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Jon Severson | |763-639-3763
Luke Hanson | |763-360-9942

a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate

Tips for moving with pets

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Key insights

  • Purchase pet tags with updated contact information before moving day.
  • Stock your car and accessible moving boxes with pet-friendly gear such as food, toys and a leash.
  • The ultimate pet-lover may consider a move to one of the popular dog-friendly cities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where dog parks and events are aplenty.

Moving homes can be a confusing time for your pets, but there are tips you can implement to make the transition for your animals as seamless as possible.

Here are insights homeowners can use when packing up their lives and their pooch’s toys to settle into a new property. Before you know it, a welcoming committee — aka your tail-wagging pup — will be situated and ready to greet you at the steps of your new home.

Prep your pet in advance for a home transition

Whether you move to a nearby town or across the country, there are many ways to prepare for your pet’s house change, including:

  • Order new tags. Include your essential contact information and create a short-term tag if necessary.
  • Check your new city’s requirements for pet licensing. Complete important paperwork prior to the move to avoid any inconveniences.
  • Make sure all shots are up-to-date. Maintain a copy of your pet’s records (like proof of rabies vaccination or health certificates). Check that your pet meets the new city’s vaccination guidelines.

The final step of your pre-move checklist is to select a new veterinarian. Schedule a welcome visit in your new town and have your pet’s medical history transferred over. This way, should anything happen to your pet in the first few days after the move, your new provider will be fully ready to help your pooch, kitty or cockatoo.

Create a smooth move-in day for you and your pet

You’ll want to take special precautions to keep your pets comfortable and safe on move-in day. Wherever you choose to have your pet stay on move-in day, make sure that these essentials are stocked and within reach:

  • Food and water
  • Bowls or other dishes
  • Favorite toys or treats
  • Blankets
  • Bags to dispose of pet waste
  • Leash and collar (with proper tags)
  • Carrier or crate
  • Cleaning supplies in case of an accident
  • Medication

If you’re relocating to a home nearby, it may work best to have your pet stay with a dog- or cat-loving friend or relative on moving day. Or, you can board your animal for the day to ensure they won’t be underfoot during the move.

However, if you need to pack up to move further away, it will be easiest to bring your pet right alongside you. Be sure to take breaks every so often throughout the drive to check in on or walk your pet. If your drive is expected to take multiple days or you want to wait to sleep in your home until everything is unpacked and in place, double-check that you book overnight stays with pet-friendly hotels.

Driving with doggo to your new house

Part of keeping the transition more manageable for your pet is to involve them in the move. Here are some ways to have a worry-free moving day with Fido or Fifi along for the ride:

  • Assign a family member to pet-duty. Ask someone to tag along with you in the car or moving vehicle, so they can supervise your animals as you drive.
  • Bring a pet carrier. A kennel or crate will help keep your pet safe during the drive and it will mitigate the possibility of a runaway dog or cat upon arrival.
  • Keep them comfortable. Have plenty of treats and toys nearby to keep your pet at ease — or to encourage them into the car or crate.
  • Try some test runs. If your dog isn’t used to riding in the car, take a drive to the dog park or around the block before the big day.

Get your furry friend familiar with the new property

Once you arrive at your new home, remember your pet will pick up on your energy. If your dog or cat can sense that you’re feeling overwhelmed by the move, their mood is likely to match yours. Try to make peace with the potentially stressful situation and your pet will feel calmer, too.

Next, you’ll want to make sure that your animal has time to adjust to their new surroundings. To make your pet feel right at home, set up their water bowl and bed or special sleeping area as soon as possible. If you’re planning to have certain pet-free rooms or furniture, be sure to set those parameters immediately so your pet doesn’t get confused or develop unwanted habits.

Once your pet is situated in the new home, it’s important that they stay there. If you have a runner, keep Bruno leashed up during the first few days — especially when you may be leaving doors open to bring in your belongings. It’s quite common for dogs to run away when they feel unsure of new surroundings, so take extra precautions and leash your pets.

Make a move to a pet-friendly place

In and around our region, animal lovers have access to numerous properties located next to dog-friendly parks or even specialty pet shops like Cafe Meow, the first cat cafe in the Twin Cities metro area. Together we can find a community perfect for you. Plus, ask about the free moving services available, exclusively to clients, to save you time, money and energy throughout your move.

Reach out today to get started!

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 critical 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 can help position you favorably for a home mortgage loan. Here are insights you can use to help you pare down unnecessary 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’s possible to get a mortgage even if you have a low 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 also 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. Unsure where to start? Reach out for a referral to a qualified mortgage consultant.

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 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 nixing that daily latte and cooking from your pantry instead of ordering takeout several times a week.

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. Your mortgage consultant can help you review all your options.

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 on 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 loan application. If possible, put your entire down payment into one account ahead of this timeframe.

Take Edina Realty Mortgage Consultant Enda Moore’s 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 collection) 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 experts 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. Reach out for assistance with the first steps to buying a home and a referral to a qualified mortgage consultant.

(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.

All first mortgage products are provided by Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage. (877) 275-1762. Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC products may not be available in all areas. Not all borrowers will qualify. Licensed by the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance. Licensed by the Delaware State Bank Commissioner. Also licensed in AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NM, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV and WY.

NMLS #75164 (NMLS Consumer Access at http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/)

©2020 Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage. All Rights Reserved.

Ask an Edina Realty Lawyer: What are the rules and ordinances for adding a backyard pool?

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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 discusses how homeowners can enjoy summer fun while complying with local ordinances related to pool installation, safety and late night noise.

Dear Edina Realty Legal,

Dear Edina Realty Legal,

I’m considering installing a pool for some summer fun. Do I need to be aware of any legal issues in adding a pool to my backyard? I’m also hoping to install an outdoor sound system near the pool.

It sounds like you know how to enjoy summer! As you can imagine, there are a few requirements you need to comply with before getting a pool in your backyard.

Getting a building permit for your pool

In Minnesota and Wisconsin, if you will be getting an in-ground pool, a building permit is required before construction can begin. Depending on the work that needs to be done to install the pool, you may also need to get other permits, including:

  • Plumbing permits
  • Electrical permits
  • Mechanical permits

Check local requirements on location and mechanical elements

Your local jurisdiction likely has specific requirements as to where a pool can be located on your property. For example, the City of Andover requires all backyard pools to be at least ten feet away from the side and rear property lines — but also at least six feet away from your house.

But the location of the pool itself is not the only consideration. Many jurisdictions also have specific requirements as to where the mechanical elements of a pool may be located. The City of Watertown, as an example, requires any noise-making mechanical equipment to be at least 25 feet away from any residential structure on a neighboring property.

Last, even if you decide to go with an above-ground pool, you may still need a building permit. The City of Chippewa Falls requires a permit for all pools, including above-ground pools, that are at least three feet in depth. And Minnesota state law requires a building permit for any above-ground pool that exceeds 5,000 gallons of water and has a depth of at least two feet.

It is important to note that the installation of an in-ground pool takes significant time. If you start the process mid-summer, it is likely you will be making your splash the following year as installation may not be complete until the weather turns cool. If you are looking for a more immediate solution for cooling down, a simple above-ground pool may be the answer.

Follow local safety requirements when adding a pool

As you start imagining what your yard will look like with a pool, be sure to imagine a fence as well. Your local jurisdiction will likely have specific requirements as to fencing, and may require you to obtain a fence permit, along with all the other permits for the pool construction.

In general, a fence is required for most in-ground pools. And while above-ground pools do not typically require the installation of a fence, there are often requirements that the pool be secured. This can mean removing the ladder up to the pool or installing a locking mechanism to prevent anyone from being able to climb the ladder when you are not present.

One last note on requirements and restrictions: If you live in a community with a homeowner’s association, do not forget to check the HOA’s rules and approval requirements.

Consider noise ordinances before planning nightly pool parties

Now that we have taken care of your pool, I wanted to offer some advice on your new sound system. Having a few guests and enjoying music is a great way to enjoy summer to the fullest, but it’s important to keep your neighbors — and the local laws — in mind.

Many cities have noise ordinances restricting amplified music at certain times. The City of Plymouth, for one, prohibits the playing of any music that can be heard beyond the property line from 10pm to 7am. Other jurisdictions have similar requirements.

I hope this did not ruin your excitement! Installing your pool legally will avoid many headaches, and visits from the local inspector, in the future.

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.

Considering a move?

Looking for a home with a pool, an inviting backyard or a lakeside retreat? Reach out with questions or first steps for all your home buying and selling needs.

Five questions to ask at an open house

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What are the five best questions to ask at an open house?

  • How long has the home been listed for sale and at what price?
  • Has anyone else made an offer on the property?
  • Are there any seller disclosures?
  • What updates have been made to the property?
  • Why are the current owners selling the home?

If you’re a homebuyer attending open houses, it’s important to know the etiquette — and good questions to ask — as you view different properties. Not only will this give you a better understanding of the home, but it will also put you in the best possible position to make a fair, competitive offer on the listing.

When we partner for your home purchase, you can have confidence that your interests are represented throughout the transaction. Remember that the listing agent is working for the seller and has a fiduciary obligation to represent the seller’s interests just as I will represent yours. Together we will gather all the needed information and schedule private home showings to take a more in-depth look at the property.

Here are insights you can use as you go through the process of touring homes for sale in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. In addition, keep reading for a closer look at the five best questions commonly asked during an open house and why.

1. What is the price and price history of the listing?

If you have a chance to look at the listing online before you enter the home, take note of the asking price. This figure, along with other information like the amount of time the home has been on the market, should be clearly posted in the property’s details. You can also reach out before your home open visits for important details on the home you plan to visit.

Our bidding strategy can be greatly impacted by the price history of a property, so it’s important to keep it in mind as you tour the home. If you’re looking in a super-competitive city or neighborhood, where multiple offers are quite common, you may have to move quickly after a property is listed. In that case, we’ll typically want to make your highest and best offer right away. The odds of finding a bargain — or a seller who’s willing to take a price cut — are low.

However, there are some scenarios where we may have some leverage in your offer, including if the home:

  • Is in a less popular or less convenient area.
  • Has been on the market for a few months.
  • Seems overpriced and has never had a price cut.

2. Has anyone made an offer?

It can be tricky to navigate a conversation where you ask about other offers on the home. However, this step is crucial as it will help you formulate your multiple offer homebuyer strategy.

If you’re interested in a property that you visit during an open house, get in touch as soon as possible. Gathering as much information as possible will help us plan an offer strategy. For example, if the listing agent says they have rejected past offers, you may not want to underbid on the home. But, if they let us know they haven’t seen any serious interest in the house yet, we may have a little more leeway as we make an offer on the home.

3. Are there any seller disclosures?

In addition to putting out home listing flyers at open houses, some sellers may also have a document (or several) listing some of the disclosures they wish to make available to buyers. These disclosures may include professional work they’ve completed, such as checking for lead paint, or appliances and systems they’ve upgraded in recent years.

Together we can obtain these disclosures if they are not readily available at the open house so that we can thoroughly review them after your visit. Often these disclosures are posted in the MLS and readily available to agents. If you have questions on any issues or projects mentioned in these disclosures, reach out for help gathering more details.

4. What updates have been made?

In lieu of official disclosure documents, you can also ask about updates as you look over the house. In some cases, it may be obvious that entire rooms have been redone recently.

When walking through a home, be sure to ask about the following house elements:

  • Appliances like washers, dryers, refrigerators and ovens
  • Larger systems like the furnace and central air
  • The age of exterior elements such as the roof, siding and automatic garage door
  • Home renovations including bathroom remodels, new flooring or a new deck

5. Why are the sellers moving?

The listing agent and sellers don’t have to answer this question. But if they do, it may affect your bidding strategy. If the homeowner is being relocated and needs to move quickly, we could include a quick path to closing in your offer. Or, if they need to wait three months before they can move into their new construction home — and you can wait that long, too — then we’ll want to provide a slower path to closing.

Remember, not all bids are won on dollar value alone. A congruent move-in and move-out timeline can create a compelling offer to the right home seller.

Ready to start your home search?

Feel confident throughout the home search and purchase process with an experienced professional at your side. Reach out when you’re ready to get started on your home search and together we will visit open houses and schedule private showings.

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

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Key insights

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

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

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

Concentrate on the ceiling

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

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

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

Try a new type of trim

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

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

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

Cue in the 2020 Color of the Year

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

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

Maintain a monochromatic color scheme

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

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

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

Go with gray as a primer

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

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

Paint your way to a successful sale

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

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

How to plan an eco-friendly move with recycled materials

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Key insights

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

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

Declutter your belongings prior to moving day

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

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

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

Repurpose home goods as packing materials

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

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

Use recycled packing materials

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

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

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

Take advantage of reusable moving boxes

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

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

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

Clean your new home with all-natural products

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

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

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

Take a step toward greener living

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

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

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

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Key insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Will you communicate via my preferred method?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready to start your home search?

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

Staging your lakeshore property to sell

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Key insights:

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

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

Staging the water and outdoor areas

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

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

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

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

Stage the interior

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

What to do about your cabin kitsch

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

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

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

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

Show off its guest potential

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

Share local insights

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

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

Ready to sell your lakeshore home?

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

Should you renovate your bathroom before selling?

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Key insights

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

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

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

The cost and ROI of a bathroom remodel

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

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

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

Is a bathroom remodel worth it?

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

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

What does your current bathroom look like?

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

Some simple yet worthwhile bathroom improvement ideas include:

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

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

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

Are buyers circling?

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

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

Will the bathroom pass an inspection as-is?

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

Do you need a plumber?

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

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

Looking for more pointers as you prepare to sell?

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

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

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

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

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Key insights

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

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

How to see your own dirt

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

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

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

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

7 areas homeowners commonly overlook — and how to clean them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always declutter before cleaning

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

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

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

A clean slate for home sellers

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

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