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Painting, wallpaper and accent walls: How to choose the best wall vibe

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Key insights

  • Add a coat of paint or decorative wallpaper to your ceiling for an unexpected yet attractive feature.
  • Create an accent wall with Classic Blue, the Pantone 2020 Color of the Year.
  • Want wall colors that pop? Experts share the secret to vivid paint colors — a gray primer basecoat.

Whether you’re planning a bedroom makeover or refreshing your space as you stage your home for sale, there are many ways to enhance the vibe of your current walls. By refreshing the walls in your home, you’ll create a polished atmosphere that will wow potential buyers — or awaken your living space for personal enjoyment.

Here are insights you can use when upgrading the rooms in your home. Keep in mind that painting, applying wallpaper and designing accent walls are all popular and effective options.

Concentrate on the ceiling

Many homeowners invest in paint and fixtures for their walls, then consider the design process complete. However, there is a fifth wall in every room — the ceiling. It’s important not to overlook this home feature, as decorating the ceiling can add extra interest to any space.

To execute a thoughtfully crafted ceiling, consider painting the area with a bright hue or a color that contrasts with the rest of the room. This use of dramatic color can help make a statement in an otherwise standard room. Conversely, the addition of muted and neutral tones can create subtle dimensions in every room.

If you’re eager to take your ceiling plans to the next level, you might consider adding new textures and elements to the overhead wall. Natural wood panels and metallic tiles are both unique ways to distinguish your ceiling. Adhering removable wallpaper to the ceiling can be an appealing option for homeowners that want to add a bit of pizzazz to a room without committing to a forever change.

Try a new type of trim

Another way to add excitement to a room is through the wall trim and molding. Trim is an extremely versatile decor feature that has the ability to add fine details or bold statements to many rooms throughout the home.

Here are some ideas to get you started as you incorporate new kinds of trim in your space:

  • Paint trim a different color than walls.
  • Install trim made from special materials, like natural wood or fiberboard.
  • Combine ornate and plain trim styles or thick and thin trim styles.
  • Add panels to cabinets and doors.
  • Place molding around fireplaces, light switches, windows and more.

Cue in the 2020 Color of the Year

While having fun with color on the walls, ceilings and trim, try to integrate the Color of the Year in your home. The 2020 Pantone Color of the Year is Classic Blue, which is sure to captivate many homebuyers and set home sellers up for success.

This hue is known for its ability to create a calm yet confident ambiance. In addition, Classic Blue is the perfect way to enhance your wall vibe. This shade plays well with others — especially alongside white decor elements and can make for a nice accent wall color.

Maintain a monochromatic color scheme

By maintaining similar tones that derive from the same original hue throughout your home (think of tones like sage and light moss, or salmon and rosy pink), you’ll establish an overall feeling of continuity from one room to the next.

To create a monochromatic color scheme, take any paint color and lighten or darken it. To keep the tones consistent, you’ll likely want the help of a hardware or paint store that can professionally mix the paint and ensure the exact same colors even if you need several cans of each color.

Another compelling way to add interest to a monochromatic color palette is by altering the paint finish. Gloss, satin and matte paints can all be used throughout the home, even with the same hue of paint. Plus, playing with paint finish can add a soft yet attractive appeal to your walls.

Go with gray as a primer

Changing paint colors may seem daunting, especially if you’re covering a previously dark wall with a new lighter shade. However, gray paint can be your saving grace when it comes to wall primer. Whether you have existing darkness that needs to be covered up or you plan to paint your walls in a vivid color, you may want to ditch the traditional white primer.

In fact, a gray base coat can help create a more uniform color application and help you save time and money, as fewer coats of paint are needed to achieve the desired color.

Paint your way to a successful sale

Because walls are a major focal point of every room, your wall vibe can enhance or detract from the overall vibe of your space. Ensure that you’re making the most of your walls with modern paint colors, stylized wallpaper and proper application. By planning and executing these wall updates, you can help position your home for a successful sale.

When you’re ready to list your home for sale, reach out for help every step of the way.

How to plan an eco-friendly move with recycled materials

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Key insights

  • unwanted items before you move. This saves energy and time and ensures only the essentials are packaged and transported.
  • Use blankets and other soft fabrics to wrap fragile items like mirrors or wine glasses.
  • Take advantage of reusable, eco-friendly packing containers for a minimal waste move.

Despite our best efforts at greener living practices, the chaos of a move tends to generate extra waste. Be sure to keep these eco-friendly tips in mind whether you’re making a big move into an energy-efficient home or you’d simply like to reduce your waste as you transition between properties.

Declutter your belongings prior to moving day

If you’re planning a home relocation in advance, begin to declutter your home well before moving day. By getting rid of unwanted or unused belongings prior to the move, you’ll end up transporting fewer items from house to house. You’ll require fewer packing materials and will produce less waste — plus, the items that you no longer need can find a new home!

After you’ve organized your things, you’ll want to take donation items to a local collection center, such as Goodwill, Salvation Army or your local charity of choice. Or, you can plan a yard sale or post big-ticket items online.

When it comes to purging larger home goods like electronics, appliances and furniture, do some research to find places that may accept these items for recycling or other uses. You may be tempted to trash unwanted things if you’re decluttering at the 11th hour, but refrain from tossing these goods in the landfill. Remember, there’s usually a more sustainable option available — like the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity Restore.

Repurpose home goods as packing materials

It’s important to put careful consideration into the supplies you use to pack your belongings. When preparing for a move, get creative and make use of existing belongings to wrap your more fragile items. Here are simple ways to turn items you’re already planning to move into packing materials:

  • Use soft materials like blankets and towels to transport mirrors, art and other breakables.
  • Pull out your suitcases, duffels, garment bags and even sturdy shopping totes. Fill up these containers with packable items, rather than stowing them in moving boxes.
  • Separate dinner plates, glassware and cutlery with cloth napkins, t-shirts or saved newspapers.
  • Wrap collectibles and other small breakables with bed sheets and similar materials.

Use recycled packing materials

In addition to helping the environment, you can save money by opting for used packing boxes and materials. Check online on sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or Nextdoor to see if anyone is getting rid of packing materials. You can also plan ahead and ask your workplace to save boxes from shipments they receive.

If you come up empty-handed, try posting on these social sites asking for moving supplies. You can even reach out to family, friends or coworkers to see if anyone has leftover boxes, bubble wrap or tape. People tend to hold onto packing items because they don’t want to waste them and may be eager to clear them out of their storage room.

When everything is packed in whatever recycled materials you can scavenge, it’s time to color code your move. With labels on your boxes, you’ll know exactly what’s in each container and what room it should be unpacked in. This will help minimize the number of times you open and close already packaged belongings, reducing the amount of moving tape used.

Take advantage of reusable moving boxes

You can also look into a more modern moving option! Reusable boxes are becoming a popular option for movers. A variety of companies offer these portable, durable containers for the duration of your move. Some reusable moving box brands include:

These containers are much stronger than your average moving box. Plus, they eliminate the need for moving tape and post-move cardboard disposal.

Typically, moving a three-bedroom home with reusable boxes costs around $200. This price usually includes container delivery and a standard rental rate averaging two to four weeks.

Clean your new home with all-natural products

Once you get to your new home, it’s time to clean your new space and unpack your belongings. Be sure to sanitize your space with eco-friendly cleaners or homemade household disinfectants. All-natural ingredients are better for the environment and they’re also safer for you, your family and your pets.

Finally, check to see if any of the materials used in your move are compostable. Composting these supplies can reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills after your move. Popular packing materials that can be composted include:

  • String
  • Twine
  • Newspaper
  • Starch-based packing peanuts

Take a step toward greener living

A few small eco-friendly changes can make a significant impact on the environment during your move, and homebuyers and sellers alike can take advantage of these tips as they transition properties. And, they can also save you money!

Are you ready to take a step toward greener living? Reach out to find energy-efficient homes in your desired area.

Five questions first-time buyers should ask when hiring a real estate agent

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Key insights

  • Be sure to hire a REALTOR® you truly like and trust. Don’t be afraid to keep asking questions until you feel confident in moving forward.
  • Make sure your Realtor knows the specifics about your market area. Together we will dig deep into the numbers and specifics of your preferred neighborhoods.
  • Ask for a referral to a trusted lender who can get you pre-approved for a home mortgage loan.

Buying your home is likely one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make, so it’s important to partner with someone you can trust — and who has your best interests at heart.

Here are five questions frequently asked by first-time buyers as they interview and prepare to hire a Realtor.

1. How long have you been a Realtor? Do you typically work with first-time homebuyers?

Unlike some of the later questions we’ll share, there’s no right or wrong answer to this inquiry. But it’s important to understand that most Realtors start by working with buyers, including first-time buyers.

Then, as we begin to know more local homeowners and gain our footing, we transition our businesses to represent both buyers and sellers. Still other Realtors continue to work only with buyers for decades after they have been in the business.

When asking this question, consider overall experience, communication skills and personal passion for helping you find the perfect house. Past experience in related areas, such as marketing or sales, or local expertise can be a huge benefit. You can also ask about our network, mentors and training. Together, we will discover how our professional relationship could align with your goals and needs for a successful home buying (or selling) journey.

2. Will you communicate via my preferred method?

In our low-inventory market for starter homes, fast-paced communication will be necessary to get an offer accepted on your dream house. For this reason, it’s important to discuss how you prefer to be contacted – and to share any communications restrictions you have.

In this conversation, you’ll want to mention if you cannot accept emails or phone calls during work hours, or if you simply prefer to be texted rather than called or emailed.

By honestly sharing your preferences and boundaries up front, you’ll avoid the possibility of communication-related conflict or confusion in the future.

3. Can we get this done in a certain timeframe?

Whether you have a tight timeline or need to move out by the time your current lease expires, you likely have an idea of when you want to buy a home. Don’t be afraid to express that desire at the beginning of the process.

We will be honest about those expectations and will clearly explain if there are any concerns regarding a specific timeframe. If we have concerns about available inventory in your price range, or have seen that recent first-time buyers have had loan setbacks, we will offer valuable insights and options for you to consider. Together, we will help you determine a buying timeline that works for your needs and aligns with your best interests.

4. What do you know about the area where I want to live?

If you’re like most first-time buyers, you’ve probably been searching for available homes online to determine your ideal city or even neighborhood.

We are happy to provide community information and answer your questions about the market, including if homes are selling quickly or for above their initial asking price. If we don’t have all the in-depth details about your preferred areas during our initial meeting, we are always happy to gather additional information and follow up with you. We have resources to find the answers you need.

Part of being a great advocate for homebuyers is doing research, so it’s okay to request that we put in some work upfront before getting hired.

5. What kind of loan options are best for me, and which preferred lender do you use for first-time buyers?

First-time buyers have a myriad of loan options available to them, from government-backed FHA loans to VA loans (for military veterans) to privately-backed loans. The best way to determine your buying power, and which loan is right for you, is to get pre-approved on a loan as soon as possible.

During our preliminary meeting, we are happy to make referrals to a trusted lender that our past first-time buyers have worked with on the home mortgage process. Pre-approval is a smart step that helps you establish a sensible budget and understand the loan package that would work best for you in the long-run. It can also offer you a competitive advantage when it comes time to make an offer.

Ready to start your home search?

Reach out! We’ll go over to the answers to all these questions and more, including specifics on your areas of interest. Be sure to ask about our exclusive options including automatic alerts, customized searches, our mobile app and more.

Staging your lakeshore property to sell

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Key insights:

  • The waterfront area is the key to selling the property. When staging, be sure to start at the dock and work your way in.
  • Kitschy items are a lake cabin staple, but you want to be sure you’re not distracting from the home’s best features.
  • Stand out from other local sellers. Show off how the home can accommodate guests and share your favorite things about the area.

Even if you live on the most gorgeous lake in the state, it's still important to stage your waterfront property for potential buyers. Follow these tips to showcase the best qualities of your lakeshore property as you list it for sale.

Staging the water and outdoor areas

Lake home buyers are most interested in the water, so that’s where you should begin the staging process. Start at the docks by replacing any broken or aging boards, and paint or stain the dock to give it a little more appeal. If your boats are docked, make sure they are sparkling clean and properly secured in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Second, make your way to your beach area. Get rid of any weeds in the shallow areas of the water and the shore. If you have sand, rake it before every showing.

Durable items like kayaks or canoes can help stage the beach area, but items that may deflate (like big rafts) should be put away in a shed before a showing. The same goes for beach toys. If they’re in good condition and look straight out of a Pinterest page, you can arrange them to show how much fun kiddos can have on the beach; if they’re old and faded, they should be put into a storage container out of the way. Finish it off with some beach chairs and sun umbrellas for a relaxing vibe.

Last, head toward the house. Whether you have a gorgeous wrap-around deck or a low-key fire pit and grilling area, make sure your outdoor entertaining areas sparkle. Rearrange lawn furniture and deck furniture into small groupings so it looks more intentional. Create a festive feel with throw pillows, lanterns and outdoor potted plants.

Stage the interior

Once you have finished staging your lakeshore area, move indoors. Together we will go over basic home staging tips to ensure the interior of your home is looking sharp. Then, we’ll go a step further to emphasize any and all views of the water. Wash all the windows and keep the curtains open during showings. If you’re thinking of selling in the winter, print and frame large photos of what the lakeshore area looks like in its prime summer months.

What to do about your cabin kitsch

When staging a traditional home, it is usually recommended to remove family photos and other personal items. In a lake home or cabin setting, this may be less necessary — after all, filling up a cabin with funny signs and “Up North” kitsch is a rite of passage for most lake dwellers.

Still, it’s important to look around your property and determine which knick-knacks are adding to the charm, and which are distracting from it. While you may love that all 50 of Cousin Velma’s birthday party flamingos are still proudly displayed along the winding driveway to the property, they’re not the best first impression for potential buyers.

Go from room to room, looking at the items that first draw your attention. Whether it’s Uncle Pat’s first (and only) attempt at carving a grizzly bear from a fallen tree or 40-year-old watercolor art that’s long faded in the sun, you may want to consider removing some artifacts before you try to sell your lakeshore property.

Keep in mind, too, what kind of property you are trying to sell. While all properties should be impeccably clean, you can likely get away with more kitsch and clutter in a smaller lake cabin than you would in a luxury lakefront home. And if your cabin is used primarily as a hunting or fishing cabin, decor may not be as important as the property’s location. (In other words, the kitchen antlers can stay!)

Show off its guest potential

Many lake home buyers are interested in hosting family and friends, so you want to be sure you show off your property’s potential for accommodating guests. Together we’ll brainstorm the best ways to showcase your space, but a common practice is to add bunk beds, pull-out couches and pop-up cots to larger rooms. If you have creatively hosted many guests at once, we can also work together to print up a floor plan flyer showing how you managed to “sleep 10” in a 1,200 square-foot cabin!

Share local insights

Think about what a buyer would want to know about the area. In the main entrance, place an overhead map of the lake with your property circled so they can get a better indication of the layout of the area. Include additional brochures or information about the nearest town, including directions or mileage to nearby grocery stores, shops and other local attractions.

People who are purchasing a waterfront property are often prioritizing leisure — give them an indication of the lifestyle they’d enjoy if they purchased your home.

Ready to sell your lakeshore home?

Reach out for personalized staging tips for your lake home or cabin and advice on getting started.

Should you renovate your bathroom before selling?

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Key insights

  • To recoup some of the cost of your bathroom renovation, select projects that deliver a high ROI.
  • Thrifty homeowners may complete simple bathroom upgrades on their own, whereas more complicated remodels could require the help of a plumber. Factor this in when budgeting for projects.
  • Assess the status of the housing market to determine what renovations might be a smart investment for you.

When it comes to preparing your home for sale, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. Homeowners that complete upgrades — like a bathroom remodel — before listing are likely to gain buyer attention. Plus, sellers may achieve a better return on investment (ROI) thanks to certain renovation projects.

Here are insights you can use when determining the estimated costs and benefits of remodeling your bathroom, including how much of the project cost you can expect to recoup and what questions you might ask when considering a bathroom renovation.

The cost and ROI of a bathroom remodel

According to the Remodeling 2020 Cost vs. Value Report, a mid-range bathroom remodel in the Twin Cities area will cost $24,584 and recoup $12,620 (just over 50%) upon resale. Specifically, the project begins with a 5-foot by 7-foot existing bathroom where all fixtures are replaced, including:

  • Porcelain-on-steel tub with ceramic tile
  • Single-lever temperature and pressure-balanced shower control
  • Standard white toilet
  • Vanity counter with integral sink
  • Lighted medicine cabinet
  • Ceramic tile floor
  • Vinyl wallpaper

The 2020 Cost vs. Value Report is determined by existing local projects, so the cost breakout is said to be realistic for local homeowners undertaking renovations in the Minneapolis area. Handy homeowners may be able to lower project costs significantly by performing some installations on their own, rather than hiring a contractor or plumber.

Is a bathroom remodel worth it?

When contemplating a bathroom remodel or the ROI of other home projects, it’s important to consider the price recouped. The ROI of a midrange bathroom remodel in the Minneapolis area is 51.4%, but the remaining cost calculates out to just under $12,000.

Here are some questions to ask when determining whether or not a bathroom renovation is the right choice for your home.

What does your current bathroom look like?

If your bathroom hasn’t been updated at all since 1968, it may be time to replace everything from the pea-green countertops to the dingy bathtub. However, if the bathroom was given a facelift in the last 15 years or so, you may be able to get away with a few cosmetic improvements, rather than a major renovation.

Some simple yet worthwhile bathroom improvement ideas include:

  • Fresh wallpaper or paint
  • Updated vanity and medicine cabinet
  • New hardware, such as towel bars and doorknobs
  • Mid-century modern accents, like a mirror or picture frames
  • Polished linens, shades and shower curtains
  • Trendy new light fixture(s)

If you decide to gut and redo your entire bathroom, carefully consider your tile choice. By thoughtfully choosing your tile design, you can create the illusion of a more spacious and trendy bathroom.

In short, think about what upgrades are needed for buyers to view your bathroom as a bright selling point of the home, instead of a sore spot that will require fixing shortly after move-in day.

Are buyers circling?

If you live in a popular neighborhood with low housing inventory, remodeling may not be the best investment decision for your property. When buyers are competing over a shortage of homes, even a house with a Brady Bunch bathroom can be a hot commodity.

Let’s work together to assess whether or not your bathroom needs to be updated or remodeled. We’ll make a customized plan for your overall home staging, pricing and selling strategy.

Will the bathroom pass an inspection as-is?

It may seem obvious, but if your bathroom won’t currently pass a home inspection, it’s imperative that you make the necessary fixes before listing. Even the lowest inventory may not make a difference when you have significant plumbing issues.

Do you need a plumber?

Keep in mind, anything that involves drainage will likely involve a plumber — which will bring your costs up quite a bit. For example, adding a shower in place of a tub or rearranging the layout of your bathroom could require rerouted plumbing.

To avoid higher-than-expected expenses, be sure to get a quote before deciding on your final renovation plan.

Looking for more pointers as you prepare to sell?

Bathroom upgrades, whether you swap out tarnished hardware for new knobs or completely transform your bathroom, will be part of many factors that go into determining the best price for your home sale. These types of high ROI renovations may urge hesitant buyers to seriously consider your property.

If you’re looking for more seller tips and insights, or are ready to take the next step in selling your home, reach out.

© 2020 Hanley Wood, LLC. Complete data from the Remodeling 2020 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.

Seven super-dirty spots you're probably forgetting to clean in your home

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Key insights

  • Need help seeing your own dirt? Enlist a cleaning service or a detail-oriented friend to help you spot the grime in your house.
  • Pay special attention to common dirt-collecting areas such as throw pillows and ceiling fans.
  • Before cleaning dirty areas, be sure to declutter your belongings. With less clutter in the way, you’ll be able to clean your way to a sparkling house.

It is time to open your home and let in the fresh air. And for many of us, cleaning is part of that springtime welcome ritual. Here are insights you can use to find and clean the dirtiest spots in your house. Remember, even the tidiest of homes have areas that could use a little TLC.

How to see your own dirt

After years of dusting the same surfaces, it’s not uncommon to lose track of what’s really in need of cleaning at your house. However, there are some quick fixes to this predicament.

First, you can hire a cleaning service to do a deep clean. Be sure to ask the cleaner to show you any areas that require extra upkeep, so you can work on maintaining them after the professional job is done.

Another option is to ask your eagle-eyed or super-honest friend to come over and give you an assessment of your space. Be prepared to hear even the worst-case scenario, and try to not be offended.

And a third option is to take a look around your home with fresh eyes. Change your perspective - get down low, step up high, and try to see your fixtures, appliances and decor from a different angle. Also, shine a light on different areas with a good flashlight or other light source to see what dirt may be hidden in those dark corners.

7 areas homeowners commonly overlook — and how to clean them

Whether you’re prepping for a home sale soon or simply eager to refresh rooms, the time to tidy up is now.

Here are seven commonly overlooked areas that you need to put at the top of your cleaning list.

1. Throw pillows. Although it’s commonplace to wash the pillowcases you sleep on, have you thought twice about the throw pillows throughout your house? Whether as decorative pieces on your bed or comfortable additions to your living room sofa, throw pillows are used on the daily and should be cleaned accordingly.

Wash throw pillow covers and inserts regularly — especially if you have pets that like to jump on furniture. Doing so will helpeliminate odors throughout the home while creating a more sanitary environment. To keep the pillows fluffy, toss a few (clean) tennis balls into the dryer.

2. Ceiling fans and light fixtures. These areas are dust collecting machines. Check fan blades, light fixtures, lampshades, wall sconces, and other built-in features for potential buildup.

3. Things you touch all the time. From TV remotes to light switches and soap dispensers to toilet handles, there are many surfaces that we touch but forget to wipe down. Take time to sanitize these areas and anything else that is touched on a day-to-day basis to break down lingering germs and grime.

4. Oven hood. Greasy, dusty, splattered oven hoods almost always require extra attention. Wipe down the exterior of this kitchen feature and be sure to check for any corroded parts or filters that need changing. By staying on top of these items, you’ll maintain a well-functioning (and sparkling) kitchen.

5. Bathroom grout. Tile can appear newer and cleaner by simply refreshing the grout. Consider purchasing a drill bit attachment that can help clean out yucky residue or discoloration — making your bathroom floors or shower tiles look good as new.

6. Silverware drawer. This drawer, along with other drawer organizers or cabinet bottoms, tends to accumulate unwanted debris. Remove everything from these areas and clean. You’ll feel better about using forks and knives from this drawer after it’s been sanitized.

7. Garbage disposal. Although it’s out of sight, this home feature should not be out of mind. When it comes to cleaning, it’s essential to remember your garbage disposal — and you can do a great job using natural ingredients like lemon slices, baking soda and vinegar! This will help take away any unwanted smells while ensuring your garbage disposal performs optimally.

Always declutter before cleaning

Are you cleaning your home before you list it for sale? Be sure to declutter your belongings first. It’s much easier to fully clean an area that won’t be covered up again in paperwork, books or other loose items.

If you’re gearing up to deep clean your house, start by trying one (or all) of these decluttering trends:

  • KonMari Method - only keep what is useful or brings you joy
  • Swedish Death Cleaning - get rid of old stuff now so others don’t have to later
  • The Four Box Method - donate, trash, relocate, keep
  • 12-12-12 Challenge - find 12 things each to donate, toss and put away

A clean slate for home sellers

Now that you’ve cleared your space and created a clean slate, are you ready to take the next step to list your property for sale? Reach out today for advice on getting started!

Eight surprising things covered under your homeowners insurance policy

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Key insights

  • From damaged food to hurt house guests, typical insurance policies offer coverage to protect your home.
  • Although a hodgepodge of items are covered under most insurance policies, flood damage generally isn’t. Prepare in advance if you live in a flood zone.
  • If you’re unsure about your coverage, reach out to your insurance company. They will fill you in on the specifics of your individual plan.

Many people assume their homeowners insurance policy is only for major damage to the structure of their property, but these plans also cover a lot of day-to-day damages.

Here are insights you can use to understand the unique coverages found under most homeowners insurance policies. When in doubt, always reach out to your insurance company for an exact overview of coverage and specifics for your plan.

1. Loss in a college dormitory

If your child is living in an on-campus dorm, their belongings could be covered as “personal property coverage.” While you likely won’t waste a claim on a misplaced iPhone or stolen printer in the college dorms, this coverage would come in handy if the dorm’s sprinkler system damaged everything from the flat-screen TV to the brand-new futon.

However, if your child lives in an off-campus house or apartment, their belongings are not covered under most insurance plans. In this case, they should purchase a separate renter’s insurance policy to protect their abode.

2. Refrigerator re-stocking after a power outage

Many people don’t know what to do with their perishable food after a power outage and may try to salvage items that should be thrown out. If your home appliances shut off and your refrigerated food spoils after a storm, most policies will cover a portion of the damage.

Don’t play the guessing game with the food you consume. Toss out potentially dangerous items that were left unrefrigerated and, if your losses are significantly higher than your deductible, consider reporting your loss to your insurance company for possible reimbursement.

3. Housing needs after a storm

An unexpected storm can put a kink in plans and cause major damage to cars and homes. If the weight of snow causes roof damage or the cold creates a burst pipe, you should file a homeowners insurance claim right away.

Plus, if your home becomes uninhabitable after storm damage, your home insurance company will likely pay for your related hotel and restaurant bills, too.

4. Guest injuries

If your house guests slip on a well-waxed floor or slam their hand in your front door, your policy will likely cover their damage, so long as they choose to make a claim.

5. Buried utility lines

By endorsement, some insurance companies will cover buried utility lines such as sewer and gas lines that lead from the city main to your home. Should one of these lines burst and need repair, it can be claimed on your homeowners policy with the right endorsement. Not all companies offer this coverage and it needs to be added by endorsement so don’t assume it’s automatically included. The cost of that expense out of your pocket can easily reach $10,000 so it’s a worthwhile protection particularly on older homes.

6. Fire department charges

Many fire departments charge for emergency response calls. In fact, the Hopkins fire department charges up to $250 for a false alarm from a home security company, depending on the number of occurrences for your household. As you move into more rural areas, the costs may increase. In Troy, Wisconsin, for example, a house visit from the fire department is $800. Your homeowners policy may cover these charges, up to a certain amount.

7. Dog bites

If Fluffy goes rogue and her bites cause damage to a well-meaning visitor, your policy may cover the resulting medical bills and expenses. (You should also apologize profusely, and bring your pup to obedience classes.)

8. Flying objects (no, really)

This is rare, but should debris from a plane, satellite or other flying object cause any damage to your home, yard or car, then you are typically covered under your policy. We know the chance of this occurring is slim — but should it happen, you won’t be left picking up the literal pieces.

The fine print: No flood insurance

It’s important to remember that even though homeowners insurance covers a lot of the issues noted above, most policies do not cover flood damage. If you live or are thinking of moving to an area where flood damage is common due to excess rain or winter runoff, look into securing a flood insurance policy in addition to your regular homeowners insurance plan.

Deciding to file a claim

In almost all homeowner claims, your deductible will apply so be sure to carefully consider if the losses are large enough to report. Not all damages should always result in a homeowner claim. Making too many homeowner claims can put you at risk for cancellation with your current company and also harm your ability to be eligible for coverage in the future.

What’s covered under your plan?

Wondering about the specifics of your Edina Realty Homeowners Insurance plan or interested in comparing costs and coverage? Reach out for details and a referral to one of our qualified insurance professionals.

Tips for lowering household expenses

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Key insights:

  • Cut back on entertainment expenses by nixing the cable TV and replacing it with a library card and streaming subscription.
  • Leverage free mobile apps and outdoor trails to get your exercise in without an expensive (and underutilized) gym membership.
  • Make DIY cleaning supplies with ingredients you already have to help cut household costs.

It’s time to stick to your budget and save more than ever before. Lowering your household expenses doesn’t mean you need to cut out everything, but you may want to cut back in certain areas. It’s possible to continue enjoying everything from books to TV to take-out dinners — while reducing your expenses — by following the tips below.

1. Cable and internet

If you’re on the fence and unsure whether or not your cable TV is worth the added expense, take an audit of the television shows you actually watch live. Then, calculate how many of them are truly necessary to watch as they air.

You can also research to see if there are packages available that allow for live-streaming of specific networks, rather than a bulk cable package. If you’re paying more than you should be, replace your cable or satellite package with other streaming options. Most offer a free trial period of the service. Some popular alternatives to cable include:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Premium content apps, such as HBO, Showtime and Disney+

2. Books and movies

Eliminate the added expense of entertainment by setting up a library membership. This card will be your single ticket to hundreds of books and movies, while supporting your community.

Be sure to set up an online account to accompany your library card. This allows you to easily add books and movies to your wish list online and pick them up once they come in as reserved. Also, download an app that connects with your local public library, like OverDrive. Here, you can enjoy ebooks and audiobooks via your library membership for free.

3. Heating and cooling

Agree with your family or housemates at the beginning of each season on what the average thermostat temperature should be in your home. Then, as painful as it may be when it hits subzero (or red-hot) temperatures, try to personally adjust before cranking the thermostat or air conditioning.

Sometimes, all it takes is some creative layering of clothes, and a solemn vow, to keep your utility costs down.

4. Dining out

Set a rule limiting yourself to “eat out” only 1-2 times per week. You can even trade off cooking homemade meals a few times a week for each other, so you’re still trying new things and saving time in the kitchen.

It also helps to plan ahead. Make a meal schedule for the week prior to grocery shopping. And if you’re really ambitious, you could prepare a couple of those meals in advance on the weekend and store them in the freezer to save time on those hectic work days.

5. Phone line

Get rid of your landline and send your contacts a notice of the best way to reach you moving forward. Be sure to update important contacts with your cell number who may have previously called your home, including:

  • Doctor or dentist
  • School office
  • Coaches or teachers

6. Fitness and gym memberships

Unless you’re a dedicated gym goer, consider switching to an in-home gym. Smartphone apps like 7-Minute Workout will help keep you in shape even from your makeshift living room gym.

During the warmer months, give the treadmill a rest and hit nearby outdoor trails for a free workout. Exercise around any of our numerous Minnesota lakes for a great workout against a scenic backdrop.

7. Plan in advance, and buy in bulk when possible

Avoid last-minute purchases of anything, from meat to laundry soap, by taking stock of the items you are running low on before you go to the grocery store or big box store. By purchasing enough for a specific time period — anywhere from two to four weeks is pretty reasonable — you’ll save money and time in the long run.

If you have the space, you can also save a bit of dough by purchasing a membership to a bulk goods store, like Costco or Sam’s Club. You may also want to consider buying a stand-alone freezer that you can stock with meat, frozen vegetables, fruit and even bread products.

8. Fueling up

Never fill up on gas at the first gas station off the highway. These stations are usually higher priced by at least a few cents per gallon. Learn which fueling stations have the best prices, and fill up when you drive by rather than waiting for your tank to be empty. There are even smartphone apps that list fuel prices for nearby gas stations.

If you have a Sam’s Club or Costco membership, see if your local store has cheaper fueling stations onsite. Also, many gas stations have membership perks or partnerships to offer customers incentives and savings. Check with your neighborhood fuel station for any loyalty programs. Remember, gas prices are always fluctuating. Take advantage as much as you can when prices are low and use these tips to save when they go back up.

9. Water heater

Remember to service your large appliances throughout the year. Proper water heater maintenance will help keep costs down. For extra savings, insulate your hot water tank and set it to a maximum temperature of 120 degrees to keep costs down. That temp is still high enough for a hot shower, without being scalding.

10. Green your clean

Forget the expensive cleaning solutions that run you anywhere from $5-$15 per bottle. To keep costs down while greening your clean, consider creating these concoctions:

  • Glass cleaner: Combine 2 cups water, ½ cup white or cider vinegar, ¼ cup rubbing alcohol.
  • All-purpose cleaner for countertops and refrigerator: Mix 4 tablespoons baking soda and 1 quart warm water.
  • Toilet bowl cleaner: Combine ½ cup baking soda and 1 cup distilled white vinegar.
  • Disposal cleaner: Start by pouring a half cup of baking soda down the drain, then a cup of white vinegar. Let it sit as you boil a pot of water, then pour the boiling water down the drain. Last, add two cups of ice to the drain and turn on the disposal until it drains completely. To deodorize the drain, add a quartered lime or lemon to the disposal while it runs.

Don’t stop saving!

Tweaking your typical household expenses can help to create larger savings in the long run. Put away the extra cash you saved in a rainy day fund or reinvest it in home improvement projects that you’ve been meaning to take on.

Wondering what home improvement projects deliver the best ROI, how much to save for a downpayment or what the current housing market looks like? Reach out for real estate advice customized to you.

How to be a good neighbor while following proper social distancing measures

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Key insights

  • If you’re able, offer up your time and services to vulnerable or at-need community members.
  • It’s possible to be social with your friends and family while practicing social distancing.
  • Think outside the box to raise spirits through fun activities like lscavenger hunts, virtual playdates and chalked sidewalks.

As we take precautions and self-isolate due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we don’t want to lose touch with our communities. Offering assistance and virtual socializing can help bring us together during this uncertain time. Keep reading for more insights you can use to be a good neighbor during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Support your community members

COVID-19 is impacting all of us in some form. If you’re healthy and have the bandwidth to contribute, now is the time. Communities are banding together in a common fight, and you can join the effort now.

Buy groceries for vulnerable neighbors. If someone on your block is part of the at-risk population or a caregiver for someone who is, offer to purchase their groceries or other necessary items. Be sure to follow CDC guidelines regarding protective equipment and to wash your hands before and after you shop, to lower the risk of transmission.

Keep in mind, you can likely place a mobile order for these supplies to be delivered straight to their doorstep.

Ask neighbors if they need anything from you. Get in contact with your community members to offer help wherever and however you can, especially if you have isolated neighbors. Send a text or a kindness postcard to help alleviate stress attributed to COVID-19 concerns.

Support essential workers. Essential workers are continuing to serve our communities during the COVID-19 outbreak. Under Minnesota’s current stay-at-home order, it can be difficult to organize a drive for masks or perform a larger, collective action.

Instead, try to offer one-on-one support to the medical professionals, delivery drivers, grocery store and essential retail employees, and those who are still working at takeout-friendly restaurants and cafes. Whether it’s buying a gift card to use later or ordering meals for those working long shifts, there are still small ways you can contribute.

Donate to local organizations. Food banks and other programs, such as Meals on Wheels, need your assistance. If you have the capacity to donate extra supplies or funds to COVID-19 relief efforts, check out these Minnesota nonprofits and charities.

Brighten someone’s day

It’s generally agreed upon that the best way to prevent the spread or contraction of COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to the virus. Therefore, many municipalities are practicing and even mandating social distancing. Nonetheless, it is possible to be social while following social distancing protocol. Here are some ways to stay in contact with loved ones and spread positivity during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Organize fun activities for neighborhood kids. A social-distancing neighborhood scavenger hunt may raise the spirits of cooped-up kiddos in your neighborhood. To spread the word (and increase participation), share the details of the hunt via Nextdoor and your Facebook community groups.

Send video greetings to loved ones. Plan a virtual playdate or a time for family members to connect through video chat platforms like FaceTime or Zoom. Or, simply send videos to people you care about with uplifting messages. If you have kids, feature them!

Chalk your walk. Get creative to send positive messages to healthcare workers and others working on the front lines. Paint your sidewalk in chalk or hang signs in your windows to demonstrate your support. These crafty actions can be a fun (and time-consuming) activity for the entire family, too!

Join forces

Behind COVID-19 concerns lies a collective effort to eliminate the effects of the virus on our communities. Continue to generate mutual support against the disease through these actions of solidarity.

Start a support thread on Nextdoor. Virtual platforms are the ideal place to share how you are managing life amid COVID-19. Whether you’re asking for tips from fellow parents on at-home childcare or you’ve found the best work-at-home setup that you’d love to share, hop online. Remember to stay positive!

Leverage your talents for the greater good. If you have any talents that can be shared, lean into them! A Duluth company is swapping spirit distillery for hand sanitizer production and some local photographers are offering to take doorstep family portraits in exchange for charity donations. Costume makers (and amateur sewers, too!) are sewing cloth masks as medical workers face a shortage of protective gear.

Follow local news and guidance. Do your part to combat COVID-19 by staying up-to-date with local news and mandates. This useful information will help keep you and community members healthy and safe.

We’re all in this together

Social distancing is in effect, but we’re building a united front against COVID-19. Be sure to follow these tips to be a good neighbor during this unprecedented time.

As always, reach out any time for homeowner assistance. We’re here for you — and we are doing our part to limit the spread of COVID-19 through virtual showings, drive-up closings and more.

How you can avoid home and finance-related scams

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Key insights

  • Scammers may go to extreme lengths to execute their plan, and it’s not uncommon for them to target seniors.
  • Be aware of common scam ploys, such as fraudulent mail campaigns, fake service offers and phishing scams.
  • If you suspect a potential scam, ask for identity verification. A legitimate person should have no objection to providing you with the requested information.

Scammers are targeting everyone and seem to zero in particularly on seniors. In fact, the American Journal of Public Health estimates that nearly 5% of older adults fall prey to some type of scam every year — that equates to approximately 2 to 3 million scamming incidents against seniors alone. And, unfortunately, these figures are likely an understatement of the true number of scams, as some victims neglect to file a report.

Because these occurrences are becoming more common, it’s more important than ever to do your due diligence before handing over money, personal information or financial details to anyone who requests it. Whether you want to defend yourself against scammers or you have aging or vulnerable family members you want to protect, here are insights you can use to identify a scam and avoid becoming a victim.

Four common senior scams

To start, it’s necessary to become familiar with the top scams that affect the aging population. Once you can identify a potential scam, you can further investigate the situation or avoid it altogether. Here are four of the most common scams that target seniors.

1. Scam phone calls

If you receive a phone call claiming that you must pay the IRS or some other institution immediately or via wire transfer, red flags should go up — even if you get the call in the middle of tax season. The IRS will never demand immediate payment over the phone requiring a specific payment method, threaten to immediately bring in the police or ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Similarly, be wary of unexpected phone calls from your “granddaughter” or “nephew” who is in a difficult situation and in need of your money or personal information promptly. These scams take advantage of the relationships between elders and trusted institutions or their families to gain access to valuable assets. They often try to disguise their voice through a “bad connection” or illness. Always hang up and call your family member(s) directly through a phone number you already know to find out if they are okay.

Today’s scammers are tech savvy and are able to spoof caller ID.

2. Fraudulent direct mail campaigns

Mail fraud occurs when a scammer attempts to get money or something of value from someone else via direct mail solicitation. Aging adults may be at a higher risk for this kind of scam, as they are more likely to have a history of donating to their church or favorite causes via live checks sent in the mail. Examples of mail fraud could include campaigns that request money for a political candidate, social causes that align with the target’s beliefs, religious donations to a church or mission group, or even your local police or fire departments.

3. Bold, in-person visitors asking for money

In some cases, scammers may show up at your doorstep offering services like home repairs or yard work. Then, these individuals will con you out of the services by not performing the work properly. In more severe cases, the scammer may request that you fill out and sign a document in exchange for the services. Later, you may find that you’ve unknowingly signed over valuable assets in the paperwork.

Many cities require door-to-door solicitors to obtain a permit prior to canvassing homes. Always ask for credentials, verify their business history and check reviews or referrals before signing any agreements or providing payment.

4. Email and phishing scams

As the population becomes more and more tech-savvy, scammers are turning to the internet to prey on the senior population. Seemingly valid emails, virtual assistants and websites may ask you to provide passwords or to log in to a portal to access your documents or pay your bills. Then, disguised scammers steal your sensitive information — including passwords, credit card and banking information, and more.

Never open email attachments or click on links from unknown or suspicious senders. Also, make sure your computer is up-to-date and protected against cyber attacks.

Five signs someone is scamming you

When it comes to scammers, it’s essential to be proactive. Becoming familiar with popular scams and the signs that someone is scamming you will help you sniff out any signs of danger before you, too, fall victim. Be sure to prepare yourself by taking note of these tell-tale scamming signals:

    1. You haven’t hired help for anything and have never heard of the individual contacting you, but they’re demanding or asking for money.
    2. Someone is claiming to be from a bank, the government or another institution that usually contacts you in a different way.
    3. The individual contacting you can’t verify their identity or they get frustrated when you don’t believe who they say they are. A real representative would understand that you are being cautious and provide accurate verification.
    4. They “friend” you on Facebook, dating sites or other online networking pages. The individual then sends personal messages or requests even though you don’t know them well. If this happens, follow the typical protocol that you would for an in-person friend. In general, don’t offer money, resources, or access to your accounts to new friends or acquaintances.
    5. Someone has escalating demands, such as asking for $500 after you’ve already given them $100. Or, they have a series of unbelievable hardships, like their car getting stolen after they have had medical problems or lost their job. Fraudulent people often layer lies on top of lies to create a more desperate situation, but it’s not your responsibility to provide relief.

Three ways to ward off a potential scammer

Although scammers use smart tactics to exploit their victims, it’s important that you learn to protect yourself. Individuals must take steps to equip themselves with anti-scam strategies.

1. Use the buddy system

If you need an extra confidence boost, set up a phone-a-friend system with a trustworthy confidant. This person will act as your check-in should you find yourself in a sticky situation. Their second judgment will help provide you with clarity in potentially confusing or dangerous scams.

2. Google it

Next, you can use the internet to your advantage. When presented information or requests from an unfamiliar company, try googling the name of the organization plus “scam” or “fraud.” If any results come up, avoid contact and block further interactions. Websites like Snopes.com can also provide answers.

3. Verify their identity

Finally, you can always ask for further verification. Request that the individual verifies their identity in some way or sends you the information via snail mail. This will delay and frustrate fraudsters who are hoping to make money today. And, if the individual claims to be a representative from your bank, lender or retirement account, say that you will hang up and visit them in person. Face-to-face interactions at your legitimate bank will provide ultimate verification.

You may also hang up and call back the company (via a published phone number) or individual that called you to ensure that the call is real. If the person on the other end of the line balks against this, it’s a good sign that they aren’t who they claim to be — and that they are calling from a randomized number. Don’t trust your caller ID or the caller’s provided phone number. Call back to a number you are familiar with or look up a business number and call back to that published contact.

Fight fraud together

Fraud against seniors is a serious concern, but you don’t have to combat this injustice alone. By identifying scammers and using the suggested tactics to protect yourself, you’ll be able to keep your assets and sensitive information secure.

And remember, if you think you’ve been the victim of a financial crime, be sure to reach out to your local police department immediately. Record notes from the interaction, including any phone numbers used or a physical description of an in-person scammer. The more information you’re able to share with law enforcement, the more likely they are to catch the scammer before they prey on someone else.

Status Definitions

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Contingent and Pending statuses may not be available for all listings