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Brandi Breitbach | |218-839-4897
Brittny Breitbach | |218-851-9321

a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate

The importance of estate planning

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Key Insights

  • Anyone who has assets they wish to pass on should consider estate planning.
  • Estate planning ensures your wishes are known and eases the burden on loved ones.
  • Estate planning is more than just a will: work with a lawyer to ensure all aspects of the estate are taken care of.
  • Talk with your loved ones about your end-of-life wishes, and know theirs.

Some may hear “estate planning” and think it applies only to the very wealthy, but the truth is that estate planning is something everyone should consider. Even if you don’t own real estate, estate planning allows you to let your wishes be known after you pass or in case you are incapacitated.

Estate planning lets your wishes be known

Estate planning is the act of legally establishing how your financials and assets will be managed, sustained and distributed in the event of your death or incapacitation. This includes who will pay your debts and settle your taxes, who will be in charge of your assets, and who your beneficiaries are. At its core, an estate plan allows your loved ones to know your intentions when you can no longer speak for yourself, and provides them with a roadmap on how to handle what you’ve left behind. It may also help you save on taxes, pass along more wealth to your beneficiaries, protect your assets and privacy, and help avoid your estate going into probate.

Estate plans help prevent probate and save loved ones stress

Probate is a process in which your beneficiaries have to go to court to get approval to handle your estate, and it could be a lengthy and stressful process. If you own real estate individually and it doesn’t pass immediately to someone else when you die, your heirs would have to go through the probate process. With estate planning, there are ways to transfer your property to someone by establishing a joint tenancy, trust, life estate or death deed that will help clearly and legally lay out your beneficiaries and, importantly, avoid probate.

Completing your estate planning early (and updating it as needed) helps protect your friends and family in case anything unexpected should happen to you. For instance, it would help lay out what to do if you suddenly passed away when selling your house. Always consult with a lawyer to ensure your planning is complete and properly filed.

Estate planning is more than just a will

A will is one aspect of estate planning, but it isn’t all of it. Creating a robust estate plan also includes establishing a power of attorney for healthcare and finances, setting up trusts, creating a living will (which documents your end-of-life preferences) and determining if you should set up a life insurance policy or annuity. Generally, the estate planning process includes:

  • Making an inventory of your assets: List out your property, valuables and bank accounts so you (and your loved ones) know all your possessions and what they’re worth.
  • Planning for what your family will need: If you have minor children or pets, think about who you’d like to take care of them, and consider getting life insurance to help them live comfortably.
  • Naming your beneficiaries: This includes family, friends and charities that you’d want to take care of after your death.
  • Determining inheritance: Divide your assets among your beneficiaries and clearly state who gets what.
  • Filing and storing all documentation: Work with a lawyer to ensure all paperwork is properly filed, and keep a copy of all documentation in a safe place like a fire-proof safe or safety deposit box. Make sure everyone who needs a copy receives one (your lawyer can help determine who), and that your loved ones know who to contact or where to retrieve your estate plan.
  • Updating your plan regularly: Make it a point to check your estate plan regularly to ensure it's still meeting your and your family’s needs. Marriages, divorces, births, deaths, inheritances, moves and large purchases could all necessitate updates to your estate plan.

Take charge of your planning, and make sure others do too

No one wants to think about their death, or what will happen in the wake of their passing, but it’s important to start planning early in case of unforeseen circumstances. This becomes all the more crucial when minors and dependents get involved, and as you age.

If you’re someone with aging parents, check in with them to make sure they have their estate planning well in hand. It also doesn’t hurt to take note of who their estate lawyer is or where they store their estate planning documentation, just in case. It can be an awkward subject to bring up, but understanding your parents' wishes and making sure all documentation is in order will be a big relief to you and them.

Move forward with estate planning

Whether you’re a longtime property owner who’s looking to downsize, or you’re expanding your family and your square footage, you should make a plan for your estate. Reach out for help taking the next step in your homeownership journey.

Home buying tips that never go out of style

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Key Insights

  • When it comes to signing a mortgage, you deserve to be picky! Shop around until you find the perfect fit.
  • Ensure your mortgage is manageable, and that you have some extra financial cushion each month.
  • Don’t worry about what kind of property the family across the street has. Instead, put your family and finances first.

While the housing market can change on a day-to-day basis, some home buying tips always retain their truth. By following the advice your parents and grandparents likely considered as they purchased their homes decades ago, you can be sure you’re responsibly undertaking the biggest investment of your lifetime. Here are some insights you can use while purchasing a home.

Be realistic about what you can afford

First, don’t spend beyond your means. In other words, don’t buy a bigger or more expensive house than you can afford. While it’s true that lending standards have gotten stricter, homebuyers can self-regulate by purchasing homes no more than two to three times their annual income. Be sure to determine what you can afford to spend on a home at the beginning stages of your property search (learning your debt-to-income ratio is a good start). And remember, it’s not a bad idea to begin saving for your down payment now.

Shop around for a mortgage

As a prospective buyer, you have many finance and loan options. Since you will likely need a loan for your big investment, it’s a good idea to meet with various banks and lenders to ensure you're getting the best rate, terms and conditions.

As much as mortgage lenders are evaluating if you’d be a reliable client for them, you are also interviewing them to see if they’d be a good partner for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, take notes and do your research.

By shopping around for a mortgage, you may end up with financial savings and optimal conditions. Compare fees associated with applying through multiple lenders and don't be afraid to mention you are considering competitors as it may earn you better rates. Some may even have special promos or financing options.

Make your mortgage manageable

In today’s credit-happy world, it may seem silly to turn down a large loan offered by your bank. However, by putting down a generous down payment and choosing a lower mortgage loan, you will offer your family a bit of cushion should your financial situation change.

It’s also a good idea to plan on how you’ll make your payments on time. Will you set up automatic payments, or put a note in your calendar? What frequency will you pay your mortgage? What account will you use to pay? Considering the “how” of paying your mortgage and planning ahead will allow you to remain up to date on your payments and keep you in good financial standing.

Focus on the best purchase

Perhaps the most common advice parents and grandparents give out is, “Don’t buy the nicest house on the block.” While humility is a wonderful trait for anyone, this advice is also financially sound.

It may be best to buy a fixer-upper or an average-priced home so you can add value to it over time. If you buy the standout house of the neighborhood, it’s possible the property won’t appreciate as quickly as the mid-range homes surrounding it. It could also be harder to find a buyer later on if the neighborhood doesn’t improve around you.

Rather than picking the most trendy or modern home on the street, consider investing in a property with good bones that’s also within your price range. You can further lessen your financial strain and save money by spacing out upgrades and doing some improvement projects yourself.

Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses

Lastly, don’t buy more house than you need! With investment properties on the rise and social media fostering a digital “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses’” mentality, it seems as though everyone is living above their means these days. By choosing a home that you can grow into, but isn’t too big or extravagant, you’ll be investing in a future that allows you more financial flexibility.

Put these tried and true tips to use!

Whether you find a forever property or a starter home you’ll have for a few years, these tried-and-true home buying tactics will help you make the most responsible decision. Reach out to begin your property search.

Edina Realty Mortgage is an affiliate of Edina Realty. See Affiliated Business Arrangement Disclosure Statement

10 essential tips for first-time home sellers

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Key insights:

  • There are a number of steps you should take when preparing to sell your home.
  • Addressing repairs, odors and staging can help you attract top-dollar.
  • A qualified REALTOR® can help guide you through the process – from home prep to closing.

The buzz around a first-time home purchase is undeniable, but what about those selling for the first time?

In today’s home market, sellers hold the advantage. With a limited number of houses listed and plenty of interested buyers, many properties are selling for the asking price and they’re going fast. By learning how to sell your house with these real estate tips, you’ll be on your way to becoming an empowered home seller — especially in the current climate.

Here are the 10 home seller tips you need to know moving forward, including finding the right agent, staging your home for sale, pricing your listing and so much more.

Home seller tip #1: Staging matters

A crucial step when listing your home is staging your house for sale. In fact, the fastest way to sell your house may be through staging. According to the National Association of REALTORS, 48% of listing agents indicate that staging a home decreases the time the property spends on the market. Why? Because a staged property tends to increase buyer interest along with in-person traffic to the property.

To best stage your house, start by decluttering your space. Be sure to stash away any personal photos or mementos and ensure that all surfaces are tidy and clean. With this neutral home foundation, you can begin to stage each room in the home. Here are some simple yet effective styling tips for sellers to get you started:

  • Use subtle wall colors and re-paint if necessary.
  • Sparingly incorporate plants, throw pillows and other decorative items.
  • If items like towels or dishes are displayed, make sure they match.

Home seller tip #2: Maximize your curb appeal

Now that you’ve mastered the art of staging the inside of your home, it’s time to enhance the curb appeal of your home’s exterior. Whether interested buyers pass by your house on the street or scroll by your property online, the first image they’ll likely see is of the front of your home. In order to make the best first impression, you’ll want the face of your home to stand out.

To solicit a strong set of offers, start with a bright and tidy homefront. Here are some specific tips to boost your curb appeal, depending on the time of year you’re selling:

  • Pressure-wash your siding.
  • Wash every window until it sparkles.
  • Keep a well-manicured lawn and yard.
  • Maintain your garden, plants and mulch.
  • Shovel snow from your sidewalk and driveway.

Home seller tip #3: Clean up and declutter

A clean home will work in your favor for a handful of reasons. Not only will it appear more spacious and fresh, but it will also allow potential buyers to more easily picture themselves living there.

There are a variety of methods to begin to declutter your home, such as:

  • KonMari
  • Swedish Death Cleaning
  • The Four Box Method
  • 12-12-12 Challenge

Next, be sure to deep clean these typical trouble spots, and follow that up with a general cleaning of your usual spaces. By mixing up your cleaning routine, you’ll be more likely to stay motivated (and fit!) as you prepare to sell.

Home seller tip #4: Use high-quality listing photos

In the era of the internet, it’s no surprise that listing photos can make quite an impact on your home sale. The numbers support this notion too, as 83% of homebuyers indicate that photos are one of the most important ways they choose which houses to tour.

Get high-quality photos so you can have bright, crisp images of your home online.

Home seller tip #5: Price your home carefully

While you may think an ultra-high listing price can be negotiated down to your ideal sale price later on, this typically isn’t the case. One of the most surprising things first-time sellers don't know is that pricing your home too high can actually hurt your home sale in the long run.

It’s important to price your home reasonably from the beginning. This will help you get the best price at closing and it may cut down the amount of time your home spends on the market.

While you may understand the importance of a sweet-spot listing price, it can still be difficult to determine what that price is. By working with a REALTOR who understands the market and your home’s assets, you can come up with a number that makes you feel confident and excited about selling your home.

Home seller tip #6: Hire a trustworthy agent

A real estate agent will be your greatest asset throughout the home sale process. This professional will have your best interests in mind as they help you score a successful home sale. Start by interviewing multiple agents until you find the right fit. When you chat with one or a few REALTORS, you’ll gain a better sense of their personality, communication style and how they will market your home.

When interviewing and hiring an agent, ask questions on the following topics:

  • Their REALTOR network and contacts
  • Resources that could be of value to you
  • Tips when preparing your home for sale
  • Their familiarity with your neighborhood
  • Past home sales and experiences

Home seller tip #7: Be prepared to show at all times

When an interested buyer is available to tour your home, you’ll want to be ready, too. Here are some easy ways to keep your home prepared to show any time:

  • Wash dishes immediately after every meal.
  • Ensure the trash is never overflowing.
  • Make beds every morning.
  • Consistently clean up toys, mail and other clutter.
  • Have a designated place or sitter for pets.

By taking these small steps every day, you’ll be prepared to open your doors to potential buyers on the fly.

Home seller tip #8: Make simple repairs and upgrades

While some buyers are up for the challenge of purchasing a fixer-upper home, many appreciate the convenience of a turnkey abode. Therefore, it’s important to focus on the details. Take a walk through your house and make note of any dings or scratches on the walls, stained carpet, squeaky cabinets or mismatched fixtures. Then, make simple repairs and upgrades to these items.

For some larger-scale ideas — that also have a decent return on investment (ROI) — check out these tasks. These home improvements have been researched and are shown to have the best ROI upon resale:

  • HVAC conversion/electrification
  • Garage door replacement
  • Siding replacement
  • Manufactured stone veneer addition
  • Entry door replacement

Home seller tip #9: Remove odors

As potential buyers pass through the hallways and rooms of your house, they’ll likely pay attention to every detail, including the smell of your home. You want them to be met with the best first impression possible.

To create a pleasant experience for interested buyers, make it a point to eliminate household odors. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Boil a small amount of vinegar in water to rid your kitchen of strong odors.
  • Make odor absorbers with coffee grounds or baking soda.
  • Plug in a dehumidifier in your basement or other areas that tend to hold extra moisture.
  • Use air purifiers that are rated to remove odors.
  • Use lightly scented essential oils or room sprays.
  • Bake a yummy treat, like a tray of muffins or cookies.

Home seller tip #10: Don’t rush the process

Take your time and ask yourself these important questions before selling. Listing a house for sale and eventually closing the deal is an important process that takes time. Whether you’re at the beginning stages of a home sale or almost to the closing table, know that you’re in charge and can make each decision at your own pace.

Ready to sell your home?

Now that you know the best tips to sell a home, let’s chat. Together, we can determine next steps!

How to determine what you can afford when buying a home

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Key insights:

  • Buyers can determine their buying power by reviewing different financial factors and researching common loan types and terms.
  • Lenders will look at a borrower’s monthly debt compared to their monthly income.
  • While a large down payment can be advantageous, various loan types exist for buyers with different financial backgrounds.

Many first-time homebuyers start dreaming of homes well in advance of finding out what they can responsibly afford. And while searching for homes online can be exciting, there are a series of financial factors that should be explored before you get serious about buying. Here’s what to know as you determine what you can truly afford when buying a home.

Remember, every buyer is different, so it’s important to work with a mortgage consultant or financial advisor who understands your background and can provide a personalized, professional assessment of your finances.

Your debt-to-income-ratio

After you apply for a loan, your lender will review your financials to determine how much of your monthly income is spent (or will be spent) paying off accrued debt. The calculation of this number is called your debt-to-income ratio. Lenders calculate your debt-to-income ratio to ensure that buying a house will not be too much of a financial burden over time.

Down payment gifts and assistance programs

A larger down payment can increase your buying power and help to provide favorable loan terms. But while many buyers are able to reliably pay a monthly mortgage payment, they may have a harder time coming up with a significant down payment at the time of closing.

For some buyers, there may be additional options to boost your buying power without a large down payment.

  • If you have generous friends or relatives who want to help you get a leg up on your home purchase, you can use a mortgage gift fund for your down payment.
  • Depending on your income, debt, credit score and a few other factors, you may be eligible for down payment assistance programs in Minnesota or Wisconsin. These programs are not available through all lenders or may not be offered during certain times. Check with your mortgage consultant for current options.

Loan types: Limits, terms and more

You may also find it helpful to research loan types and determine which will be the most advantageous for you. Some loans offer more favorable terms to those with a higher down payment and stronger financial history, while other “helper” loans are available to buyers who can’t put as much down at closing.

There are three main ways that major loan terms vary:

  • Down payment minimum: Loan types vary in the amount they require for a minimum down payment.
  • Loan limits: Some loan types have a ceiling, meaning that the loan cannot exceed a specific amount.
  • Mortgage insurance: If a borrower puts less down at closing, their lender may require them to pay mortgage insurance.

Learn about the down payment minimums, loan limits and other terms of FHA loans, VA loans and conventional loans.

Mortgage interest rates

The mortgage interest rate you qualify for will also greatly affect affordability. The lower your interest rate, the more home you can afford because you will pay less interest monthly and over the life of the loan.

Here’s an example: If you are approved for a 7% interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan for $300,000, your monthly mortgage payment would be about $2,239 per month.

If your interest rate rose to 8%, but all other factors remained identical, your monthly mortgage payment would increase to about $2,693 per month. That means that by inflating the interest rate by just 1 percent, you would end up paying on average $3,000 more in interest annually — and $90,000 over the life of the loan.

When talking with your lender as you apply for a loan, you can ask them if any factors in your control affect your interest rate.

The hottest trend: Responsible homeownership

By understanding what factors affect your buying power, you are one step closer to becoming a responsible homeowner.

If you’re ready to move beyond affordability research to see what you can truly afford, consider getting pre-approved by a lender. It’s a no-obligation process that can illuminate your buying power and put you on a fast, successful path to homeownership.

To move forward with your home buying process, reach out anytime.

Edina Realty Mortgage is an affiliate of Edina Realty. See Affiliated Business Arrangement Disclosure Statement

Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC may operate as Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage in Minnesota and Wisconsin. ©2023 Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage. (877) 275-1762. 3060 Williams Drive, Suite 600, Fairfax, VA 22031. All first mortgage products are provided by Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC. Not all mortgage products may be available in all areas. Not all borrowers will qualify. NMLS ID #75164 (For licensing information go to: NMLS Consumer Access at http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/) Licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act. Licensed by the Delaware State Bank Commissioner. Georgia Residential Mortgage Licensee. Massachusetts Mortgage Lender and Mortgage Broker MC75164. Licensed by the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance. Licensed Mortgage Banker-NYS Department of Financial Services. Rhode Island Licensed Lender. Rhode Island Licensed Loan Broker. Rhode Island Licensed Third-Party Loan Servicer. Also licensed in AK, AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DC, FL, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV and WY.

Why new construction is the answer for move-up buyers

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Key Insights

  • With a lack of existing homes for sale, new construction offers attractive options for move-up buyers.
  • You can select your ideal layout, fixtures, finishes and more.
  • You may have more flexibility with your timeline.

The real estate market has been challenging for some buyers with a limited number of existing homes for sale. Luckily, new construction homes are on the rise in the Midwest and nationally and can be a great option, especially for those who are selling and hoping to move to a larger or right-sized home. Here are some insights to consider when thinking about moving forward with a new construction property.

1. You won’t have to worry about home inventory

For many homeowners who are hoping to sell and upgrade to a new home, the shortage of homes for sale is a primary concern. Across Minnesota and western Wisconsin, buyers are finding themselves competing over a limited number of homes for sale at almost every price point.

If you’re a would-be seller concerned about finding your next property in time for your move, new construction may be a great choice for you. Whether you’re looking to live in a condo in the lively North Loop, a townhome in Shakopee or a single-family home in Woodbury, you’ll likely find plenty of options to choose from if you expand your search to include new construction.

2. You’ll be in control of the design

As a current homeowner, you know your property’s faults inside and out. You also likely know the exact features you want in your next home, and finding a home that matches your high expectations may be difficult in today’s low inventory market.

By purchasing new construction, you’ll be able to control everything from the room layout to the number of garage stalls to the temperature of your home’s floors when you wake up in the morning. When you build from the ground up, even your pipe dreams can become reality. Go ahead and put in the butler’s pantry or spa-like bathroom complete with a soaking tub (Just think how nice your toes will feel as you walk across your heated floor!).

Worried about the timeline? Many developers are also selling “spec” homes, or speculative homes. Because the new construction market is showing strength, some builders are building inventory homes in developments before they’ve been sold. That means buyers who choose spec homes can often move in faster than those who participate during the entire building process. Once the buyer signs on, the home may already have its foundation set and general layout finalized, but the buyer can customize the home’s design features to match their personal style. Dream up all the smart appliances, unique lighting fixtures and trending accent wall colors your heart desires to make it undoubtedly yours.

3. Move at your own pace

More and more, today’s home sellers are using the low inventory market as leverage when accepting offers on their current homes. Sellers may add reverse contingencies to the purchase agreement, or specify that the sale of the home is contingent on them finding a new home to buy. If you plan to sell your home and will be purchasing new construction, work with your REALTOR® to add a reverse contingency to build in a safety cushion when it comes to the timing of your move.

Remember, a reverse contingency only works when the seller has a clear advantage, and not all homes will generate buyer competition. Together, we can determine the best strategy for asking for a delayed closing while still ensuring your home sells for top dollar.

Ready to get started?

New construction is up nearly 48% in the Midwest, so it’s a great time to consider building or buying a new construction home! Whether you have a development in mind or are starting from a clean slate, reach out today to get started.

Ask an Edina Realty Lawyer: How does a dementia diagnosis impact the sale of a home

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Homeownership can be complicated, but we also think it’s one of the most rewarding ventures out there. In our series, Ask an Edina Realty Lawyer, we are hoping to demystify some of the trickier aspects of buying, selling and owning a home.

In this edition, one of our lawyers covers the capacity for selling a home when a parent or loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.

Dear Edina Realty Legal,

My mom was recently diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. She had been planning to sell her house soon. Will this affect her plans?

Edina Realty Legal:

Many people find themselves in the position of helping their parents determine how to handle their assets when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. The fact your mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s does not necessarily mean she can’t sell her house. It just means that legally, she must have the proper capacity.

In Minnesota and Wisconsin, a person has the legal capacity to enter into a real estate contract if they can understand to a reasonable extent the nature and effect of what they are doing. Your mom may experience varying levels of incapacity as her diagnosis progresses that affect her ability to understand and complete the sale of her house.

Can we sell her house for her?

Generally, the person who owns a house is the only person who legally has the power to sell the house. (This is true even for family members.) Your mom could identify someone to act on her behalf and sign any contracts or other documents involved in selling her house. She would do this by executing a power of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document granting someone the power to act in certain ways, including the power to sell real property, like a house. For her power of attorney to be effective, your mom must complete and sign it of her own free will while she still has the proper capacity to do so.

“Durable” power of attorney

For the power of attorney to survive any future mental decline, the power of attorney must be made “durable” or otherwise specifically indicate that it is your mom’s intent for it to continue to be effective even if she loses capacity. How you make a power of attorney “durable” depends on the type of power of attorney put in place. For example, Minnesota’s statutory power of attorney form has a box she would need to check at the time she signs it for the power of attorney to remain in effect throughout any future incapacity.

Petition for conservatorship

If there is no power of attorney in place and your mom does not have the proper capacity to execute one, anyone who wants to sell her home would need to petition the court for conservatorship. In a conservatorship, the court appoints a person (called the “conservator” in Minnesota and the “guardian of the estate” in Wisconsin) to make financial decisions for the person subject to the conservatorship, including the power to sell their house. To be appointed as conservator for your mom, you would need to show the court that your mom lacks the proper capacity to make decisions regarding her assets and that you are an appropriate person to be appointed to make those decisions for her.

Please note that selling your mom’s house may affect her ability to qualify for different types of government assistance, like VA pensions/aid or Medicaid. These topics are outside the scope of this article and should be discussed with an experienced elder law attorney.

The Edina Realty Legal Department serves as in-house counsel for Edina Realty and does not represent private clients. This insight is not intended to provide legal advice.

Tips to prep your finances if you’re buying in the next year

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Key insights:

  • Evaluate your financial history and credit score, then work to correct any imperfections or mistaken records.
  • Practice better spending habits and clean up your bank accounts (all unverified deposits may require additional documentation).
  • Work with your mortgage consultant to set yourself up for success even if the unexpected (like your car biting the dust) should happen.

Most homebuyers prepare in advance by saving for a down payment, but the down payment is just one of many financial factors to buying a home and getting a mortgage.

If you’re in the process of saving for your first house, there are other financial variables that may help position you favorably for a home mortgage loan. Here are insights you can use to help you reduce expenses, clean up your finances, and get ready to buy a house.

3-12+ months away from buying

During this time frame, you’ll want to focus on your long-term financial plan by:

  • Checking your credit
  • Meeting with a mortgage consultant
  • Paying down any debt
  • Minimizing unnecessary expenses
  • Getting pre-approved

Review your credit report

You’ve probably heard this before — your credit score is important. Whether you’re buying your first condo or upgrading to a new house, lenders will use this score as one way to gauge your creditworthiness. Although it may be possible to get a mortgage even if you have a lower credit score, a lower score can affect your loan terms and may increase your monthly payments. By maintaining the highest credit score possible, you could save a lot of money over the long term.

Paying your bills on time will lead to a higher credit score. So, make it easy on yourself by organizing your payments. Turn on your calendar notifications, set up automatic payments, or highlight important dates in your planner to remind yourself when it's time to pay bills. These small changes will help you avoid late payments.

It’s also a good idea to get a copy of your free credit report. Once the report is in your hands, look for errors — a missed payment that was made on time or an account that is mistakenly listed under your name can be corrected by contacting your credit agency.

The three main credit agencies are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion(1). They recommend that you file any credit disputes with them online:

Meet with a mortgage consultant

It can be smart to meet with a mortgage consultant* well before you’re ready to start the home-buying process. They can help you assess your finances and determine how you can become a more appealing borrower. In some cases, they may recommend specific debts to focus on; in others, they can share strategies for saving for a down payment or even getting down payment assistance.

In short, having a solid relationship with a mortgage consultant early on can help first-time buyers become better prepared for buying down the road.

Focus on paying down debts

Calculating your debt-to-income ratio is paramount to getting the most favorable terms for your loan.

If you’re able, start to improve your debt-to-income ratio by paying down your long-term “installment” debt, which is made up of monthly expenses you owe, including:

  • Student loans
  • Personal loans
  • Auto loans

And remember, even if you have student loans, applying for a mortgage is not out of the question. If you have enough income to cover your bills and potential mortgage payment, you should be in the clear. In fact, those with a high income and typical monthly debt may have a better debt-to-income ratio than people without loans.

You may wonder, how is it possible to have more debt yet have a better debt-to-income ratio? The key word is ratio. Getting approved for a loan is not about how much total debt you have; it’s based on how much you owe monthly as compared to your monthly income.

Save for a down payment

When you’re applying for a mortgage, every penny counts! Be sure to cut down on unnecessary expenses anywhere you can, including dining out and all those unused subscriptions to streaming services.

Although responsible financial habits will play a large part in saving for your down payment, buyers with generous family members or friends can also consider mortgage gift funds. Do you think your family might assist with your down payment? Begin talking about the monetary help they could contribute. There are also low down payment options and down payment assistance available for certain buyers.

Get pre-approved for a loan

Hands down, the best way to financially prepare for a mortgage is to get pre-approved by a lender. Don’t worry, getting a pre-approval doesn't mean you have to buy anything! It’s simply a way to understand how much you could take out in a loan.

Getting pre-approved can also give you general insights into financial weaknesses that you may be able to fix over time. By building a relationship with your mortgage consultant, you’ll have someone to call if you have questions about your finances in the months prior to your mortgage application.

0-3 months away from buying

The 60-day window before you apply for a loan is critical. During this time, you should focus on:

  • Confirming your down payment and financials.
  • Keeping your payments and accounts clean.
  • Staying in close touch with your mortgage consultant.

Verify the down payment and financials

A lender has to verify the assets and other components related to the mortgage transaction (including the down payment) for the 60 days prior to the loan application. If possible, put your entire down payment into one account ahead of this timeframe.

Take Edina Realty Mortgage Consultant Enda Moore’s (NMLSR ID: 1044631) advice:

“One of the more challenging scenarios is for cash assets to be pending between one account and another at the time of a loan application,” says Enda. “If the two bank accounts don’t ‘talk to’ each other, we have to dive into forensic accounting, which is a hassle for everyone and can involve a lot of extra paperwork. If you’re a buyer who is moving toward closing, you’ll want to avoid that kind of last-minute stress by cleaning up your accounts well in advance of applying for a loan.”

Minimize tech-first financial transfer apps

Another part of cleaning up your bank history includes avoiding large transfers from accounts that lack clear records. Lenders must examine transfers that comprise more than 25% of a buyer’s monthly income. Confusing transactions made electronically via Venmo, Zelle or PayPal may “flag” a lender or make it difficult for them to understand where your money is coming from and going to.

While your friends can still pay you back for brunch on your mobile app, stick to collecting larger payments (like rent or your family phone plan) via old-school checks in the months leading up to the mortgage application.

When in doubt, call your mortgage consultant

Mortgage consultants understand that not everyone has perfect credit or crystal-clear financial records and they also know that the unexpected can happen in the months before you apply for a mortgage.

These professionals stress that it’s important to call your mortgage consultant if you run into a situation that could impact your ability to get approved for a loan. Whether your car dies, you have to take on a bit more credit card debt, or you start a new job, it’s best to keep your mortgage consultant in the loop to minimize the impact of these potential financial changes(2).

Ready to apply for a mortgage?

Put your best foot forward. Consider making simple changes — both short-term and long-term — to get your finances in check before applying for a home mortgage loan.

If you’re ready to make the next step, reach out to begin the home-buying process.

(1) Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage is not a credit counselor. Information displayed is not credit advice and should not be relied upon or interpreted as such.
(2) Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC is not a financial or tax advisor and cannot and is not offering tax advice. Please consult a financial advisor or certified public accountant to determine what the tax implications of purchasing real estate may be.

*Edina Realty Mortgage is an affiliate of Edina Realty. See Affiliated Business Arrangement Disclosure Statement

Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC may operate as Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage in Minnesota and Wisconsin. ©2023 Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage. (877) 275-1762. 3060 Williams Drive, Suite 600, Fairfax, VA 22031. All first mortgage products are provided by Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC. Not all mortgage products may be available in all areas. Not all borrowers will qualify. NMLS ID #75164 (For licensing information go to: NMLS Consumer Access at http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/) Licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act. Licensed by the Delaware State Bank Commissioner. Georgia Residential Mortgage Licensee. Massachusetts Mortgage Lender and Mortgage Broker MC75164. Licensed by the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance. Licensed Mortgage Banker-NYS Department of Financial Services. Rhode Island Licensed Lender. Rhode Island Licensed Loan Broker. Rhode Island Licensed Third-Party Loan Servicer. Also licensed in AK, AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DC, FL, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV and WY.

Staging a house for sale: A seller’s guide

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Key insights

  • Your color scheme should remain mostly neutral when staging. However, some pops of color can add charm.
  • When staging your home, emphasize its best features and remove clutter.
  • Your REALTOR® is an expert on the home transaction process, including staging techniques and how and when to hire a professional stager.

If you’re ready to put your home on the market, you’ll want to create a space that’s appealing to buyers. If someone can imagine themselves living in your curated space, they may be more likely to buy it.

But how much time and money should you spend staging your home? And do you have to renovate every room? We’re here to help answer your questions as you prep your home for sale. When it comes to staging your home, you’ll want to know:

  • The basics: How and why people stage their homes
  • Home staging tips for each room in your house
  • Should I hire a stager or can I do it myself?
  • How can I find the best local home stager?
  • All things considered, should I stage my home when selling?

The basics: How and why to stage your home

Chances are, over the years you’ve created a home that suits your family and your lifestyle. Maybe the traditional living room includes a TV and devices for your video-game-obsessed kids and the basement is your at-home fitness studio.

Everyone develops a home flow that works best for them. But when it comes time to sell, you don’t want to show buyers how you live. You want to show them how they can live their best lives by emphasizing key features and functions of your space.

Staging your home is a process that highlights the property’s potential and minimizes its weaknesses. To stage a home, you’ll want to present the space as a clean slate so that any buyer can picture themselves living there.

The process of staging a home typically includes:

  • Getting rid of clutter. No more baskets of mail to shred or clothes draped on the chair in the bedroom.
  • Neutralizing the space. Paint over bright rooms and rent furniture that doesn’t make a statement.
  • Returning rooms to a more common purpose. The Xbox needs to leave the living room and the space should be reappointed to a more traditional setup.
  • Creating more space. Get rid of bulky furniture, which can make rooms look smaller.

And remember, experts advise sellers to stage their homes because it works. Buyers greatly prefer staged homes. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 81% of buyers’ agents said “staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.”

Home staging tips by room

Although staging a home is important, it’s not necessary to completely redo every nook and cranny. Not all rooms need to be completely staged; per the NAR, the most important rooms to stage for buyers are the:

  • Living room (39%)
  • Primary/main bedroom (36%)
  • Kitchen (30%)

Focusing on key rooms and high-traffic areas is a good idea, but it’s also really important to consider your home’s first impression with online shoppers. Photos of bright and clean spaces will encourage buyers to take a closer look. Here’s how to transform various areas in your home to appeal to a broader set of buyers:

Living room

  • Remove bulky furniture.
  • Put photos and knick-knacks into storage.
  • Remove outdated decor.
  • Use a subtle wall color (re-paint if necessary) and neutral furniture.
  • Add small pops of color for charm — throw pillows, blankets, and baskets work well.
  • Emphasize natural light by opening shades and utilizing side lamps.

Dining room

  • Set up an appropriately sized table.
  • Select four or six chairs to place around the table.
  • Hang a single pendant-style light over the table.
  • Keep open shelving sparse — don’t display every dish or candle.
  • Set the table with chic and simple table settings.

Owner’s suite or main bedroom

  • Make the bed, which should have a bed frame and headboard. Use fresh, neutral bedding.
  • Create texture with plush throw pillows.
  • Make the space look and feel open.
  • Remove all furniture in the room except the bed, side table, and dresser. Desks and couches are not necessary unless the room has more than enough space to accommodate the extra pieces.

Other bedrooms

  • Follow the same “less is more” theme as the main bedroom, keeping the space well-decorated, bright, and airy.
  • Refrain from putting a queen-sized bed in a tiny room.
  • When staging a kid’s room, minimize the number of toys and books that are present.

Kitchen

  • Clean it until it sparkles — inside and out.
  • Pay special attention to cabinets, the top of the fridge and stove, and inside the oven and microwave!
  • Remove clutter and bulky appliances from countertops.
  • Keep four to six place settings in your cupboards, including cups, mugs, bowls, napkins, etc. Remove extras and mismatched sets.
  • Add a plant or some other decorative charm, like a bowl of lemons or apples.

Bathrooms

  • Clean, clean, clean, including the shower, counters, toilet, fixtures, and floors.
  • Consider upgrading the vanity or at least the hardware to something more trendy.
  • Revisit the light fixture if outdated.
  • Reconsider your trays, soaps, towels, rugs, and bath mats. Display items that are new and matching.
  • Add candles and other bath items around a soaking tub to remind the buyers of how they could enjoy the space.

Should I hire a stager, or can I do it myself?

It’s important to stage your home for sale. But, when deciding whether to hire a stager:

  • Consult with your agent.
  • Assess the amount of work the space will need.
  • Consider the cost of staging.

Throughout the home sale process, including when staging, your agent will have your best interests in mind. Together, we’ll consider how much effort will need to go into the home in order to have it ready for listing and home tours.

In some cases, a home may only require basic cleaning and reorganizing to be market-ready; in others, the space may need all new furniture and decor. Here, a professional stager’s discretion could come in handy.

Cost is another consideration when determining whether or not to stage a home. Stagers often charge an hourly rate in addition to the cost of renting furniture and decor. Is this something that will fit in your budget?

If you decide to hire a professional stager, interview multiple stagers to determine one who:

  • Fits your style and budget.
  • Maintains positive online reviews.
  • Has furniture or staging items that match your house style.
  • Has experience working with private sellers.

Should I stage my home when selling?

According to 81% of buyers’ agents, staging made it easier for a buyer to visualize themselves in the home.

To stage a house, a home seller or stager should:

  • Neutralize the property so buyers can picture living (and thriving) in the space.
  • Use smaller furniture so that rooms feel larger and more open.
  • Add pops of color and accent walls for an extra punch of cheer and charm.
  • Emphasize the rooms with the most potential.
  • Focus on tidying up the bathroom.
  • Return rooms to their most natural purpose.
  • Use special considerations based on the season.
  • Eliminate potential odors that will hamper the home tour experience.

Moving forward with a staged home

Ready to bring your home to life? Staging is an important part of selling your home, and you’ll want to get the best sale price for the current market. Reach out to get started.

How to cut back perennial plants in the fall

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Perennial flowers and plants can add effortless beauty and blossoms to your lawn. To keep these plants healthy for years to come, it may be necessary to cut your perennials in the fall; this will help ensure the most robust blooms come spring.

Although you may associate the season of fall with raking leaves rather than tending to the garden, now is the perfect time to give your landscaping a little extra care. You may find you have more time in the fall than in the spring when you’ll be busy planting annual flowers and rejuvenating your yellowed, post-winter lawn.

Here are tips to help you take advantage of the last bit of nice weather as you prep your garden for spring.

Cut back these perennials in the fall

When left out for winter without being properly cared for, perennials are at risk for decay and disease. However, cleaning and pruning your garden will set up your plants for a successful and healthy bloom in the spring.

To keep your garden in optimal condition, a Master Gardener recommends cutting back these plants in the fall:

  • Plants prone to fungus
  • Bee balm
  • Flowering bulbs
  • Geranium
  • Mint
  • Bleeding hearts
  • Phlox
  • Hosta
  • Leafy plants with little or no flower heads

Of course, different plants require different treatments. Here’s how to cut back three of the most common Midwestern perennial plants by the time the winter frost hits.

Peony: Because peonies are susceptible to foliage diseases and blossom blights, it’s smart to prune the tops of the plants back to near soil level. You’ll decrease your risk of diseased plants by removing these leaves and stems; then you will be greeted by lovely spring flowers.

Daylily: The leaves of the daylily can’t withstand the winter cold. Be sure to cut back daylily foliage after a light frost. This will save you the mess of clearing mushy leaves when spring rolls around. Plus, removing old leaves provides room for new, fresh growth for the plant.

Hosta: Around the first frost, cut hosta leaves down one to two inches above soil level. Not only is this good for the plant, but it will be easier for you as well. If you wait to remove hosta foliage until after winter, the leaves will become mush and difficult to prune.

Plants to leave “as is” through the winter

After you’ve taken care of your perennials that need pruning, the following perennials can be left for the winter:

  • Blue False Indigo
  • Coneflower
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Sedum
  • Native grass and ornamental grass
  • Hydrangea

These plants are hardy. They can withstand the winter, and then blossom again in the spring.

Do you have diseased plants?

Strange spots, discoloration, wilting flowers, and rotting leaves are all signs that you could have a diseased plant in your garden. By pruning back your garden in the fall, you can help prevent further damage and hopefully revive your plants for a healthy spring.

But after you cut down your plants, what should you do with the diseased plant matter? According to the University of Minnesota, you should use an online diagnostic tool or submit a sample and then dispose of it, often by burying or burning it in an area where you will not plant in the future. You will also want to clean all garden tools thoroughly.

Protect your plants for the winter!

The final step to keep your plants safe from winter snow is to cover your perennials. To do this, add a layer of mulch (think shredded leaves, straw, or bark) on top of your perennials. This layer should be about four to eight inches thick. This layer of mulch will protect and insulate your garden’s roots from the bitter cold that winter brings.

Whether you’re preparing your garden to survive winter or getting your landscaping in pristine condition for a move, feel free to reach out for help.

Source: Advice was contributed in 2019 by Master Gardener (and now retired Edina Realty employee) Patti Lauer. Some links and information have since been updated.

Ultimate guide to the 2023 Fall Parade of Homes

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Key insights:

  • Visit the 2023 Fall Parade of Homes from Sept. 9 through Oct. 1, 2023
  • Visit the 2023 Fall Remodelers Showcase from Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, 2023.
  • Visit the 2023 Fall Artisan Home Tour from Oct. 6 - 22, 2023.
  • The Parade of Homes features luxury, high-tech, green, and new construction properties throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
  • In the market for a new construction home? Partner with a Realtor to have an expert and advocate by your side throughout the building process.

Whether you’re in the market for a new construction home or simply enjoy gathering renovation or decorating ideas for your current property, be sure to check out the highly anticipated Parade of Homes and Remodelers Showcase in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Here, we’ve gathered everything you need to know as you plan your visit to the 2023 Fall Parade of Homes.

What is the Parade of Homes?

The Parade of Homes provides home inspiration by featuring the finest properties in the Twin Cities and the surrounding area, including greater Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Throughout this nearly month-long event, more than 380 brand-new homes and nearly 40 remodeled houses are on display and open for the public to tour. While visiting the Parade of Homes, you’ll encounter luxury, green, high-tech and new construction homes. Plus, you’ll get a peek at how homebuilders and remodelers are incorporating the most current design trends in homes today.

When is the 2023 Fall Parade of Homes?

The 2023 Parade of Homes lasts almost a full month, allowing viewers to survey properties throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin at their own convenience. The fall event concludes with a weekend-long Remodelers Showcase, featuring some of the most impressively renovated properties in the region.

2023 Fall Parade of Homes:

  • Sept. 9 – Oct. 1, 2023
  • Weekly, Thursday through Sunday
  • Noon – 6 p.m.

2023 Fall Remodelers Showcase:

  • Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, 2023
  • One-weekend event, Friday through Sunday
  • Noon – 6 p.m.

2023 Fall Artisan Home Tour (this is a ticketed event):

  • Oct. 6 - 22, 2023
  • Friday - Sunday
  • Noon - 6 p.m.

Get more information on this year’s Parade of Homes — including special events, free offerings and upcoming tours. And, if you can’t make it to the event this fall, check out the properties with virtual tours.

Renovating your home? Visit the Remodelers Showcase for ideas

This fall, the Remodelers Showcase is offered in addition to the classic Parade of Homes. Over the course of three days, the Remodelers Showcase provides an exclusive look at 30+ remodeled homes in the area.

Attendees of the Remodelers Showcase can learn from contractors and architects who remodel properties to better align with today’s homeowner needs while maintaining the integrity of each unique property. Make note of renovations that catch your eye, as you may find them helpful while completing your own home improvements.

Should I bring my Realtor to the Parade of Homes?

Yes! It is in your best interest to work with a Realtor as you tour the Parade of Homes or as you work to build a brand-new home. Here’s why:

  • A Realtor is a housing expert who will thoroughly explain the steps and timeline associated with buying or building a home.
  • Your agent will advocate for you throughout the entire process, providing advice on key decisions and negotiations.
  • If a Parade of Homes property stands out to you, your Realtor can help discover a comparable property in your desired area.
  • Should a challenge arise, your Realtor will help troubleshoot and resolve any bumps in the process.

Be sure to work with your agent to plan a tour that visits the properties that interest you the most. By teaming up with someone who has expertise in the field — and your well-being and best interests at heart — you can rest assured you’re making the right decisions as you purchase a new construction home.

Ready to move this year?

Inspired by the Parade of Homes and Remodelers Showcase? Now’s the time to begin moving forward with your home goals. Reach out for expert advice and help planning your tour!

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