The 2023 housing market: What buyers and sellers can expect

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Key insights

  • National real estate headlines are not representative of the Minnesota and western Wisconsin market, which is less volatile than many coastal markets.
  • Buyers concerned about the rise in interest rates should meet with a REALTOR® and loan officer early to discuss budget, loan options and more.
  • Sellers have an advantage but should look to their Realtor for local market stats around time on market and price. Strategic updates to their property will make it more appealing to buyers.
  • Our local economy is strong, and unemployment rates are low. Housing affordability remains a challenge for some.

Sharry Schmid, president, Edina Realty

As president of Edina Realty, Sharry Schmid provides guidance and direction to over 2,000 REALTORS®.

First, a word about those headlines. Just as selecting the right house is about “location, location, location,” the right way to view housing market news is to think “local, local, local.” National headlines tend to focus on areas that are experiencing the largest changes—many of which are coastal cities or areas that also saw the biggest increases in sales and appreciation during the pandemic, when remote work was a boon for some regions. And keep in mind the nature of headlines—they use words and tactics that are likely to grab the most attention.

Here in the Midwest, the housing market has been busy but much less volatile than in other parts of the country. As I’ll explain below, there are challenges and opportunities for buyers and sellers, but housing will always be a tangible asset because you have the opportunity to build wealth while also benefiting from the shelter, comfort and community a home provides. By understanding what’s happening in Minnesota and western Wisconsin specifically — and speaking with a local Edina Realty Realtor directly — it will be easier for you to identify opportunities and make a plan about buying or selling a house.

Here’s what most experts are saying buyers and sellers can expect from the housing market in 2023.

Home buyer expectations

The primary theme for buyers this year will be how today’s higher interest rates impact their buying power. After years of historically low rates, we have seen rate hikes throughout 2022, and experts believe that additional rate increases may occur in 2023 as the government continues to fight inflation. This will likely bring about some new or expanded loan programs for buyers to explore.

First-time buyers

  • Affordability. When interest rates go up, those pursuing a mortgage will see an impact on their buying power. Buyers should speak with their Realtor and home mortgage consultant to learn what they can afford, and what loan programs are the right fit for them today. There are a number of financing options available.
  • Competition. Homes in ideal areas and price points will continue to be in high demand. Rising rates can mean less competition for homes as some buyers delay homebuying or move to lower price points.
  • Control over costs. If you are renting, you are likely facing annual price increases that are out of your control. If you can afford to buy a home that is equivalently priced to your monthly rent, it will be to your great long-term benefit to become a homeowner and leave renting behind. If you choose a fixed-rate loan, you can – property taxes aside – have a stable monthly payment for your residence for 10-30 years with the opportunity to refinance and reduce your payment if rates should go down.

Move-up buyers:

  • Home prices. As in the past few years, homeowners selling their current home will likely be happy with the sales price — and may be concerned about the cost of their next residence. Because the average homeowner in Minnesota and western Wisconsin gained $28-29,000 in equity from Q2 2021 – Q2 2022, home sellers can use that equity to their advantage in their next home purchase.
  • Leaving your current mortgage. Homeowners looking to upgrade may wonder if they should leave behind their low-rate mortgage and buy a new home with a higher mortgage interest rate, or stay in place and remodel their home to suit their lifestyle. It’s a personal decision, and I advise anyone considering remodeling or upgrading their current residence to run the numbers with a contractor, and then talk to your Realtor about the pros and cons of staying and remodeling versus moving. If you need more space, you may find that a new home with a higher interest rate is equivalently priced to a major set of home improvements.
  • New construction options. As long as interest rates remain around 6.5-7%, we are unlikely to see a lot of speculative (or pre-sale) homebuilding. If you are hoping to purchase a new construction home, you should meet with a Realtor who can walk you through the options of developments in your ideal area.
  • Luxury homes. Luxury homes will continue to be in high demand in the coming year. Buyers seeking higher price points should expect competition and to move as quickly as those in the lower tiers of the market.

Whether you’re a first-time or repeat buyer, it’s important to remember that experts are here to walk you through exactly what to expect — and determine exactly what you can afford. Now is a great time to sit with a Realtor and home mortgage consultant to understand:

  • The loan programs that you qualify for, and how they benefit you.
  • What you can comfortably afford for a monthly payment — and what overall budget that would translate to when buying a home.
  • How your equity, savings or financial history is impacting the loan options available to you.

Home seller expectations

Sellers will continue to be at an advantage in 2023, as they have in recent years. However, the increase in interest rates could reduce competition among buyers.

  • Position in the market. Sellers will continue to benefit from low inventory, though it won’t be nearly as low as it was during the height of COVID-19. With a reduced buyer pool due to higher interest rates, price gains will be more moderate than in years’ past. However, sellers with well-appointed homes and fair prices should see swift sales.
  • Bidding wars. Some homes — especially starter homes — may still see bidding wars, as longtime hopeful buyers seek to find their property at last. However, sellers shouldn’t expect a bidding war.
  • Staging and style. Even with low inventory, buyers continue to be discerning and are not interested in overly styled or highly customized homes. If your home has been tailored to your (very specific) needs over time, you’ll benefit from working with a Realtor who can help you neutralize the space and make it more appealing to a larger buyer pool.
  • Luxury sellers. In 2022, homes on the local luxury market moved at nearly the same speed as properties in the lower tiers — which is historically uncommon. We expect that luxury home activity will continue to outpace historic rates in 2023, putting luxury homeowners in a great position to sell.

As recommended for buyers, it’s important that homeowners meet with a Realtor early on to determine how they can update their home, price it right, and navigate the traditional or offline marketplace when selling their home.

A note on the economy and affordability

Our local economy remains strong, due to our diverse business economy. Minnesota is home to many Fortune 500 companies, and we are not solely dependent on a single industry to keep our local economy afloat. Between Target, Cargill, Medtronic, General Mills, 3M and others, our wide range of industry helps insulate us from drastic economic swings sometimes seen in other major markets. In October, Minnesota had a statewide unemployment rate of just 2.1%.

However, even with a strong local economy, challenges remain. Recent data shows that the average age for first-time buyers has risen to 36, which suggests greater difficulty with affordability. We might infer that limited inventory, rising rates and prices all have an impact, but there are likely a number of factors at play that we will continue to watch. As a result, those entering the market for the first time may need to allow themselves more time to find a home, and they may need to re-evaluate their must-haves versus nice-to-haves.

Buying or selling in 2023?

Edina Realty has a team of 2,000+ local experts, who serve every neighborhood and community across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. If you’re considering buying or selling in the next year, reach out to your Edina Realty REALTOR to start the process.

How to lock in your interest rate when buying a home

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After hearing that mortgage rates have risen over the last year, today’s buyers are looking for ways to maximize their buying power. One solution is to “lock in” an interest rate. By locking in interest rates as they search and bid on properties, buyers can gain peace of mind and hedge against rising rates.

Here’s a quick primer on how that works.

What does it mean to lock in your interest rate?

While every mortgage lender may have a different process for locking in interest rates, borrowers can often lock in a rate at the same time that they are pre-approved for a home mortgage loan. Pre-approval essentially means that a lender has reviewed your financial documents and credit, and deemed you worthy of a loan for a certain amount, and on certain terms. Because a hike in interest rates could impact the buying power of a borrower, some lenders (like Edina Realty Mortgage) offer the rate lock alongside the pre-approval letter, so that eligible buyers can set their budget and not be impacted by rising rates during their search.

Are all buyers eligible for a locked interest rate?

If a mortgage company offers borrowers the option to lock in their interest rate, the borrower must typically meet certain criteria. There will usually be a set period of 60-90 days for the lock1, and it would be available to borrowers pursuing a certain type of loan program2. For example, borrowers pursuing a jumbo loan will not be eligible for a rate lock, but those taking out a conventional or government fixed-rate loan would be eligible (provided they meet all other criteria as well).

At Edina Realty Mortgage, the Lock, Shop & Home program offers eligible buyers the option to lock in their interest rate:

  • If they are pre-approved through the Buyer Advantage® program3.
  • If they request a conventional loan, or a government fixed-rate loan program.
  • For 90 days, as they search for a home. (Longer lock periods may be available2.)

What if rates go down after I lock in my interest rate?

If rates happen to go down after you lock in your rate, you may worry that you made the wrong decision to lock in early. Some mortgage companies, including Edina Realty Mortgage, offer participants the opportunity to “float down” to the current rate one time during their search. This means that our borrowers have the peace of mind of knowing that their rate will not go up — but it may go down, which would only increase their buying power.

I plan to build a house, and a 90-day lock won’t work for me. Do I have any options?

Yes, many mortgage companies recognize that those on a building schedule will not benefit from a short-term rate lock. Some mortgage companies, including Edina Realty Mortgage, offer a longer rate lock for those who are pursuing new construction financing.

Borrowers using Edina Realty Mortgage’s Builder’s Assurance program, for example, are able to lock in their rate for 365 days4 if they are:

  • Building a new construction home5.
  • Pursuing a conventional, 30-year fixed rate loan for $705,000 or lower.
  • Planning to reside in the home as their primary residence.

As with Edina Realty Mortgage’s Shop, Lock & Home program, the Builder’s Assurance loan program allows borrowers a one-time float-down6 to the current rate during their 365-day program.

How can I figure out which program is right for me?

Because most rate-locking programs only last 60 or 90 days, it’s important that you don’t lock in your rate before you’re truly ready to search for and purchase a home. Before you decide on rate locking or a certain loan program, it’s in your best interest to speak with a professional. You don’t have to figure any of this out all alone.

For no-obligation and no-pressure insights on the next best steps you should take, reach out today. Together, we can work with a mortgage professional who can walk you through the steps that you’ll need to take to lock in your interest rate, or to simply get pre-approved in the future.

1. Lock, Shop & Home program is NOT available for bond, jumbo, or renovation loan programs.
2. Interest rate lock available up to 90 days. Longer lock periods may be available. Additional fees may apply for longer lock periods.
3. Buyer Advantage® is not a final loan approval. A Commitment Letter is based on information and documentation provided by you and a review of your credit report. The interest rate and type of mortgage used to approve you for a specified loan amount is subject to change, which may also change the terms of approval. If the interest rate used for credit approval has changed, you may need to re-qualify. Information provided by you is subject to review and all other loan conditions must be met. After you have chosen a home and your offer has been accepted, final loan approval will be contingent upon obtaining an acceptable appraisal and title commitment. Additional documentation may be required.
4. Upfront fee will be due at the time of rate lock and is eligible to be fully refunded at closing.
5. Eligible for permanent financing only. Temporary financing for new construction is not available.
6. Interest rate is eligible for a one-time float-down to a current market rate within 60 days of closing. Interest rate may not float-down within 14 days of the closing date.

All first mortgage products are provided by Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage. (877) 275-1762. Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC products may not be available in all areas. Not all borrowers will qualify. Licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act. Licensed by the Delaware State Bank Commissioner. Massachusetts Mortgage Lender License ML75164. Licensed by the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance. Licensed Mortgage Banker-NYS Department of Financial Services. Also licensed in AK, AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NE, NC, ND, NH, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV and WY. NMLS #75164 (NMLS Consumer Access at http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/) ©2022 Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage.

Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC, dba Edina Realty Mortgage is an affiliate of Edina Realty, Inc. See affiliated business disclosure.

Top home improvements to tackle this winter

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There’s no better time to finalize the interior home improvements on your to-do list than during the chilly winter months.

With help from the Remodeling 2022 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com), we checked out the top remodeling projects in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. Here are tips to help you determine which home fix is right for your property this winter.

Replace your front door

Are you feeling a draft? Is your front door sticking every time it’s opened for guests waiting out in the cold? Whatever your reason may be for replacing your front door this winter, you won’t regret doing it.

According to the local report of home projects, homeowners who swap their existing door for a steel version will recoup 70.1% of the project’s cost. On top of being a smart investment, homeowners gain a better functioning door and increased curb appeal after finishing this project.

Note: If your door is working fine, but could still use some refreshing, opt for a fresh coat of paint instead.

Invest in a minor kitchen remodel

A kitchen remodel may feel like a lofty goal in the winter, but it’s a great way to add interest to your house. And, this project will especially pay off if you’re planning to cook in the space for years to come.

A minor, mid-range kitchen remodel runs about $27,948 and homeowners can recoup up to 67.2% of that cost upon resale. The project includes:

  • Keeping original cabinets, but replacing their fronts with new panels, drawer fronts and hardware.
  • Upgrading to an energy-efficient cooktop, oven range and refrigerator.
  • Replacing the countertops.
  • Adding new trim, wall covering and flooring.

To complete this project on a budget, consider tackling projects you can handle yourself rather than contracting out tasks.

How do I really use my house?

Most of us spend a significant amount of our lives at home, so it may be worthwhile to consider optimizing your space for everyday use and life. Ask yourself these questions to see what method of reimagining the rooms in your home could be right for you:

  • Should my dining room be an at-home office space, with desks for grownups by day and homework stations for kids at night?
  • Is it time to extend the kitchen island to include stools for quick meals?
  • Do we use the guest bedroom often? Or should we create a multi-purpose space that can still accommodate occasional guests?

Remember, while a dining room or guest bedroom setup may be the standard for many traditional homes, it’s best to design your space based on your own individual needs. Think about how you really use your space, then plan to make home improvements accordingly.

Moving forward with a real estate expert

Take advantage of the extra time spent indoors and add purpose to your winter with a home improvement project. These tips are ideal for homeowners staying put or hoping to sell this season.

And if you’re curious about what your property is worth or you’re ready to jump into the housing market, email or call today for help from a real estate expert you can trust.

Last-minute gifts for procrastinating holiday shoppers

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With all the hustle and bustle of winter weather and activities, it’s possible that holiday gift planning has slipped through the cracks. If you’re in need of some quick gifts, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of holiday present ideas that are both thoughtful and easy to wrap up, even if you waited until the last minute.

What’s better than two-day shipping?

While giant online shopping sites can offer two-day shipping, you can get same-day peace of mind by shopping locally. By supporting local establishments, you’ll get your gifts instantly and help the small businesses in your community thrive.

Consider starting out at one of the larger holiday markets in the metro, each of which offer dozens of vendors, some on a rotating basis, right up until the end of December:

Alternatively, make a day of heading into the Twin Cities, Duluth or Rochester to check out these top holiday shopping spots:

Order a subscription gift

No time to head out for a day of shopping? Subscriptions are perfect for last-minute shoppers hoping to offer a meaningful gift, while avoiding the hustle-and-bustle of holiday shopping. Most subscriptions can be purchased online, so all you’ll have to do is plug in your payment details and your gift will be complete. Just be sure to include the recipient’s address in the subscription details.

Many Minnesota-based businesses offer subscriptions. Here are a few local companies to shop for holiday subscriptions gifts:

If you have extra time to prepare your gift, wrap something to represent the subscription so your loved one still has something to open this winter. For example, include a wrapped candle and artisan matches with a certificate for a Frostbeard Studio subscription.

Give a shared experience

Sometimes, the most memorable gifts are experiences everyone can share together. Plan a special event that you can give as a holiday gift, such as:

Last-minute gifts that homeowners love

There are plenty of gifts for new and first-time homeowners. Luckily, these gifts can be purchased on a budget – and with little to no planning. Here are gift ideas for the homeowners on your list:

  • A gift card to a coffee shop in their new neighborhood
  • A gift card to a hardware store nearby
  • Indoor plants that are both sturdy and beautiful
  • A kit of homeowner essentials, like green cleaning supplies, tools, pet toys and more
  • A contribution to a prospective homeowner’s mortgage gift fund

Finding the perfect gift this winter

Don’t worry if you waited too long to fulfill your plans for holiday gift-giving. This list of ideas will help you find a present for everyone on your list, even if you’re shopping on a whim.

But, if you’re moving forward with a home purchase or sale this season, now is the time to reach out. Get insights from a home expert who can help you stay on track for a successful home transaction — which is the ultimate gift you can give yourself.

Note: We did our best to look into the companies and gifts named here, but we cannot guarantee the products or services. Please read the fine print when ordering any gifts, to ensure they meet your needs and expectations

What is the first-time homebuyer savings account?

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In a statewide poll, the Minnesota Association of REALTORS® (MNAR) found that 81% of Minnesotans say the biggest obstacle to buying their first home is coming up with funds for the down payment and transactional (closing) costs. In response, MNAR developed a method to assist first-time homebuyers in saving for and achieving their dream of homeownership.

Minnesota’s First-time Homebuyer Savings Account

In 2017, the Minnesota Legislature passed (and the Governor signed) a law creating the first-time homebuyer savings account. The first-time homebuyer savings account is a mechanism that offers a tax incentive to people who are saving for a home purchase. The law also permits others (like parents and grandparents) to contribute to a loved one’s home buying goals.

Setting up a first-time homebuyer savings account

To begin saving, the prospective homebuyer (or someone who is saving on their behalf) should open a savings account with a bank, credit union or similar institution. Under state law, an individual may contribute $14,000 annually to the account ($28,000 for married couples). Over time, the total amount an individual may contribute overall is $50,000, while a couple may contribute up to $100,000.

This is not quite a “set and forget” account. To stay in bounds legally, the savings account holder must designate a first-time homebuyer as a beneficiary by April 15 of the year after the account was opened. This designation may be accomplished through state tax returns.

Last, while the name of the program indicates it’s for those who are truly buying their first home, past homeowners are allowed to set up a savings account (or be named as a beneficiary to one) if more than three years have passed since they last owned a home.

The benefits of a first-time homebuyer savings account

One benefit to setting up a first-time homebuyer savings account is that you’ll receive a state tax deduction as you save up. The interest accrued on the account may be deducted from state income taxes, but not from your federal income taxes.

Of course, the primary benefit of using an account like this is that you’ll be dedicating funds directly to your future down payment or closing costs. For some would-be buyers, having a separate account devoted to their goal of homeownership — and watching that account grow — can be highly motivating.

Note: If you designate the account as a First-time Homebuyer Savings Account on your taxes, then the funds must be used for a down payment or closing costs on a home purchase. If the funds are used for any other purpose, you will incur a tax penalty.

Getting started with your homebuyer savings account

If you’re thinking about buying a home, consider taking advantage of the first-time homebuyer savings account. Reach out for guidance as you set up this account or begin budgeting for your first-ever home. Remember, help from a local expert is only a call away!

What luxury homeowners should expect when they sell their home

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Across Minnesota and western Wisconsin, homes priced above $750,000 are considered to be luxury homes. From the pricing to marketing to negotiating and beyond, selling a luxury home can be different from selling a property in the traditional marketplace.

By working with a REALTOR® who specializes in this unique, upper-bracket market, sellers can leverage the most strategic insights and tactics as they move toward the closing table. Here are insights that every luxury home seller should know before listing their home.

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

Historically, luxury homes have taken longer to sell than homes listed for under $750,000. This makes sense — as you move into higher price ranges, the pool of eligible buyers tends to get smaller. In our market, it’s possible for a $5 million home to be listed in Minnetonka, at a time when there are a limited number of buyers searching across the entire state in that price range.

However, the current inventory shortage in our market includes luxury properties, and homes in the luxury range are selling faster now than they have in years’ past. For reference:

  • In Sept. 2022, homes priced at $750,000 and above were selling in a median time of 14 days on market.
  • In Sept. 2018, luxury homes were selling in a median 86 days on market.
  • In April 2012 (the high point for the last decade), these homes were taking a median 210 days to sell.

Perhaps more importantly, homes priced below $750,000 are currently taking just 13 days to sell, meaning that luxury homes are selling at nearly the same pace as non-luxury homes. This is pretty unprecedented, and it remains to be seen if both market segments will continue selling at such a rapid pace in coming months.

*Based on information from the REGIONAL MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE OF MINNESOTA, INC. for the 16-County Twin Cities metro area for September 2022.

Will my luxury home sell fast and in multiple offers, too?

Even in a market where homes of all prices are selling quickly, there is never a guarantee that your home will be the subject of a bidding war. Rather than going in with this as a goal, it’s important to consider the various potential outcomes of your sale and to know in advance what price or conditions you are willing to accept — and how you will counter if you are fortunate enough to receive multiple offers.

What can an agent do to help me sell my luxury home?

Agents have a keen understanding of current trends in exceptional properties, and will be able to make smart recommendations for how to update older or outdated homes before they’re listed on the market.

Top trends that luxury specialists have identified include:

  • Elevated storage: Rather than simply offering a walk-in closet, owner’s suites can now include space for the homeowner to prepare for their day. Some are adding espresso machines, furniture for lounging and extra features for their furry friends.
  • Home gyms: Treadmills are no longer relegated to an extra nook in the basement. Today’s high-end homeowners are placing their Pelotons in windowed rooms where they can enjoy a gorgeous view. Bonus points if you add a sauna and cold soaking tub to your space.
  • C-suite at home: High-end homebuyers who will work from home are designing spaces that suit their needs. From a small kitchenette to prepare snacks or drinks between meetings, to fireplaces and reading nooks where they can read executive briefs, the one-of-a-kind home office is becoming more and more common.

What other services can a real estate agent offer?

In the last decade, time has become a much more precious asset for the luxury buyer and seller, and agents are able to design their services in a way that minimally disrupts high-end clients.

One way to achieve this is by pursuing a private sale. Edina Realty has a proprietary networking platform that allows agents to share private properties that are not yet listed on the market. Because Edina Realty has more than 2,000 local agents (and hundreds who specialize in luxury homes), these properties can be shared privately with buyers who are seeking local properties in varying price ranges. Private showings can be arranged, and offers can be placed even before the home is listed on the MLS.

For sellers who wish to take advantage of the traditional real estate market, we can work together to determine the unique services and marketing techniques that will help sell the home, including:

  • Stunning professional photos
  • Virtual tours, videos or drone footage
  • Floor plans
  • Staging services
  • A network of qualified buyers
  • And more

What else should I know when selling my luxury home?

In short, while it’s important to understand luxury trends when selling your home, it’s also critical not to over-generalize this unique market. To sell your home at a competitive rate in the shortest amount of time possible, you should work with a Realtor who is familiar with the recent sales activity of other high-end homes in your area.

Call today to begin discussing how we could sell your luxury property.

8 Winter energy saving tips for Midwest homeowners

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Winter is coming… and so are those astronomical heating bills. Moving forward, here are eight winter energy saving tips that can help you reduce heat loss and increase your home’s energy efficiency.

1. Replace an aging water heater

Most folks don’t think about replacing their water heater until they feel their typically hot shower plummet to colder temperatures. But if your water heater is more than 8-10 years old, it could be time to replace the appliance with a more efficient model. If this is the case for your household, it may be smart to look into:

  • A storage water heater that offers better insulation and efficiency.
  • A demand water heater, which produces hot water on demand.

This excellent guide from Smarter House can help you better understand which type of water heater will work best for your household.

2. Get an energy-efficient fireplace damper

A fireplace damper seals your fireplace when it’s not being used. If, over time, a fireplace damper cracks, rusts or warps, the device can stop closing properly. If a leak in the fireplace occurs, major heat loss and higher energy bills tend to follow.

If it’s time to replace your fireplace damper, be sure to do so early in the winter months so you can maximize savings throughout the season. In recent years, energy-efficient fireplace dampers have come on the market, and they can be easily installed by a reputable chimney service.

However, if you don’t use your fireplace at all in the winter, hire someone to fully plug and seal your chimney flue. This will keep warm air inside the home rather than flowing out the top of your fireplace.

3. Invest in a programmable thermostat

Many homeowners are still manually updating their heat settings every day — or not changing them at all during the cold winter months. This is a mistake that directly affects your heating costs, says the U.S. Department of Energy, which states that homeowners can “save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning [their] thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.”

A programmable thermostat makes it easy to automatically save money on your monthly heating bills. If you’re in a constant battle over the exact temperature that should be set, follow these programming recommendations from the Department of Energy:

  • Set your thermostat to 68°F while you're home and awake.
  • Lower the temperature while you're asleep or away from home.

(Hint: If you set that thermostat to begin rising 20 minutes before your alarm goes off in the morning, you may be able to get out of bed a little easier.)

4. Replace your furnace filters

If your home is heated by a furnace, be sure to check and replace your furnace filter regularly. Think of your filter like the lint trap on a dryer: If it’s full of dust and dirt, it has to work harder to run. A new filter helps your heating system run more efficiently right away and can prevent expensive maintenance down the road.

In general, you should plan to complete maintenance at the following intervals to ensure your system is running in tip-top condition:

  • Replace furnace filters every 3 months.
  • Replace furnaces every 15 to 20 years.

5. Upgrade to LED holiday lights

Whether you’re decorating a simple tree or going for a neighborhood-best holiday light display, keep in mind that your aging lights may be costing you more than you think. Upgrading to more energy-efficient holiday lights, such as LED bulbs, can provide a handful of benefits, including:

  • Lower operating costs
  • Longer operating life
  • Safer displays

Keep in mind, ENERGY STAR-certified bulbs use up to 75% less energy compared to conventional holiday lights, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for these certified strands of lights.

6. Check for air leaks and prevent drafts

Windows, eaves and doorways can all be responsible for air leaks. During the winter months, those ice-cold drafts can lead to much higher utility expenses. To check for leaks, the Department of Energy recommends this simple at-home test:

  • Shut a door or window on a dollar bill.
  • Pull on the dollar bill.
  • If the bill can be pulled out without dragging, energy is being lost.

Once you’ve identified if and where your home is leaking air, turn to caulk and weatherstripping to help seal gaps and promote energy savings this winter.

Here are additional tips to save energy and avoid drafts this winter:

7. Use the ceiling fan all year

Turning on a ceiling fan during summer months to create a cool breeze is a no-brainer. But did you know that many ceiling fans offer the option to reverse their rotation? This setting helps push warm air from the ceiling into the rest of the room to circulate heat.

In the winter, Energy Star recommends the following for extra energy and dollar savings:

  • Operate your fan on a clockwise rotation.
  • Set your fan on low.
  • Adjust your thermostat accordingly when using the clockwise fan method.

8. Save even more money with rebates

If you have Xcel Energy in Minnesota or western Wisconsin, check to see if you qualify for rebates on ENERGY STAR appliances, heating or cooling systems or water heater improvements. The rebates often take money off the upfront cost and installation of products that will save you money in the long run.

Still have questions?

It’s always wise to have energy-saving systems in place to save money on your winter bills. Implement as many of these tips as possible to keep the utilities in your Minnesota or western Wisconsin home low this season.

Moving forward, are you hoping to upgrade your home’s efficiency even more? Get in touch for recommendations and ideas on how to make smart energy decisions for you and your family

Four great ideas for winter staycations

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Winters in the Midwest tend to stick around just a tad longer than most of us would prefer. While the snow remains glittery and new for the first few months, a mid-season intermission from the cold is typically much appreciated.

Even if you don’t hop on a plane this winter, there are still plenty of ways to make the season enjoyable from home. The four staycation activities listed below are bound to break up the long winter – and maybe even help you find new joy in the seasonal weather, too!

  • Go ice skating or fishing
  • Have an adult-only outing
  • Learn from the Science Museum of Minnesota
  • Schedule a virtual get together

Go ice skating or fishing

One way to breathe new life into winter and embrace the cold is to go ice skating or fishing. Don’t let the cold coop you up, ice skating will get your blood pumping and ice fishing can be done in a heated fish house.

Seeing as ice skating is a top winter activity in the region, most cities have both indoor and outdoor public rinks for skating.

Ice fishing is a popular winter event, as well. Here are some of the best lakes for ice fishing that you can explore throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin on your staycation this winter:

  • Zippel Bay
  • Oak Lake
  • Lake Pepin
  • Lake Elmo
  • Nelson Lake

Have an adult-only outing

Whether you have little ones at home and you’re hoping for a rare adult-only outing, or you’re used to having independent time to explore, there are tons of winter activities for adults this season. Warm up with drinks in an ice bar in Rochester or laugh at a local comedy club. Or, try something new like a glass-blowing class in Duluth or a dog sledding experience in Ely. Ready to really embrace winter? Experience a unique Scandinavian tradition with the mobile sauna experience at 612 Sauna Society. (Don’t forget to jump in the snow after.)

No matter what winter staycation idea you choose to do, make sure to carve out time for just you and potentially other adult friends this winter.

Learn from the Science Museum of Minnesota

Learn something new at a visit to the Science Museum of Minnesota. The museum is known for its variety of immersive experiences hosted indoors. Some collections to explore at the museum include:

  • Anthropology
  • Biology
  • Paleontology

And, if you’re not feeling up to facing the cold and driving to the museum for an in-person visit, you can still take a day to virtually explore the exhibits through kid-friendly at-home activities.

No matter how you choose to visit the Science Museum this winter, you’re sure to have both an educational and creative experience after adding this event to your staycation checklist.

Schedule a virtual get together

Similar to a virtual housewarming party, you can host a virtual dinner party or play date to bolster your staycation itinerary. Start by sending a virtual invite to your friends or long-distance family members and set up a time to connect. Here are some virtual activities that you can easily organize via webcam:

  • Dinner party
  • Game night
  • Coffee chat
  • TV show or movie (via Teleparty)
  • Conversation cards

This staycation plan is ideal for those who prefer not to drive long distances in the snow to meet up, or for those who have loved ones located out of state. With a virtual get together, you can stay home while connecting with the people who mean the most to you.

Ready for your staycation home?

If you’re ready to search for a home you won’t want to leave — even in frigid January — get in touch today. We can determine the best budget, location and criteria for the house you’ve been dreaming of.

Can I sell my haunted house?

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Have you ever felt a draft that can’t be explained, or watched a door in your house slam shut when you’re home alone? Do you sometimes wake up in the morning to find that a cabinet is open… even though you could have sworn you closed them all?

It’s more common than you think! In fact, 28% of surveyed Realtors once said they’ve had to sell a home or help a buyer who believes that their current home is haunted.

If you think your house is haunted, you may be wondering: Are there ways to scientifically explain (and debunk) the spooky goings-on in my home? Will “perceived paranormal activity” affect my ability to sell the property?

Here’s everything you need to know about living in a spooky home — and how to sell a house you suspect is haunted.

Do sellers in Minnesota and Wisconsin have to disclose that their house is haunted?

Minnesota disclosure laws

Per Minnesota’s disclosure laws, sellers must state if there are any “material facts” that could affect the buyers’ use or enjoyment of the property. But there is one exception to this law.

Home sellers in Minnesota do not have to disclose “perceived paranormal activity” to any homebuyers. This law was put into effect after a homeowner in New York sued when they found out they were about to buy a “haunted” house.

Wisconsin disclosure laws

Wisconsin does not have a specific exemption for paranormal activity, but a Wisconsin seller normally would not need to disclose that a home is believed to be haunted. In Wisconsin, a seller must disclose all “defects”, which are defined as a condition that would:

  • Have a significant adverse effect on the value of the property.
  • Significantly impair the health or safety of future occupants; or
  • Significantly shorten or adversely affect the normal life of the premises if not fixed.

While the thought that a Wisconsin home is haunted would not typically fall within one of those categories, it is possible to imagine a home so stigmatized by perceived paranormal activity that it significantly affects the home’s value. But Wisconsin law also says that a seller doesn’t need to disclose “that a property was the site of a specific act or occurrence, if the act or occurrence had no effect on the physical condition of the property or any structure located on the property.” This is intended to limit the disclosure required of so-called stigmatized homes.

The short answer, then, is that if you want to sell your house, you normally do not have to disclose to potential buyers that you believe your house is haunted. But there is a bit of gray area in Wisconsin law. Together, we can determine the best course of action for selling a house that you believe is haunted.

Is your house haunted? Or in need of repairs?

No matter what you believe in, it’s important to remember that some drafts, sounds and light flashes can be explained logically — and they can also indicate real danger in your home. So before you decide that you have to sell your haunted house, try looking into these alternative causes for haunted happenings.

What’s causing that draft?

If your home has unexplained cold areas or the doors keep slamming shut, don’t immediately assume there’s a ghost in your house, upset that you replaced her vintage door knocker. Check your windows, doors and chimney to ensure they are all properly sealed and see if the drafts are eliminated once the gaps are filled in.

What’s that noise?

Before you decide that the noises in your walls or attic are due to paranormal activity, put out traps or hire a professional to check for rodents, bats and squirrels. Even small critters can make deceivingly loud noises that are easy to mistake for an intruder or apparition.

Seeing flickering?

Whether your lights flicker on and off or the bulbs burn out quickly without explanation, consider hiring an electrician. The culprit may not be an aggrieved great aunt coming to cause trouble from the afterlife — but the result of electricity shorts in your home.

Spotting orbs in photos?

Do your photos tend to include orbs or flashes of light that don’t come from your interior lighting? Make sure that your camera lens is clean of dust, debris and hair particles. If the orbs only show up occasionally, keep in mind that they could be from floating dust particles — which is especially common in attics, basements and other rooms with low traffic and minimal upkeep.

Having visions?

If you suddenly start to have persistent visions of paranormal figures or scenes inside your house, be sure to check carbon monoxide levels immediately. After prolonged exposure, the toxic gas can lead to hallucinations that are even more dangerous than they appear.

Top tips for selling a haunted house

If you check the above and still believe that your house is haunted, you’ll want to behave like any typical home seller would as they list their home for sale. Get to work fixing up the small issues your house has, taking special care to:

  • Trim up overgrown vines, shrubs and trees.
  • Repair cracks in the walls.
  • Light the pathways and driveway for nighttime visitors.
  • Brighten the home’s interior with a light, neutral paint color.
  • Fix creaky floorboards.
  • Close up drafts near windows or doors.
  • Clean out storage areas in your attic and basement.

Is there anything else I can do about my haunted house?

If logical explanations fail, and you’re not ready to move on, consider doing some research on your home’s history. The property’s location and past owners may be able to help clarify what you are seeing and hearing. If it would give you peace of mind, you can also hire a paranormal team to assess the home.

If you think it’s time to meet with a professional about selling your home, get in touch soon. Whether your home is haunted by ghosts, too many belongings… or you just want a fresh start, the right time to start planning is now.

Adding a bathroom? Consider the ROI first

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It’s fairly common for homeowners to wish they had more bathrooms. However, two new studies show that home sellers may not see the monetary or personal return on investment that they were hoping for when they add a bathroom to their existing residence.

When asking whether a new bathroom addition is right for you, be clear about your goals. Homeowners who will sell in the next few years may want to hold off, while those who plan to stay put may be more satisfied with this renovation – as their return will be the time they spend in the space.

Read on to determine if this project is right for you.

Why you might consider a bathroom addition in your home

The National Association of REALTORS® recently published the 2022 Remodeling Impact Report, which contains insights on the home upgrades that bring homeowners the most satisfaction. According to their findings, homeowners who opted for a new bathroom addition reported the following:

  • 82%: Have a greater desire to be in the home after completing the addition.
  • 48%: Feel accomplishment when reflecting on the bathroom addition.
  • 44%: Experience more enjoyment in their homes.

While a new bathroom addition has some positive feedback, it isn’t overwhelmingly so – with two of the three listed markers under 50% satisfaction.

Is it worth it for homeowners and sellers to complete a bathroom addition?

Even though homeowners may wish they had an additional bathroom, and some sellers may add a bathroom before selling, is this home upgrade a smart investment? Let’s explore the numbers.

The recently-released 2022 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com) discusses the average return on investment for home renovations performed by a licensed contractor. In Minneapolis, homeowners:

  • With a bathroom addition in the mid-range of budget (~$65,000) recouped 47.7% of their investment.
  • With an upscale (~$115,000) new bathroom addition reported 46.1% return on investment.

Last, the Remodeling Report calculated a “Joy Score” for 15 renovation projects. This number represents the happiness that homeowners report after completing their respective projects. On a scale of ten, a new bathroom addition received an 8.2 Joy Score. And, while this may seem high, it still ranks last on the list of projects surveyed.

When is the best time to add a bathroom to your home?

Although the return on investment isn’t glaringly high with a new bathroom addition, there are some instances when it could be worth it to add a bathroom to your home.

Renovating to include an owner’s suite. It remains true that 83% of today’s buyers prefer at least two bathrooms in a home. If an owner’s suite addition could make your home more competitive on the market, or if you hope to enjoy the owner’s suite yourself, this renovation could be of benefit.

If you know you plan to stay in the home for years to come. Return on investment doesn’t always need to be measured with money. If you plan on staying put for the better part of the foreseeable future, you might consider a new bathroom addition. In this case, the return of the addition will not be monetary, but instead your own use of the space.

If you expect to have frequent guests or long-term visitors. If you often find yourself preparing your home for guests or have long term-visitors who prefer privacy, a new bathroom addition could be the ideal solution.

Is moving forward with a bathroom addition the right choice for you?

While there are home improvements that can generate more money upon resale, a new bathroom addition may not be worth it for those who are hoping to sell in the next few years. For those who have guest needs, or who would themselves make use of a bathroom over the course of many years, an additional bathroom may be a smart choice.

To ensure you make the right plan for your house and your future, get in touch directly before making big renovation or selling plans.

Status Definitions

For sale: Properties which are available for showings and purchase

Active contingent: Properties which are available for showing but are under contract with another buyer

Pending: Properties which are under contract with a buyer and are no longer available for showings

Sold: Properties on which the sale has closed.

Coming soon: Properties which will be on the market soon and are not available for showings.

Contingent and Pending statuses may not be available for all listings