Lillian Stocke
(218) 728-7753

Licensed in MN (Broker), WI (Agent)
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Lillian Stocke

(218) 728-7753

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Your no-nonsense real estate guide

May 2014

Home prices have been on the rise for two straight years.

What does this mean for YOU?

As reported in last month’s Market Update, year-over-year median home prices have been on the rise for two straight years in the 13-county metro area. What does this mean for you – whether you’re a buyer, seller or owner? Read on for details.


Inventory remains near a 10-year low, and year-over-year double digit price increases are almost becoming standard. These are two sure signs of a sellers’ market and if they both continue, smart sellers will be able to entice buyers for their properties at a fair price quite quickly.


Owners are coming out from underwater – a year-end report from CoreLogic shows that 9.9 percent of homeowners have negative equity on their homes, down from 16.4 percent at the end of 2012.

In fact, today’s market is changing so quickly that some homeowners are finding that their tax-assessed value is inaccurate.

If you’re a homeowner who isn’t sure what your home is worth, contact us for a FREE comparative market analysis. There’s no pressure and no obligation; we just want you to be informed about your current home value.


Prices and mortgage rates are rising, sure, but they both remain low from a historical perspective. If you’re ready to buy, then start the process now. Both rates and prices are expected to continue rising.

The good news for today’s buyers? When the market was saturated with foreclosures and short sales, investors were snapping up these distressed properties with cash offers, frustrating traditional homebuyers. These investors are now leaving the market as distressed sales dwindle. The result? Buyers are now competing for higher priced, higher quality homes – on a more even playing field.

Ready to see what’s out there? Search homes for sale now.

I don't have 20 percent for a down payment. Can I still buy?

Let’s face it, saving 20 percent of the price of a home is daunting – and depending on your current debt, job or other factors, it could take you a decade or more to save up that kind of cash.

Below, we outline a few alternative options to a 20 percent down payment. But remember, everyone is different, and so are their financial considerations. Before you get started on a path to homeownership, consult with a financial advisor.

FHA loans

FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and they can benefit first time homebuyers or those who are finding it hard to save up a 20 percent down payment. FHA home loans allow borrowers to pay as little as 3.5 percent in a down payment.

FHA loan do have limitations. First, FHA loans have a limit based on the median home prices of the region where you’re buying. (In short, you can’t buy a multi-million dollar lake home with an FHA loan – they’re meant for people who need a boost into a modest home.)

Next, FHA loans require you to pay mortgage insurance up front at closing, and also throughout the life of the loan. Mortgage insurance costs vary, so it’s critical that you factor this cost in when you’re considering buying. Talk to your home mortgage consultant, who can help you determine if an FHA loan is right for you.

VA loans

If you’re a veteran, you most likely know whether you are eligible for VA loans, which are private loans backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA loans are the only major loan type that doesn’t require a down payment and also don’t require mortgage insurance. Your home mortgage consultant can help you determine if you’re eligible; the eligibility guidelines are also available here.

Private mortgage insurance

If you can’t afford a 20 percent down payment, but also don’t qualify for FHA or VA loans, you still have options. A lender may agree to back your home loan, but require you to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI. PMI protects the lender if you default on your payments; as the borrower, you pay the premiums and the lender is the beneficiary on the policy.

Unlike an FHA loan, though, you won’t pay private mortgage insurance for the full life of the loan. A homeowner can request the cancellation of PMI once their equity position reaches 20 percent of the original value of the property. Once 22 percent equity is reached, the lender is required by law to cancel the PMI. (Source: The Homeowner’s Protection Act of 1998.)

In short, even if you don’t have the ability to save up a 20 percent down payment, you may still be eligible for a loan. Talk with a financial advisor or a home mortgage consultant to determine the most responsible loan choice for you and your family.

Selling? Know how to leverage multiple offers

We’re in a sellers’ market – which means that buyer demand is high, and inventory is low. Multiple offers are common in a sellers’ market and for a seller, multiple offers are a good thing.

A multiple offer puts you in the driver’s seat and increases the odds that you’ll sell your home for the price you want. Here’s how to prepare for a multiple offer situation:

First, have your home pre-inspected. This reduces the chance of any sort of surprise that could spook your buyers, and possibly ruin your deal.

Next, consider getting a home warranty, which reduces the buyer’s risk and instills confidence – giving your home a competitive advantage.

VIDEO: Multiple offer tips for sellers

In a multiple offer situation, the best offer may not always be the one with the highest price. There are many factors that come into play, such as price, closing costs and closing dates. For example, a seller may earn more in the long run by accepting a lower offer where they don’t pay any closing costs, as opposed to accepting a higher bid where they do pay at closing.

Next, be sure to check that the buyer is pre-approved for the mortgage loan amount needed to buy the home and that they are working with a credible lender. Sometimes, the decision can be about who is the most financially qualified to buy the home.

Getting multiple offers on your home definitely gives you, the seller, the advantage. But it’s important you know how to evaluate these offers, too. Reach out today to speak to an experienced agent who knows how to leverage the current marketplace and landscape.

Dreaming of a lakeshore home? You're not alone.

The Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR) reports that pending sales of private waterfront properties were up nearly 6 percent from February 2013 through January 2014 over the previous year.

This sales increase is occurring even as the inventory of private waterfront homes for sale is down 12 percent.

The high demand and low inventory of homes means that buyers interested in lakefront properties should move quickly – typically, January is when waterfront sales begin rising, and this year is no exception.

Additionally, buyers should expect to pay more for a waterfront property, whether they’re interested in a luxury lake home or a smaller cabin. As of January, the median sale price of a home on the waterfront is $382,000 compared to $188,000 for a non-waterfront home.

Ready to begin your search? Check out my customized Lakeshore and land search page to find waterfront properties in your price range and preferred location.

Minneapolis one of the fastest growing cities in the nation

A recent report from Forbes investigated what cities are growing the fastest, and Minneapolis was among the leaders.

To determine the fastest growing cities, Forbes assessed the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas for six different metrics – including population growth, job and economic growth and unemployment rates.

By this measure, Minneapolis was the 17th fastest-growing city in the nation. But aside from its strong population growth (a rate of 1.01 percent in 2013), Minneapolis enjoys a number of other advantages for those looking to move to the area.

According to the Forbes report, median pay in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan area is $63,400.

Speaking of good business practices, the unemployment rate in Minneapolis is 4.37 percent, well below the national rate of 6.6 percent. This isn’t too surprising – last year, Forbes called Minnesota the 8th best state in the nation for business.

Save your lawn from the effects of the polar vortex

After the roughest winter in decades, your yard will need some extra TLC this spring. Follow these easy steps to greener pastures.

Step One

Once the ground is fully dry, stimulate growth by raking the lawn lightly. This will remove excess debris and aerate the soil. Target areas that were damaged over the winter by salt spray and critter activity. Also pay special attention to the borders of your lawn that line the street.

Step Two

Layer your new growth like a sandwich. Spread lawn seed in needed areas. Follow that with a light raking to make contact between seed and soil. Be careful about over-watering, you simply want to dampen the topsoil. A thin layer of straw on top will seal in the moisture needed for the seeds to mature.

Step Three

If spring rains fail to keep the newly seeded areas moist, sprinkle lightly each week until the seeds sprout.

Step Four

Aerate the entire surface a total of three times once new grass begins appearing.

Step Five

A flooded lawn may take more time to repair. Excess silt clogs the lawn’s ability to regenerate itself and may require fall re-sodding or reseeding.

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