Tuesday, April 10, 2012

When We Move to a New House, Can We Get a Pony?

Horse and animal restrictions on Minnesota acreage properties

Last year, during a final walkthrough of an acreage home my buyers were purchasing in Anoka County, one of their daughters ran up to me giggling and said, “Joe thinks you are buying him a pony.”

“Oh…really?” was all I could think to respond.

Mom nodded that yes it was a fact, Joe had it in his three-year-old head that I was going to drop off a four-hoofed pet on move-in day. While I have been known to give a closing gift to my clients, I have never offered a pet as a present…especially a pony!

This particular precocious toddler must have mixed up some of the conversations during our home search outings. As we searched for the perfect Minnesota acreage home throughout Anoka, Chisago and Washington Counties, there was quite a bit of discussion of horses. The reason this city-dwelling-but-soon-to-be-country family was relocating to a more rural property complete with a polebarn, was so his older sisters could get horses.

But acreage alone does not make a horse property. The fact is, many potential acreage homebuyers are surprised to find out that there restrictions on animals in the country. Though leash laws and licenses are expected in most urban environments, many people don’t realize that rural communities also have rules, ordinances, covenants and restrictions regarding animals.

So if you are planning a move to a more rural environment and want to have a horse, raise chickens or just have a couple of dogs and cats, it is important to check the restrictions  before writing an offer to purchase a home.

Each county, city and even specific development will have rules, restrictions and covenants in regard to animal ownership. The current code for the City of Ham Lake, where I live has a number of specific rules for pet ownership. For instance, owners of more than two dogs must obtain a private kennel license. You can raise chickens or pigeons with a temporary conditional use permit. Horses, or other animals with hooves like a pony, can be kept if a permit is obtained from the city prior to obtaining the animal and land is designated R-A or residential agricultural.

Now, a few miles away in the City of Columbus, a homeowner can keep up to four dogs before being required to get a kennel license. And in the City of Wyoming, horses are allowed on properties that are larger than five acres but no more than 1 horse per 2 acres. There can also be restrictions on grazing acres versus wetland or unusable acres. One time I came across a development with 10 acre parcels that had covenants restricting the land use to exclude horses. Bottom line: There is no hard and fast rule regarding whether rural properties will allows animals. Each home must be researched to verify any restrictions.

So what should a home buyer who has promised the kids a pony do?

Work with a REALTOR® that specializes in acreage and knows how to find homes with a place for your pets. Be flexible on areas/communities you want to relocate to. If pets are a priority, write any offer contingent upon being able to have the number of horses, dogs or chickens that will be part of your family household. Make it a practice to call the city and/or county regarding any pet or animal ownership restrictions. Check with the seller regarding all covenants that would restrict pet ownership. So if your move to acreage requires a place for a pony, make sure it is allowed!

Copyright 2012 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/

Monday, February 6, 2012

First Time Homebuyer’s Real Estate Word for Today is Escrow

First Time Homebuyer Word of the Day is Escrow

In a recent episode of the Emmy award winning television show, Cash Cab, several people with stumped by the acronym, FSBO. This is a often term often used in the real estate world to describe a person selling their home by owner (For Sale By Owner). As a REALTOR® I was a bit surprised that such a simple term I use everyday would be unknown to so many. But then it got me thinking of all the times a glazed look came over a buyer’s eyes when I talked about escrow or earnest money. These can easily be confused with other real estate and mortgage terms like down payment or cash to close. It is totally understandable because most homebuyers do not buy houses everyday.

There are so many terms that could possibly confuse a First Time Homebuyer that I thought an online glossary of real estate terms might be helpful. So over the next few weeks I am going to have a series of posts for the first time homebuyer with explanations of the most often used (and sometimes confusing) real estate terms. This way you can skip buying that big “how to buy a house” book or attending that
First Time Homebuyer Class and have a quick resource at your fingertips. Today’s Real Estate Term is:

Escrow This term can be confusing as it is used a few different ways. In some states, going into escrow is defined as the period of time after the purchase agreement is signed but prior to closing. In Minnesota we call that time period, pending, not escrow.

In Minnesota, the term escrow means funds held by a third party for a future payment. The most common time a first time buyer hear the term used is in regard to the required funds held in escrow by their mortgage company on a monthly basis to cover the taxes and property insurance for the home. This amount will be added to the monthly payment and the mortgage company will be then responsible for making the payments directly to the insurance company and the county for taxes. Putting funds into escrow is not required for all buyers. If a significant down payment is made at the time of purchase, a lender will not require funds to be placed in escrow for taxes and insurance. A buyer can then pay their insurance company and county directly.

There is another time when funds may be placed in escrow. There are some instances where essential repairs cannot be made prior to closing. In this instance, a mortgage company may allow funds to be place into the title company's escrow account on the date of closing and held there until the repairs are made. It is now rare that a mortgage company will allow this; usually only in the case of off season weather where it would be impossible to make the repair such as installation of a septic system or cement driveway in the winter. 

Copyright 2012 Teri Eckholm