Friday, September 27, 2013

Embrace Viking Purple, But Don’t Put THAT Color on Your Front Door!

Not if you want to sell your house that is. Home buyers gravitate toward certain colors. And unfortunately, purple is one of the top five turn offs as a front door color.

In an article by Angie’s List “What are the best front door colors to sell your home? color choices were put to the test. Home buyer surveys nixed purple as a favorite.

Believe it or not, I have seen Viking purple used on front doors of Minnesota homes. In our family we have an old family saying that “it looked better on the paint chip” when we see any unusual color choice on a house.  But purple isn’t the worst choice for a front door hue. Pink takes that spot with gray, orange and yellow also scoring low. Yellow is a bit of a surprise to me to be a low scorer because it IS appealing for siding, just not the front door.

Top colors are red and white. But white can be hard to keep clean. If you are going to put you home on the market and have a white front door, keep it sparkling. A dirty white door will be a huge turn off too!

Another caution if you choose to paint the front door red to attract buyers to your home; be careful with the shades. If the shade tends to look on the orangey side in the evening under a porch light, this could be a turn off to a home buyer viewing in the evening hours. 

Copyright 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Septic Systems Maintenance is No Joke! But they do have funny slogans

Every three years like clockwork, I put in a call to Olson's to have our septic pumped out. It’s a dirty business and somebody’s gotta do it. The City of Ham Lake where we live, does not have a public sewer system. We all have individual sewage disposal or septic systems in our yards. The septic pumping and inspection is mandatory every three years. Getting your septic pumped and inspected is a requirement of most Twin Cities metro municipalities. State and county codes are not specific on the subject of on-site or individual sewage disposal systems (ISDS) or septic systems, leaving it up to each Minnesota city to adopted their own rules for inspection.

We have had Olson’s Sewer Service of Forest Lake maintain and inspect our system since we moved to our Ham Lake acreage. Their slogan, “keeping your sewer in the pink” and hot pink trucks are seen all over Forest Lake, Columbus, Lino Lakes, Wyoming and Ham Lake. When the pink reminder postcard arrives in the mail, we schedule our inspection right away.

Olson’s slogan while catchy is tame compared to others as septic professionals really have a sense of humor about the role they play in the community. Here is a list of some favorites that have been seen on sewage and plumbing trucks all over the US:

· Yesterday's Meals on Wheels
· We're #1 in the #2 business.
· You Dump It, We Pump It
· After the first whiff, call Cliff.
· A good flush beats a full house
· We do Pump 'N Right
· We'll take crap from anybody.
· Satisfaction guaranteed or your merchandise cheerfully returned.
· Your poop is our bread and butter!
· Your brown is our green.

If you have a
septic system on your property, check with city hall for specific time frames. While once every three years is required in Ham Lake, it is once every two years in Lino Lakes. Most cities require that the tank, drain field and baffles of the system be checked at the same time. The licensed contractor will provide a completed permit to the city to document the inspection.

This is not an optional inspection. If you choose not to inspect your system, the city might do it for you. Then you could be on the hook for additional fines and charges from your city.

Copyright 2013

Backyard Pond? Take Steps Now so YOUR Koi Survive the Minnesota Winter!

Koi ponds are beautiful additions to a Minnesota backyard in the summertime. But how do the fish survive a Minnesota winter?

I have sold a few homes with ponds and waterfalls that hold beautiful koi, a fish that resembles a giant goldfish. One sale took place in the dead of a Minnesota winter. Thank goodness the buyers were “koi-experts”.  They knew if the pond wasn't properly winterized, the fish could all be dead under the ice.

Of course when I looked at the pond, I figured they had to be goners already. It can get very cold in January and February and we hit some brutally low temps that year. But the pond and fish did survive because the seller did take proper steps in the fall.

Well it’s that time of year again and if you do have a koi pond in your Minnesota backyard, it’s time to prepare your pond for the winter ahead.

 Here are a few important tips to help your Koi Survive the Minnesota Winters.

Clean the Pond—Before the water temperature of the pond drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, vacuum all sludge and debris from the bottom of the pond.  Test and treat for parasites and bacteria.

Shut off Water—When temps drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit make sure all water sources are off and pipes drained. The water must cool to keep reduce the body temperatures of the fish.

Don’t Allow to Freeze—Use a de-icer or aerator to maintain a small hole in the ice to remove toxic gases like ammonia that will accumulate under the ice.

Don’t Feed—Once pond water hits 55 degrees Fahrenheit and stays at that temp day and night for 10 days, it is time to stop feeding and shut off the water.

Copyright 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Real Estate Word of the Day: Equity

From time to time I will be working with  home buyers and be struck by the confusion in their eyes when I talked about escrow or earnest money. These can easily be confused with other real estate and mortgage terms like down payment or cash to close. This confusion is a reminder that simple terms I use everyday as a REALTOR® might be unknown to others. It is totally understandable because most homebuyers do not buy houses everyday.
There are so many terms that could possibly confuse a first time home buyers and repeat home buyers alike, that I thought an online glossary of real estate terms might be helpful. From time to time, I have written about these essential terms. It is a series of posts for the first time home buyers where I explain some of the most often used (and sometimes confusing) real estate terms. This way you can skip buying that big “how to buy a house” book and have a quick resource at your fingertips. Today’s Real Estate Term is:

EQUITYThe amount of ownership one has in a property is the equity. This means if a home is appraised at $200,000 and the homeowner owes the bank $150,000, he would have $50,000 in equity.

An FHA buyer initially has very little equity because of the very low down payment required for the loan (usually 3.5%). Whereas a conventional buyer, who puts down 20% or more on the home, will have a greater percentage of equity.

It is important for a first time buyer to understand this term because it can be used in property descriptions. A home that is in a “negative equity" position is a short sale. This means the homeowner owes more to the bank than the home is worth in the current real estate market.

Other real estate ads will describe homes as an “equity builder”. This is where a buyer can build equity in the home faster by making improvements like finishing a basement so the home increases in value more quickly than if nothing is done on the home.

Another term used by REALTORS® in advertisements is “sweat equity”. This is similar to an equity builder but often describes a home that could need significant work to bring the property to its full value.


Copyright 2014


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Speechless Sunday (Almost)--It's Hard to Hide an Elephant

You know the old saying about ignoring the elephant in the room, right? It goes to say, that an elephant can be hard to hide too.

This translates to real estate when selling your home. If you need to make a repair, don't just gloss over it. A buyer (or buyer's inspector) will find it. I have shown homes where substandard repairs were made by unskilled homeowners. It doesn't help. You have to make the repair correctly or "the elephant" will be easy to spot!

Copyright 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tips for the First Time Homebuyer—Get a Home Inspection!

Yea!! You just found home the perfect place to call home—Your DREAM HOME!  As you sit with your REALTOR®  to write up your offer, she asks, “Do you want to do an inspection?” And suddenly, all reason and goes out the window because you answer, “Inspection? Do we really NEED an inspection? The house looks perfect!”

As a REALTOR® representing clients throughout the north and east Minneapolis and St Paul metro, I am surprised when someone opts to forgo an inspection. Buying a home is the single most important purchase most people will make in their lives. It is important to have a non-biased professional inspect the property for defects prior to the final papers being signed.

Homebuyers can have a number of questions about a home inspection. Frequently I hear, what does the inspector check in a home inspection? Who selects the inspector? Who pays buyer or seller? What is the cost of an inspection? What really needs to be inspected?

I believe every buyer, first time or not, should inspect a home they purchasing. But there are different types of few different types of inspections. A total home inspection does cover the house, but often additional experts are required to inspect the total property. And sometimes additional or special testing is required so that the buyer can have a better understanding of the home they are purchasing.

Total Home Inspection—$400-600 depending on the size of home and company selected for the inspection. The fee it is paid for by the buyer.  This is a great starting point for most home buyers and it may be the only inspection necessary for most single family homes.  The basic inspection will be a 2-3 hour top to bottom look at the house; usually including a review of the roof, foundation, mechanicals, structure and built in appliances to ascertain if they are in proper working order. Other testing could be recommended if the home inspector notices any particularly unusual situation that will need expert evaluation. Some inspection companies will charge additional fees for checking outbuildings and unusual features so verify what is covered under the basic service prior the scheduled appointment.

Septic Compliance Inspection—$400-500 for the inspection plus $300-$500 to pump the septic system before the test can be performed. This test is requested by the buyer but traditionally paid for by the seller. In Minnesota, if the septic system is found incompliant, the state will be notified and the homeowner will have one year to bring it up to code. In the case of a foreclosure or short sale, the property owner may insist that the buyer pay for all inspections including the septic system. The cost of purchasing a home with the septic system AS-IS can be risky as the cost of replacing a failing or non-conforming system is $15,000-$20,000.

Well Inspection—$150-$250 This is an inspection of the well by a licensed well installer to determine if the well is in good operating condition. The fee can be paid for by either the buyer or the seller.

Well Water Testing—$100-$200 depending on which elements the water is tested for. In most cases, this test is paid for by the seller. The water is collected by the independent testing service and some tests will take up to two weeks for results unless additional fees are paid for rush testing. Most often a test is for will require a water test for bacteria and nitrates. Some buyers will also request a test for lead.

Inspection for Radon—$150-250 usually paid for buy the buyer. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. It is found in many Minnesota homes entering through cracks in basement foundations and open tops of block walls. It is colorless and odorless so most homeowners are not aware of a problem unless the home has been tested. It is estimated by the Minnesota Department of Health Radon Information page, that 1/3 of Minnesota homes have radon levels that pose a substantial risk to homeowners.  As of January 1, 2014, sellers in Minnesota will have to disclose if there is a known radon risk in the home.

Inspection for Lead—$200-300 usually paid for buy the buyer. Home sellers are required to disclose whether there are any known risks of lead in all homes built prior to 1978. Lead was a common ingredient in paint prior before 1978. Many homeowners have not tested so they are not aware of lead risks in the home. It is important to assume that older painted surfaces used paint containing lead. If these surfaces have been painted the risk is limited. But home buyers do have an option to have additional testing completed on the home they purchase. The Minnesota Department of Health has additional recommendations for testing a home for lead on their website lead poisoning can cause permanent problems with health, learning and behavior in children and significant health problems with adults. 


Mold Inspections—$200-$1000 Mold testing is costly and according to the Minnesota Department of Health Mold Information Page, it does not need to be done for most homes unless there is an indication of a problem. Stucco homes built in the late 1990’s with poor air circulation have been known to have significant potential problems. Homeowners with stucco homes will often test the home prior to listing and have a report for the buyer to review. Buyers can also elect to retest the home if the previous report is not acceptable to the buyer.  If a foreclosure and short sale owner does not have the funds to do the expensive moisture testing, the buyer may have to pay for the test or accept the home AS IS. This is a risk as repairs for full mold abatement can run into the tens of thousands of dollars and the home would be unlivable during the process. 

Copyright 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

10 Reasons North St Paul is an AWESOME Place to Call Home!

So what is the big draw to the town with the giant ever-smiling snowman? There is a love for this unique town that goes beyond the iconic snowman greeting those passing by on Highway 36.

People love living in North St Paul. The City of North St Paul, is located just EAST of St. Paul Minnesota along Highway 36. It is a quaint little town with a rich history that was founded in 1870 by Henry Castle on the banks of Silver Lake. He named the town’s main streets after his children, Henry, Helen, Margaret and Charles. When it incorporated in 1887, 221 people called the Village of North St. Paul home. From those humble beginnings, the town has grown considerably. As of 2008, nearly 12,000 people call the City of North St. Paul, Minnesota home.

Here is a top ten list of reasons why this community is such a great place to live.

#10—Water and Electric. Most cities provide the basic utilities of water and electricity to its residents. But few communities can boast water from five wells drilled deep into the earth for a pure, natural source of drinking water as well as their own power grid and wind turbine like North St. Paul can!

#9—Local Police and Fire. The City of North St. Paul is proud to have its own
police department and volunteer fire department.

#8—Cowern Elementary, Richardson Elementary, Webster Elementary and North St Paul High School. Go Polars! North St. Paul has three K-5 grade schools and a high school within its borders. Cowern and Webster Elementary schools are located on the south side of 36; Cowern at Margaret St and South Ave and Webster on North St Paul Rd just north of McKnight. While both Richardson Elementary and North High School are located on the north side of 36. Richardson bisects 16th Avenue and North is located along 11th Avenue. All three schools are an integral part of the North St. Paul/Maplewood/Oakdale School District #622.

#7—Silver Lake Park, Beach and Fishing Pier. Many North St. Paul children have learned to swim on brisk summer mornings in the water of
Silver Lake , a tradition that continues into today! Warm summer afternoons the beach and playgrounds are full of swimmers, fishermen and picnickers. Although there are several other parks and playgrounds scattered throughout North St. Paul, Silver Lake is one of the most often visited.

#6—Unique taste treats! Homemade French fries at
Village Pizza, Broasted Chicken from Pizza Factory and award winning homemade ice cream from the HomeTown Creamery ice cream shop are just a few of the delectable treats served daily in North St. Paul.

#5—Booya! The fall tradition of the
North St. Paul fireman’s booya is an experience that no resident of North St Paul can resist! After a night of cooking up a ‘secret recipe’stew in giant pots, the volunteer fire department serves up their brew for all. Whether purchased by the bowl or pot, it is a fall tradition enjoyed by community residents for nearly a century!

#4— Friday Night History Cruz. Love classic cars? Spend a Friday evening in North St. Paul for the
History Cruz. Hundreds of car enthusiasts invade the main street of downtown North St. Paul, 7th Avenue, to show off their prized vehicles and see the shiny chrome fenders of yesteryear.

#3—The Snowman. The snowman has been greeting the residents of North St. Paul since it was constructed in the 1970’s. It was originally downtown behind what is now K&J Catering, but later moved to a park at the corner of Hwy 36 and Margaret Street. For those keeping statistics, the snowman is 44 feet tall and weighs about 20 tons! The North St. Paul Snowman is also a social-media phenomena with OVER 10,000 likes on this Facebook Page.

#2—Eclectic Options for Living. Whether you want the convenience of a low-maintenance townhome, a historical turn of the century treasure, a 1950’s rambler or bungalow, or a recently constructed, modified two story, you can find an affordable option to rent or purchase in North St Paul.

#1—Friendly People. The number one reason for living in North St Paul is the welcoming community atmosphere. Isn’t that what most people search for in a place to call home?

Copyright 2013