New Year – New Home? Get a Head Start with These 4 House Hunting Tips

Finding the right home can feel like a lot of pressure, but I’d like to share some easy steps to relieve much of the stress.  Buying the best home for you and your family should be an enjoyable experience. Taking some of the complications out of the process, and planning for success, can help make your home search much more of a joy and success.

If you’re looking for a new home this New Year, here are my top house hunting tips that can get you started, and help you find your next dream home.

Prepare for Your House Hunt This New Year with These 4 Tips

1. Make a Wishlist of Your Needs, Wants, & Dreams

One mistake house hunters make, is they’re either not picky enough or not open-minded enough. Making a list and ordering your wants and needs by priority, can help narrow down your choices, which in turn avoids looking at houses that never had a shot from the get-go.

Keep in mind that some of your wants and needs will be non-negotiable, while others may be more optional or bonus based.

Consider These Bigger Needs:

Number of bedrooms
Number of bathrooms
Neighborhood
School District
Yard
Garage
House Type
Is remodeling an option?

List the Minor Details that Make a Major Impact on Your Choice:

Storage
Flooring type
Fenced-in yard
Electric or gas heating and stove
Appliances
Fireplace
Nearby parks, restaurants, other businesses

The more you figure out now, the easier it will be to find your ideal home. Know where you’re willing to compromise and what is a deal-breaker. I always suggest sticking to your desired location, home condition, and price.

2. Set Your Budget and Stick to It

Budget matters. Getting pre-approved for a loan will help you decide on your budget, and make the process more enjoyable, knowing which homes are within your reach.

Try not to look at homes above your budget. You don’t want to fall in love with a home that’s out of your financial reach.

3. Begin Your Research Early

Once you’ve established your budget, start scoping out available houses to see what your budget can buy you. Be sure you’re looking in neighborhoods you could envision yourself living in. Location has a huge impact on home prices, so you want to stay realistic for what you can get in an area you want.

Take notes on what you like about some homes and dislike in others. This list will save you a lot of time by eliminating homes that aren’t to your taste or practical for your family.

4. Let’s Go to Some Open Houses or Set Up Some Previews

Getting used to going into a home, looking beyond the staging, and articulating what you like and dislike doesn’t always come easy. Physically looking at homes can get you in the practice of assessing homes, without the pressure of having to decide if it’s your next home.

Sometimes a home’s listing photos seem to dazzle, but when you arrive, the house is a dud. At the same time, some homes can look much better in person! Previewing listings can go a long way in aligning expectations with reality.

Walking through a variety of homes also lets you experience a difference in layouts, lighting, and home materials. You may even surprise yourself, by falling for a type of flooring, exterior, or layout you had never considered in the past.

Happy New Year and Happy House Hunting!

Finding a real estate agent who will go above and beyond for you can make the home buying process fun and effective. I would love to be that agent who helps you find your new home this year. If you have any questions, or you’re ready to scope out some of the newest homes on the market, don’t hesitate to give me a call today.

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Prepare Your Home for Winter with These 5 Quick Tips!

You’ve probably pulled out the winter gear this week, but have you winterized your home yet? As we enjoy the fall weather, it’s a great time to think about how you can protect your property by preparing for winter here in the Twin Cities.

Here are my favorite quick tips that many homeowners may not think about, but can make a huge difference this winter.

1. Clean your Vents and Radiator

You know that smell when you first switch on the heat for winter? It’s not just unpleasant, it’s a reminder that your vents could use a good cleaning.

Removing any dust and debris from your furnace, vent covers, and air intake covers increases the ease of airflow. This can lower your heating bill, extend the life of your heating unit, and help keep your home at a comfortable temperature.

It’s also a great time to change your air filters. As we turn the heat on and pull out winter clothes and decor from storage, this can stir up mold, dust, and other allergens. A new filter can reduce the sneezes, itchy eyes, and freshen up the air in your home.

Change your furnace filter while you’re at it, and have a technician check to make sure your furnace is running to its full capacity.

2. Protect Your Pipes to Prevent Problems

Pipes can freeze over winter, causing expensive damage. Spend a bit of time before it gets too cold to check your pipes to ensure they’re properly insulated. Water damage and plumbing issues lead to extensive repairs and years of uncovering hidden deterioration.

Remember to drain your sprinklers and turn off the water in your outdoor spigots.

3. Before You Fire Up the Fireplace, Check for Nests

There’s nothing better than a warm fire in winter. Be sure your fireplace is ready for those first warm-and-toasty memories this winter, by checking that your flue is operating correctly and your chimney is free of any nests.

If your chimney isn’t capped, it’s a great time to look into this (before they get fully booked for the winter).

4. Trim Those Trees Before Snowfall

Winter storms and ice can do serious and costly damage to your home. As snow and ice weigh down tree branches, limbs become more likely to fall and break. This risk is multiplied when we experience one of our winter storms. If you use a tree trimmer, ask them to come out and assess your trees and remove any damaged limbs.

5. Clear Your Gutters

Clearing your gutters can also save you money and headaches. If you noticed icicles last year, be sure to remove any debris from your gutters now. While icicles can give your home that picturesque feeling, they can also lead to ice dams. Ice dams can trap ice and water in your gutters that can spread to your roof, walls, and ceiling. This can lead to structural damage to the roof, gutters, and shingles.

Clear your gutters soon, to avoid roof leaks in the spring.

Have a wonderful winter in our slice of wonderland.

Winter stirs up a wide range of emotions, from challenging conditions to picturesque quiet snowfalls. Here’s to more of the latter this year! I also love to assist homeowners with listing their homes during this unique time of year. If you have any questions about buying or selling your home during the winter, please give me a call. I am happy to discuss how we can make this winter the perfect season for home sales.

 

 

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Millennial Looking to Purchase Your First Home? Start Here

Is it time to begin your house hunting journey? As millennials begin to look into purchasing homes, the real estate market has prepared itself by adapting to a millennial mindset. We see renovations geared toward green living, functional spaces and technologically ‘smart’!

Let’s help set you up to get into that home sooner than later. There are some things you can do to prepare for the process, and make yourself mortgage and homeowner ready!

1. Pay Down Any Debt You Carry

Most millennials are paying off student loan debt, so don’t feel like you’re alone. In fact, most millennials graduate college with about $30,000 in student loan debt. The important thing is that you stay current and pay down your debt.

You also want to pay down your credit card debt, and try keeping balances under 10% of allowable credit.

Not only is a house probably the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, but it also requires mortgage agencies and lenders to see you as loan-worthy.

Your credit score and financial status have a huge impact on what banks will be willing to loan you. Starting the process now can help save you from stress and headaches later.

2. Save for That Downpayment and Closing Costs

If you’re a first-time home buyer, you may not need a down payment as substantial as you may imagine. There are many factors that go into the type of loan that will best suit your needs, and that affect your interest rate and monthly payment. A good lender will make sure your payment fits your lifestyle and budget, not just max out what you can afford on paper! There are loans available from 0-20% down, so you’ll want an experienced lender to help navigate all of those options.

3. There’s an App for That

Keep your eye on the housing market, so you know what your money can buy you. Today’s technology allows you to study the market on your time, and get a sense of what’s available in your price range.

Look at different neighborhoods that you like. How do the prices differ?
Check the school zones. If you’re planning on starting a family, you may want to get into the area early.
Download an app like Nextdoor and preview what your neighbors say about the area.
Begin virtually touring homes to determine your taste and needs.

4. Prepare to Buy by Getting Pre-Approved for a Loan

Shopping loans and going through the pre-approval process can help narrow your search, and give you an edge on the purchasing competition. If you find your ideal home, in this market you’ll need to act fast. Having a full pre-approval (not just pre-qualified) letter, is a must in today’s market.

5. Own What Makes You Unique

Millennials are inventive, creative, and passionate. You can use this to your advantage in the home buying process.

You have probably heard you can’t get everything you want in a home. You may have to compromise. Well, one thing I truly love about millennials, is that you think outside the box. You can envision the potential of a place, and don’t mind diving into a project. If you’re a visionary, this can really open the market up to you in a unique way.

You can also share your passion and love of a house through a heartfelt letter to the seller. People often want to know their house will be in good hands, and a letter does just this with a personal touch!

Your Home is Just Around the Corner…

I would love to help you find the right home for you! Let’s find that perfect craftsman with a porch for your hammock, or the cottage tucked into a quaint neighborhood, right around the way from your favorite farmer’s market. Call, text, or email today, and let’s start with a stress-free conversation. Breaking home-ownership down into simple steps, makes the process so much more enjoyable for you. Let’s get started today!

 
 
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Finding an Affordable Starter Home – 6 Strategies for Home Buying Success

From financial experts to real estate agents, many people have expressed concern about the affordability of houses for first-time home buyers. In the past, so-called “starter homes” were plentiful, the result of smart urban planning, innovative government programs and the collective wisdom of individual builders. But in recent decades starter homes have become much less common, leaving many younger buyers out in the cold.

The fact that starter homes have become an endangered species in many parts of the country is certainly cause for concern, but first-time buyers should not despair. They may be harder to find these days, but starter homes still exist in most real estate markets. Here are six smart strategies first-time buyers can use to find them.

Location, Location, Location

Seek out up-and-coming neighborhoods. There are unique gems in our Apple Valley and Lakeville area. Some older neighborhoods contain “diamonds in the rough”, if you know what to look for. As neighborhoods turn over to new generations, some of these areas even become fashionable again. We can help you find those hidden starter homes.

Pre-Approval Helps You Get Ahead of the Competition

Get pre-approved for financing before you shop. Competition can be fierce for starter homes, so it pays to be prepared. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage, before you shop, can give you a leg up on the competition, and send your offer to the top of the pile. When looking at starter homes, it can be highly advantageous to come to a showing ready to make an offer, if all of your conditions are met. Not having a pre-approval can cause delays, that can easily take you out of the running.

The Importance of Flexibility and Compromising

Be flexible. Starter homes are often older properties, and they may not have the latest amenities. If you want an affordable home, you may need to compromise a bit, so build some flexibility into your home buying process. Strange paint colors on the wall? Shag carpet? Outdated cabinetry? Look beyond the “warts” and have a vision for making a space your own.

Hire a Knowledgeable Real Estate Agent

Work with an experienced agent. Not all real estate agents are well-versed in the starter home market, so choose your representative with care. Let the agent know you are specifically targeting starter homes – it will save you both a lot of time and frustration. Be honest and upfront with your agent so that together you can discover a great home to fit your needs.

Be Mindful that Real Estate is Financial Before Emotional

Keep your emotions in check. Buying a home is a financial transaction, but it is also an emotional experience. Even so, it pays to keep your emotions in check, especially when you are shopping for the first time. Falling in love with a home beyond your financial means will only lead to frustration and heartbreak. Similarly, biting off more than you can chew, as far as renovations, can quickly turn a starter home into a money pit. A quality real estate agent will be experienced in being able to guide you to knowing the difference between a minor repair or cosmetic changes versus complete home demolition and renovation.

Prioritize Your Needs and Wants

Prioritize location as much as price. The three most important things in real estate are location, location and location (see our first tip!). Where your starter home is located can matter as much as how many bedrooms it has or what kind of tile is in the bathroom. Making location a priority can help you drive the best bargain, but the right location can also positively influence future appreciation. Are you willing to sacrifice a shorter commute for a nicer living space where you can get more for your money? Or would you prefer a smaller space with quick travel times to where you work each day?

Finding the perfect starter home is no easy task, especially in a hot and competitive real estate market. If you want to get a great home at an even better price, you need to set a strategy and stick to it. The six tips listed above can help you find those hidden starter homes, so you can get your home owning experience off to a profitable start.

If this feels like an overwhelming task, and you aren’t sure where to begin, please don’t hesitate to call Ryan at (651) 503-4158.

 

 

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New home? Don’t forget these maintenance tips!

So, you’ve just bought this brand new home and you want to keep it looking as new as possible for as long as possible. Although it can seem daunting, this is the easy part! Whether you live in Lakeville, Apple Valley, Burnsville, or anywhere in between, a few simple things can keep your home looking brand new with very little time and effort from you.

#1 Create a New Home Maintenance Checklist

Life is going to get busy and you’re bound to forget about which tasks need to be completed throughout the year. Make yourself a checklist to remind you which projects need to be completed and how frequently. Consider putting both exterior and interior tasks on your list. Check out these links for a starting point:

Better Homes & Gardens
New York Times
Prudent Reviews
The Family Handyman

These are just a starting point – but it’s good to start with a basic list, and you can develop it into a reasonable list for you. Don’t be afraid to hire out tasks that are beyond your time availability, or do-it-yourself skill set, which leads to #2 below!

#2 Make a List of Home Maintenance Professionals

Some of your home maintenance will need to be conducted by professionals. Create a list of plumbers, electricians, lawn care, and roofing experts, so you have this information handy when the time comes. Ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations to add to this list. Make sure to do your homework, including checking out Google and Facebook reviews on contractors that you may be hiring – the last thing you want is a botched project that ends up costing you more time and money.

#3 Set Boundaries with Kids and Pets

Your family is bound to show the house some tough love, but by instilling a sense of responsibility and firm guidelines, you can minimize the destruction caused while increasing the amount of pride and enjoyment you all feel.

For pets:

– Maintain designated elimination areas to help reduce odors and stains.
Establish a reasonable crating routine for when you are away. Consult your veterinarian if you are unsure of the proper amount of time your pet can be crated.

– If you work long hours, consider hiring an extra set of hands to take your favorite canine for a walk midday. The exercise will be good for your dog mentally, as well as physically, and help with behavior issues.

– If your pet is experiencing destructive tendencies, consult a pet behavioral expert to find ways to enrich your pet’s mind and reduce anxious or stressful behaviors.

– Attend to mishaps immediately to help reduce repeat offenses.

– Don’t forget the treats! Pets are usually very motivated by food and this is a fast way to help your pet learn.

For children:

– Establish reasonable chore routines based on your child’s age and abilities

– Communicate clearly the positive impact of having your children contribute to home cleanup and chores

#4 Change Filters Regularly

A clean and healthy home is a reflection of the residents inside and will greatly mirror your quality of life. Change your air and water filters regularly to keep your family happy and healthy. Don’t forget about dryer vents!

By following these simple steps, you are taking responsibility and displaying pride in your home. Regular maintenance keeps your new home looking brand new for much longer, and you’ll be able to enjoy it for years to come!

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Getting Ready for a Mortgage Application? Read this!

Mortgage lenders require a lot of documentation to complete a mortgage application. Forgetting something or getting the wrong information can cause lengthy delays. It could even cause borrowers to miss a deadline and lose the house they have their eyes on. Therefore, applicants should make sure they have all the documentation they need organized and ready to go, prior to getting your home mortgage loan.

Documents Needed for a Mortgage Application

Each lender has a different set of needs, so it’s important to ask before you begin. However, there are a series of documents most mortgage lenders will need. In general, there are fourteen document categories lenders will use to examine four main areas of an applicant’s life.

Credit Reports and Past History

First, the mortgage lender will want to verify that all applicants have good credit. To avoid any surprises and save time, have the lender pull credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion ahead of time. These documents will also give the lender a preliminary look. If there is something significant on them, he or she can say something without having to do a hard credit check. Learn more about how you can manage your credit score to help reduce your loan’s interest rate here.

Bankruptcies and foreclosures will also need to be addressed. Therefore, gather documents for any that have occurred in the last seven years. The goal is to show the lender that they have been satisfied and any associated financial demands associated with them have ceased.

Liability Verification

Next, the lender will want to examine an applicant’s expenses and liabilities. Start by compiling a list of debts. Include proof of the balances for each one or the monthly expense incurred. Canceled rent or mortgage checks or some other type of proof that these have been paid on time will help here as well. Lastly, if an applicant has been divorced, include copies of the divorce decree as well as any court orders for child support, alimony, or additional expenses they pay. Paperwork showing these have been paid on time can be helpful as well. Once again, pulling an early credit report will help with many of these items.

Asset Assessment

With all the expense portions out of the way, it’s time to address assets. Start by creating a list of assets and providing proof of their value. These could include cars, art, investments, or anything of significant value. Lenders will also want at least two months of bank statements for each bank account to show the amount of cash on hand.

If friends or family will be helping an applicant with the down payment, the lender will want proof of this as well. Generally, a letter from each person will be enough. In these letters, the individual should include the amount and expressly state that the money is a gift and not a loan. This will prove to the lender that the money will not have to be repaid. Your lender will have the appropriate verbiage to help you out.

Income Verification

Just saying the household brings in a specific amount of money each month isn’t enough. Mortgage lenders will want proof. In most instances, one month of pay stubs will prove the applicant is still employed and how much income they bring in each pay period. Applicants will also need W-2 forms for the last two years as well as at least two years of tax returns.

The lender will also want to see proof of any other income. Individuals who are self-employed will need to provide year-to-date profit and loss statements to show the business is financially stable. Child support payments and alimony coming into the household can help. Other types of income could include SSI, commission, bonuses, tips, or a Schedule E form for rental income.

As a general rule, it’s better to have extra paperwork on hand than not enough. Applicants can bring in two or three months worth of pay stubs, for example. This can help avoid delays by having the information, if there are additional questions.

Once all the documents have been collected together, organize them to make them easy to find. Accordion files with large envelopes work perfectly for this. By having everything gathered together and organized, it also shows the mortgage applicants attention to detail. Quick books or some other form of electronic filing make this quick and easy as well.

As your Realtor, I’m here to answer questions you may have as you move through the process. My goal is to help you feel comfortable and confident through the entire home buying process.

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