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!

Photo credit: Getty images/Demaerre

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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.

Photo credit: Getty images/Marchmeena29

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Winter Landscaping – Tips to Make Your Home a Wonderland

It’s true, for as much as we may complain in Minnesota about the temperatures, there’s really no place else we’d rather be. This season offers its own beauty, and while the demands of caring for your winter yard may be less (minus the shoveling!), they can be simply stunning and rival our spring, summer and fall landscapes. Try these simple winter hacks to transform your white outdoor space, into a winter paradise worthy of a potential buyer’s interest!

Transform Your Summer Planters

You already have them strategically placed around the perimeter of your home…with a few evergreens, some dazzling red berries and a little creative flair, you’ll instantly go from drab to striking! Not only does decorating these planters prepare your home for the holiday festivities, but the ornamentation has lasting presence throughout the upcoming winter months.

Estimated cost: $15-20

Did We Say Evergreen?

Not only can evergreens spruce up (see what we did there) your planters, consider planting a variety of this MN-hardy perennial for year round beauty. Although the cost may be a bit pricey, and the care required to properly shape them may necessitate a few hours over the summer, the end result will be brilliantly perfect. As Minnesotans, this is a part of who we are….there’s a significant amount of nostalgia that accompanies a view of snow covered evergreens as you peek out your window.

Estimated cost: $100-500

Lighting

Before we go further into this tip, we’re not referring to December’s seasonal lights, which may be lingering and remain until February/March. Rather, lighting along a walkway, alerting visitors to ice or other winter hazards. A patio with a few subtle white lights, can provide elegant contrast against new fallen snow. Not only do the lights brighten the view, but they provide a warming glow to counter the harshest of wind chills and blowing snow.

Estimated cost: Varies – solar lights $50 each and up.

Ornamental Grasses

Low maintenance ornamental grasses bring beautiful texture to a yard, whether summer or winter. In the summer, their color presents a variant against green, and in winter, their vibrant color of red strikes a warm note against the white snow. Blue Heaven™ is an ornamental grass (developed by the University of MN), and has proven staying power through our harsh winters.

Estimated cost: $15-20 each

Whether you’re buying a new home, and seeking potential in the new prospective yard, or are a seller looking to optimize the presence and curb appeal of your home, consider how the above tips can help contribute to the feeling of your very own “winter wonderland”!

Sources:

“Choosing Evergreens for Your Landscape.” Extension at the University of Minnesota, extension.umn.edu/trees-and-shrubs/choosing-evergreens-your-landscape.
mart1794. “Ornamental Grasses.” Minnesota Hardy, 24 Feb. 2015, mnhardy.umn.edu/varieties/grasses/ornamental-grasses.

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Selling Your Home in Winter? These Tips Will Help!

If you’re planning on selling your home in the winter, then you should know there are a couple of design adjustments you should make, in order to make it more attractive to people searching for homes during this season. In this article, we’re going to list some excellent tips that will greatly increase your chances of making a sale during the winter months.

1. Photo album updates

Don’t just take pictures of your home in the winter. A home isn’t meant for just a single season, so you’ll want to take some pictures throughout the year to show people what your home looks like, and how it copes with both hot and cold seasons. Of course, you may have already missed the opportunity to take pictures of your home during the summer, but it might not be too late to take some clear sky and sun pictures. The more photos you take in various seasons, the more your potential buyers learn about your property.

2. Utilize Hygge

Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish term that is used to describe a mood of coziness and comfort. The idea is to make your home look very comfortable even during harsh cold temperatures. This means turning on the fireplace, displaying cozy throws, hanging up a few comfortable decorations, and using warm lighting, such as candles, to create a beautiful scene.

3. Minimal decorations

Yes, it’s Christmas soon, but you don’t want to clutter your home with decorations! Limited and tasteful decorating may be fine, but if you’re unsure how far you can push this, please do speak with Ryan and don’t be afraid to ask for advice on how little or much you should decorate! Remember that your potential buyers may celebrate the holiday season entirely differently than you, or have a different design style to greet the season.

4. Remove snow

You don’t want the first impression of your home to be just a winter home. Sure, having snow on your roof can look reminiscent of Norman Rockwell nostalgic paintings, but ultimately your buyers want to see what the quality of the roof actually looks like. Hire a snow removal service or do it yourself, so you can take clear pictures and show your buyers what the home really looks like underneath the snow. Clear sidewalks and ensure there’s no ice on your driveway – this will help with the aesthetics, as well as the safety of your potential buyers.

5. Easy on the scents

A wintry holiday scent can drastically change the mood in your home, but don’t go overboard with it. Go easy on the scents and try not to give the impression that you’re covering up nasty smells! “Is that cinnamon and pine blowing through the vents?” 🙂

6. Easy on the heating as well

Showing that the heating works well is a great idea, but don’t crank up the heating, just because your potential buyers have walked in from the cold outside. Keep the temperature comfortable (70 is a good), so the viewers can slowly warm up instead of feeling stuffy in your home.

Don’t play Christmas tunes on “full blast” , but do play a little light festive music with no lyrics and keep it low. This will help set the mood and put a smile on your buyer’s faces as they explore your home.

If you’re looking to sell your home this winter season, get in touch with Ryan. The winter season is a unique selling window because there’s less inventory and more opportunities, and with help from Ryan, you can make that sale far more likely.

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How to Choose a Real Estate Agent

First and foremost, this is not a “pick me, pick me” post. This is about finding a real estate agent who fits you and your needs. You’re about to embark on a two to six-month journey, with a trusted advisor, to help you buy and/or sell, in most cases, your most valuable material possession. Most of us research doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, personal trainers, etc…before signing up with any of them. You may want to do the same to find your real estate agent.

Buying or selling a home in Lakeville MN means you are in a transitional phase in your life. The transition itself is usually stressful enough on its own. It can be exciting (marriage, baby, promotion), or challenging (loss of a job, divorce, loss of a loved one), or both exciting AND challenging (empty nesters, down-sizing, combining families, job transfer, etc…). No matter what the situation, you should expect a level of empathy and understanding from your real estate agent. More importantly, count on them to navigate the transaction, to best suit your transitional needs, and help set up a support system along the way. It’s vital they remain your emotional rock and ensure emotions aren’t taking you (the client), off the path to your end goal.

real estate agent lakeville minnesotaDoes the real estate agent fit your style and personality? How do they communicate, and will they communicate on your terms (in person, phone only, text only, email only, all of the above)? Do they walk around 24/7 with a blue tooth in their ear, constantly telling you how busy they are? Maybe you sell blue tooth earbuds and enjoy this about your agent?  😉

The point: It’s always your choice. Choosing the right realtor for you should be based on a mix of “real feel” and “facts”. You can find lists all over the internet, so I won’t dwell on too many of the bullet points. Here are a few of the important ones, at least in my opinion.

Experience: How many homes have they sold? How long have they been in the business? Are they full or part-time? If they are new, do they have a strong mentor or team, to help them with the technical aspects? We were ALL new at some point, and I’ve worked with some amazing newer agents, so don’t let that necessarily be a deterrent, just make sure they have a strong support system.

Reviews: Do they have a variety of reviews from a variety of past clients? This will give you a pretty good idea of what they are like.

Non-negotiables: Professional photography and expansive online presencebad real estate photography realtor lakeville mn should be a staple in our industry by now. Unless the realtor is a professional photographer on the side, then I would expect this to be hired out. A majority of buyers will have viewed your property online, prior to even calling a buyer’s agent. Do not risk your home being passed on, simply due to poor photography. (…and yes, it does happen)

Accessibility: How quick is the realtor to return your calls, or available to show you a property. In our current market, the “good ones” are typically sold within a day. Make sure your agent has some back-up, if they’re out of town, or working with multiple clients.

Pressure: You should never feel pressured into buying. There is a big difference in advising the client on the urgency of a market, and pressuring a client into buying a home, just for the sake of getting one before it’s gone. If it doesn’t feel like home, you should never feel pressure to buy, in fear of nothing else coming on the market. There will always be more homes! Wait for the one that feels good to you! 😊

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Benefits of Buying or Selling in the Winter

buy and sell property in the minnesota wintertime I’m often asked, “Do homes sell in the winter? Do people actually buy homes in the winter?”

The answer is yes and yes, regardless of a hot or “cold” real estate market!

Fall and winter can actually be the best time of year to buy or sell your home, depending on your situation. Here are just a few reasons, we see year after year.

Benefits for buyers:

1. Fewer buyers out looking, means you are less likely to run into bidding wars. There is also a better chance of getting your new home at a lower price, with less competition from other buyers.
2. Speaking of price, sellers are more likely to price their home competitively. They have either been on the market for some time, or need to make a move for a job relocation, or financial reasons.
3. Some sellers want to move their homes for tax purposes, prior to year’s end.
4. Get a feel for how the home holds up in some our state’s more challenging climate! Windows, roof, furnace, insulation and a good garage suddenly become pretty popular this time of year!! 🙂
5. Your realtor is likely working with fewer clients, and has more time to focus on YOU!

Benefits for sellers:

1. Most Fall and Winter buyers are not out joyriding/window shopping. They are serious about finding a home, and ready to go!
2. Just as for buyers, sellers can also benefit from buyers relocating out of necessity (job, family, lifestyle changes).
3. Fewer homes on the market mean less competition from other sellers. This makes it easier to get your home to stand out!
4. Both parties tend to be more motivated, which can make negotiations less chaotic and rushed.
5. Depending on your home and décor, the holiday season can create emotional ties to a buyer and your home. No need to go Clark Griswold on it, but tasteful décor can be quite helpful!

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