Minnesota Metro Real Estate Blog

Jeff Scislow


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 116

Will Your House Pass the Sniff Test?

by Jeff Scislow

Because you will soon be listing your house and are hoping for a quick sale, you have most likely done your research and taken steps to make that happen.  You have cleaned, decluttered, and depersonalized, taken care of necessary repainting and repairs,  staged your home  and created an attractive and appealing curb appeal..  In addition, your reasonably priced  house is in a desirable location.   You’re set to go, right?


Maybe not…

The fact is, your house may have a particular odor, one not noticed by you because you live with it every day, but one which, unfortunately, may be perceptible—and a turn off-- to would-be buyers.  The most common sources of offending smells are pets and smoke, but certain foods and mildew/mold may also  be contributors.

Your first step is to elicit honest assessments from folks who do not reside in your home.  Ask friends, family members, even neighbors, to subject your house to a “sniff test” and to be brutally honest with you about offending odors.  Better to learn of unpleasant results from them than lose a potential sale!

If your residence passes the test, smile and relax.  If it doesn’t, however, you need to be proactive in eliminating the problem.

Dog odor:

  • Remove any cushion covers, rugs, duvet covers, pillow cases – anything that your dog has been lying on – and wash them with a good quality detergent.
  • Sprinkle baking soda over any smelly area, and allow to rest for a few hours, preferably overnight. In the morning, vacuum up the baking soda and revel in the fresh, clean smell.
  • Wash all flat surfaces.  A half water, half distilled white vinegar mix is very effective. It also takes advantage of vinegar's odor removing properties   For flat paint, try a treated dry sponge.

Cat urine:

  • Avoid using steam cleaners to clean urine odors from carpet or upholstery. The heat will permanently set the stain and the odor by bonding the protein into any man-made fiber.
  • Avoid using cleaning chemicals, especially those with strong odors such as ammonia.5
  • Add baking soda to the water/vinegar mixture mentioned above and/or sprinkle lots of baking soda on the cleaned area.

More to follow soon about removing other types of odors.  Stay tuned!

The Importance of the Oft-overlooked Garage

by Jeff Scislow

Most people don't think that the appearance of their garage makes any difference when they are staging their home to sell it. They take plenty of time and spend money on painting and decorating. They make sure that everything in the house is clean, neat, and orderly, but the garage they don't think too much about. After all, it's just a garage…


Not so, say Realtors.   Over half of potential homebuyers say they want a garage-- and the more spacious the better. They want organized storage spaces, and they want to be able to drive their car in at night, close the door, and know that all is well.

How to get started  in meeting these desires? 

  • Make a step-by-step plan.  Recruit friends and family to help out by keeping you on task, urging you to purge, and sharing the labor.
  • Declutter! Take a weekend to go through everything in your garage and decide what to toss, donate, and store—whether that’s in a friend’s garage, a portable storage container, or a storage unit.
  • Clear the floor. Since floor space is at a premium, get things off the floor and onto the wall.  Use wire shelving, pegboard, and specially designed hooks to hang tools, bicycles, garden implements, and the like.  You might also consider overhead racks for large items used infrequently.
  • Go for a spiffy and spacious look.  Take a good look at the condition of the walls. If they need painting, paint them (and the ceiling and floor while you're at it) using a light color.  Wash the windows and replace the light bulb. Clean and neat is what you're after.
  • Create zones for storage.   It’s a good idea to store similar items near each other—for example, sports gear in one area, gardening items in another.
  • Remove all hazardous materials.  Do not store paint or propane tanks inside the garage. Things like poisonous pesticides and anti-freeze, or dangerous tools like hedge trimmers and power tools should be hidden safely out of reach from children and pets.  Locking cabinets are ideal for such items.

Transforming your garage into an organized, functional space rather than a catchall is certainly a positive step towards selling your home quickly.  Not only that—when it comes time to move, you’ll have fewer items to pack and a head start on discarding and downsizing!

Don’t Let Your Backyard Take a Back Seat!

by Jeff Scislow

Summer is gone, vacations are over, and the mild weather is conducive to outside home projects.  An attractive and functional backyard/patio area provides a pleasant oasis for any homeowner, but it is especially important if you are selling your house.


Yes, your front yard’s curb appeal is vital in encouraging potential buyers to come inside, but the often-overlooked outdoor space in the rear is also important in maintain their interest.

No matter where you live, buyers are looking for outdoor living space. You can recoup 77 percent of your investment on a new wood deck. If you already have outdoor space, consider enhancing it with a water feature, an outdoor fireplace, or new/refurbished landscaping. 

Other simple (and generally inexpensive) ways to enhance your deck, patio, or backyard include:

  • Assess the condition of your deck:  Remove rotting boards and railings.  Consider using a refinishing product to enhance its appearance.  Use plants in colorful containers and brightly colored deck furniture to spice things up a bit.
  • Pay attention to the patio:  Investigate the possibility of adding an outdoor carpet.  Replace worn cushions.  If your patio space is small, invest in scaled down furniture to make the area appear larger. 
  • Use color to add appeal:  Use latex floor paint or concrete stain to color cement tiles on your patio.  Paint cinder blocks in bright colors to create unusual planters and fill with a variety of eye-catching flowers.  Select a colorful array of outdoor cushions, mats, and furniture.
  • Give the landscape a facelift:  Rake up twigs, leaves, and any other unsightly debris--and don't forget to hose off furniture, decks, and siding.  Trim trees, bushes, and shrub, removing (and replacing?) those that are dead or dying.  Freshen up the mulch in beds or think about using pine cones instead of mulch for a unique look.
  • Add a splash of water—or light or fire:  Complete the oasis look with a store-bought fountain, birdbath, or fish pond to attract wildlife while giving your landscape a focal point.  Solar-powered border lights or Christmas tree lights also add interest, as does a fire pit, a feature highly desired by today’s buyers.
  • Take advantage of stones and bricks:  These are useful (and utile) for creating pathways or edging planting beds.

Because your home will sell quickly, be sure get outside to enjoy your newly-completed relaxation spaces while you can!

Packing and Unpacking Made Easier

by Jeff Scislow

Clever you!  You intentionally scheduled the move to your new home for the fall in order to avoid the summer rush and demand for moving services.  (You also most likely wanted to relax and enjoy the summer months).  Now that season is coming to an end, however, and it’s time to get serious about packing up your belongings.

moving boxes

By now you have probably received much advice from those around you who have recently moved regarding the art of efficient and stress-free packing.  No doubt your Realtor, moving company, and the Internet have provided helpful information, too.  Read on for even more suggestions…

Best Advice:  Pack to Unpack!  Do resist the urge to toss things into a box without giving a thought to the unpacking process to follow.  To that end:

  • Assemble supplies in advance.  To save money pick up free boxes of varying sizes through Freecycle.orghttps://www.freecycle.org/ or from the “free stuff” section on Craigslist.  Purchase bubble wrap, packing tape, shredded paper, and plastic tape in various colors.  Have plenty of newspaper, markers, and scissors on hand.
  • Pack an “essentials” box: This should be one of the first boxes off the truck and should contain everything you need for a couple of nights.
  • Pack boxes by room and color code them:  Assign each room a color and use coordinating colored duct tape. Stick a piece of tape on both the top and sides of boxes so that they can be easily identified when stacked or apart. Listing the contents on the outside of each box is also helpful when unpacking.
  • Wrap It   Instead of emptying out the drawers of small-scale furniture, like end tables or corner desks, wrap heavy-duty plastic wrap around the piece of furniture, from top-to-bottom and side-to-side. This will seal the drawers in place and prevent spillage on moving day, and save you a lot of unpacking time.
  • Fill Space:  Use socks to fill in ‘dead air’ space, especially in and around breakables like glassware. If you want to save even more time, use t-shirts to wrap larger items

Unpacking:  Focus on one room at a time

  • Open the essentials box.
  • Begin with kitchen cartons and move on to a bathroom box.  Remove only the items you need at the time and put them in in their permanent “new” place.

Although unpacking isn’t exactly fun, remember that it is also another great opportunity to evaluate your belongings to see whether more items can be donated to charity.

Is Less More? The Tiny House Movement

by Jeff Scislow

Move over MacMansions!  The tiny house trend in the real estate market is on the rise, with more and more individuals, couples, and families choosing to trade in space for simplicity.  From college grads to retirees, the appeal of a miniature home spans all ages. Shrinking square footage not only cuts down on chores and expenses -- it's a lifestyle change all about living with less, having more money and time, and decreasing environmental impact over time.

tiny house

Simply put, “tiny living” is a social movement where people are downsizing the space in which they live.. The typical American home is around 2600 square feet, while the average small or tiny house is around 100-400 square feet. These homes come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but they focus on smaller spaces, financial savings, and simplified living.

While residing in a small space is certainly not for everyone, adherents of the newest trend tout its many advantages, such as:

  • Owners of tiny houses generally have no mortgages and spend less on utilities.
  • Small homes are less expensive to build and maintain
  • Reduced living space generally encourages a less cluttered and simpler lifestyle.
  • Time once spent on maintenance is greatly reduced
  • Tiny homes can be mounted on wheels, thus making them mobile.
  • Many homeowners are able to design and build their own structures.
  • In some areas tiny homes have helped convert homeless camps into inexpensive and complete housing communities.

However, despite the benefits of tiny home living, there are also some drawbacks:

  • A tiny house  has limited or no storage space, which means most individuals have to downsize drastically or consider renting a storage unit to hold on to their furniture and belongings.
  • Because of a myriad of zoning regulations, finding a location for a tiny house may prove quite difficult.
  • Municipal building codes for tiny homes vary greatly.
  • Since most tiny homes have only one room, they are not an ideal space for those in need of a separate workspace, like a home office.
  • Multiple occupants must deal with a lack of privacy.

Living in a tiny house is an identity statement. It tells the world you're living your values of simplicity and kindness to the planet.   It may also reinforce a positive self-perception of being independent and resourceful.  Think the “tiny life” might be for you?

Asking the Right Questions Before Buying a Home

by Jeff Scislow

Once you have decided that you are in the market for a new home, you will receive a great deal of advice from friends, family, and co-workers.  Chief among these pearls of wisdom will be the caveat to ask lots of questions—and good advice that is.  However, knowing the kind of questions to ask is of utmost importance if the home buying process is to be a pleasant and successful one for you.

homebuyerIn addition to the obvious queries you make of yourself about finances, credit scores, desired type and location of your new home, it is also helpful to be prepared to formulate questions in the following areas:

  • Choosing a REALTOR:  You will want a real estate agent who is knowledgeable, experienced, available, and motivated to help you find the right house.  Although recommendations from others are certainly helpful, you should set up a personal interview to discuss marketing strategies, contacts with mortgage providers, references, and the like.  Click here for a list of specific questions to ask.
  • Condition of the home:  Of course you’ll know to inquire about the age and condition of the roof, appliances, HVAC system, plumbing, etc.—all the obvious big items, but think, too about checking into the need for window replacement and carefully observing the types, size, and location of trees on the property.
  • The neighborhood:  Although driving through an area or visiting a prospective home more than once can give you knowledge about the existence of sidewalks, adequate street parking, general yard maintenance, proper ground grading , adequate insulation condition of the foundation, and type of street lighting, your best bet for “insider” information will be gained by talking directly to neighbors.  Be sure to inquire about the following topics:


               *restrictive HOA requirements

               *quality of schools

               *nearby nuisance sites (trash dumps, e.g.)

               *traffic problems

               *incidence 0f crime

               *sense of community

Of course, you’ll also need to know recent comparable selling (and asking) prices in the neighborhood, length of time on the market before selling ,and current mortgage rates, information your REALTOR can readily supply.

Caveat:  if you’re considering purchasing a condo, be advised that in addition to the questions suggested above, there are many other areas of consideration involved--and hence additional investigating required. 

Shopping for a Mortgage

by Jeff Scislow

Existing home sales are up, rents keep rising, and interest rates remain low.  It’s a great time to buy a house!


You have probably searched the web, connected with a Realtor, attended a few open houses, and checked your credit report and score.  You may have even contacted a lender about obtaining a mortgage.  Good for you-- but have you thoroughly investigated the sometimes complicated and conflicting mortgage world out there?

In a recent report, the U.S. Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) revealed that nearly half of all consumers do not shop around for a mortgage when purchasing a home.  In fact, fewer than one in four actually end up submitting a loan application to more than one lender or broker rather than filling out applications with multiple lenders to see which one can offer them the best deal.

In addition, 70 percent of consumers report relying on their lender or mortgage broker for information about mortgages and thus may not be aware of extra expenses such as title insurance, attorney costs, points, closing costs, and document preparation fees.  Know that it is in your best interests to learn about interest rates and types of mortgages before you begin the application process so that you can make an educated and confident decision.

Following these “mortgage hunt” tips may be beneficial to you:

  • Utilize available mortgage check lists found on the Internet.
  • Watch where you step in terms of your credit.  Don’t open up or close any lines of credit during this time since these actions will affect your credit score.
  • Be aware that all credit inquiries made within about two weeks of each other count as one inquiry, so when you’re shopping around for mortgage brokers, be sure to submit all of your loan applications around the same time.
  • Take advantage of the free “Owning a Home”­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ tool provided by the CFPB.  This site is updated daily and provides current interest rates in all parts of the county.  It also includes an easy-to-use cost calculating form for your use.

Be forewarned that mortgage lenders require paperwork that verifies every facet of your financial life: income, debts, assets, and more.  Among these are W2’s, paycheck stubs, and recent tax returns.  Visit Bankrate.com for a complete list of required documents so that you will be fully prepared for your shopping trip.

When Change Is a Good Thing

by Jeff Scislow

Perhaps you will be relocating for a new job, or you need a larger home to accommodate a growing family.  Then again, you may want to downsize or move from the suburbs to the city—or vice versa. Whatever your reason for selling your current home, you can increase your chances of a quick sale for top dollar by increasing its appeal to a wide variety of buyers.  And the good news is that the changes you make need not be expensive, labor intensive, or time consuming.

declutterFree and possibly the most important step:  Declutter

  • In real estate, buyers buy space, and the more you're able to show, whether it be living or storage space, the more you'll be able to sell for.  Unfortunately, that's easier said than done. Most people are pack rats. Rooms have too much furniture, and “stuff” is overflowing in every nook and cranny.
  • Decluttering is the process of reclaiming the space in your house from years of collecting and storing. Don't expect the buyers to ignore all this and imagine your house in its clutter-free state. Buyers sometimes see dozens of houses in one day and their brains are overtaxed. Declutter so the buyers can see your house, not your mess.

Refresh your kitchen:

  • Update cabinets by installing new handles and pulls (brushed nickel is popular right now).  Replace a few doors with glass.  Paint them in white or pale grey or one color on top and another on the bottom.
  • Paint one wall in an accent color.
  • Add a tile backsplash or paint that area with gloss paint.
  • Hang a pendant light.  Visit allmodern.com, ylighting.com, and lampsplus.com to find inexpensive lighting fixtures.
  • Click here for other budget-friendly ideas from Good Housekeeping

Do a mini-makeover in the bathroom:

  • Simply updating a smaller aspect of your bathroom can have significant impact. New tile, cabinets, lighting or plumbing fixtures can give the room a whole new style.  
  • Update the walls with a fresh coat of paint or use drywall to provide texture for a faux look.
  • To keep up with recent trends, some people are even updating their electrical systems to accommodate in-bathroom TVs, stereos, and towel warmers.

Safety Tips for Grilling with Propane

by Jeff Scislow

Last week I shared safety suggestions for summer charcoal grilling, so this week it’s on to doing so with propane.   Some of the precautions are common sense ones and are recommended for any type of outdoor grilling, but some pertain specifically to the use of propane tanks and grills.

grillingGrill Usage tips:

Always use the grill outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Do not bring cylinders or grills intended for outdoor use inside or into an enclosed space, such as a garage.

  • Always follow all of the grill manufacturer’s instructions and keep written materials in a safe, accessible place.
  • Before lighting your grill, use a leak-detection solution made from a teaspoon of mild liquid hand soap in a cup of water to check all connections for leaks. Bubbles at the connection indicate leakage. Rinse thoroughly using clear water.
  • Never use matches or lighters to check for leaks.
  • Make sure the grill is shut off and cooled off before covering after use.
  • When not in use, make sure the grill burner controls are off and keep the cylinder valve closed.
  • Never allow children to tamper or play with the cylinder or grill.
  • If there is an uncontrollable release of gas or a fire, call the fire department immediately and move all people and pets away from the grill. Do not attempt to move the grill or put the fire out with a fire extinguisher.

Maintenance and care:

  • Never use an LP cylinder if it shows signs of dents, gouges, bulges, fire damage, corrosion, leakage, excessive rust or other forms of visual external damage; it may be hazardous and should be checked by a liquid propane supplier.
  • After a period of storage or disuse (such as over the winter), the gas grill should be checked for gas leaks, deterioration, proper assembly, and burner obstructions before using.
  • Clean and perform general maintenance on the grill twice a year.
  • Visually inspect hose(s) for abrasion, wear, and leaks before each use. A soap and water solution may be used to test for leaks. Never use a flame to check for gas leaks. Replace faulty hose(s) using a parts replacement kit before operating
  • .Cover disconnected hose-end fittings with plastic bags or protective caps to keep a grill clean when it is not in use.
  • Store propane cylinders outdoors in an upright (vertical) position.

Note:  Miss the “woody” taste of charcoal grilling?  Click here for helpful hints to enhance your barbecuing experience.

Information courtesy of South Metro Realtor Jeff Scislow.

Sensible Safety Tips for Summer Grilling

by Jeff Scislow

Yes, yes, you’ve heard these many times before, but don’t stop reading just yet.  Even if you’re acutely aware of all safety precautions for outside grilling, it never hurts to be reminded once again.  And who knows?  You may just learn something new to protect yourself and your family.

Sobering facts:

  • grillingIn 2012, 16,900 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills.
  • One of every six (16%) home structure fires in which grills were involved in ignition, something that could catch fire was too close to the grill.
  • Overall, leaks or breaks were factors in one of every five reported grill fires.
  • Gas grills contribute to a higher number of home fires overall than their charcoal counterparts.

The Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association (HBPA) urges grillers to research and be familiar with the different types of fuel used for outdoor grilling.  Each type—propane, briquettes, or pellets--has individual characteristics (and dangers) you should be aware of.

This week I’ll concentrate on charcoal grilling precautions.  Propane hints will come next week.

Barbecue Tips:

  • Grills should always be used outside, in a well ventilated area stationed away from the home, deck railings, and any low hanging tree branches or plants.
  • Never leave the grill unattended, especially if you have children and pets.
  • Keep the grill clean by removing grease and fat buildup ( a wire brush or balled up aluminum foil will do the trick).  You should also clean or replace any trays that sit below the grill and collect food waste.
  • Bring a grilling session to an end by wearing heatproof mitts, removing the grill rack, covering the grill with the lid, and sealing off any vents to cut off the oxygen supply.  Let the coals burn out for up to 48 hours before preparing for disposal. Note: In rare cases, ashes can reignite up to 72 hours after the grilling is done.
  • If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid.  Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.   Check out thi before you even begin the grilling process.
  • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord designed for outdoor use.

Outdoor charcoal grilling, if done carefully and correctly, is one of summer’s delight.  Enjoy!!!

Information courtesy of South Metro Realtor Jeff Scislow!

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 116

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) 747-9900
Fax: Fax : (952) 431-0420