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Minnesota Metro Real Estate Blog

Jeff Scislow


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Tips on Becoming a Landlord

by Jeff Scislow

For a myriad of reasons, many homeowners are finding themselves in a position to become a first-time landlord.  Perhaps the cause for you is a military move, a job change, or the need to rent the home of an elderly relative.  It may be that you love your home and want to return to it in the future, that you see the investment potential in holding on to the house, or you view such a move as a money-making proposition in the long run.

for rentWhatever your reason, taking on the responsibilities of a landlord is a serious decision, but it is a “do-able” task if you exercise due diligence before leaping into that role by educating yourself about state and municipal regulations, tenants’/landlords’ rights and responsibilities, required documents, and legal terms and industry jargon.

 A few tips to help you get started...

  • Have a financial plan in place.  Analyze the cost of annual maintenance and repair, property taxes and insurance, travel, if applicable, and legal fees.  It is important, also, to have a “rainy day fund” set aside for unexpected (and sometimes large) expenses.
  • Consult with a real estate attorney before beginning as a landlord. Avoid invalid or incomplete lease agreements, understand timelines, and seek legal advice in general.
  • Estimate the amount of time your landlord duties will require of you and be realistic about your ability to adequately cope with them.  It may be in your best interests to consider hiring a property management team (we do that!!) to deal with finding new tenants, emergency repairs, and other time-consuming chores.
  • Learn about your prospective tenants.  If this task is left to property managers, be sure they have done a thorough job of vetting the clients   Ask about their previous rental history, why they are moving, where they work, and their income. Call their previous landlords. Have them complete a rental application and take the time to verify their good credit and their employment, which will help you determine their ability to pay the rent.  Online websites, such as will, for a fee, provide this service for you.

One caveat: if you are planning to buy another home and rent the existing one, understand that you are entering a far more complicated transaction.  Consult with your Realtor, your banker, and numerous websites to understand the intricacies of such an endeavor.

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Trends for June 2014

by Jeff Scislow

In June, the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing in Minneapolis, MN was 7% lower than the previous month and 42% lower than the same time last year, according to

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Status Distribution

The current distribution of foreclosures based on the number of active foreclosure homes in Minneapolis, MN.

Auctions accounted for 51.3% of foreclosure activity in June 2014 and Bank-owned properties accounted for 48.7%.

minneapolis mn foreclosure

Minneapolis MN
Foreclosure Activity by Month

The number of Bank-Owned properties decreased 7.8% compared to the previous month and dropped 39.8% from the previous year in June. The number of Auctions decreased 5.8% compared to the previous month and 44.7% from the previous year.

minneapolis mn foreclosure

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Geographical Comparison

Minneapolis MN foreclosure activity was 0.01% below national statistics, 0.03% higher than Minnesota numbers and 0.01% higher than Hennepin County statistics in June 2014.

minneapolis mn foreclosure

Curious about the value of you home? Find out NOW!

Strategies To Remedy a Low Home Appraisal

by Jeff Scislow

Talk about a setback!  You’ve spent much time and effort preparing your property for sale or looking for the perfect house to buy, negotiating a fair price, and anxiously awaiting the settlement date.  And now you have received a low home appraisal… considerably below the asking price.  What to do?  First, whether you are the buyer or the seller, remain calm.  This is not an unusual occurrence in today’s market.  Understanding the possible reasons for the disappointing appraisal and exploring strategies to save the transaction are your next steps.


  • Overpricing by seller
  • Declining market values
  • An abundance of foreclosures or short sales in the neighborhood
  • Inflated price resulting from multiple offers
  • Incorrect evaluation by the appraiser
  • Cash back to buyer from the seller
  • Error(s) on the part of the appraiser


  • Lower the price of the property.  After researching and analyzing the latest comps with your Realtor, realistically reconsider your asking price and decide whether you are willing to begin the selling process all over again.
  • Offer to carry a second mortgage for the buyer if the above option is not possible.


  • Ask the seller to make up the difference in cash.
  • Ask the lender for a new appraisal after presenting your justification for this request.
  • Offer a larger down payment, thus reducing the mortgage required to a level below the home appraisal.


  • Check the appraiser’s report for errors (in facts or omission) in information about the house.  Verify the accuracy of the square footage, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the inclusion of all improvements to the property..  If information is missing or incorrect, appeal the appraisal.  The key to a successful dispute is data, so do your research and be prepared with facts.
  • Supply to the underwriter a list of recent comparable sales that justify the selling/purchase price and ask for a review of the home appraisal.
  • Order a new appraisal.  Although you will have to pay for it, it could be money well spent if it results in a higher appraisal. Your lender will give you a list of approved appraisers.

As a last resort, cancel the transaction.  Most purchase contracts contain a loan contingency which deals with a low home appraisal.

Know The Score On Credit Scores

by Jeff Scislow

The relatively-recent barrage of credit score source commercials on television would lead you to believe that such a number is quite important.  And indeed it is, for it often dictates, or at least heavily influences, your mortgage approval, interest rates, insurance premiums, utility security deposits, employment opportunities, and even cell phone contracts.  Who knew?

credit scoreA credit score, often called a FICO score, helps lenders and service providers evaluate your credit report because it is a number that summarizes your current credit risk. The higher the score, the better for you. Generally speaking, credit scores below 550 are consider poor, 550 to 620 subprime, 620 to 680 acceptable, 680 to 740 good, and above 740 excellent.

Obviously, it is in your best interests to know your current credit score and to periodically check the report itself for misinformation or for fraudulent charges (ID theft indicator).  How to do so?  The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.  You can make one request to all three companies at one time, or you may stagger them during the year. Only is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law.  Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program, and In many cases the “free” product comes with strings attached.

If your credit score is high, rejoice, be proud, and work to maintain that rating.  If it is in the acceptable to good category, take steps to increase the number by consistently making timely payments, reducing the amount you owe, not closing or opening any new accounts, and keeping balances low on credit cards.

If you fall into the subprime or poor range, you will need to take additional steps to improve your rating.  It's important to note that repairing bad credit takes time and there is no quick way to raise that number. In fact, out of all of the ways to improve a credit score, quick-fix efforts are the most likely to backfire, so beware of any advice that claims to improve your credit score fast.  Unfortunately, here is no “quick fix.”

Be patient, proactive, and aware.

Leaving Your Home Alone—But Protected

by Jeff Scislow

Although our Minnesota weather may indicate otherwise, the calendar says it is summer—time to go on vacation (hopefully to somewhere warm and sunny!).  You most likely know the basic steps you should take to protect your home from intruders, i.e., arranging for mail and papers to be locked househeld until you return, removing the spare key from under the door mat, locking all doors and windows, leaving a radio or television on, and having neighbors park in your driveway, but there are other, lesser known tips you may want to heed before going off and leaving your home alone.

  • Don’t invite break-ins:
    • Move valuables out of the line of sight. Keep expensive items out of view from windows.

Leave blinds and curtains in normal daytime positions.

  • Resist the urge to broadcast your upcoming absence on social media
  • Don’t give burglars the tools to break into your house. Put ladders and crow bars (and anything else an intruder could use to break into your “alone” home) inside a locked shed.
  • Trim shrubs in front of the house to no higher than 3 feet from the ground, and trim trees so that the lowest branches are at least 6 feet up (less hiding room for burglars).
  • Take advantage of electronics:
    • Put a timer on the TV as well as the lights. Nothing says you’re home like the flickering lights of a TV. If you can find timers which are controlled by an app on your cell phone, that would be the best option
  • Connect some outside and inside lights to motion sensors.
  • Install a fake security camera on the outside of your home. sells a dummy camera for about $10. Put it up high so it’s harder to tell it’s fake.
  • Disconnect your electric garage door opener.
  • Turn down the phone's ringer.  Unanswered ringing phones alert savvy intruders to your home’s “aloneness.”
  • Employ other thwarting tactics:
    • If your garage door can be opened manually, put a lock on it and/or click here for other garage security tricks.
  • Seal any pet doors to prevent very thin burglars from sliding through.

Feeling more secure and ready to roll away from your ”home alone”?  If not, you might consider finding a reliable house sitter to put your mind at ease. 

In any event, rest, relax, and enjoy!!!!

Setting the Stage to Sell Your South Metro Home This Summer

by Jeff Scislow

If you’ve ever been involved in a theatrical production, you are well aware of the many hours of planning, practice, preparation, and carefully setting the stage that precede the actual performance.  You hope to gain rave reviews from your audience and will thus be sure to put forth much energy and effort in order to do so.



In much the same way, you, as the seller of your home, have aspirations of wowing potential buyers with your stellar presentation and being rewarded by appreciative applause in the form of a quick sale.  Just practice the following script and stage directions for dramatic results…

The curtain opens on a tastefully furnished room with adequate, but not overcrowded or oversized, furniture.  There is ample room to walk between the moderately-sized pieces, and doors and windows are not blocked.  Flowers and bowls of fresh fruit add color and a pleasant scent.  Personal photos and memorabilia are not present, and the few paintings that adorn the walls contribute to the overall light and airy atmosphere.



Clean, clean, clean and de-clutter even more!  Create an impressive stage set by buffing floors and washing walls. This is the time to donate, throw away, and organize the many items that take up too much room, distract from positive features, make your home appear smaller, and create a feeling of chaos.  Let your granite countertops, roomy closets, and ample cabinet space take center stage for potential buyers. Your Realtor can advise you about other popular features you may want to include as you’re setting the stage for your open house.


Audience members will now be milling about the area outside your theatre, so be sure that you have taken steps to make it attractive and appealing.




Concentrate on stage lighting.  Wash windows, open curtains and drapes, illuminate darker spaces. Put away winter bedding, accessories, and area rugs. Bring in the spirit of summer stage setting with soft colors. Consider investing in inexpensive items like towels, throw pillows, candles and table settings in lavender, yellow, sage green and pale blue.   


Final curtain:

Time to take a bow, accept the flowers, bask in the applause, and enjoy the accolades. Your presentation and setting of the stage have been a complete success, and you will soon be entertaining offers for your South Metro home.

Celebrating the 4th of July!

by Jeff Scislow

flag“America is best described in one word--freedom”   Dwight D. Eisenhower

As Americans, we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th to honor our nation’s birthday and the Declaration of Independence. It is a day replete with parades, cookouts, picnics, waving flags, fireworks, and a heavy dose of patriotism. 


JULY 4, 1776:  The Second Continental Congress completed its work on the Declaration of Independence.

JULY 4, 1941:  Independence Day was first celebrated as a federal legal holiday.


“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right with America.” Bill Clinton

Did you know that there is a one-gun salute fired at noon on July 4th on every capable military base?  It is called the Salute to the Union.

and there are specific rules about displaying it proudly and properly.

Be sure to brush up on the dos and don’ts for honoring Old Glory.

FABULOUS FOOD:  Having a cookout or picnic with friends and family?   Think about foods that come in patriotic colors--white snow cone cups filled with red and blue berries, e.g.  Be sure to offer hot dogs, hamburgers, cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans, and watermelon for an all-American meal.  Maybe even Mom’s apple pie to top it off!  Food Network stars share many delicious recipes for this holiday, and the web even offers a video of grilling safety tips.

Having a holiday gathering at your home or nearby park?  Better Homes and Gardens has many websites to help you with food, decorations, and crafts for the kids. A holiday trivia contest or a themed party game, such as Uncle Sam’s Hat, offer fun for all ages.

fireworksFIREWORKS FINALE:  Nearly every U.S. city or town offers an exciting fireworks display to end the day’s festivities, and we’re never to old or young to ooh and ah at the spectacle.  Some notable shows are held at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Charles River in Boston, Mt. Rushmore, the Rose Bowl, and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  Perhaps the longest celebration is fittingly held in Philadelphia--a 9 day festival culminating in back-to-back fireworks!

George Washington once said, “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”  Do remember, however, that such a plant needs to cherished, nourished, and protected by each and every American.

Have a safe and happy 4th!


Finding An Affordable South Metro Home

by Jeff Scislow

While home ownership is still a large part of the American dream, many potential buyers, especially first-timers, experience feelings of frustration when undertaking such a large step.  One major contributing factor in their unease, in spite of relatively stable prices and still-low interest rates, is their inability to locate an affordable home.  They know what they want, where they want it, and how much they can pay but just can’t seem to find “the” house they desire.

south metro homeAs we Realtors well know, there are affordable South Metro homes out there, but would-be purchasers need to be able to think outside the box, explore numerous assistance programs, and make a sacrifice or two in their list of “must haves.”  Areas in which to consider scaling back include:

  • Price:  Be realistic and look only at homes in your budgeted range.  Actually, it’s often a good idea to spend  20% less than what the bank tells you that you can afford.
  • Liquidity:  While you may have to drain your savings to make the numbers affordable, hitting the 20% down mark immediately lowers your monthly payment with a smaller loan, better interest rate, and no private mortgage insurance (PMI).
  • Neighborhood:  You may not be able to purchase within walking distance to recreational areas, shopping, and dining or in the area of your dreams. Being a short drive or bus ride away from these amenities may be a small price to pay in order to find an affordable home.
  • Type of home:  If location and other factors are more important, you may have to make the shift from a single-family home search to a condo, townhouse, or duplex.  Perhaps, too, we can assist you in looking for foreclosures and/or short sales.
  • Size:  Remember, smaller square footage does not always equate with being cramped; look for homes with open floor plans and lots of access to outdoor living spaces.  Locate homes with rooms that can serve a dual purpose, such as guest room and office.  Can’t afford a large back yard?  Find one with room for a grill and some chairs—and visit nearby parks.

Search out sources of assistance.  FHA loans require only a low down payment and will soon offer the HAWK program to discount insurance costs for buyers.  In addition, Minnesota administers HUD funds for numerous assistance programs for state residents who qualify and provides a Home Stretch Program for first time buyers.

Your affordable home is out there!  Enjoy your South Metro home search!

Is a Vacant Home for You?

by Jeff Scislow

As you begin your search for a house, you may be tempted by the lower price of a vacant home—an idea that certainly bears investigation.  An unoccupied home may be the best bargain on the block, yet, potential buyers should beware: vacant homes often present problems due to neglect, lack of maintenance, aging, natural and human damage, and other factors.

vacant homeIt is in your best interest, therefore, to be aware of possible pitfalls and to exercise due diligence before making such a purchase. Of course, you and your Realtor will observe and assess obvious maintenance problems such as broken water pipes, unhealthy molds, soot damage, water damage, discolored flooring, and stolen copper wires or other fixtures. In addition, possible problems of vacant homes may also include poor air quality, peeling paint, strong odors, and swelling of walls and ceilings.  It is also a wise idea to check city permits because it will provide you with reliable information regarding the house's history of remodeling.

Even armed with that important information, however, you still need to be aware of less obvious areas of concern associated with a vacant home. For example, you should know that…

  • Lack of utilities is can be a major problem:  It prevents you from obtaining a thorough home inspection. With no way to check the water, electric, gas, heating and cooling system, and appliances, even a professional home inspector is unable to properly evaluate the house. There could be wiring problems, water or gas leaks, or other defects, any of which would be very costly to repair. It might be possible to have the utilities turned on temporarily. But that can be a hassle and requires paying a deposit and putting the utilities in the prospective buyer's name. Forgoing these major system inspections is a big risk.

  • Obtaining insurance may be challenging:  Most insurance agencies will not insure a vacant home without their agent inspecting it. This is significant because the insurance agent might require costly repairs before issuing a policy (for which the premiums are higher)—or even refuse your request entirely.
  • Additional research is necessary:  Check for outstanding violations, code issues, liens, and unpaid HOA fees or utility bills.

Although buying a vacant home can be risky, if you exercise caution and diligence and heed the advice of your trusted agent, it is often a very doable endeavor!

Twin Cities Has Largest Pool of Homes for Sale in Almost a Year

Minneapolis, Minnesota (June 11, 2014) –House hunters in the 13-county Twin Cities metropolitan area are finally getting more to choose from. Inventory levels were up 6.1 percent to 16,368 homes for sale in May 2014. This comes as new listings were up 3.0 percent to 8,572 and pending sales were down 9.0 percent to 5,260. Even though overall buyer demand remains below 2013 levels, it's still well above 2011 and 2012 levels. Moreover, buyer demand increased for traditional homes.

Absorption rates actually slowed to 3.9 months of supply, thanks to recent inventory increases. Even with more supply and less demand, the mix of sales continues to skew away from distressed properties and toward traditional homes that sell at higher price points. Consequently, the median sales price rose 8.2 percent to $210,000 – the highest May median sales price since 2007 and tied for the highest median price for any month since December 2007.

Though new listings rose 3.0 percent compared to last May, traditional new listings rose 14.1 percent while foreclosure and short sale new listings fell 44.0 percent and 47.7 percent, respectively. Similarly, though pending sales were down 9.0 percent, traditional pending sales rose 0.7 percent while foreclosure and short sale pendings fell 39.3 percent and 47.3 percent. And again, overall inventory was up 6.1 percent but traditional inventory was up 25.9 percent as foreclosure inventory fell 36.6 percent and short sale inventory plummeted by 53.6 percent.

With inventory up, consumers now have the largest pool of homes for sale in almost a year. Inventory hasn't shown this many consecutive year-over-year increases in about 3½ years. Perhaps more importantly, a larger share of that inventory falls under the more desirable traditional segment.

"Yes there's more inventory, but not in all areas or price points," said Emily Green, President of the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR). "The lack of supply is really starting to weigh on consumers and on sales numbers. This market has been supply-constrained for long enough, but the trend is moving in a positive direction."

As a result of this ongoing shift toward higher-priced and higher-quality product, the median sales price for the metro rose 8.2 percent to $210,000. That now makes 27 straight months of year-over-year price gains. Also helping along price recovery is the fact that foreclosures and short sales made up only about 10.0 percent of all new listings and about 15.0 percent of all closed sales. Those are the lowest figures since October 2007 and May 2007, respectively.

Homes continued to sell quickly, as days on market was down 7.0 percent to 80 days, on average. Sellers are receiving an average of 96.8 percent of their original list price. The Twin Cities now has 3.9 months' supply of inventory, just a tad higher than last May and consistent with this phase of market recovery.

"More inventory really is a good sign," said Mike Hoffman, MAAR President-Elect. "But housing relies heavily on the economy. That said, job growth, unemployment, consumer confidence and family financial situations must continue to show improvement."

All information is according to the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR) based on data from NorthstarMLS. MAAR is the leading regional advocate and provider of information services and research on the real estate industry for brokers, real estate professionals and the public. MAAR serves the Twin Cities 13-county metro area and western Wisconsin. 10K Research and Marketing, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of MAAR.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 61

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The Scislow Group
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Apple Valley MN 55124
Office: (952) 953-5000
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