Understanding home equity: Everything you need to know


Key insights:

  • The average homeowner saw a 20% increase in home equity in the first few months of 2021.
  • Home equity can be used to fund a number of life stages — from buying or building a new home, to retirement, to home improvement projects and beyond.
  • Borrowers should understand how their home equity is calculated and what the best options are for tapping into it.

You may have seen the headlines earlier this year: Due to fast-rising home prices, the average homeowner gained more than $33,000 in home equity in just the first three months of 2021. That represented a 20% jump in home equity, on average.

But despite these big gains, it’s harder than ever for some homeowners to make ends meet. While everyone’s financial situation is different and we can’t make specific recommendations on whether you should take advantage of your home equity, it’s important that homeowners understand the power and options they have in today’s unique market environment.

Let’s dive into what home equity is, and the choices that homeowners with equity can leverage if desired.

What is home equity?

In the simplest terms, home equity is the difference between what you owe on your mortgage, and your home’s current market value. If you owe $100,000 on your mortgage and your home is worth $400,000, then you have 75% home equity. Conversely, if you have a remaining mortgage balance of $300,000 on your $400,000 house, you have 25% home equity.

Your home’s equity rises when:

  • You pay off more of your mortgage (and your home value remains steady).
  • Market conditions raise your home’s value.

This year, the red-hot housing market was a major contributor to homeowners’ gains in home equity: A rapid jump in home sales created higher sales prices, leading to higher home values and a 20% average home equity increase for homeowners.

What happens to my mortgage insurance when my equity rises?

Two groups typically pay mortgage insurance to their lender:

  • All borrowers with FHA loans
  • Conventional loan borrowers who put down less than 20% at closing

Mortgage insurance payments help lenders offset the risk of lending to less-than-perfect loan candidates, but that risk is diminished when the home’s equity begins to rise. Once the borrower’s home equity reaches 20% of the original purchase price, their mortgage insurance will be canceled for the rest of the loan term.

What can I do with my newly accumulated home equity?

There are a multitude of options available for homeowners who want or need to leverage their home’s equity. Below is a list of the most common paths for using or tapping home equity. Remember, your financial situation is unique and you should speak with your financial advisor and lender to determine your ideal path.

Sell and pocket a profit

The easiest-to-understand way to benefit from your home’s equity is to sell your home and reap the profits. If you owe just $50,000 on your $450,000 house, for example, then nearly $400,000 in home equity will be yours as you leave the closing table. (You’ll have to pay your agent’s commission and closing costs on the property.)

You can use that net profit to fund your next chapter — whether that be a new property, a retirement community, or an RV that will take you across the country in your golden years.

Apply for a reverse mortgage

Homeowners who are 62+ and have most of their wealth tied up in their home may consider a reverse mortgage. In a reverse mortgage, the homeowner stops paying their monthly mortgage payments and their lender gives them a monthly or lump sum based on their home’s equity. As you would expect, this agreement will diminish the homeowner’s equity over time, and increase their debt; the homeowner will then pay off the lender with the profits of their eventual home sale.

Reverse mortgages can be beneficial for homeowners who wish to age in place, but who don’t have the savings or investments to fund their retirement.

Borrowing against your equity

Last, there are three other ways to borrow against your home’s equity. Each of them have different terms and benefits.

  • Fixed-rate home equity loan: Homeowners can tap into their home equity to cash out a single lump-sum payment. The loan has a set interest rate and a typical payment term of between 5-15 years.
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC): Homeowners can tap their home equity as needed, in a revolving line of credit that is akin to a credit card. Borrowers have a “draw” period, when they can take out the money, followed by their repayment period. HELOCs usually have variable interest rates that change over time, though some lenders are beginning to offer fixed-rate HELOCs.
  • Cash-out refinance: Think of a cash-out refinance as a two-step process. First, borrowers replace their existing mortgage loan with a new loan that exceeds the amount they owe on the home. Next, they receive a lump sum payment that represents the difference between their home’s value and the amount they’ve borrowed.

Whether it’s to consolidate or pay off debt, make home improvements or to fund other needs, these options can be a helpful solution for the right borrower.

Need help calculating your home equity?

Big financial decisions should be made carefully, and you’ll need an experienced team to help guide your way. For help understanding your home’s equity, reach out today for private, professional assistance.

*This information is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice.

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

Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC may operate as Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage in Minnesota and Wisconsin. All first mortgage products are provided by Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC. dba Edina Realty Mortgage. (877) 275-1762. Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC products may not be available in all areas. Not all borrowers will qualify. Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage is licensed in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC is licensed by the Delaware State Bank Commissioner. Massachusetts Mortgage Lender License ML75164. Licensed by the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance. Also licensed in AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NE, NC, ND, NH, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV and WY. NMLS ID #75164 (NMLS Consumer Access at http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/) ©2021 Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC.

The low ROI home improvements sellers shouldn’t take on


Key insights:

  • While most homeowners invest in improvement projects before selling, there are some projects that won’t pay off at the closing table.
  • Plus, because today’s sellers have a bold advantage in the market, they should discern what is really worth updating before listing their home for sale.
  • Data indicates some of the most expensive projects — such as a bathroom or owner’s suite addition — may have a low return on investment.

It’s no surprise that today’s housing market is hot for home sellers. If your home is in the right location and well maintained, you may not plan to update anything on your property before you list it for sale. But if your home is outdated, or you’re simply aiming for an even higher bid, some carefully considered renovations could give you an extra edge in the housing market.

Keep in mind, though, that not all home projects provide an equal payoff for sellers. Before making big changes to your home, be sure to research the typical return on investment (ROI) of the updates you have in mind.

The Remodeling 2021 Cost vs. Value Report (costvsvalue.com) provides an exhaustive list of renovation details that helps guide home sellers on what projects are worth taking on before their for sale sign is posted. The report includes the specific cost and value of home improvement projects across the country, and even breaks the data out by region and city.

Here are the projects local homeowners should avoid if they want to position themselves for the most cost-effective sale in the near future.

1. Upscale owner’s suite addition

Master bedroom

Cost: $338,083
Resale value: $152,119
Cost recouped: 45.0%

Everyone enjoys a spacious bed and bath. An upscale owner’s suite addition will result in a 32x20-foot space including the home’s primary bedroom, walk-in closet, lounge space and bathroom — but at a significant cost. At a cost of nearly $340,000 with a resale value of just over $150,000, homeowners shouldn’t invest in a project this extravagant unless they plan to enjoy the updates for many years before selling the home.

Instead, it may be wise for sellers to invest in some less expensive cosmetic updates for their bedroom. From paint to new light fixtures to modernized bedding, plenty of inexpensive tricks can spruce up an existing bedroom and make it more appealing to buyers.

2. Upscale bathroom addition

Updated bathroom

Cost: $108,912
Resale value: $51,816
Cost recouped: 47.6%

If your home is low on bathroom space, you may be considering a bathroom addition. For the project profiled in the Remodeling 2021 Cost Vs. Value Report (costvsvalue.com), you’d install a shower, free-standing soaker tub, compartmentalized commode area and even electric in-floor heating.

As with the full suite addition, this update is quite expensive and recoups just over 47% of the initial cost at resale. Even a mid-range bathroom addition — which includes less expensive fixtures, tiling and cabinetry — will cost about $60,000 and recoup less than $30,000, according to the report’s data.

The analysis is clear: Even if your buyers will be discouraged by the total number of bathrooms in your residence, it is probably not worth it to put in a new bathroom right before selling. Instead, work to present your existing bathrooms in their best light. Strategically stage your bathroom by replacing hardware and light fixtures and setting out luxe towels.

3. Asphalt roofing replacement

Updated roof

Cost: $35,946
Resale value: $17,537
Cost recouped: 48.8%

Last, a full asphalt roofing replacement will recoup just about 49% of the project cost at resale — which isn’t a great ROI when the project costs nearly $36,000. With this steep cost and little room for benefit, a roof replacement might not be the best project to take on before selling.

However, a new roof is quite a bit different than a bedroom or bathroom addition, because it is a replacement of an existing portion of your home. When pricing your home, you will have to consider your roof’s condition and you’ll also need to disclose any known issues to interested buyers. You may also end up negotiating with a buyer over the condition of the roof if they order an inspection and find any issues with missing shingles, leaks or other defects. Last, depending on how in-demand your home is, you may see fewer offers on your property if it’s clear that the buyer will need to replace the roof immediately.

The smartest path forward, when selling a home with an aging roof, is to speak with your REALTOR® before making any decisions or updates. By working together, we can help determine if the cost of the repair will outweigh the headache and risk of selling a home with roofing damage.

Consult a real estate expert before you sell

While these renovations come with a bigger price tag, it might make sense for you to take on higher-cost, lower-ROI projects if you plan to stay put for a few years. You can measure your return on investment in your personal enjoyment of the space, after all!

However, if your updates are solely intended to improve your odds when selling, either with the hopes of an even speedier sale or one with a higher bid, be sure to get in touch before you start renovations. You’ll want to speak with a local market expert to determine the most impactful changes for your property.

©2021 Zonda Media, a Delaware corporation. Complete data from the 2021 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.

Emotional mistakes to avoid when selling your home


Key insights:

  • When listing your home for sale, be sure to separate your own memories and experiences from the process. List the home based on its true condition, not its personal value to you.
  • Even as today’s sellers earn top dollar for their homes, it’s critical to prepare your home before listing it on the market.
  • Don’t compare your experience to the neighbors’. Each home is different, and each home selling experience will differ as a result.

When selling your home, it’s natural to feel nostalgic and even upset at times. However, to ensure you get a fair offer and a fast path to closing, it’s important to remain as emotionally detached as possible. Here are five emotional mistakes every homeowner should avoid when selling a home in Minnesota or western Wisconsin.

Mistake 1: Not recognizing your home’s imperfections

The first step to emotionally detaching from your home is recognizing that your home isn’t perfect. Just as you’ll be showing off your home’s best features in order to draw in a higher offer, buyers and their agents may focus on the property’s flaws in order to get a better deal. Remember that this isn’t a personal attack — you are just on opposite sides of a business transaction.

Prior to listing your home, we can discuss the imperfections that should be fixed prior to listing, and what price is fair, given your home’s condition.

Mistake 2: Not prepping for showings

It’s true that today’s market favors sellers, and that most homes are selling fast and for top dollar. However, that doesn’t mean that sellers should get complacent. Today’s buyers are still discerning and most are not willing to settle for a home that’s cluttered or in disrepair.

To appeal to most buyers, it’s critical that your home be free of clutter, and staged to show off its best features. Additionally, your home should be spotless when you leave the house, so you can accept last-minute showings without rushing home to wash the dishes or make the bed.

Some sellers balk at this need for perfection, especially if their home has been on the market for more than a few weeks. But the reality is that when a home is sparkling clean, it shows the pride the seller has in the house — and indicates to the buyer that the property is worth its listing price.

Mistake 3: Comparing your sale to others

You may have heard that your neighbors, family or friends received 25% over asking, or 13 bids on their home — and it’s natural to wonder if your property may receive the same treatment from buyers. Entering the market with sky-high expectations is a mistake, because it can cloud your judgment when a good (or even great) offer comes in.

The reality is that the market is always changing, demand can greatly vary by location, and each house is unique, with its own appeal or drawbacks. (Furthermore, each buyer is also unique.) Together, we can review current market activity for homes in your area so you’re prepared for the most likely scenarios, and not relying on “can you believe it” anecdotes from other sellers. This will help you set realistic expectations for your home sale, and make you feel more confident as you review any offers that come in.

Mistake 4: Refusing early bids

That said, you may be surprised by how quickly the market is moving for many sellers. Today’s buyers have been told to move swiftly on homes they’re interested in, due to the extremely low inventory in our area. Don’t make the mistake of refusing early bids, or thinking that your home is priced too low if you get immediate offers.

Prior to listing, we’ll walk through through what to expect, including:

  • The typical showing activity in the first few days after listing.
  • The need for an open house, to manage buyer traffic.
  • How to strategically time offers so you can review them all at once.

From there, you’ll be in a better position to review early bids, make a counter-offer, or confidently accept an offer outright.

Mistake 5: Expecting perfect timing

As a home seller, you may be hoping to line up your home sale with your new home purchase — and avoiding the stress of short-term housing or putting your belongings in storage. This is an ideal solution, but it’s important to recognize that even if your timing isn’t perfectly aligned, it’s not a sign that your move should be delayed.

Many home sellers who are thrilled by the pace of sales and high prices are stunned when they realize how stressful it is to enter the market on the other side, as a buyer. Rather than forcing a move to a home that isn’t just-right, these in-limbo sellers can look into short-term housing as they wait for their dream home.

Plenty of housing options are available and the short-term inconvenience of living in an extended stay hotel or furnished apartment will be worth it in the long run when you find the perfect property to call home.

Ready to see what your home is worth in today’s market?

Ready to determine a price and selling strategy for your home? Call or email today to get started on your selling journey.

Experiences, outings and events you can gift this holiday season


While you may instinctively gravitate toward the mall or an online shop as gift-giving season approaches, consider switching up your holiday traditions. This winter, give your loved ones the exciting gift of an experience that they can cherish for months — or even years — to come.

Here’s a round up of experiences, outings and events you can give your friends and family this winter. Whether your recipient is reserved and crafty or a total outdoor enthusiast, this curated list includes niche experiences that are bound to spark extra holiday cheer.

Indoor experience gift ideas

When giving an experience, you’ll want to make sure to organize something that your recipient will love. If your friend or family member prefers to escape the winter cold, select one of these many indoor experience ideas.

1. Purchase movie tickets for your cinema-loving friend. In addition to the ticket stubs, add theater candy and popcorn to complete the experience. If you want to go the extra mile to create a movie experience like never before, consider booking a private theater rental for a group. Prices start at $99, making this a more affordable option than you might expect.

2. Reserve a seat at a sporting event. You can’t go wrong with gifting tickets to sports fanatics. Check out college athletics and professional events, like the Minnesota Wild. Add in a new jersey, winter hat or foam finger to make it an extra-special gift.

3. Plan to see a concert. If your loved one has a favorite band or looks forward to live music events, a concert could be the perfect gift! Tickets at a small, local venue could make the experience even more personal.

4. Stay overnight at an indoor waterpark. Whether you have a family of young ones or are hoping to enjoy a staycation with a hot tub, an indoor waterpark can be a fun experience for groups. The Edgewater Hotel in Duluth and Great Wolf Lodge in Bloomington or Wisconsin Dells are all popular options.

5. Take a day or weekend trip. Plan an entire trip to Chicago, Red Wing, Stillwater or a nearby small town with charm. Include an itinerary and accommodation details with the gift. To give the recipient a bit more control over the experience, offer them a list of three swanky restaurants to choose from.

6. Purchase an annual pass to somewhere your loved one frequents, like the zoo, an amusement park or Minnesota state parks.

7. Get a membership to a gym or workout class that your recipient has been wanting to take, but can’t justify paying for on their own. (Remember, don’t give this out of the blue as the recipient might infer that you’re trying to tell them something. This should be used if your friend or family member has explicitly stated they want to take a class or join a gym, but can’t justify the cost of doing so.)

8. Buy a restaurant gift card for a night out to enjoy together. Pick their favorite spot or a trendy, new restaurant in town. Here’s a roundup of the top-voted restaurants across the metro area, if you’re feeling stumped.

9. Book an escape room. If your friend loves to solve puzzles, this is the gift for them. Not only does this experience allow for quality time to have fun together, it’s a great gift for those who want to try something totally new.

10. Plan a cooking class. Perfect for a date night or a fun evening with friends, cooking classes can be done in traditional class settings or over Zoom (where you’ll buy your own ingredients and cook comfortably in your kitchen). Cooks of Crocus Hill and Way Cool Cooking School both provide in-person and virtual options.

11. Order a clay kit for a do-it-at-home pottery night. Whether you sculpt individual projects or create something together, crafty people are sure to get excited about these clay experiences.

Outdoor experience gift ideas

If your loved one is fond of the snow and winter weather, or prefers an event with control for social distancing, choose an outdoor experience to give to them.

12. Go downhill sledding. Check out the best sledding hills in the Twin Cities, and be sure to order some hot chocolate after. This gift is cost-effective and will appeal to winter lovers.

13. Rent a limo. Whether you schedule the vehicle to escort you around downtown for a date night in the city or you use it as a chauffeur to view the holiday lights, a limo ride will certainly leave a lasting impression.

14. Sign up for ski or snowboard lessons. Buck Hill and Welch Village, along with countless other hills, offer lessons to ski and snowboard enthusiasts of all ages.

15. Plan a cross-country ski or snowshoeing date. This is the perfect option for those who enjoy the snow but would prefer to remain on horizontal terrain. The Loppet Foundation maintains well-groomed trails and offers rental equipment for newbies in beautiful Theodore Wirth Park.

16. Go ice fishing. It’s no surprise that residents of Minnesota and western Wisconsin love to be on the lake, even in the winter. Take on the water in a new way this season by planning an ice fishing outing on the area’s lakes.

17. Plan a rock climbing tour. A variety of rock climbing excursions are available throughout the state, and this Duluth-based guide service offers beginner-friendly classes, too.

Give the experience of a lifetime!

If you have time, decorate an envelope with a certificate for the experience inside or package a small item that hints at the experiential gift along with a note. Whether you sneak the snow tubing gift card in a pair of new warm mittens, or tuck the cooking class details into a brand-new chef’s apron, there are plenty of ways to help your gift seem extra-special for the recipient.

And remember, giving to a mortgage gift fund can help prospective property buyers attain the ultimate experience they’re wishing for — a life in their dream home. If you know someone who is working to save for a down payment or who is looking for mortgage gift funds, tell them to get in touch for no-pressure insights and first steps.

Why the seasonal home buying trends don’t apply to you


Key insights

  • The spring is typically touted as the seasonal high point for the market, but this fall may be a smart time for buyers to enter (or re-enter) the market.
  • While sellers are still at an advantage, the inventory shortage is not as extreme as it was throughout the spring and summer of 2021.
  • If inventory continues to balance out, buyers may experience less competition — and a better chance of having their offer accepted.

We’ve all seen the news stories, where dozens of homebuyers descend onto a just-listed property and make their offers. When homes are selling in mere hours and for over the listing price, it’s easy for would-be buyers to grow frustrated. But as we move further into fall, the market seems to be going through a subtle shift — one that could help frustrated buyers find their dream homes, at last.

A return to a more balanced market?

First, the facts: Home prices are still rising and homes are still selling at a rapid pace. However, the latest local data does show a small bright spot for eager buyers: After a low point last spring, when inventory was down nearly 44%, last month’s data shows that inventory in the 13-county metro area is catching up; it’s now down 20% from 2020 numbers. This is the closest that 2021’s inventory has come to matching 2020’s numbers.

Of course, this data means that there are still many more buyers in the market than there are homes for sale. It could also indicate that buyers will face a bit less competition as they search for homes.

“We are not at a place of balance for buyers and sellers yet. But as inventory gets closer to reaching parity, it could mean that homebuyers feel less pressure to make extremely high bids, or that they are only up against 3 or 4 offers instead of 15,” explains Edina Realty President Sharry Schmid. “This kind of shift won’t give every buyer their pick of homes, but it could help them end a frustrating, months-long search.”

Is fall a smart time to buy a home?

Spring is typically the height of the housing market, and that was certainly true in 2021. Buyers who had been delaying a move were suddenly in desperate need of more space for distance learning, home offices and more — and they entered an already-crowded market with an inventory shortage. The result was a frenzied market, filled with stress and disappointment for some buyers who bid on home after home with no luck.

Now, as some children return to school and parents return to their places of work, it seems likely that the number of buyers will drop as we head into the fall and holiday months. If inventory continues to move toward parity, buyers across Minnesota and Wisconsin could find that this fall is an easier time to buy than last spring or summer. Last, these late-2021 buyers may be the last to take advantage of extremely low interest rates, as some experts predict rates will go up in 2022.

“I know the summer was difficult for many buyers who felt priced out of homes or outbid time and again. With today’s low interest rates, continued gains in inventory and a more manageable pace of sales, this fall could offer a more accessible housing market, even if it’s still not easy,” says Schmid.

What should fall buyers expect?

Buyers may not experience a cutthroat environment this fall, but they should still be prepared to act fast while staying patient.

If you hope to close on a home this fall or early winter, we’ll work together to:

  • Narrow down our search and even look at pre-list properties accessible only to Edina Realty agents.
  • Book a showing as soon as you are able.
  • Attend open houses of homes that have just been listed.
  • Make a fast, fair offer if you are interested in a property.
  • Have a backup offer ready, if you are able.
  • Discuss the contingencies we will include or exclude in your offer.
  • Be prepared to move on quickly, if your offer isn’t accepted.

Ready to get in the game?

With a smart strategy and the right Realtor, buyers may find this fall is the right time to buy. If you’d like to get into the market before the spring’s big rush, get in touch today.

Staging? Play up your storage to sell faster


Key insights

  • Functional storage spaces might win over the hearts — and pockets — of millennial homebuyers.
  • Sellers should showcase their effective storage spaces, while taking care not to overfill them. Balance is key.
  • Utilize additional spaces like the garage or a storage rental to tuck away items you can wait until after the home sale to use.

Homebuyers are updating their home search criteria with a surprising property feature: storage. Storage has become a major concern among homebuyers, especially millennials who have been squeezing into too-small rentals for more than a decade.

In fact, a report published by the National Association of Home Builders indicates that 79% of millennials want a walk-in pantry and 73% want a linen closet in the owner’s suite bath.

Sellers with these storage areas should be sure to showcase them when they list their home for sale. In some cases, this may even mean “staging” your home’s storage.

Creative ways to stage your storage

Here are five tips to stage your storage creatively — whether you’re listing your home for sale or simply want to tidy your current living space.

1. Store items neatly, in plain sight

70% of millennial buyers desire built-in shelving, so be sure to take advantage of these existing features! Start by filling each shelf with approximately 30% fewer books than the shelf can handle. In the remaining space, create balance and visual interest with candles, picture frames or nothing at all.

Tidy up other noticeable storage spaces, including your:

  • Open kitchen shelving
  • Glass-front cabinets or pantry doors
  • Open credenzas

If your home doesn’t have built-in cabinets or shelving, upgrade your space with other functional storage options. For example, hanging pot storage can help free up space in the kitchen cabinets. Multi-purpose furniture — like bar carts, tiered coffee tables and storage benches — can house other loose items. These items wouldn’t be sold alongside your home, but they do show buyers that your property is spacious enough to accommodate pop-up storage options.

2. Thoughtfully arrange your belongings

While it may seem like items stashed behind closed doors don’t need to be rearranged, it’s actually important to keep “hidden” storage in tip-top shape. Whether browsing photos online or peeking at an open house, potential buyers will be curious about the size and status of the home’s storage closets and rooms. In these spaces, nix the knick-knacks and keep shelves filled and organized at about 50% capacity.

It’s also important to thoughtfully consider where to place items in hidden storage. We all have unique storage tendencies, but items that appear misplaced could indicate to a buyer that your home doesn't have ideal storage space. Go through with a critical eye and remove items that don’t make sense for the space, such as AA batteries in the bathroom linen closet or the Costco-sized paper towel stash in the owner’s bedroom closet.

3. Focus on the aesthetics as you organize

Staging your home — and your clutter — doesn’t need to involve buying anything new. It’s possible to make use of what you already have as you smartly store your items.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Roll your towels instead of folding them, to make your storage look more like a spa than a closet.
  • Organize soaps and other toiletries into an old basket, instead of just stacking them.
  • Repurpose mason jars to hold office supplies or bathroom essentials.
  • Use a retro label maker to cohesively mark pantry staples like spices, nuts and grains.

4. Add storage to your garage

It may seem silly to stage your garage. But 80% of millennials want garage storage, which means that enhancing this space could be an easy way to win over potential buyers. Reform your garage storage with the following:

  • Permanent shelving
  • Ceiling storage racks
  • Organizational cubbies
  • Built-in storage shelves and hooks

Even if you decide not to spend a dime on garage storage, you can still categorize things by usage — lawn tools on one side, auto repair on another. If it’s clear that you use the space well and still have plenty of room to park a car or two inside, that could be a boon to buyers who have a garage on their must-have checklist.

5. Rent a short-term storage unit

If you’re still overwhelmed with stuff after decluttering your home and thoughtfully staging your belongings, it may be time to look into an external storage unit. Renting a separate storage space can be a smart solution if you’re ready to sell your home, but you’re not yet ready to part with some of your home goods.

The final step: Hire an expert

Whether you’ve already organized your storage or you’re looking for more insights about your home’s price, condition and likelihood to sell, reach out any time. Together, we can make the right selling plan for you, your family and your home.

Ask an Edina Realty Lawyer: How do I legally get rid of fall leaves?


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

In this edition, one of our lawyers discusses how homeowners can legally dispose of the leaf piles overtaking their yards.

Dear Edina Realty Legal,

Fall is here and I need to do something with all the leaves piling up in my yard. Can I burn them? Or push them into the street for the street sweeper?

Burning leaves used to be quite common, but many municipalities now ban or discourage leaf burning for a variety of reasons, including safety, air pollution and health impacts. In fact, most cities have adopted regulations regarding leaf disposal and leaf burning.

Let’s explore how to legally dispose of all those leaves overtaking your front and back yards.

Minnesota state law on leaf burning

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) requires open burning permits for any fire that is more than three feet high and three feet in diameter, unless the ground is covered in three inches of snow or the fire is contained in an approved burner or similar device.

A permit will allow you to burn vegetative materials including grass, leaves and other brush. So if you do want to burn your fall leaf piles, you can obtain a permit from any MDNR Forestry office, fire warden, or through the MDNR's website.

Wisconsin state law on leaf burning

For Wisconsin residents, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) also offers burning permits; the need for an open burning permit is dependent upon the location of your proposed burn. If you live in Wisconsin, you can both check your location’s permit requirements, and obtain a permit:

  • Through the WDNR’s website.
  • By visiting a WDNR office or an emergency fire warden.

Local regulations on leaf burning

Getting a permit may be just the first step to legally burning your leaves, though. You should also check with your local government authority to ensure you’re not breaking a local ordinance.

Many cities have adopted stricter regulations regarding open burning; cities from Edina to Aurora, Minnesota, have prohibited leaf burning entirely. And while open burning is likely acceptable (and quite common) in rural areas, you should still check your county, township, or village regulations if you reside outside city limits. You’ll also want to consider the environmental impact and health and safety risks that can accompany leaf burning.

If I can’t burn my leaves, what are my disposal options?

If you cannot burn your leaves, can you rake them into the street and wait for the street sweeper to pick them up? Probably not.

While some cities, like Mankato, offer a leaf vacuum service for residents, most cities prohibit pushing leaves or other yard waste into the street; the buildup could have a potentially damaging impact on natural bodies of water and can plug sewer drains.

However, your garbage hauler may offer an easy yard waste pick-up service. Typically, the company will require you to bag up the leaves in a yard waste bag, then they pick it up curbside with your usual trash and recycling.

If that’s not an option, many local governments have yard waste disposal sites. Contact your local government authority to see if there is a disposal site nearby.

And of course, there are other ways to repurpose leaves! You could begin composting or using your leaves as mulch to protect your plants over our long Midwestern winters.

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.

Can I sell my haunted house?


Key insights:

  • Minnesota disclosure laws do not require sellers to disclose “perceived paranormal activity” to buyers.
  • Before assuming your house is haunted, check for carbon monoxide leaks and electricity shorts; they can cause surprising (and spooky) disruptions.
  • Still think your home is haunted? Look into your property’s history to determine what could be causing the slamming doors or drafty areas.

Have you ever felt a draft that can’t be explained, or watched a door in your house slam shut when you’re home alone? Do you sometimes wake up in the morning to find that a cabinet is open… even though you could have sworn you closed them all?

It’s more common than you think! In fact, 28% of surveyed Realtors once said they’ve had to sell a home or help a buyer who believes that their current home is haunted.

If you think your house is haunted, you may be wondering: Are there ways to scientifically explain (and debunk) the spooky goings-on in my home? Will “perceived paranormal activity” affect my ability to sell the property?

Here’s everything you need to know about living in a spooky home — and how to sell a house you suspect is haunted.

Do sellers in Minnesota and Wisconsin have to disclose that their house is haunted?

When it comes to selling a haunted property, what are the rules of disclosure?

Minnesota disclosure laws

Per Minnesota’s disclosure laws, sellers must state if there are any “material facts” that could affect the buyers’ use or enjoyment of the property. But there is one exception to this law.

Home sellers do not have to disclose “perceived paranormal activity” to any homebuyers. This law was put into effect after a homeowner in New York sued when they found out they were about to buy a “haunted” house.

Wisconsin disclosure laws

Wisconsin does not have a specific exemption for paranormal activity, but a Wisconsin seller normally would not need to disclose that a home is believed to be haunted. In Wisconsin, a seller must disclose all “defects”, which are defined as a condition that would:

  • Have a significant adverse effect on the value of the property.
  • Significantly impair the health or safety of future occupants; or
  • Significantly shorten or adversely affect the normal life of the premises if not fixed.

While the thought that a Wisconsin home is haunted would not typically fall within one of those categories, it is possible to imagine a home so stigmatized by perceived paranormal activity that it significantly affects the home’s value.

The short answer, then, is that if you want to sell your house, you normally do not have to disclose to potential buyers that you believe your house is haunted.

Is your house haunted — or in need of repairs?

There’s a longstanding feud between scientists who believe they can explain away most paranormal activities and the real-life ghostbusters who spend their time communicating with the other side.

And while we’re a no-judgment zone, we do know that some drafts, sounds and light flashes can be explained logically. So before you decide that you have to sell your haunted house, try looking into these alternative causes for haunted happenings.

What’s causing that draft?

If your home has unexplained cold areas or the doors keep slamming shut, don’t immediately assume there’s a ghost in your house, upset that you replaced her vintage door knocker. Check windows, doors and your chimney to ensure they are all properly sealed and see if the drafts are eliminated once the gaps are filled in.

What’s that noise?

Before you decide that the noises in your walls or attic are due to paranormal activity, put out traps or hire a professional to check for rodents, bats and squirrels. Even small critters can make deceivingly loud noises that are easy to mistake for an intruder or apparition.

Seeing flickering?

Whether your lights flicker on and off or the bulbs burn out quickly without explanation, consider hiring an electrician to check for electricity shorts in your home.

Spotting orbs in photos?

Do your photos tend to include orbs or flashes of light that don’t come from your interior lighting? Make sure that your camera lens is clean of dust, debris and hair particles. If the orbs only show up occasionally, keep in mind that they could be from floating dust particles — which is especially common in attics, basements and other rooms with low traffic and minimal upkeep.

Having visions?

If you suddenly start to have persistent visions of paranormal figures or scenes inside your house, be sure to check carbon monoxide levels immediately. After prolonged exposure, the toxic gas can lead to hallucinations that are even more dangerous than they appear.

Top tips for selling a haunted house

If you check the above and still believe that your house is haunted, you’ll want to behave like any typical home seller would as they list their home for sale. Get to work fixing up the small issues your house has, taking special care to:

  • Trim up overgrown vines, shrubs and trees.
  • Repair cracks in the walls.
  • Light the pathways and driveway for nighttime visitors.
  • Brighten the home’s interior with a light, neutral paint color.
  • Fix creaky floorboards.
  • Close up drafts near windows or doors.
  • Clean out storage areas in your attic and basement.

Is there anything else I can do about my haunted house?

If logical explanations fail, and you’re not ready to move on, consider doing some research on your home’s history. The property’s location and past owners may be able to help clarify what you are seeing and hearing. If it would give you peace of mind, you can also hire a paranormal team to assess the home.

And if it’s time to meet with a professional about selling your home, reach out today for help. Together, we can make the right selling plan, whether your home is haunted by ghosts, too many belongings… or you just want a fresh start.

Keep, toss or ask: What homeowners should leave behind when selling their home


Key insights

  • When selling, it’s important not to burden the new owners by leaving behind items they didn’t ask for.
  • Some items, like manuals, warranties and spare parts, can be left behind as a convenience to the new owners.
  • Reach out any time if you’re in doubt about what to leave behind.

Your home’s headed off the market and you’re headed to the closing table. As you pack up your belongings, you may wonder how tidy you should leave the property — and what you can leave behind as you pack up for good.

Here are tips to ensure a no-drama handoff to your home’s new owners.

Don’t leave anything behind without asking

After years in one place, some items can feel like they belong in a certain room or space — but they really just belong to you. Consider the fabric laundry room cubbies that fit just so on the shelves, the stand-up toilet paper dispenser in the basement bathroom, the twinkly lights you hung in the backyard a few summers ago.

If you haven’t specifically received notice that the buyers want to keep those items, you should take special care to remove them. In Minnesota and Wisconsin real estate contracts, you are required to remove all debris and personal property. If you’re unsure whether an item counts as a fixture to the property or should be removed, you can always reach out directly to ask — that’s exactly what REALTORS® are here for!

To ensure you don’t miss anything:

  • Look through cabinets, drawers and closets in every room.
  • Remember to check the attic, basement and overhead garage storage.
  • Have 2-3 people check each room before it’s given the final signoff.

Leave behind device- and repair-specific extras

Unless you have explicit instructions from the buyer, you can usually leave behind device- or repair-specific items, including:

  • Manuals and warranties for appliances and systems
  • Extra filters for your furnace or central air system
  • Leftover bathroom, kitchen or roofing tiles
  • Light bulbs that fit certain light fixtures
  • Extra cabinet hardware

The idea behind leaving these items is that they will be a help, not a burden, to the new buyer. While a few spare paver stones are a nice offering to a buyer who may someday need to repair a cracking patio, a pile of 200 paver stones you didn’t want to dispose of is not. Use your best judgment when you are leaving any items behind.

What to do with extra paint cans

It’s hard to know if a homebuyer is planning to keep the paint color that you used for the home’s exterior or interior. But because paint samples must be properly disposed of, you don’t want to burden the new owner with paint samples they don’t plan to use.

If you have extra paint cans, we can ask in advance (via their agent) if they’d like for them to remain in the house. If you don’t have extra paint, but you do have a reference of the brands and colors used throughout your home, it’s always kind to leave behind that guide so the new owner can touch up certain rooms or areas.

The final cleanup and lawn etiquette

Most purchase agreements — and all of them in the state of Wisconsin — require that the home is left in “broom-clean condition.” This phrase can have varying interpretations but in general, it’s considerate to pass on a home that doesn’t need to be cleaned from top to bottom upon move-in.

Minimally, you’ll want to:

  • Sweep and vacuum all floors, including inside closets and smaller storage spaces.
  • Wipe down all cabinets and counters, inside and out.
  • Clean kitchen appliances, including the tops and inside of the refrigerator, freezer, oven and microwave.
  • Clean the bathrooms, including the shower, bathtub, toilet, sink and vanity.
  • Remove any signs of pets — including fur, stains and odors.
  • Sweep the garage floor to remove all debris.

In the winter, consider plowing the driveway and sidewalks one final time before closing. In warmer months, mow your lawn in the days before closing so the new owner doesn’t have to trudge through tall grass during move-in.

Ready to move on?

If you’re hoping to sell your home, we can get you on your way. Get in touch at any time for assistance on selling, moving and finding what’s next.

The pros and cons of buying a fixer-upper


Key insights:

  • A fixer-upper may require attention, but it also gives you more control over a home’s style and function.
  • If you have a tight budget, you may want to consider a renovation loan.
  • Be sure to budget responsibly when buying a fixer-upper; repairs can cost more than they show on TV shows.

The housing market is currently facing low inventory and a shortage of lower-priced “starter homes”. While a turnkey home is preferable for some owners, it may be the optimal time to consider homes that aren’t in perfect shape instead. Here are the pros and cons buyers can consider as they look at purchasing a fixer-upper.

Comparing the price of a fixer-upper

Pro: Fixer-upper homes tend to be priced lower than homes that are updated and move-in ready. This means that you may save money at closing if you purchase a fixer-upper. Additionally, a home in need of repair may not generate as much buyer interest, which means that you may be less likely to see intense buyer competition if you choose one of these homes.

Con: Although a fixer-upper home may save you money at closing, you may end up putting the money you saved back into the home through renovations and other improvements. Despite saving money up front, you could end up spending the same amount (or even a bit more) in the long run.

Customizing the house to your needs

Pro: When you’re fixing up the space, you can make the home entirely yours. Although fully renovated houses are great upon move-in, over time you may wish the space were different. With a fixer-upper, you can ensure that the kitchen layout matches your lifestyle or that the main floor has a small bathroom and laundry room instead of an oversized mudroom.

In short, you’ll have more control of the home design and can make decisions that benefit your lifestyle and needs.

Con: Remember that some features that seem fabulous to you may not be at the top of the next buyer’s list. If you’re not going to be in your house for a long time, or you plan to flip it, be sure to consider your desires and which home renovation projects might be most appealing to buyers down the road.

Using a renovation loan for a fixer-upper

Pro: If you choose to purchase a fixer-upper, you may be able to take advantage of renovation loans. A renovation loan bundles up your home mortgage loan and the cost of any needed repairs — meaning that you won’t have to pay for repairs out of pocket.

Con: When approving a renovation loan, lenders require the borrower to lay out a very specific project plan with set deadlines for selecting a contractor and completing the work. The process of getting approved for a renovation loan — while working to secure a contractor who agrees to the work — can be stressful. Be sure to consider the potential stress and stipulations that can come with renovation loans, and commit to a fast renovation plan if you go this route.

Making the most of a small budget

Pro: When purchasing a fixer-upper, you might be able to make more of a small budget. With thoughtful consideration and planning, you can stretch your budget to get meaningful results on a house with “good bones” in need of big updates.

Con: If you’re funding house updates with a renovation loan, know that your lender may limit your renovations to take up a certain percent of your total loan limit. That means that the type of renovations you see on reality TV shows — where the buyer pays $100,000 for the house and then puts in $200,000 worth of updates — may not be possible for you.

And in general, remember not to gauge your renovation costs off what you see on HGTV or home fix-up blogs. Many of these folks benefit from partnerships to get discounted materials, low-cost (or free) contractor labor and other items that aren’t factored into the budget you see on the screen.

Final considerations for fixer-uppers

You must consider your personal preferences when determining whether a fixer-upper is right for you. A turnkey property can be extremely convenient, and can require fewer immediate repairs or issues post-closing. However, a fixer-upper home may better fit within your budget and give you the chance to customize your space.

If you’re ready to search for homes in your area, reach out today for personalized help. Together, we can find the home of your dreams — whether it’s a fixer-upper house or an already pristine property.

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