Friday, September 10, 2010

Twin Cities First Time Homebuyer Class—What You Really Need to Know to Buy YOUR First House

People doing something, anything, for the first time will often never start because they are afraid of taking that first step. Learning to ride a bike. Learning to swim. Learning to Drive. Learning a foreign language. Even setting up an extensive vacation can be a challenge. I had a REALTOR® friend ask me a few months ago how to start a real estate blog. I gave her the basic steps for a quick and easy set up but she wanted to go to a class and the library for books. At last check, she doesn’t have a blog…she was still in the “learning” phase.

Sometimes, first time homebuyers do not know where to start either. Most people’s only experience with buying a big ticket item doesn’t go beyond buying a car (and we all can remember how much “FUN” that was!) Buying a home is a different experience because when you purchase a house you can have a person in your corner working for you…much like that used car salesman was working for his manager in the back that he kept going to for approval on your offer. Only this time, you are not left alone in a cubicle with a stale donut and cold coffee waiting for a counteroffer.

First time homebuyers who want to learn more about the process generally start by scouring the internet for answers. There is a load of information out there…but is it GOOD information? How does it relate to buying a Minnesota home? Will the programs outlined on the website visited work if you want to buy a home in Washington County, Anoka County or is it only for a specific area or state?

Often I am asked by friends and relatives where potential home buyers can take a class to learn more about buying a home. Most people need a class that will fit their schedule and get them out searching for their dream home very quickly.

Well, I will let you in on a little secret. First time homebuyers do not need to sit in a class on someone else’s schedule with a bunch of potential homebuyers to learn to buy a home. There isn’t a class requirement for buying a house. But if you want to learn, call me for a 30 minute quick start consult on buying a Minnesota home!
If you are serious about buying a home and taking advantage of the extremely low interest rates that are available this fall, let me be your guide. As an experienced and professional REALTOR® with hundreds of extremely happy clients, I can educate you quickly on the process of buying your first home and at no cost to you!
Contact me HERE and request your**FREE** HOMEBUYER SUCCESS PACKAGE. As soon as I receive your information, I will call you to set up a time that works for you for no-obligation, low-pressure 30 Minute consultation. You will leave with my Homebuyer Success Packet in hand and have all your questions answered on the home buying process.
Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Homebuying 101—Is a Home Still a Good Investment?

Since the economy, in a word, tanked a few years ago and the values of homes in some areas plummeted, I often get asked the question, “Is buying a home really a good investment?" It was for decades considered one of the safest investments a person could make; the epitome of the American Dream. A few years ago, skyrocketing values seemed to put home ownership out of reach for many but with the market downturn many would be first time homebuyers are confused. Does owning a home make sense as a financial investment?

In my opinion, YES, buying a home is a wise investment and not just because I am a REALTOR®, but because I, too, am a homeowner. The key is treating your home like the investment that it truly is. It takes discipline and time for your investment to grow. And like any other investment, if you have to sell when the market is down, there is a chance that you will not realize as much profit as you may have expected.

So what are some of the key points that must be considered when investing in your first home?

  • Buy Smart
**Price **Interest Rate **Type of Mortgage **Resale Potential **Equity Builder?

  • Maintain and Protect Your Investment
**Home maintenance **Insurance
  • Don’t Put in Your Asset in Jeopardy
The best way to have a healthy balance sheet when you decide to sell your home is to Buy Smart in the first place. Buying smart is not just about getting the home at a low price though that is a very important piece to the puzzle. With many homes at rock bottom prices, it is a good time to consider buying a first home. But buying smart also means getting a mortgage that you can afford and that is safe, preferably at a fixed rate rather than an adjustable rate that can fluctuate into something that you cannot afford. Interest rates are at record-breaking low rates. Talking to a knowledgable loan officer is a great way to get started in the home buying process and find out what options are available to first time buyers now.

But buying smart goes beyond the price paid and the loan used to finance a first home. It is also buying with resale in mind. Many, who purchased homes in the price climbing frenzy of a few years ago, snatched up any home they could after submitting multiple purchase agreements on several homes. They didn’t worry about the perfect floor plan or that the home was on a busy road or next railroad tracks or if it had a weird small room that could not be used for anything. Now, if they are faced with trying to relocate, they are frustrated that buyers refuse to compromise on aspects that they overlooked.

As a REALTOR® who works often with first time buyers, I spend time helping my them to understand the positives and negatives of the location of each property they view. I point out how something quirky like having no basement or having a hot tub built in to a bedroom could affect the resale value by limiting potential buyers. Paint and wallpaper can be easily changed but foundation, plumbing and property location are much more expensive to deal with. Oddities it a home can drastically affect value when it is time to sell.

Lastly, buy smart by determining whether equity can be built with good old fashioned hard work! If the home hasn’t been updated, a good sprucing up could raise its value. A house that has an unfinished basement, could build equity if it can be done at a reasonable cost. Don’t take shortcuts and avoid permitting because that can be costly if you go to sell. Is landscaping your forte’? Look for a home with a yard that can be upgraded over the years. Just be frugal and realistic in what your resale will be in the end.

Beyond a smart buy, maintenance is essential as is proper insurance to be certain a home owner can afford the required repairs should the unexpected happen. Time after time I have to bear the bad news when presenting a market analysis at a home where the interior and/or exterior has not been repaired or replaced in decades. These homes are not worth what a neighboring, updated home is worth. Doing several projects over time allows a homeowner to enjoy the improvements while retaining the property value. Likewise, not insuring a home properly can be a huge risk. Worse yet, are the homeowners that make a home insurance claim and receiving payment for a repair but opt to use the money for something else.

Finally, it is important for a homebuyer to not put their investment in jeopardy. Many of the people who lost their homes in the market downturn put their homes in jeopardy but taking risky loans against the equity. Some people took home equity loans at reasonable rates but didn’t use the funds to improve their home. Some of these loans were at very high adjustable rates and as the payment rose, the homeowners just couldn’t make the payment. When I was growing up, I remember learning to never take a risk with anything you couldn’t afford to lose. I think a home falls into this category.

Like any investment, a home’s value will fluctuate. But a house is unique as an investment because it serves a dual purpose: It is a your place to live as well as a way to increase your net worth. By using the money that would be paid for rent and putting it toward a house you can afford with a plan to protect and maintain your property, a home purchase is still a good investment.

Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm 

Monday, July 19, 2010

White Bear Lake, MN Year End Real Estate Market Statistics MidYear 2010

Just about everyone who grew up in the Twin Cities north and east metro is familiar with the White Bear Lake community. Whether your memories are of passing the iconic gigantic snow white bear statue at Polar Chev, swimming at Bellaire beach or setting sail across White Bear Lake, everyone seems to know something about the community. But few know the legends that surround the lake and that Manitou Island is at the center of it all. The legend has been documented by several writers but the most notable was Mark Twain who wrote of the Indian warrior who killed the great monster of a polar bear to save himself and his lover in his book, “Life of the Mississippi”.

Legends aside, today the
White Bear Lake community is a vibrant area that is continually growing while preserving its rich heritage. There is no doubt that the shores of White Bear Lake are the most well known as one of the largest lakes in the north metro as it spreads from Ramsey County into Washington County. But there are two other lakes in the City of White Bear Lake: Birch Lake and Goose Lake as well as Bald Eagle Lake in White Bear Township. This town is the home of the White Bear Lake School District #624 and Century College while encompassing 11 square miles of land. Real estate opportunities include both historic homes and recently constructed residences. First time buyers, executive home buyers, retiring downsizers and luxury lakeshore buyers have a wide variety of options if the choose to call White Bear Lake home.

Mid Year 2010 Average Sales Price of all homes sold in White Bear Lake:

· All Homes $ 207,697
· Single Family Homes $ 216,994
· Townhomes/Condos $ 166,640

Mid Year Average Cumulative Days on Market in White Bear Lake:

· All Homes 132
· Single Family Homes 121
· Townhomes/Condos 184

Mid Year 2010 White Bear Lake residential real estate statistics for single family homes:

Under $200,000~ 45 Active Listings, 21 Pending Listings, 60 Sold Listings, 102 CDOM

$200,000-300,000~50 Active Listings, 5 Pending Listings, 35 Sold Listings, 113 CDOM (Lakeshore Subgroup 1 Active, 1 Pending, 2 Sold, 88 CDOM)

$300,000-$400,000 ~ 8 Active Listings, 1 Pending Listings, 6 Sold Listings, 167 CDOM (Lakeshore Subgroup 1 Active, 0 Pending, 1 Sold, 205 CDOM)

$400,000-$500,000 ~ 7 Active Listings, 0 Pending Listings, 1 Sold Listings, 856 CDOM (Lakeshore Subgroup 5 Active, 1 Pending, 1 Sold, 856 CDOM)

$500,000-$1,000,000~ 9 Active Listings, 0 Pending Listings, 3 Sold Listings, 183 CDOM (Lakeshore Subgroup 7 Active, 0 Pending, 2 Sold, 257 CDOM)

$1,000,000 and Up ~ 6 Active Listings, 0 Pending Listings, 1 Sold Listings, 357 CDOM (Lakeshore Subgroup 6 Active, 0 Pending, 1 Sold, 357 CDOM)

Mid Year 2010 White Bear Lake residential real estate statistics for townhomes and condos:

Under $200,000 ~ 44 Active Listings, 2 Pending Listings, 18 Sold Listings, 161 CDOM

$200,000-300,000 ~ 11 Active Listings, 0 Pending Listings, 3 Sold Listings, 245 CDOM

$300,000-$400,000 ~ 5 Active Listings, 0 Pending Listings, 2 Sold Listings, 205 CDOM

$400,000-$500,000 ~ 1 Active Listings, 0 Pending Listings, 1 Sold Listings, 156 CDOM

$500,000-$1,000,000~ 5 Active Listings, 0 Pending Listings, 0 Sold Listings

$1,000,000 and Up ~ 1 Active Listings, 0 Pending Listings, 0 Sold Listings

Lakeshore available in the White Bear Lake area
20 Active Listings

White Bear Lake lakeshore price range: $244,900-$3,200,000

5 Homes on Birch Lake
4 Homes on Bald Eagle Lake
11 Homes on White Bear Lake

For additional information on any current White Bear Lake real estate listing or for additional information on buying a home in Blaine contact Teri Eckholm directly at 651-336-7073.

**All Statistical information based on information from the REGIONAL MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE of MINNESOTA, INC. for the period of 1/1/10 through 6/30/10.

Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Can the Purchase Agreement be Cancelled? Understanding Risk of Loss

Minnesota’s summer storm season has started. The first big severe weather outbreak of the season walloped Minnesota just a couple of weeks ago...more is in the forecast as we head into the heat of July. Hail will pummel roofs. Wind will tear off siding and snap trees like toothpicks. Lighting will zap houses causing a variety of damage. And tornados could literally move homes off foundations.

From the time we are very young, Minnesotans are taught how extremely important it is to be weather alert during the summer.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t care if a homeowner just accepted an offer from a buyer after having their home on the market for weeks on end. No doubt some of the homes damaged in yesterday’s storms will affect homebuyers and sellers with a contract in place.

Picture the following scenario: After months of scouring Anoka County for the perfect place to call home, you wrote an offer on a home in Lino Lakes that was accepted and is scheduled to close in 45 days.

A few weeks prior to the closing, severe storms with straight-line winds blow through Lino Lakes, Centerville and Hugo. Concerned, you drive up to your dream home and see that the picturesque oak trees that gave the home character have been uprooted. Worse yet, one of the huge trees crashed onto the house severely damaging the roof and eaves. You are devastated as this was no longer the home you pictured in your dreams. What happens now?

Risk of Loss is one of those “boiler plate” clauses on page four of the purchase agreement used most often in the State of Minnesota. Being preprinted, some agents and/or their clients will gloss over this clause but it is very important to understand, as is every other line in the document you sign to buy a home.

The highlighted section starting at line 150, clearly states that the risk of loss due to any reason whether an act of God or the acts of vandals will be the responsibility of the seller from the time the purchase agreement is signed until the date of closing. That means if there is a fire or accident the seller is required to bring the home into the condition that it was in at the time the contract was written and signed.

So if that temperamental decade-old dishwasher goes out, the seller is required to repair or replace it. If a deliveryman backs over the mailbox at the end of the driveway, it is the seller who must repair the post and replace with a new box. And if hail leaves dents in the aluminum siding, the seller must make the repair.

Final walkthroughs are essential to ascertain the condition of the home prior to signing the closing documents. But what happens to those irreplaceable picturesque trees that have fallen on the roof? Three weeks prior to a closing, there could be plenty of time for the seller to call their insurance company and have the home repaired. But is it the same house? And more importantly does the buyer still have to buy the home? In a word, no.

The clause goes on to say that in the case where there is substantial damage to the home or property, it is the buyer’s option to cancel or continue with the purchase agreement. In the fallen tree scenario outlined above, which was a real situation that occurred a few summers ago, the landscaping was significantly changed in the eyes of the buyers as the trees could not be replaced. The damage to the home caused an insurance claim that would now be reflected in a
CLUE insurance report that could affect the ability to insure the home. The buyers opted to cancel the contract as was their option in the clause with all earnest money refunded.

Risk of loss comes into play quite often when buying and selling a home. In most cases the repairs are made quickly to both the buyer’s and seller’s satisfaction and the contract will close on time. But when the property sustains significant damage, the buyer has the option of continuing to closing or walking away from the deal. Boilerplate or not, Risk of Loss is an important clause to understand when buying or selling a home.

If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional REALTOR®, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet , Homebuyers Success Packet or sign up for Listingbook Twin Cities Home Search. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

Copyright 2010 Teri Eckholm

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Buying a MN Lakehome? How Safe is the Water?

A lakeshore home is the ideal of many a Minnesotan! And why not? When you live in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, one would be hard pressed not to drive by a lake, pond or river on a daily basis. Whether you are in Anoka, Ramsey, Chisago, Washington, Hennepin or any other county in our great state lakeshore is a plentiful and beautiful.

On an almost daily basis there is a news report regarding one of our wonderfully wet natural resources. Unfortunately, some of the news is not always so great: Eurasian milfoil, mercury in the fish and polluted waters are just a few of the concerns. Even those who live in the city are being asked to prevent grass clippings from going into the street and sewer systems as the chemicals that make our lawns so beautifully green, go through the storm drains and into our lakes. So how do you know if the sparkling pristine blue water of that Minnesota lakehome you want to buy is as clean as it looks?

As a REALTOR® working in the north and east Twin Cities metro, I do get asked questions regarding the quality of our lakes. After buyers are dazzled by the view of a lakeshore sunset, they want to know about water quality before they sign a purchase agreement. Lakeshore owners want to be able to fish, boat and swim in the water. So questions arise.

*Is the lake polluted?

*Are the fish safe to eat?

*Is there milfoil present?

*Is the water safe to swim in?

Finding these answers is simple. I direct my lakehome buyers to, a wonderful website devoted to MN lakeshore and recreation published by Conservation Minnesota. The site gives information great information on all of Minnesota’s lakes that have been tested for water quality.

A potential lakeshore buyer can find out whether the lake water is safe to swim in and whether the fish are safe to eat on a case by case basis. The lake search is very simple to use. Just put in the name and or county of the lake you are interested in and hit GO. I found that when I was looking for a big lake that overlaps into more than one county, like White Bear Lake, entering the lake name alone can be best because each lake is listed in only one county. (In the case of White Bear Lake, it listed as Washington County not Ramsey County.)

Pollution status is not the only feature of The website is updated daily with water facts, lake news and beach reports. You can also sign a petition to protect our lakes, volunteer to monitor lake quality, or submit a story about your favorite lake.

Now if you are looking for a great place to fish on a Ramsey County Lake, check out these links:

Fishing Piers in Ramsey County:
Ready to buy a Minnesota Lakehome and need help from a professional REALTOR®?
If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional REALTOR®, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet , Homebuyers Success Packet or sign up for Listingbook Twin Cities Home Search. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.