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Jay Ettinger | |612-990-7777
Sena Neilitz | |920-428-7232

a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate

Take control of rising insurance costs

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Key Insights

  • Home insurance rates have seen historic rises over the past few years due to increased claims, severe weather and rising repair costs.
  • There are many factors that carriers take into consideration when determining your coverage and rates.
  • While insurance costs aren’t what they used to be, there are ways you can help lower your premiums.
  • Partnering with an independent insurance agency like Edina Realty Insurance* can help you find the coverage you need for the lowest price and best coverage possible.

Scott Teece, Vice President of Sales, Edina Realty Insurance

It’s not just you, and it’s not in your head; insurance pricing and premiums have been rising rapidly over the past few years—some in the double digits. These historic rate increases mean some homeowners aren’t able to afford the same coverage as before. Or, even if they can afford the increases, in many cases the coverage has lessened. There are a few reasons for these increases—and some steps you can take to manage your insurance costs.

Why insurance is changing

2022 and 2023 held the most insurance claims seen in years. While this is true across the insurance industry, for home insurance, an increased frequency and severity of storms, natural disasters and wildfires have put a significant strain on insurance carriers who weren’t anticipating fulfilling the exorbitant amount of claims filed. Outside of the rise in claims, inflation has also caused repair costs to increase (both in labor and materials), making it more expensive to return properties to their previous state.

As a result, insurance companies are raising rates and lowering coverage for two primary reasons:

  1. To recoup their losses from claims filed over the last few years.
  2. To return to a position of profitability (rate adequacy).

Some insurance companies have even begun using technology like drones to survey homes and determine if they are in good enough condition to insure. It’s not uncommon for inspections to occur before coverage is offered, and a refusal to renew coverage has become more mainstream.

What impacts your coverage

There are a lot of factors that a carrier may consider when determining your premium and contract, but they primarily fall into three categories: home, owner and coverage.

Home factors: What is being insured

  • Location: Coverage can vary wildly by location, even as targeted as a neighborhood. If the location of your home has a history of losses, is close to water, has severe weather, vandalism or theft, it can increase costs. On the flip side, factors like living near a fire station could lower costs.
  • Age of home—especially the roof: The condition of the roof is a huge concern to insurers. It’s the #1 indicator of future claims.
  • Size of home: The more there is, the more that can need repair.
  • Safety features: This includes home security, as well as yards clear of debris, well-lit paths and steps with railings.
  • Condition of home/Construction of home: The better condition the home is in, and the higher the quality of construction, the less likely a claim will be filed. Your home doesn’t have to be new, but the upkeep of the home should be evident.
  • Attractive nuisances: These are potentially dangerous features that might look attractive. For example, a pool, trampoline or tree house. Most HOAs have regulations that negate any worries a carrier may have (like a net around the trampoline or fence around the pool), but they could still be a factor in your coverage.

Owner factors: Who is being insured

  • Credit history: Some states will use your credit score as an indicator of your reliability to pay, however, other states prohibit carriers from using this information. (In MN and WI, carriers can use credit history.)
  • Previous claims history: Insurance companies tend to believe that if you’ve filed a claim in the past, you’re more likely to file one in the future.
  • Marital status: Statistics tend to show that married couples file claims less often than singles. It also helps if there are two incomes and/or two sets of eyes to manage home upkeep.
  • If you own or finance: Most lenders require you to have a certain amount of coverage, but if you own your home, you have control over how much coverage you want to have.
  • Pets in the home (especially certain dog breeds and exotic animals): The risk for injury that could result from a pet (like a dog bite) can be a factor for some carriers.

Coverage factors: How it’s being insured

  • Your deductible: A high deductible usually means a lower premium. The reverse is also true. (Though higher rates for both have been common recently.)
  • Type of insurance policy: The more coverage your policy provides, the more money you can expect to pay out to your insurance company.

What homeowners can do

The situation might seem discouraging, but there are ways you as a homeowner can help keep costs lower.

Be proactive

Check on your renewal date and start comparing options about 45 days before your renewal. You’ll need to make your decision two to three weeks before your renewal date to ensure consistent coverage. Switching carriers isn’t a difficult or lengthy process, but you want to make sure you don’t have any gaps in your coverage.

Be diligent about reviewing your contract and pay special attention to any language that’s changed. Call your agent for clarification about any changes you don’t understand. Ask if increasing your deductible would help with costs and if that’d be the right move for your home.

Shop around

There is no reason you shouldn’t be shopping around for insurance. Even those who have been with a company for a long time may benefit from switching by getting new customer discounts. Rates from two or three years ago are unheard of now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a better rate or more coverage with another carrier.

Ask about the different discounts you could get, like bundling home and auto, veteran’s discounts, new member discounts, senior discounts, etc. Every little bit helps.

Again, there’s no reason not to shop around, so look around and see who’s competitive.

Be upfront

The more information you can give upfront to an insurance company, the better. They’ll ask for your personal identifying information (birthday, history at location, etc.), the square footage of your home, the age of your roof, if you have a finished basement, pets, fences, railings, a pool, etc.

Be prepared that your home will be inspected and make sure your yard is clean and free of debris. You may even decide that it’s time to get rid of some of your attractive nuisances. Ask for the inspection results and any recommendations the company may have so you can make improvements and get a feel of how insurable your home is.

Start saving

The reality of the situation is that coverage and cost just aren’t what they used to be. You’d be wise to start saving for big item repairs like a roof to avoid additional cost increases. It will help you with general upkeep to file fewer claims and help meet those high deductibles when you can’t.

Partner with a broker who looks out for you

Insurance companies are about their bottom line, but insurance brokers like Edina Realty Insurance are about getting you the coverage you need at an affordable rate. As an independent broker, Edina Realty Insurance works with A-ranked insurance providers that you can trust and they advocate for your interests.

Edina Realty Insurance consults with each consumer to make sure they know what they're buying and what they need, and your partnership with them doesn’t end once you’ve chosen a carrier. They’re there to help you figure out everything about insurance like what makes the most financial sense when debating to pay out of pocket or file a claim for a repair.

A great bonus of working with Edina Realty Insurance is that if you’ve bought a home using an Edina Realty agent, they already have much of your information on file so you don’t have to dig up facts like square footage or age of the roof.

There’s no reason not to reach out for a quote. A quick conversation with an Edina Realty Insurance agent can help take the work out of getting quotes and finding the right coverage at the right price. Reach out today for a quick conversation about your insurance needs.

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

10 Luxury home features to have in a modern luxury home

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Key Insights

  • Luxury can be in the eye of the beholder, but these are the most popular 10 luxury home features we’re seeing.
  • Dedicated spaces like a state-of-the-art home theater, wine cellars and tasting rooms and private gyms and yoga studios meet the needs of busy professionals and enthusiasts.
  • Luxury home amenities such as a smart home automation system, heated floors and towel racks, indoor pools and spas and panoramic views with floor-to-ceiling windows are important to luxury living.
  • Outdoor kitchens and entertainment spaces, expansive walk-in closets and rooftop gardens and terraces all add a touch of lux to homes.

If a homeowner is the king or queen of the castle, shouldn’t the home be full of little luxuries? Luxury home features aren’t reserved for mansions; they can be part of even modest homes. Some of the most popular trends include:

  • Smart home automation systems
  • Heated floors and towel racks
  • Outdoor kitchens and entertainment spaces
  • Indoor pools and spas
  • State-of-the-art home theaters
  • Wine cellars and tasting rooms
  • Private gyms and yoga studios
  • Expansive walk-in closets
  • Rooftop gardens and terraces
  • Panoramic views with floor-to-ceiling windows

A modern luxury home shows a level of care and attention to detail that’s hard to ignore. But as times change, what are considered luxury house amenities change too. Advancements in technology and the aftermath of COVID-19 have had major impacts on what luxury house items are craved by buyers.

Here are the top 10 luxury house features that you’ll be seeing in listings all over Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Smart home automation systems

A smart home automation system is like having your own butler. Integrating cooking appliances, lighting, heating and cooling, security and entertainment can turn basic homes into contemporary luxury homes. Imagine your blinds rising in the morning to allow the sun to gently wake you up, your oven to start preheating on your way home from work, or your entertainment system incorporating surround sound and specialty lighting effects for an immersive experience.

A smart home automation system offers convenience and efficiency. It can also save you money by adjusting temperatures and turning off lights. A smart home can add a layer of security by implementing safety features like turning off electricity to an iron after a set amount of time has passed and locking doors at bedtime.

Heated floors and towel racks

Any bathroom can turn into a spa with heated floors and towel racks. Luxury home amenities like these might seem like indulgences, but they make mornings so much more tolerable when you live in a cold climate. Heated floors can be used in other areas of the home, too. Laundry rooms, kitchens and other high-traffic areas are great candidates for heated floors.

If you’re a seller making some fixes, consider incorporating heated flooring during your updates for a truly luxurious home.

Outdoor kitchens and entertainment spaces

After being cooped up indoors during a long, harsh winter, there’s nothing better than enjoying the great outdoors when warmer weather finally arrives. Having an outdoor kitchen and entertainment space allows for maximum outdoor time with friends and family. For those who own beautiful luxury homes, being able to host social gatherings both indoors and outdoors is a great bonus that increases the functionality of their outdoor space and makes the most of our Minnesota and Wisconsin summers.

Indoor pools and spas

A pool and spa appeal to people at all stages in life, whether they’re used for fun, exercise or health benefits. Add in the opportunity for year-round use and it’s no surprise that indoor pools and spas often feature prominently in luxurious houses. Having a privately owned pool and spa allows for customization you can’t get elsewhere, like the materials and style as well as the temperature and chemicals used. Not to mention the convenience of having it right at home, the ability to use it whenever you want and the privacy you’ll enjoy.

State-of-the-art home theaters

A dedicated home theater is all the rage these days, with big, oversized chairs, wall-sized screens and integrated sound and lighting. With many blockbusters streaming right after release, people across the country are forgoing trekking to the theater for a night in–and not missing out on the theater experience.

Wine cellars and tasting rooms

Any wine connoisseur would love to have a wine cellar and tasting room in their luxury property. Valuable wines need to be stored in specific climates to best preserve the taste, color and quality, and a dedicated space that offers temperature and humidity control allows a wine investment to stay in peak condition to be enjoyed with family and friends.

A luxury home isn’t just about the rooms—it’s about lifestyle and a luxurious house with a wine cellar and tasting room delivers on both.

Private gyms and yoga studios

Busy professionals and fitness enthusiasts love having a private gym and yoga studio in their own home. Designed to motivate and inspire, a dedicated space with all the essentials and favorite high-end equipment allows for convenience and customization. Luxury home features like a private gym and yoga studio are perfectly on trend with the focus on health and wellness seen in the last few years.

Expansive walk-in closets

Luxury contemporary homes wouldn’t be complete without an expansive walk-in closet. Bespoke organizational systems not only provide storage, but they also allow an owner to showcase beloved accessories like sunglasses, purses, shoes and more. Large closets can be broken up to include additional spaces, like a dressing area, vanity or seating area to personalize the space and utilize it for optimal functionality. Lighting and personalization are also key components of upscale walk-in closets.

Storage is a highly desired benefit for any homeowner, and expansive closets featuring quality materials can set a luxury property apart.

Rooftop gardens and terraces

For a modern luxury house in an urban setting like Minneapolis, a slice of outdoor greenery via a rooftop garden and terrace is a welcome respite from big-city living. Rooftop gardens and terraces can suit a large range of styles and purposes from zen gardens to outdoor kitchens, and they can be a private oasis for entertaining or relaxing. Regardless of the landscaping, rooftop gardens and terraces provide a unique opportunity to bring the indoors outside–while enjoying the view.

Panoramic views with floor-to-ceiling windows

With more than 10,000 lakes, Minnesota has no shortage of cities with beautiful luxury homes with equally beautiful views. Architectural marvels like floor-to-ceiling windows provide panoramic views of scenery all from the comfort of your home. Bringing in natural light and nature through large windows is a known mood booster and ties the outdoor space and indoor space together for a seamless experience.

Invest in your next luxurious home with Edina Realty

This list is by no means exhaustive, especially as luxury can be in the eye of the beholder. Luxury home features like a sports court may appeal to one family while another seeks a chef’s kitchen or a five-car garage. However, these 10 luxury house items have stood the test of time and are very desirable to buyers seeking contemporary luxury homes.

Finding the perfect modern luxury home that suits your lifestyle requires a discerning eye and a professional agent who is well-connected, knows the local area and has experience with luxury properties. Reach out today to learn more about the beautiful luxury homes available in your area.

Ask an Edina Realty Lawyer: As a seller, can I have hidden cameras on during a showing of my home?

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Key Insights

  • Recording laws are different across states.
  • In Minnesota and western Wisconsin, it’s legal to secretly video record in your home, but you are not allowed to record audio.
  • If you intend to video record during a showing, be sure to turn the audio recording function off.
  • Keep in mind that it’s illegal to videotape a person where there is likelihood of recording them in a state of undress (for instance, a bathroom).

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 the legality of sellers using hidden cameras or other recording devices while a potential buyer tours their property.

Dear Edina Realty Legal,

My home is currently listed for sale. I have a couple of hidden cameras for security purposes but have been told that it is illegal for me to have the cameras on when I have open houses or showings. Is that true?

Well, that’s partly true and partly not. When it comes to hidden cameras and other recording devices, each state has its own rules. For this article, we’ll just focus on those rules applicable to Edina Realty’s primary areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In Minnesota and Wisconsin (and many other states) it’s important to distinguish between the recording of video only and the capturing of audio of conversations.

As a general rule, you are allowed to videotape (even secretly) in your own home.

There are a number of legitimate reasons a homeowner may want to install a hidden camera in their home. A camera could capture video evidence in case of a burglary, or the homeowner might want to keep an eye on their kids or pets.

For the most part, it is perfectly legal to have a camera taking video of what occurs within your home. This is true even if the camera is capturing video of someone without their knowledge. One big caveat to that general rule is that you are not permitted to place a camera with the intention or likelihood of capturing a person taking their clothes off — for example, in a bathroom.

However, you can’t typically record audio without the speaker’s knowledge or consent.

While it is generally permissible to record video, state regulations treat the recording of audio differently. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, it is against the law to use electronic means to intercept an oral communication when it is made with the reasonable expectation of privacy. These laws are generally focused on wiretapping but can be applied more broadly.

An oral communication can be a conversation between two or more people, so a conversation between prospective buyers of your home and their agents would appear to fall into the definition of an oral communication.

So, in short, it’s generally ok to have a video camera in your home. However, if you’re going to have showings and open houses, you should adjust your camera settings to not record the audio.

Note: There is an exception to the law that allows a party to a conversation to secretly record a conversation — but you are not a party to the conversations between potential buyers and their agents.

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

Five home improvements with the best ROI

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Key insights:

  • Historically, home sellers invested in improvement projects before listing to generate more interest in their property.
  • Today’s sellers hold a keen advantage in the market, so they should be sure to update only what is necessary before listing their home for sale.
  • Data shows that some of the least expensive projects — such as a new garage door or a new front door — can have the greatest impact on a sale.

You’ve likely seen the headlines: Today’s sellers are getting 99.3% of their asking price in the past 12 months, which means that they hold a big advantage in today’s market. With this news, you may not plan to update anything on your property before you list it for sale. If your home is in the right neighborhood and in good condition, this may be just fine! But if your home is outdated, you may get an even higher bid if you give it a little polish before selling.

But which projects can have the biggest impact for sellers? Shouldn’t some updates be reserved for homeowners who plan to stay in their homes and enjoy them for a few years?

These are the questions we asked as we dove into the 2023 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com). This exhaustive report details the cost and value of home improvement projects across the country, and they even break the data out by region and city.

Based on that report, here are the projects Twin Cities homeowners should take on if they want to recoup the most on their initial investment.

1. Fiberglass grand entrance

Grand entrance

Cost: $10,823

Resale value: $5,238

Cost recouped: 97.5%

Replacing a standard entry door with a more grand entrance can add a lot of curb appeal to your property. Fiberglass’ unique material keeps it energy-efficient and durable while being highly customizable, even able to mimic wood grain.

Start by removing the standard entry door and then cut and reframe the door opening for a larger door with dual sidelights. Customize the entrance with upscale finishes like color, threshold, lockset and decorative half-glass with sidelights.

An upscale fiberglass entry adds a big “wow” and should only take a day to complete.

2. HVAC conversion to electric

HVAC

Cost: $18,328

Resale value: $17,615

Cost recouped: 96.1%

If your system is in need of an update, converting to an electric HVAC operating system may be a sound investment.

While not the most glamorous home update, a new HVAC system that runs on electric instead of gas can offer a big return when it comes to home resale. An electric HVAC system improves air quality and lowers energy bills over time. Switching to an electrically-powered system provides greater safety and peace of mind than their gas-powered counterparts, which produce carbon monoxide. They also have a longer life span and are energy-efficient while operating quietly and providing lower maintenance costs.

In addition to having lower upfront costs to install, tax incentives and rebates may help lower your initial bills.

3. Manufactured stone veneer

Stone veneer

Cost: $11,463

Resale value: $10,582

Cost recouped: 92.3%

If you’ve seen new construction homes over the last few years, you know that partial stone veneers are all the rage. Current homeowners can also freshen up an aging exterior by adding a stone veneer accent to the bottom third of their home.

To complete this project, you’ll first remove the bottom third of siding from the street-facing side of your home exterior then replace this area with a stone veneer, including sills, 40 corners, an address block and a detailed faux-stone archway around the front door. The installation also includes protection against water damage and corrosion.

You’ll be amazed at how this easy stone addition gives your home’s exterior a modern facelift!

4. Siding replacement (vinyl)

Vinyl siding

Cost: $17,813

Resale value: $15,950

Cost recouped: 89.5%

New siding can be a big selling point to potential buyers. It not only aesthetically updates a home and adds curb appeal, but when using vinyl, can add additional benefits like preventing pests and adding insulation for more energy efficiency.

Installing vinyl can mean years of maintenance-free living for owners. Vinyl is durable, low-maintenance and comes in a wide variety of colors and textures to best showcase a home.

As a benefit to sellers, it’s also cost-effective and easy to install. Note that not all vinyl siding is the same, and you’ll want to pay close attention to creating a water-resistant barrier.

5. Minor, mid-range kitchen remodel

Remodeled kitchen

Cost: $27,009

Resale value: $22,784

Cost recouped: 84.4%

A modest kitchen upgrade can better maximize space, increase accessibility and provide enough of a cosmetic improvement to bring a dated kitchen back to life.

Replacing a number of key appliances, cabinet/drawer faces and hardware, along with cost-effective flooring and counters and a fresh coat of paint on walls, trim and ceiling can offer buyers a blank slate that showcases the functionality of a crucial space.

Voila! A not-too-expensive update that saves you the cost of all new cabinetry or high-end finishes.

Want more info on the ROI of home projects?

We’ve detailed the five projects with the highest return on investment, but the 2023 Cost vs. Value Report also shared the five projects with the lowest ROI in the Twin Cities. If you plan to move soon, you may want to avoid adding an owner’s suite or a brand-new bathroom.

Here are the home improvement projects with the lowest ROI locally:

  • Upscale owner’s suite addition (22.8% recouped from budget of $338,195)
  • Upscale bathroom addition (25.6% of $109,772)
  • Mid-range bathroom addition (27.2% of $60,592)
  • Mid-range owner’s suite addition (30.0% of $163,887)
  • Upscale major kitchen remodel (31.1% of $152,918)

Wondering what other remodeling projects were reviewed for the Minneapolis region? Check out the complete 2023 Cost vs. Value Report for our area.

Get expert guidance before you sell

Keep in mind that it may be smartest to take on higher-cost, lower-ROI projects only if you plan to be in the home for a few more years. After all, your own enjoyment of these projects can certainly count as a return on your investment!

However, if your updates are solely intended to sell your home faster or for more money, let’s talk before you begin renovations. Reach out for advice on the most cost-effective, impactful changes you can make to your property.

Complete data from the 2023 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com, Distributed by Remodeling by JLC, ©2024 Zonda Media, a Delaware corporation.

Four questions to ask when buying a condo or townhouse

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Key Insights

  • Carefully review HOA fees and how the budget is spent when considering a townhouse or condo.
  • Ask for a copy of HOA rules and regulations so you can fully understand the benefits and deterrents of a space.
  • Make sure your unit is adequately soundproof before making an offer.
  • Consider parking and additional storage spaces.

Whether you’re a first-time buyer hoping to buy a starter home, or a downsizer looking for a fresh start, a condo or townhouse could be just what you need. Here are four questions you can ask as you tour condos and townhouses with your REALTOR®.

1. What are the HOA fees? How is the budget spent?

Homeowners associations (HOA) can be a plus for condo and townhouse owners who don’t want to arrange for trash pick-up or snow removal. Different HOAs cover different items—some HOA fees might include water and sewage, while others expect dwellers to cover that cost separately. It’s important to review what the HOA costs cover so you can budget appropriately. Remember, HOA fees are technically a part of your housing cost, and they should be considered when you are determining your budget.

When inquiring about your HOA fees, be sure to ask how the budget is allocated, who controls the purse strings, and how much is currently available in cash reserves. If the building is 10 to 20 years old, for example, experts recommend that 25-30% of the incoming fees be earmarked for future major repairs. It’d also be wise to ask about past special assessments and if there are any on the horizon. Be sure to look at the insurance policy and see if the coverage is robust enough for your area.

2. What are the HOA rules and regulations, and the perks or community resources?

Every homeowners association is different, so be sure to ask if the townhouse or condo:

  • Allows pets or has size and breed restrictions
  • Has regulations about upkeep of private property (including balconies)
  • Requires your unit to be owner-occupied
  • Charges fines—and what fines are most common
  • Has quiet hours or noise restrictions
  • Offers security measures (security personnel, cameras, entry fobs, lighting, etc.)

Much of this information can be found in the HOA rules and regulations, and most management companies will give you a copy to review if you ask. If you can, ask about who manages the property and how accessible they are to residents.

On the other hand, condos and townhomes can have plenty of perks. Ask if they have:

  • A pool, Jacuzzi or sauna
  • Tennis courts or a community gym
  • Indoor or outdoor party rooms
  • A community-gardening area
  • Walking paths or outdoor space

3. What is the parking and storage availability?

While almost all condos (especially complexes) and townhouses offer parking, asking if you get a complimentary parking spot or if you’ll have to pay for parking is important. Be sure to check out the parking in person and see how much space is allotted. A townhouse garage may say it fits two cars but realistically cannot accommodate two SUVs. For condos, the difference between covered parking and underground parking is a game-changer when winter rolls around. Plus, a separate building may mean additional property taxes.

For those with multiple vehicles or who like to entertain, you may want to consider what the extra parking is like. Are there plenty of spaces? Do you need a permit to park in that area? Are there restrictions when it snows or on trash days?

You should also consider any larger items you have, like bicycles, skis, luggage, camping equipment and more. Your parking space may accommodate some extra items, but it’s good to ask if the condo or townhouse comes with a private storage space and be sure to check out the storage in person to see if it matches your needs.

4. What’s the community like?

In condo and townhouse living, getting along with your neighbors can be important. With closer quarters and community-shared spaces, you could be seeing (and hearing) a lot of them.

First, check if the unit has been soundproofed. This may seem silly, but one of the top complaints of condo and townhouse owners is that they can hear their neighbors’ comings, goings and everything in between. Be sure to inquire about any soundproofing that has been done to the space and consider stopping by at different times of the day or week to get a feel for how sound travels and what the “busy” times are (for instance, if you work nights, a community with heavy foot traffic in the morning might not be the best fit).

Consider the amount of privacy you’ll have. Ask questions like:

  • Are patios/balconies blocked off from your neighbors?
  • Are there multiple elevators and entrances?
  • Are common spaces heavily used?

Depending on the amount of privacy the space has, you might want to pay attention to the lifestyle of your neighbors and see if it matches your own.

Ready for a condo or townhouse?

The questions above are just a few of the important factors you should consider when buying a condo or townhouse, but a seasoned REALTOR can help you fully understand all the advantages and disadvantages of communal living. Learn more about condos and townhouses for sale or reach out today for help on the path to homeownership.

What is an appraisal, and how can sellers “pass” it?

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Key Insights

  • An appraisal is an evaluation of a property's value that is done to ensure that the home justifies the loan amount.
  • Appraisals are done by an appraiser, who generally does an in-person inspection and notes amenities and the state of the home, finds relevant comps and evaluates neighborhood statistics to determine a home’s value.
  • A seller and their agent can help the process go smoothly by compiling all relevant information and getting the home in tip-top shape.
  • If a home appraises as expected, you go to the closing table. If it doesn’t, you can ask for a reconsideration.

Getting an offer accepted in today's competitive market can be exhilarating for both buyers and sellers. But an agreement between these two parties is only part of a longer process. The home also needs to appraise at the agreed-upon sales price so the lender can justify the loan amount. So how does this process work and what influences it? If you're selling your home, here are insights you can use to get a fair, informed appraisal for your property.

What does an appraiser do?

In short, an appraiser determines the current value of a property. They generally do this by performing a walk-through of the interior and exterior of the property and making note of any amenities such as a finished basement or swimming pool. They will also note health and safety code violations or other areas of concern. Most appraisers will utilize comparable home data (often referred to as comps) of nearby recent sales and neighborhood statistics to help determine a home's value.

Understanding an appraiser’s work style

Since appraisers are independent contractors (hired by the lender and typically billed back to the buyer), it's important to understand that they have their own preferences and work styles. While they are on your property, it’s essential to allow them one to two hours to complete the inspection without interruption. However, there are things you can do to make the appraiser's job easier — and help your home get an accurate valuation.

How can the seller help?

  • Make sure all utilities are on.
  • Ensure spaces and mechanicals are clean, functioning and free of debris.
  • Replace burned-out lights and make needed repairs.
  • Make sure crawl spaces, attics and outbuildings are accessible.
  • Provide your agent’s contact information early on. (The appraiser typically expects to speak with the listing agent.)

How can your REALTOR® help?

Your REALTOR can communicate relevant information to the appraiser and help make the process go smoothly. Here are a few ways your agent will assist:

  • Report upgrades and the dates they occurred.
  • Tell the story of how you arrived at the anticipated closing price. For example, explain if the property attracted multiple offers.
  • Provide value trends, including closed comps, recent transactions and neighborhood data.

Before the appraiser leaves, you or your REALTOR may ask whether there are any needed repairs or known concerns but understand that the appraiser may choose not to share this information with you.

What happens if the home appraises?

Hooray, your property appraised at the sales price! All systems go and you’re on your way to the closing table. Now the buyer's financial and credit history will likely be verified, the lender will likely approve the home mortgage loan and the loan package will be submitted to the title company to prepare the documents for closing.

What happens if the home doesn’t appraise?

If a property appraises under the sales price, your REALTOR can request a reconsideration of value. In this case, your agent and lender would guide the process, listing factors that should warrant adjustments, such as additional comps or alternate data. It’s possible that the appraisal could be reconsidered and you could still close at the price agreed upon by you and the buyer.

Ready to sell?

If you haven't yet put your home on the market or need help preparing your home to sell, reach out today and get in touch with an experienced professional who can assist you throughout the selling (or buying!) journey.

Five expert tips for negotiating a home purchase

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Key Insights

  • It’s important to know what the market conditions are and what (if any) leverage you have when buying a home.
  • Discuss how high you’re willing to go before making an offer so you can quickly respond to counteroffers.
  • Carefully read the terms of purchase and determine what terms are most important to you.
  • Work with a REALTOR who understands the market, language and negotiation techniques to protect your interests and help you get the best terms.

You know it’s important to hire an expert negotiator when buying a home, but did you know that by doing your research, you can also keep the sale on track? Here are five insights you can use when negotiating a home purchase.

1. Determine leverage

Sometimes, leverage is based on local market conditions. When there is a shortage of homes for sale (as there is now in many areas), sellers may expect to get their listed price because buyers are competing over a small pool of homes for sale. When homes are abundant on the market, buyers hold the advantage and may be able to secure their desired property for less..

Of course, there are other factors that can give a buyer or seller an advantage. Buyers may benefit if sellers need a swift path to closing or can’t afford their monthly mortgage payments. And even in a buyers’ market, in-demand homes in trendy neighborhoods may fetch multiple bids and a higher sales price. If you find a home you love and aren’t sure who has the leverage, talk with your REALTOR® for insights and context.

2. Leverage comparable sales

Your REALTOR will have access to comparable sales, often called “comps,” in your desired neighborhood. Comps will show you the average sales price and time on the market of similar homes. These numbers can be invaluable as you determine your bidding and negotiation strategy.

Think of it this way: If you were bartering for a $50 lamp at a flea market, you might have no idea what to make as a starting offer. However, if you knew that a friend had bought a similar lamp from the same vendor for $45 last week, you could safely assume that a $45 offer would be reasonable. This same idea can be applied on a grand scale when putting together an initial bid based on comps in your desired area.

3. Respond immediately to counteroffers

If a seller responds to your offer with a counteroffer, it’s important to work with your REALTOR to respond to it quickly. In fact, you may even want to discuss how high you’ll go in a counter before you make your initial offer. That way, if a counteroffer comes in, your agent can verify that the number you previously discussed still holds and move the negotiation forward quickly.

4. Understand the terms of purchase

When your offer is accepted, you and your REALTOR will review the purchase agreement to see if you’ll agree to the seller’s terms. Some sellers may add special clauses saying that the sale does not include a prized chandelier or brand-new stacking washer and dryer units, and you’ll have to determine if these terms are deal-breakers. They could also include other terms, such as contingencies, proposed closing dates, provisions on inspections and more.

Remember, the party with leverage may not see the need to budge, so it’s important to enter negotiations with open eyes. Once the purchase agreement has been drawn up, it’s up to the buyer and their REALTOR to determine what’s worth fighting for and what can be accepted.

5. Never cut out the “middle man”

Keep in mind that while it may be tempting to directly negotiate terms with the seller, you should avoid this path. First, negotiations are about staying closely guarded without appearing too closed off, and REALTORS know how to expertly navigate these conversations. If you appear too eager to settle a term, you may give up any leverage you have. Plus, by calling the seller directly, you may be cutting out your expert while the seller is still consulting with their listing agent to get the best terms.

Last, the language of real estate contracts is complicated and requires the eye and experience of a professional. By negotiating a contract verbally (and outside the terms of the listing agreement), you may not end up with a contract that reflects your handshake deal. Your REALTOR will ensure everything is legally sound and in writing.

Start your home search

Before you can begin bidding or negotiating, reach out and get the help of a local expert who specializes in getting to the closing table.

Perennial splitting 101

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Key Insights

  • Perennial plants come back year after year with little care.
  • Perennials can grow to be too large and need to have their roots split so the original plant and its offshoots can thrive.
  • Splitting plants is very simple and can be done at almost any time.
  • If you run out of garden space, consider gifting your perennial offshoots for others to enjoy.

One of the best parts of spring is watching all the new growth and greenery sprout up in your yard and neighborhood. If you have perennials in your landscape, you can enjoy these blooms and foliage with minimal effort.

However, if you haven’t visited your garden in a while, you might want to stop by and see if your perennial plants could benefit from splitting before the vegetation becomes unwieldy. Here’s a quick course on what plant splitting is, when you should do it and how it’s done.

Perennials are low-maintenance plants that may need to be split

Perennials are plants that are planted once and continue to grow or flower for multiple years. Perennials are great because they grow well, are sturdy against weather and disease and are a low-maintenance way to beautify your landscape (especially if you use mulch).

While there are plenty of beautiful perennial flowers, homeowners can also benefit from perennial shrubs that may add privacy and greenery with minimal effort. Because they are so low maintenance, a perennial garden is a good place to start for beginner gardeners who want to work their way up to fruit and vegetable gardening.

Here are a few perennial plants that grow well in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin (zones 3-5) you might be familiar with:

  • Herbaceous perennials: Hosta, peony, geranium, rudbeckia, purple coneflower, daylily, yarrow, chrysanthemums, salvia
  • Clump-forming evergreen perennials: Heuchera, salvia, phlox, fern
  • Spreading shrubs: Lilac, forsythia, dogwood, hydrangea
  • Underground rhizomes: Bearded iris, bugleweed, mint, aster

Sometimes, mature perennial plants can get so big that they start competing with other plants for soil nutrients and sunlight. Without adequate nutrition, these plants will start diminishing or stop flowering. Overgrown plants can reduce your curb appeal, and pruning them back or splitting the plant is an easy, cost-effective way to make your landscaping more aesthetically pleasing.

Plant splitting helps your garden thrive

Plant splitting—also known as dividing —is the act of taking the root of a mature plant and breaking it into several plants. While perennials have different root systems, the one you may be most familiar with is a bulb.

Think of a bulb of garlic–inside that bulb, there are many different cloves that are lumped together in a circular shape. It’s the same idea with bulb plants. After maturing, the bulb creates separate bulbs that can be taken off and used to start a new plant that will thrive on its own. These new plants (called offshoots) can be planted and flourish on their own.

How to know when to split your perennials

Each perennial plant is different, but on average, you should split your plants every 3-5 years (though some require splitting every year and others can go five without needing to be divided). Check with your local garden store or online resources to determine the best approach for each plant variety.

Other indicators that it’s time to split your perennials include when the plant:

  • Congests the garden
  • Covers more ground than usual
  • Stops flowering
  • Starts sprouting small shoots from the ground around the main plant stalk

When you split your perennials

Splitting can truly be done any time of year as long as the plants are well-watered after replanting. However, they tend to do best when they’re dormant, either in the late fall before the cold sets in or in early spring when they’re just showing signs of new life. The exception to this is spring-flowering perennials, which are best divided in the summer once they’ve started to fade. Again, your local gardening center or the University of Minnesota Extension are great resources for determining the best time of year to split your plants.

How to split your perennials

Splitting is very easy! Here are a few quick steps to successfully divide your plants.

  1. Dig up the plant. Use a shovel, trowel, or garden fork to dig up the entire plant (note that plants may have spread out or grown deeper than where you planted them, so be safe and dig a few inches around the stalk). Always call 811 before you dig to ensure underground utility lines can be marked.
  2. Carefully separate the bulbs, clumps, or roots. Brush off dirt and gently divide the plant. Depending on the plant, you may need a knife to separate the pieces, but many species can be gently divided by hand.
  3. Remove any dead bulbs. Toss bulbs or sections that are shriveled, soggy, or damaged.
  4. Replant the original parent plant and offshoots. Put the original plant back where it was (unless the parent bulb has died), and plant the offshoots at the same depth and distance recommended for the plant. Add some compost or nutrient-rich soil to the plants to give them a healthy boost.

Note that some plants can’t be replanted right away and may need to be dried out before replanting. Check online or with your garden center for your specific plants to give them their best shot at flourishing.

  1. Water and watch. Water the new plants well for a few weeks until you start to see new growth. Then, water on a regular schedule. Note that it may take a few years for the new plants to grow and flower at the same rate as the original plant.

If you don’t have any more space in your garden for your new offshoots, consider:

  • Planting offshoots in pots. Since it may take a year or two to grow and start flowering, putting the new plants in a pot is a good option to get them healthy.
  • Gifting them to friends, family and neighbors. Just like fruits, vegetables and even dough starters, your extra perennials can make great gifts and ensure that nothing is going to waste.
  • Donating them to your garden center, club, or local organization. If you run out of people in need of plants, call up local establishments or gardening centers and clubs to see if they’d like your offshoots.

Enjoy your garden

Splitting plants is easy to add to your spring lawn care routine. Gardening has great physical, mental and emotional benefits that help you stay healthy. Plus, having native plants or a pollinator garden helps the local ecosystem and planet while bringing beautiful butterflies and birds to your front door!

Having an eye-catching outdoor space adds value to your home's curb appeal, too. If you’d like advice on what kind of perennial plants would help maximize your yard, reach out today.

Revitalize your home this spring

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Key Insights

  • Give your home a fresh start by getting it ready for the new season.
  • Declutter your space and give it a good spring cleaning.
  • Make small repairs, home maintenance updates and aesthetic changes.

Spring has sprung! Homeowners are encouraged to take on a few minor repairs, as well as a thorough cleaning, to give their space a fresh start and increase the curb appeal of their property.

Clear out clutter

The winter months might have caused clutter to build up in your home. Now is the time to purge and get organized. Throw away anything you don't need and store items you haven't used in a while or won't use during the warmer months of the year.

Establish routines and storage solutions for all areas of your home from your kitchen to kids’ spaces to help keep things orderly. It may feel like a daunting task, but clearing a home from clutter can open up space, save you money and reduce stress and will be well worth the effort.

Thoroughly clean

Once a home is free from the grasp of clutter, you can now give it a thorough cleaning. Don't skimp when it comes to a spring cleaning—you want to give your home a fresh start by airing it out, eliminating odors and giving everything a good scrub down.

Be sure to hit those out-of-sight-out-of-mind spots and move furniture and appliances to get every inch spick-and-span. It can be a lot of work, but on the bright side, it can double as a workout!

Paint faded rooms and cabinets

Another great way to add life to a home is to paint. Touching up a room is the perfect solution to make it look more appealing, whether you use paint, wallpaper or another wall accent like tile. Refinishing cabinets can completely change the look of a kitchen or bathroom at a low cost.

These updates can help your space feel larger and make your home better reflect your personal style (consider using some of the hottest colors for 2024). Just be sure to be realistic on how long these updates will take and if you should bring in a professional.

Make minor repairs

In addition to painting faded rooms and cabinets, it's also important to take on small repairs. Simple projects like fixing a door hinge will make you feel better about the state of your home this spring. It can also help prolong the life of your items or prevent larger issues from developing.

You can also use this opportunity to restock your home emergency kits and check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and your space is fire-safe. Now would also be a good time to tune up your HVAC and water system and clean or replace your filters.

Give yourself a fresh start

Decluttering, cleaning and making updates to your home can do wonders for your home's functionality and your enjoyment of your space. It’s also a great way to get your home ready to sell. If you’re finding that you need a bigger new beginning, reach out and see what’s on the spring market!

What to look for in a home inspection

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Key Insights

  • What happens during a home inspection, including what it costs, who pays for it and when it should take place
  • An experienced professional will know what to look for in a home inspection and can provide a report that outlines potential issues and fixes
  • What happens after the inspection–and how buyers can use it to their advantage

When buying a home, you may wonder what to expect during a home inspection. In our guide, you’ll find everything you need – including a home inspection checklist for buyers – to confidently move forward with your purchase.

What to look for in a home inspection: A buyer’s checklist

Find out why inspecting a house is important, how much it costs, who pays for it, and what happens during a home inspection. Our buyer home inspection checklist will help you understand what a good home inspection report should include as well as ways your REALTOR® will help you navigate the process.

Should I get a home inspection before buying a house?

Having a home inspected before buying can help you identify potential issues and avoid costly surprises. It can also help ensure you don’t overpay if the home has damage or defects that require substantial repairs.

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, more than 85% of buyers request an inspection prior to signing a purchase agreement, so you can rest assured knowing you’re in good company when you ask for a home inspection for buyers. Sellers can also benefit by getting tips to pass their home inspection.

When is a home inspection done?

Real estate contracts in Minnesota and Wisconsin allow buyers to make their purchase contingent on a home inspection. Generally, this means the buyer and seller agree to have a professional home inspector conduct a thorough inspection of the property and prepare a report of their findings before the sale.

Depending on the findings, the buyer may have an opportunity to cancel the contract if they are concerned about the home’s conditions, or they may decide to negotiate possible repairs with the seller. Most importantly, the buyer will be able to proceed with a strong understanding of the condition of the property before they buy.

Who pays for a home inspection?

The homebuyer typically hires the home inspector. Your REALTOR can recommend someone they trust, or you can interview potential inspectors to get an idea of their relevant experience and obtain sample home inspection reports and client references.

How much is a home inspection?

The cost of a home inspection may vary and will be determined by the home inspector you hire. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the range for a typical home inspection is between $300-$500. Some things that could impact the cost include the region where you’re buying, the size and age of the house, and the scope of the services you’re paying for.

What happens during a home inspection?

A home inspection is a professional evaluation of a property, and it’s intended to determine the property’s condition and reveal any potential safety concerns. During a typical home inspection – which lasts two to three hours – a licensed home inspector will walk around the property to assess the condition of the interior and exterior, including the structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. They will put together a comprehensive report that documents their findings, including big and small concerns, as well as potential fixes. You should always ask for their professional opinion about any problems they uncover.

Remember, a REALTOR is not a professional inspector and should not be relied upon in place of one. A professional home inspector will use their experience and training to identify things that might not be apparent to your REALTOR or the average person. What to look for when inspecting a house is much different from what you might look for at an open house or showing.

Four things to look for in a home inspection

Your professional home inspector can provide an overview of what to expect from a home inspection and will likely have a dedicated checklist when making their report. However, as a rule of thumb, you should expect their report to address structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in addition to interior features, exterior conditions, the roof, walls and foundation. Generally, they will focus on four main areas.

Structural

This can include exterior and interior features of a home where the inspector will look for things like evidence of moisture or water damage, decay, termites, stains, cracks, damage, sagging and other imperfections. They will likely examine:

  • Foundation, crawl spaces and exterior walls
  • Septic tank, if applicable
  • Windows and door frames
  • Siding, bricks, paint and other exterior features
  • Roof and gutters
  • Chimneys
  • Grading for drainage
  • Detached garages, sheds, decks and fences
  • Attic and insulation
  • Soffits and ceilings
  • Stairway treads, risers and railings

Mechanical

This is related to your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, sometimes referred to as HVAC. It will be inspected to ensure there is no gas odor and that systems are clean and operate as expected. They will likely examine:

  • Furnace or boilers
  • Air conditioning or other cooling systems
  • Ventilation, including chimney flues and exhaust fans
  • Air filters
  • Ceiling fans
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Electrical

When it comes to your electrical system, your inspector will likely be looking to ensure things are in good and safe working condition and meet current code and capacity requirements. They may examine:

  • Wiring
  • Service or electrical panels
  • Cables
  • Electrical splices
  • Lights and switches
  • Electrical outlets
  • Electric garage door openers

Plumbing

When it comes to your plumbing, your inspector will look for evidence of leaks, rust, issues with water pressure or temperature, clogged drains and any signs of water damage. They will likely inspect:

  • Pipes
  • Water heater
  • Sump pump
  • Toilets, tubs, sinks and showers
  • Drains
  • Garbage disposals

Additional inspection considerations before buying

There are some things a typical home inspection may not address depending on your location, property features or even the type of home financing you’re using. Your REALTOR can help you determine whether Truth in Housing or inflow/infiltration inspections are needed as well as whether your home should be inspected for pests. You may also need special evaluations done on features like swimming pools, jacuzzis and solar panels.

What should a home inspection report include?

A typical home inspection report will be 20-50 pages long–or even longer in some cases. A longer report doesn’t necessarily indicate a home with major problems; it could simply mean the inspector was thorough and identified many smaller issues that you could use in your negotiations with the seller.

A good inspector will walk you and your REALTOR through their findings, and they can give you their professional opinion when it comes to easy fixes versus major red flags and potential deal breakers.

Next steps after a home inspection

After you’ve had some time to digest the findings from your home inspection report, you and your REALTOR can discuss what comes next. Depending on the issues, you could use it to negotiate down the purchase price, you could request that the seller replace or repair major issues, or you could choose to walk away from the purchase altogether (provided you had a contingency). No matter what you decide, your REALTOR is in your corner and will help guide you through the process to ensure you move forward with confidence.

Ready for help in your home buying journey?

Buying your first (or next) home is an exciting time, and you want to make sure you have all the information and support you need to make a good decision and an informed purchase. Reach out and we’ll determine the best course of action to secure the right home with the help of a home inspection for buyers.

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