on the market it is important to remember that pet odors can make or break a sale.

Here are a few additional tips for selling a home with pets:
  • Keep your pet well groomed to reduce odor, hair and damage caused by nails & claws.
  • Get a pet bed for your dogs and cats. (Several are available at It not only is more comfortable than the floor, it keeps dirt and sweat from their fur from going into the carpet fibers. Move the bed from room to room or buy a couple for their favorite spots. Pet beds are considerably cheaper than replacing carpet. Cats like beds too...especially if positioned in front of  windows.

  • Have a proper sized kennel or cage for exotic pets and clean often.

  • Clean all accidents immediately. Use special pet cleaners to remove odors and stains.

  • Cover all exposed woodwork especially around windows. Pets love to jump up and look out windows. Use gates to limit your pet's access to soft wood floors like birch or cherry wood. scratches from nails will often require the floor to be completely sanded down before refinishing which can be costly.

  • Avoid chaining your dog to the side of your house for long periods of time. Chains and bolts can cause both cosmetic and structural damage to your home.
  • If your pet shows behavior problems such as chewing, clawing etc, address them immediately to avoid damage to your home.

Copyright 2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The News is IN! Homebuyers Wanting a Good Deal Need to Move Now!

Just two weeks into 2013 and you’re thinking this is the year to make that move. The Minneapolis St Paul real estate market is on the move again so it you are planning to get that “bargain of the century”. Well, maybe you should have bought last year. Check out the recent Pioneer Press article, which outlines the Twin Cities year to year sales statistics. Prices are on the rise. But there are still deals out there for buyers, even if you do not want a foreclosure or short sale.

Chart from 1/11/13 Pioneer Press article by John Welbes
Traditional sellers are getting houses on the market early this year. What is a traditional seller? Those are the people who own a house and have enough equity to sell it without having a bank involved. Many traditional sellers have been hiding in the woodwork so to speak for the past few years when prices were so unbelievably low. Now that they are on the rise again, they are ready. Homeowners have spent the past few years updating and repairing their properties so they would shine in a changed market. When a traditional seller gets a showing, the home is a joy to enter with a shoveled walk, warm temperature in the home and sometimes a cookie on the counter. When a traditional seller gets an offer, they respond quickly. It’s a joy to work with a traditional seller when buying a home.

So what should a potential home buyer do if they want to make a move in 2013?

  • Get PREAPPROVED. Those updated cozy homes offered by traditional sellers are getting multiple offers. Sellers want to know that you can buy the home when they receive the offer. Having a preapproval from a professional, educated loan officer means you will not miss the change to put in an offer on your dream home. Even if you tried to get approved before but were denied, it could be worth talking to a loan officer again. Mortgage preapprovals are up 11% …And the best news, rates are still at all time lows! (If you are not sure where to get pre-approved, call or email me as I have some great contacts!)
  • Work with a REALTOR® It is not the time to run around willy-nilly calling every agent that has a home listed to see the property thinking you could save money. While you are trying to connect with the agent of the perfect home that just listed, another REALTOR® could be showing the home to a preapproved buyer who could write an offer that day. Having your own agent, doesn’t cost anything in most cases but can get you into any home on the MLS that you want to see. Plus you can build up a rapport so when it comes time to write your offer, you know your agent is on your side.

What should a potential home seller do if they take advantage of this 2013 momentum?

  • LIST NOW! Don’t wait until spring. You will get the best price for your home the earlier you list it. There is less competition now but there are many, many homebuyers in the market. Take advantage of this opportunity!

Copyright 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Help Me Caption the Cozy Kitties Photo


When I put up a photo of my two cats under the blanket on Facebook, a fellow REALTOR suggested I use it for a promotion. I did like the idea of using the Cozy Kitties photo for a real estate promotion and decided I could use a little help to come up with a caption. The cats were sleeping soundly in that photo that she saw but I knew the faces of the cats in this photo was much more interesting for a promotion. I also could use a few more Facebook followers on my business page so I decide to run a contest. The best caption  or  ideas for their thought bubbles will win a special gift from Minnesota.

To give you some idea of the events leading up to when the photo was taken, the cat on the left, Cinnamon, was under the blanket first and became obviously annoyed when her twin sister, Ginger arrived.   

Here are the contest rules:

1. Contest will run until February 28th, 2013.
2. Only Entrants that LIKE my Facebook Business page  Teri Eckholm REALTOR will be considered for the prize. Entrant must still be listed as a someone who "LIKED" my page at the end of the contest.
3. Leave captions on my FB page, email or in the comments of my blog . In the event of similar captions being entered, the one that was posted first will win
4. Keep it clean. This is for a Any off color, derogatory comments will be deleted.
5. When entering the contest, entrant gives me the right to use the caption in my advertising whether or not it is the winning entry.

*Also note that neither Activerain, Blogger or Facebook are associated with this contest.

Ideally the caption would be related to real estate in someway but that is not essential. It is more important that the caption is funny and memorable.

So put on your thinking caps and come up with a good one...

And in the meantime, if you are looking to buy or sell a home in the north east Minneapolis/St Paul area, give me a call.

 Copyright 2013

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

First Time HomeBuyer Tips on Down Payment Assistance in Ramsey County MN

First time home buyers in Ramsey County have an amazing, often overlooked opportunity. If you qualify under the specific qualifying guidelines you could take advantage of down payment assistance and access to newly remodeled homes in Ramsey County. Find a loan officer or mortgage broker that is well versed in the details to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Minnesota Down Payment Assistance

There is an excellent program for down payment assistance available in the Ramsey County area. Ramsey County includes the communities of St. Paul, Maplewood, Roseville, Shoreview, New Brighton, Little Canada, North St Paul, Vadnais Heights and White Bear Lake. The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency offers a program called StartUP which can be used for either up to 3% or $3,000 worth of assistance. This StartUP down payment assistance is a second mortgage on your home but has no interest and requires no payments until you pay off the home. One of the unique features of the funds in this program is that it can often be used in addition with other assistance programs.

Down Payment Assistance through Ramsey County

Ramsey County offers another great down payment assistance option for Minnesota first time home buyers up to $10,000. The FirstHome assistance program can be used with many loan programs such as VA, FHA, and conventional loans. The program can also be used with the StartUP assistance from Minnesota Housing if you qualify. Like all other programs Ramsey County has certain qualifications that the Ramsey County first time home buyer must meet. Meeting with an loan officer familiar with the program for your pre-approval is essential as they can help you determine if you are eligible for the Ramsey County FirstHome program.

Neighborhood Stabilization Program in Ramsey County Qualified homebuyers also have an opportunity to purchase newly remodeled and rehabilitated Ramsey County homes. These homes are amazingly updated and give the first time homebuyer a perfect start to home ownership. They are reserved only for first time buyers that meet the income guidelines outlined by the Ramsey County program. Several of these homes come on the market every year in communities throughout the county.

Homebuyer Classes are Required in Ramsey County

Most of these programs for down payment assistance will require that you attend a class for first time home buyers called the Home Stretch Workshop. Don’t worry…these are not like high school classes. There is no test at the end. They are fun and very informative.
You will need to plan for a full day of classroom training. There are many dates available to accommodate home buyers schedules including evenings and weekend options. Verify that the workshop you register for will satisfies both the state and local community program guidelines if you are using more than one program. 

Ramsey County down payment assistance programs can be used with a variety of mortgage loans. Most typically they would be used with an FHA loans to help with the 3.5% down payment. However, if you already have a sizable down payment but need some help getting to 20% down to eliminate the need for mortgage insurance, it is possible these programs could help if you meet the income restrictions.  If you are a veteran, these programs can also work with a VA loan if you meet the qualifications.
Information about Ramsey County
Ramsey County is one of the eleven counties in the Minneapolis/ St Paul metropolitan area. It is the home to the state capital of Minnesota, St. Paul. With a population of over 500,000 it is one of the most densely populated counties in the state if not the entire U.S. First time home buyers  in Minnesota can benefit from the Ramsey County First Home program with down payment assistance up to $10,000.
First Step In Buying a Home: Get Preapproved!
For most Minnesota first time buyers the next question is, where do I start? Your very first step towards buying your first home is to get pre-approved for a first time buyer's mortgage. Contact me and I can direct you to a local loan officer that understands and is approved to work with these special programs. The loan officer will counsel you through the pre-approval process and help determine which programs you will qualify for. Once you know exactly how much you qualify for, we can start a home search in a price range with payments well within your budget.

Copyright 2013 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Searches Up 253%--Understand the Web Impact on YOUR Home Sale!

What does it take to sell a home in 2013? A new report from the National Association of REALTORS® and Google says real estate related searches are up a whopping 253% in four years. Now, combine this statistic with another showing that 90% of home buyers use the internet in their home search. The two most often used sites? Local MLS and In Minnesota, more than 97% of home buyers under the age of 44 used the internet in their home search...that is really a number to thing about!

If you are thinking of selling your home in 2013, understanding the role the internet plays in your sale is crucial!

Because the best way to increase your chances of selling your home is to make certain it is listed with a REALTOR® that uses the internet to YOUR advantage.

*High Quality Photos that realistically portray the home.

*Photos Showing Special Features and Assets Go beyond the kitchen, living room and family room. Highlight unusual woodwork, landscaping and other specific home features.

*Use a variety of websites,, as well as a broker website.

*Has a Real Estate Blog…And knows how to use it to your advantage. I have had a personal real estate blog for over 6 years.

It is more important than ever before for a home seller to ask questions about how your home will be marketed on the internet before you sign a listing contract. It can be the difference between your home having your home SOLD in a short time or lingering on the market.

Copyright 2013

Saturday, January 5, 2013

It’s Not Too Late! Make a Real Estate Resolution for 2013

As 2012 came to a close the media was continuing to exalt the good news of a strengthening real estate market in the Minneapolis St Paul area. Home sellers that have their houses priced right are seeing multiple offers again. Home buyers  hoping to take advantage of the extremely low interest rates are starting to struggle to find the perfect new home. Many were confused because the internet sites are full of affordable listings but time and time again when their agent checked availability of the “PERFECT” home, it was “under contract waiting for third party approval”. Yes there are still short sales on the MLS, along with foreclosures…but the pricing isn’t as low as a few months ago. Town homes, single family, split levels, ramblers, two stories, remodels, foreclosures, short sales and new construction are now starting to slowly rise in cost across the Twin Cities.

As a REALTOR® serving White Bear Lake, Lino Lakes, Blaine, Ham Lake and communities in the Forest Lake School District, I keep a close eye on the Twin Cities real estate market. During the last few months of the year, I noticed bit of a change in the wind. Activity was starting to pick up. Traditional sellers were starting to see their homes being snatched up shortly after listing. Buyers found themselves in multiple offer situations and had to learn that “highest and best” could mean 10-20% above the price listed in the MLS. Negotiations were made and offers accepted. The Minneapolis St Paul metro area’s  real estate market took another positive step toward becoming balanced at the end of 2012.

So what does that mean for those considering purchasing a home or selling their property in 2013? From Ham Lake to Forest Lake and East Bethel to East St Paul we should strive to keep building a strong foundation to our real estate market. Keeping the property value base strong is essential to all Minnesotans. In 2013, we should all Resolve to be Real Estate Savvy!

Resolutions for Sellers

*Team up with a professional REALTOR®
*Price your home right from the start
*Make repairs before listing
*Make each showing count by staging
*Buyers are more educated so be willing to negotiate

Resolutions for Buyers

*Team up with a trusted REALTOR®
*Get Pre-approved and check in with your Loan Officer regularly
*Write realistic offers that encourage negotiation.
*Understand that a well-priced home will sell quickly, often with multiple offers
*Realize that a foreclosure and/or short sale property has many risks that will be assumed by the buyer. Inspections are essential.

Resolutions for Homeowners

*Even if 2013 won’t be the year for you to sell, there are things every homeowner should be doing to retain property value.
*Maintain the interior and exterior of your home by making repairs on a continual basis rather than deferring to time of sale.
*Stay current with your mortgage and discuss any financial problems with lender immediately.
*Be a good steward of your neighborhood.

Resolutions for Investors

*Team up with a professional REALTOR®
*If holding the property, offer a safe and maintained residence at a fair price to the renters.
*If flipping or repairing/reselling the property, be realistic with the numbers. Don’t do cheap repairs and expect big rewards. 2013 buyers are market wise!
*Be a good steward of your properties and the communities in which they are located.
*Maintain the properties to retain value for portfolio as well as the neighborhood.

If home buyers, home sellers, homeowners, investors and real estate professionals alike work together to maintain momentum we saw in the market at the end of 2012, the new year could bring continued recovery for the Minneapolis St Paul real estate market.

Copyright 2013