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Jeff Scislow

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Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 69

Halloween Happenings For Your Home

by Jeff Scislow

happy halloweenIt’s nearly that time of year again—Halloween, a time of ghosts and ghouls, tricks and treats, and costumes and candy!  Did you know that Halloween is second only to Christmas in terms of spending?  Yep--$1.2 million on costumes and another $2.5 million on candy, decorations, and other themed paraphernalia!  Other little-known facts include:

  • 86% of Americans decorate their houses.                                                  
  • 10% of pet owners costume their pets. (Click here for unique ideas)
  • 35 million pounds of candy corn are produce yearly. (How many are consumed in your home?)

Halloween traditions are many and varied.  ‘Tis the night for donning a costume, wearing a mask, bobbing for apples, and, the children’s favorite—trick-or-treating.  Looking for something different to give to the little ones coming to your home this year?  How about juice boxes, mini-marshmallows, popcorn balls, fruit roll-ups, 4 pack crayons, small glo-sticks, silly erasers, themed pencils, or goldfish snacks?

Ghoulish groaners:    What is a mummy’s favorite music?    Wrap

                                        Best Halloween insurance?  Mediscare

                                        Favorite drink of ghosts and goblins?  Ghoulade    

jack o lanternCarving a Jack-o-Lantern:  Be your pumpkin orange, white, green, and yes, even blue, you want the face on the porch of your residence to be unique.  For free templates to assist you in carving or for cut and paste faces, click here.

If you see a spider on Halloween, the spirit of a loved one is watching over you.

Costumes:  Forget the old standbys of ghost and witch.  Get creative and think about the unusual.  A bearded lady? A cupcake?  Or perhaps popcorn or an aquarium?  Although the web is filled with sites which sell costumes, you can express yourself best by making your own garb.  Check out CostumeIdeaZone.com for silly, serious, and/or super-fast ideas.


A kid came up with a bright idea to dress up as an IRS Agent. This way he could take 28% of the man's candy and leave without saying 'Thank You.’

Projects and Activities For The Young At Heart: Visit these sites for more Halloween fun…Halloween.com, Activity Village, ZombiePumpkins.com, TheTeachersCorner.com.

For creative ideas such as wicked wreaths, friendly ghosts, fright lights, tasty treats, and much, much more, visit Lowe’s Creative Ideas website.

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Mortgage Relief for Active-Duty Military

by Jeff Scislow

Tens of thousands of military servicepersons could soon see lower mortgage payments thanks to a new partnership between the Obama Administration and five U.S. loan servicing companies. Expressing concern that far too many military personnel are not taking advantage of available mortgage relief programs, President Obama recently announced a new partnership with five major banks to rectify this situation. 

militaryUnder the current law, provided by the The Servicemember's Civil Relief Act (SCRA), active-duty military  members are entitled to reduced mortgage rates, but the burden is on them to ask for it and prove they're eligible for this relief. This option is greatly underused, however, primarily because of a lack of awareness of the program or due to the required paperwork.

According to the President, partnering with some of America's biggest banks and financial institutions will simplify the process, proactively notify service members who qualify for lower rates, and make it easier to enroll.  Lending institutions currently participating in the program include Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, Ocwen Loan Servicing, CitiMortgage, and Quicken Loans. The five companies are also pledging to more frequently check Defense Department databases to see whether their customers are entitled to unclaimed benefits, such as mortgage relief.

“Our preliminary analysis suggests that this new partnership will help tens of thousands of military families save money by reducing their mortgage interest rates,” writes Jeff Zients, National Economic Council director. “On a $200,000 mortgage, even an interest rate reduction of only one percent will result in over $1,500 a year in savings for our military families — money they can put towards daily expenses, retirement savings, or sending their children to college.”

In addition to mortgage relief, the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act also offers protection in the areas of housing eviction, early lease termination, credit card debt, and life insurance. Service personnel should consult their Armed Forces Legal Assistance Attorney for advice and/or instructions in such matters.

More Fall Maintenance Tasks Await You!

by Jeff Scislow

As promised, I’m back again with yet more fall home maintenance tasks—this time for the interior of your residence. The good news!  These items are far less time-consuming and labor-intensive than the previously assigned projects.  Assuming you have completed the last list of chores in a timely manner, you can now turn your attention to completing the process of readying your house for winter.  And then you can rest and relax—at least until spring!

Nearly all of the fall maintenance “must dos” involve cleaning, checking, and changing, and include the following items:

Cleaning: 

  • Clean showerheads and tub and sink drains.
  • Vacuum refrigerator coils.
  • Clear heating ducts.  Remove any blockage.
  • Remove all lint from dryer vent.
  • Clean your sink disposal and range hood filter
  • Flush your hot water heater and remove all sediment.
  • Drain and winterize outdoor faucets and hoses.

Checking:

  • Make sure the sump pump in your home works correctly.
  • Test your smoke detectors.
  • Have your HVAC system serviced by a professional.
  • Be on the lookout for frayed cords and wires throughout the house.
  • Check (and correct possibly hazardous) carbon monoxide levels.
  • Check and replace fire extinguishers if necessary.

Changing: 

  • Replace air filters for ducts and furnaces.
  • Make certain that the blades on your ceiling fan rotate in a clockwise direction.
  • Change the batteries on all smoke detectors.

Another area that needs mentioning in times of cold temperatures is fire safety.  Familiarize yourself with the workings and safe use of your fireplace and make a family fire escape route/plan.

….And while you’re planning ahead, you might even think about purchasing firewood, sand, salt, shovels, etc., now.  You never know when that first snow will come!

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Trends for August 2014

by Jeff Scislow

In August, the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing in Minneapolis, MN was 8% lower than the previous month and 51% lower than the same time last year, according to RealtyTrac.com.

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Status Distribution

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

Auctions accounted for 52.4% of foreclosure activity in August 2014 and Bank-owned properties accounted for 47.6%.

minneapolis mn foreclosure


Minneapolis MN
Foreclosure Activity by Month

The number of Bank-Owned properties increased 19.7% compared to the previous month and dropped 38.8% from the previous year in August. The number of Auctions decreased 24.0% compared to the previous month and 58.8% from the previous year.

minneapolis mn foreclosure


Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Geographical Comparison

Minneapolis MN foreclosure activity was 0.02% below national statistics, 0.02% higher than Minnesota numbers and the same as Hennepin County statistics in August 2014.

minneapolis mn foreclosure


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

Exterior Fall Maintenance for Your Home

by Jeff Scislow

It may be hard to believe, but summer is over—even if we never really experienced the lengthy hot and sunny qualities of that season and it’s time for our thoughts to turn to fall and autumnal activities—hiking, football, trick or treating, and, of course, exterior home maintenance.

As the leaves change and the days get shorter, take advantage of mild temperatures to prepare now for the oncoming colder weather, thus providing your home with the upkeep it requires and you with peace of mind in the harsh realities of winter.

Where to begin? Fall home maintenance chores range from concrete checking to caulking; from cleaning gutters, downspouts, and chimneys to paint touch-ups; from replacing weather stripping to winterizing your yard; and from inspecting roofs, decks, and patios to patching driveways.  Take your pick…

lawn mowerAutumn lawn care:

  • Reseed selected areas
  • Fertilize a final time
  • Rake up all leaves and debris
  • Cut one last time
  • Consider aerating

Gutters, downspouts, and chimneys:

Roof, deck, patio, and driveway maintenance:

  • Make sure that your shingles are in good shape.  Replace as necessary.
  • Check the flashing around skylights, pipes and chimneys.
  • Inspect your driveway for cracks. Clean out and repair any damage with driveway filler, then coat with a commercial sealer.
  • Look for signs of rotting wood or unsafe conditions.
  • Remove all of the fungus, dirt, mildew, algae, rust stains, and anything else that has accumulated on the deck or patio
  • Seal your deck or patio with a water repellant.

Caulking and weather stripping 

  • Visit this DOE website for help in detecting air leaks.
  • Read carefully and follow the instructions on the caulking compound cartridge.
  • Refer to HowStuffWorks.com for helpful hints about where and how to apply weatherstripping.

There. Not an overwhelming litany of “to do” chores, is it?  Before you relax too much, however, keep in mind that these tasks cover only external fall home maintenance.  Suggestions for internal autumn maintenance of your house will be sure to follow soon!

 

Fall Home Buying? Yes, Indeed!

by Jeff Scislow

Next to spring, fall is the busiest real estate time of the year. Although you can buy houses at any time, the fall real estate market offers certain benefits to home buyers, including year-end tax breaks, pleasant weather conditions for moving, a good selection of houses, and more. If you are shopping for a home during the fall and don't want to miss out on a great deal, it's a good idea to explore the possibility of pre-qualifying for a loan and to know what type of house you are looking for and what you can realistically afford to buy.

Who’s buying in the fall?  According to an ERA survey, the fall buyer mix in the fall typically consists of:

  • First-time homebuyers : 27 percent
  • Move-up buyers: 20 percent
  • Buyers downsizing/retiring: 17 percent
  • Investors: 14 percent
  • Relocating military: 11 percent
  • Vacation home buyers : 6 percent
  • Other: 5 percent

Benefits of fall buying include the following:

  • End-of-the-year tax breaks: Come fall, people begin to think about what year-end tax breaks they may be eligible for. Fortunately for homebuyers, owning a house can yield great dividends in tax returns. For example, both mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible from gross income. Furthermore, if you have prepaid some interest before the due date of your first payment and you close your loan before the year's end, that amount will also be deducted.
  • Motivated sellers:  Often sellers will opt to lower their price in the fall because they're afraid of trying to sell during the holidays. They also know that potential buyer traffic drops in the fall, so their prices (and most likely incentives) have to be competitive.
  • Low interest rates:  With interest rates on 30-year mortgages still hovering around 4.0-4.25% buyers who've been riding out the economic downturn and the gradual housing recovery should certainly consider making a move at this time.
  • Uninterrupted holidays:  A fall home purchase will ensure that you will be comfortably ensconced in your new residence before the fall/winter holidays, allowing you to enjoy family and friends without worrying about packing and moving.

Comfortable weather conditions:  Buying a house before the deep freeze of winter sets in is very appealing to most home buyers. No one wants to worry about icy roads, snowstorms, or blackout conditions on moving day.

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Trends for July 2014

by Jeff Scislow

In July, the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing in Minneapolis, MN was 15% higher than the previous month and 13% lower than the same time last year, according to RealtyTrac.com.

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Status Distribution

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

Auctions accounted for 63.4% of foreclosure activity in July 2014 and Bank-owned properties accounted for 36.6%.

minneapolis mn foreclosure


Minneapolis MN
Foreclosure Activity by Month

The number of Bank-Owned properties decreased 13.7% compared to the previous month and dropped 39.4% from the previous year in July. The number of Auctions increased 42.2% compared to the previous month and 15.7% from the previous year.

minneapolis mn foreclosure


Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Geographical Comparison

Minneapolis MN foreclosure activity was the same as national statistics, 0.03% higher than Minnesota numbers and the same as Hennepin County statistics in July 2014.

minneapolis mn foreclosure


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

The Real Greening Of Your Home’s Interior

by Jeff Scislow

If you are one of the millions who suffer from seasonal allergies, you most likely place the blame for your discomfort on outdoor pollen, smog, ozone, and other pollutants.  But did you realize that the air inside your home can be more polluted than the air outside—the result of lead, formaldehyde, green homefire-retardants, radon, even volatile chemicals from fragrances used in conventional cleaners? Some pollutants are tracked into the home; some arrive via a new mattress or furniture, carpet cleaners, or a fresh coat of paint on the walls—but all can be greatly decreased (or even eliminated) by literally greening your home’s interior with plants!

Although indoor environments are filled with dangerous volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) given off by furniture, paint, plastics, adhesives, carpets, insulation, furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, and building materials, one NASA study found that common houseplants--in addition to absorbing carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen, and providing humidity--can improve indoor air quality by removing up to 87% of air toxins in 24 hours.  Some of these toxic emissions include ammonia, carbon monoxide, benzene formaldehyde, xylene, and the like--all common but unwelcome guests in your “non-green” home.

So what plants to choose to achieve a green home interior?  All houseplants improve the quality of indoor air, but some are particularly effective purifiers.  Many of these originated in the tropics in low light, so they are efficient at processing and absorbing gasses needed for photosynthesis.  Most are also insect resistant and are fairly easy to grow.  Especially popular are the following:

  • Mother fern
  • Boston fern
  • Philodendrons
  • Palms 
  • Ficus
  • Peace lilies
  • Ivy
  • Rubber plants
  • Spider plant

A general rule-of-thumb is to place two or three plant in each room of your home---about 15 plants for every 1500 square feet of space.  Mix it up and have a variety of types.  Don’t ignore corners; not all plants need to be near a window.  Take care of your plants so they can do their job; keep the soil/root area clean and avoid overwatering, which can cause mold!

If you’d like to expand your greening efforts beyond the addition of plants, click here for an extensive list of interior air quality problems in all areas of your home and simple remedies to eliminate these contaminants in order to create a truly green home.

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 Youcheckcredit.com 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 RealtyTrac.com.

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!

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 69

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