Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lakeshore Dreaming? Ice Out is Here—Time to Start Shopping

With today’s April shower, there is no doubt that the ice on lakes throughout the north and east Twin Cities metro will drop. Ice out is when the ice finally drops to the bottom of the lake and in Minnesota that also means, the for sale signs start going up.

If you have been dreaming of living on one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, consider the north metro. There are options that will fit almost any budget from fixer-upper cabins to high end executive homes.  I took a quick look at the MLS today and there are nearly a hundred options for the would-be lakehome owner.  Most are on full recreational, multi-use lakes like Coon Lake in Anoka County or Forest Lake in Washington County. Surprisingly these properties are often available at prices comparable to homes without a shoreline. 

How can Minnesota lakeshore be so affordable? It appears that prices are not rising on lake properties as quickly as in other categories. From what I have seen, prices are stagnant or in some cases lower than last year.  While on the whole the housing inventory is down, this is not the case for lakehomes. There has been an abundance of these shoreline beauties every spring and summer which has been keep prices affordable.

Copyright 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

6 Spring Home Maintenance Tips for your Honey-Do List!

Yesterday was the warmest Minnesota day so far in 2014. In fact, it was the warmest day since mid-October of last year! It finally feels like spring is here. Soon many homeowners in the Minneapolis/St Paul metro will be starting "honey-do" list of spring projects. Keeping your home in tiptop shape is essential in maintaining your property’s value. Even if you don’t intend to sell your home this summer, there are a few essential things to check, repair and or replace after a long winter.

As a Minnesota REALTOR®, I see often see homes that have not been properly cared for. Throughout Anoka County, Chisago County and northern Washington County, the areas where I work extensively, I have seen houses with interior ceiling damage from leaking roofs, severely cracked driveways and worn out decks that are frankly too scary to stand on.

Surprisingly, some of these properties are not foreclosures or distressed sales. Some sellers just don’t want to make repairs prior to selling for a homebuyer’s benefit. But since they deferred all the maintenance for several years, they are faced with having to make thousands of dollars in repairs in order to sell for top dollar. Not making the repairs means being priced to compete directly with distressed properties selling at thousands less. Neither choice is appealing to a home seller.

With hindsight being 20/20, many of these property wish they could turn back time and keep the home in better condition all along and enjoy the benefits of a well maintained home. There is less sticker-shock if  you assess your property on an annual basis and make necessary repairs as required rather than all at one time just prior to selling.

Here are 6 spring maintenance tips that will not only beautify your home, but also aid in retaining your home’s value for years to come:

Roof—Walk around the exterior of your home with binoculars if necessary and check for any missing shingles that may have been blown off during a winter storm. If any shingles are missing or you see other concerns such as curling or broken corners, bring in a contractor to assess the situation. Make repairs promptly to avoid water damage to the interior of your home.

Siding—Power wash debris buildup from vinyl or aluminum siding. Buildup can stain siding overtime. Be thoughtful of where you place your sprinklers and BBQ grill. Iron rich water can cause staining and a hot grill near vinyl siding will cause it to melt.

Deck—Check for any settling or worn boards on your deck. Pay special attention to any steps as damage often occurs in the corners where wet debris can collect and rot the wood. If the supports of your deck appear to be pulling away from the home or if the boards are weather-worn, have it reviewed by a professional before that first summer barbeque.

Paint & Stain—Did the harsh winter sleet, snow and ice cause the paint or stain on your siding, trim or deck to start to peel? Make repairs promptly to minimize damage to wood below.

Gutters—Gutters filled with leaves? Take the time to clean out to prevent water backups. Keeping water away from the foundation is the best way to keep water out of your basement. If your gutters are clogged, they cannot do the job and the rains will pour right over the clogged-gutter’s edge near the walls of your home. Consider adding screens or guards to prevent leave buildup in the future.

Driveway—This past year’s brutal winter with its deep was especially tough on roads throughout the metro. Your asphalt driveway might have taken a beating too. Cracks and holes need to be filled or they will get worse. It is recommended that blacktop driveways also be seal-coated every 2 years and possibly more often if located in an open area with long term sun exposure.

Copyright 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

Does a 666 Address affect the Value of a Home?

As a REALTOR® who works in the north and east Minneapolis/St Paul metro, one of my favorite things to do is provide people with a comparative market analysis of their home. I work hard to get the price right whether it is for a single family home, an urban condo, a hobby farm or property with a lakeshore view. Getting the price right is imperative to selling quickly in any real estate market.  But every once in a while a house will come along that is affected has an unusual stigma. The most common is what I call the "Busy Road Factor".  It is just what it sounds like.  The home is by all accounts a great property but it is located on a busy road. This situation dramatically affects the number of interested buyers because most people avoid living on busy roads.

I drive thought Anoka, Ramsey  & Washington Counties on a regular bases. As a real estate agent, I tend to take many of the same major roads day after day. Of course I notice the for sale signs that pop up along these roads. Often a sign goes up and then 6 months or a year later the sign is switched out on the same house when they try a new real estate agent…sold signs go up slowly along busy roads. A home seller is literally dead in the water before the house is listed if they do not account for the negative impact the road will have on their sale price.  But what other things affect price that are not quite as obvious. How about an address?

Recently, homeowners in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota paid to have their house number changed from 666 to the less eyebrow raising number 668.  This got me thinking about whether or not homes sold slower with these unusual digits. I decided to run a search for sold homes with this infamous address. I wasn’t too surprised that this was not a very common address. Of the handful of 666 addressed homes that were sold in the past few years, the properties didn’t linger on the market for more than a few days or weeks. Almost all were foreclosures…that is a sign or coincidence, depending on your level of superstition.

"Location, Location Location" is the real estate mantra. If your home is located on a busy road, you cannot change it the same way you can petition to change your address. The best you can do is change the selling price. In order to sell, you need to factor in for the busy road. This will mean pricing your home significantly lower than all other homes on the market with similar features to attract buyers.

This phenomenon does not only affect properties on busy roads! There are other undesirable location situations that are very tough sells when the market is good but become next to impossible when there are many homes for the buyers to select from.  These unwanted locations include properties which are next to or near the following:
  •     Cemeteries
  •     Industrial Parks
  •     Huge Power Lines/Transformers
  •     Gas Pipelines
  •     Landfills
  •     Airports
  •     Prisons
  •     Flood plains
  •     Train Tracks
  •     Shopping centers
  •     Gas Stations
  •     Open Land either for sale or not that has undetermined development potential
  •     Gun ranges
  •     Auto Salvage Yards and other disposal businesses

Tips for Dealing with the Busy Road Factor to get your home SOLD

  1.     Be Realistic. Don't ignore the elephant in the room. Set your price reflecting the undesirable location
  2.     Best Foot Forward Make sure everything else regarding your home is a positive. Make any and all repairs, stage the home and market its unique positive features.
  3.     Work with a Professional REALTOR® An experienced professional real estate agent can assist you in pricing your home correctly factoring in all adverse conditions.
  4.     Be Ready to Negotiate. When buyers submit a purchase agreement for review, don't pass on a low offer. Counter and try to reach terms that are acceptable for both parties.
  5.     Be Patient. In most cases, a property affected by the Busy Road Factor, will required twice the market time compared to the average home.

Copyright 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Completing a Minnesota's Home Seller Disclosure--What is a Unique Well Number?

Every time I do a listing on acreage I fear for my sellers getting writer's cramp with the amount of pages they need to complete. In addition to the Minnesota's seller’s disclosure form for residential real estate which runs about 9 pages, there is a 3 page well disclosure and another 3 pages to disclose anything and everything known about the private sewer or  septic system plus the handy-dandy location map to note where the well/septic are located. Add in the federally required lead based paint disclosure if the home was constructed prior to 1978 just for fun.  Plus there's a form that must be completed if the property was ever used for the production of methamphetamine, but thankfully, most home sellers do not have to complete that one. This makes the grand total of required disclosure paperwork for most acreage homes in Minnesota to be 16-18 pages. That’s quite a bit of writing but it is essential when selling your home...and it needs to be completed correctly.

I counsel my clients selling homes on acreage to complete their disclosures in detail because interested buyers need to know the correct information. When it comes to the well disclosure, it is very easy to complete properly if the home was constructed in the last few decades. This information is online and has been for years. Sadly, many sellers don't know how to look up their well, so often the forms are incomplete. 

How do you find your Minnesota  Well?  If the well on you property was constructed after 1975, use the Minnesota Department of Health’s Unique Well Number LOOK UP TOOL 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. The tag gives the number but not the depth of the well and it can be difficult to read. I recommend to my sellers to use the well number look up tool, print the report and attach it to the disclosure.
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 always work well with newer browsers like Firefox and Chrome. There isn’t a mobile app for this 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 having all the correct details on the disclosures. It takes a bit of research, but in the end, it will give a buyer the information they need to make an informed decision. Since many other sellers leave this information blank, homeowners who go the extra mile will make their property stand out from the rest!

Copyright 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Speechless Sunday (Almost) Thinking Spring!

The unexpected temperatures nearing 60 degrees this afternoon in my Anoka County backyard are making me think that our crab apple blossoms may actually bloom soon. Spring is here on the calendar and warmer temperature have the real estate market really heating up. Buyers are out, but the housing supply is limited right now throughout the Minneapolis/St Paul metro. This is giving home sellers the upper-hand right now but only until the spring housing supply catches up. If you were waiting until spring to list your home, now is the time!

Copyright 2014