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Donald Seipke

Licensed in MN (Agent)
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Don Seipke


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The Dos and Don'ts of buying a lakeshore home

Ready to dive into owning a lake home? As the local lakeshore experts, let us walk you through the elements you should prioritize – and what should come second as you make your decision.

Do select a specific distance
It’s easy to say, “Any lake home will do!” but in reality, you should create parameters for where you’d like to end up. Consider how far you’d like to be from your primary residence – two to three hours is ideal if it will be a weekend abode.

Don’t forget to account for traffic
Pay attention to the commute during high-traffic times like Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Those two-way highways can be a breeze - or a nightmare - and you should be prepared for every summer weekend to be a worst-case scenario.

Do talk with your agent to determine if you can afford lakeside vs. lake access
Homes located just off the lake are much cheaper than those directly adjacent, and many lakes have access via community docks, beaches and boat drops. Lake access may be a great money saving option if you plan to spend more time on the hammock than on the water. If you can’t give up a nightly boat cruise, you should probably stick to lakeside residence. As a licensed Realtor, I have the tools to help you determine the cost/benefit analysis of this tricky choice.

Don’t buy the boat before the lake house
Lakes have different boat and motor size limitations, so it’s critical that you don’t buy a vessel that ends up restricting your lake options. If you have a boat size in mind, we can customize your search to lakes that match your needs.

Do come in ready to make an offer
Vacation home sales are up nearly 30% over last year, but inventory isn’t keeping up with demand. Together, we can work to determine your budget. Then, when you find the Minnesota or western Wisconsin waterfront home that’s best for you, we'll be ready to act fast.

Even with rising prices, your home is still underwater. What happens now?

Recent reports from CoreLogic show that fewer than 10 percent of Twin Cities homeowners are underwater on their mortgages; this is both better than the national average and down from a staggering 20 percent two years ago, when prices were at their lowest.

Home prices are still on the rise, but at a slower rate than last year. Distressed homeowners who were hoping for the surge to continue may now be wondering what their options are.

1. Ride it out
If you can continue to pay your mortgage, it’s probably worth it to do so since your property’s value will likely continue to rise at recent levels. However, trading up will likely be more difficult for you, as your current home won’t offer the equity needed to make a smooth upward transition. So, if you can, try to save on the side for your future down payment.

2. Rent it out
One continued side effect of the economic recovery is that rental properties are in high demand. Meanwhile, interest rates remain low and prices have still not returned to their pre-bust levels. It’s a good time to buy and a great time to be a landlord. If it’s an option for you to buy another small property, do the research and find a popular area where renters may pay more than the proposed mortgage payment. If you’re not in a position to buy, consider renting a room or area of your current property to help keep you afloat.

3. Get out
There’s no shame in admitting that you’re headed toward crisis and need to take steps to get out of your bad situation. One option you have when you’re in a negative equity position is to short sell your home. A short sale is when the bank agrees to allow you to sell your home for less than what you owe on the mortgage(s).

It’s important to remember that the “short” in short sale refers to the seller being in the red – not the amount of time it takes for the sale to go through. In fact, the process of short selling can often take months, as the lender(s) of the original mortgage are very selective of the offer they accept.

An Edina Realty short sale expert was recently quoted in the Star Tribune on this topic, explaining that the process of a short sale can be complicated because it “requires the cooperation of many parties.” Still, short sales are a much preferred solution to foreclosures. Both can negatively affect your credit, but short sales are preferred by lenders and communities in general.

If you’re in financial distress and aren’t sure what comes next, reach out anytime. I have the resources and can point you in the right direction to get out of a situation that sometimes feels impossible to fix.

The pros and cons of building a new construction home

With low inventory impacting the local and national markets, new construction is seeing its first post-recession spike. If you’re considering buying, check out this list of pros and cons to see if you should build your next home or buy an existing one.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that new construction has higher upfront costs than existing homes, but there are other factors to consider. For example, an older home may be less energy efficient, and costs to use or replace old appliances and infrastructure can add up.

When you buy an existing home, you can move in as little as one month from the purchase date. However, buyers in our current market are finding that low inventory is slowing their ability to purchase. While new construction takes between four and six months to complete, knowing you’re in greater control of the process may be worth the wait.

It can be difficult to find a lot in the city or first-ring suburbs. It’s easier to build in communities on the outskirts of the city. New construction owners may have longer commutes, but the lots further away from the city may also be larger than existing home lots.

Should you buy or rent?

In general, financial experts posit that buying beats renting in the Twin Cities, but rising home values could soon price buyers out of certain markets. Below, we walk you through some of the benefits and disadvantages of both renting and buying.

1. Equity
First, if you’re renting, you are helping the homeowner gain equity – or value – in their home. A home, when it appreciates as expected, can act as a bank account later in life when the owner sells for more than they originally paid. If you spend your days renting while home prices are rising, the only person who benefits is your landlord. Meanwhile, if you owned the home, you could pay the mortgage off in time for retirement and reap the financial benefits. Point: Homeownership

2. Repairs
On the other hand, homeownership can have a lot of unexpected costs. So while the cost of rent may increase annually, almost anything can go wrong when you own a home. As a renter, you’re off the hook for everything from appliance failures to plumbing issues to general upkeep. As a homeowner, you have to budget for unexpected house failures and annual fees like property taxes. Point: Renting

3. Market uncertainty
The housing crash represents the greatest risk that homeowners take on. Home prices were skyrocketing and buyers were approved for mortgages well beyond their means. When buying a home, it’s critical to understand what you can afford long-term. Today there are better safeguards in place to ensure buyers aren’t in over their heads and historically low rates and comparatively low home prices mean that buying now may be a smarter choice than it was in 2006. However, there are no guarantees when it comes to home price appreciation. Point: Draw. Homeownership, if you have a smartly planned budget and can afford it. Renting if you want to avoid all risk of potential price depreciation.

4. Freedom
It may seem minor, but owning a home means you never have to track the number of holes you put in your living room wall and you can bring home that darling rescue dog without asking for permission. The “American Dream” has long been homeownership and it’s still alive and well. Point: Homeownership

In the end, we believe that when rental costs are nearly the same or higher than buying costs - as they are in many local communities - homeownership is a no-brainer.

Still, you can determine what’s best for you by entering your financials into this interactive Rent vs. Buy calculator in the New York Times to see what you can afford.

If you’re ready to see what your rent money would look like when translated to the buying market, search homes for sale here. (Every listing shows an estimated monthly mortgage payment, so you can easily compare within your price range.) When your'e ready to get serious, reach out and we'll get started on everything from pre-approval to in-person home showings.

Easy exterior updates you can tackle this weekend

Whether you’re gearing up to sell or just want curb appeal you can appreciate after your commute, follow these easy tips to get your home’s exterior in tip-top shape.

First, start with your front door. If it’s unpainted or matches your home’s exterior paint or paneling, consider giving it a boost with a contrasting paint job. Bright red is traditional but fun, while other homeowners may prefer something funky like teal, bright yellow or even a warm purple. Even vinyl doors can be painted, but be sure to check with your local hardware store for the correct paint type to withstand weather conditions in your area.  

Next, give your pizza delivery guy a break! Upgrade the address numbers on your house so that they really stand out. Also, check your exterior lights to be sure none of them need new bulbs. If you have a pathway that leads to your front door, consider in-ground solar LED lights, which are easy to install and offer nighttime guests an extra sense of comfort.

Last, head to the shrubs. Start by trimming your bushes and hedges back to the same height, especially under windows and near walkways. If you don’t have much of a green thumb, head to your local nursery and ask them for suggestions on large potted plants that are about to come into their prime. Buy a combination of colors and textures and display them in random combinations surrounded by mulch or woodchips.  

Whether you're ready to sell or just ready to pull into your driveway with a smile on your face, setting aside one weekend to recharge your home's curb appeal can go a long way.

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