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Mark Ashby | |651-287-4040
Dana Ashby | |651-271-2921

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Five expert tips for negotiating a home purchase

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Key Insights

  • It’s important to know what the market conditions are and what (if any) leverage you have when buying a home.
  • Discuss how high you’re willing to go before making an offer so you can quickly respond to counteroffers.
  • Carefully read the terms of purchase and determine what terms are most important to you.
  • Work with a REALTOR who understands the market, language and negotiation techniques to protect your interests and help you get the best terms.

You know it’s important to hire an expert negotiator when buying a home, but did you know that by doing your research, you can also keep the sale on track? Here are five insights you can use when negotiating a home purchase.

1. Determine leverage

Sometimes, leverage is based on local market conditions. When there is a shortage of homes for sale (as there is now in many areas), sellers may expect to get their listed price because buyers are competing over a small pool of homes for sale. When homes are abundant on the market, buyers hold the advantage and may be able to secure their desired property for less..

Of course, there are other factors that can give a buyer or seller an advantage. Buyers may benefit if sellers need a swift path to closing or can’t afford their monthly mortgage payments. And even in a buyers’ market, in-demand homes in trendy neighborhoods may fetch multiple bids and a higher sales price. If you find a home you love and aren’t sure who has the leverage, talk with your REALTOR® for insights and context.

2. Leverage comparable sales

Your REALTOR will have access to comparable sales, often called “comps,” in your desired neighborhood. Comps will show you the average sales price and time on the market of similar homes. These numbers can be invaluable as you determine your bidding and negotiation strategy.

Think of it this way: If you were bartering for a $50 lamp at a flea market, you might have no idea what to make as a starting offer. However, if you knew that a friend had bought a similar lamp from the same vendor for $45 last week, you could safely assume that a $45 offer would be reasonable. This same idea can be applied on a grand scale when putting together an initial bid based on comps in your desired area.

3. Respond immediately to counteroffers

If a seller responds to your offer with a counteroffer, it’s important to work with your REALTOR to respond to it quickly. In fact, you may even want to discuss how high you’ll go in a counter before you make your initial offer. That way, if a counteroffer comes in, your agent can verify that the number you previously discussed still holds and move the negotiation forward quickly.

4. Understand the terms of purchase

When your offer is accepted, you and your REALTOR will review the purchase agreement to see if you’ll agree to the seller’s terms. Some sellers may add special clauses saying that the sale does not include a prized chandelier or brand-new stacking washer and dryer units, and you’ll have to determine if these terms are deal-breakers. They could also include other terms, such as contingencies, proposed closing dates, provisions on inspections and more.

Remember, the party with leverage may not see the need to budge, so it’s important to enter negotiations with open eyes. Once the purchase agreement has been drawn up, it’s up to the buyer and their REALTOR to determine what’s worth fighting for and what can be accepted.

5. Never cut out the “middle man”

Keep in mind that while it may be tempting to directly negotiate terms with the seller, you should avoid this path. First, negotiations are about staying closely guarded without appearing too closed off, and REALTORS know how to expertly navigate these conversations. If you appear too eager to settle a term, you may give up any leverage you have. Plus, by calling the seller directly, you may be cutting out your expert while the seller is still consulting with their listing agent to get the best terms.

Last, the language of real estate contracts is complicated and requires the eye and experience of a professional. By negotiating a contract verbally (and outside the terms of the listing agreement), you may not end up with a contract that reflects your handshake deal. Your REALTOR will ensure everything is legally sound and in writing.

Start your home search

Before you can begin bidding or negotiating, reach out and get the help of a local expert who specializes in getting to the closing table.

Perennial splitting 101

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Key Insights

  • Perennial plants come back year after year with little care.
  • Perennials can grow to be too large and need to have their roots split so the original plant and its offshoots can thrive.
  • Splitting plants is very simple and can be done at almost any time.
  • If you run out of garden space, consider gifting your perennial offshoots for others to enjoy.

One of the best parts of spring is watching all the new growth and greenery sprout up in your yard and neighborhood. If you have perennials in your landscape, you can enjoy these blooms and foliage with minimal effort.

However, if you haven’t visited your garden in a while, you might want to stop by and see if your perennial plants could benefit from splitting before the vegetation becomes unwieldy. Here’s a quick course on what plant splitting is, when you should do it and how it’s done.

Perennials are low-maintenance plants that may need to be split

Perennials are plants that are planted once and continue to grow or flower for multiple years. Perennials are great because they grow well, are sturdy against weather and disease and are a low-maintenance way to beautify your landscape (especially if you use mulch).

While there are plenty of beautiful perennial flowers, homeowners can also benefit from perennial shrubs that may add privacy and greenery with minimal effort. Because they are so low maintenance, a perennial garden is a good place to start for beginner gardeners who want to work their way up to fruit and vegetable gardening.

Here are a few perennial plants that grow well in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin (zones 3-5) you might be familiar with:

  • Herbaceous perennials: Hosta, peony, geranium, rudbeckia, purple coneflower, daylily, yarrow, chrysanthemums, salvia
  • Clump-forming evergreen perennials: Heuchera, salvia, phlox, fern
  • Spreading shrubs: Lilac, forsythia, dogwood, hydrangea
  • Underground rhizomes: Bearded iris, bugleweed, mint, aster

Sometimes, mature perennial plants can get so big that they start competing with other plants for soil nutrients and sunlight. Without adequate nutrition, these plants will start diminishing or stop flowering. Overgrown plants can reduce your curb appeal, and pruning them back or splitting the plant is an easy, cost-effective way to make your landscaping more aesthetically pleasing.

Plant splitting helps your garden thrive

Plant splitting—also known as dividing —is the act of taking the root of a mature plant and breaking it into several plants. While perennials have different root systems, the one you may be most familiar with is a bulb.

Think of a bulb of garlic–inside that bulb, there are many different cloves that are lumped together in a circular shape. It’s the same idea with bulb plants. After maturing, the bulb creates separate bulbs that can be taken off and used to start a new plant that will thrive on its own. These new plants (called offshoots) can be planted and flourish on their own.

How to know when to split your perennials

Each perennial plant is different, but on average, you should split your plants every 3-5 years (though some require splitting every year and others can go five without needing to be divided). Check with your local garden store or online resources to determine the best approach for each plant variety.

Other indicators that it’s time to split your perennials include when the plant:

  • Congests the garden
  • Covers more ground than usual
  • Stops flowering
  • Starts sprouting small shoots from the ground around the main plant stalk

When you split your perennials

Splitting can truly be done any time of year as long as the plants are well-watered after replanting. However, they tend to do best when they’re dormant, either in the late fall before the cold sets in or in early spring when they’re just showing signs of new life. The exception to this is spring-flowering perennials, which are best divided in the summer once they’ve started to fade. Again, your local gardening center or the University of Minnesota Extension are great resources for determining the best time of year to split your plants.

How to split your perennials

Splitting is very easy! Here are a few quick steps to successfully divide your plants.

  1. Dig up the plant. Use a shovel, trowel, or garden fork to dig up the entire plant (note that plants may have spread out or grown deeper than where you planted them, so be safe and dig a few inches around the stalk). Always call 811 before you dig to ensure underground utility lines can be marked.
  2. Carefully separate the bulbs, clumps, or roots. Brush off dirt and gently divide the plant. Depending on the plant, you may need a knife to separate the pieces, but many species can be gently divided by hand.
  3. Remove any dead bulbs. Toss bulbs or sections that are shriveled, soggy, or damaged.
  4. Replant the original parent plant and offshoots. Put the original plant back where it was (unless the parent bulb has died), and plant the offshoots at the same depth and distance recommended for the plant. Add some compost or nutrient-rich soil to the plants to give them a healthy boost.

Note that some plants can’t be replanted right away and may need to be dried out before replanting. Check online or with your garden center for your specific plants to give them their best shot at flourishing.

  1. Water and watch. Water the new plants well for a few weeks until you start to see new growth. Then, water on a regular schedule. Note that it may take a few years for the new plants to grow and flower at the same rate as the original plant.

If you don’t have any more space in your garden for your new offshoots, consider:

  • Planting offshoots in pots. Since it may take a year or two to grow and start flowering, putting the new plants in a pot is a good option to get them healthy.
  • Gifting them to friends, family and neighbors. Just like fruits, vegetables and even dough starters, your extra perennials can make great gifts and ensure that nothing is going to waste.
  • Donating them to your garden center, club, or local organization. If you run out of people in need of plants, call up local establishments or gardening centers and clubs to see if they’d like your offshoots.

Enjoy your garden

Splitting plants is easy to add to your spring lawn care routine. Gardening has great physical, mental and emotional benefits that help you stay healthy. Plus, having native plants or a pollinator garden helps the local ecosystem and planet while bringing beautiful butterflies and birds to your front door!

Having an eye-catching outdoor space adds value to your home's curb appeal, too. If you’d like advice on what kind of perennial plants would help maximize your yard, reach out today.

Revitalize your home this spring

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Key Insights

  • Give your home a fresh start by getting it ready for the new season.
  • Declutter your space and give it a good spring cleaning.
  • Make small repairs, home maintenance updates and aesthetic changes.

Spring has sprung! Homeowners are encouraged to take on a few minor repairs, as well as a thorough cleaning, to give their space a fresh start and increase the curb appeal of their property.

Clear out clutter

The winter months might have caused clutter to build up in your home. Now is the time to purge and get organized. Throw away anything you don't need and store items you haven't used in a while or won't use during the warmer months of the year.

Establish routines and storage solutions for all areas of your home from your kitchen to kids’ spaces to help keep things orderly. It may feel like a daunting task, but clearing a home from clutter can open up space, save you money and reduce stress and will be well worth the effort.

Thoroughly clean

Once a home is free from the grasp of clutter, you can now give it a thorough cleaning. Don't skimp when it comes to a spring cleaning—you want to give your home a fresh start by airing it out, eliminating odors and giving everything a good scrub down.

Be sure to hit those out-of-sight-out-of-mind spots and move furniture and appliances to get every inch spick-and-span. It can be a lot of work, but on the bright side, it can double as a workout!

Paint faded rooms and cabinets

Another great way to add life to a home is to paint. Touching up a room is the perfect solution to make it look more appealing, whether you use paint, wallpaper or another wall accent like tile. Refinishing cabinets can completely change the look of a kitchen or bathroom at a low cost.

These updates can help your space feel larger and make your home better reflect your personal style (consider using some of the hottest colors for 2024). Just be sure to be realistic on how long these updates will take and if you should bring in a professional.

Make minor repairs

In addition to painting faded rooms and cabinets, it's also important to take on small repairs. Simple projects like fixing a door hinge will make you feel better about the state of your home this spring. It can also help prolong the life of your items or prevent larger issues from developing.

You can also use this opportunity to restock your home emergency kits and check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have fresh batteries and your space is fire-safe. Now would also be a good time to tune up your HVAC and water system and clean or replace your filters.

Give yourself a fresh start

Decluttering, cleaning and making updates to your home can do wonders for your home's functionality and your enjoyment of your space. It’s also a great way to get your home ready to sell. If you’re finding that you need a bigger new beginning, reach out and see what’s on the spring market!

What to look for in a home inspection

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Key Insights

  • What happens during a home inspection, including what it costs, who pays for it and when it should take place
  • An experienced professional will know what to look for in a home inspection and can provide a report that outlines potential issues and fixes
  • What happens after the inspection–and how buyers can use it to their advantage

When buying a home, you may wonder what to expect during a home inspection. In our guide, you’ll find everything you need – including a home inspection checklist for buyers – to confidently move forward with your purchase.

What to look for in a home inspection: A buyer’s checklist

Find out why inspecting a house is important, how much it costs, who pays for it, and what happens during a home inspection. Our buyer home inspection checklist will help you understand what a good home inspection report should include as well as ways your REALTOR® will help you navigate the process.

Should I get a home inspection before buying a house?

Having a home inspected before buying can help you identify potential issues and avoid costly surprises. It can also help ensure you don’t overpay if the home has damage or defects that require substantial repairs.

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, more than 85% of buyers request an inspection prior to signing a purchase agreement, so you can rest assured knowing you’re in good company when you ask for a home inspection for buyers. Sellers can also benefit by getting tips to pass their home inspection.

When is a home inspection done?

Real estate contracts in Minnesota and Wisconsin allow buyers to make their purchase contingent on a home inspection. Generally, this means the buyer and seller agree to have a professional home inspector conduct a thorough inspection of the property and prepare a report of their findings before the sale.

Depending on the findings, the buyer may have an opportunity to cancel the contract if they are concerned about the home’s conditions, or they may decide to negotiate possible repairs with the seller. Most importantly, the buyer will be able to proceed with a strong understanding of the condition of the property before they buy.

Who pays for a home inspection?

The homebuyer typically hires the home inspector. Your REALTOR can recommend someone they trust, or you can interview potential inspectors to get an idea of their relevant experience and obtain sample home inspection reports and client references.

How much is a home inspection?

The cost of a home inspection may vary and will be determined by the home inspector you hire. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the range for a typical home inspection is between $300-$500. Some things that could impact the cost include the region where you’re buying, the size and age of the house, and the scope of the services you’re paying for.

What happens during a home inspection?

A home inspection is a professional evaluation of a property, and it’s intended to determine the property’s condition and reveal any potential safety concerns. During a typical home inspection – which lasts two to three hours – a licensed home inspector will walk around the property to assess the condition of the interior and exterior, including the structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. They will put together a comprehensive report that documents their findings, including big and small concerns, as well as potential fixes. You should always ask for their professional opinion about any problems they uncover.

Remember, a REALTOR is not a professional inspector and should not be relied upon in place of one. A professional home inspector will use their experience and training to identify things that might not be apparent to your REALTOR or the average person. What to look for when inspecting a house is much different from what you might look for at an open house or showing.

Four things to look for in a home inspection

Your professional home inspector can provide an overview of what to expect from a home inspection and will likely have a dedicated checklist when making their report. However, as a rule of thumb, you should expect their report to address structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in addition to interior features, exterior conditions, the roof, walls and foundation. Generally, they will focus on four main areas.

Structural

This can include exterior and interior features of a home where the inspector will look for things like evidence of moisture or water damage, decay, termites, stains, cracks, damage, sagging and other imperfections. They will likely examine:

  • Foundation, crawl spaces and exterior walls
  • Septic tank, if applicable
  • Windows and door frames
  • Siding, bricks, paint and other exterior features
  • Roof and gutters
  • Chimneys
  • Grading for drainage
  • Detached garages, sheds, decks and fences
  • Attic and insulation
  • Soffits and ceilings
  • Stairway treads, risers and railings

Mechanical

This is related to your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, sometimes referred to as HVAC. It will be inspected to ensure there is no gas odor and that systems are clean and operate as expected. They will likely examine:

  • Furnace or boilers
  • Air conditioning or other cooling systems
  • Ventilation, including chimney flues and exhaust fans
  • Air filters
  • Ceiling fans
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Electrical

When it comes to your electrical system, your inspector will likely be looking to ensure things are in good and safe working condition and meet current code and capacity requirements. They may examine:

  • Wiring
  • Service or electrical panels
  • Cables
  • Electrical splices
  • Lights and switches
  • Electrical outlets
  • Electric garage door openers

Plumbing

When it comes to your plumbing, your inspector will look for evidence of leaks, rust, issues with water pressure or temperature, clogged drains and any signs of water damage. They will likely inspect:

  • Pipes
  • Water heater
  • Sump pump
  • Toilets, tubs, sinks and showers
  • Drains
  • Garbage disposals

Additional inspection considerations before buying

There are some things a typical home inspection may not address depending on your location, property features or even the type of home financing you’re using. Your REALTOR can help you determine whether Truth in Housing or inflow/infiltration inspections are needed as well as whether your home should be inspected for pests. You may also need special evaluations done on features like swimming pools, jacuzzis and solar panels.

What should a home inspection report include?

A typical home inspection report will be 20-50 pages long–or even longer in some cases. A longer report doesn’t necessarily indicate a home with major problems; it could simply mean the inspector was thorough and identified many smaller issues that you could use in your negotiations with the seller.

A good inspector will walk you and your REALTOR through their findings, and they can give you their professional opinion when it comes to easy fixes versus major red flags and potential deal breakers.

Next steps after a home inspection

After you’ve had some time to digest the findings from your home inspection report, you and your REALTOR can discuss what comes next. Depending on the issues, you could use it to negotiate down the purchase price, you could request that the seller replace or repair major issues, or you could choose to walk away from the purchase altogether (provided you had a contingency). No matter what you decide, your REALTOR is in your corner and will help guide you through the process to ensure you move forward with confidence.

Ready for help in your home buying journey?

Buying your first (or next) home is an exciting time, and you want to make sure you have all the information and support you need to make a good decision and an informed purchase. Reach out and we’ll determine the best course of action to secure the right home with the help of a home inspection for buyers.

Ideas for making your home feel bigger

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Key Insights

  • Use a monochromatic color scheme for continuity between room boundaries.
  • Play with scale when furnishing your home.
  • Incorporate light–both natural and artificial–to highlight the space you have.
  • Rely on decorating best practices that draw the eye to any additional room you have.
  • Declutter and optimize blank space to make the most of your square footage.

Big, open spaces are appealing when it comes to homes. But even if you’re short on space, you can still make your home feel open and roomy. Whether you’re trying to make the most of the room you have or looking to appeal to buyers, there are a variety of ways to create the feeling of a spacious home, even if you’re working with a closed floor plan. Try incorporating these ideas to maximize your square footage.

Go for a monochromatic color scheme

White is especially good for brightening up a room and making it appear larger by reflecting light better for a more open, spacious feel, but neutrals are also a great choice (especially when staging a home). However, a unified dark space can also work by blurring room boundaries. This is also true when incorporating tile into a space–smaller tiles require more grout that can visually break up a space, while bigger tiles create a more seamless look.

If you have an open-concept home, think about using the same flooring and paint colors throughout to create connection and continuous space instead of visually chopping it up with textiles and colors.

Rethink your furniture and play with scale

Furniture takes up the majority of your space. Instead of fighting it, play with scale when it comes to your furniture, and balance items. For instance, have a king-sized bed, but get rid of a footboard and choose a tall headboard to draw the eye up since there’s less horizontal free space.

Consider moving furniture away from the walls so it doesn’t feel like you’re at a loss for room. Opt for pieces that are transparent or have slim legs and forgo pieces that are clunky or have skirts to keep the eye from going to the ground. The goal is to allow the eye to travel further around the room with limited interruption.

Use light to highlight the space you have

Be sure to remove anything that may be blocking natural light sources (furniture, decor, overgrown trees, etc.) and keep windows clean. Install lower and wider windows to optimize this effect, keeping in mind that “green” home improvements may be eligible for tax deductions.

For spaces without natural light, layer your lighting using multiple sources (overhead, sconces, lamps, under cabinet lighting, spotlights, etc.) to brighten up any dark corners and show every inch of your space. When choosing your light bulbs, look for cool lighting that’s whiter and brighter to better highlight the room. You can also place mirrors or use glossy surfaces opposite to bounce and reflect light around the room.

Rely on decorating best practices

A keen eye for decor can make all the difference! Utilize simple decorating best practices that help guide the eye and give the feeling of a spacious home.

  • Hang drapes closer to the ceiling and past the window casing to draw the eyes up and out.
  • Paint the ceiling the same as the walls to visually expand the space.
  • Use wide planks of flooring or tile to help accentuate the length and width of a room.
  • Frame furniture with an appropriately sized rug.
  • Point lights up to add vertical height.
  • Incorporate glass to break down visual barriers while also letting in extra light.

Declutter and create blank space

Get rid of any clutter and add more real estate to your home. Remove anything that blocks a visual or physical pathway and go for one or two pieces of larger art to make the walls feel larger and play with scale. Having too much on the walls can make your home look smaller than it actually is. Instead, create a focal point and allow that to shine.

If you are dealing with clutter you can’t get rid of, consider hidden storage options like an ottoman that doubles as a blanket box, or eliminate the need for bookshelves and other bulky furniture with wall shelves that draw the eye up and toward non-cluttered areas. If you do opt for shelving, streamline your items and allow for blank space to highlight key decor. When storage spaces are packed, it gives the sense of not having enough room and makes your home look smaller.

Make the most of what you have

Making some small changes can have a huge impact on how big your home feels. By incorporating these tips and ideas, you’ll be able to increase the feeling of square footage without adding an inch of space.

For more ideas on how to best stage your home for showings and make the most of the home you have, reach out today.

Understanding home equity: Everything you need to know

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Key insights:

  • The average homeowner gained $20,000 in home equity by the end of Q3 2023.
  • An increase in home equity could impact your mortgage insurance.
  • Home equity can be used to fund a number of life stages — from buying or building a new home to retirement, 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 $20,000 in home equity through the end of Q3 2023. That represents a 6.8% jump in home equity compared to the prior year.

But despite these 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 market environment.

Let’s dive into what home equity is and what choices homeowners with equity can make 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.

The housing market can be a major contributor to homeowners’ gains in home equity: when home prices go up, so does the amount of equity you have in your home because your home equity is based on how much you owe on your home’s value at the time you bought it and what it’s worth today.

The market value of a house can be impacted by many factors, but it mostly boils down to supply and demand. A rapid jump in home sales creates higher sales prices, leading to higher home values and a home equity increase for homeowners. As was the case during the past few years, the number of homes on the market has dropped and prices have increased due to the competitive market, which has also led to an increase in selling prices and therefore an increase in home equity.

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 may 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 into 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 (less your closing and other costs associated with the transaction). Note: This does not account for capital gains taxes, which may or may not apply to your situation.

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 has 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 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 our experienced team can offer the insights you need to make decisions about your home’s equity. Reach out or contact a mortgage consultant for private, professional assistance.

*Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC, Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage, and HomeServices Lending, LLC are not financial advisors and cannot and are not offering financial advice. Please contact your financial advisor to discuss whether a home equity line of credit fits your overall financial goals.

Home equity line of credit may not be the right option for all borrowers. Not all borrowers will qualify. Contact your mortgage consultant to discuss each of the financing options available to you. Home equity lines of credit provided by third party. Some and/or all qualifying criteria may be set by an independent third party. Borrowers will be subject to qualification and must satisfy all underwriting requirements and conditions.

By refinancing an existing loan, your total finance charges may be higher over the life of the loan.

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. ©2024 Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC dba Edina Realty Mortgage. (877) 275-1762. 3060 Williams Drive, Suite 600, Fairfax, VA 22031. All first mortgage products are provided by Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC. Not all mortgage products may be available in all areas. Not all borrowers will qualify. NMLS ID #75164 (For licensing information go to: NMLS Consumer Access at http://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/) Licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act. Licensed by the Delaware State Bank Commissioner. Georgia Residential Mortgage Licensee. Massachusetts Mortgage Lender and Mortgage Broker MC75164. Licensed by the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance. Licensed Mortgage Banker-NYS Department of Financial Services. Rhode Island Licensed Lender. Rhode Island Licensed Loan Broker. Rhode Island Licensed Third-Party Loan Servicer. Also licensed in AK, AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DC, FL, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV and WY.

Five ways to show your home love

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Key Insights

  • Pamper your home with a deep clean, declutter and purge.
  • Schedule yearly reviews and maintenance to keep everything in tip-top shape.
  • Make improvements that have the best ROI for resale and for you.
  • Keep a record of your home updates for easy reference later on.

If you love love, you’ve probably heard about the five love languages. But when was the last time you showed your home some affection? Considering the amount of time, money, energy and resources you spend on your abode, it’s probably a relationship that deserves some TLC. These five tasks will get your home in order, looking and operating better than ever and feeling the love.

1. Physical touch: Clean, declutter and purge

Give your home a “spa day” by deep cleaning your space. Get behind your appliances and sweep or vacuum up any crumbs and cobwebs that have gathered, dust your vents, wash your floors and take care of any other areas you might have been neglecting. Light some candles or run a diffuser to give that fresh scent and spa-like experience, but swap out the soothing music for something upbeat to stay motivated. Then, keep your home nice and tidy by following up with weekly cleaning tasks, and make notes in your calendar for monthly and quarterly tasks so you don’t forget and fall behind.

Declutter and free your home from chaos and unneeded items so your home can better function for you and your family. It will also help you save money, appreciate what you have and lessen your stress and anxiety.

Make sure you don’t forget to go through and purge any items that have passed their expiration date:

  • Personal items: Mouthwash, makeup, lotion, and medicine should all be reviewed. (Be sure to safely dispose of any medications.)
  • Home items: batteries, hydrogen peroxide, disinfectants and bug repellants all have expiration dates or lose their efficacy after being opened.
  • Food and beverages: Condiments and dressings, spices, baking soda and powder, bottled water, alcoholic beverages and pantry items all have a way of lingering in your fridge and cupboards without your notice.
  • While you’re at it, replace any items that may have become unhygienic: disposable razors (replace every 3-4 shaves), toothbrushes (replace every 3 months), loofahs (replace every 3 months), and kitchen sponges (every few weeks).

2. Acts of service: Schedule maintenance

The pitter-patter your heart feels when someone does a task for you is the same for your home. It’s not necessarily glamorous or a grand gesture, but it’s needed and appreciated, especially since yearly maintenance can prevent larger, more expensive issues from popping up. Here are a few tasks you should check off your list or schedule for the future:

  • Review and update your homeowner’s insurance policy
  • Inspect your HVAC unit and chimney
  • Clean gutters, exhaust fans, refrigerator coils, dryer exhaust
  • Check on items that may need updating/repair: foundation, roof, walkways, windows, trees and landscaping
  • Test and update safety features: fire and carbon dioxide alarms, fire extinguishers, safety kits and home security systems

3. Receiving gifts: Make improvements

Some new decor or a fresh coat of paint may be all you need to freshen up a room and make it more functional. Other home projects (DIY or other), are much more involved, take up a significant amount of time and can cost a pretty penny.

Before you pick up a sledgehammer or pick out tile, consider what your ROI will be. The most recent Cost vs. Value report lists out some common home projects and the percentage of cost recovered at sale. At the top of the list is:

  • HVAC conversion (electrification)
  • Garage door replacement
  • Manufactured stone veneer
  • Entry door replacement

Meanwhile, midrange bathroom and kitchen remodels rank at 66.7% and 41.8%. The data shows that in many cases, smaller updates pay off more than larger ones. For instance, replacing hardware versus doing a kitchen remodel.

Keep in mind that while it’s good to understand ROI trends, it’s all relative to your home. If your kitchen cabinets are falling off the hinges, your ROI will be higher regardless of what the stats say. You should also consider your personal ROI–how much will the improvements impact your life and increase your home happiness?

4. Words of affirmation: Keep a home record

Start recording all things related to your home for easy reference. A few items to add to the file are:

  • Renovations: Note what was done, when, for how much and any improvements that made an impact to your home’s amenities or features (more square footage, extra bathroom, etc.).
  • New appliances: Be sure to keep any warranties and instruction manuals.
  • Maintenance dates: Jot down when upkeep and tune-ups are done, who was called and any notes that may come in handy (for example, if a service person says your dishwasher will need to be replaced in the next few years).
  • Decor: Include identifying features such as the manufacturer, name and item number. Remember to add your paint brands and colors, as well.

Having this list will help you keep things straight when it comes to home upkeep and prevent you from doing rework or scratching your head when questions pop up or updates need to happen. This record will also be a huge asset if you decide to sell.

5. Quality time: Make your home work for you

Enjoy your time at home. Whether that’s having a morning coffee on your deck, hosting a game night or cooking up a four-course meal, your home is best loved when you’re making the most of its features. Consider what you can change to make your home work best for you. That might mean turning the garage into a fitness space or adding a dual vanity to the kids’ bathroom.

If your list of don’t-likes surpasses your list of loves when it comes to your house, now might be the best time to consider making a move to a place you can truly call home. Start by reaching out, and together we can begin searching for a home you’ll love.

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

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

You may have heard stories about the real estate market and lots of buyer competition for a limited number of properties for sale. While we expect to see an increase in inventory in 2024, we also anticipate continued competition among buyers. In this edition, our lawyers answer some questions that buyers are raising in the current real estate market.

Dear Edina Realty Legal,

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

Despite your offer being full price, the seller is not required to accept it. When a seller lists a property, they are simply advertising it. An MLS listing is not an offer to sell the home that can be accepted by simply submitting a full-price purchase agreement. Typically, the buyer submits an offer, and the seller has nearly complete discretion in deciding whether to accept it.

The seller may have received an offer for over the list price and that was the reason your offer was not accepted. And as you likely realized when writing your offer in the first place, there are a lot of things, beyond the price, that you had to decide to include in your offer. Some of those items included whether to do an inspection, what type of financing to use or even whether to use financing at all.

Sellers need to evaluate all terms when deciding which offer is best for that seller. A seller might choose one offer over another because the closing date is sooner, the buyer is paying 100% cash, the buyer did not need to sell their home before purchasing the seller’s home or for various other reasons. While submitting a full-price offer is a good way to get a seller’s attention, it is only one aspect of the contract the seller is considering. Continue working with your real estate agent to come up with the most competitive offer you can make, and hopefully, a seller will accept your offer soon.

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

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

The home inspection contingency has obvious benefits for the buyer, and Edina Realty recommends a home inspection on every purchase. But in a seller-favorable market, we often see many different strategies intended to make an offer stand out from the rest of the crowd. One strategy is to not have the contract contingent on a home inspection. That’s certainly a strategy you can employ, but it comes with some risks.

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

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

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

If you have heard that you shouldn’t provide a letter with your offer, that likely comes from concerns about the Fair Housing Act or state laws prohibiting discrimination. The Fair Housing Act prohibits a seller from making a decision on who they sell their home to based on protected classifications, like race, ethnicity, religion, familial status, gender and disability. Some state laws have similar protections that extend to classes beyond that of the Fair Housing Act—for example, Minnesota law protects against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

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

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

It can be disappointing when an appraisal comes in lower than the price you had agreed upon. But just because an appraisal comes back less than the contract price does not mean the deal is done or that the parties are required to renegotiate the price.

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

Unfortunately, in other situations, a low appraisal may result in an inability to obtain financing for the purchase. Your real estate agent can work with you before submitting offers to discuss options for how to handle a low appraisal situation, including different terms to put into the contract to ensure you can move forward, or perhaps not move forward, with a purchase in a low appraisal situation. It is also a good idea to discuss appraisal issues with your lender to understand what impact a low appraisal could have on a potential purchase, given your specific financial situation.

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

The ultimate guide to the 2024 Spring Parade of Homes

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Key insights:

  • Visit the Spring Parade of Homes from March 8 through April 7, 2024, and the Remodelers Showcase from April 5–7, 2024.
  • The Parade of Homes showcases hundreds of luxury, Green Path and new construction homes in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota.
  • Tours are free with a few exceptions. Dream Homes require admission, which supports the Housing First Minnesota Foundation.
  • Partnering with a REALTORⓇ when purchasing a new construction home means you have an advocate looking out for your best interests throughout the building process.

With limited inventory available, some buyers are turning to new construction as an option for owning and customizing their dream home. If you’re considering buying a home this year, be sure to check out the highly anticipated Parade of Homes and Remodelers Showcase events this spring.

Here are more details you can use as you plan to attend this one-of-a-kind home tour.

What is the Parade of Homes?

Showcasing some of the finest properties in Minnesota, the Parade of Homes inspires homeowners in and around the Twin Cities. This month-long event features hundreds of brand-new homes and remodeled homes which are free and open to the public, with a few paid exceptions; Dream Homes requires an admission fee that goes to support the Housing First Minnesota Foundation benefiting area families in need of housing.

While touring the Parade of Homes, expect to view the ultimate exhibition of luxury, green, high-tech and new-construction homes in Minnesota. This event is “where dream homes come true.”

When is the 2024 Spring Parade of Homes?

The 2024 Spring Parade of Homes spans an entire month, allowing viewers ample time to leisurely and carefully explore properties throughout Minnesota. The concluding days of the spring tour will highlight the area’s most beautifully renovated homes with a special Remodelers Showcase.

2024 Spring Parade of Homes:

  • March 8 through April 7, 2024
  • Weekly, Friday through Sunday
  • Noon–6 p.m.
  • Closed Easter Sunday, March 31.

2024 Spring Remodelers Showcase:

  • April 5–7, 2024
  • One-weekend event, Friday through Sunday
  • Noon–6 p.m.

Get more details on this spring’s Parade of Homes — including special events, free offerings, and other upcoming tours.

Looking for renovation ideas? Visit the Remodelers Showcase

Deepen your Parade of Homes experience by visiting the Remodelers Showcase. This three-day event offers a unique perspective of remodeled homes in the area, plus the opportunity to converse with local remodelers.

Contractors and architects have thoughtfully remodeled the featured homes to better align with modern living standards — while maintaining original features and honoring the character of the property. Gather insights from these experts, as you may find them beneficial while planning your own home improvements.

Can a Realtor help with the Parade of Homes tour?

Yes! It is to your advantage to work with a REALTOR as you tour the Parade of Homes or build a brand-new home. Your agent is an expert in the field and will be your best resource, advocating for you throughout your home search. REALTORS deeply understand the process of purchasing and building homes and can explain the steps and timeline, advise on key decisions and help with negotiations or other challenges that may arise.

When starting your Parade of Homes experience with your REALTOR, you can rest assured that you have an expert guiding you as you navigate the unique path of a new construction purchase. Even if you don’t bring your REALTOR with you on the Parade of Homes, you’ll still want to mention to potential developers that you are already working with an agent.

Are you ready to make your move?

If you’re feeling inspired by the 2024 Spring Parade of Homes, now is the time to move forward. Reach out to begin your home purchase journey today.

Five goals to set when you plan to sell your home

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Key Insights

  • Breaking down the to-do list of getting your house market-ready makes it more manageable and less stressful.
  • Decluttering, organizing and cleaning your space are essential to selling.
  • Begin working on DIY projects and home updates to get your home ready to list.
  • Work with a licensed REALTOR® early on in the process to get the most out of their selling expertise.

If selling your house is on the to-do list this year, you may be overwhelmed when you think about all the work that goes into getting it ready for the market. By breaking down your to-do list into definitive goals, you can make the process more manageable and remove some of the stress that comes with selling a home. It can also help build momentum and space out your tasks so you’re not trying to take on too much all that once.

Make these goals part of your New Year’s resolutions to ensure your home is ready for showings, and turn making your home seller-ready into bite-size, manageable goals.

Goal 1: Declutter

Decluttering can benefit your life in a multitude of ways. It helps you get organized, improves mental health, removes chaos and allows you to appreciate what you have. Selling items no longer needed can add some extra cash to your bank account (did you add “start saving more” to your 2024 resolutions?). You could also donate items for an extra-good feeling of helping those in need.

There are plenty of different ways to tackle decluttering:

  • KonMari: Keeping only the things that bring you joy.
  • Swedish Death Cleaning: Simplifying your life by removing things you no longer need.
  • The Four Box method: Turing decluttering into four options for each item you own—should it be donated, trashed, relocated, or kept?
  • 12-12-12 challenge: Filling a quota by finding 12 things to donate, 12 to toss and 12 to put away.

It doesn’t really matter how you declutter; the most important thing is finding a method that works best for you and your family. It’s also a good step to take when estate planning and taking stock of assets.

Goal 2: Get organized

Now that you’ve removed all the “extras,” it’s time to get everything back in order. Not only will this make everyday living easier and keep your household running smoothly, but it will also be a huge benefit for when you move. Just like decluttering, there are plenty of ways to organize your home, and the most important part is finding what works for you.

This step might involve a small investment if you need to buy bins, containers or other storage solutions, but the good news is that there is a huge market with a variety of price points and aesthetic options out there to fit your needs.

Goal 3: Deep clean the house

There are probably a couple of spaces in your home that haven’t been given the once-over in a while (when was the last time you washed your washing machine or cleaned behind the fridge?). Take a weekend for a “spring” cleaning, or create a hit list to accomplish during the week and get those out-of-sight, out-of-mind areas spick and span. (Plus, if your New Year’s resolutions include being more active, you’ll be burning calories as you clean!) Keep your space fresh and clean by creating a weekly cleaning schedule and help prevent last-minute panic cleans in the future.

Then, mark your calendar to tackle those spots again every couple of months to keep them under control. While your calendar is out, consider scheduling some maintenance checks on your big-ticket home items like your furnace, HVAC system and water heater. If you have any concerns about your roof and windows or installation, now would be a good time to check them out to avoid costly surprises when the time comes to sell.

Goal 4: Tackle DIY projects

Every home has a few dings, scrapes or design flaws, but those small imperfections can appear more glaring to potential buyers. Make a list of all the little annoyances your home has and repair as many as you can. You’d be surprised how much of a difference minor updates like painting a room or updating your mudroom can make—not just in your resale value, but in how much you’ll enjoy your home while you’re still in it! Just keep in mind how any aesthetic changes can impact your home sale—while your favorite color might be pink, you might want to stick to a neutral paint color for staging and selling purposes.

For bigger projects, you may need to hire a contractor, plumber, electrician or other tradesperson. If you’re considering updating larger areas like your kitchen or bathroom, consider what your return on investment will be when you sell and if the work you’ll put in will pay off in the end.

Goal 5: Find a REALTOR®

Some things you know you need to do on your own, like replacing a stained carpet or cleaning out the garage. But there are going to be plenty of things you won’t necessarily know to do, or how to do them.

That’s where the expertise of a REALTOR comes in. They can guide you on practical matters like what plants will create the best curb appeal, as well as guide you through the home selling process and provide you with a comprehensive checklist for getting your home ready to sell.

If you wait to find an agent right when you want to sell, you’ll be missing out on all their guidance and pre-listing work they can provide to help improve your odds of getting a quicker close at a higher value.

Ready to start accomplishing these goals? Reach out today.

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