Should you renovate your bathroom before selling?

/media/3336/1_bathroom_reno.jpg

Key insights

  • To recoup some of the cost of your bathroom renovation, select projects that deliver a high ROI.
  • Thrifty homeowners may complete simple bathroom upgrades on their own, whereas more complicated remodels could require the help of a plumber. Factor this in when budgeting for projects.
  • Assess the status of the housing market to determine what renovations might be a smart investment for you.

When it comes to preparing your home for sale, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. Homeowners that complete upgrades — like a bathroom remodel — before listing are likely to gain buyer attention. Plus, sellers may achieve a better return on investment (ROI) thanks to certain renovation projects.

Here are insights you can use when determining the estimated costs and benefits of remodeling your bathroom, including how much of the project cost you can expect to recoup and what questions you might ask when considering a bathroom renovation.

The cost and ROI of a bathroom remodel

According to the Remodeling 2020 Cost vs. Value Report, a mid-range bathroom remodel in the Twin Cities area will cost $24,584 and recoup $12,620 (just over 50%) upon resale. Specifically, the project begins with a 5-foot by 7-foot existing bathroom where all fixtures are replaced, including:

  • Porcelain-on-steel tub with ceramic tile
  • Single-lever temperature and pressure-balanced shower control
  • Standard white toilet
  • Vanity counter with integral sink
  • Lighted medicine cabinet
  • Ceramic tile floor
  • Vinyl wallpaper

The 2020 Cost vs. Value Report is determined by existing local projects, so the cost breakout is said to be realistic for local homeowners undertaking renovations in the Minneapolis area. Handy homeowners may be able to lower project costs significantly by performing some installations on their own, rather than hiring a contractor or plumber.

Is a bathroom remodel worth it?

When contemplating a bathroom remodel or the ROI of other home projects, it’s important to consider the price recouped. The ROI of a midrange bathroom remodel in the Minneapolis area is 51.4%, but the remaining cost calculates out to just under $12,000.

Here are some questions to ask when determining whether or not a bathroom renovation is the right choice for your home.

What does your current bathroom look like?

If your bathroom hasn’t been updated at all since 1968, it may be time to replace everything from the pea-green countertops to the dingy bathtub. However, if the bathroom was given a facelift in the last 15 years or so, you may be able to get away with a few cosmetic improvements, rather than a major renovation.

Some simple yet worthwhile bathroom improvement ideas include:

  • Fresh wallpaper or paint
  • Updated vanity and medicine cabinet
  • New hardware, such as towel bars and doorknobs
  • Mid-century modern accents, like a mirror or picture frames
  • Polished linens, shades and shower curtains
  • Trendy new light fixture(s)

If you decide to gut and redo your entire bathroom, carefully consider your tile choice. By thoughtfully choosing your tile design, you can create the illusion of a more spacious and trendy bathroom.

In short, think about what upgrades are needed for buyers to view your bathroom as a bright selling point of the home, instead of a sore spot that will require fixing shortly after move-in day.

Are buyers circling?

If you live in a popular neighborhood with low housing inventory, remodeling may not be the best investment decision for your property. When buyers are competing over a shortage of homes, even a house with a Brady Bunch bathroom can be a hot commodity.

Let’s work together to assess whether or not your bathroom needs to be updated or remodeled. We’ll make a customized plan for your overall home staging, pricing and selling strategy.

Will the bathroom pass an inspection as-is?

It may seem obvious, but if your bathroom won’t currently pass a home inspection, it’s imperative that you make the necessary fixes before listing. Even the lowest inventory may not make a difference when you have significant plumbing issues.

Do you need a plumber?

Keep in mind, anything that involves drainage will likely involve a plumber — which will bring your costs up quite a bit. For example, adding a shower in place of a tub or rearranging the layout of your bathroom could require rerouted plumbing.

To avoid higher-than-expected expenses, be sure to get a quote before deciding on your final renovation plan.

Looking for more pointers as you prepare to sell?

Bathroom upgrades, whether you swap out tarnished hardware for new knobs or completely transform your bathroom, will be part of many factors that go into determining the best price for your home sale. These types of high ROI renovations may urge hesitant buyers to seriously consider your property.

If you’re looking for more seller tips and insights, or are ready to take the next step in selling your home, reach out.

© 2020 Hanley Wood, LLC. Complete data from the Remodeling 2020 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.

Seven super-dirty spots you're probably forgetting to clean in your home

/media/3337/4_seven_areas_to_clean.jpg

Key insights

  • Need help seeing your own dirt? Enlist a cleaning service or a detail-oriented friend to help you spot the grime in your house.
  • Pay special attention to common dirt-collecting areas such as throw pillows and ceiling fans.
  • Before cleaning dirty areas, be sure to declutter your belongings. With less clutter in the way, you’ll be able to clean your way to a sparkling house.

It is time to open your home and let in the fresh air. And for many of us, cleaning is part of that springtime welcome ritual. Here are insights you can use to find and clean the dirtiest spots in your house. Remember, even the tidiest of homes have areas that could use a little TLC.

How to see your own dirt

After years of dusting the same surfaces, it’s not uncommon to lose track of what’s really in need of cleaning at your house. However, there are some quick fixes to this predicament.

First, you can hire a cleaning service to do a deep clean. Be sure to ask the cleaner to show you any areas that require extra upkeep, so you can work on maintaining them after the professional job is done.

Another option is to ask your eagle-eyed or super-honest friend to come over and give you an assessment of your space. Be prepared to hear even the worst-case scenario, and try to not be offended.

And a third option is to take a look around your home with fresh eyes. Change your perspective - get down low, step up high, and try to see your fixtures, appliances and decor from a different angle. Also, shine a light on different areas with a good flashlight or other light source to see what dirt may be hidden in those dark corners.

7 areas homeowners commonly overlook — and how to clean them

Whether you’re prepping for a home sale soon or simply eager to refresh rooms, the time to tidy up is now.

Here are seven commonly overlooked areas that you need to put at the top of your cleaning list.

1. Throw pillows. Although it’s commonplace to wash the pillowcases you sleep on, have you thought twice about the throw pillows throughout your house? Whether as decorative pieces on your bed or comfortable additions to your living room sofa, throw pillows are used on the daily and should be cleaned accordingly.

Wash throw pillow covers and inserts regularly — especially if you have pets that like to jump on furniture. Doing so will helpeliminate odors throughout the home while creating a more sanitary environment. To keep the pillows fluffy, toss a few (clean) tennis balls into the dryer.

2. Ceiling fans and light fixtures. These areas are dust collecting machines. Check fan blades, light fixtures, lampshades, wall sconces, and other built-in features for potential buildup.

3. Things you touch all the time. From TV remotes to light switches and soap dispensers to toilet handles, there are many surfaces that we touch but forget to wipe down. Take time to sanitize these areas and anything else that is touched on a day-to-day basis to break down lingering germs and grime.

4. Oven hood. Greasy, dusty, splattered oven hoods almost always require extra attention. Wipe down the exterior of this kitchen feature and be sure to check for any corroded parts or filters that need changing. By staying on top of these items, you’ll maintain a well-functioning (and sparkling) kitchen.

5. Bathroom grout. Tile can appear newer and cleaner by simply refreshing the grout. Consider purchasing a drill bit attachment that can help clean out yucky residue or discoloration — making your bathroom floors or shower tiles look good as new.

6. Silverware drawer. This drawer, along with other drawer organizers or cabinet bottoms, tends to accumulate unwanted debris. Remove everything from these areas and clean. You’ll feel better about using forks and knives from this drawer after it’s been sanitized.

7. Garbage disposal. Although it’s out of sight, this home feature should not be out of mind. When it comes to cleaning, it’s essential to remember your garbage disposal — and you can do a great job using natural ingredients like lemon slices, baking soda and vinegar! This will help take away any unwanted smells while ensuring your garbage disposal performs optimally.

Always declutter before cleaning

Are you cleaning your home before you list it for sale? Be sure to declutter your belongings first. It’s much easier to fully clean an area that won’t be covered up again in paperwork, books or other loose items.

If you’re gearing up to deep clean your house, start by trying one (or all) of these decluttering trends:

  • KonMari Method - only keep what is useful or brings you joy
  • Swedish Death Cleaning - get rid of old stuff now so others don’t have to later
  • The Four Box Method - donate, trash, relocate, keep
  • 12-12-12 Challenge - find 12 things each to donate, toss and put away

A clean slate for home sellers

Now that you’ve cleared your space and created a clean slate, are you ready to take the next step to list your property for sale? Reach out today for advice on getting started!

Eight surprising things covered under your homeowners insurance policy

/media/3338/3_homeowners_insurance.jpg

Key insights

  • From damaged food to hurt house guests, typical insurance policies offer coverage to protect your home.
  • Although a hodgepodge of items are covered under most insurance policies, flood damage generally isn’t. Prepare in advance if you live in a flood zone.
  • If you’re unsure about your coverage, reach out to your insurance company. They will fill you in on the specifics of your individual plan.

Many people assume their homeowners insurance policy is only for major damage to the structure of their property, but these plans also cover a lot of day-to-day damages.

Here are insights you can use to understand the unique coverages found under most homeowners insurance policies. When in doubt, always reach out to your insurance company for an exact overview of coverage and specifics for your plan.

1. Loss in a college dormitory

If your child is living in an on-campus dorm, their belongings could be covered as “personal property coverage.” While you likely won’t waste a claim on a misplaced iPhone or stolen printer in the college dorms, this coverage would come in handy if the dorm’s sprinkler system damaged everything from the flat-screen TV to the brand-new futon.

However, if your child lives in an off-campus house or apartment, their belongings are not covered under most insurance plans. In this case, they should purchase a separate renter’s insurance policy to protect their abode.

2. Refrigerator re-stocking after a power outage

Many people don’t know what to do with their perishable food after a power outage and may try to salvage items that should be thrown out. If your home appliances shut off and your refrigerated food spoils after a storm, most policies will cover a portion of the damage.

Don’t play the guessing game with the food you consume. Toss out potentially dangerous items that were left unrefrigerated and, if your losses are significantly higher than your deductible, consider reporting your loss to your insurance company for possible reimbursement.

3. Housing needs after a storm

An unexpected storm can put a kink in plans and cause major damage to cars and homes. If the weight of snow causes roof damage or the cold creates a burst pipe, you should file a homeowners insurance claim right away.

Plus, if your home becomes uninhabitable after storm damage, your home insurance company will likely pay for your related hotel and restaurant bills, too.

4. Guest injuries

If your house guests slip on a well-waxed floor or slam their hand in your front door, your policy will likely cover their damage, so long as they choose to make a claim.

5. Buried utility lines

By endorsement, some insurance companies will cover buried utility lines such as sewer and gas lines that lead from the city main to your home. Should one of these lines burst and need repair, it can be claimed on your homeowners policy with the right endorsement. Not all companies offer this coverage and it needs to be added by endorsement so don’t assume it’s automatically included. The cost of that expense out of your pocket can easily reach $10,000 so it’s a worthwhile protection particularly on older homes.

6. Fire department charges

Many fire departments charge for emergency response calls. In fact, the Hopkins fire department charges up to $250 for a false alarm from a home security company, depending on the number of occurrences for your household. As you move into more rural areas, the costs may increase. In Troy, Wisconsin, for example, a house visit from the fire department is $800. Your homeowners policy may cover these charges, up to a certain amount.

7. Dog bites

If Fluffy goes rogue and her bites cause damage to a well-meaning visitor, your policy may cover the resulting medical bills and expenses. (You should also apologize profusely, and bring your pup to obedience classes.)

8. Flying objects (no, really)

This is rare, but should debris from a plane, satellite or other flying object cause any damage to your home, yard or car, then you are typically covered under your policy. We know the chance of this occurring is slim — but should it happen, you won’t be left picking up the literal pieces.

The fine print: No flood insurance

It’s important to remember that even though homeowners insurance covers a lot of the issues noted above, most policies do not cover flood damage. If you live or are thinking of moving to an area where flood damage is common due to excess rain or winter runoff, look into securing a flood insurance policy in addition to your regular homeowners insurance plan.

Deciding to file a claim

In almost all homeowner claims, your deductible will apply so be sure to carefully consider if the losses are large enough to report. Not all damages should always result in a homeowner claim. Making too many homeowner claims can put you at risk for cancellation with your current company and also harm your ability to be eligible for coverage in the future.

What’s covered under your plan?

Wondering about the specifics of your Edina Realty Homeowners Insurance plan or interested in comparing costs and coverage? Reach out for details and a referral to one of our qualified insurance professionals.

Tips for lowering household expenses

/media/3339/2_lower_expensives.jpg

Key insights:

  • Cut back on entertainment expenses by nixing the cable TV and replacing it with a library card and streaming subscription.
  • Leverage free mobile apps and outdoor trails to get your exercise in without an expensive (and underutilized) gym membership.
  • Make DIY cleaning supplies with ingredients you already have to help cut household costs.

It’s time to stick to your budget and save more than ever before. Lowering your household expenses doesn’t mean you need to cut out everything, but you may want to cut back in certain areas. It’s possible to continue enjoying everything from books to TV to take-out dinners — while reducing your expenses — by following the tips below.

1. Cable and internet

If you’re on the fence and unsure whether or not your cable TV is worth the added expense, take an audit of the television shows you actually watch live. Then, calculate how many of them are truly necessary to watch as they air.

You can also research to see if there are packages available that allow for live-streaming of specific networks, rather than a bulk cable package. If you’re paying more than you should be, replace your cable or satellite package with other streaming options. Most offer a free trial period of the service. Some popular alternatives to cable include:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Premium content apps, such as HBO, Showtime and Disney+

2. Books and movies

Eliminate the added expense of entertainment by setting up a library membership. This card will be your single ticket to hundreds of books and movies, while supporting your community.

Be sure to set up an online account to accompany your library card. This allows you to easily add books and movies to your wish list online and pick them up once they come in as reserved. Also, download an app that connects with your local public library, like OverDrive. Here, you can enjoy ebooks and audiobooks via your library membership for free.

3. Heating and cooling

Agree with your family or housemates at the beginning of each season on what the average thermostat temperature should be in your home. Then, as painful as it may be when it hits subzero (or red-hot) temperatures, try to personally adjust before cranking the thermostat or air conditioning.

Sometimes, all it takes is some creative layering of clothes, and a solemn vow, to keep your utility costs down.

4. Dining out

Set a rule limiting yourself to “eat out” only 1-2 times per week. You can even trade off cooking homemade meals a few times a week for each other, so you’re still trying new things and saving time in the kitchen.

It also helps to plan ahead. Make a meal schedule for the week prior to grocery shopping. And if you’re really ambitious, you could prepare a couple of those meals in advance on the weekend and store them in the freezer to save time on those hectic work days.

5. Phone line

Get rid of your landline and send your contacts a notice of the best way to reach you moving forward. Be sure to update important contacts with your cell number who may have previously called your home, including:

  • Doctor or dentist
  • School office
  • Coaches or teachers

6. Fitness and gym memberships

Unless you’re a dedicated gym goer, consider switching to an in-home gym. Smartphone apps like 7-Minute Workout will help keep you in shape even from your makeshift living room gym.

During the warmer months, give the treadmill a rest and hit nearby outdoor trails for a free workout. Exercise around any of our numerous Minnesota lakes for a great workout against a scenic backdrop.

7. Plan in advance, and buy in bulk when possible

Avoid last-minute purchases of anything, from meat to laundry soap, by taking stock of the items you are running low on before you go to the grocery store or big box store. By purchasing enough for a specific time period — anywhere from two to four weeks is pretty reasonable — you’ll save money and time in the long run.

If you have the space, you can also save a bit of dough by purchasing a membership to a bulk goods store, like Costco or Sam’s Club. You may also want to consider buying a stand-alone freezer that you can stock with meat, frozen vegetables, fruit and even bread products.

8. Fueling up

Never fill up on gas at the first gas station off the highway. These stations are usually higher priced by at least a few cents per gallon. Learn which fueling stations have the best prices, and fill up when you drive by rather than waiting for your tank to be empty. There are even smartphone apps that list fuel prices for nearby gas stations.

If you have a Sam’s Club or Costco membership, see if your local store has cheaper fueling stations onsite. Also, many gas stations have membership perks or partnerships to offer customers incentives and savings. Check with your neighborhood fuel station for any loyalty programs. Remember, gas prices are always fluctuating. Take advantage as much as you can when prices are low and use these tips to save when they go back up.

9. Water heater

Remember to service your large appliances throughout the year. Proper water heater maintenance will help keep costs down. For extra savings, insulate your hot water tank and set it to a maximum temperature of 120 degrees to keep costs down. That temp is still high enough for a hot shower, without being scalding.

10. Green your clean

Forget the expensive cleaning solutions that run you anywhere from $5-$15 per bottle. To keep costs down while greening your clean, consider creating these concoctions:

  • Glass cleaner: Combine 2 cups water, ½ cup white or cider vinegar, ¼ cup rubbing alcohol.
  • All-purpose cleaner for countertops and refrigerator: Mix 4 tablespoons baking soda and 1 quart warm water.
  • Toilet bowl cleaner: Combine ½ cup baking soda and 1 cup distilled white vinegar.
  • Disposal cleaner: Start by pouring a half cup of baking soda down the drain, then a cup of white vinegar. Let it sit as you boil a pot of water, then pour the boiling water down the drain. Last, add two cups of ice to the drain and turn on the disposal until it drains completely. To deodorize the drain, add a quartered lime or lemon to the disposal while it runs.

Don’t stop saving!

Tweaking your typical household expenses can help to create larger savings in the long run. Put away the extra cash you saved in a rainy day fund or reinvest it in home improvement projects that you’ve been meaning to take on.

Wondering what home improvement projects deliver the best ROI, how much to save for a downpayment or what the current housing market looks like? Reach out for real estate advice customized to you.

How to be a good neighbor while following proper social distancing measures

/media/3327/gi_april2020_community.jpg

Key insights

  • If you’re able, offer up your time and services to vulnerable or at-need community members.
  • It’s possible to be social with your friends and family while practicing social distancing.
  • Think outside the box to raise spirits through fun activities like lscavenger hunts, virtual playdates and chalked sidewalks.

As we take precautions and self-isolate due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we don’t want to lose touch with our communities. Offering assistance and virtual socializing can help bring us together during this uncertain time. Keep reading for more insights you can use to be a good neighbor during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Support your community members

COVID-19 is impacting all of us in some form. If you’re healthy and have the bandwidth to contribute, now is the time. Communities are banding together in a common fight, and you can join the effort now.

Buy groceries for vulnerable neighbors. If someone on your block is part of the at-risk population or a caregiver for someone who is, offer to purchase their groceries or other necessary items. Be sure to follow CDC guidelines regarding protective equipment and to wash your hands before and after you shop, to lower the risk of transmission.

Keep in mind, you can likely place a mobile order for these supplies to be delivered straight to their doorstep.

Ask neighbors if they need anything from you. Get in contact with your community members to offer help wherever and however you can, especially if you have isolated neighbors. Send a text or a kindness postcard to help alleviate stress attributed to COVID-19 concerns.

Support essential workers. Essential workers are continuing to serve our communities during the COVID-19 outbreak. Under Minnesota’s current stay-at-home order, it can be difficult to organize a drive for masks or perform a larger, collective action.

Instead, try to offer one-on-one support to the medical professionals, delivery drivers, grocery store and essential retail employees, and those who are still working at takeout-friendly restaurants and cafes. Whether it’s buying a gift card to use later or ordering meals for those working long shifts, there are still small ways you can contribute.

Donate to local organizations. Food banks and other programs, such as Meals on Wheels, need your assistance. If you have the capacity to donate extra supplies or funds to COVID-19 relief efforts, check out these Minnesota nonprofits and charities.

Brighten someone’s day

It’s generally agreed upon that the best way to prevent the spread or contraction of COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to the virus. Therefore, many municipalities are practicing and even mandating social distancing. Nonetheless, it is possible to be social while following social distancing protocol. Here are some ways to stay in contact with loved ones and spread positivity during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Organize fun activities for neighborhood kids. A social-distancing neighborhood scavenger hunt may raise the spirits of cooped-up kiddos in your neighborhood. To spread the word (and increase participation), share the details of the hunt via Nextdoor and your Facebook community groups.

Send video greetings to loved ones. Plan a virtual playdate or a time for family members to connect through video chat platforms like FaceTime or Zoom. Or, simply send videos to people you care about with uplifting messages. If you have kids, feature them!

Chalk your walk. Get creative to send positive messages to healthcare workers and others working on the front lines. Paint your sidewalk in chalk or hang signs in your windows to demonstrate your support. These crafty actions can be a fun (and time-consuming) activity for the entire family, too!

Join forces

Behind COVID-19 concerns lies a collective effort to eliminate the effects of the virus on our communities. Continue to generate mutual support against the disease through these actions of solidarity.

Start a support thread on Nextdoor. Virtual platforms are the ideal place to share how you are managing life amid COVID-19. Whether you’re asking for tips from fellow parents on at-home childcare or you’ve found the best work-at-home setup that you’d love to share, hop online. Remember to stay positive!

Leverage your talents for the greater good. If you have any talents that can be shared, lean into them! A Duluth company is swapping spirit distillery for hand sanitizer production and some local photographers are offering to take doorstep family portraits in exchange for charity donations. Costume makers (and amateur sewers, too!) are sewing cloth masks as medical workers face a shortage of protective gear.

Follow local news and guidance. Do your part to combat COVID-19 by staying up-to-date with local news and mandates. This useful information will help keep you and community members healthy and safe.

We’re all in this together

Social distancing is in effect, but we’re building a united front against COVID-19. Be sure to follow these tips to be a good neighbor during this unprecedented time.

As always, reach out any time for homeowner assistance. We’re here for you — and we are doing our part to limit the spread of COVID-19 through virtual showings, drive-up closings and more.

How you can avoid home and finance-related scams

/media/3328/gi_april2020_scams.jpg

Key insights

  • Scammers may go to extreme lengths to execute their plan, and it’s not uncommon for them to target seniors.
  • Be aware of common scam ploys, such as fraudulent mail campaigns, fake service offers and phishing scams.
  • If you suspect a potential scam, ask for identity verification. A legitimate person should have no objection to providing you with the requested information.

Scammers are targeting everyone and seem to zero in particularly on seniors. In fact, the American Journal of Public Health estimates that nearly 5% of older adults fall prey to some type of scam every year — that equates to approximately 2 to 3 million scamming incidents against seniors alone. And, unfortunately, these figures are likely an understatement of the true number of scams, as some victims neglect to file a report.

Because these occurrences are becoming more common, it’s more important than ever to do your due diligence before handing over money, personal information or financial details to anyone who requests it. Whether you want to defend yourself against scammers or you have aging or vulnerable family members you want to protect, here are insights you can use to identify a scam and avoid becoming a victim.

Four common senior scams

To start, it’s necessary to become familiar with the top scams that affect the aging population. Once you can identify a potential scam, you can further investigate the situation or avoid it altogether. Here are four of the most common scams that target seniors.

1. Scam phone calls

If you receive a phone call claiming that you must pay the IRS or some other institution immediately or via wire transfer, red flags should go up — even if you get the call in the middle of tax season. The IRS will never demand immediate payment over the phone requiring a specific payment method, threaten to immediately bring in the police or ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Similarly, be wary of unexpected phone calls from your “granddaughter” or “nephew” who is in a difficult situation and in need of your money or personal information promptly. These scams take advantage of the relationships between elders and trusted institutions or their families to gain access to valuable assets. They often try to disguise their voice through a “bad connection” or illness. Always hang up and call your family member(s) directly through a phone number you already know to find out if they are okay.

Today’s scammers are tech savvy and are able to spoof caller ID.

2. Fraudulent direct mail campaigns

Mail fraud occurs when a scammer attempts to get money or something of value from someone else via direct mail solicitation. Aging adults may be at a higher risk for this kind of scam, as they are more likely to have a history of donating to their church or favorite causes via live checks sent in the mail. Examples of mail fraud could include campaigns that request money for a political candidate, social causes that align with the target’s beliefs, religious donations to a church or mission group, or even your local police or fire departments.

3. Bold, in-person visitors asking for money

In some cases, scammers may show up at your doorstep offering services like home repairs or yard work. Then, these individuals will con you out of the services by not performing the work properly. In more severe cases, the scammer may request that you fill out and sign a document in exchange for the services. Later, you may find that you’ve unknowingly signed over valuable assets in the paperwork.

Many cities require door-to-door solicitors to obtain a permit prior to canvassing homes. Always ask for credentials, verify their business history and check reviews or referrals before signing any agreements or providing payment.

4. Email and phishing scams

As the population becomes more and more tech-savvy, scammers are turning to the internet to prey on the senior population. Seemingly valid emails, virtual assistants and websites may ask you to provide passwords or to log in to a portal to access your documents or pay your bills. Then, disguised scammers steal your sensitive information — including passwords, credit card and banking information, and more.

Never open email attachments or click on links from unknown or suspicious senders. Also, make sure your computer is up-to-date and protected against cyber attacks.

Five signs someone is scamming you

When it comes to scammers, it’s essential to be proactive. Becoming familiar with popular scams and the signs that someone is scamming you will help you sniff out any signs of danger before you, too, fall victim. Be sure to prepare yourself by taking note of these tell-tale scamming signals:

    1. You haven’t hired help for anything and have never heard of the individual contacting you, but they’re demanding or asking for money.
    2. Someone is claiming to be from a bank, the government or another institution that usually contacts you in a different way.
    3. The individual contacting you can’t verify their identity or they get frustrated when you don’t believe who they say they are. A real representative would understand that you are being cautious and provide accurate verification.
    4. They “friend” you on Facebook, dating sites or other online networking pages. The individual then sends personal messages or requests even though you don’t know them well. If this happens, follow the typical protocol that you would for an in-person friend. In general, don’t offer money, resources, or access to your accounts to new friends or acquaintances.
    5. Someone has escalating demands, such as asking for $500 after you’ve already given them $100. Or, they have a series of unbelievable hardships, like their car getting stolen after they have had medical problems or lost their job. Fraudulent people often layer lies on top of lies to create a more desperate situation, but it’s not your responsibility to provide relief.

Three ways to ward off a potential scammer

Although scammers use smart tactics to exploit their victims, it’s important that you learn to protect yourself. Individuals must take steps to equip themselves with anti-scam strategies.

1. Use the buddy system

If you need an extra confidence boost, set up a phone-a-friend system with a trustworthy confidant. This person will act as your check-in should you find yourself in a sticky situation. Their second judgment will help provide you with clarity in potentially confusing or dangerous scams.

2. Google it

Next, you can use the internet to your advantage. When presented information or requests from an unfamiliar company, try googling the name of the organization plus “scam” or “fraud.” If any results come up, avoid contact and block further interactions. Websites like Snopes.com can also provide answers.

3. Verify their identity

Finally, you can always ask for further verification. Request that the individual verifies their identity in some way or sends you the information via snail mail. This will delay and frustrate fraudsters who are hoping to make money today. And, if the individual claims to be a representative from your bank, lender or retirement account, say that you will hang up and visit them in person. Face-to-face interactions at your legitimate bank will provide ultimate verification.

You may also hang up and call back the company (via a published phone number) or individual that called you to ensure that the call is real. If the person on the other end of the line balks against this, it’s a good sign that they aren’t who they claim to be — and that they are calling from a randomized number. Don’t trust your caller ID or the caller’s provided phone number. Call back to a number you are familiar with or look up a business number and call back to that published contact.

Fight fraud together

Fraud against seniors is a serious concern, but you don’t have to combat this injustice alone. By identifying scammers and using the suggested tactics to protect yourself, you’ll be able to keep your assets and sensitive information secure.

And remember, if you think you’ve been the victim of a financial crime, be sure to reach out to your local police department immediately. Record notes from the interaction, including any phone numbers used or a physical description of an in-person scammer. The more information you’re able to share with law enforcement, the more likely they are to catch the scammer before they prey on someone else.

Tips to make a small room look larger

/media/3329/gi_april2020_small_rooms.jpg

Key insights:

  • Stick to light, bright and white paint colors to create a sense of openness.
  • Hang floor-to-ceiling curtains that draw the eye up, making rooms feel taller and larger.
  • When in doubt, clean it out. You’ll have more space in a clutter-free home.

Whether you’re staging your home to sell or trying to make the most of the space you plan to live in for years to come, there are a variety of ways to create the illusion of a larger space.

Here are insights you can use to decorate, design and declutter the small rooms in your home to make them look bigger and appear more spacious.

Strategically decorate each room

Paint the room in a light or neutral color. To make a tiny room feel open, choose a subtle yet bright paint color. Hues that range from off-white, soft earth tones and greige can all be good options. Putting thought into the paint of your smaller rooms will open the space. And, if you’re unsure what color to pick, stick to white and other classic colors.

Incorporate large pieces of artwork. Although “gallery walls” — which showcase a variety of photos and frames — were all the rage over the last decade or so, smaller spaces may benefit from larger statement pieces instead.

Take advantage of the available space on your walls through large paintings, pictures and mirrors. Hanging bigger pieces can visually expand the room. Plus, mirrors can bounce around light, making an otherwise tight space feel a little more open.

Leave negative space. Be careful to leave room between sofas, side tables, lamps and other decor elements that you have in your smaller rooms. By allowing space between your various pieces of furniture and art, you’ll add to the sense of spaciousness — rather than having everything feel cluttered and cramped together.

Create the illusion of a larger space

Delineate the space with the right size rug. A rug that is too big or too small could end up hurting the design and your attempt to open the space. Be sure to choose the right-size rug to help distinguish and properly define the space. Generally speaking, it is better to size up if you are having trouble determining the perfect size.

Hang floor-to-ceiling curtains. Statement curtains that hang down to the floor of your room can help to elongate a wall and create the illusion of taller ceilings. When selecting oversized curtains, opt for airy fabrics and light colors. These materials and hues will aid in expanding your space without weighing it down.

Use bathroom tile design to your advantage. There are a variety of ways to optimize your room size through the use of tiles. Consider using jumbo tiles to reduce the amount of grout space (which makes a room look busy and smaller) or incorporate a monochromatic tile and paint color scheme to make your bathroom appear larger. You may also consider implementing this trick in other tiled areas, such as your laundry room, entryway or kitchen.

Declutter your home

To create a space you truly love and want to spend time in, consider decluttering. These methods of tidying up won’t just unburden your space, they’ll also create room. Simply put, a clean room always looks bigger than a messy room that’s overloaded with things. Here are four easy yet effective decluttering methods to try in your house:

  1. KonMari Method — only keep what brings you joy
  2. Swedish Death Cleaning — get rid of excess so others won’t have to
  3. The Four Box Method — donate, trash, relocate, keep
  4. 12-12-12 Challenge — find 12 items each to toss, donate and put away

Small rooms, big possibilities

Small spaces don’t have to feel that way. By following these tips, you’ll be able to implement new design and downsizing methods that help maximize your existing space.

For one-on-one advice on how to stage any size home for a successful sale, get in touch today.

The cost of clutter: How it’s ruining your savings, your sanity and your ability to sell

/media/3330/gi_april2020_clutter.jpg

Key Insights

  • By downsizing your things, you can actually save money. Watch your shopping bills and storage expenses decrease as you clean up your home.
  • After your home sells, you’ll have to pay to get your possessions moved, stored, or taken to a landfill. Save money by proactively decreasing your clutter.
  • Decluttering can unburden your life. Try the KonMari method and other organizing trends to get your belongings in order.

Whether it’s renters downsizing their belongings or homeowners delivering truckload after truckload to the Goodwill, a clear trend is emerging across the country. Minimalism and thoughtful consumerism are in and clutter and overspending are out.

Read on for insights you can use when downsizing your belongings, and how doing so can affect everything from your expenses to your well-being.

Problem One: Clutter is expensive

The urge to declutter often stems from a vague annoyance, like stepping on a Lego or running into furniture that’s too big for the space. But in order to really commit to a more minimalist lifestyle, you’ll want to reconsider the deeper ramifications of having too many possessions.

First, clutter is expensive. For many of us, a successful shopping trip is attributed to a cart filled to the brim with good deals — not one where we successfully avoided the Target dollar section and only bought what we needed. Once the habit of getting a good deal is established, it can seem impossible to say no to another knick-knack or a second set of novelty wine glasses, or to see that these items will be a waste of money in the long run.

Of course, it isn’t just the buying of clutter that makes it expensive. Storing an excess of items can get pricey. Across the country, Americans are paying billions of dollars every year to store items they’ll never use or see again, costing the average person about $90 a month.

Problem Two: Things don’t make you happier

If your cluttered home stresses you out, you’re not overthinking it and you’re not alone. A study conducted by UCLA shows that women with a high density of household objects feel more stressed than those with less stuff.

It’s not hard to see why: Well-maintained homes are the ideal portrayed in every magazine and movie, but the expectation to buy more stuff also weighs heavily on most Americans. The end result? Families purchase things they don’t need and don’t have space for, then feel stressed that their cluttered, inefficient houses don’t resemble the ones portrayed on HGTV.

Furthermore, most people prefer to be doing the things they love during their free time. Yet, many of us waste time every day that could be spent on our passions. Instead, we’re stuck looking for items that are missing in the depths of our closets, or we spend time cleaning up belongings that have lost their place throughout the week. By having less, you will free up time and space to do what you truly enjoy (and enjoy what you already have).

Problem Three: Too much stuff makes it harder to move

Of course, you’re not the only person who wants your house to look like a model home. Today’s homebuyers love to visit well-staged homes with clean walls, modern decor and extra storage.

To list a home that will appeal to the masses, most sellers choose to stage their homes, which includes reducing the number of personal items and photographs inside the property. Sellers who have embraced a minimalist style will be able to pull this off a bit more easily. But sellers with cluttered homes may require a storage unit and professional stagers to get their homes in peak selling condition.

Once moving day rolls around, it costs homeowners one dollar per pound to relocate their things. If you have to visit that storage unit to unload it, moving can get a lot more expensive.

By getting rid of your excess possessions before selling, you’ll have way fewer boxes to transfer from one house to the next. And, you can move into a space that isn’t packed full of items you’ll never use or look at again.

Problem Four: You’re avoiding your clutter

Oftentimes, excess clutter is a result of us ignoring our overload of possessions. By avoiding the decision to downsize our things, we are only adding to our cluttered homes. Be sure to get rid of duplicate or aging items, and you don’t have to feel bad for ditching your old belongings.

Nowadays, things simply aren’t built to last as long as they used to. For example, in the past, tube televisions lasted forever. It wasn’t uncommon to store a tube TV for years then twist the dial to see it turn right on again. Today, both the short shelf-life of TVs and our desire for ever-increasing clarity mean that you’re not likely to find a use for an old TV screen. Avoid storing used items that will eventually just go to landfill and instead deal with your clutter head-on by getting rid of things as soon as you replace them.

How to embrace a clutter-free lifestyle

Whether your clutter stems from buying too much, saving too many items or both, it can be daunting to hit the “reset” button once you’ve established a pattern. Here are a few quick tips we love to start the decluttering process:

  • When at the store don’t buy anything that isn’t on your list. If something catches your eye, write it down or take a photo of it. Then, if you’re still thinking of the item two weeks later, return to purchase it.
  • For every new item you buy, toss or donate an old item. Throw away or donate any duplicate items you have.
  • Go through your kitchen and get rid of anything you haven’t used in one year. (We’re looking at you, waffle maker.)
  • Recycle magazines and catalogs after two months.
  • Stand over the recycling bin as you open your mail so you never accumulate a junk mail pile.
  • Try the Oprah Hanger Challenge: Place all your hangers in the opposite direction and turn the hanger the correct direction after wearing an item. After six months, consider donating anything you haven’t worn. If you restock your closet by season, donate anything you don’t wear for an entire fall/winter or spring/summer.
  • Spend 10 minutes doing the 12-12-12 Challenge. Locate 12 items to throw away, 12 to donate and 12 to be put away in their proper area. (Kids love this one!).
  • For long-term decluttering, try the Four Box Method. Go through each room and segment every item into four boxes: Keep, donate, throw away or re-organize. Tackle one room per weekend until your house is complete. Then, start over any time you feel overwhelmed by things.

Ready to sell?

Decluttering is the first step to staging and selling your home. Call or email today if you’d like to take the next step on your home sale journey.

What buyers and sellers should know about COVID-19

/media/3319/er_covid_19.jpg

We understand that there is a vital need for many to purchase and sell homes during this busy time of year, even amidst the current COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic that is affecting everyone on both a local and global scale. Our entire network of REALTORS®, along with Edina Realty Home Services, are committed to serving your real estate needs, now and always.

Your safety is a top priority. Across the real estate industry, we are taking a number of precautions and will continue to provide you with the highest level of service during this unprecedented time.

What is COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)?

COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that is rapidly evolving, affecting 134 countries and now classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus is believed to spread mainly from person-to-person and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) urges the practice of social distancing by staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately six feet) from others when possible.

Steps our offices and staff are taking to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus

Our offices are being diligent about cleaning, reporting illness and taking any and all necessary steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • We have assembled a task force to stay current on rapidly changing developments; protect our clients, agents and employees; and to keep our business running smoothly.
  • We remain open for business, but our offices have temporarily closed. Edina Realty Home Services agents and employees continue working remotely to assist you. Simply reach out at any time for help with your home buying, selling, mortgage, title, insurance and warranty needs.
  • We are cleaning continuously with particular attention to frequently touched surfaces, areas and objects.
  • Meetings and trainings are being held via teleconferencing, video conference and through the use of various technologies to avoid the need for in-person group gatherings.
  • At this time, we will continue to perform closings and have several precautionary measures in place to limit interactions and ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Changes you may see when working with an agent

Edina Realty agents maintain a strong foundation in ethics. Our core values of honesty, integrity, commitment, innovation and community are constant in all we do. We believe in treating all clients and potential clients equally and fairly.

In order to protect our clients and ourselves, agent practices may adjust slightly during this time. Here are a few adjustments that you may experience:

  • We may ask you about recent travel, particularly to areas identified as having an increased risk of coronavirus. We will be asking all our clients the same questions based on current, factual information from public health authorities and is in no way intended to make you feel uncomfortable or singled out.
  • We may request that we meet you at a property instead of offering to drive you or we may decline to drive you if you show signs of illness or have recently traveled to areas of increased risk of coronavirus
  • If we continue to drive healthy clients, we may ask you to use hand sanitizer when getting in and out of the car.
  • You may notice us cleaning and disinfecting surfaces frequently. Some of these popular touchpoints will include door handles, doorknobs, seat belt latches, dashboards, countertops, lockboxes and similar areas.

What buyers and sellers should know about open houses and showings

At this time, all in-person Edina Realty open houses are suspended until safety recommendations are lifted. Agents will be conducting virtual open houses, video tours and careful private showings.

We will speak openly and honestly about the pros and cons of private in-home showings. By partnering with an Edina Realty agent, you have access to a variety of alternative options including Edina Realty’s strong network, expert marketing solutions, high quality listing photographs and details, video tours and other methods to virtually explore a property.

If you plan to allow or attend private in-home showings, the following precautions may be required:

  • All visitors may be asked to disinfect their hands upon entering the home
  • The hosting agent may limit the amount of people in the home
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be offered at the entryway
  • Sellers may be asked to leave lights on and doors and cabinets open.
  • Visitors will be asked not to touch any surfaces.

Sellers will be asked to clean and disinfect their home after each showing, especially commonly touched areas like doorknobs and faucet handles.

As of March 16, the current recommendation is that all in-person events consisting of 10 or more people be cancelled, postponed or modified to virtual events.

What you can do to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus

Here is a list of CDC precautions to help prevent the spread:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice social distancing by staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.

Stay informed, don’t panic and use good judgment. Refer to the CDC’s website for up-to-date information, recommendations, travel precautions and the latest impact of the coronavirus.

Reach out with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your housing needs during this unprecedented time.

Six questions to ask before selling your home

/media/3314/6_questions.jpg

Key insights:

  • Understand the difference and benefit of partnering with a REALTOR® — and not just a real estate agent.
  • Work with your Realtor to discuss how a strategic listing price can result in a successful and profitable home sale.
  • Consider what you’re looking for in your next home before selling your current property — what comes next for you?

Hoping to sell your current home in the coming months? Whether you’re upsizing, downsizing or merging households, there are some things you should ask yourself before you list your home for sale.

Here are insights you can use when considering selling your home. Not only will these six questions guide your first steps, but they’ll also help ensure that you’re getting the best price at closing.

1. Who can help me sell my home?

When it comes to selling your home, you have a few options. You can list your home for sale by owner (FSBO), or you can choose to work with a REALTOR®.

A Realtor is educated, trained and committed to helping facilitate all aspects of buying and selling a home. In order to become a Realtor, a licensed real estate agent must pledge to follow a code of ethics from the National Association of REALTORS®.

While it may just sound like an easy task to check off, the Realtor’s pledge is a key credential that sets Realtors apart from other real estate agents. The pledge is a strict commitment to put the needs of the client above the financial or personal interests of the Realtor, which is extremely important when selling your home.

Keep in mind, Edina Realty requires all its agents to be Realtors and to work according to the Code of Ethics. That means that if we work together, you can rest assured that you’re being represented by a Realtor who has your best interests at heart.

2. How much is my home worth?

It’s important to carefully consider how much to price your home for sale. You don’t want to price your home too high, as this might discourage buyers and the home could end up on the market for longer than you wish. And, you don’t want to list your property too low, and risk losing money that you could have earned back at closing.

Together, we can review recent sold prices in your area and get an understanding of the general price range that comparable homes are listed for. From there, we’ll determine the “sweet spot” price for your home in today’s market.

3. What repairs or upgrades should I make to my house?

You may want to complete some interior and exterior home projects prior to listing your home for sale. Although investing money in your home before selling may seem counterintuitive, there are notable advantages to listing your home after completing necessary repairs or upgrades. From updating paint colors, to upgrading your laundry space, to sprucing up your landscaping, there are inexpensive ways that will help your property stand out with online buyers and in-person house hunters. Together, we’ll discuss the updates or repairs that could earn you the most bang for your buck at closing.

4. How much will it cost to sell my home?

Between necessary repairs, closing costs, hiring a Realtor and staging your home for sale, it can cost you money to sell your home.

But, keep in mind that these costs may also help you earn more at closing. For example, staging a home leads to a faster home sale by decreasing the amount of time a property is listed on the market. Recognize that when buyers can imagine themselves in a home, they may be more comfortable making a higher offer that ensures they land the property.

5. Will we sell first, then buy?

There is no set answer to the common seller question, “Should we sell first, then buy?” or vice versa. Instead, when determining whether it’s best to buy or sell your home first, you must think about your unique situation. Then, determine the order of operations that will work best for you and your family.

For example, selling your home first may be a smart option if you have a “plan B” housing arrangement, like living with family or renting a nearby apartment until you find your next property. Or, you might unexpectedly come across the home of your dreams and choose to buy a new house, then sell your existing home.

If this is the case, you have a few options on how to proceed. You can:

  • Include language in your offer stating that the home purchase is contingent on the sale of your existing property.
  • Contact a mortgage consultant about bridge loan options.
  • Set aside extra money to pay for both mortgages until you’re able to sell your old property.

6. Where will we move next?

Currently, we are in a market that favors sellers — especially those with homes priced under $500k. It’s important to be prepared in the event that your home sells quickly and you’ll want to have a plan in place for where you want to go next. Whether it’s testing out a new family-oriented community, upsizing to a new construction lake home or moving into a retirement community, now is the time to do your research on your desired property style and location.

Do you have more questions about selling?

At Edina Realty, we pride ourselves on being a one-stop shop for home sellers. Reach out any time to get customized, no-pressure insights you can use throughout the home selling process and beyond.

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