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Jeff Scislow

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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 About.com:

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.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!

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.

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Trends for Sept 2014

by Jeff Scislow

In September, the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing in Minneapolis, MN was 8% lower than the previous month and 36% 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 50.7% of foreclosure activity in September 2014 and Bank-owned properties accounted for 49.3%.

minneapolis mn foreclosure


Minneapolis MN
Foreclosure Activity by Month

The number of Bank-Owned properties decreased 4.4% compared to the previous month and dropped 25.6% from the previous year in September. The number of Auctions decreased 10.9% compared to the previous month and 44.0% 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 September 2014.

minneapolis mn foreclosure


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

Helpful Hints for Selling Haunted Real Estate

by Jeff Scislow

No, this isn’t just another timely spooky story, although it just may have to do with ghosts!  Be you a believer or a scoffer, the fact is that there are pieces of real estate on the market which are purported to be haunted and are thus more difficult to sell.  Known in the industry as “stigmatized” properties, these houses have the reputation of being haunted or are the site of a previous violent crime--and the perception of ghosts and gore is not easy to erase from the minds of too many would-be purchasers

So what to do?  First, make yourself (and your Realtor) familiar with state laws regarding disclosure.  Contact the Minnesota Real Estate Commission to see if you’re required to disclose information about the stigma attached to your property because you could be spooked by a lawsuit if you don’t.  Regardless of what the state dictates, being upfront about your home’s paranormal guests or ghoulish histories is always the best moral policy, says Gena Riede, a California-based realtor who recently represented a buyer in the purchase of a haunted house.  

Then what?  Pay attention to the appearance of your property—inside and out.  To minimize any thoughts of ghosts, your home needs to look spirit-free and inviting on the outside. Avoid a dark, forbidding atmosphere by clearing away dead  trees and hanging branches; replacing  rusty iron gates with a white fence, and getting rid of unwanted residents like stray cats and spiders. On the inside, think warm, bright, and clutter-free. Doing away with darkness and gloom that could promote the idea of spirits may require removing outdated, musty furniture, antique rugs, old pictures of ancestors, and any other items that contribute to an “eerie atmosphere” so that you can alleviate any pre-conceived notions in potential buyers.

If you simply cannot dispel persistent beliefs about the “dark side” of the home you are selling, you may have to resort to bringing in a Ghostbuster.  David Frankin Farkas, owner of HouseHealing.com, makes a full-time living ridding properties of specters and/or negative energy.   Click here to find groups who will investigate paranormal activity in your home.

And finally, pricing your home to sell is another strategy you must consider.  By lowering your price 20-25%, you may make your property more attractive to potential buyers, especially investors.

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 your 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!

 

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 74

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