2021 market expectations for buyers and sellers

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Key insights

  • In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the housing market has remained an economic bright spot.
  • The full recovery of the economy will be dependent on relief for lower-income workers, and on a vaccine or other developments that allow for shuttered sectors of the economy to reopen.
  • There is no large surge of inventory expected, so sellers can expect continued moderate price appreciation in 2021.
  • Sustained low interest rates will provide a small boost to buyers, who will face low inventory and higher home prices.

Sharry Schmid, president, Edina Realty

As president of Edina Realty, Sharry Schmid provides guidance and direction to nearly 2,400 REALTORS®.

2020 was, of course, a year that no one could have predicted. But while COVID-19 has impacted most industry sectors, the housing market has remained an economic bright spot. Outside of the spring months, when stay-at-home orders led to a significant drop in listings and sales, the market rebounded and remained steady throughout the summer and fall.

As we move into 2021, many are wondering if the real estate market can continue to flourish, and what else we can expect from our local economy. Though this year was a stark reminder that no one has a magic crystal ball to predict the future, we are able to make a few reasonable projections as to what the next year will hold for housing in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Are we in a bubble?

The housing market’s sustained momentum during COVID-19 is in sharp contrast to the economic downturn we experienced a decade ago — leading many to wonder if we are in the midst of a bubble that has yet to burst.

In fact, the reverse may be true. It’s important to remember that today’s lending practices are sound, which wasn’t always the case prior to the previous recession. Homebuyers are evaluated more stringently in their loan application and approved only when their credit, banking history and employment records indicate that they are on strong financial footing. In other words, borrowers today are evaluated not only on if they can afford to pay their mortgage, but if they can do so responsibly and still have money to save or spend on other expenses.

As a result, even despite the instability in our economy at present, we are not experiencing an overwhelming number of forbearances. Forbearance occurs when a borrower is unable to pay their monthly mortgage payment, and they request that their lender allow for temporarily delayed or lowered payments. While a larger-than-usual percentage of homeowners are behind on their mortgage payments at present, the numbers are not yet alarming to housing-focused economists.

If you need to select an image to represent today’s housing market, then, don’t think of a bubble about to burst. Instead, picture a walking stick that is helping the economy limp along, even as other industries and sectors struggle or remain closed altogether.

We’ll be watching the K-shaped recovery

Next, let’s discuss the sectors that are still struggling in the wake of COVID-19. It’s true that some segments of the economy, like housing, remain strong. For hospitality, travel, tourism, restaurants, live entertainment and other service sectors, earnings remain low and unable to rise until the pandemic is under better control.

The result, when you graph the recovery of these varying sectors, is the shape of a “K”. Some industries (and the employees they represent) are on the rise in terms of earning and stability; other sectors are continuing to fall as the months go by.

This inequity is a stark cause for concern; the economy cannot truly recover if a large segment of the population is unable to regain their earning power. It is widely acknowledged that federal and state support for these groups is necessary. We will be watching to see what level of support is offered in the coming months, keeping in mind that a new incoming administration in Washington may have an impact as well.

The future of work (and working from home)

As people spend more time in their homes than ever before, many are reassessing their needs and wants. Whether it’s adding a home office, creating productivity zones for distance learning or moving to the lake home for a few months out of the year, homeowners are embracing change and the need to work virtually.

We expect that most professional workplaces will be more open to flexible work accommodations in the future, meaning that the need for at-home work spaces will continue even after COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror. As we define and refine the future of residential housing, everyone from homeowners to buyers to builders will be keeping these spaces in mind.

What else lies ahead in 2021

  • Inventory: Unless a larger-than-expected number of homeowners default on their mortgage payments and enter foreclosure, we do not anticipate a surge in inventory in 2021. This means that housing inventory, especially in the lower price points, will remain scarce — giving sellers a continued advantage in the market. As they have in the last several years, buyers will compete over fast-selling listings.
  • Home prices: We anticipate that prices will keep rising moderately in 2021, which means that median home prices in our 13-county metro will remain above $300,000 this coming year.
  • Interest rates: While some economists believe rates could fall to an all-time low of 2.5%, most agree that a slowly improving economy will keep rates between 3-3.5%. In either scenario, the low rates will help to offset rising home prices for buyers.
  • New construction: Perhaps surprisingly, builder confidence is at an all-time high. Due to home price appreciation, the gap between existing home prices and the cost of new construction is narrowing. Economists project that the usual 15-20% variance is down to just 5% in our market1. Builders see a unique opportunity to capitalize on this trend, especially as many would-be buyers grow frustrated with a lack of available or affordable inventory meeting their criteria.

Our local economy

  • Employment: At present, Minnesota’s unemployment rate is 4.6%, which is two points lower than the national average. The development of a COVID-19 vaccine or other impactful legislation will be critical to further lowering the employment rate in our market. Still, it is doubtful that we will reach the peak unemployment rate of the pandemic’s early days, which was 9.9% in May 20202.
  • Income: Minnesota’s 2019 median household income was $74,593, which is higher than the U.S. median of $65,712. Wisconsin’s median household income was just shy of the median, at $64,1682.
  • Public transport progress: Construction continues for the projected 14.5 mile Southwest Light Rail Transit project, slated to begin service in 2023. As the communities along the route begin planning for this new mass transit service, we expect a rise in nearby commercial and residential development.

Looking ahead to a brighter 2021

In many ways, 2020 has been a test of strength. We have witnessed immense fortitude from our healthcare and essential workers, resilience from parents, kids and teachers, and ingenuity from businesses, organizations and families.

While this holiday season may not roll out the way you’d pictured it, I remain optimistic that the coming year will be much brighter than the one we are leaving behind. Today and always, I wish you and your family the very best of health, security and happiness.

Source: Zonda, Economist call November 2020.
US Census 1-year American Community Survey, 2019.

Buying? These nearby amenities may increase your home value faster

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Key insights:

  • Your go-to grocery store may carry your favorite hummus and boost your home value, too!
  • Take advantage of living by green spaces. Not only will you enjoy the nearby nature, but parks can also increase the value of your property.
  • Communities with nearby amenities are in high demand; check a property’s WalkScore to see if it is in close proximity to spaces that can drive up home values.

When buying a home, you’ll ask yourself plenty of questions about the property itself. During your home search, be sure to also inquire about the community and surrounding area.

Parks, local shops and other nearby amenities could be an indicator of an up-and-coming area where home prices may rise faster. Here are some insights you can use as you browse for a home that is projected to increase in value.

Buy near these three grocery stores

Would you have guessed that the grocery store nearest to your home has an impact on a home’s price and desirability? It’s true; grocery stores seem to affect the value of nearby homes.

When comparing popular grocery stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Aldi, proximity to Trader Joe’s has shown to be the best for homeowners, and Whole Foods is a close second. Homes located near Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods stores tend to have better returns on investment and buyers of homes close to the stores tend to have more equity in their property.

Interestingly, investors interested in purchasing rental properties may benefit more from a home near Aldi. The average flipping return on investment and home appreciation are highest near Aldi locations.

Nearby parks and trails may increase home values

Research indicates proximity to parks is also linked to an increased home value. Whether a home is adjacent to a hiking trail or in a community with plenty of green space, homeowners in the area will likely see a positive impact in the appreciation of their home value.

For example, a park next to or facing a home will boost property value by 20%, on average. And, home lots bordering suburban wooded areas tend to be 19% to 35% higher in value.

The impact of public transportation

As green homes and other sustainable practices are increasing in popularity, transit access has become an important factor for homebuyers. Interestingly, a Twin Cities study shows home prices up 24% when located within a half-mile of public transport. During that same time, prices for all properties grew 20%.

Coffee shops and other local retailers impact property prices

Proximity to conveniences is another major asset to homeowners, especially when it comes to coffee. Whether you’re a daily drop-in to your local cafe or prefer brewing from home, consider looking for a property that’s located near a Starbucks.

A long-term study unveiled the so-called Starbucks effect, which shows that, “between 1997 and 2013, homes closer to the coffee shop increase in value by 96%, compared to 65% for all other U.S. homes,” said CNN Money. Another study found that having a local shopping district with wine shops, theaters and garden stores can also be beneficial to property values.

Proximity to amenities is important

All in all, small community districts with walkable or easily accessible shopping and recreation tend to positively impact home prices. Walkable communities remain in high demand, so Edina Realty has incorporated data from WalkScore into its property search. Each property’s WalkScore takes into account a home’s proximity to:

  • Public transit
  • Dining
  • Groceries
  • Shopping
  • Errands
  • Parks
  • Schools
  • Culture
  • Entertainment

The WalkScore provides homeowners and buyers with a clear understanding of how walkable an area is, along with a rating of nearby transit options and bike infrastructure.

Start your property search today!

Whether you’re hoping to hone in on a property with a fast-rising home value, or one that is close to amenities that make day-to-day life a bit easier, we can help. Reach out today to begin looking for the right community and property for your needs.

Got the winter blues? How your house can help you cope with seasonal depression

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Key insights:

  • Even in a non-COVID year, many of the hardiest of Minnesotans can get the winter blues. Some even have seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression.
  • There are a few clever ways that homeowners can boost their exposure to natural light sources, including taking screens off their home’s windows.
  • Other emerging technology, like the "happy light,” can help those with the winter blues boost their energy and minimize mood swings.

What is seasonal affective disorder?

For homeowners in the Midwest, the winter brings low temperatures, strong storms and less sunlight. Due to the shorter days and seemingly endless snow and subzero forecasts, many people feel sluggish during these colder months. But for some midwestern residents, this drop in motivation and well-being can be a much more serious condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is the result of a biological urge to hibernate, and symptoms can include:

  • Low energy
  • Oversleeping
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Overeating

Let’s quickly address the elephant in the room.

This year, our collective need to stay close to home means that everyone, no matter how well-adjusted, will be “hibernating” and seeing fewer people than usual. This could make winter even more difficult for those who experience SAD, as some of the recommended natural remedies may not be possible.

Let’s discuss how homeowners can safely fight the winter blues before it escalates to a more serious condition like seasonal affective disorder.

Combat seasonal depression with natural light

One way to counteract SAD is to get plenty of natural light. Just as you can get sunburnt on a cloudy July day, it’s possible to get sun exposure on an overcast winter day. Make a habit of opening up your window treatments right away when you get up in the morning and only close them when you leave for the day or go to bed. Houselogic also recommends removing screens from your windows during the winter, which can boost sunlight by 30%.

You can even get an extra dose of sunshine by opening up your sunroof cover when you drive. Every minute counts!

Add soothing elements to your home

Once you have natural light streaming in, take inventory of how your home operates in the winter. Does your dimly-lit living room need an extra lamp or two, or can you add brighter bulbs to your existing light fixtures? Is the lack of fresh air making your home smell musty or feel stuffy?

Consider small updates to your interior, including:

  • Adding more natural plants or buying a new bouquet of fresh flowers each week
  • Changing up your paint or accent colors to something bright and energetic
  • Incorporating smart home features like dimming lights or soothing sounds/music
  • Adding essential oil diffusers around your home

And of course, don’t forget that between the holidays and the cold, winter is a time when clutter tends to build up. Spend a weekend decluttering your home — from the Amazon boxes you’ve been meaning to break down, to the unworn clothes hanging in your closet — and you should emerge with a renewed sense of love for the space you call home.

Get outside and get your heart pumping

You know that we're bonafide Midwesterners when you hear our next piece of advice: Get outside when you can! Set a challenge to go on a 20-minute walk on any day that the high reaches above 20-25 degrees. Bundle up from head to toe and consider bringing a cup of coffee or hot cocoa to keep you extra warm. We promise, you'll never be so grateful for your warm house as when you re-enter it after a winter walk!

Short bursts of exposure can help, too. Rather than looking for the closest parking spot at work or the grocery store, challenge yourself to park in the last row so you get a few more minutes of sunshine on your entry and exit.

Not only will the light exposure from these activities help, exercising is a proven way of relieving stress and anxiety, two common factors that the Mayo Clinic says can elevate seasonal depression.

Fake it with light therapy or Vitamin D

Many health professionals recommend that Midwesterners combat their winter blues by incorporating higher levels of Vitamin D into their diet or by taking Vitamin D supplements. Consult your doctor for the right recommended dosage.

You may also want to consider buying a light therapy box. Light therapy boxes are relatively inexpensive devices that promise to boost energy and minimize mood swings that can occur as a result of low exposure to natural light. These boxes have also been shown to help regulate sleep schedules, which can sometimes get off-balance when daylight hours are scarce. Medical professionals recommend using a light therapy box right away in the morning.

Light boxes are available at different price points at many retailers and online at Amazon.

Seek professional help for seasonal depression

Boosting your sun exposure and physical activity may help aid a mild case of the winter blues, but SAD is a more complex medical diagnosis that requires professional treatment. Be sure to contact your doctor if you notice intense mood swings, the need to isolate, severe exhaustion or low energy.

If you are professionally diagnosed with SAD, your doctor will advise you on the best treatment plan.

Last, keep in mind that SAD can grow stronger as the winter progresses. So while you may be dealing with an isolating or dark winter just fine in December, you should continue to check in on your mental health, energy and motivation as we enter the later winter months.

What should I do if I inherit property?

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Key insights:

  • Losing a loved one can be even more emotionally fraught when you inherit property.
  • Those who inherit property must decide if they can and should accept or refuse the inheritance, and whether to rent out, live in or sell the property.
  • If you inherit a property with other family members or friends, there are more factors to consider.

When you inherit a home or other real estate from a lost loved one, it can be tricky to navigate the emotional waters ahead. Here are insights you can use as you decide how to accept or refuse the inheritance, and whether to live in, rent out or sell the property.

Does the estate need to go through probate?

Before you decide a plan for the property that has been left to you, it’s important that you follow proper legal process. If you have been granted real estate through a will, you don’t automatically become the record owner. You will likely have to go through the process of probate, which requires getting court approval.

There are a few ways to avoid probate, including:

  • Joint tenancy, which happens most typically if the deceased is married or partnered to someone who co-owns the home and automatically transfers the property to the surviving owner.
  • Setting up a trust which holds or controls the property, instead of the estate.
  • Transfer on Death Deed, which transfers the property upon the death of the owner

These decisions must be made before the property owner passes. To determine the best course of action, consult with a lawyer who focuses on probate matters.

Should I accept or refuse the inheritance?

It may seem cruel to refuse an inheritance, but when someone puts you as an heir to their property — whether that property be the family hunting land or a single-family home — the intention is for you to benefit in some way. In some instances, if the deceased owes more on the mortgage than the home is worth or there are other taxes or liens on the property, you could end up losing money by accepting your inheritance.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, you’ll want to work with the personal representative for the estate and a trusted real estate expert to determine some factors about the home, including:

  • the condition of the property
  • its likely value
  • any money that may be owed on the home

Once you understand these variables, you can determine if you want to accept or refuse the inheritance. Keep in mind that there are time limitations and other requirements to refuse an inheritance, so you should consult with an attorney if this is something you want to do.

Selling the property

If you do not plan to live in the home or rent it out, you’ll likely want to list it for sale. In this case, it’s critical to determine if you want to fix the home up or sell it in its current condition.

Inherited homes run the gamut. In some cases, grandma was an interior decorator who updated constantly. For others, dust is collecting on the pillow shams from 1967. And while condition matters, location can make an even bigger difference; even a hopelessly outdated home can stand out on the market if it’s in a hot neighborhood.

To determine the best path to selling, work with your fellow heirs to hire a REALTOR® who understands your selling intent, timeline and overall dynamic.

Renting the property

If the property is in good condition and you’re not ready to sell, consider renting it out to earn a monthly income.

If you plan to rent a home that you have inherited with others, be sure to:

  • Determine an initial rental period.
  • Discuss the assumed cost of taxes and maintenance.
  • Create a plan for managing tenants and repair requests.
  • Reassess when that time period has ended.
  • Determine whether the city where the property is located has any licensing or other requirements for rentals.

Living in the property

For some, inheriting a property means they get to live in a home where they have fond memories. If you do move into a home you have inherited, it’s important to get the home appraised so you understand its value. You’ll also want to take a look at the expected annual property taxes — especially if the home was one you wouldn’t have been able to afford on your own.

If you inherited the home alongside other heirs, you’ll have to discuss buying out their share of the home so you are the sole property owner. To do this, you’ll likely want an official appraisal and you may want to hire an attorney to draw up the paperwork (which is usually accomplished by what is called a quitclaim deed). Once the money is exchanged and the deed is notarized, you’ll file the deed with the county recorder’s office.

Need a real estate expert?

Inheriting a property is a special gift that may come at a difficult time, so it’s important to hire a Realtor you trust. Get in touch today for dedicated help from a reliable expert.

Selling? How to prep for virtual open houses and safe in-home showings

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Key insights

  • Many sellers have questions about how to safely allow guests into their home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • We can work together to help establish smart virtual tours or open houses that minimize the number of in-person guests to your home.
  • It’s also important to reinforce safety standards for interested buyers who would like to tour your home in person.

If you’re hoping to sell your home in the coming months, you may have doubts about the safety of having buyers visit your property in person. Edina Realty Realtors and staff have been working for the last 7+ months to minimize COVID-19 spread, while still helping buyers and sellers facilitate home sales (which have been deemed essential to the economy).

We have developed guidelines that are in line with the CDC and other recommended public health protocols. Here are some considerations that sellers can keep in mind as they list their homes and prepare for virtual tours and open houses or in-person showings.

Best practices for virtual open houses or showings

While buyers will likely want to see your home in person before making an offer, they may be open to viewing the home via virtual tour as a first step. Alternatively, we can host a “virtual open house” that takes place on Facebook or another popular platform. Here are best practices for these virtual selling events.

1. Offer up a strong connection

A successful virtual open house or showing requires a strong and stable connection. We can work together to connect to your wifi well before the event, and do a test drive to ensure the connection is secure.

2. Minimize the glare

As you have likely seen on many Zoom meetings, glare from a window or light fixture can really ruin a virtual setting. We can test the lighting to ensure that your home looks as fantastic as it does in your listing photos. We may also have to play with the curtains, blinds, overhead lights and side lamps to get the right virtual vibe.

3. Help your agent make it extra-special

When buyers can’t control their own visit, they may miss out on elements that would intrigue or delight them in person. Before the virtual tour begins, we can discuss your favorite home features. Whether you’re most proud of your vintage brass door knocker, your laundry room’s custom cabinets or the USB ports you added to every room, we’ll be sure to highlight these special areas or elements to the audience once we’re live.

Hosting potential buyers in person? Here’s how to do it safely

If an interested buyer is ready to visit your home in person, there are ways to mitigate (though not fully eradicate) your risk. The first step is to communicate upfront. Together, we can determine guidelines that make you most comfortable. Then, as your Realtor, we will reinforce these guidelines with in-person buyers and their agents.

1. Provide PPE and sanitizer

Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer and masks. Leave a sign at the front entrance, asking buyers and their agents to wear the provided masks (or their own) and to apply hand sanitizer before entering your home. If any masks are left in your home, discard them after the showing or open house is over.

2. Request that visitors self-screen

You can also ask that each visitor self-screen by answering “No” to the following questions before entering.

  • In the last 48 hours, have you had any of the common symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, chills, cough, fatigue, headache, sore throat, runny nose? (The full symptom list is available here.)
  • Have you had contact with anyone that you know had COVID-19 or COVID-like symptoms in the last 14 days?
  • Have you had a positive COVID-19 test for active virus in the past 10 days?
  • Within the past 14 days, have you had to self-monitor, self-isolate, or self-quarantine because of concerns about COVID-19 infection?

3. Minimize surface touch

You can ask visitors not to touch any surfaces in your home, but you also want to give them the opportunity to see your entire home. Lower the need for guests to touch anything by:

  • Leaving lights on in every room (and in your garage, too)
  • Opening up kitchen cabinets and pantry
  • Leaving hall closets and bedroom closets slightly ajar
  • Opening interior doors that connect rooms or floor levels

You can also include hand sanitizer in each room to help guests reapply if they do end up touching a surface or door.

4. Be smart about numbers

Edina Realty has advised their Realtors to have a maximum of 10 guests at one time during an in-person open house (including the agent showing the home). If you prefer, we can also further limit the attendees or reinforce your preferred visiting guidelines. To ensure that guests don’t exceed the maximum, we can hang a sign on the front door, asking guests to wait until they have been greeted and invited in. Upon entry, guests will be asked to maintain at least six feet of social distance from other attendees.

safe, sell fast

For many homebuyers and homeowners, the COVID-19 pandemic has clarified their immediate living needs. And as a result, the market is continuing to move fast, with many desirable homes selling in a matter of days.

If you are hoping to sell in the coming months, but have concerns or questions about what to expect, we are here for you. Reach out any time for personal, respectful guidance.

Winter home projects: DIY and professional upgrades to tackle

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Key insights

  • Optimize time spent inside this winter by checking home projects off your to-do list.
  • Amp up your home’s light fixtures and features to create an instantly brighter mood, especially during the colder months.
  • Assess whether you have the ability and time to take on a DIY home project or if it’s best to call a professional.

During the chilly months, homeowners are likely to spend more time indoors. Take advantage of the time inside and make plans to update your property. Not only will a few fixer-upper projects help to increase the value of your home when it’s time to sell, but they will also create a space that is more livable for you now.

Whether you’re staying put or planning to move this winter, here’s what you can do to upgrade your home during this season.

The best DIY winter home projects for homeowners

1. Give your walls a fresh update. Make the choice to add in a new color, texture or pattern to your walls — and think about how permanent you want this new vibe to be.

Temporary wallpaper options, like these popular peel-and-stick brands, can add a pop of color to an accent wall or brighten up your guest bathroom. Removable wallpaper is the ideal option for property owners who love to keep up with design trends, but aren’t ready to commit to one aesthetic for years to come. If you plan to do permanent wallpaper, you may want to hire a professional.

Meanwhile, most people can handle painting their interior walls. If you opt to tackle an indoor painting project this winter, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Stick to painting smaller spaces that can be ventilated as the paint dries.
  • When possible, open windows to circulate clean air into the painted room.
  • Take fresh air breaks every few hours outside of the room you’re painting.
  • Steer clear of the freshly painted room or space for two to three days.

2. Update your bathroom, DIY-style. Give your bathroom a facelift by painting the vanity, replacing the knobs and buying new accessories — like a soap dish, toothbrush holder, towel rack and matching towels. Don’t forget to add some fancy candles and bubble bath to your shopping cart, so you have a reason to enjoy your new spa-like bathroom once the work is done!

3. Optimize existing light sources. Do you feel like your house is dim, especially during winter’s shorter days? Incorporate floor lamps and side table lights to every room in your home, which gives the impression of a brighter space. And, make it a practice to open the curtains each morning to let natural light in. Adding mirrors to your space will reflect and amplify natural light, too.

The winter home updates that (likely) need a professional

1. Install new carpet. Fresh carpet creates the foundation for a polished room, but replacing an aged carpet requires a lot of work and planning. Between accurate measurement, new installation and proper removal, it may be in your best interest to hire a professional for the job.

2. Finish or remodel your basement. Add more living space to your home by finishing your basement or refreshing an existing basement to suit your family’s needs. Maybe you’d benefit from a space dedicated to gaming, an area with desks for distance learning and studying or simply a separation between storage areas and living space. A professional can help bring these basement dreams to life.

3. Upgrade light fixtures. Add recessed lighting to your home office, kitchen or any room that gets extra dark and gloomy during the winter. You’ll be amazed at how much a little more light can freshen up your house and brighten up the dark winter months.

How to determine if you need a professional

Stuck between tackling a DIY home project yourself or calling a professional for the job? Don’t overthink it! The two main reasons to hire outside help for home updates are:

  • You don’t have the ability
  • You don’t have the time

The first point is typically simple to assess. It probably isn’t in your best interest to take on recessed lighting as a DIY project if you don’t have any experience with lighting and wiring.

The aspect of time, however, is often overlooked. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you actually have the time to. Life is busy, and projects — especially home improvement projects — tend to take a long time. Before you embark on a DIY project, write down the amount of time you think it will take to complete the job. Then check that estimate against your work and home schedule to determine if you have the bandwidth to do it yourself.

Ready for a home upgrade?

Whether you’re updating your living space for your family to enjoy now or preparing for a future sale, it’s important to make changes that add value to your home. If you’re ready to sell your renovated home, get in touch for help listing your home and finding your next property.

Holiday subscription gifts for every budget

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Hoping to offer a gift that keeps giving… literally? Whether you’re looking to treat yourself or someone special this holiday season, subscription boxes are a wonderful option.

Subscription boxes are filled with niche products and delivered multiple times throughout the year, typically monthly. We’ve created a list of interesting subscription boxes — and categorized them by price too. From wine to dog treats to family-friendly crafts, there’s a subscription box bound to lift anyone’s holiday spirit — and give them something to look forward to in the months ahead.

Cost-conscious subscriptions

Trying to stay on a budget, or just getting into the world of subscription gifts? For under $20 a month, you can sign up for these subscriptions. Most programs offer obligation-free cancellation policies too.

1. Succulent Studios is a lovely subscription option for renters or people with small spaces. The box is filled with succulents and delivered right to your door, so you can appreciate a bit of nature all year long.

  • $10 plus shipping
  • Ships every month

2. Vellabox Candles delivers carefully curated candles to your door. Each candle is hand-selected to coincide with the current season.

  • Starting at $10
  • Ships every month

3. Sipsby is a subscription box filled with personalized teas. Featuring teas from over 150 tea shops, you’re bound to be impressed by Sipsby’s selection.

  • $15
  • Ships every month

4. Universal Yums are perfect for those who miss traveling. This box is filled with special treats from all around the world, sent to you to enjoy.

  • $14
  • Ships every month

5. Mighty Fix has a mission to promote healthy, toxin-free products for every home and family, making this the perfect box for first-time homebuyers who are interested in green living.

  • $11
  • Ships every month

6. Book of the Month Club sends you a title every month, with the option to add on more if you’re interested. As they say, your shelf will thank you.

  • $15 on average
  • Ships every month

7. Scentbird is a monthly perfume and cologne subscription that provides boxes for both masculine and feminine fragrance preferences. Savor big-label scents at a fraction of the cost with this box.

  • $15
  • Ships every month

Midrange subscriptions

If you’re on the subscription train but not quite ready to invest in a more expensive box, this section is your go-to place. Ranging from $20-$40 per month, these subscriptions feature everything from yummy snacks to crafty activities.

1. SnackNation offers a Nourish Box that delivers wellness-based snacks straight to your doorstep. Plus, there’s an option to select the specific kind of snack box that you desire.

  • $25
  • Ships according to your preference

2. Peace Coffee is the ideal subscription for coffee lovers who want to support a local Minnesota coffee company.

  • $10 to $60
  • Ships according to your preference

3. Reading Bug Box is a fun box filled with books for kids of all different age groups, but personalized to you. As an added bonus, this subscription service is run by an independent, family-owned bookstore.

  • Starting at $27
  • Ships according to your preference

4. WeCraft Box is a creative subscription box geared toward children. Enjoy some screen-free playtime with the entire family. Plus, there’s an opportunity to save if you prepay for your boxes.

  • $30
  • Ships every month

5. Boka was created to provide mindful oral care. With each Boka box, you’ll receive toothbrushes, floss and more — all made with high-quality materials and ingredients.

  • Starting at $20
  • Ships every month

6. Lovevery is filled with stage-based play for little ones up to the age of three. These play kits are made for thoughtful learning and fun growth.

  • Starting at $36
  • Ships every 2–3 months

7. Gentleman’s Box delivers a selection of men’s fashion and lifestyle products straight to your doorstep. Opt to include special add-on products to customize your box too!

  • Starting at $29
  • Ships every month or quarterly

8. BarkBox is filled with themed toys and treats for your furry friend. Products are selected based on the size of your pooch and your selected treat preference.

  • Starting at $23
  • Ships every month

Luxury subscriptions

These subscriptions start around $40 a month and increase from there. Although this may seem like a steep cost, a subscription like this can be a great option for couples or families who usually travel but will be staying close to home this year. Similar to a vacation, a subscription is something you get to look forward to — and it continues throughout the year! In other words, the budget you might typically use toward an anticipated vacation could now be shifted to one of these exciting subscriptions.

1. MinnBox partners with makers all around the state to deliver you a box of carefully curated gifts from Minnesota brands. From candles to food to vintage clothes, you’ll always receive high-quality goods from MinnBox.

  • $55
  • Ships every 2 months

2. Hikewize sends quarterly boxes full of camping and hiking gear to prepare explorers for the wilderness. Additionally, Hikewize requires subscribers to fill out a quick survey, which ensures the outdoor essentials can cater to your needs.

  • Starting at $55
  • Ships every 3 months

3. Bright Cellars ships four wines from around the world directly to your door every month. Bright Cellars prides itself on sourcing delectable wines from small vineyards everywhere.

  • $80
  • Ships every month

4. FabFitFun boxes are filled with lifestyle, fitness and beauty products. Everything inside your FabFitFun box is premium and full-sized.

  • $50
  • Ships every 3 months

5. Little Global Citizens boxes allow kiddos to explore the world right from their doorstep. Each package encourages young ones to learn about cultures and countries around the world through books, crafts, recipes, language and more.

  • Starting at $40
  • Ships every 2 months

6. ButcherBox is a meal delivery subscription focusing on quality-sourced meats. With ButcherBox, you can cook with confidence and taste the difference.

    • Starting at $150
    • Ships every 4, 6 or 8 weeks

Media subscriptions

A media subscription is a wonderful gift option this year, as many individuals are spending more time at home. These subscriptions range from $6-$15 per month, with the option to add on additional features for an extra cost. If you’re interested in gifting a media subscription this holiday season, be sure to see if the service offers any deals. For example, you could save money on a family subscription rate for multiple users in the same household or a bundle price for two or more partnered services.

1. Spotify is a service that allows you to listen to ad-free music anywhere. Pick a playlist or curate your own to get started. Plus, with a Spotify account, you’ll have access to your favorite podcasts too.

      • Starting at $10
      • Renews every month

2. Audible provides listeners with access to spoken-word entertainment and audiobooks. Listening to your Audible subscription is a great way to upgrade your daily commute or workout.

      • $15
      • Renews every month

3. Netflix is a streaming platform with a library of movies, TV shows and more. You’re bound to be impressed by the number of award-winning films, documentaries, classic series and original content found here.

      • Starting at $9
      • Renews every month

4. Hulu contains a streaming library of over 80,000 television episodes and movies. Not to mention, a Hulu account allows users to watch some of their favorite shows as soon as the day after they air.

      • Starting at $6
      • Renews every month

5. Disney+ provides users with access to their most beloved Disney films and series. And, Disney+ has an interesting new feature called GroupWatch. GroupWatch allows users to host virtual movie nights together, even when they’re apart.

      • Starting at $7
      • Renews every month

Sign up for your monthly mortgage “subscription” today!

While subscriptions are fun, the most valuable monthly payment you can make is on a home mortgage. If you’re looking to buy a new property this holiday season, call or email today.

Ask an Edina Realty Lawyer: What should I do if I am experiencing problems with my new construction home?

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

In this edition, one of our lawyers discusses homeowner’s rights and responsibilities when addressing a defect in the construction of a new home.

Dear Edina Realty Legal,

I purchased a newly constructed home a few years ago. Recently, I discovered that I have water coming into the basement. Do I have any recourse to get this fixed?

When you purchase a new construction home, you know that the home has not experienced the wear and tear of a “used” home, some of which have been standing for more than a century. But new homes are not completely immune from issues. If the home was not constructed properly or if there are defective materials, you could run into an issue like this water intrusion problem.

Whether you have some recourse for the issue depends on a variety of factors, including the location of the property, the cause and extent of the issue, when the problem first arose and what you have done to try to resolve the issue. For our purposes, we’ll focus on the law for Edina Realty’s major market areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Minnesota’s statutory new construction warranties

In Minnesota, when builders sell new construction homes, a state law requires that the builder warrant that the home will be free from defects caused by faulty workmanship or defective materials. The law provides varying warranty periods depending on the type of issue:

  • For a period of one year (usually starting on the date of closing), the builder warrants that the home will be free from defects (as that term is defined by law) in general.
  • The plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems are warranted from defects for two years.
  • Finally, the builder must warrant that the home will be free from major structural defects for 10 years.

These warranties automatically come with the property and they will pass to future owners if there is still time remaining in the warranty periods.

If you experience a problem that you believe is covered by the warranty, there are a number of steps you must take in order to protect your rights, including:

  • You must notify the builder in writing within six months of when you discover (or should have reasonably discovered) the issue.
  • You must give the builder an opportunity to inspect the property and make an offer to repair the problem.
  • If the builder will not agree to make the repairs, you may need to engage in a dispute resolution process or wait for 60 days before commencing legal action. This process is administered by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and can be helpful in resolving disputes.
  • If the builder has gone out of business, you may still be able to get compensation from a fund administered by the state.

Wisconsin new construction issues

Wisconsin does not have the same statutory warranty as Minnesota. But for custom-built homes, Wisconsin law implies a promise that the construction will be done in a workmanlike manner. Like in Minnesota, Wisconsin has specific requirements prior to commencing legal action for a construction defect.

  • You must give the builder written notice of the defect and an opportunity to inspect.
  • The builder may offer to resolve the issue, either by repair or monetary compensation or a combination of both.
  • If the offer is unacceptable, you must give notice to that effect along with your reasons for rejecting the offer.
  • The builder is entitled to make a supplemental offer. If that supplemental offer is not acceptable, you must provide written notice of your rejection.

All of these requirements have tight deadlines that must be met.

Other warranties and remedies

Builders can, and often do, provide their own warranties in lieu of the warranties mentioned above. In Minnesota, the warranty program offered by a builder must provide substantially the same protection as that found in the statutory warranty.

The builder’s warranty may have different notice requirements and other procedures that you will need to follow, so be sure to carefully review any material they provide. In addition to warranties, a homeowner dealing with a construction defect may have a claim for breach of contract, negligence or even misrepresentation.

As you can see, in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, the law surrounding construction defects is complicated. To ensure that you have properly preserved any claim, you would be well-served by consulting with your own attorney.

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

Avoid these five first-time buyer mistakes

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According to the National Association of REALTORS®, first-time homebuyers made up one-third of all homebuyers in the United States in both 2018 and 2019. That means if you’re just diving into the market for the first time, you’re in good company!

As a first-time homebuyer, it’s important to be both educated and curious — and to find a trusted, local market expert to represent you. Of course, there are also missteps you should watch out for. Here are five mistakes that first-time buyers commonly make, and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1: Relying on online information only

It’s easy to assume that the internet knows all, and we understand the appeal of doing your own research. But the reality is that buying a home is likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make... and it’s also an extremely personal one.

Many first-time buyers start out by researching homes online. This is a great introduction to the home-buying process, but it’s also important to have local experts by your side.

All agents who represent Edina Realty are professional Realtors, and we pride ourselves on offering a truly customized buying experience for each of our clients. Whether you’re just diving into the market or know exactly what you’re looking for, reach out for personal guidance, not just online calculators and forms.

Mistake 2: Not having the right paperwork

To stand out in this low-inventory market, it’s important to get pre-approved by a lender in advance. Once you’re pre-approved, you’ll have a lender-approved estimate of your buying power, and you’ll be able to confidently search for homes in your true budget. Sellers and their agents may also take you more seriously if they know that you can obtain the necessary funding to buy the home.

The pre-approval process is becoming more automated, but you may still be asked to submit financial records, including:

  • Pay stubs or income verification
  • Bank statements
  • Credit report
  • Past taxes and W-2s
  • Savings account or investment account records

In some cases, lenders may be able to offer better rates or terms to buyers with cleaner credit or other indicators of financial security — so it’s important to have these records handy when you are in the pre-approval process.

Worried about the paperwork or process? We’ll walk through each step if needed. Remember, when you work with a Realtor, you’re working with a home buying advocate.

Mistake 3: Focusing on the wrong financial indicators

While the down payment is an important part of getting a loan, your lender will also closely scrutinize your debts and how they impact your ability to pay for your mortgage and other home-related expenses. In some cases, the loan officer may require you to lower your debt obligations in order to secure a mortgage.

From there, you’ll work to pay off credit card bills, student loans, car loans, child support payments and other outstanding debt before you can re-apply for a loan. During this time frame, it’s also important that you avoid taking on new debt. Avoid purchasing a new car, large electronics or other expensive products when applying for a loan or buying a home.

Mistake 4: Moving too slowly

As prices grow and first-time buyers enter the market, low-priced listings (often called “starter homes”) can be scarce. Buyers are typically not advised to rush into the process, but today’s conditions do require a certain haste. So, what’s a buyer to do in this unique, low-inventory market?

This is when it will pay off for us to be working closely and communicating often. Together, we can identify the “must-have” features of your future home, then tour a few homes to get a feel for what is realistically available in your price range. When we know what’s most important to you, we’ll be able to quickly disqualify homes that aren’t right, and make a faster offer when you find the home you’ve been waiting for.

Mistake 5: Saving money by forgoing a home inspection

Many buyers start to get sticker shock as they calculate the cost of the closing, home insurance, taxes and future upgrades. While it can be appealing to nix some home-buying costs, it’s vital that buyers go through with a home inspection.

By hiring a professional to inspect the home, you can ensure that the systems and appliances are in working order and that the home is free of issues related to foundation, ventilation, roofing system, water damage and more. If issues are identified, we’ll negotiate with the seller to determine if they will handle repairs or replacements before the sale or provide you with a credit for the work at closing. In some cases, the seller may refuse to make the requested repairs and you will have to determine if you want to proceed with the sale.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development data shows that the average cost of a home inspection is between $300-500. While that may seem like a lot, most issues or defects identified in the inspection would cost much more than that to fix down the road.

Getting started

The market is hot for first-time buyers, but playing the game smart is the key to your home buying success. To get started on buying your first home, get in contact today. Together, we can make sure you avoid these common mistakes and stay on the path to buying your dream home.

Five safe ways to enjoy Halloween this year

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It’s spooky season! Although many 2020 events have been put on pause, there are still plenty of fall celebrations to look forward to. Get in the spirit of Halloween, and add these five Minnesota and western Wisconsin festivities to your fall calendar!

Note: Each of the following events or organizations have taken special precautions to support the well-being of event goers.

1. Sever’s Fall Festival

Join the fun at the 24th annual Sever’s Fall Festival. This event hosts the largest corn maze in Minnesota, along with an obstacle course, petting zoo, zip lines, and so much more.

Reserve your spot now via contactless ticketing, keeping in mind the event capacity will be limited due to COVID-19.

Date: Sept. 11-Nov. 1
Time: Fridays 1 p.m. – 8 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

2. Halloween Capital of the World

Anoka, Minnesota is celebrating their 100th anniversary as Halloween Capital of the World. This year, the city will host more than 20 safe events, including an outdoor movie night, a virtual Halloween gala and a pumpkin carving contest.

Time: See website for details

3. Deadly Drive-in Haunted House

The Rosedale Center is hosting a socially distant drive-in haunted house event to keep the spirit of Halloween alive. Experience the thrill of a haunted house from the safety of your car. To begin, each vehicle will receive a sanitized radio, then embark on a frightening ride. Note: This event is not recommended for kids under 14.

Date: Oct. 15-31
Time: Thursdays – Sundays from 6:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.

4. Hudson Rotary Halloween Day Parade

Dress up in your favorite costume to celebrate Halloween in a safe and exciting way at the Rotary Halloween Day Parade in Hudson, Wisconsin. This family-friendly event features games, prizes and a parade. Be sure to come with a food shelf donation!

Date: Oct. 31

5. Glensheen Mansion Tour

Tour the historic Glensheen Mansion for something to do this fall. While not a Halloween event, you learn about the impressive estate — and it's rumored that the property is haunted! Health is a careful consideration during each tour; all patrons are required to self-screen, keep physical distance and wear a mask.

Date: See website for details

Still in the planning stage?

Whether you’re organizing a masked neighborhood candy hunt or trying to determine what is smart and safe for your family, expert insights and guidelines are available. Check out the Guide for Safe Celebrations and Events from the Minnesota Department of Health.

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