Four surprising things first-time sellers don't know

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Key insights:

  • We can work together to stage your home properly and to set you up for the best potential sale price.
  • When pricing your home, don’t start high and be willing to settle for less. That could actually cost money over time.
  • Remember, sellers do have to pay some closing costs. Know what to expect before you go to collect your check at closing.

First-time homebuyers are often the focus of conversation, but selling a house for the first time is a major endeavor, too! Here are four insights first-time sellers should keep in mind as they prepare to list their homes for sale in Minnesota or western Wisconsin.

1. Pricing your home too high could cost you time and money

It’s a common theory among sellers that they should at least try to list their house for a high amount. With this mentality, sellers are hoping to go for the “moonshot” — thinking they can always lower the price of their home later on if needed. But data shows that this could be a costly and time-consuming mistake.

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 63 percent of homes sold in the first three weeks on the market in 2021 — and those homes sold for 99% of their original list price. Homes that lagged on the market for more than 17 weeks earned 94%, by comparison. This is still a high amount, due to the lack of inventory in the market. But it’s easy to wonder if the “moonshot” is really worth it when it could lead to three months of showings, low-ball offers and long-lasting negotiations with buyers who are eager for a discount.

There are a few reasons that new listings tend to perform best in the market:

1. The “buzz” on a new listing is important. App alerts and emails are sent out the moment a property is listed, which then creates instant interest for buyers.

2. Buyers may be disinterested in “old” properties, especially when they know the market is moving quickly. If a home has been listed for a while, buyers may wonder what’s wrong with it.

3. Sellers tend to lower their prices when the home doesn’t sell, which can lead to a lower offer from buyers who think they can get a deal.

The reality is clear: If you price it right from the beginning, you’re more likely to earn a fair price at closing in a shorter timeline.

2. Buyers need a neutral canvas

Buyers aren’t interested in how you live; instead, they want to envision how they could live in your home. To allow buyers to see themselves in the space, you should consider staging your home, which is when you neutralize the space to make it more appealing to a wider net of buyers.

Here are some home staging basics:

  • Declutter. Personal photos, knick knacks and stacks of mail should be stashed out of sight.
  • Go neutral. Use paint colors that are fresh and natural; some pops of color (like throw pillows) can be added for interest.
  • Set rooms up according to their original purpose. Make sure the guest bedroom is staged as such, rather than as an extra walk-in closet.

Not sure if staging is necessary? Trust us, it is. According to the NAR’s 2021 Profile of Home Staging, 82% of agents who represent buyers said that staging a home makes it easier for their clients to visualize the property as their future home.

3. However, buyers don’t want a blank canvas

Beware the vacant house! A house without any furniture or charm may seem like the perfect blank slate for a buyer. But in reality, it can be difficult for buyers to picture the flow of one room to the next, especially in houses that have an open floor plan.

If you don’t have furniture to fill the space or your shabby couch could use an upgrade, hire a stager to create designated livable spaces with furniture from their collection. Sellers don’t expect the entire home to be staged, but NAR’s data shows that 46% of buyers say that staging the living room is very important, while the main bedroom (43%) and kitchen (35%) were close behind.

4. You will incur costs as you sell.

While many sellers are excited about the large check they may receive at closing, it’s important to remember that selling can cost a bit of money, too. Typically, the costs for the seller are comprised of:

  • Updates or upgrades to make the home more appealing to buyers.
  • The commission fee for the agent you hire.
  • The closing costs, which are typically paid by the buyer, but can sometimes be paid in part or in full by the seller.

As the closing date approaches, we will discuss the anticipated selling costs so that you aren’t surprised when you get to the closing table.

Key takeaways for first-time sellers

Ready to get started? Selling can be exciting, but it’s important to be thoughtful during this time, as well. Be sure to consider your timeline, staging, price and closing costs when selling your home. Reach out any time to get started — and to access first-rate, customized advice for first-time sellers.

Buy or rent: How to run the numbers once and for all

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We’ve talked a lot about record-setting price growth for homes over the past year, but there’s another segment of the market that is making history, too: The rental market. In 2021, a record number of renters leased apartments in the Twin Cities metro area. But unlike the double-digit increases we’ve seen in housing prices, rental prices rose just 2.1% last year.

This brings up a question that we hear all the time: How can I truly determine if it’s time for me to buy? How do I know I’m not in a better position as a renter? Below, we provide ways for you to calculate the short- and long-term costs and benefits of renting or buying a home in Minnesota or western Wisconsin.

Remember, though, the below insights are based on generalized market stats, not your unique financial situation. The best way to assess your potential for homeownership is to speak with a home mortgage consultant.

Monthly payments

When talking about renting versus buying, it makes sense that the first comparison should be the average monthly expense of renters and homebuyers. According to Zumper, in December 2021, the median rent of a two-bedroom apartment was:

  • $1,760 in Minneapolis
  • $1,830 in Maple Grove
  • $1,560 in Bloomington

Now let’s look at what it would cost to buy a median-priced home in the metro area, which in November 2021 was priced at $340,000. Assuming a homebuyer had a 10 percent down payment and good credit that would allow them to secure a 3.5 percent interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, the homebuyer could pay around $1,866 per month for “PITI,” which encompasses:

  • Principal:The monthly payment you make that reduces your outstanding mortgage balance
  • Interest: The monthly payment you make that goes to the lender in exchange for the loan
  • Taxes: The annual property tax rate for your home, divided into monthly payments
  • Insurance: The payments you make toward homeowners’ insurance and any private mortgage insurance

In this example, the cost of owning a home would be a few hundred dollars more if buying in a suburb like Bloomington, and within $150 if purchasing in Minneapolis or Maple Grove. Of course, if the homebuyer had a larger down payment or purchased a home for less than the median price for our area, their overall costs would go down.

Net worth

When monthly expenses are essentially a wash, it can be easy to put off buying a home, but when you look at the effects over the long-term, buying comes out ahead by a long shot. A person’s home is usually their biggest investment and their greatest asset.

According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which was last conducted in 2019, the net worth of typical homeowners is 40 times that of the net worth of the typical renter. Specifically, the average homeowner in 2016 had a net worth of over $255,000 while the average renter’s net worth was just $6,300.

How does this happen? When you pay rent, you are contributing to your landlord’s mortgage (or if they own the property outright, it goes directly into their pocket). Meanwhile, as a homeowner, you are essentially paying into a long-term savings account that you can cash out when you sell your home.

Payment increases

Another benefit of being a homeowner is that your monthly mortgage payment of principal and interest will not increase if you secure a fixed-rate mortgage. Meanwhile, renters are at the mercy of their landlords, who can typically raise the rent annually based on demand in the market.

In the Twin Cities area, median rent increased 2.1% in 2021, which seems meager when you consider just one year. Over time, though, these increases add up. The monthly principal and interest payment on a fixed rate mortgage, on the other hand, won’t increase — even in years like 2021, when property values increase by 16% or more.

100 percent freedom

Of course, not every pro and con can be weighed in objective terms. If you’ve ever looked around a rental and wished you could rip up the dingy carpet or put in a new light fixture, you should know that homeownership comes with the freedom to decorate and renovate to your heart’s content.

In the era of HGTV fixer upper shows and DIY tutorials going viral on TikTok and Instagram, you may feel that you are ready to take on a larger home bucket list — from painting doors, to scraping off popcorn ceilings, to updating a bathroom with a fun wallpaper.

Additional considerations

Of course, many buyers are not waiting to purchase simply because they can’t decide between renting and buying. There are significant costs associated with purchasing a home, the largest of which is the down payment. Many of today’s would-be buyers can technically afford the cost of a mortgage, but they are unable to meaningfully save enough for a down payment on a house.

These buyers can look into down payment assistance programs, and they should also speak with a home mortgage consultant to see if they qualify for any mortgage programs for buyers with minimal savings. FHA loans, for example, are known as “helper loans'' because they assist buyers who may not have perfect credit or a 20% down payment. In fact, for the right candidate, FHA loans can be approved with as little as 3.5% down.

(If you’re not sure where to get started, or you don’t know a home mortgage consultant, get in touch for personalized insights and a list of trusted advisors who can help.)

Last, the cost of a down payment isn’t the only financial consideration that homebuyers must keep in mind. They should also do their best to budget the cost of items that they never had to worry about when renting. From home maintenance, to furnace tune-ups, to utility costs and even lawn care equipment, these costs can add up fast.

Getting started

If you ran the numbers and you’re ready to enter the home buying market, let’s talk. You can rest assured that you’ll receive confidential, customized insights and a clear plan for the future.

Is it time to add in-floor heating to your home?

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Key insights:

  • The two main types of in-floor heating are water-based and electric; electric heating tends to cost less to install.
  • Underfloor heating evenly warms up your home with the potential to cut energy costs.
  • Whether you’re selling soon or staying put for the foreseeable future, in-floor heating is a desirable feature for many homeowners.

Mornings in Minnesota and western Wisconsin tend to be extra chilly. If you’re finding it hard to get out of your warm bed when your alarm sounds — or you’d simply prefer a more comfortable home all day long — you might consider in-floor heating.

Types of radiant floor heating

As its name suggests, radiant floor heating creates warmth in the house from the floor up. Households with in-floor radiant heating likely run on one of two common systems:

  • Water-based radiant heating
  • Electric radiant heating

Water-based floor heating, sometimes referred to as hydronic heating, makes use of underfloor pipes which transfer hot water to create heat throughout the home. The hot water is typically warmed up by a boiler or water heater. Keep in mind, water-based heating may be used as a primary heating source for a home.

Electric floor heating, on the other hand, generates heat with underfloor wires. Here, electric cables are run through a grid or embedded in mats, which are then placed under the floor to create a supplemental heat source.

How much does a heated floor cost?

The cost associated with heated floors depends on the kind of underfloor heating installed. Here are some quick facts and figures to help you plan the potential cost of adding heated floors to your home.

The cost of water-based radiant heating

Due to its intricate pipe format, water-based radiant heating is usually installed during the build of a new construction home, and it may cost more to put in. On average, the installation of water-based heated floors costs $6 to $20 per square foot. When installed in an existing property, a water-based system may require that you update your water heater and pipe fittings, depending on the status of your current home.

The cost of electric radiant heating

The installation of electric radiant heating is estimated at approximately $8 to $15 per square foot. Unlike water-based radiant heating, this installation should be limited to just the cable installation and the new flooring, and would not involve updates to a water heater or other home systems.

In addition to the upfront cost of materials, remember that all in-floor heating systems should be installed by a professional.

What materials are compatible with in-floor heating?

In-floor heating can be installed under any flooring. Carpet, vinyl, wood, tile and stone (along with others) are all compatible with in-floor heating. However, tile and stone heat up significantly faster than other flooring, making these two the ideal counterparts to an in-floor heating system.

Be sure to note that no matter what kind of floor you heat, radiant heating may raise your floor levels. The height difference usually equates to no more than a half-inch and typically goes unnoticed. If you have low ceilings, however, it may be worth noting in advance.

Benefits of underfloor heating

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, heating and cooling account for about 51% of a household’s annual energy consumption. However, homeowners may save money with in-floor heating. In fact, radiant heating costs 25 to 50 percent less to run and maintain when compared to other home heating systems. So, if you’re looking to increase your winter energy efficiency — and decrease your winter energy bills — heated floors may be your best bet for consistent and efficient warmth.

Additional pros of heated floors include:

  • Better air quality
  • Easily programmable with a smart thermostat
  • Appealing to potential buyers
  • Low-maintenance
  • Long-lasting
  • Quiet, especially compared to forced-air

The (hot) future of your floors

Whether you’re looking into heated floors for your garage, bathroom or kitchen, in-floor heating is a smart investment for any Minnesota or western Wisconsin homeowner. Looking for a home with features like this? Reach out today to get started on a home search with top-tier upgrades you’ll love.

How to incorporate the 2022 Color of the Year into your home

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Key insights:

  • Many major paint companies declared a shade of green as their 2022 Color of the Year.
  • Homeowners can incorporate this year’s natural colorway into their space with ease — think wall colors, furniture, art and more!
  • If selling, stay on top of trends and appeal to potential buyers by staging your home with the Color of the Year.

Every year, the Color of the Year is an exciting announcement that homeowners, builders and designers look forward to. The chosen color informs and inspires home paint, decor and staging trends for the year to come. Keep reading for a detailed review of all of the 2022 Colors of the Year.

The 2022 Colors of the Year

Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Better Homes and Gardens and Behr all announced their 2022 Colors of the Year. While these major paint companies have all gone green with their Colors of the Year, each choice has a distinct hue and thoughtful reasoning behind its selection.

Benjamin Moore: October Mist

October Mist

Benjamin Moore states that October Mist “creates a canvas” wherever it is used. This silver-green hue allows for simple pairing with other colors and room for your mind to wander, much like a blank canvas. Unlike a traditional neutral, like off-white or cream, October Mist adds noticeable interest while still maintaining an overall subtle presence.

Sherwin Williams: Evergreen Fog

Almost identical to Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year, Sherwin Williams selected another “green-meets-gray” hue as their Color of the Year. Known as Evergreen Fog, this color makes for the perfect calm-mood-setting paint choice. Plus, this green is chameleon-like in the sense that it’s able to blend into any room with ease.

Better Homes and Gardens: Laurel Leaf

Still green, but with warmer undertones, Laurel Leaf is the Better Homes and Gardens choice for the 2022 Color of the Year. As its name suggests, Laurel Leaf exhibits organic green tones. The natural green of Laurel Leaf is meant to serve as a sophisticated reminder of the ever-present outdoors, even when situated in the home.

Behr: Breezeway

Described by Behr as a “relaxed and uplifting sea glass green,” Breezeway resembles all things tranquil and optimistic. There is no doubt that this color will harmonize well with your existing space, while also inviting a breath of fresh air into your home.

Tips for going green with home decor and staging

Neutrals are important, whether decorating your existing space or staging your house for sale. And, the 2022 Colors of the Year include green tones that can serve as interesting, yet neutral, foundations for your home’s color palette.

Use the 2022 Colors of the Year to decorate your walls with paint, wallpaper or accents. These greens are extremely versatile, and each offers its own strength. For example, Breezeway is extra soothing and may be best suited for a bedroom or bathroom, whereas October Mist and Evergreen Fog are easily compatible with other colors and may work well in a living room or kitchen. Finally, Laurel Leaf has a sophisticated flair that would serve well in a formal area or dining room.

When decorating your space with the 2022 Colors of the Year, remember to not only paint, but also to include furnishings that match the announced colors. Here are some decor ideas to enhance your space with this year’s green hues:

  • Large art pieces
  • Area rugs
  • Lampshades
  • Decorative pillows
  • Bedding

Because these greens are soft and neutral, they will do best when paired with other natural design elements and textures. Leafy indoor plants will complement the green Colors of the Year, as well.

A tribute to Pantone’s palette

While paint companies all announced a green hue as their Color of the Year, the world’s leading expert on color, Pantone, went in a completely different direction, selecting a striking purple-blue known as Very Peri. Pantone’s pick is much bolder and brighter than the other Colors of the Year that were announced for 2022, making Very Peri ideal for homeowners who are looking to make dynamic changes to the colorway of their homes.

If you’re not afraid of going bold in your home, use Very Peri generously throughout your space. Otherwise, Very Peri can make for an occasional pop of color when expressed on accent walls and furniture pieces.

Keep in mind, it’s okay that Pantone’s pick differs from the other touted Colors of the Year. The Pantone Color of the Year is selected to inform color trends for a variety of uses, not just home interiors. Even so, Very Peri remains an intense and creative color for homeowners to explore.

Painting 2022 a new hue

Consider embracing a 2022 Color of the Year in your home this year. Painting and decorating will help freshen up your space whether you’re planning to stay put for a while or you’re ready to stage your home to sell.

Ready to list your home for sale? Reach out for additional tips on colors and staging, market stats and more.

2022’s housing market: What buyers and sellers can expect

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Key insights

  • After a wild market in spring of 2021, inventory and prices are moving toward more sustainable levels.
  • While home price growth is slowing, affordability may be impacted by rising interest rates in 2022.
  • Sellers continue to hold an advantage, but they still need to stage and improve their homes to earn the best price at closing.
  • Some COVID-era trends, including home offices, flexible spaces, and outdoor space, will be in demand long after the pandemic is over.

Sharry Schmid, president, Edina Realty

As president of Edina Realty, Sharry Schmid provides guidance and direction to over 2,300 REALTORS®.

In the spring of 2021, the housing market experienced frenzied activity, due to pent-up buyer demand and the effects of persistently low inventory levels. Some buyers, particularly those looking for starter homes, found themselves losing bid after bid, while sellers were reporting bidding wars on homes that had been listed for mere hours. Since then, this level of competition has moderated some, but we are still far from equilibrium.

While no one can predict the future, most housing experts are in agreement on a few key factors. Here’s what buyers, sellers and homeowners can expect from the housing market in 2022.

Home buyer expectations

Overall, buyer demand will continue to out-pace the supply of available homes for sale. Buyers should be prepared to be patient as they make offers on homes in their desired areas and price points.

  • Inventory will continue to rise, slowly. While we still expect 2022 to remain a sellers’ market, buyers should face less competition than they did in 2021.
  • Prices will continue to rise, but experts agree that the growth will be more tempered. Most economists are predicting a price growth of between 5-9%. By contrast, home prices rose nearly 16% in 2021.
  • Interest rates are likely to increase this year, due to inflationary pressures in the broader economy. If this happens, buyers will have to shift their budgets. When interest rates go up, those applying for a home loan will see their buying power diminish.
  • Home affordability will continue to be an issue for many would-be buyers who are priced out of the market, especially if interest rates rise. The median sales price in our 13-county metro market in October 2021 was $340,000. Wisconsin buyers, depending on their location choice, may see homes at lower price-points. The median home price in October 2021 across the state of Wisconsin was $245,000; western Wisconsin saw a median home price of $249,900.
  • New construction is on the rise, but worker shortages, supply chain issues and the rising costs of construction mean that new developments will not be the solution to our low inventory issues.

Home seller expectations

For sellers, the forecast continues to look pretty sunny. However, sellers should remember that the market has slowed since its 2021 peak.

  • The pace of the market will remain fast, but likely less frenzied than it was in spring of 2021. It may be important to remember that having a house on the market for a few weeks is normal, and may not necessarily indicate the home is priced incorrectly.
  • Bidding wars may still happen for homes in stellar condition or in highly sought-after neighborhoods. Sellers should work with their REALTOR® so they have an understanding of the demand for similar homes in their area.
  • Home improvements, even in a strong seller market, are still a smart idea. Many of today’s buyers have been waiting years to purchase, but they are not willing to lower their expectations even after years of patience. It’s important that homeowners recognize they will either pay to improve the home before selling, or will have to factor in a lower selling price at closing.

Homeownership trends

While we are not out of the pandemic, some trends that began with COVID-19 are here to stay. The primary trend is the growing desire to move further away from the urban core and to expand on outdoor space, which is a reversal from the demand we saw in inner-ring suburbs over the last decade.

  • Green space and privacy are still wildly desirable to homebuyers and homeowners, who now understand just how important that extra outdoor space can be.
  • Work-from-home and hybrid jobs are also spurring homebuyers to look at homes in more distant locations, because they no longer have to factor in a daily commute.
  • Flexible spaces and bigger footprints are, not surprisingly, still in high demand as parents remember the stress of distance learning and at-home officing in tight quarters.
  • Second homes and lake homes continue to be popular, but today’s buyers are asking more questions about the wifi service in rural areas than ever before. For those who have the ability to work remotely, these homes could be an ideal location — if the connection is right.

Buying or selling in 2022?

Edina Realty has more than 2,300 local market experts who help buyers and sellers in every city across Minnesota and western Wisconsin – and network with each other each and every day. If you’re considering buying or selling in the next year, reach out to start the process.

The ultimate guide to moving during the winter

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Key insights:

  • Check out your vehicle and road conditions before you begin packing and driving.
  • The way you pack your belongings is important. Think about color-coding boxes for a hassle-free move.
  • Don’t forget to savor the moment! Take a minute to appreciate your previous space and to embrace your new home.

Whether you’re moving long-distance or down the street, moving during the winter presents a unique set of challenges and considerations. Be sure to follow these six tips as you pack up your home and prepare to move into a new property this winter.

Ultimate guide to moving in the winter

1. Prep your vehicles

Start with your car or moving truck, making sure that the tires, brakes and battery are in good condition. You’ll also want to check and fill all fluids.

If you’re moving long-distance and don’t already have roadside assistance, consider purchasing it. This service will keep you covered should your vehicle break down on the trek to your new house. And, if you plan to drive your own moving truck, ask the rental company if they provide any kind of emergency assistance.

Finally, create an emergency car kit that includes bottled water, non-perishable snacks, blankets, a windshield scraper, a flashlight, sand or salt and some road flares to deploy if your car breaks down on the side of the road. Don’t skip this step! Not only is this kit perfect for a winter move, but also it’s smart to keep in your car all winter long.

2. Flip the “on” switch at your new home

Before you hop in the car to drive to your new home, you’ll also want to ensure that the property is ready for move-in. Transfer all utilities into your name in advance, so they are on and functioning a day or two before your move, if possible. The days are shorter, darker and colder during the winter, so it’s extra important that the lights and heat are working as you settle in.

3. Color-code your boxes

While packing for your new home, be intentional. To ensure that everything ends up in the right place for unpacking, use color-coded packing tape and give each room or area its own designated tape color.

4. Bring extra clothes

If you’re moving or relocating to Minnesota or western Wisconsin, wear warm, climate-appropriate items. Dress yourself in layers and clothes that are easy to remove as you change temperatures throughout the day. If possible, avoid wearing hoodies or other clothing with strings, which may catch on doorways or the moving truck.

As for outerwear, wear a pair of boots with good traction to avoid slipping on icy or slushy ground. You’ll also want to keep a hat or earmuffs handy throughout the day and to find gloves with gripping power so you don’t drop boxes or heavy furniture.

On the other hand, if you’re moving somewhere warmer, pack a spare set of clothes to change into when you arrive in your new climate.

5. Get care for your kids and pets

As much as you want to share this family moment together, you may want to hire a babysitter for move-in day if you have younger children. With childcare, you can give your undivided attention to the moving process and minimize any accidents involving big boxes and small kiddos.

Moving with pets may pose a different challenge. While unloading boxes, the last thing you want to think about is if Rex is running across the road or tracking snow into your new home. To prevent this, think about sending your pets to a boarding service or a friend’s house for the duration of your move.

6. Assemble a moving team

Enlisting the help of a moving team — professional or not — will prove to be extremely helpful as you transfer your life from one property to the next.

To thank the group of people helping your family move, have water, soda, coffee or hot cocoa on hand. Then, once you arrive at your new home, order pizza from a highly-rated local place. Your first meal in your new home will be stress-free and delicious. (Mention you’re new to the area while placing your order and you may even get a discount!)

If you hire a professional moving crew, they may expect a tip instead of a pizza dinner. Consumer Affairs recommends a standard tip of 15-20% of the total cost of a long-distance move, and 5-10% of a local move.

7. Check road conditions early and often

Be sure to visit and bookmark your state’s Department of Transportation website for travel advisories and updates on road conditions. Here are the sites for Minnesota and Wisconsin. If you’re moving outside our area, you can find your state’s DOT website here. Be prepared with a backup plan in case road conditions change suddenly or become unsafe.

8. Start early in the day

On moving day, leave early and be prepared to arrive late. Always allow for more time than you think you’ll need. If you’re moving locally, it’s smart to get started very early in the day so you don’t have to move in icy conditions after the sun has gone down. If you’re moving across state lines, be sure to add in an extra travel day in case you unexpectedly need to pull off and stay in a hotel overnight.

9. Keep sidewalks and driveway clear

Whatever you do, don’t pack away the shovels! As you move in and out of a new home you’ll need to keep your sidewalks and driveways clear so your moving crew can enter and exit safely. Last, keep an extra bag of sand or salt handy and apply it liberally to any slippery walkways.

10. Maintain a clean and dry home

You can’t expect your moving crew to remove their heavy winter boots every time they come in and out, but you can protect your floors or carpet by lining your home with flat cardboard. If you’re moving to another wintry area, don’t forget to purchase cardboard (or a few extra moving boxes) for both ends of your move.

Keeping a handful of towels near the entry and exit doorways and in the moving truck will also help keep your home and items dry. You can use the towels to wipe down the dolly or wet boxes as they come in and out of the house.

Finally, cover items if it’s snowing or wet outside. Wrap anything from furniture to large TVs in plastic wrap to protect them from the harsh winter climate.

11. Create a system

As you leave your old residence, ask the crew to exit through the garage and enter through the front door. By designating this system for entrance and exit, you’ll minimize collisions and allow the outgoing furniture and boxes to stay covered in the garage if the moving truck is occupied with another set of helpers.

When moving into your new home, reverse this process. Movers should bring furniture or boxes in through the garage and exit through the front door. If any furniture is too wet to bring in, you can leave it in the garage for a few hours or longer to dry off before bringing it inside.

12. Savor the moment

Moving can be extraordinarily draining, so be sure to take a deep breath as you leave your old home for the new. While the day may have been snowy and stressful, you won’t regret taking a moment to say goodbye as you enter the next phase of your life. You may even want to snap a few photos to document the day (and your new home).

Are you ready to take the next step in your home move? Get in touch any time for personalized, insightful advice — no strings attached.

How you could save $687 annually with a home energy audit

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Key insights:

  • The average American can save an estimated $687 on energy bills this year by prioritizing home energy efficiency.
  • Home energy audits evaluate the entire home for efficiency issues, from doors and windows to appliances and electronics.
  • Remember to book a home audit and consult an energy expert before taking on large efficiency projects.

If you’re looking to save money on home-related costs, it may be time to schedule a home energy audit. In fact, the Department of Energy believes that all Americans could save up to 30% on energy costs if they prioritized home efficiency.

If typical single-family homes in the US spend an estimated $2,060 on energy bills each year, a 30% savings could translate to an average of $687 annually.

What does an energy audit evaluate?

An energy audit evaluates your home’s components, and then shares your total energy consumption and opportunities for energy conservation. According to the Minnesota Commerce Department, these are the most commonly inspected areas during an energy audit:

  • Air sealing
  • Insulation
  • Windows and doors
  • Home heating
  • Home cooling
  • Powering your home
  • Water heating
  • Appliances
  • Lighting
  • Electronics

Each home feature contributes to energy in a unique way.

Air sealing

Air sealing acts as a barrier between the home and outside elements. When performing optimally, air sealing keeps the home dry and energy-efficient. However, wind, temperature and pressure can impact how well the sealing in your home is functioning. The following methods can help mediate sealant issues:

  • Caulk
  • Spray foam
  • Weather strips
  • Airtight, recessed ceiling fixtures
  • Patched drywall

Insulation

Insulation slows down the heat flow in and out of the home. During the winter, insulation helps keep heat inside; whereas during the summer, insulation helps keep heat outside. Insulation can drastically cut heating and cooling costs, and a home energy audit focuses on the full home envelope, including both the attic and the basement, to assess the status of your insulation.

Windows and doors

While they are essential for home function, windows and doors can be a source of energy loss. Always check that windows and doors meet these requirements to ensure optimal functioning:

  • Proper sealing
  • Tight-fitting hardware
  • Weatherstripping
  • Exterior flashing
  • No missing or damaged hardware
  • Door bottoms or sweeps

Home heating

Heating can be achieved through three primary sources — furnace, boiler or space heater — and each of these sources provide unique advantages and costs. Your audit will identify issues in your home heating system’s consumption or efficiency.

Home cooling

To achieve a cooler home, you might reduce heat with insulation, sealing and closed windows. Alternatively, you may add cooling features, like fans and air conditioning machines. Home cooling is very customizable, and each method offers different costs and energy savings options.

Powering your home

Self-powered homes are becoming more common, as homeowners implement solar panels or attempt to go off the electrical grid entirely. High-efficiency lighting products, such as LED bulbs, are another great option to help offset energy costs.

Home ventilation

Ventilation is essential for healthy indoor air quality. To optimize your air, be sure to use fans, refresh air filters and clean exhaust fans — along with any other maintenance specific to your ventilation system — regularly.

Water heating

Water heating is known to be the second-largest energy expense in Minnesota. Homes use water heaters, which are fueled by electricity, natural gas or propane, to warm water. Water can be heated and stored in a tank or it can be heated on-demand in a tankless system. Water heaters require routine maintenance and typically need to be replaced every 10–20 years to run safely.

Thermostats

Thermostats are used to control the indoor temperature of your home. Manual, programmable and smart thermostats are all options for homeowners, and programmable and smart thermostats can lead to easy energy savings each month.

Appliances

They aid in everyday home tasks, from laundry to cooking, but appliances can also contribute to increased energy bills. Make sure that all of your appliances have routine maintenance and necessary repairs in order to function optimally. Keep an eye on these home appliances that can particularly increase costs:

  • Refrigerators and freezers
  • Dishwashers
  • Laundry washers and dryers
  • Cooktops, ranges and microwaves

Lighting

Lighting accounts for approximately 10% of energy usage in a Minnesota home. So, it’s important to look at energy-saving lighting methods. By selecting LED bulbs and setting up timers for your lights, you’ll save energy and money.

Electronics

While electronics like TVs, video game consoles, streaming devices and computers only account for a small percentage of energy usage in a home, many homeowners find that they can easily cut their electronic usage in half by:

  • Unplugging devices when they aren’t in use.
  • Unplugging chargers when they aren’t in use.
  • Setting a timer when charging devices.
  • Enabling “sleep mode” on computers when they’re not in use.

Why is it important to assess my energy usage?

Along with the opportunity for immediate savings benefits, an energy evaluation can identify weak areas in your home, which could lead to more damage if left untreated. For example, poor insulation and air leaks may go unnoticed because they usually occur in hard-to-find places (like the attic and eaves).

Assessing your energy usage now can lessen the chances of issues later on, while also making your home more comfortable — and affordable — in the meantime.

How can I order a home energy audit?

To initiate your home audit, you’ll need to get in touch with an energy professional. Home inspectors, local utility companies and community energy organizations can typically evaluate your home’s energy efficiency or provide recommendations on where to find reputable home energy assessors.

During your search for a home energy auditor, look for a specialist with good reviews or references. Don’t be afraid to ask the auditor for specifics, including what exactly they plan to do during the audit and what technology they’ll use. By gaining a clear understanding of what the home energy audit will entail, you can ensure that you get the most out of the process.

Which fixes should I focus on first?

Take a look at your energy bills to identify opportunities for savings. These documents can serve as a guide regarding what renovations may be needed first. A home energy audit can provide further confirmation on needed repairs — and the inspector can offer a recommendation on where to begin.

If issues like uneven heating and cooling are troubling your home, it may make sense to begin with window or door replacements. However, excess moisture that could cause mold or mildew may be better addressed by dehumidifying and ventilating the space.

While home systems are complicated, both big and small home improvements can have a powerful impact on your home’s savings in the long run. From replacing large equipment to taking on DIY projects, any step toward a more energy-efficient home is a productive one.

Moving forward, efficiently

Through the process of auditing your home, you can start to identify any energy-related problem areas. Once you’ve resolved the issue, you’ll be rewarded with less energy use and lower bills to boot.

Ready to start moving forward? Reach out any time for expert guidance at any stage of your homeownership journey. From energy audits to buying and selling, get the help you need.

6 Indoor plants and trees that are almost impossible to kill

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Key insights:

  • Here are 6 no-hassle plants and trees that can help boost the mood in any home.
  • With some attention to soil, water and light requirements, homeowners can maintain thriving houseplants — whether or not they have a green thumb.
  • Certain apps, online shops and social media platforms have made tips for houseplants even more fun and accessible.

Do you love the look of a plant-filled home, but have a bit of trouble keeping greenery alive? With these tips, you’ll be on your way to thriving indoor plants in no time — even if you’re convinced you lack the green thumb gene.

When purchasing plants for your house, pay extra attention to the soil type, water requirements and light needed. And be sure to pick up some of the six easiest indoor plants and trees to keep alive, even in the winter months.

6 Easy-to-grow indoor plants

Whether you’re looking for natural design elements to spruce up your home or to help combat winter blues, plants could be the perfect addition to your space. Here are basic tips for every plant parent who hopes to nurture indoor plants and trees all winter long.

Remember, you’ll want to take precautions to keep plants out of reach from curious pets or children. Many houseplants are harmful if ingested.

1. Pothos plant

Known as one of the easiest houseplants to grow, a pothos will surely make a beautiful addition to your space. In fact, Pothos is also known as “devil’s ivy” because it’s so difficult to kill.

  • Plant in well-draining potting soil.
  • Water every 1 – 2 weeks.
  • Place in bright, indirect sunlight. Low light can be tolerated.

2. Rubber tree

Rubber trees create a striking focal point in any room. However, you can keep these trees in small pots to control their size.

  • Plant in well-draining potting soil.
  • Water every 1 – 2 weeks.
  • Place in medium to bright indirect sunlight.

3. Peace lily flower

Peace lilies are a popular flower option to brighten any home. These flowers are equally as elegant as they are persistent, and they can last for years with proper care.

  • Plant in moist, well-draining potting soil.
  • Water as needed, indicated by dry soil.
  • Place in partial shade to medium, indirect sunlight

4. Snake plant

These vibrant plants are extremely sturdy and ideal for beginning gardeners. Keep in mind, snake plants require very little watering and may only need to be watered every few weeks — or months.

  • Plant in sandy, well-draining potting soil.
  • Water as needed, indicated by dry soil.
  • Place in partial shade to direct sunlight.

5. Aloe plant

This succulent serves a double purpose for homeowners. Not only is aloe a beautiful plant, but it also holds multi-purpose gel inside each of its pointy leaves.

  • Plant in sandy, well-draining potting soil.
  • Water every 2 weeks.
  • Place in bright, indirect sunlight.

6. Yucca tree

When potted inside, this tree adds the perfect splash of green to any room. Interestingly, yucca trees are known to be drought-tolerant, and overwatering is potentially the only way to kill this hardy plant.

  • Plant in sandy, well-draining potting soil.
  • Water as needed, indicated by dry soil.
  • Place in bright, indirect to direct sunlight.

Extra tips for houseplant health

Talk with local store owners about your plant needs

Employees at your local nursery will be happy to point you in the right direction for your plant needs. Upon arrival, it’s helpful if you know what kind of light your room receives, and how much space you have to allow for growth.

Purchase through modern plant websites

Nowadays, certain websites and companies also allow you to filter your online plant search by specific criteria — including level of care, light tolerance and more. Check out Cellar Door Plants or The Sill to search for plants that match your unique requirements.

Download a plant app

Once you’ve purchased your plants, download the mobile app Picture This. This application “identifies plants with a snap,” and makes caring for plants easier than ever. Simply take a photo of your plant, and the app will tell you everything you need to know for that species, including:

  • Watering advice
  • Lighting tips
  • Disease diagnosis
  • Toxic plant identification (to keep pets and kids safe)

Check YouTube for more plant FAQs

Remember that YouTube can be a great resource for finding in-depth answers to all of your plant questions. Follow plant-specific accounts like Crazy Plant Guy or Planterina to stay up-to-date on your plant care.

Enhance your space with plants

Why reserve plants for your outdoor garden when you can enjoy indoor plants all year long, too! Be sure to incorporate these six beautiful and low-maintenance plants as part of your home decor.

For more homeowner insights, or to discuss your future buying or selling steps, get in touch any time. No obligation, no pressure.

Understanding home equity: Everything you need to know

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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

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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.

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