What is the first-time homebuyer savings account?


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


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


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


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?


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


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.

10 ways to fireproof your home, inside and out


Whether you recently bought a new house or hope to increase the safety of your long-term residence, fire safety is essential. Moving forward, here are ten tips you can use to fireproof your home’s interior and exterior.

1. Install or check smoke detectors

Before assessing other fire hazards, be sure to check your smoke detectors. Make sure all detectors are installed and working properly. Then, set a calendar alert to re-check all alarms in your home monthly.

Not only is this the first step to creating a fireproof space, some home inspections check for smoke detectors, too.

2. Replace aging fire extinguishers

Have you had the same fire extinguisher for decades? Do you not have one at all? Conduct a monthly visual inspection to ensure it’s still in working order. Here’s how:

  • See that your extinguisher is in its designated, accessible storage spot.
  • Check that seals, indicators and other parts are free of damage.
  • Note that the pressure gauge is in its suggested range.

Remember: In a fire emergency, every second will count! Experts recommend you keep an extinguisher on each level of your home, and another near your garage, for quick access.

3. Fireproof your grill and outdoor dining area

In the summer months, it can be especially easy for a fire to start from a barbecue or backyard grill. Be sure your grill is placed away from trees or shrubs and cut down overhanging branches to reduce your backyard fire risk.

Next, read labels carefully when you create an outdoor space for dining or hanging out. While most new patio furniture will be fire-resistant, you may have to apply a flame retardant to older furniture.

4. Remove debris from gutters and roof areas

A fire can easily spark if embers happen to enter overflowing gutters — especially in dry conditions. Be sure to remove all debris from your gutters, roof, eaves and downspouts to minimize this risk.

Some quick tips to properly clean your gutters include:

  • Removing clogs that could cause debris buildup.
  • Disposing of leaves, twigs and other waste.
  • Fixing cracks that could leak unwanted water into electrical systems.

5. Install fire-resistant carpeting and area rugs

Choosing the right rug for your space could require more than a simple question of color. If you’re replacing your carpets or rugs, consider buying one made from safer materials. Carpets and rugs made of wool or synthetic fibers tend to spread fire quickly, but fire-resistant carpets now exist in a variety of textures, colors and patterns.

Pay special attention to the material of hearth rugs or other floor coverings placed near a working fireplace, furnace or radiator.

6. Double-check electrical wiring

Be careful not to overload your wiring when adding a new device or appliance to your space. If you have older appliances that haven’t been looked at in recent months, move them from the wall to be sure the wiring isn’t frayed.

Not sure what to look for? Hire a professional electrician who can assess your wiring for a small fee.

7. Replace your furnace filter

To minimize your fire risk, it’s critical to conduct routine furnace maintenance, including replacing your filter regularly. A clogged filter can cause a furnace to overheat and potentially catch on fire. If you aren’t sure what maintenance your furnace requires, contact an HVAC expert or research your unit online to find the owner’s manual.

8. Clean your dryer’s lint trap

If excess dust accumulates in your lint trap, it can eventually overheat and cause a fire. Make it a habit to clean out your lint trap every time you use your dryer, and teach your roommates or children to do the same.

9. Replace old-school candles

According to the National Fire Protection Association, candles cause two percent of home fires, and that risk rises around the holidays.

If you’ve used candles to create a cozy home atmosphere in the past, try swapping out your open flames for these alternatives:

  • Essential oil diffusers
  • Reed diffusers
  • Battery-operated candles

If you absolutely must use candles with flames, be sure to light them only if you will remain present (and awake!) in the room until it’s time for them to be extinguished.

10. Safely string lights

Whether hanging holiday lights or decorative strands, make sure you’re setting up your lights safely. Take these tips into consideration when hanging interior lights:

  • Only purchase lights with nationally recognized seals of approval.
  • Replace burnt-out bulbs with proper wattage and voltage.
  • Check that string lights aren’t frayed.
  • Keep hanging lights out of reach from little ones and pets – and away from heat sources.
  • Use power strips to avoid overloading standard outlets.

One last tip before you go

Taking these precautions should help ease your mind about a potential house fire, but it’s important to be prepared should a fire emergency occur. Make a plan with everyone in your home to:

  • Locate fire extinguishers and other safety instruments.
  • Determine a place away from your home to meet if a fire starts.
  • Contact officials in the event of an emergency.

Moving forward with other home safety measures? Call, email or text if you have questions about how you can best protect your home assets.

What you should know about selling right before the holidays


The holiday rush is approaching and many would-be home sellers are wondering if it’s too late in the year to put their house on the market. In reality, there are benefits to selling in every season. If you hope to sell your home before the holidays, but you aren’t sure what to expect this time of year, read these tips to help you move forward.

Winter buyers are motivated

Buyers who come to home showings during the winter months are highly motivated and ready to move. How do we know? In most cases, people aren’t out searching for homes – or trekking through the snow – during this busy season unless they truly need to be.

Whether pre-holiday buyers are moving into town for a new job, hoping to avoid another long winter commute or trying to switch school districts before the start of spring semester, they are shopping now for a reason. As a seller, you can assume that you have some leverage as you plan the price or timeline of your home sale.

Choose the timing of your home sale

Recognize that as the home seller in a sellers’ market, you have more control over the date of your sale. Whether you want a fresh start in a new house or to enjoy one last holiday season in your current home, we can work together to ensure you get the memories you are hoping for.

Of course, your buyer may have a deadline, too — which means that you’ll still have to work together to communicate and negotiate a contract that best suits both parties. A few points of negotiation may be to request or propose:

  • Contingencies regarding the move-out timeline
  • A delayed closing
  • A sped-up closing

Quality is better than quantity

Inevitably, this time of year leads to fewer showings. But don't be wary of getting a lower offer just because you aren't seeing multiple showing requests in one day or because you haven't received an offer within the first few days of listing.

The spring and summer “looky-loos” that come through open houses with no intent of purchasing aren’t as common in the winter months. By listing this time of year, you may avoid these low-intent buyers, but you will likely hear from a smaller group of quality buyers who are ready to close. Prospective home buyers during the winter season tend to be highly motivated, thoughtful, prepared and ready to move.

You'll stand out

If you listed your home but it didn’t sell this fall, you may feel that it’s best to wait until spring to try again. That mentality is exactly why some homeowners prefer to sell now. Because there’s less competition among sellers, homes listed now will stand out.

Low inventory forces buyers to compete and pay more for a home, and you won’t find lower inventory than right before the holidays. Together, we can look into the local market stats to see if your home will be one of only a few “for sale” listings in the area. If so, you may be able to list and sell now and avoid the increased activity of the spring selling season altogether.

Hoping to sell before the holidays hit?

Home sale prices are remaining steadily strong in our area. So, even though the fall and winter months tend to bring fewer home sales, homeowners should be in a strong position to sell this holiday season.

To begin moving forward with your home sale, reach out today.

What are the benefits of homeownership?


When you have a decent rental situation or you’re living with family or friends, it can be tempting to put off the decision to buy. Still, that voice in the back of your head tends to speak up each month as you’re paying your monthly rent and wondering… What if this money benefitted me, instead of someone else?

If you’re wondering about the true benefits of homeownership and how you might calculate them, here are some insights developed just for you.


The majority of homebuyers take out a loan for the property and pay off their property’s mortgage over time. As you make your monthly mortgage payments on a home with a steady value, your home equity will grow. (Equity is the difference between what you still owe on your mortgage, and the value of your home in the current market.)

When you rent from a landlord, the property asset is in their name — and they benefit from rising equity. When you own your home, equity gains directly benefit you. Whether you decide to keep all the equity in your home and “cash out” at resale, or pull out some funds over time to pay for home updates, college tuition or other worthy expenses, equity is one of the greatest perks of homeownership.


Remember how equity is the calculation of what is owed on your mortgage, compared to the property’s current value? This means that your home equity will grow as you pay off your mortgage, but it will also increase as the value of your home rises.

An increase in property value is called appreciation, and it’s one of the most underrated benefits of homeownership. Provided you select a home in a good location and maintain it over time, you will be likely to benefit from home price appreciation. (Of course, market shifts may slow this growth at times, but stricter lending terms and other dynamics mean that fewer homeowners than in the past have the potential to end up underwater.)

As with equity, appreciation works in favor of the homeowner, not the renter. As a renter, the best case scenario would be that your rent remains steady as the value of the rental property grows. A far more likely scenario is that your landlord would raise your rent, keeping it in line with the “market rate.” In that case, you would be paying more to live in the same property over time.

Steady payments

This leads us to our next point, which is that as a homebuyer, you can take out a loan that allows you to steadily predict your housing costs for the next 10-30 years.

When you take out a mortgage, you as the borrower can determine if you want a fixed-rate mortgage, or an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). With a fixed-rate mortgage, your loan’s interest rate — and therefore your monthly principal and interest payments — will remain the same for the life of the loan. With an ARM, the interest rate will readjust annually to match current interest rates.

As a renter, you will always be at risk of your landlord increasing your rent, but as a homeowner with a fixed-rate mortgage, you can have peace of mind that you’re relatively insulated from the rising costs of housing.

One final note on this: As a homeowner, you will also be responsible for your annual property taxes and insurance. This means that while your mortgage principal and interest will be set for the life of your fixed-rate loan, your property taxes and insurance costs will likely increase over time.

Freedom, flexibility and control

While the financial benefits of owning a home are very real, it’s also important to consider the mental and emotional perks. Whether you dream of picking out paint colors, planting a vegetable garden or an oversized light fixture above the dining table, it can be difficult to live in a rental once you get the itch to customize your space to your lifestyle. (Who among us hasn’t painted the walls of an apartment a bright color… only to begrudgingly paint them back to “Stark Landlord White” at the end of the lease?)

By owning a home, you’ll have more control over your surroundings, and the freedom to follow your design urges or practical needs. While the upgrades will come out of your own pocket, you’ll also feel a sense of pride as you make almost all of the decisions on your own. (In some cases, you may have to ask for approval on your plans from your homeowners association or the local government.)

Ready to buy?

If you’re on the fence about buying, there are plenty of resources to help you assess if you’re ready to become a homeowner. From pre-approvals that check your credit and financial history to assistance with down payment resources, you don’t have to do this alone. Reach out today for no-pressure assistance from a friendly, local market expert.

A-Z home seller dictionary


When you purchased your first home, you likely encountered many new terms. When it comes time to sell, you’ll also want to brush up on the terminology used by real estate agents, mortgage and title professionals and more.

Here, we’re sharing the ins and outs of the most frequently used selling terms, so you can confidently move forward with your home sale.


After an offer is accepted on a home, a professional conducts an appraisal, which determines the property’s current value and justifies the loan of the buyer. Throughout the process, the interior and exterior of the home — including amenities, condition of the property and floor plan — will be examined by an appraiser. Their aim is to provide a value estimate for the home, free of bias.

The appraiser also looks at the recent sale prices of similar homes in the area. If the for-sale property is appraised at or above the listed sales price, the home selling process will continue toward closing. If the house doesn’t appraise, it’s possible to challenge the decision or to find other ways to move the sale forward.

Capital gains tax

The profit from a home sale is known as capital gain. In some cases, sellers must pay a capital gains tax on their profits, but this tax can be avoided if certain conditions are met. Generally, most sellers don’t meet the conditions to pay capital gains tax, but it’s best to consult an expert to understand your unique situation.


The final closing involves transferring ownership of the home through signed paperwork. There is a process involved with closing on a real estate purchase, including: loan application, title commitment, home inspection and due diligence, scheduling a closing date, appraisal process, loan approval, homeowner’s insurance, re-inspection (if necessary), walk-through, transfer of utilities and finally — closing.

Closing costs

Closing costs are a variety of expenses that are paid at the closing of the sale. For a seller, those costs typically range from 6 to 10% of the price of the home sale. Payments associated with closing may include taxes paid on the property transfer or fees paid to the closing company.

Sometimes, buyers ask sellers to pay for some or all of their closing costs, which reduces the amount a seller might receive from the purchase price.

Comparative market analysis (CMA)

When conducting a comparative market analysis, a trained REALTOR® will evaluate a home’s worth based on factors like its location, condition and amenities. In addition, a CMA will compare a home’s value to recently sold and listed homes nearby. It’s important to get a CMA in order to determine a competitive yet reasonable price to list your property.

Contingencies — and active contingent listing status

A property listed as contingent is under contract with a buyer, but the sale is not yet finalized. For the sale to move toward closing, contingencies need to be removed from the contract. A contingency is a condition that needs to be met or an event that must occur before the home sale can go through. Common contingencies include a professional inspection and the buyer’s ability to obtain a loan.

Days on market

This metric describes the number of days a property is on the market. Typically, this count begins when the property is listed and ends after an offer is accepted and the listing status updates to pending. Many listings are labeled as pending after the buyer removes their inspection contingency.


It is your legal obligation to disclose certain details of the property when selling a home. Some necessary disclosures include damage or issues with features of the home, including the plumbing, roofing or electric.

If you are unsure whether to disclose an aspect of the property, even if it’s just a small issue, it’s generally best to disclose it.


The value a homeowner has in their property is called home equity. To calculate equity, subtract the amount owed in mortgages or loan balances from the home’s current market value.

Increased equity indicates more assets and a higher total net worth of the homeowner. Generally, in order to build equity, loans must be paid down or the property value needs to rise (or both).


With a real estate escrow, the buyer and seller agree to having a third party hold money for a period of time after closing. Putting money in an escrow account ensures safekeeping of funds until all obligations of the home sale (such as a negotiated property repair) are met by the buyer and seller. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, escrow is only used after you have purchased your home.

For sale by owner (FSBO)

Homes put up for sale by owner (FSBO) do not involve an agent or broker during the process of selling the property. Due to the complex aspects of selling real estate and the benefits of listing with an agent — like coming out ahead on the final sales price — FSBO homes are dwindling.


iBuyers tend to be larger investment firms that make quick, automated offers on properties based on proprietary algorithms. Sellers hoping to avoid the traditional market or sell quickly may find that using an iBuyer could work to their advantage.


The majority of homebuyers request a home inspection prior to signing a purchase agreement. During the home inspection, an examiner will look at the roof, foundation, electrical system and other functional components of the property.

The inspection process ends with a report of the home’s condition, which will inform the potential buyer of defects to the property. A buyer may request for the seller to address issues uncovered in the inspection before closing.

Multiple listing service (MLS)

Real estate agents use the multiple listing service as a tool to share active property listings. When these listings are published, other real estate agents and potential buyers will be able to easily access the details on the property.

This means that when we list your home for sale, listing information will be available to other local agents who don’t work for Edina Realty — and to any buyer who is searching for local homes online.

Multiple offers

Multiple offers occur when home sellers receive multiple bids on their listing. Sellers with homes in desirable areas may be able to draw in multiple offers, which can lead to selling their home at a higher price than listed.


When selling a home, buyers may want to negotiate different aspects of the sale, including price or closing date. We will work together every step of the way to ensure that your final terms and price are negotiated to your satisfaction.

Open house

An open house allows sellers to open their home to potential buyers. During this event, buyers can view the property and ask initial questions. Sellers should showcase the home’s best features to elicit more interest from buyers.

Purchase agreement

A real estate purchase agreement is a contract containing the agreed-upon details of the sale of the home. The purchase agreement sets forth the sale price, contingencies, closing dates and all other important aspects of the deal.

Pending listing status

A pending listing status indicates that the buyer and seller have cleared up most contingencies and are heading toward the closing table. However, final aspects of the sale, like financing, title examination and a final walk-through of the property are likely still in progress.

Radon law

In 2014, the Minnesota legislature passed a radon law. This law requires sellers to explicitly state if their home has been tested for radon, a toxic gas. And, sellers must provide buyers with the results of the test.

Wisconsin does not require a radon test prior to real estate transactions, but a pre-sale radon test is recommended by most experts.


A Realtor is a licensed professional who represents the interest of a seller or buyer throughout a home transaction. Unlike a real estate agent, a Realtor must subscribe to a strict code of ethics, including putting the needs of their client ahead of their own financial or personal interests. Becoming a certified Realtor is the highest designation in the field of real estate.

Realtors are supervised by their local association boards and represented by the National Association of REALTORS®. All Edina Realty agents are licensed Realtors.

Reverse contingencies

With the help of their Realtor, sellers may choose to write a reverse contingency into the purchase agreement of their property. This clause allows sellers to make the sale contingent on them finding another home to buy. In other words, a reverse contingency grants sellers a contracted period of time to find a new home before they are legally bound to close on their current sale.


Sellers may choose to stage their home for sale by themselves or with the help of a Realtor or professional stager. Staging is the process of neutralizing a property so it appeals to the greatest number of buyers once it’s listed on the market.

To stage a property, you’ll want to remove clutter (including photos and knick-knacks), optimize the space with smart-sized furniture and use neutral — but inviting — paint colors on the main walls.


A showing refers to an individually-scheduled appointment where a potential buyer tours your property with their agent or an open house (which is open to all buyers) hosted by your real estate agent.

Square footage

Square footage refers to the square feet of a home that include the following features: flooring, wallcovering, ceiling and ability to be lived in 365 days of the year. In most cases, areas of your home that meet these criteria will be included in the square footage detailed in your listing. Square footage is a standard piece of information on MLS home listings.


The title (or ownership) of your home will be transferred to the new owner once your property sells. Once the property has been signed, the homebuyer’s title company will transfer the corresponding proceeds to you.

Tax-assessed home value

Tax-assessed home value, or estimated market value, refers to the worth of your home. This number helps calculate property taxes and is determined by the city or county where the property is located.

This value is based on historical sales data and mass appraisal techniques, so you may want to get a second opinion before doing taxes or selling — especially if you’ve recently completed a brand-new luxury kitchen remodel. Keep in mind, tax-assessed values can be lagging indicators of your home’s current market value because assessments may only occur annually or biannually.

Transfer of utilities

After closing, it’s important for both parties to discuss the details of transferring utilities. Planning ahead with utility setup will ease the transition between the seller and buyer and will insure that you don’t incur extra costs after the property transaction.

Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluation (TISH)

A Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluation (TISH) may be required to assess potential health or safety risks in a home before selling. This report typically recommends or requires certain sellers to make home repairs prior to listing.

Depending on the city you live in, you might need to get a TISH inspection before posting your home on the market.


Shortly before closing, a final walk-through is held to ensure good property condition and completed repairs (if they were agreed upon). After a successful walk-through, you’re officially ready for closing!


Local governments implement zoning rules that distinguish what properties can be used for in certain areas. When selling, zoning laws may affect how a house can be marketed, including whether or not a remodeled basement can be correctly called a bedroom or if a property can be listed as single-family or multi-family home.

Ready to sell?

By now, you’re well-versed in selling terms. (Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz!) Reach out at any time for additional help that’s catered to your unique needs as a seller.

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