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Vic Sacco | |715-645-0832
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20 affordable dream home office ideas to spark brilliance

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For many of us, this year has created a vital need for a home office space. Do you need an environment to hold teleconferences or to run your own business? What about a space for kids to focus on schoolwork or hunker down for distance learning? If so, transforming a dedicated area of your home into a comfortable work center may now be a top priority.

Home offices are a must-have for many buyers, too, as they look for flexible space in their first (or next) home. And it must be said… boring home offices are out. Today’s trends get creative with in-home work areas and explore everything from décor that inspires to organization that helps you focus.

Follow these insights to spark productivity and create the perfect home office setup for any space.

20 affordable home office ideas to spark brilliance

1. Organize your cords

Still don't have a fully wireless set-up? Minimize your cord chaos by purchasing a cord organizer for each desk in the house. A clutter-free environment may foster a more efficient work day.

2. Upgrade your chair

Invest in a chair that can be modified for proper ergonomic height. And while you're at it, choose a fun color, cool design or a swivel chair that can deliver the perfect modern vibe to your area.

3. Built-in UV sterilization

A monitor stand with a self-cleaning component? Score! This Flexispot monitor stand has a built-in UV light that cleans your keyboard overnight, so you won’t have to worry about bacteria or buildup over time.

4. Bike or walk as you work

To offset the number of hours spent sitting at work, consider buying an under-the-desk pedal cycle or treadmill loop. Who knows? Maybe getting your blood pumping before that big meeting will put you in the right mindset to crush your sales goals.

5. Get a full desk setup with monitor, keyboard and mouse

To build a fully ergonomic at-home office, purchase a large-screen monitor with an adjustable stand to keep your neck in proper alignment. Upgrade your keyboard and mouse, too. (The smaller-scale, built-in versions from your laptop can cause pain to your hands and wrists.)

6. Get smart about hydration

Whether you purchase an extra-large water bottle with timed markers on the side, an at-home water cooler or a fun carbonated water system, be sure that you’re taking in adequate fluid throughout the day.

7. Pick up a phone or tablet stand

Consider buying a phone or tablet stand to transform your mobile device into a backup option when needed. (Nothing says unprofessional like someone holding their iPhone unsteadily during that 3 p.m. Zoom meeting.)

8. Visualize your way to increased productivity

Need to boost productivity? Ditch the phone timer and try out a visual option like these hourglass timers, which come in 10, 20 and 30-minute increments. Challenge yourself to not check your email (or Instagram) until your timer is up.

9. Add a subtle whiteboard alternative

Need a whiteboard, but hate the look of them? Consider one that has the appearance of frosted glass, instead. Wipe the surface down at the end of the day and it’ll fade into the background.

10. Build a Kraft paper dispenser

A Kraft paper dispenser is the perfect solution for those of us who can’t move away from hand-written to-do lists. Pre-made options are available for purchase, or you can follow this easy tutorial to make your own.

11. Maximize a small space with shelving and wall storage

If you're making do with a small office nook, position shelves and extra storage above your desk. This setup provides an added bonus for parents; your files and paperwork will be out of reach from little hands.

12. Add a fold-down desk to nearly any room

A fold-down desk can be perfect for a kids’ room that needs to double as a classroom for distance learning. Adult versions exist too, if you need to add a floating desk option to a room that’s tight on space.

13. Delineate your office space with a rug

When you plop a new desk in a corner, it’s easy for it to feel out of place. Make your work area look more intentional by adding a small rug underneath your desk or work table.

14. Pick your audio vibe

Buy a speaker for your office and plan some productivity playlists that help you make it through each day. As the sole home office DJ, you can play Joan Jett and Johann Sebastian Bach back-to-back… and no one can stop you.

15. Invest in a pair of headphones

Of course, if your home is crowded with distance learners and fellow work-from-home comrades, it would be wise to invest in a pair of high-quality, noise cancelling headphones.

16. Create a magnetic visual display

Decorate your kids’ desk area with an easy-to-assemble gallery wall thanks to GoodHangups, a magnetic display system that was featured on Shark Tank. It’s a unique way to make at-home artwork feel special or to reward a good grade on an essay.

17. Save space with side-by-side desks

Consider a side-by-side desk to save space and maintain symmetry. If you have an extra-long wall, create your own dual setup by building a custom option. Select an extra-long tabletop and the legs of your choice, then delineate the two spaces with chairs or cabinets.

18. Create a mobile printer station

If several family members are sharing a printer this year, buy a mobile printer cart and place the printer in a communal area during the workday or schoolday. At the end of the work week, roll the cart into a closet and enjoy the weekend without thinking about work.

19. Foster good energy through bold color

Create a colorful office space that energizes you the moment you walk in each morning. Consider painting your desk a bright shade of red or pink, or add peel-and-stick wallpaper for an instant but temporary boost.

20. Buy an easy-to-stow storage solution

A rolling cabinet can be the perfect catch-all for paperwork you can't throw away or extra office supplies. At the end of the day, you can roll the cart underneath your desk — making it the perfect storage solution for a pop-up micro-office in the corner of a bedroom.

Need a more inspiring home office?

Whether you're a frequent work-from-home warrior or simply need an in-home office for check-ins and internet surfing, this type of dedicated space is in high demand. Homeowners and homebuyers alike are prioritizing residential office space as they redesign their homes and reconsider their long-term housing needs.

If your home feels a bit too small now, reach out any time to discuss your changing needs — today and in the long-term.

Tips to stage and sell your home this fall

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Key insights:

  • Fall curb appeal is important. Focus on creating a welcoming yard by raking leaves and planting seasonal flowers rather than over-decorating for autumn.
  • Ensure potential buyers have a warm experience during showings by staging your home with cozy blankets and fall-scented essential oils.
  • Don’t forget about lighting inside and out. Draw in fall’s natural light and turn on both table lamps and outdoor lights for extra glow.

Stage your home to sell this fall

Fall in Minnesota and western Wisconsin is upon us, and with it comes the fresh autumn air, colorful leaves — and a great opportunity to sell your home.

This year provides a unique window of opportunity for home sellers. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, low interest rates and high buyer demand contribute to rising home market activity. With the housing market moving as fast as ever — especially in lower and mid-level price points — it’s important to get a leg up on the competition. By working together to stage your home this fall, we may even be able to attract multiple offers on your property.

Exterior tips for fall home staging

When staging your home to sell this fall, first focus on the curb appeal of your house. Keep your lawn freshly cut, and rake and bag leaves daily. Play up autumn by using potted plants and flowers such as mums, which come in gorgeous orange, red and yellow hues. You can also use pumpkins and gourds to give your front porch or steps extra curb appeal.

Steer clear of over-the-top seasonal decorations (think scarecrows, mummies, ghosts and goblins) that may turn buyers off and keep them from focusing on the attractive, foundational features of your home.

Interior tips for fall home staging

It’s important to keep your space cozy yet accessible while staging the interior of your home. Remove photos and personal mementos so potential buyers can easily picture themselves and their belongings in the space. To keep your home looking warm and inviting, add soft blankets and pillows to the couch and light the fireplace if you have one.

Autumn temperatures can be unpredictable, so pay attention to forecasts in order to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. The scents of fall — like apple, cider or pumpkin spice — can be a nice addition to a kitchen or living area as well.

Finally, little fixes here and there can have a big impact when selling. By completing small home projects like installing a ceiling fan or adding storage space to your garage, you may put yourself in a better position to attract potential homebuyers. For example, 91% of buyers want a dedicated laundry room. Knowing this, you might add open shelving, fresh paint color and simple decor pieces to your designated laundry space.

Lighting tips

Fall home staging includes thoughtful lighting that invokes a bright space without looking stark. During the day, keep your window treatments open to draw in fall’s natural light. At night, turn on side table lamps and overhead lights.

When it comes to evening showings, don’t forget to ensure potential buyers can easily view your home’s exterior and appreciate its appeal. Turn on outdoor lights and add pathway lights to make sure visitors are sure-footed.

Getting ready to sell your home this fall?

Now is the time to take action. Together, we can prepare and stage your home so that it can sell quickly and for top dollar. Reach out any time to get started!

Back to school blues? How to navigate the 2020 academic year

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Key insights

  • Whether distance learning or in-person attendance is the plan, keep family members on track by creating a shared schedule or calendar.
  • Too much screen time? Encourage your kids to take a break from digital devices throughout the day, and join them if you can!
  • Household needs are constantly changing. Reach out if it’s the right time to invest in a home that better suits your family’s lifestyle.

As we start a school year like none before, the need for new plans and organization strategies are necessary to make the school year a success for everyone — whether distance learning, in-person schooling or a hybrid system is implemented. Here are back to school tips that will help keep everyone safe, organized, and engaged.

Stick to a schedule

Creating a color-coded schedule may help family members navigate the school day. This schedule can be created virtually via apps such as Google Calendar so it’s accessible on the go, or you might consider hanging a calendar in a shared space for a more tangible approach.

While creating a schedule, double-check that kids have access to the resources they need to complete their assigned tasks. For example, if family members plan to share a computer or tablet throughout the day, ensure that everyone will have the tech they need to attend their classes. You might even consider budgeting for an extra tablet or backup laptop, for when tech needs overlap.

Organize productivity zones

With both distance learners and remote workers in the home, where will everyone go? It’s essential to create designated spaces. Here are some simple ways to transform areas in your home into more productive zones for at-home workers and learners:

  • No lockers, no problem. Create at-home cubbies to store books or other supplies when they’re not in use.
  • Place desks in low-distraction areas, such as dining rooms, living room corners or a spare room. Consider moving kids into the same room for sleeping, and use the free bedroom as the home base for schoolwork.
  • If you’re low on space, convert the kitchen table into a work area during the day. Implement a clean-up time and plan each afternoon to keep learning materials away from food and drinks.
  • Ensure each workspace has ample light, access to outlets and is decluttered.

If your kids are attending school in person, be sure to keep track of their masks, hand sanitizer and other safety items. Place these essentials in labeled baskets for each child near the entryway of your home. This will ensure each student is ready to go when the school day begins. In this space, you can also stow backup masks and materials in case of an emergency. Parent tip: clip a hand sanitizer keychain to your kids’ backpacks for easy access.

The feeding frenzy

Food is fuel! This makes mealtime an important part of any school or workday. If your kids are old enough to plan their own lunch or snack schedules, empower them to do so. If you have little ones that need help preparing meals, consider packing their lunch and snacks even if they’ll be at home doing distance learning. With prepped food on hand, your kids can eat nutritious lunches on their own… without interrupting your workday.

How to reset and refocus

Your kids probably aren’t used to so much screen time, and you don’t want them to be. It’s important to take breaks from laptops and tablets throughout the day, even when the devices are used for school. These screen-free activities will help your kids reset and return energized to learn:

  • Take the dog on a walk around the block or play with pets inside.
  • Draw in a coloring book or chalk the driveway.
  • Complete a guided stretch or meditation.
  • Dance to a favorite playlist.
  • Play solitaire or other favorite card games.

Don't have students?

Whether you have kids learning from home or not, you have the opportunity to support educators, teachers, parents and the community while they adjust to a host of new challenges. Reach out to teacher friends and ask if they need anything from you, or donate supplies that may help less privileged communities. Sticking together can help build a school year that is still a success for everyone.

New year, new home

As our households grow and evolve, so do our household needs. This year, COVID-19 has clarified the spaces we prioritize in our homes.

If you find yourself wishing for a house with a better setup for your kids’ at-home schooling or a more spacious home office, get in touch any time. Together, we can begin the search for a home that fits your current and future needs.

How buyers and sellers can prepare for the closing table

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Key insights:

  • Buyers and sellers are required to bring unique documents to the closing table. Prepare in advance to ensure you’ve organized everything you need for the big day.
  • Remember that you have an advocate in your REALTOR®. In addition to following reminders and paperwork requests, reach out any time you have questions during the buying or selling process.
  • When the closing process is complete, the buyer leaves with access to their new home and the seller earns the net profits of the property sale.

After an offer to purchase a property has been accepted and the negotiations have been finalized, a closing date is set. The closing date is typically scheduled 30 to 90 days after the final offer is accepted. This selected date indicates when you need to move, so you’d better start packing! Here are insights you can use for a smooth closing process.

What happens at the closing table?

Edina Realty Title’s closing process has been updated to incorporate safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In most cases, closings for buyers and sellers will be performed separately with only an Edina Realty Title closer in attendance, and they will be facilitated from behind a sanitary plexiglass screen. Additional precautions include adherence to facemask mandates, frequent cleaning of high-touch areas, and a short health screening checklist. Curbside closings are also available, and sellers have options to pre-sign their documents or close virtually via remote online notary (where available). At the conclusion, the homebuyer walks away with access to their new home and the seller leaves with the net proceeds of the home sale.

Here’s a more specific overview of what happens at the closing table:

  • Final lender requirements will be met.
  • Final Settlement Statement will be reviewed and signed.
  • Closing documents will be reviewed, signed and notarized.
  • Owner's title insurance may be purchased.
  • Funds will be collected and disbursed via a cashier’s check.
  • The deed is submitted, recorded with the county and sent to the buyer.
  • A plan for the buyer to obtain keys, garage door openers, utility information, manuals and other essential property details.

What buyers should bring to the closing table:

Requirements may differ depending on your title company, but buyers should typically bring:

  • A valid photo ID
  • Social security number
  • A cashier’s check (for the amount specified in the most recent Closing Disclosure form you received from your loan officer or lender)
  • A checkbook (in case of other charges)
  • New homeowners/hazard insurance binder and paid receipt if not previously provided to your lender

Must-save documents for buyers:

Keeping a copy of important documents will help you maintain accurate records and stay up-to-date for tax purposes. Here are the pertinent documents that buyers should hold onto after closing on a property:

  • Your first payment letter
  • The payment coupon containing details of when and where your first payment should be mailed, if applicable
  • A copy of your loan closing package
  • Closing Disclosure (CD)
  • Form 1098, sent annually in January from your mortgage servicer
  • Costs of energy-efficient updates

What sellers should bring to the closing table:

As you might expect, sellers have a shorter list of must-haves at the closing table. Be sure to bring:

  • A valid photo ID
  • Social security number
  • Make arrangements with your agent for how the buyer can access all keys, garage door openers and codes, alarm system combinations and manuals.

A note about cyber-security:

Edina Realty Home Services has invested in a number of security measures in order to help protect your assets and prevent fraud throughout your home sale or purchase. We will never use email to request or transfer funds. Instead, your closing documents and information will appear within our secure <href="#/">Edina Realty Title Exchange online portal. You should never wire funds to any party without first verifying the request.

Have more questions about the closing process?

When we work together, you can rest assured that you’ll receive the support and advocacy you need as you move toward the closing table. To get started, call or email any time.

Stay organized with moving checklists, resources and solutions

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It’s no surprise that moving can be stressful. Remembering all those important details, like connecting utilities and forwarding mail, can dampen the thrill of transitioning to your new home. In order to make your move as easy as possible, the Updater app, a digital moving checklist and resource that can save you time and money, is offered free of charge to you when we partner for your home transition.

How long does it take to update your address in all the necessary places? Say you need to make a Minneapolis change of address to forward your mail. You can drive to the post office, find the correct handwritten form, wait in line and turn it in … if you find the time to go during business hours. Or you can try to navigate their less-than-user-friendly website, manually type in all your details and submit the form electronically. That one step, forwarding your mail, usually takes 20-30 minutes alone. With this new moving concierge, this is all done with a couple quick clicks.

What is Updater and how does it work?

Updater concierge moving tools help you save time, money and your sanity. All this is offered at no cost to you! In fact, homeowners who utilize Updater moving resources save an average of five hours, $325 and 21 calls or emails.

This free service allows you to stay organized, get reminders of essential steps and connect you to the resources and services you need, all from one easy-to-use digital dashboard.

The Updater app can help you:

  • Prepare, plan and pack for moving day
  • Transfer utilities and services
  • Update your address
  • Save money on supplies
  • Personalize your new home
  • Settle into your new neighborhood

Updater moving resources

Preparing and packing for moving day

All the resources you need to plan your move are right at your fingertips in your personalized dashboard. Prepare for moving day and easily request estimates, availability, compare prices and more. They curate a customized moving checklist, just for you, and let you know exactly what you need to do and when.

Plus, helpful tools such as guides, checklists and cost calculators help you stay on track and plan ahead for your upcoming move.

  • Find and reserve a mover online
  • Request moving estimates
  • Rent a truck
  • Hire moving labor
  • Throw out your junk
  • Buy or rent boxes
  • Access moving checklists
  • View box size guides
  • Obtain packing lists
  • Use a moving calculator

Transferring utilities and services

Wondering how to transfer utilities? The Updater app makes it easy. No need to waste hours researching companies that serve your new address or sitting on hold waiting for a representative to help. Your moving resources dashboard is curated with your local service providers, your address details and an estimated closing date. Simply request your transfer, confirm your date and Updater will take it from there. You can even see customized offers and plans for setting up a new service or reevaluating your current service provider.

  • Internet
  • Television or streaming services
  • Insurance
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Gas

Updating your address

Think about all the places you need to update your change of address. Did you remember your magazine subscriptions, auto club, rewards programs, travel perks and organizations? The United States Postal Service will only forward your mail for one year, and your magazine subscriptions for 60 days. Time will go by quickly during your home transition so it’s imperative that you provide a change of address to all the businesses that send you mail.

Updater’s database includes mail forwarding service to more than 15,000 businesses, so whether you have a Minnesota change of address or are moving to or from another state, we have you covered. Easily provide your change of address to multiple companies at once and use the time you save to plan your new décor instead.

  • Forward mail
  • Update address everywhere
  • Driver's license
  • Voter registration

Saving money on supplies

Take advantage of exclusive savings with Updater moving solutions. They partner with local businesses and national companies to offer discounts and special offers on everything you need for your new home. Best of all, you don’t have to go on an endless search! These offers are available right in your Updater app. Save on:

  • Furniture
  • Groceries
  • Decor
  • Appliances
  • Specialized services from local businesses

Personalizing your new space

When it comes time to make your new home your own, the Updater app is ready to help. Considering a home alarm system? Want to be able to monitor deliveries? Easily connect to specialized providers so you can customize your space with all the bells and whistles.

  • Home improvement
  • Cleaning services
  • Smart home automation
  • Home security

Settling into your new home

Now that you’re in your new home, are you worried you forgot something important? Edina Realty’s moving concierge, powered by Updater, is helpful even after your move-in date by connecting you to community resources. Wondering about obtaining a dog license in your new city? Need to register the kids for school? Ready to meet the neighbors? You’re covered!

  • Local guides
  • School information
  • Pet requirements
  • Community handbook
  • Neighborhood events

Ready for an easy, affordable, and stress-free move?

Updater moving resources, offered through your Edina Realty agent, splits your move into stress-free, bite-sized tasks and then helps you complete them—saving you time and money. This is one of many advantages you receive when we partner for your successful home transition.

Ready to make a move? Reach out today!

Selling an ultra-luxury home? Follow these best practices

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Key Insights

  • Because the buyer pool for these homes is so limited, luxury sellers should prepare for a longer path to closing.
  • It’s not about bedrooms or bathrooms or even price. High-end buyers usually decide on a home based on the lifestyle the property will afford them.

In our market, luxury homes can begin around the $500,000 price point. But there’s a difference between selling and marketing a home in that range, and listing a home that is valued at one million dollars or above.

If you’re planning to sell your luxury home in the coming months, consider these insights and reach out for customized guidance and marketing plans for showcasing your home in this niche market.

A strong network is key

The first step to selling your high-end home is sharing property highlights with a solid network including other Realtors who may have or know clients interested in purchasing a luxury home. Edina Realty’s network of more than 2,300 agents across Minnesota and western Wisconsin, as well as our global network through our parent company Home Services of America, offers the advantage of connecting buyers and sellers in every market. We meet regularly (in-person, virtually and through our exclusive digital platform) to showcase luxury listings and share buyer needs. We are able to tap into personal connections and long-term relationships with buyers and homeowners to help sell a luxury home to that smaller, qualified buyer pool.

In addition, unique marketing strategies will help get your home in front of luxury buyers who live in and outside our market area. Whether it’s promoting a six-bedroom lake home in Minneapolis-St. Paul Home + Design Magazine or buying a spread in a publication aimed at international buyers, we will work together to craft a unique plan to get in front of buyers with higher budgets.

Set the right price — and a realistic timeline

Top dollar luxury homes can be difficult to price since there may not be dozens of similar recently sold properties for comparison. That is where research, market understanding and experience make a difference. Together we will determine a fair price point that will meet your goals and generate buyer interest.

And while it may be true that homes in lower price points are selling in weeks, days or even hours, luxury home sellers should prepare for a longer path to closing. It sometimes takes time and dedication to find a uniquely qualified buyer looking for the perfect upscale home.

Market the home by selling a lifestyle

Next comes the fun part, highlighting your home’s best features. The number of bedrooms and bathrooms pale in comparison to those inviting elements that make the property unique.

Whether it’s highlighting a house built to entertain the masses, a wine cellar that rivals anything in Napa, or a garage that’s right out of a car collector’s dream, it’s important for high-end homes to have that “something special” that helps to draw in the right buyer.

Luxury buyers want to picture themselves enjoying their favorite things in the home. So when we market your property, we’re not just selling an address, we’re selling a lifestyle.

Update the home to reflect current trends

Last, it’s important for luxury sellers to recognize that tastes may have changed since they built their home or moved in. Some updates or decor changes may be required to better reflect current style or buyer preferences.

Together we will stage your home to play up its best features. Usually this is done with modest rearranging, complimentary design choices and excellent lighting. In some cases, an outdated home may benefit from some strategic upgrades, especially in areas like kitchens and bathrooms. We will talk about options, return on investment updates and other ways to generate the most interest in your top-dollar home.

Get the guidance you need as you sell your luxury home

Whether you’re selling a high-end home or a modest starter home, reach out! Your home and your story are unique, and you deserve a personalized approach to preparing and listing it.

Ask an Edina Realty Lawyer: Who’s responsible if someone gets injured on my property?

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

In this edition, one of our lawyers discusses the liability that homeowners have when someone gets injured on their property.

Dear Edina Realty Legal,

Dear Edina Realty Legal,

My kids are begging for a fun backyard feature, like a pool or a trampoline. I’m worried about liability, should someone get injured while playing at our house. What should I know about injuries that are sustained on my property and how can I be sure to secure the right insurance?

There is the possibility of liability to you, the homeowner, if someone gets injured on your property. It is important that you take precautions to eliminate potential hazards in your home and yard, and to secure proper insurance coverage.

How can I minimize commonplace dangers on my property?

Ensure a safe path to the front door

Even if you don’t invite guests over, you likely have mail carriers or delivery service drivers coming into your yard most days of the week. Be sure that all paths to your front door are safe for visitors so they’re less likely to get injured. Keep walkways clear year round. In the warmer months, watch for toys and garden tools left on paths, and in the colder months, be sure to shovel your walkways and use salt or ice melt in slippery areas.

Eliminate (or illuminate) dangers in your yard

Watch out for any other potentially dangerous conditions on your property and, if you can’t eliminate the dangers altogether, make sure that other people visiting your property are aware of them. For example, while you may know of a hole in your yard, your children’s friends might not. Add stakes or other warning signals to the area, and tell all visitors what they need to watch out for. Well-lit pathways also help protect you and your home. Not only will this shine a light on any potential tripping hazards, good exterior lighting might also deter criminals from targeting your property.

Exercise extra caution with pools and trampolines

Trampolines and swimming pools are fun, but can also be sources of legal liability if accidents occur. Add gates or fencing around your pool, and netting around your trampoline. Plus, establish strict ground rules that kids aren’t allowed to play without a parent present.

Minimize your dog’s contact to new people

Last, be sure to maintain control of your dog at all times when you have visitors. If you know your pooch can’t handle new folks, consider kenneling them or placing them outside for the duration of the visit. When introducing a dog to a new person, be sure to exercise caution. Even the friendliest dogs who are around children all day long can have triggers that set them off. Remember that it may seem like overkill but if your dog bites a guest, you are likely to be held responsible. With limited exceptions, a dog owner is generally found liable for dog bites.

Does my homeowner’s insurance cover accidents on my property?

Much of your potential liability is likely covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. But that policy has dollar limits. If you have significant assets or regular traffic to your home, you might want to consider buying an umbrella policy that can provide increased coverage. Reach out for a referral to an insurance agent who can help you assess your assets and need for such a policy.

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.

How to get and use a mortgage gift fund to help with your down payment

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Down payment gifts, or mortgage gift funds, are increasing in popularity as more and more first-time homebuyers enter the market. For buyers who can afford a monthly mortgage payment and other housing expenses, but who have a hard time saving up a down payment nest egg, a monetary gift from a family member or trusted friend can be a helpful solution.

But what exactly is a mortgage down payment gift, and how can you make sure it is properly distributed? Below, we offer insights you can use as you navigate the world of mortgage gift funds.

Key insights

  • If you are fortunate enough to be gifted funds toward your down payment, find out if the gift qualifies as a mortgage down payment gift.
  • Both donors and recipients must follow specific steps to properly transfer and log a mortgage down payment gift that will be used at closing.
  • Different mortgage types have different guidelines, so buyers should check with their mortgage consultant before securing a gift that will fund their down payment.

What are mortgage gift funds?

When deciding on a down payment amount, it’s usually advantageous to put down as much at closing as possible. So, when first-time homebuyers secure a home mortgage loan, close family and friends may offer to give them funds that help cover the down payment.

These gifts are more serious than Grandma’s annual birthday check, though. If the money given is above a certain amount, it qualifies as a down payment gift, which must be closely recorded and tracked throughout the home loan process.

The basic requirements of a mortgage gift fund

If buyers will fund some or all of their down payment via a mortgage gift fund, they must follow specific guidelines. While both the donor and recipient will have a longer checklist to follow, the three most basic requirements are:

  • A gift letter from the donor to the recipient, detailing the amount gifted and its intended purpose.
  • A receipt showing the transfer of funds from the donor to the recipient.
  • Verification that the funds are now available in the recipient’s bank account.

What should the gift letter include?

Before the homebuyer applies for their loan, the donor should write a letter that clearly states the:

  • Amount of the down payment gift.
  • Donor’s name and contact information, including their address.
  • Donor’s relationship to the homebuyer.
  • Date the funds were transferred.
  • Address of the property being purchased.
  • Donor’s signature.
  • Donor’s intention to offer the funds as a gift, and that the funds are not expected to be paid back by the homebuyer.

Who can gift money for a mortgage down payment?

The rules for who can gift money for a down payment depend on the type of loan the borrower is seeking. It’s very common for buyers who are using down payment funds to secure an FHA loan, and the FHA gift fund guidelines are pretty broad.

If you are using an FHA gift fund, the donor can be any friend or family member with whom you have a standing relationship; this relationship should be clearly explained in the donor’s letter. In some cases, your lender may request that you offer proof of a more distant relationship, such as a family friend. FHA borrowers may also receive down payment gift funds from employers, labor unions, charities and government agencies, if available.

If you are seeking a conventional home mortgage loan, the guidelines are quite a bit stricter. Only family members, domestic partners and the borrower’s fiance/fiancee can be approved as a down payment donor for a conventional loan.

What amount qualifies as a mortgage gift fund?

The answer to this depends on the borrower’s finances. Let’s consider a hypothetical bank account for a homebuyer named Jody. Typically, any amount over 25% of the borrower’s monthly income must be tracked by a lender when the loan is being approved and processed. If Jody’s monthly income is $5,000, then a gift of more than $1,250 should be recorded and tracked.

Along with gift amounts, lenders also pay attention to bank account history. If Jody usually keeps only a few hundred dollars in her account, and suddenly deposits $1,140 into the account, the lender may ask for an explanation of that deposit, even though it’s less than 25% of her monthly income.

Are there tax implications for gift funds?

There can be. It’s important that donors understand that they may be subject to a federal gift tax if their down payment gift exceeds $15,000 per recipient. The recipient should be sure to discuss this with the donor early in the process so that their donor is not hit with an unexpected tax liability. Potential donors should consult their tax advisor regarding large donations and potential federal gift tax liability.

How much can parents gift for a down payment?

In most cases, parents can give as much as they’d like to fund their child’s down payment, so long as the property in question will be their child’s primary residence. However, parents should keep in mind that if they collectively contribute more than $30,000 (each giving the $15,000 maximum), they may be subject to the federal gift tax. Parents should consult their tax advisor for details and exclusions.

Down payment gift guidelines

The guidelines for down payment gifts depend on the borrower’s loan type.

FHA borrowers:

  • Can fund their entire down payment via a mortgage gift fund, provided they have a credit score of 620 or above.
  • Must fund 3.5% of their own down payment if their credit score falls below 620.

Conventional buyers:

  • Can fund their entire down payment via a down payment gift if they are putting down 20% or more.
  • Must fund some of the down payment if they plan to put down less than 20% at closing. The borrower’s lender will advise on the exact amount that needs to come from their own pocket.

The do’s and don’t of down payment gifts

There are simple guidelines that recipients should follow when receiving a down payment gift from a family member or friend.

Do:

  • Keep a log of the gift, including its transfer to your bank account.
  • Keep a copy of the donor letter in your personal files.
  • Transfer the gift into your bank account at least 10 days before closing.
  • Let your donor know that a gift higher than $15,000 may incur a tax bill (unless they are your parents, who can donate up to $30,000 without a tax implication).

Don’t:

  • Log the fund as a gift if it’s actually a loan.
  • Use any of the gift for personal expenses.
  • Facilitate the gift without speaking to your lender; they can help you understand the exact steps you should take.

How do I record and track the gift funds?

Once the donor and recipient have agreed on an amount for the mortgage gift fund, they must each complete three tasks to guarantee a smooth path to the closing table.

Donor to-do list

In order to properly document and complete their down payment gift, the donor should:

  1. Write an official gift letter (see above for details).
  2. Write a personal check for the exact amount of the gift. This is the easiest way to document the transaction for a lender.
  3. Provide a copy of the front and back of the check from their bank account to the buyer’s lender. This can be completed after the check clears.

Recipient responsibilities

Those receiving the gift will need to follow these three conditions:

    1. Plan ahead to ensurethe funds are deposited at least 10 calendar days prior to the loan’s closing.
    2. Go in person to a bank branch to deposit the gift fund into the account that will be used to pay the closing costs and down payment. Double check that the deposit slip matches what is in the gift letter and keep a deposit slip for each separate transaction or gift fund.
    3. Verify that the funds have been properly transferred to the account, and share the verification with their lender. Remember, if the funds fall through, the loan may be at risk — so this is a critical task to complete.

Ready to begin the home buying process?

For homebuyers with generous family members or friends, a down payment gift can be instrumental to unlocking the dream of homeownership. To get started on the process of buying your home — with or without a mortgage gift fund — reach out! Together we will discuss beginning steps and connect with a mortgage consultant.

(1) Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage is not a credit counselor. Information displayed is not credit advice and should not be relied upon or interpreted as such.
(2) Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC is not a financial or tax advisor and cannot and is not offering tax advice. Please consult a financial advisor or certified public accountant to determine what the tax implications of purchasing real estate may be.

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. Licensed by the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance. Licensed by the Delaware State Bank Commissioner. Also licensed in AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NM, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV and WY.

NMLS #75164 (NMLS Consumer Access at http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/)

©2020 Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage. All Rights Reserved.

Tips for moving with pets

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Key insights

  • Purchase pet tags with updated contact information before moving day.
  • Stock your car and accessible moving boxes with pet-friendly gear such as food, toys and a leash.
  • The ultimate pet-lover may consider a move to one of the popular dog-friendly cities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where dog parks and events are aplenty.

Moving homes can be a confusing time for your pets, but there are tips you can implement to make the transition for your animals as seamless as possible.

Here are insights homeowners can use when packing up their lives and their pooch’s toys to settle into a new property. Before you know it, a welcoming committee — aka your tail-wagging pup — will be situated and ready to greet you at the steps of your new home.

Prep your pet in advance for a home transition

Whether you move to a nearby town or across the country, there are many ways to prepare for your pet’s house change, including:

  • Order new tags. Include your essential contact information and create a short-term tag if necessary.
  • Check your new city’s requirements for pet licensing. Complete important paperwork prior to the move to avoid any inconveniences.
  • Make sure all shots are up-to-date. Maintain a copy of your pet’s records (like proof of rabies vaccination or health certificates). Check that your pet meets the new city’s vaccination guidelines.

The final step of your pre-move checklist is to select a new veterinarian. Schedule a welcome visit in your new town and have your pet’s medical history transferred over. This way, should anything happen to your pet in the first few days after the move, your new provider will be fully ready to help your pooch, kitty or cockatoo.

Create a smooth move-in day for you and your pet

You’ll want to take special precautions to keep your pets comfortable and safe on move-in day. Wherever you choose to have your pet stay on move-in day, make sure that these essentials are stocked and within reach:

  • Food and water
  • Bowls or other dishes
  • Favorite toys or treats
  • Blankets
  • Bags to dispose of pet waste
  • Leash and collar (with proper tags)
  • Carrier or crate
  • Cleaning supplies in case of an accident
  • Medication

If you’re relocating to a home nearby, it may work best to have your pet stay with a dog- or cat-loving friend or relative on moving day. Or, you can board your animal for the day to ensure they won’t be underfoot during the move.

However, if you need to pack up to move further away, it will be easiest to bring your pet right alongside you. Be sure to take breaks every so often throughout the drive to check in on or walk your pet. If your drive is expected to take multiple days or you want to wait to sleep in your home until everything is unpacked and in place, double-check that you book overnight stays with pet-friendly hotels.

Driving with doggo to your new house

Part of keeping the transition more manageable for your pet is to involve them in the move. Here are some ways to have a worry-free moving day with Fido or Fifi along for the ride:

  • Assign a family member to pet-duty. Ask someone to tag along with you in the car or moving vehicle, so they can supervise your animals as you drive.
  • Bring a pet carrier. A kennel or crate will help keep your pet safe during the drive and it will mitigate the possibility of a runaway dog or cat upon arrival.
  • Keep them comfortable. Have plenty of treats and toys nearby to keep your pet at ease — or to encourage them into the car or crate.
  • Try some test runs. If your dog isn’t used to riding in the car, take a drive to the dog park or around the block before the big day.

Get your furry friend familiar with the new property

Once you arrive at your new home, remember your pet will pick up on your energy. If your dog or cat can sense that you’re feeling overwhelmed by the move, their mood is likely to match yours. Try to make peace with the potentially stressful situation and your pet will feel calmer, too.

Next, you’ll want to make sure that your animal has time to adjust to their new surroundings. To make your pet feel right at home, set up their water bowl and bed or special sleeping area as soon as possible. If you’re planning to have certain pet-free rooms or furniture, be sure to set those parameters immediately so your pet doesn’t get confused or develop unwanted habits.

Once your pet is situated in the new home, it’s important that they stay there. If you have a runner, keep Bruno leashed up during the first few days — especially when you may be leaving doors open to bring in your belongings. It’s quite common for dogs to run away when they feel unsure of new surroundings, so take extra precautions and leash your pets.

Make a move to a pet-friendly place

In and around our region, animal lovers have access to numerous properties located next to dog-friendly parks or even specialty pet shops like Cafe Meow, the first cat cafe in the Twin Cities metro area. Together we can find a community perfect for you. Plus, ask about the free moving services available, exclusively to clients, to save you time, money and energy throughout your move.

Reach out today to get started!

Tips to prep your finances if you’re buying in the next year

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Key insights

  • Evaluate your financial history and credit score, then work to correct any imperfections or mistaken records.
  • Practice better spending habits and clean up your bank accounts (all unverified deposits may require additional documentation).
  • Work with your mortgage consultant to set yourself up for success even if the unexpected (like your car biting the dust) should happen.

Most homebuyers prepare in advance by saving for a down payment, but the down payment is just one of many critical financial factors to buying a home and getting a mortgage.

If you’re in the process of saving for your first house, there are other financial variables that can help position you favorably for a home mortgage loan. Here are insights you can use to help you pare down unnecessary expenses, clean up your finances and get ready to buy a house.

3-12 months+ away from buying

During this time frame, you’ll want to focus on your long-term financial plan by:

  • Checking your credit
  • Meeting with a mortgage consultant
  • Paying down any debt
  • Minimizing unnecessary expenses
  • Getting pre-approved

Review your credit report

You’ve probably heard this before — your credit score is important. Whether you’re buying your first condo or upgrading to a new house, lenders will use this score as one way to gauge your creditworthiness. Although it’s possible to get a mortgage even if you have a low credit score, a lower score can affect your loan terms and may increase your monthly payments. By maintaining the highest credit score possible, you could save a lot of money over the long-term.

Paying your bills on time will lead to a higher credit score. So, make it easy on yourself by organizing your payments. Turn on your calendar notifications, set up automatic payments or highlight important dates in your planner to remind yourself when it's time to pay bills. These small changes will help you avoid late payments.

It’s also a good idea to get a copy of your free credit report. Once the report is in your hands, look for errors — a missed payment that was made on time or an account that is mistakenly listed under your name can be corrected by contacting your credit agency.

The three main credit agencies are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion(1). They recommend that you file any credit disputes with them online:

Meet with a mortgage consultant

It can be smart to meet with a mortgage consultant well before you’re ready to start the home buying process. They can help you assess your finances and determine how you can become a more appealing borrower. In some cases, they may recommend specific debts to focus on; in others, they can also share strategies for saving for a down payment or even getting down payment assistance.

In short, having a solid relationship with a mortgage consultant early on can help first-time buyers become better prepared for buying down the road. Unsure where to start? Reach out for a referral to a qualified mortgage consultant.

Focus on paying down debts

Calculating your debt-to-income ratio is paramount to getting the most favorable terms for your loan.

If you’re able, start to improve your debt-to-income ratio by paying down your long-term “installment” debt, which is made of monthly expenses you owe, including:

  • Student loans
  • Personal loans
  • Auto loans

And remember, even if you have student loans, applying for a mortgage is not out of the question. If you have enough income to cover your bills and potential mortgage payment, you should be in the clear. In fact, those with a high income and typical monthly debt may have a better debt-to-income ratio than people without loans.

You may wonder, how is it possible to have more debt yet have a better debt-to-income ratio? The key word is ratio. Getting approved for a loan is not about how much total debt you have; it’s based on how much you owe monthly as compared to your monthly income.

Save for a down payment

When you’re applying for a mortgage, every penny counts! Be sure to cut down on unnecessary expenses anywhere you can, including nixing that daily latte and cooking from your pantry instead of ordering takeout several times a week.

Although responsible financial habits will play a large part in saving for your down payment, buyers with generous family members or friends can also consider mortgage gift funds. Do you think your family might assist with your down payment? Begin talking about the monetary help they could contribute. There are also low down payment options and down payment assistance available for certain buyers. Your mortgage consultant can help you review all your options.

Get pre-approved for a loan

Hands down, the best way to financially prepare for a mortgage is to get pre-approved by a lender. Don’t worry, getting a pre-approval doesn't mean you have to buy anything! It’s simply a way to understand how much you could take out in a loan.

Getting pre-approved can also give you general insights on financial weaknesses that you may be able to fix over time. By building a relationship with your mortgage consultant, you’ll have someone to call if you have questions about your finances in the months prior to your mortgage application.

0-3 months away from buying

The 60-day window before you apply for a loan is critical. During this time, you should focus on:

  • Confirming your down payment and financials.
  • Keeping your payments and accounts clean.
  • Staying in close touch with your mortgage consultant.

Verify the down payment and financials

A lender has to verify the assets and other components related to the mortgage transaction (including the down payment) for the 60 days prior to loan application. If possible, put your entire down payment into one account ahead of this timeframe.

Take Edina Realty Mortgage Consultant Enda Moore’s advice:

“One of the more challenging scenarios is for cash assets to be pending between one account and another at the time of a loan application,” says Enda. “If the two bank accounts don’t ‘talk to’ each other, we have to dive into forensic accounting, which is a hassle for everyone and can involve a lot of extra paperwork. If you’re a buyer who is moving toward closing, you’ll want to avoid that kind of last-minute stress by cleaning up your accounts well in advance of applying for a loan.”

Minimize tech-first financial transfer apps

Another part of cleaning up your bank history includes avoiding large transfers from accounts that lack clear records. Lenders must examine transfers that comprise more than 25% of a buyer’s monthly income. Confusing transactions made electronically via Venmo, Zelle or PayPal may “flag” a lender or make it difficult for them to understand where your money is coming from and going to.

While your friends can still pay you back for brunch on your mobile app, stick to collecting larger payments (like rent or your family phone plan collection) via old-school checks in the months leading up to the mortgage application.

When in doubt, call your mortgage consultant

Mortgage consultants understand that not everyone has perfect credit or crystal-clear financial records and they also know that the unexpected can happen in the months before you apply for a mortgage.

These experts stress that it’s important to call your mortgage consultant if you run into a situation that could impact your ability to get approved for a loan. Whether your car dies, you have to take on a bit more credit card debt, or you start a new job, it’s best to keep your mortgage consultant in the loop to minimize the impact of these potential financial changes(2).

Ready to apply for a mortgage?

Put your best foot forward. Consider making simple changes — both short-term and long-term — to get your finances in check before applying for a home mortgage loan. Reach out for assistance with the first steps to buying a home and a referral to a qualified mortgage consultant.

(1) Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage is not a credit counselor. Information displayed is not credit advice and should not be relied upon or interpreted as such.

(2) Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC is not a financial or tax advisor and cannot and is not offering tax advice. Please consult a financial advisor or certified public accountant to determine what the tax implications of purchasing real estate may be.

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. Licensed by the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance. Licensed by the Delaware State Bank Commissioner. Also licensed in AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NM, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV and WY.

NMLS #75164 (NMLS Consumer Access at http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/)

©2020 Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage. All Rights Reserved.

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