Saturday, March 30, 2013

14 Important Tips for Homebuyers Moving to Minnesota Acreage

Tips for Moving to Acreage in Minnesota

Home prices are rebounding and many city homeowners are thinking this is the year we can sell and have enough money to move to a larger home. For some, it is not just the size of the home that they want to increase, many people dream of living outside the city on a hobby farm or small acreage. Making such a move can be overwhelming if you don't know the differences between city and country life. It's not just more space and less neighbors, many times there are less amenities or public utilities too.

Moving to Minnesota acreage doesn’t have to make you feel overwhelmed. Good planning can ease the transition from life in the city to your new life on a Minnesota hobby farm or small acreage!

As a REALTOR® who works throughout the north and east Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, I show homes to other families looking a bigger backyard. My family made a similar move years ago. At first we were frustrated with our decision and wanted to sell our new Anoka County home and move back to our old North St. Paul neighborhood where we had lived for years. But after a few showings of city homes we quickly realized, you cannot go back….the yards in the city looked too small after a year on 2 acres. Yes, acreage has its appeal.

It took about a year before we fully embraced life on our Ham Lake acres. And now working as a REALTOR® , I have assisted several friends and old neighbors make similar moves out of the city to Anoka and Chisago County hobby farms and acreage homes. In each of these transactions, I notice that the same questions continue to come up whether considering a hobby farm in Ham Lake, an acreage lakeshore home in Lino Lakes, a horse property in Columbus or an executive estate in Andover. Though the properties that are being considered are only 15-20 miles from the bustling city life of downtown Minneapolis, the airport and the Mall of America, there are significant differences in the rural way of life.

Here are 14 important questions and considerations homebuyers should ask before they move from the city to acreage in Anoka and Chisago Counties.

**What is a Septic or Private Sewer system?
Most rural homes have a private septic system. Not all systems are created equal. They are designed for the specific property and size of the home. Even a new septic system can fail if not properly maintained. How do you know if the septic system is working? Since not all communities require point-of-sale inspection, have your REALTOR® require the seller to supply certification of compliance from a certified septic inspector in your purchase agreement. This certification should be no more than three years old. Also, if you have never lived on a home with a septic system, it is important to educate yourself on how to best maintain and protect your private sewer system.  Additional information on Septic Systems.

**Is there a city water utility or a private well?  Will I need a water softener or other water treatment system?
Families new to the concept of well water have many questions regarding its safety. Most buyers will request the water be tested for bacteria and nitrates in the purchase agreement. This is usually paid for by the seller. If you want the well test for your property to include tests for other contaminants, like lead, it must be specified in the purchase agreement. Annual water testing is recommended for all home owners with wells. Locate your MN Unique Well Number.

One question often asked by home buyers considering a property with a private well is about water treatment options available. Many homes with private wells have water softeners to treat the water in the home. Some will go one step further and have a reverse osmosis water treatment system in the kitchens as a drinking water supply. Additional information on Water Softeners and Reverse Osmosis Drinking Systems.

**Is there a natural gas supply to the home or will a propane tank be located on the property?    
Often people looking at acreage will have questions about the huge propane fuel tank located near the home. People from the city usually only see these tanks outside of the gas stations where they pick up the small refills for their gas grills. In the country, the large propane tanks are in many backyards as the source of fuel to heat the home and run appliances. As a fuel source the differences are not noticeable. Propane is the least expensive cleanest fuel if a home does not have access to natural gas. Additional information on the differences between natural gas and propane.

**Does the home have access to cable or high speed internet or will a satellite connection be required?  Which cable services are available to the home? What are the alternatives if DSL is not available through the phone or cable lines? Do I have to have cable or a dish to get television reception? Will I have cell phone reception?
A decade ago, these were not questions that people worried about in the rural communities. Today our interconnected world brings these questions to the forefront but no worries; there are tons of alternatives today to keep you connected. From hot spots to internet cards there are options to keep your family connected even out in the woods. However, there are many homes in Lino Lakes, Ham Lake, Forest Lake and East Bethel that do not have cable lines or high speed internet available through the phone lines. And there are cell phone dead zones no matter how numerous or close those towers seem to be. We have one less than a mile from our house and still have to have a Sprint Airave to get continuous cell phone reception. So if your family lives on the internet and could not live without a high-speed connection, it is essential ask questions to figure out how to get the best access and reception.

**If the road is gravel or unpaved, how often is it maintained by the city/county?
Our road was not paved when we first moved to Ham Lake. We were nearly a mile down a soft, gravel/sand road. When we moved it was late fall and were very surprised when the spring rains and snow melt left the road extremely poor condition. It was treacherous at times. The re-grading was done by the city on a periodic schedule so we had to negotiate the pot-holed road for days. Our road is now paved but the memories still remain.

If you are considering acreage, remember many rural roads are not paved. If the acreage property you are considering is on a gravel or dirt road, try to visit the property on several occasions and under differing conditions. It might be a good idea to talk to the city and county to understand how the road is maintained. Also be sure to ask if there are any plans to pave the road in the future and what would be assessed per property owner for the project.

**Is there wildlife?
Well maybe not lions and tigers, but we have had bears and cougars seen near our home in Anoka County. We also have pheasant, hawks, bald eagles, raccoons, foxes, several varieties of squirrels and deer. A flock of wild turkeys have made their home in our neighborhood and continue to nest year after year. And an owl and a hawk have nested in trees in on our property. I rarely saw blue jays, cardinals or hummingbirds in the city, but in our Anoka County acreage home, we see them on a daily basis. While exciting, the downside is sometimes the wildlife comes in. I don't know anyone on Ham Lake acreage that hasn’t had an occasional field mouse enter their home.

**Can I have horses?
If your move to acreage is for having horses or other farm animals in your backyard, keep in mind that most communities have restrictions on how many, if any, animals are allowed. Whether you can have horses, pigs, cows, chickens, ducks, sheep or goats will be determined by the local city regulations. Even the amount of domesticated dogs and cats can be restricted on acreage property, just as it was in most urban communities. So if you plan to run a dog kennel, breed cats or train horses, for business or pleasure, make sure it is allowed in your new rural community prior to writing an offer.

**Is hunting allowed?
In some rural areas hunting is still allowed depending on the amount of acreage, the development restrictions and city and county rules. It was a rude awakening for us to discover our neighbors were allowed to hunt….and it seemed right outside our door too! Imagine our shock that first deer opener when the hunters came out in blaze orange to hunt in the woods next to our home. The property owner, at our request, posted the land and the hunters left. The land has since been developed but it is something everyone moving should understand before buying any acreage home. Check with the city and county for all ordinances regarding firearms.

**Where are the schools?
The public school districts in rural communities can be vast. In the Forest Lake School District 831, students come from communities as far west as Ham Lake, as far south as Lino Lakes, as far east as Scandia and as far north as Stacy! It you drive from the western border to the eastern border of the district, it takes almost 45 minutes, one way! There is only one high school in the district, so your children's best friend from school could literally live almost an hour from your home. But the opportunities to get to know kids from all areas can outweigh any negatives. The bottom line here is, it pays to research the school district prior to any housing decisions.

Also school alternatives can be limited. Communities in the city have dozens of private and charter school options. These options are much lower in rural areas due to the smaller population.  Additional information on Educational Alternatives in the North Metro.

**Can we have a bonfire and burn all this debris?
There are strict state and local restrictions regarding burning of construction debris and yard waste. There are restrictions on the size of the fire and what can be burned. Many construction materials cannot be burned because they release chemicals into the air that pose an environmental hazard. There are times of the year where burning is only allowed by permit and sometimes not at all. Before burning it is best to check the local restrictions as well as the DNR. More information on MN Fire Restrictions.

**Where do we shop? How far to the nearest corner store, gas station, shopping center and mall?
Depending on how often you like to shop, this may or may not be a big concern. But it is always nice to know how far you will have to go for a gallon of milk for breakfast, a propane refill for the BBQ or gas for the lawn tractor.

**How long does it take to cut the grass?
If your yard is over an acre with few trees, you might consider a lawn tractor. Many people on acreage only cut certain areas leaving the rest to grow to a natural prairie. Another consideration would be whether or not to install an irrigation system for the sod near the home.

**Wow! There are a lot of trees! Do I have to worry about oak wilt and emerald Ash Borers?
Oak wilt is a big concern in Anoka and Chisago counties. Many of the communities have information and programs to help protect and save the oak trees from this disease. And Additional information regarding oak wilt. Recently people have been extremely concerned with the emerald ash borer that has been found in Ramsey County communities including St. Paul and Shoreview. These insects bored into ash trees and tunnel under the bark eventually killing the tree. There are programs to control the spread of the insects. Additional information on the Emerald Ash Borer

**What about emergencies? How far to the nearest hospital? Where is the nearest fire station? Who provides police protection?
No one wants to think about these things when moving but accidents and illnesses do happen. It was a long hour drive to Children's Hospital in St. Paul when my young son fell and needed stitches. If the nearest fire station is staffed with volunteers and over five miles away, it will seem like a lifetime during those 5-10 minutes while you wait for the fire truck to show up to YOUR home. And big fires in dry areas will need the water trucked in due to limited water hydrants, if any, like in the city. Many rural communities do not have police officers but are patrolled by the county sheriff's department. Understand your options before an emergency occurs because it will likely take a bit longer if you are in a rural area.

With a little planning your move to a home on acreage can be a great one!

Copyright 2015

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Picture Perfect DREAM HOME with Harold's Purple Crayon!

Decades ago, when I was first learning to read, I loved picture book, "Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Crockett Johnson. I wanted a crayon just like that little boy who drew out his dreams in his footy pajamas. Even though I have never been a fan of the color purple, I always wanted one of those special violet Crayola-type sticks of wax to draw to draw my dreams. Imagine life being so simple.

After many years of wondering whether the dream of owning a home was dead, the housing market has made a turn around. Due to lower inventories in many areas, sellers are back in the  drivers seat and would be homebuyers are back to sitting on the fence dreaming about their perfect home. As interest rates start to creep up, the dream of a home could slip away. The reality is, there STILL are AFFORDABLE homes in the Minneapolis/St. Paul north and east metro. Maybe homebuyers just need one of Harold’s purple crayons so they can draw out a path to a perfect new home…

Draw YOUR perfect REALTOR® Grab that magic purple crayon and sketch out your ideal of a trusted professional REALTOR®. The first step in owning a dream home is to find the agent of your dreams to represent you throughout the process. Make certain to sign the buyer’s representation agreement for with a blue ink pen not a purple Crayola.

Draw Your Preapproval letter. Pre-approval is an important step before you begin looking for a home. It not only determines how much home you can afford to spend on a home, it guarantees that you are ready to write up the offer when you find your dream home. The letter will serve as notice to the sellers that the bank has committed to lend you a specified amount based on your financial history. This gives you significant buying power as a seller recognizes you are approved for a loan. Your professional REALTOR® can assist you in locating a qualified loan officer that will work with you to make your dream home a reality.

Draw YOUR perfect home!  Here’s the drawing you have been waiting for...glide that purple crayon across the page and sketch out your dream home. Your perfectly depicted REALTOR® will set up an MLS search for homes that meet your needs. As perfect homes hit the market, showings will be set to view the homes in person.

Draw up a Purchase Agreement and happy seller! Use that magic purple crayon to draw up a contract on your dream home. Okay the contract will more than likely be completed in something other than that crayon, but here is where you work with your REALTOR® to draw up a contract including all of the details such as what you want to pay for the home, what personal property is to be included as well as the date you want to close and move in.

Draw a Qualified Inspector. To be certain that you didn’t miss any important details when you sketched out the beautiful purple palace, draw a home inspector that is qualified to check out your new purchase.

Draw up a SOLD sign. A big purple "SOLD" sign will announce to the world that this is YOUR dream home! It will stay on the sign while the home is in "pending" status prior to the closing. During this period prior to closing, your dream professionals work closely together to ensure that details such as the appraisal and updating the title are handled in a timely manner. Now you can use a REAL purple crayon to cross off the days on the calendar until you get to the closing table!

Draw the Keys to your new front door! ! One final purple colored work of art will complete the home buying process—Sketch up a set of house keys! When closing day arrives, be prepared to attend with your state issued picture identification, a 10 year address history, your checkbook, and all other information requested by the closer. At the end of this meeting, you will be handed the keys to your new home.

Wait a second! Nobody really needs a purple crayon! You just need a trusted professional REALTOR® to guide you through the story to your happily ever after!

Copyright 2012 Teri Eckholm

Friday, March 22, 2013

Time to make a move to a bigger home?

Time to make a move to a bigger home? Call Teri at 651-336-7073 for FREE Market Analysis!
If your home is a bit too crowded maybe it's time to make a move. Interest rates are still at record lows and starter homes are selling quickly in the Minneapolis/St Paul north and east metro! Your perfect little starter home could sell for top dollar due to the record low inventories on homes for sale in the Twin Cities. It's the perfect situation for a move up buyer. 

Copyright 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

Staging on a Budget--Create Your Own Art to Stage YOUR Home for Sale!

For many years we didn't have much in the way of art on our walls. Short of framed school portraits of our kids and drawings magneted to the fridge, we were somewhat artless. It wasn't that we didn't go and look for that perfect painting for over the sofa or fireplace. There were so very few items we could agree were worth a few hundred dollars. What if we grew tired of it after all? So after almost a decade of bare walls, we now have art and it wasn't expensive either.

Art and decor is a really important part of the process of staging your home for sale. If your home is going to be on the listed on the market this spring decor art on the walls can make a difference in how the home is perceived. It is critical that any pictures are not too personal like a family portrait. It is best to stick to florals, landscapes and similar non-personal objects. 

So did I create inexpensive art for my home? I had two great ideas.

First Idea...Frame a Card!

I found blank notes that were made from real pressed flowers and framed them for the wall next to our stairway. Using frames I bought on clearance from Target, mat boards and these cards, I had art similar to what I found framed in a decor store for a fraction of the price. When I priced out framed pressed flowers at specialty shops, they were priced $30-50 each. But when I purchased the clearance frames, mats and note cards I paid about $30 total!

Second Idea...Print a Favorite Photo!

We love Como Park and I have dozens of photos of the flowers, animals and buildings. I took four favorite photos, printed in sepia tones and framed up in clearance frames to display in our hallway. These frames came with mats so I didn't have additional expense. Total cost? $24.

Think you cannot find good frames that cheap? Not so. I like Target because they tend to update their frame selection 3 or 4 times a year. I watch for clearance prices of 50% to 75% off. for the best deals. I also select neutral frames so I have more versatility of where they can be displayed. Thrift stores can be another place to pick up frames if you want a more eclectic look. blank walls when staging your home. Create decor on the cheap. Who knows...You might like it so much, you will want to display it in your new home too! 

Copyright 2013