10 essential tips for first time home sellers

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

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

Staging your home to sell

Home seller tip #1: Staging matters

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

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

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

Home seller tip #2: Maximize your curb appeal

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

To solicit a strong set of offers, start with a bright and tidy homefront. Here are some specific tips to boost your curb appeal:

  • Pressure-wash your siding.
  • Wash every window until it sparkles.
  • Consistently mow and water your lawn.
  • Maintain your garden with fresh flowers, plants and mulch.

Home seller tip #3: Clean up and declutter

A clean home will work in your favor for a handful of reasons. Not only will it appear more spacious and fresh, but it will also allow the buyer to see the home as a fresh canvas that they can easily insert their own lives into.

Photographing your home to sell.

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

In the era of the internet, it’s no surprise that listing photos can make quite an impact on your home sale. The numbers support this notion too, as 89 percent of homebuyers indicate that photos are one of the most useful features on real estate websites.

When we work together to list your home, we’ll be sure to use crisp, high-quality photos that help the property stand out online.

Home seller tip #5: Price your home carefully

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

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

While you may understand the importance of a sweet-spot listing price, it can still be difficult to determine what that price is. That’s why it’s important to work with a real estate agent who understands the market and your home’s assets. Together, we can come up with a number that makes you feel confident and excited about selling your home.

Home seller tip #6: Hire a trustworthy agent

A real estate agent will be your greatest asset throughout the home sale process, and will have your best interests in mind as they help score you a successful home sale. Before hiring an agent, you’ll want to get a good sense of their personality, communication style and how they will market your home.

If you are interviewing one or more agents, be sure to ask about:

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

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

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

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

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

Home seller tip #8: Make simple repairs and upgrades

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

For some larger-scale ideas — that also have a decent return on investment (ROI) — consider the five home improvements with the highest ROI upon resale:

  • Garage door replacement
  • Siding replacement
  • Manufactured stone veneer addition
  • Entry door replacement
  • Window replacement

Home seller tip #9: Remove odors

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

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

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

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

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

Ready to sell your home?

Now that you know the best tips to sell a home, it’s time to get started! Reach out any time to get fast, insightful answers to your home sale questions — and to truly begin the process of selling your property.

Five questions to ask when buying a waterfront property

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Lake homes are selling fast and for very close to their asking prices. In fact, across Minnesota and western Wisconsin, waterfront properties are selling twice as fast — with 52% fewer days on market — as last year. And lake home buyers aren’t getting a discount for moving fast; these lakeshore homes are closing at 98% of their listed price1.

If you're planning to buy a lakeshore home in Minnesota or western Wisconsin, come prepared with the right questions so you’re ready to make an offer when the right property comes along. Here are the top five must-ask questions when searching for a waterfront property.

1. Who manages the lake weed?

When purchasing a home on or near the lake, you’re bound to encounter aquatic plants. To maintain lake health, it’s usually best to refrain from destroying the native species that live in water. However, if plants or weeds begin to interfere with a homeowner’s access to the water or recreation in the area, it may be necessary to control excessive plant growth.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) near you might control the aquatic plants on your lake. If they don’t, it’s possible to ask the listing agent how the seller has controlled the lake weed in their area of water, and how much they spend annually on these efforts. Some common aquatic plant management steps for lakeside homeowners may include:

  • Eliminating the use of fertilizer on the lawn, which can spread into the lake.
  • Creating a vegetation buffer between the property and the lake, to help block the lawn care nutrients from reaching the water.

For additional resources, visit the Minnesota DNR and Wisconsin DNR pages, which offer up-to-date information on lake weed management.

2. What is the lakeshore like?

A property might be located on the water, but what exactly is the shoreline made of? Is it rocky, mucky or sandy? Depending on your expectations for your lakeshore home, you may want to take a closer look at the shoreline.

Families with kids may prefer an on-property beach for relaxation and clear water for floating and swimming. Keep in mind that if there’s a deep dropoff near shore — which may happen even before you get to the end of the dock— it might not be the best location for swimming or children. On the other hand, those who enjoy fishing, boating, kayaking, waterskiing and other water sports might be okay with a property that has a less manicured shoreline.

If you do stumble upon your dream property and the shoreline isn’t quite up to your standards, keep in mind that you may not be able to make changes to the shoreline without getting a permit. Both the Minnesota DNR and Wisconsin DNR have regulations for shoreline alterations and their primary goal is to protect the body of water. Before you make a bid on a house with a lackluster shoreline, we can work together to find out if your anticipated plans for the shoreline would require a permit.

3. What use do you get out of the lake?

Make sure you can use the lake you move to for your preferred activities. Avid fishers might ask the seller what types of fish can be caught on the lake, and where quiet fishing areas are located. If speed boating and skiing will be your primary pastimes, ask the seller about the traffic on the lake and how large the waves get on windy days. If you prefer to kayak or canoe, ask if non-motorized watercraft are common on the lake.

If you want to learn more about the lake that your potential lake home is situated on, check out these search tools, which offer details like lake depth and boating regulations for nearly every body of water in each state:

4. Does the water level fluctuate?

Do your due diligence on the issue of water levels. It’s easy to fall in love with a property mid-summer, but you must consider what the property is like year-round. Here are some questions to ask to gain a better understanding of your potential waterfront property:

  • Has the water level ever fluctuated dangerously due to winter runoff?
  • How does a fluctuation in water level affect access to the lake?
  • Has the property ever been in danger of flooding?
  • Does the area have floodplain restrictions?
  • Do the owners currently have flood insurance?

5. Are we buying the dock, too?

If the seller is moving from one waterfront property to another, they may plan on taking their dock with them. Ask if the dock is included, and then ask for further information on installing and taking the dock out, including:

  • Is the dock on posts or wheels?
  • How many people does the dock installation require?
  • Is there a place on the land that can easily store the dock in the winter? Or is a storage locker needed?

Moving into your waterfront home

If reading the words fishing, dock, beach and lakeshore excite you, there’s no better time than now to start the process of waterfront home shopping. And by asking these five questions, you’ll gain a better understanding of the property you’re purchasing — especially in today’s competitive market.

Moving forward, get in touch at any time to begin touring waterfront properties in your price range and desired area.

1. Based on information from the Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota, INC., Midwest Minnesota MLS, Lake Superior Area MLS and Northwestern Wisconsin MLS, for the period 2020-2021.

Ask an Edina Realty Lawyer: How can buyers navigate today’s ultra-crowded market?

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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.

You may have heard stories recently about the real estate market and the competition among buyers due to persistently low inventory. In this edition, our lawyers answer some questions that buyers are raising in the current real estate market.

Dear Edina Realty Legal,

I just made a full-price offer on a house, but the seller accepted a different offer. Doesn’t a seller have to accept my offer if I pay full price?

Despite your offer being at full price, the seller is not required to accept it. When a seller lists a property on the MLS, they are simply advertising that it is for sale; they are not naming a set price. This means that when a buyer submits a purchase agreement, even one for full price, the home seller has nearly complete discretion in deciding whether to accept it.

It may be that the seller received an offer for over the list price and that was the reason your offer was not accepted. And as you likely realized when writing your offer in the first place, there are a lot of variables outside of cost that a seller may consider, including:

  • The request for an inspection
  • The buyer’s use of financing
  • A proposed closing date
  • An offer contingent on the sale of the buyer’s house

Sellers need to evaluate all the terms when deciding which offer is best for their unique situation. A seller might choose one offer over another because the closing date is sooner; because the buyer is paying 100% cash; because the buyer did not need to sell their home before purchasing the seller’s home; or for various other reasons.

While submitting a full-price offer certainly seems like a good way to get a seller’s attention, it is only one aspect the seller must consider when reviewing offers. In the future, work with your real estate agent to come up with your strongest, most competitive offer — and to position yourself as the buyer to beat.

Should I forgo having a home inspection as part of my offer?

The real estate contracts used in Minnesota and Wisconsin have provisions that allow a buyer to make their purchase contingent on a home inspection. Generally, if the buyer and seller agree to this contingency, the buyer will hire a professional home inspector to conduct a thorough inspection of the property and prepare a report of their findings. The buyer and seller can then negotiate possible repairs, and the buyer may have the opportunity to cancel the contract if they are concerned about the condition of the home.

The home inspection contingency has obvious benefits for the buyer, and Edina Realty recommends a home inspection on every purchase. But in a seller-favorable market, we often see different strategies intended to make an offer stand out from the rest of the crowd.

One strategy is to not have the contract contingent on a home inspection. That’s certainly a strategy you can employ, but it comes with risks. Keep in mind that homes can have problems not apparent to the untrained eye. A good professional home inspector has the experience and training to see some of the issues the average person cannot. Your REALTOR® is not a professional home inspector and should not be relied upon in lieu of a home inspector. And even though a seller must disclose problems on the property, there may be potential issues that even the seller is not aware of. If you don’t elect to have a home inspection and later discover a problem with the property, that problem is likely your responsibility as the new homeowner.

I’ve heard that I should include a letter about myself in my offer. But I’ve also heard that I shouldn’t do that. Which is correct?

It’s not uncommon for a buyer to include a letter to the seller with their offer. And in recent years, that practice has become somewhat more prevalent. Some agents are of the opinion that a good “love letter” can help sway the seller to choose your offer.

Some feel it’s not appropriate to provide a letter with your offer, with their concerns rooted in the Fair Housing Act or state laws prohibiting discrimination. The Fair Housing Act prohibits a seller from making a decision on who they sell their home to based on protected classifications, like race, ethnicity, religion, familial status, gender and disability. Some state laws have similar protections that extend to classes beyond that of the Fair Housing Act — for example, Minnesota law protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

If a buyer letter contains information about the buyers’ race, religion, or something else that might implicate a protected class, that can put the seller in a tricky position. In fact, many sellers specifically request that no letters be submitted with the offers. If you are going to submit a letter with your offer, we recommend that you focus on the home and what you love about it (which sellers love to hear) and stay away from comments that reflect these protected classes.

I made an offer on a house that was accepted. However, I just received the appraisal, and it is less than the contract price. What can I do now? Can I still buy the house?

As we continue to see increasing home prices in our current market, appraisal issues are a common concern. It can be disappointing when an appraisal comes in lower than the price you had agreed upon with a seller. But a low appraisal is not always a problem. Just because an appraisal comes back less than the contract price does not mean the deal is off, or that the parties are required to renegotiate the price.

While it depends on your specific financial situation, a low appraisal may not impact your ability to move forward with the purchase. In some cases, you may need to bring extra funds to closing, or your mortgage interest rate could be less advantageous — but moving forward with the purchase could still be possible.

Unfortunately, in other situations, a low appraisal can result in an inability to obtain financing for your home purchase. Before submitting your offer, you can work with your real estate agent to determine how you’ll proceed if the property doesn’t appraise. You might decide on different terms to put into the contract, ensuring you can move forward (or walk away) should a low appraisal occur. It is also a good idea to talk with your lender, so you can understand what impact a low appraisal could have on your potential purchase, given your specific financial situation.

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.

Sweat equity: How to burn calories doing basic household chores

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Are you finding yourself a little more sedentary than usual? You’re not alone. In fact, 75% of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of weekly exercise, and that problem has only been exacerbated by COVID-19.

The good news? Standard house chores can be a great way to burn calories and build up muscle — and the end result is a beautiful house or exterior landscape! Here are some tips on how to get fit while tidying up your home.

Household chores that burn calories

1. Declutter your space

Before deep cleaning, start by decluttering your home. Not only will this create a blank slate for you to dust and scrub later on, but it will also burn about 240 calories per day for the average homeowner.

2. Touch up the details

Light cleaning in commonly overlooked areas will help you burn around 170 calories per hour. Simply set an hour aside in your day to disinfect remotes, clean the fan and reorganize the silverware drawer, along with other easily forgotten tasks.

3. Paint your walls

To create a fresh vibe in your home, choose a wall color, grab your tape and brushes and begin painting. Just one half-hour of painting your walls will burn around 160 calories on average.

4. Vacuum the floors

Thirty minutes of vacuuming can burn between 99 and 166 calories. If you usually vacuum once a week, try bumping it up to twice a week. Not only will your floors be cleaner than ever, you’ll burn double the calories you usually would!

For more spaces to clean inside, try dusting, scrubbing the bathtub, washing dishes by hand and reorganizing the pantry.

Exterior home maintenance that works up a sweat

1. Mow the lawn

Even with a self-driving machine, those between 125-185 pounds can burn between 125 and 200 calories when mowing the lawn for just 30 minutes a week. If you have an old-school push mower without a motor, add an extra 30-40 calories.

2. Get in the garden

Ready to finally plant that pollinator garden? For every thirty minutes you spend planting, pulling weeds and otherwise maintaining your garden, you will burn between 139 and 205 calories!

3. Gather and remove leaves

Yard work has extra benefits, too! For a half-hour of leaf raking and removal,you can burn between 120 and 178 calories. Step back and hydrate as you admire your lush green yard after an afternoon of hard work.

4. Shovel snow

In just 30 minutes, the average person burns over 200 calories shoveling snow. While the snow-filled driveway may look daunting, shoveling can help keep you warm and active. (Remember, though, that shoveling can be risky for those who have a heart condition. Be sure to check with your doctor before heading out to your driveway.)

Need more ideas? Consider washing your car, pressure washing your deck, wash outside windows or clean the grill.

How to burn more calories at home

1. Climb the stairs

Between household tasks, encourage yourself to walk up and down your flight of stairs. Whether you need to grab something from an upstairs closet or you simply want to add an extra calorie burn, climbing an additional flight of stairs burns roughly five calories. While this might not seem like much, it adds up over time.

2. Add exercises into your cleaning routine

With 20 calories burned for every 40 arm circles and nearly <href="#calories-burned">50 calories burned for five minutes of intense squats, you can supplement the calories you’re already burning as you do household chores. Turn up the music, increase your pace and toss a set of squats in between dusting and vacuuming.

3. Walk the dog

Not all household tasks need to feel like a chore. If you have a dog, walking your pet is probably already on your daily to-do list. Enjoy the time outside with your pooch, and burn an average of 200 calories as you go.

Get moving!

While it’s good to have balance and enjoy the comforts of your home, remember to mix a few household chores or other exercises into your schedule. This way, you’ll feel your best in your body and your home moving forward. And knowing you’re getting that workout in after all might encourage you to keep up the habit!

Have questions on how to maintain your home’s appearance, or are you wanting to know how to sell your recently improved home? Reach out any time for a no-obligation discussion.

Building vs. buying a house: Which is cheaper?

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As inventory remains low and prices and competition rise, it’s not uncommon for buyers to wonder if they should be building a house vs. buying an existing property. As you consider whether you’d like to build, you’ll want to keep in mind the convenience of buying a move-in ready house, the costs of building or buying a house, and the benefits of designing your own custom home.

Building a house vs. buying

While some people have always wanted to live in a brand-new, custom-built home, others are considering the option to build a new construction property for the first time. In the Twin Cities metro area, the median home price is now well above $325,000, meaning that starter homes are hard to find and “move-up” homes are more expensive. As a result, many homebuyers are beginning to consider the benefits and costs of building vs. buying a home.

No matter what you decide, it’s important to start organizing your personal finances early. Be sure to:

  • Get your credit score, which is a number used by financial institutions to determine how capable you are of taking on additional credit. Increasing your credit score to meet a lender’s criteria can take time, so you’ll want to begin that process immediately if your score is low.
  • Understand your total expenses, including the cost of recurring bills (like your car or student loans), as well as what you can expect to pay in mortgage, interest, property taxes and interest. Your lender can help you understand your spending, and how it can affect your home buying budget.
  • Plan your estimated down payment, whether it will come from your own savings or from mortgage gift funds provided by those close to you.

Buying an existing house

Buying a house

Nearly 86% of homebuyers choose to purchase existing homes. Why is this option so much more popular than building a custom home? Here are some typical factors buyers consider when choosing to build or buy:

  • The timeline: Moving into an existing house can usually happen faster than building a new home.
  • The location: Most new-build homes are within new developments, giving buyers fewer options when it comes to selecting a city or neighborhood.
  • The initial cost: Historically, it has been cheaper to buy an existing home than it has been to build a custom home.

Pros and cons of buying a home

There are advantages and disadvantages to buying an existing home — from the cost, to the condition, to the location and opportunity for expansion or remodeling. It’s important for homebuyers to aim for their dream home, while also remembering that every property (whether it’s historic or brand-new) may come with some drawbacks.

Pros of buying a house

Aside from the long-term financial benefits of buying a home, there are also emotional gains to setting down roots in a community you love. Some points in favor of buying an existing home include:

  • A faster moving timeline. If you hope to move quickly, then buying an existing home may be the right path for you.
  • A more established community. In buying an existing home, you’re more likely to move into a neighborhood that has long-established traditions or amenities.
  • A lower cost. Historically speaking, buying a house is often cheaper than building one.
  • Fewer upfront decisions. When you buy an existing house, you can wait until you move in to make decisions about decor, upkeep and more.

Cons of buying a house

Of course, there are also downsides to buying an existing house. Even the best inspector can miss costly issues, and small remodeling projects can end up taking years if you don’t prioritize them. Buyers who aren’t sure if they should build or buy should consider:

  • The cost of upkeep. Even the most perfectly-maintained existing home can hide issues that are costly and time-consuming to fix.
  • The stress of the market. Extremely low inventory means that today’s buyers are faced with a lot of competition and high-stress transactions.
  • Less control over timing. Our fast-paced market means that buyers need to be ready to move now, but must also prepare for months of putting in offers that are rejected or outbid.

Costs involved in purchasing a home

In the Twin Cities metro area, the median price of a single-family home was $327,500 in April of 2021. That’s a new record high, and it may mean that the cost of buying an existing home is creeping ever closer to the cost of building a brand-new home. Of course, there are additional costs to existing homes that buyers should consider:

  • Insurance, taxes and interest: If you’re a first-time homebuyer, remember that the cost of buying a home is not simply your monthly mortgage payment. Be sure to factor in the cost of homeowner’s insurance and your property taxes.
  • Small updates: Whether it’s repainting the walls to better match your decor preferences, replacing hardware on the kitchen cabinets or buying more modern window treatments, there will be expenses as you match an existing home to your personal style.
  • Large upgrades and repairs: Over time, you may have to replace costly home elements, including windows and roofing, or make investments into the plumbing and HVAC systems.
  • Appliance failure: If you’re lucky, you may move into a home with new laundry machines and an updated kitchen. If not, you may need to purchase brand-new appliances as they fail from typical use.
  • Exterior maintenance: Homeowners will incur small annual costs, like tree-trimming and landscaping, and may need to budget for larger projects like new siding or house painting.
  • Remodeling: Most homeowners have a few ideas of how their space could be upgraded. Whether you’d like to add a sunporch, en-suite bathroom or refinish the basement, the cost of remodeling is something to consider.

Timeline for buying a home

Let’s talk about the ideal home buying timeline: If you are fortunate enough to get an offer accepted on a home, you may be able to close in as little as 30 days. This window of time includes the time it takes to get a loan approved and an appraisal and inspection completed. However, with today’s limited inventory, many of today’s buyers are searching for weeks — or even months — before one of their offers is accepted. This means that for buyers seeking existing homes, the timeline can vary quite a bit.

Building your own home

Building a house

Building a house is less popular than buying an existing home; just 11% of homebuyers purchase new construction homes on land they didn't already own. While it’s much cheaper to build a house on your own land, only 3% of homeowners go down this route. So, why do less than 15% of buyers purchase new construction housing overall? Is it because of the house construction cost, or the process of building a house? Or something else altogether?

Homebuyers, here are some things you should know when building a house:

  • Land ownership: Do you already own land you can build on? Or do you need to purchase land in order to build your home?
  • The cost to build a house: Can building a house be cheaper than buying? How can you save costs when building a house?
  • The building construction timeline: How long does it take to have a house built?
  • The process of building a house: How involved will you be in day-to-day decisions? What will the communications between you, your agent and the builder look like?

Pros and cons of building your own home

From the bliss of choosing your kitchen backsplash from a catalog of 1,000 options, to the stress of making dozens of decisions you’ll have to live with for years, there are plenty of pros and cons when building your own home.

Pros of building a house

If you are considering buying land and building a house, the pros might seem pretty obvious: a brand-new home, built with custom finishes, hand-selected design elements and swoon-worthy spaces. But there are other benefits that you may not have considered, including how you can possibly save money when building a house. Let’s review some of the pros of building a home.

  • Your dream home. When you get to build a home from scratch, you call the shots. And that means on move-in day, you’re really going to move into the home of your dreams.
  • No-cost maintenance. Your new home should be defect-free. And in many states, Minnesota included, there are laws requiring builders to provide warranties for their work.
  • Build a community. Many homeowners in developments find that their neighbors become fast friends, as everyone is new to the area and getting settled in at the same time.
  • Enjoy the amenities. If you buy a home in a growing development, you may have access to amenities like a pool, jacuzzi, gym or walking trails. If you’re super lucky, you may even have someone who does your lawn maintenance and snow removal.

Cons of building a house

It’s easy to envision the benefits of building a house, but what are the disadvantages?

  • Rising costs. By selecting custom elements or requesting design upgrades, you may greatly increase the total cost of your home build.
  • The building timeline. The process to build a new home can take several months or up to a year, depending on the customizations and builder you choose.
  • A brand-new community. While many homeowners in new developments find that they love entering into a brand-new community, others may be disappointed by the lack of history and mature trees in their neighborhood.
  • HOA fees. If you purchase in a development with built-in amenities, they will come at a cost. You may have to pay into a homeowner’s association monthly.
  • Location. With only so much land to go around, you likely will have to move farther away from cities and developed areas, and potentially, from your place of employment.

Cost to build a house

Most would-be new home buyers have the same two questions: How much does it cost to build a house? And, can it ever be cheaper to build a house vs. buying a house? Nationwide, the most recent numbers from the National Association of Home Builders show the cost breakdowns for average new home construction:

  • Finished lot costs: $89,540
  • Construction costs: $296,652
  • Builder profit: $44,092

While these are only the average costs, it’s easy to see a few ways homeowners could save money when building a house, or spend even more than they had anticipated. Here are some cost factors to keep in mind when building a home.

  • The cost of land. The easiest way to “save” money when building a house is to already own the land where you hope to build. If you build on your own land, you could save an average of $90,000. Remember, the price will likely go up if you buy land closer to the city, or if you have to demolish an existing home in order to build on a purchased lot.
  • Upgrades and finishes. Together, we can speak with the builder at length to determine what the design and material standards are on your home. Will it include real wood flooring or laminate? Will the doors be solid core or hollow core? Is the deck included? These may not be details you care about — but if you want high-end finishes, you’ll want to know the costs of them in advance.
  • Lot size. One way that developers are able to lower the price on new construction homes is to build them on smaller lots than in the past. If you’re dreaming of a larger plot of land, you may have to pay more or move out further from the city.
  • Cost of materials and labor. As demand for new homes rises, the cost of labor and materials is skyrocketing as well. The price of wood has gone up 180% alone in the last year, leading to an average increase of $24,000 on the average home build.
  • Finished vs. unfinished space. Many new construction homes in the Midwest come with an unfinished basement, or the option to have it refinished before move-in. Each homebuyer can decide if that’s a project they want to take on in the future, or if they want to include it in the initial build.

Timeline for building a home

The building construction timeline varies, depending on the type of home you are buying and building.

  • Production-built homes, which offer pre-set designs and few customizations, can be ready in 3-4 months.
  • Semi-custom homes, where buyers can select from a few different options (such as finishes, appliances, facade) can be ready in 4-6 months. Buyers may also be able to request some small upgrades that aren’t in the original design.
  • Custom builds, which are typically one-off properties in a more established neighborhood, can take up to one year or longer. Custom home buyers will be able to select every element of their property.

Whether you build or buy, partner with Edina Realty for confidence

As with all big decisions, deciding whether to build or buy a house may take a lot of time, thought and research. By working with the right builder and REALTOR®, and selecting the right lot, you may find it’s cheaper to build a house than it would be to buy in your dream area. For buyers who hope to move quickly, buying a move-in ready existing house may be the right choice.

Ready to begin your search for the perfect lot and builder? Reach out today. We can work together to ensure your new construction experience remains seamless and on-budget.

Ultimate curb appeal checklist for sellers

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Key insights:

  • When it comes to curb appeal, a clean home exterior creates a bright canvas for additional features to pop.
  • Add flowers and lights alongside your home’s walkway. This will draw potential buyers’ eyes straight into your front door.
  • Finishing touches like new cushions and fixtures make all the difference when it comes to selling your home.

While today’s market continues to favor home sellers, it’s still important to put your best foot forward when listing your house on the market. Whether you’re looking to attract buyers online or in person, curb appeal is one of the most important things a home seller can master. And you’d better believe that no one knows more about curb appeal than your trusted local agent!

When it comes to curb appeal, the real goal is to draw the buyer from the curb to the front door (or in some cases, the virtual front door). Keep in mind, the more interested buyers you can appeal to, the more likely you are to receive a strong set of offers. Here are some tips you can follow when trying to boost your home’s curb appeal.

Start with these outdoor cleaning tips

Exterior siding is an ultra-important aspect of your home. Not only does siding keep a home sturdy and protected from nature’s elements, but it is also one of the first things people will notice about your home. Clean and maintained siding creates a polished appearance that will set the tone for potential buyers as they enter your space.

To keep your siding looking shiny and new, start by washing the exterior of the home. To do so, either rent a pressure washer (be sure to keep the pressure gauge low near windows) or use a hose. Work to remove dirt and debris with the pressure sprayer and scrub brush. Once the siding is cleaned, you can determine whether the home needs a new paint job or if you can get by with freshening up a few trouble spots.

Next, wash every window on the exterior and the interior of your home until the glass sparkles. Pro tip: the best way to create streak-free windows is to nix the paper towels and use crumpled-up newspapers instead.

Exterior home maintenance to-dos

When it comes to exterior maintenance, we recommend starting from the top down. If your roof is sagging or will bring down the overall appeal of the home in photographs or in person, you may want to consider replacing your roof. Otherwise, you can replace shingles and make sure that all leaks or gaps are filled in. Don’t forget to clean and straighten your gutters, too.

Next, you may want to repaint the areas that see the most wear, including:

  • Trim
  • Shutters
  • Railings
  • Decks and porches

Nearly every home will benefit from painting these surfaces, and it’s much cheaper and less time-consuming than redoing the entire siding of the house.

Finally, look at the walkways and driveway to determine whether they need to be redone or if they have just a few cracks that can be patched. Here’s a great tutorial from This Old House on how to give new life to concrete surfaces that have seen better days.

Prioritize these aspects of your yard

Great landscaping helps pull a buyer’s eye up to the front door of the home. Whether a potential buyer is driving by your property or looking virtually, a thriving yard will help draw their interest.

Be sure to emphasize walkways, no matter how short or long they are. In-ground plants and solar LED lights can help showcase the paths leading up to your front door. Once you get closer to the entry, the landscaping grand finale should include plenty of plants. In-ground flowers or potted arrangements will create a bright and lively invitation for buyers to enter.

Of course, we don’t want to forget about the foundation of your front yard. If your lawn is mostly grass, here’s what you need to do:

  • Fill in any problem areas with new sod.
  • Water your lawn to keep it lush.
  • Mow your yard often.

Last, pack fresh mulch tightly around your existing plants for even coverage and get rid of any dingy mulch.

Finishing touches that make all the difference

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the fun part! The final details are usually the most exciting and cost-effective updates for homeowners.

It’s undeniable that a new front door is the best curb appeal update you can make. Not only will it recoup nearly 70 percent of the cost at resale, it will change the entire vibe of your property’s exterior. Consider painting it a bright, complementary color to really give your home an extra pop.

Does your home’s front walkway or porch have room for an outdoor seating area? Look into new benches, porch swings or casual chairs to demonstrate how great the home is for entertaining or relaxing.

Last, look at the fixtures — all of them. It’s common for homeowners to replace fixtures only when they break, which results in a hodgepodge of looks. Sync the exterior look by purchasing new fixtures that match in style and finish, including:

  • Doorbells
  • Door knockers
  • House numbers
  • Mailboxes
  • Mail slots
  • Light fixtures

Commitment to curb appeal

Not sure what kind of extra attention your home needs to look its best? Get in touch any time for insights on sprucing up your property, so it will appeal to the highest number of buyers online and in person!

Hot summer trend: Inviting outdoor spaces

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Key insights:

  • Optimize your outdoor space for dining, relaxing, playing or entertaining with these tips.
  • Prepare for the elements by including umbrellas, heaters and citronella candles in your outdoor area.
  • Plants and lights help create ambiance for relaxing and gathering. Consider adding these and other decorative items to your deck or patio.

In the Midwest, homeowners enjoy the treat of all four seasons. However, summer months are limited, so it’s important to maximize the time and space you have to enjoy the sunshine, green grass and longer days.

With summer approaching, homeowners across Minnesota and western Wisconsin are preparing their yards to make the most of the warmer weather. Here are our favorite tips to spruce up your outdoor living spaces. Follow them and you’ll be hosting dinner parties on your deck or soaking up novels in your new lounge space in no time.

How to create an inviting outdoor space

Whether you’re selling your home and you want to bring the outdoor spaces up to par, or you’re a homeowner ready to enjoy fresh air on warmer days, it’s important to have a clean and tidy slate to build upon. Be sure to declutter your garage, lawn care supplies and any outdoor toys that may be lying around.

Once everything is situated, it’s time to begin implementing the latest trends for outdoor spaces in your yard.

Decorate an outdoor dining area

Take advantage of a deck or patio space to create an outdoor dining area. This space is great for entertaining dinner guests and for bringing the family to hang out or eat together throughout the summer.

When decorating your outdoor eating area, create a checklist of items you may need to purchase or dig out of storage to complete the space. Here are some items you may want to include:

  • Durable dish set
  • Carafe for water or sun tea
  • Outdoor table and chairs
  • Heaters for chilly nights
  • Umbrella or other covering for shade
  • Citronella candles to keep mosquitoes away
  • Planter for fresh herbs, or a complete fruit and vegetable garden

Take your lawnside dining area to the next level with a barbeque, grill or entire outdoor kitchen, which allows you to enjoy the complete dining experience — from cooking to table — in your yard. Last, consider adding a firepit or fire table in your outdoor dining space. Not only do these elements exude luxe vibes, they also make a great center for gathering.

Build an oasis for relaxation

What’s more relaxing than lounging in your backyard, enjoying a warm summer day? To build a tranquil space in the comfort of your yard, consider what calms you down and what brings you joy. Here are some additions to consider incorporating in your backyard getaway:

  • Lounge furniture
  • A hammock
  • Wind chimes
  • Bird feeders
  • Outdoor stereos or speakers
  • Glowy lights or candles (for after dark)
  • Textured pillows and light blankets

Plants are another great way to add both life and ambiance to an outdoor space. If you enjoy bird watching or observing butterflies and bees while relaxing on your patio, you may want to plant a pollinator garden. Not only will this garden help support the environment, but it will also add color and life to your calm oasis.

Make room for recreation

After a day’s work in the office or a weekend of lawn care, it’s time to play. Depending on how you enjoy your leisure time, there are a variety of options to create recreation spaces in your yard, such as:

  • A corner for yard games such as cornhole or giant dominos
  • Swings or benches
  • A fire pit with a s’mores station
  • A meditation garden
  • A treehouse, trampoline or playset for kids

If you’re ready for a bigger undertaking and investment, you might think about installing a hot tub or pool — or building a she-shed or detached home office in your yard to satisfy your hobbies and recreational desires.

Optimize your space for entertainment

If you have a beautiful outdoor space, you might as well share it. When making updates to the exterior of your home, remember how to optimize the space for entertainment. These considerations are ultra-important to keep in mind as you set up dining and lounging areas.

Additionally, you can transform the face of your house to include a social front yard. Homeowners have come to realize the benefits of utilizing their front yards to socialize with neighbors. This space is also ideal for less formal occasions and gatherings. To do so, include some of these features in the front of your home and yard:

  • A bench, rocking chairs or other seats on the front porch or near the front door
  • Trees or umbrellas to create a shaded area for conversation
  • Plants, shrubs and potted flowers for extra curb appeal

Enjoy a summer outside

Once your outdoor space is elevated, you’ll be ready to dine, relax, play and entertain! If you’re creating your outdoor living space in anticipation of selling, be sure to reach out before you begin the process. Together, we can determine the best setup and staging of both your outdoor and indoor living spaces.

How to mosquito-proof your yard this summer

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Key insights:

  • Keeping a wood pile to fuel your summer bonfires? Cover it up to avoid building a home and breeding ground for bugs.
  • It’s possible to bug-proof your yard without breaking the bank. Consider citronella candles and good old bug spray.
  • If your bug problem gets out of control, hire a professional to spray your yard.

After being cooped up all winter, you’ll want to enjoy your outdoor living space and not have it overrun by pesky bugs. So how can we ward off the more than 50 species of mosquitoes that live in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and fully enjoy our summers?

Here are tips to bug-proof your yards and homes — making summer days swinging on the porch and evenings grilling out even more enjoyable.

Work now to keep bugs out of your lawn later

If possible, it helps to prep your yard before mosquito season arrives (which is typically around May in Minnesota and Wisconsin). By doing so, you’ll help to decrease the areas in your yard that attract bugs.

To begin, get rid of standing water. Not only will this improve the health and appearance of your lawn, it will also remove the chance of mosquitoes calling this space home. Next, cover up any logs that you may have piled up. Whether you have a stack of wood for home improvement projects or firewood to fuel your summer bonfires, cover them so they don't become breeding grounds for mosquitoes after rainfall.

Effective ways to remove bugs from your yard

Here are some of our favorite simple and cost-effective ways to get bugs out of your lawn. The end game? A summer filled with yard activities, without the bites and itching that can ruin even the most pleasant day or night.

  • 1. Classic bug-free options. Whether you like to sit out on your porch, deck or right in your grass, stash a can of good old bug spray on every outdoor tabletop and shelf that you have. By keeping bug spray constantly within reach, you’ll remember to spray yourself and ward off pesky bugs.
  • 2. Alternative repellents for kids. Mosquito patches or stickers are a great option for kids who may not be jiving with traditional sprays or their strong smells. Many of these stickers are plant-based and free from DEET, too. For another quick-and-easy option, look into mosquito bands.
  • 3. Order an umbrella net. For the effect of a screened-in porch, purchase an umbrella net. You can attach this screen to your patio umbrella to create a pop-up screened-in area. These nets have mixed reviews for durability, so be sure to do your homework before buying.
  • 4. Purchase a spatial repellent. Have you heard of Thermacell rechargeable mosquito repellent devices? This gadget is battery-operated and it keeps mosquitoes away for hours — without any odor! They even offer rechargeable models and more decorative options, such as repellers that look like lanterns.
  • 5. Go natural. You can also try more natural options, including mosquito-repelling candles, which typically use citronella or Citriodiol (also called lemon eucalyptus oil). The scent of citronella is natural yet floral, plus it keeps bugs away. Peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender essential oils have also been known to keep mosquitoes away.
  • 6. Spray-it-yourself options. Not interested in dousing your clothes with repellent or dealing with extra gadgets to keep the bugs away? A DIY yard spray might be for you. To mosquito-proof your backyard with lawn spray, head over to your nearest hardware store or landscaping store. They’ll have a few different effective sprays to recommend.

Invest in a bug-free outdoor space

If you’re done exploring DIY options and you’re ready to get serious about pest control, you may want to think about large-scale options.

First, consider hiring a professional to spray your lawn. Not only are there companies devoted solely to pest control, many landscaping companies also offer spraying as an add-on to their typical services.

Their heavy-duty spray will kill off any existing bugs and prevent future mosquitoes from coming. However, spraying your yard isn’t a one-and-done procedure. To enjoy a bug-free yard throughout the summer, you’ll need to routinely schedule lawn sprays throughout the season. And, keep in mind, spraying for mosquitoes and gnats can potentially harm bugs that we do want to keep around, such as butterflies and bees.

Alternatively, this could be the year you build your long-awaited screened-in porch. This is the perfect option to keep bugs out, without having to do continual upkeep or buying new sprays and products every few weeks. With a screened-in porch, you can enjoy the summer breeze and the sunshine peeking in while avoiding sunburns and pesky bugs.

Moving forward, without mosquitoes

By following these preventative and active bug repeller steps, you’ll be well on your way to a more enjoyable summer in your yard.

If you’re ready to make your yard look its best before you sell, get in touch. By working with a true professional, you’ll be able to search for your next dream home even as you soak up everything this summer has to offer.

What is an MLS listing?

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Buyers and sellers look at online MLS listings every day. But what exactly does it mean for a home to be posted on the MLS? And, what does MLS stand for?

The MLS, also known as the multiple listing service, is a service REALTORS® use to publish property listings so the listings can be found by other agents and potential buyers. In other words, the MLS can help you on your hunt for a new home by providing credible housing data and insights on available properties.

Whether searching for a new property to purchase or selling your current home, it’s important to utilize the MLS. In the meantime, here are some questions and answers that you may have about the MLS:

  • What is an MLS listing in real estate?
  • What are the benefits of an MLS?
  • How does an MLS work?
  • How do I use an MLS?

Multiple listing service: What it means and why it matters

The MLS provides a database of available and sold properties in a given area. This online service constantly updates property information and notifies MLS members, such as Realtors and brokers. There is no single MLS that serves the entirety of the U.S.; instead, over 800 MLSs across the country work to provide housing data for their defined market areas.

Because housing information is tailored to certain regions throughout the country, each MLS is specific to the area that it encompasses. The goal of an MLS is to make it easier for homebuyers, sellers and Realtors to find what they are searching for in a given market.

MLSs are membership-only, and their members tend to be the Realtors and brokers who support the service. This means that MLSs are not usually directly accessible to the public; however, they do license their data to be used by home search websites. So while most consumers will not log into their local MLS, they will view MLS listings on local or national websites that are powered by MLS data. For example, Edina Realty is a member of seven local MLSs, which allows edinarealty.com to publish virtually every listing available in Minnesota or western Wisconsin.

What is an MLS number?

The MLS utilizes a system to assign a number to every home within the database. A new number is attributed to each new home sale. Because listings acquire numbers in sequence, it’s possible to tell which listings are newer and older based on their MLS number.

Keep in mind, if a home sells or is withdrawn from the market, it will receive a new MLS number if it is ever listed again. However, if a pending sale falls through but the home remains on the market, the property will retain its MLS number until the sale is complete.

In short, the MLS number helps keep track of how recently a home was listed for sale and it provides a quick way to reference properties in the system.

How is an MLS real estate listing different from other listings?

To list a home on the MLS, you must be a member of that MLS. Typically, Realtors and brokers pay a membership fee to their local MLS (or to more than one MLS) in exchange for the ability to list and view properties in the system. To get a home listed on the MLS, it is typically necessary to work with an agent who pays dues to that MLS.

Aside from the MLS, other potential home listings include:

  • Pre-list properties. These “pre-market” homes can be marketed internally by agents who are networking with other agents within their brokerage. At Edina Realty, we have access to a network of 2,300-plus agents and the properties they represent for sale. By working together, we may be able to find homes that fit your criteria, even before they are listed on the MLS. If you’re interested in discussing or touring pre-list properties, get in touch.
  • Other withheld properties. Certain high-value and high-profile homes may be listed off the MLS in order to maintain seller safety and privacy. Networking agents may have access to this more exclusive sale information.
  • For sale by owner or FSBO homes. While there are websites that list FSBO properties via the MLS, many self-sellers choose to market their properties independently, if at all.

Benefits of multiple listing services

Thanks to the MLS system, real estate professionals can easily network and share housing information. At the same time, this platform is beneficial to homebuyers and sellers. The MLS makes listings more accessible to buyers and provides a place for sellers and their properties to gain exposure. Additional benefits to utilizing the MLS for your home purchase or sale include the ability to:

  • Access property status. Each MLS listing will include the status of a given property. So, you’ll have up-to-date information including whether a certain home is available, has an active contingent status or is in a pending sale.
  • Display a wide variety of homes. The MLS provides equal access to all members. Buyers and sellers can feel confident that they have access to all active available homes while working with an agent that has MLS access.
  • Showcase a home while maintaining privacy. While the MLS will display a home for sale to all members, and typically the public, certain details will be kept private. This allows the property to be advertised while safeguarding details like the seller’s contact information and whether a property is vacant.

How does an MLS work?

The MLS is paid for and created by real estate professionals as a way to cooperatively market and sell properties across various brokerages. Although there are different MLSs for different geographic areas, the breadth and reputation of the MLS as a whole make it the primary data source for all home listings.

Edina Realty is a member of seven local MLSs, providing access to all available home listings in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

What does an MLS listing include?

Properties listed on the MLS typically include the following details:

  • Photos
  • Number of rooms
  • Unique home amenities
  • Asking price
  • Status of property (e.g. “coming soon,” “pending” or “contingent”)
  • Availability for showings

MLS listings exist for both sale and rental properties, but the MLS post may look different depending on whether the property is for sale or rent. For instance, a rental property may include monthly costs, duration of the lease and a clear indication that the property is being leased. In some circumstances, a home may be listed for sale and rent simultaneously.

How do I use an MLS?

Buyers and sellers can both use the MLS to their advantage, although they won’t normally use it directly. According to the National Association of Realtors, “MLSs are private databases that are created, maintained and paid for by real estate professionals to help their clients buy and sell property.” There are a few MLSs around the country that allow for public access, but none in Minnesota or western Wisconsin.

Therefore, homebuyers and sellers will use a website or property search tool that is powered by MLS data, such as edinarealty.com, rather than using the MLS directly. To ensure that they are accessing accurate listing information, buyers should confirm their preferred property search is using reputable information from MLS data, and not data that is aggregated from less reputable sources.

How do I find my local MLS?

In our market area of Minnesota and western Wisconsin, only members can see MLS information directly. So, unless you are a member of a local MLS, you will not be able to access the database directly. Nonetheless, property information that has been approved for public view — such as the number of bedrooms, asking price, square footage and listing photos — will be available on any website that has MLS affiliation.

How does Edina Realty use the MLS?

Edina Realty utilizes the MLS to showcase home sellers’ listings and to help home buyers find their next dream home. Edina Realty provides information on properties represented by our brokerage, but also by other brokerages through a system called broker reciprocity.

By participating in broker reciprocity, Edina Realty displays the details of virtually every active and available, coming soon or sold property listing via the property search on edinarealty.com. Simply use the home search feature to see available homes near you, along with their MLS-approved details and features.

What makes Edina Realty different?

When you work with any Edina Realty agent, you’ll have the reassurance that you are working with a licensed Realtor who has agreed to work by the shared code (and high standard) of Realtor ethics.

Additionally, Edina Realty as a company goes above and beyond to ensure that our clients are always receiving the highest quality service.

  • Our MLS listings are updated every 15 minutes, so you know you’re always looking at the most up-to-date property information and availability.
  • Edina Realty is a part of seven local MLS services, allowing us to display every active, available property for sale in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, as well as coming soon listings and sold properties.

Access local MLSs; find your dream home with Edina Realty

In a fast-moving housing market like we’re in today, buyers can rest assured that they're receiving accurate, up-to-date information about homes when they search on websites powered by MLS data. These sites, like edinarealty.com, will include detailed information on the property’s status, price and availability for showings.

If you’re ready to buy, sell or have more questions about how the MLS works for you, reach out any time. Together, we can determine the right step forward.

How and when to cancel your mortgage insurance

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Key insights

  • Conventional loan borrowers are required to pay private mortgage insurance until their loan-to-value ratio reaches 80%.
  • To get their mortgage insurance canceled, borrowers should contact their loan servicer in writing.
  • To get their insurance removed faster, borrowers can also make accelerated payments or get their home re-appraised.

When are borrowers required to pay mortgage insurance?

In order to understand the need for mortgage insurance, it’s important to first discuss the concept of a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. Your LTV ratio is the total amount you borrowed in your loan, divided by the value of the property that you purchased. As you make contributions to your loan premium, your LTV ratio will decrease.

How loan-to-value ratios are calculated for a $400,000 house:

Percent down

Money down

Total loan amount

LTV ratio at closing

20%

$80,000

$320,000

80%

15%

$60,000

$340,000

85%

10%

$40,000

$360,000

90%

Here’s a faster way to think of it:

  • If you put 20% down at closing, your LTV ratio would be 80%.
  • If you put down 15% at closing, your LTV ratio would be 85%.
  • If you put 10% down at closing, your LTV ratio would be 90%.

If a borrower’s LTV ratio is above 80% at closing, lenders require monthly mortgage insurance premiums. Because borrowers who put down 20% or more at closing are less likely to default on their loan, lenders typically do not require them to pay mortgage insurance.

Conventional loan borrowers will pay private mortgage insurance payments (PMI) until their LTV ratio reaches 80% at minimum. FHA borrowers, on the other hand, will pay an up-front mortgage insurance premium at closing; they will also be expected to pay monthly premiums for the life of their loan.

Read more about mortgage insurance for FHA loans.

When does private mortgage insurance get canceled?

On closing day, conventional loan borrowers will be given two dates to keep in mind. Assuming the new homeowners make all payments on time and do not accelerate their mortgage payments, they’ll be informed of:

  1. The date when the LTV ratio will reach 80%, and their loan servicer is allowed to cancel their mortgage insurance.
  2. The date at which their LTV ratio will reach 78%, and their loan servicer is required by the government to cancel their mortgage insurance.

In most cases, loan servicers drop the insurance requirement at a 78% LTV ratio. If a borrower wishes to request mortgage insurance cancellation at 80%, they can do so in writing to their loan servicer.

What steps can borrowers take to cancel their PMI?

After closing, it’s likely that your loan was sold by your original lender. The vast majority of loans are sold to loan servicers after closing. Your loan servicer is who you currently send your monthly mortgage payments to; this is also the entity that may be able to cancel your mortgage insurance upon request.

At 80% LTV, you can contact your loan servicer to request that they drop your monthly mortgage insurance premiums. To be considered, you must:

  • Put your request in writing.
  • Have a history of on-time payments (though this may be waived if a few payments were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
  • Not have any outstanding liens on your property.

Your servicer will be in touch to inform you of their decision. Keep in mind that if you aren’t sure if you’re eligible for cancellation, there’s no harm in contacting them. “My guidance is, always call your loan servicer and talk to them,” said Edina Realty home mortgage consultant Enda Moore. “They will be able to guide you through the necessary steps to determine if you are eligible to have your monthly insurance premiums removed. The worst thing they’ll say is, ‘No, it’s not time yet.’”

How else can borrowers get their mortgage insurance requirements removed?

There are a few other ways that you can get your mortgage insurance requirements removed even before the dates you are given at closing.

1. Make accelerated payments to remove PMI

If you make accelerated mortgage payments, you’ll begin paying off your loan premium faster than the schedule set by your lender. This means that your LTV ratio should drop to 80% before the original date you were given at closing. If you have accelerated payments but aren’t sure of your current LTV ratio, divide your current loan balance (which can be found on your latest statement) by your home’s appraised value. Multiply this number by 100 to get your current LTV percentage.

2. Refinance your loan to remove PMI

While most borrowers refinance to take advantage of lower interest rates, it’s also possible to refinance as a way to get your mortgage insurance requirement eliminated. This is especially possible in a housing market with fast-rising home values, like the one we have today.

If your home’s appreciation rises to the point when you have 20% equity, then refinancing could be a smart option to remove your mortgage insurance. Your lender can help you calculate if the cost of refinancing will save you money in the long term, after the cost of closing is factored in.

“If you’re currently financed at a higher rate than what we’re seeing today, and you think your home price has risen over the last few years, it’s worth looking into refinancing,” says Enda Moore. “Even if you don’t remove your insurance altogether, you may see a reduction in your monthly insurance payment, and a lower monthly premium as well.”

3. Get an appraisal to remove PMI

Last, you may be able to get your PMI requirements removed if you get a home appraisal showing your home has increased in value. If your home’s value has risen significantly (either due to the market or updates you’ve made to the property), that could allow you to request an early cancellation of your mortgage insurance from your loan servicer. Be sure to contact your servicer before you go down this path, as they may have special requirements or rules for you to follow.

Ready to get started?

Mortgage and mortgage insurance can be tricky topics, but you don’t have to go it alone. The best way to determine your eligibility for removing PMI is to contact your loan servicer. If you need other help understanding your loan, you can also reach out any time for one-to-one guidance.

*Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC does not offer financial advice. This information is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Not all borrowers will qualify.

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