Get Insights September 2015 Agent | Lil Stocke
Lillian Stocke
(218) 728-7753

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

(218) 728-7753

September 2015


The ultimate curb appeal checklist for home sellers 

Whether you’re looking to attract buyers online or in-person, curb appeal is one of the most important things a home seller can master. It’s common to believe that curb appeal is meant to make a home shine, but the real goal is to draw the buyer from the curb to the front door. The best mentality for a buyer to have is, “I hope this property is as amazing inside as it is on the outside.”

Here are insights you can use to add curb appeal to your Minnesota or western Wisconsin home, plus a quick checklist you can follow before you list your property. Follow #SellerInsights on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for more ideas on home staging, negotiating through multiple offers as a seller and more.

Home maintenance and cleaning

When it comes to maintenance, we recommend starting from the top down. If your roof is sagging or will bring down the overall appeal of the home in photographs or in person, you may want to consider replacing it. Otherwise, you can replace shingles and make sure that any leaks or gaps are filled in. Don’t forget to clean and straighten your gutters, too.

Let’s move down to the siding of the home. Start by washing the exterior of the home, either with a pressure washer (be sure to keep the pressure gauge low near windows) or with a hose, pressure sprayer and scrub brush. Once you’ve removed the dirt and debris, you can determine whether the home needs a new paint job or if you can get by with freshening up a few trouble spots.

Wash every window on the exterior and the interior. The best way to get streak-free windows is to nix the paper towels and use crumpled up newspapers instead. 

Repaint the trim, shutters and the railings of the front porch or deck. Nearly every home will benefit from painting these surfaces, and it’s much cheaper and less time-consuming than redoing the siding of the house. 

Last, look at the walkways and driveway to determine whether they just need some holes and cracks patched, or if they need to be completely redone. Here’s a great tutorial from This Old House on how to renew concrete surfaces that have seen better days.

Landscaping and yard work

The goal of curb appeal is to draw a buyer’s eye from their car to the front door of the home, and great landscaping can do just that. Look first at the walkway (not driveway) of the home. Drawing attention to the walk up to the home is the most important thing to keep in mind when landscaping for curb appeal. 

Whether the walkways are short or long, be sure to use in-ground plants and solar LED lights to help them shine in daylight or at night. The landscaping grand finale should include plenty of plants at the home’s front entrance, whether they are in-ground or in pots or (freshly painted) window boxes.

Of course, we don’t want to forget about the foundation of your front yard. If your lawn is mostly grass, be sure to fill in any problem areas with new sod, water your lawn to keep it lush and mow it often. If you have a lot of mulch, be sure to get rid of the old stuff and replace it. Be sure to pack it tightly around your existing plants for even coverage.

The finishing touches

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the fun part! The final details are usually the most exciting and cost-effective updates for homeowners.

It’s undeniable that a new front door is the best curb appeal update you can take on. Not only will it likely recoup 105 percent of the cost at resale, it will change the entire vibe of your home’s exterior. Consider painting it a complementary bright color to really give it an extra pop.

Does your home’s front walkway or porch have room for a seating area? Seating is another great way to draw attention to the home, so look into new benches, porch swings or casual chairs to showcase how great the home is for entertaining or relaxing. Adding outdoor cushions, lanterns and small side tables will also help the space look more inviting.

Last, look at the fixtures — all of them. It’s common for homeowners to replace fixtures only when they break, which results in a hodgepodge of looks. Sync the exterior look by purchasing new doorbells, doorknockers, house numbers, mailboxes or mail slots and outdoor light fixtures that match or go well together. If your home’s vibe is modern, you can get away with mixing and matching, while more traditional homes will benefit from a set that is in the same finish.

Prioritizing your updates

No one understands curb appeal like a professional real estate agent who show homes every day. The list above is exhaustive, but your home may be able to sell with fewer updates if it’s in great condition or in a popular area. To get local insights on the curb appeal you’ll need to sell your home, reach out todayreach out today and we’ll get started on the home selling process.


What you should know if you start building a home in the fall

The fall is a common time for new construction buyers to look at new development options, secure financing and plan for a spring or summer move-in date. If you’re planning to purchase new construction this fall, here are insights you can use as you make your move.

You’ll benefit from attending the Parade of Homes

The 67th annual Parade of Homes tour begins Sept. 12, 2015 and lasts through Oct. 4. The tour is open noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

While the Parade of Homes attracts many people who don’t intend to buy or build a new construction home, it’s also a great resource for serious buyers. Builders generate many sales from this event, so don’t hesitate to take the tour as seriously as you would a home showing. By attending together, we can be ready to discuss the specifics of the purchase and negotiations should you decide to buy. Builders will be showing off inventory that is ready to move in, or that is only a few months from being completed. By speaking with them during the Parade of Homes tour, you may find a home that will be move-in ready in just a few months’ time. If the home is partially completed, you also might be able to add your own finishing touches so it feels truly meant for you and your family.

Even if you don’t find your next house at the Parade of Homes, new construction homebuyers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin can use it to look at new design and technology trends, different neighborhoods and builder style and quality. It’s truly a great way to start the process regardless of when you plan to begin.

Locking in an interest rate now may be a good idea

After years of speculation, it’s likely that interest rates will begin rising this fall or next spring. To protect yourself against a steep increase in rates between now and the closing date on your new construction home, ask your mortgage lender for a locked rate. If your lender agrees to lock your rate, it means that your mortgage loan will have the locked rate even if rates increase between now and closing.

Together with your mortgage loan officer, we can determine if and when you should lock your mortgage interest rate this fall.

Consider adding a contingency in your purchase agreement

When buying a new construction home, it’s possible to add a contingency to the purchase agreement saying that the home sale can be cancelled if you are unable to sell your current home. This lessens your risk and can protect you from having to pay a mortgage on two separate homes. However, if you are carrying the construction loan on the new build or are building a more custom home, this may not apply. Together, we can determine the buyer demand for homes like yours and together you can determine if a contingency is the right call for you.

Start thinking through transitional housing options

If you choose not to add a contingency to your purchase agreement, be sure to have a good grip on your short-term housing options. Together with your builder, we can find the best option for you and your family if the need for transitional housing arises.

Common transitional housing options include:

  • Renting a single family house or town home with a short-term rental
  • Contracting with your buyers to rent your home back from them until your new home is ready for occupancy
  • Renting an apartment month-to-month or on short-term rental
  • Contracting with an extended stay hotel or inn
  • Staying with friends or family who have extra space or a vacant home

Ready to get started?

Building a home is an exciting process and demand for new homes in our market is high. If you’re ready to start building but don’t know where to start, reach out todayreach out today and we’ll walk you through the details.

Plus, don’t forget to check out #BuyerInsights and #SellerInsights on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter for more tips on the home buying and selling processes.


What do rising interest rates mean for first-time homebuyers?

The housing market has been in a unique balance over the last few years. Even as inventory has remained low—usually a clear sign of a sellers’ market—buyers have seen high affordability due to historically low interest rates. Now, 15 of the 17 policymakers for the Federal Reserve (which controls interest rates) have publicly stated that they believe rates will increase late this year or early in 2016. 

There is no question that first-time buyers would be the group most affected by increased mortgage interest rates. Here are insights you can use if you’re a first-time homebuyer in Minnesota or western Wisconsin. 

How affordability works

As interest rates increase, the buying power of a borrower is lessened. Let’s say a homebuyer has $1,200 to spend on their monthly mortgage payment. If rates are 3.92 percent and the borrower secures a 30-year fixed conforming loan, their loan could total around $250,000. The monthly mortgage payment in these conditions would be $1,182.

Now let’s say rates rise 1 percent to 4.92 percent. With all the mortgage terms remaining equal, the borrower would pay $1,197 for a loan totaling $225,000. That’s a difference of $25,000, or 10 percent, in buying power.

This matches the sentiments of lending experts who agree that if current rates increased 1 percent, buyers would lose 10 percent of their purchasing power. 

Why first-time buyers will be affected most

Many first-time buyers do not have a large down payment, and government and private lenders have changed their standards in order to accommodate these high earners with minimal savings. FHA loans can now be secured for as little as 3.5 percent down, while conventional (private) loans have a minimum of 3 percent down.

While these new minimums have prompted many first-time buyers to enter the market, it also means these buyers are relying heavily on financing. If rates were to rise 1 percent, most first-time buyers would not be able to increase their down payment to make up the 10 percent difference in affordability. If rates increase, their only choice will be to lower their home buying budget. 

The silver lining

It’s easy to be frustrated by the predictions of rising rates, but the reality is that our local market is still a great place to buy. Keep in mind that:

  • Minneapolis was recently ranked as one of the 10 best markets for millennial buyers, according to the National Association of REALTORS
  • First-time buyers can apply for down payment assistance on many homes in our area, which can offset the stress of a rate increase
  • Once you put your mind to it, saving a down payment can be achieved relatively quickly. 69 percent of first-time buyers reported it took them less than 18 months to save a down payment
  • Even if mortgage interest rates increase to 5 percent, that is still very low compared to historic highs of 16.63 percent in 1981

Getting ready to buy

Prepping to buy your first home is an exciting time and getting pre-approved is the best step you can take to start the process. A pre-approval will tell you the loan amount you will qualify for, allowing you to set a responsible budget (and expectations) as you begin looking at properties online and in person. 

Get pre-approved today, or get in contactget in contact to go through the mortgage process together.

Don’t forget to look at #BuyerInsights on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for more insights you can use to navigate the first-time home buying process.


What luxury homeowners should expect when they sell their home

When selling a luxury home, it’s critical that sellers know what to expect. Upper-bracket properties require specific marketing strategies and often behave differently on the market than homes at lower price points.

While there are many explanations for the high-end market behavior, the simplest explanation is that fewer people qualify for luxury properties, so the buyer pool reduces as home prices increase. Because luxury home sellers have unique properties, the process of selling them is unique, too. Here are four insights that every high-end seller should know before they list their home.

1. What qualifies as a luxury home, and how common are they?

Across Minnesota and western Wisconsin, homes priced above $500,000 are marked (and marketed) as luxury homes. In July 2015, there were about 16,600 total homes for sale in the 13-county Twin Cities metro and 18 percent of them were priced above $500,000. Only 4.4 percent of local homes were priced above $1 million.1

The market statistics analyzed on the nightly news are almost always discussing median-priced homes in the area. In July, our metro’s median home sales price was $215,000.2 While median-priced homes set the tone for the housing market as a whole, there are significant differences between how median-priced homes and luxury homes are marketed and sold.

2. How long does it take to sell a high-end home?

For the last few years, low inventory has given local sellers an advantage. When there are fewer homes for sale, buyers compete over a shortage of quality homes and sellers may close more quickly on their home. However, it’s important to remember that luxury homes have a smaller pool of buyers, so there is likely to be less competition among them. As a result, upper-bracket homes may take longer to sell

Let’s look at the hard numbers of days on market. Homes in our 13-county metro are selling in a median 44 cumulative days on market (CDOM), while homes between $500,000 and $750,000 have a median CDOM of 64 days. Homeowners with properties priced above $1 million are waiting a bit longer—their median CDOM is 108 days3, but nearly a third report market times of 10 months or longer depending on price, condition, location and more.

If you own a home in this upper bracket, it’s important to understand that showing activity relates directly to the number of buyers qualified to purchase your property.

3. Will my luxury home get multiple offers, too?

If you follow the local market, you’ve likely heard about the phenomenon of multiple offers. This occurs when a home is so desirable that multiple buyers bid on the property. When buyers compete, the seller can earn a higher amount than if only one buyer is interested—and in some cases, the seller may net even more than their original asking price.

Think back to that smaller pool of buyers that will be able to purchase your luxury home once it is for sale. While it’s possible that some high quality listings in trendy areas may glean multiple offers, luxury home sellers should not expect a multiple offer to occur in their sale.

4. A local specialist goes a long way

Even as we break down luxury market trends, it’s important to remember that this smaller segment varies widely in size, location and price. A home priced at $580,000 near Lake Harriet in south Minneapolis will likely have more potential buyers than a $3 million listing just a few miles away on Lake of the Isles.

In short, while it’s important to understand luxury trends when selling your home, it’s also critical not to over-generalize the high-end market. To sell your home at a competitive rate in the shortest amount of time possible, it’s important to work with someone who is familiar with your desired area. Get in contact today,Get in contact today, or if you’d prefer to start by understanding your home value, request a free home value assessment. There’s never any obligation to hire me when you have an assessment performed—sometimes it’s just nice to take the first step and know where you stand.

Curious what other #SellerInsights and #BuyerInsights we have covered? Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.

1, 2, 3: Regional Multiple Listing Service (RMLS)



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