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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:

               *noise

               *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!

mortgage

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!

Tips for Homebuyers in a Seller’s Market

by Jeff Scislow

I recently wrote about the advantages of being a seller in a real estate market of high demand but low supply.  The other side of that story, however, is the buyer’s challenges when attempting to purchase in a seller’s market.  If you find yourself in that position, do not become discouraged; read on for practical advice in your quest for a home

  • Find a reputable, knowledgeable Realtor:  Because you may well find yourself in a bidding war for your desired house, what you will want (and need) is an agent who is familiar with such a situation.  You’ll need someone to talk to the listing agent and figure out what’s important to the seller. You also want an agent who knows exactly what’s going on in the local real estate market, can help you put together a competitive offer, and can offer a variety of strategies to ensure that you will get the house.  Call us!

  • Understand how multiple offers work:    Basically, a multiple offer scenario means that the seller has his/her pick of two or more purchase offers. The seller can accept one of the offers, reject all of them, or begin the counteroffer process. A counteroffer does not stop the seller from entertaining other offers while waiting to hear from you. If a better offer comes along, the seller could rescind their counteroffer before you have a chance to respond. Sellers have no obligation to respond to offers in the order they are received, nor do they have to reveal the status of other offers to competing buyers.
  • Get your finances and paperwork in order:  Sellers are looking for buyers who can back up their offer; just like you, they don’t want the deal to fall through at the last minute! Boost your chances by getting pre-approved for your home loan.  Consider how much you can apply to a down payment; higher amounts are often reassuring to sellers.  If you can, bring cash to the table. Sellers are worried about appraisals coming in low and loans not closing, so be ready to cover the difference with cash.
  • Be flexible and accommodating whenever possible:  When you are competing with multiple offers, it is to your advantage to make your offer as palatable and enticing as possible.  Try to accommodate the owner’s desired closing date and shorten requested time for contingencies (loan, appraisal, and inspection).

Information courtesy of South Metro Realtor Jeff Scislow.

I recently wrote about the advantages of being a seller in a real estate market of high demand but low supply.  The other side of that story, however, is the buyer’s challenges when attempting to purchase in a seller’s market.  If you find yourself in that position, do not become discouraged; read on for practical advice in your quest for a home

·         Find a reputable, knowledgeable Realtor:  Because you may well find yourself in a bidding war for your desired house, what you will want (and need) is an agent who is familiar with such a situation.  You’ll need someone to talk to the listing agent and figure out what’s important to the seller. You also want an agent who knows exactly what’s going on in the local real estate market, can help you put together a competitive offer, and can offer a variety of strategies to ensure that you will get the house.  Call us!

·         Understand how multiple offers work:    Basically, a multiple offer scenario means that the seller has his/her pick of two or more purchase offers. The seller can accept one of the offers, reject all of them, or begin the counteroffer process. A counteroffer does not stop the seller from entertaining other offers while waiting to hear from you. If a better offer comes along, the seller could rescind their counteroffer before you have a chance to respond. Sellers have no obligation to respond to offers in the order they are received, nor do they have to reveal the status of other offers to competing buyers. 

·         Get your finances and paperwork in order:  Sellers are looking for buyers who can back up their offer; just like you, they don’t want the deal to fall through at the last minute! Boost your chances by getting pre-approved for your home loan.  Consider how much you can apply to a down payment; higher amounts are often reassuring to sellers.  If you can, bring cash to the table. Sellers are worried about appraisals coming in low and loans not closing, so be ready to cover the difference with cash.

·         Be flexible and accommodating whenever possible:  When you are competing with multiple offers, it is to your advantage to make your offer as palatable and enticing as possible.  Try to accommodate the owner’s desired closing date and shorten requested time for contingencies (loan, appraisal, and inspection).

I recently wrote about the advantages of being a seller in a real estate market of high demand but low supply.  The other side of that story, however, is the buyer’s challenges when attempting to purchase in a seller’s market.  If you find yourself in that position, do not become discouraged; read on for practical advice in your quest for a home

  • Find a reputable, knowledgeable Realtor:  Because you may well find yourself in a bidding war for your desired house, what you will want (and need) is an agent who is familiar with such a situation.  You’ll need someone to talk to the listing agent and figure out what’s important to the seller. You also want an agent who knows exactly what’s going on in the local real estate market, can help you put together a competitive offer, and can offer a variety of strategies to ensure that you will get the house.  Call us!
  • Understand how multiple offers work:    Basically, a multiple offer scenario means that the seller has his/her pick of two or more purchase offers. The seller can accept one of the offers, reject all of them, or begin the counteroffer process. A counteroffer does not stop the seller from entertaining other offers while waiting to hear from you. If a better offer comes along, the seller could rescind their counteroffer before you have a chance to respond. Sellers have no obligation to respond to offers in the order they are received, nor do they have to reveal the status of other offers to competing buyers. 
  • Get your finances and paperwork in order:  Sellers are looking for buyers who can back up their offer; just like you, they don’t want the deal to fall through at the last minute! Boost your chances by getting pre-approved for your home loan.  Consider how much you can apply to a down payment; higher amounts are often reassuring to sellers.  If you can, bring cash to the table. Sellers are worried about appraisals coming in low and loans not closing, so be ready to cover the difference with cash.
  • Be flexible and accommodating whenever possible:  When you are competing with multiple offers, it is to your advantage to make your offer as palatable and enticing as possible.  Try to accommodate the owner’s desired closing date and shorten requested time for contingencies (loan, appraisal, and inspection).

Fueled partly by an increase in the share of sales to first-time buyers, existing-home sales increased in May to their highest pace in nearly six years, according to the National Association of Realtors®.  Led by the Northeast, all major regions experienced sales increases in May.

sold signMay home sales rebounded strongly following April's decline and are now at their highest pace since November 2009 (5.44 million. However, overall supply still remains tight; homes are selling fast, and price growth in many markets continues to teeter at or near double-digit appreciation

Good news for you sellers, right?  Yes, of course, but it’s important that you realize that just because it’s a seller’s market doesn’t mean that your house will sell itself.  To get top price and a quick sale, you still have to make necessary repairs, perk up curb appeal, “stage” your home to appeal to a wide variety of buyers, and ask a realistic price..

Of utmost importance and to be done at the beginning of the selling process:  choose a knowledgeable and reputable Realtor (call us!) who shares your goals and can skillfully advise you in your quest.  When properties are moving quickly, if your home doesn’t sell within the first couple of weeks, buyers will start to perceive it as market-worn.  They’ll assume there is an issue with it and consider themselves in a stronger bargaining position-- or reject the home altogether.

Another reason to select an experienced Realtor (call us!) is that it is possible you may be faced with multiple competing offers to purchase your property. Your listing broker can explain various negotiating strategies for you to consider. For example, you can accept the “best” offer; you can inform all potential purchasers that other offers are “on the table” and invite them to make their “best” offer; you can “counter” one offer while putting the other offers to the side awaiting a decision on your counter-offer; or you can “counter” one offer and reject the others.  If you have questions about the possibility of multiple offers and the way to deal with them, ask your Realtor to explain your options and alternatives. 

Remember that many of your potential buyers are first-timers who may not be familiar with the bidding process.  Do resist the urge to be greedy and instead rely on patience, courtesy, and reason to make selling your home non-stressful for all concerned.

Information courtesy of South Metro Realtor Jeff Scislow.

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Trends - May 2015

by Jeff Scislow

In May, Minneapolis, MN foreclosure filings were 2% lower than the previous month and 3% 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 42.7% of foreclosure activity in May 2015 and Bank-owned properties accounted for 57.3%.

minneapolis mn foreclosure


Minneapolis MN
Foreclosure Activity by Month

The number of Bank-Owned properties decreased 11.3% compared to the previous month and rose 13.3% from the previous year in May. The number of Auctions increased 12.9% compared to the previous month and decreased 18.1% from the previous year.

minneapolis mn foreclosure


Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Geographical Comparison

Minneapolis MN foreclosure activity was 0.02% below national statistics, 0.03% higher than Minnesota numbers and the same as than Hennepin County statistics in May 2015.

minneapolis mn foreclosure


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

Information courtesy of Minneapolis Realtor Jeff Scislow.

Celebrating America's Birthday!

by Jeff Scislow

american flag“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”
~Elmer Davis

As Americans, we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th to honor our nation’s birthday.  It is day replete with parades, cookouts, picnics, flag waving, 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

“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”.  
~William Faulkner

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.

IT’S A GRAND OLD FLAG…and there are specific rules about displaying it proudly and properly.

Click here to brush up on how to honor Old Glory.

FABULOUS FOOD:  Having a cookou4th of julyt 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.  For updated and healthy food choices, visit Health.com

Having a holiday gathering at your home?  Better Homes and Gardens has many websites to help you with food, decorations, and crafts for the kids.  Click here for trivia questions such as” How many verses does the Star Spangled Banner have?”  to challenge your guests. 

FIREWORKS 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.  Perhaps the longest celebration is fittingly held in Philadelphia---a 9 day festival culminating in back-to-back fireworks!

Spread the word—and patriotism.  123Greetings.com offers a good selection of holiday-themed cards to send to family and friends.

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!

Know the Score on Credit Scores

by Jeff Scislow

Is your credit score important?  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 AnnualCreditReport.com is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law.   Be aware, however, that only the report itself is free; to get your actual score, you will need to pay $7.95.

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.

Information courtesy of South Metro Realtor Jeff Scislow.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 111

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