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Minnesota Metro Real Estate Blog

Jeff Scislow


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Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Trends for Dec 2014

by Jeff Scislow

In December, the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing in Minneapolis, MN was 13% higher than the previous month and 7% higher 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 64.5% of foreclosure activity in December 2014 and Bank-owned properties accounted for 35.5%.

minneapolis mn foreclosure

Minneapolis MN
Foreclosure Activity by Month

The number of Bank-Owned properties decreased 3.6% compared to the previous month and dropped 5.0% from the previous year in December. The number of Auctions increased 25.3% compared to the previous month and 15.2% 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 the same as than Hennepin County statistics in December 2014.

minneapolis mn foreclosure

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Another Home-buying Incentive From the FHA

by Jeff Scislow

About a month ago I wrote to you about FHA’s holiday gift to potential home buyers—a 3% down payment for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae-backed loans.  Both programs are for fixed-rate loans given to first time homebuyers and those seeking to refinance. Fannie began backing the loans on December 13, while Freddie will start offering them on March 23.

fhaAnd now, another pleasant surprise from our government!  President Obama announced last week a new policy that will reduce the rate of the required annual mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) on FHA loans from 1.35% to 0.85%.  Such a reduction could amount to either meaningful savings for you on a monthly basis or an opportunity to purchase more home.

Interested?  If so, a few tips to follow to take advantage of this new policy:

  • Check back with your preferred lender about how much home you may now qualify for.  (Remember you will still have to demonstrate your qualifying income; FHA loans are government backed and require full documentation from borrowers).
  • Always consider what you can comfortably afford. While you may be able to "buy more home" with this reduction, be aware of your monthly cash flow so you don't bite off more than you can chew long term.
  • Take action now. More people may now start to look for a home, which means competition could spike in your preferred area. When competition increases, home prices rise as well. This could also mean a rush of new loan applications for lenders, which could mean extended loan closing times.
  • If you already own, consider refinancing.  With mortgage rates at 20-month lows and a reduction in the premium, borrowers may be able to achieve monthly savings byrefinancing. Those with a current FHA loan have a potential opportunity to reduce their monthly payment with a user-friendly refinance option called an FHA Streamline Loan, which is typically faster to close than a regular refinance because no appraisal is required and there are no out-of-pocket costs.
  • Discuss the opportunity of a reduced term loan (25, 20, 15 or 10 year loan) with your lender. This could not only result in interest savings through the reduced term, but may also lower your rate and offer an opportunity to take advantage of the annual MIP savings.

Don't let anxiety about financing a home deter you. As your Realtor, I will work with you and your lender to keep you knowledgeable and informed throughout the loan process.

Thinking Ahead About Tax Deductions

by Jeff Scislow

Whew!  The whirlwind of holiday activities is over, and life can resume a more normal, if colder, pace. Consider taking advantage of these quieter times to think ahead to the blossoming of spring—and to April 15th.   Begin now to plan your income tax deductions, enjoying the idea of saving money rather than spending it and knowing you can benefit from these money-saving tax tips.

tax cutOften overlooked deductions:

  • Most homeowners know that mortgage interest is deductible, but did you know that mortgage points are, too?  . Points are prepaid interest and may be deductible as mortgage interest on your home if you itemize deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A.
  • Moving expenses: If you move more than 50 miles for a new job, expenses such as movers, renting a truck, cost of breaking a lease, storing furniture, legal fees, real estate commissions and the cost of food and hotels while moving can be claimed as deductible expenses.
  • Job hunting costs: If looking for a position in the same line of work you held previously and you itemize, you can deduct expenses associated with trying to land a new position, including out-of-town lodging, transportation, employment agency fees, and  business card and resume printing costs.
  • If you turned 65 in 2014, remember that you now deserve a bigger standard deduction if you do not itemize deductions.
  • Medicare insurance and long-term care premiums: Remember to include the cost of Medicare Parts B, C, D, and supplemental insurance when you are trying to reach the magic 10% (still 7.5% for seniors).
  • State sales tax In previous years you have had a choice between deducting state income taxes paid or state sales taxes paid. Since you will choose whichever gives you the largest deduction, bear in mind the purchase of big-ticket items and home building materials. Fingers crossed for a congressional extension this year.
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, especially those serving in combat zones, or National Guard or military reserve qualify for special tax deductions.
  • Early withdrawal penalty:  Did you cash in a CD early this year? If you were charged a fee for  doing so, you can deduct it directly on your 1040. Financial Planning and Management Expenses, Schedule A, Line 23.
  • If you subscribed to an investment newsletter, paid a financial advisor, or otherwise spent money to manage your money, these fees can be deducted.
  • Out-of-pocket charitable costs incurred while doing work for a charity.

We are not accountants. For more specific information please contact your tax professional.

Ringing In a New Year For Real Estate

by Jeff Scislow

A new year has just begun—and the outlook for the housing market is definitely brighter!  No, I do not have a crystal ball, nor do I read tarot cards.  I do, however, keep my eyes and ears open, follow market trends and government initiatives, keep current with recent research and survey findings, and diligently use my years of experience as a Realtor to analyze the information I glean in order to give you my take on what 2015 will hold for the real estate market.

2015The reasons for my optimism are varied and many.  Read on…

  • Results from Fannie Mae's November 2014 National Housing Survey show that American consumers' personal financial outlook has increased fairly steadily during the year, lending support to the ongoing housing market recovery.  In addition, 68 percent of respondents said they thought it was a good time to buy.
  • The millennial generation (those born between 1981 and 2000) is beginning its ascent.  Millennials make up around 65% of first-time home buyers, and 86% of those purchasers indicate that their motivation is a change in family size.
  • Most economists believe that real estate will continue to appreciate in 2015, although forecasts vary for how much prices will rise.  (The National Association of Realtors believes home prices will grow by 4% in 2015.) This projected appreciation, coupled with a gradual rise in interest –capping at 5% by the end of the year-- and increased employment and job security, will motivate first-time buyers to purchase homes as soon as they can in 2015.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have announced that they will start backing mortgages with down payments of as little as 3% of the home's price.  Both programs are for fixed-rate loans given to first time homebuyers and those seeking to refinance. Fannie began backing the loans on December 13, while Freddie will start offering them March 23.
  • Home sales will increase +8%.  Existing home sales will grow as more buyers enter the market motivated by a clear belief that both rates and prices will continue to rise. While the majority of housing activity next year will be driven by baby boomers preparing for retirement, millennials will account for 65 percent of first-time home buyer sales in 2015.

Although I cannot guarantee my “predictions,” I am secure enough in my optimistic forecast to urge you to give yourself a real reason to celebrate the new year, and I invite you to contact us to help you make 2015 a year to remember!

Happy Holiday News: 3% Down Payments Are Back

by Jeff Scislow

In an effort to open up lending to more low-income and first time home buyers—and, we suspect, to spread seasonal goodwill-- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced last Monday that they will start backing mortgages with down payments of as little as 3% of the home's price.  Both programs are for 3 percentfixed-rate loans given to first time homebuyers and those seeking to refinance. Fannie began backing the loans on December 13, while Freddie will start offering them March 23, 2015.

Who can apply?  Fannie Mae will allow new purchasers and borrowers who haven’t owned a primary residence within the last three years to qualify. Freddie Mac’s program will be limited to people who have never owned a home or those with moderate incomes or who are buying in under-served areas.  Borrowers who currently have loans backed by the two companies will be allowed to refinance with as little as 3 percent down. Fannie Mae borrowers will be allowed to take cash out for closing costs; Freddie Mac borrowers will not.  Both programs allow only fixed-rate loans on single-family homes used as a primary residence and require private mortgage insurance.

To reassure critics who fear a repetition of the infamous” bubble” and resulting real estate market collapse, Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt stated that the underwriting guidelines of both agencies  provide a responsible approach to improving access to credit while ensuring safe and sound lending practices.

Borrowers must meet strict eligibility requirements, including automated underwriting, income documentation, and risk management standards to support their creditworthiness.  In addition, the new offerings will also include mandatory homeownership counseling and instruction, which improves borrower performance. “The FHFA will monitor the ongoing performance of these loans,” promised Director Watt.

Such good tidings offer hope for expanded home ownership in 2015.

Maintaining the Value of Your Home

by Jeff Scislow

As a homeowner, you should work to protect the biggest investment you have most likely made. Basic repairs done on a regular basis can protect your home from losing value. Updating the house and looking out for problem properties in your neighborhood can also help make a difference in your home’s value as well. 

calculatorMany factors, such as location, square footage, school district, and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, affect the worth of your house. Although several of those parameters aren't easily changed, some are certainly under your control.

As an astute homeowner, your job is to consider both what you can do to improve your home's value, as well as what you may be doing (inadvertently, of course) to decrease it.  Completing renovations and repairs might pay off to varying extents.  Outdated appliances and old cabinets and countertops can eat away at worth. Older, inefficient water fixtures and appliances also hurt. Energy-saving refrigerators and dishwashers can update your home. Be careful about assumptions on how much value renovations will bring, however.  Upgrades can maintain your home’s value, but they may not boost it.

Home maintenance isn’t fun, but you must do it if you want retain your home’s value.  Click here for many useful tips on doing just that from basement to attic, driveway to HVAC systems, and interior to exterior.  Also, online websites can help you adhere to an efficient schedule.

One of the main things to remember while trying to boost your house's value is that people have different tastes, and those may vary greatly both geographically and demographically. A house with the flexibility to appeal to a wide audience will be more in demand than one highly customized to any one particular lifestyle. The more people who find a house attractive when it hits the market, the better off you'll be.  With that in mind, avoid quite expensive or extremely cheap fixtures and appliances and choose paint colors carefully.  Just as faded and peeling paint can be a turn-off for others, so can colors that are too unusual or bright.

Not sure about current trends or upgrade rate of return in your community?  Ask us for guidance on what you can do to boost your home’s value. You don’t need to list your property to call in a sales agent for a consultation on how to improve worth.

December: A Month Of Celebrations

by Jeff Scislow

Yes, it really is December, a month for shopping, planning, partying, and attending religious, social, and cultural events.  It begins too soon after Thanksgiving and ends with a bang as it ushers in a new year.  It is a season unto itself, one filled with excitement, symbols, customs, reflection, and a general sense of good will.

Four major celebrations occur during December, both secular and religious (or a combination of the two), and include the following:

menoraDecember 16--24.  Hanukkah.  This  Festival of Lights is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt in the second century BCE. The festival is observed by the lighting of the candles on a nine-branched menorah, and it is customary to give children one gift each night.  Although a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish calendar; its closeness to Christmas has brought greater attention to it in the U.S.

santaDecember 25.  Christmas  is a Christian holy day which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and is typically celebrated on December 25th.  Although originally a purely religious event, Christmas has also become a very popular social holiday with an emphasis on decorated trees, Santa Claus, exchange of presents, and caroling, Varied Christmas traditions abound throughout the Western world.  Click here for a wide range of Christmas customs.

kwanzaaDecember 26--January 1.  Kwanzaa.  Neither political nor religious, Kwanzaa was created in the 1960’s to foster pride and unity among African-Americans.  A week -long celebration honoring universal African-American heritage, family life, and culture, it features candle lighting, feasting, and gift giving. 

happy new yearDecember 31.  New Year’s Eve is a social holiday observed annually on December 31st.  In modern societies New Year's Eve is often celebrated at festive gatherings which generally extend through midnight of January 1st.  The dropping of the ball in Times Square in New York City and the singing of Auld Lang Syne are symbolic of this holiday in the U.S.

Interested in adding one more red-letter day to the month?  How about the buying or selling of a home?  Because the real estate market generally slows down in December, our Realtors have extra time to devote to helping you and will gladly work around your busy schedules.  Give yourself a gift and allow us to assist you in finding yet another reason to celebrate!              

Selling Your Home During The Holidays

by Jeff Scislow

Traditionally, potential sellers of real estate have avoided doing so during the winter months, especially in November and December.  Because the last month of the year is a time of many religious, social, and cultural celebrations, most people feel they are too busy to deal with real estate matters gift houseand/or are convinced that the market is pretty much dormant until at least early spring.  Not so, say numerous Realtors!  Not only do many folks have vacation time in December and are thus free to house shop, but the slower months are often the ones where buyers are really serious.

Some of the reasons behind the belief that December is a good time to sell your home include:

  • Less competition.  It is probable that fewer homes will be available to potential buyers in the winter.  Many would-be sellers don’t want to disrupt their holidays or deal with inclement weather, so buyers have fewer homes from which to choose.
  • More serious buyers:  It is safe to assume that those who house-hunt in winter truly want to find a home.
  • Business moves.  January is traditionally the biggest time for job transfers, a month where employees have to move and can’t wait until spring.  They have to buy now—and you’re there to capture that market.
  • Taxes: Many potential buyers want to settle before the end of the year for tax reasons.
  • Time:  Buyers have more time to look over the holidays and can come during the weekdays.
  • Flexibility:  You can show your home at times convenient for you and not disrupt any holiday activities.
  • Efficiency: While the malls and retail stores may be packed, lenders and title companies aren’t as busy and can process loans faster. Because winter months are historically slower in the mortgage business, paperwork can be completed more quickly.

Other advantages of winter selling deal with staging your home for buyer appeal.

  • A home tastefully adorned with holiday decorations contributes ambiance and positive emotion.
  • The aroma of baked goods and the crackle of a fire definitely work in your favor and contribute to creating a cozy and comfortable atmosphere.

If you are considering the possibility of a winter sale for your property, contact us to determine the best course of action for your particular circumstances!  We’ll certainly do all we can to make your holidays happy and bright!

Thanksgiving Thoughts

by Jeff Scislow

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”  Thornton Wilder

turkeyOn October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday in November would be officially declared Thanksgiving Day.  Since then most Americans have celebrated the day with friends and family giving thanks at a traditional meal of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes.

Interested in adding some variation to your feast?  Try stuffed onions, grilled oysters, or a vegetarian bake.  For recipes for these dishes, click here.  

ENJOY YOURSELF!  Take advantage of local activities and festivities by ice skating at The Depot, attending the tree lighting at Rice Park, viewing thousands of multicolored lights at Phalen Park, and enjoying the Holidazzle Village Nov 28 through Dec 24.

For a greener Thanksgiving, show your gratitude for the many ways the natural environment sustains and enriches our lives by implementing these “green” suggestions found at

cornucopiaGiving back…Thanksgiving is a perfect time to share our blessings with those less fortunate than we are and to spread the spirit of friendship and community.  Opportunities for helping others during this season are many and can involve one individual or the entire family.  Some ways to foster goodwill and embrace the idea of sharing include:

  • Contributing non-perishable foodstuffs to a local food bank.
  • Sorting supplies, setting up /cleaning up, or serving meals on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Clicking here for holiday volunteer opportunities in the Twin Cities area.
  • Remembering someone who lives alone with a dinner invitation or a warm plate of Thanksgiving food.

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”

William Jennings Bryant

Also, do remember to demonstrate your gratitude for our military personnel by contacting VFW Operation Uplink, a program sponsoring free phone calls for those men and women who are away from home while serving our country.  You can also donate money or time to your local USO.

soldierAnd… if you are fortunate enough to own a home, take a minute to give thanks for the advantages associated with that possession, benefits such as the buildup of equity, interest deductions, a sense of permanence in your community, and a solid foundation for your family.


Giving the Gift of Real Estate

by Jeff Scislow

As the gift-giving season approaches, some parents are considering a sizable and meaningful present for their children and/or grandchildren---real estate   This is the sign of a solid trend, since a growing number of parents are currently helping their children purchase homes, whether they’re buying these homes for their sons and daughters outright, helping them pay for closing costs, or coming up with the money for their down payments.

gift of real estateWhile such a gift is certainly in keeping with the spirit of the season, those who are giving or those relying on monetary donations from their parents or family members to buy houses should follow some fairly simple underwriting and IRS rules.

  • First, parents need to know that they can gift a total of $14,000 a person without being taxed on that money. In other words, a father can provide $14,000 to his son and another $14,000 to his daughter-in-law that the couple can use for a down payment. At the same time, the mother can provide the same amounts to her son and daughter-in-law without having to pay taxes. Click here for detailed information about annual gift tax exclusions.
  • Buyers applying for a conventional mortgage loan must use their own funds for at least 5 percent of their down payment. They can then use gifted funds for the rest
  • When buyers are providing a down payment of at least 20 percent of their home’s purchase price, they can rely on gift funds for the entire down payment. For FHA-backed mortgage loans, borrowers can pay for the entire down payment with gifted funds.
  • Mortgage lenders will need to see documentation showing the origin of gifted funds.
  • A gift of real property is accomplished through a deed. Depending upon your state rules, a warranty or grant deed is normally used, but in some cases a quitclaim deed may be appropriate. You will identify the property being transferred and sign, notarize, and register the deed as clear evidence that the property has been given to your children.

As with all major financial decisions, you would be wise to consult your accountant and/or tax attorney before gifting monetary assistance for the purchase of real estate or the property itself.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 81

Contact Information

Photo of The Scislow Group Real Estate
The Scislow Group
RE/MAX Results
15451 Founders Lane
Apple Valley MN 55124
Office: (952) 953-5000
Mobile: (612) 276-2336
Fax: Fax : (952) 431-0420