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Minnesota Metro Real Estate Blog

Jeff Scislow


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 43

The How and Why of HOA’s

by Jeff Scislow

In 1965, fewer than 500 homeowners’ associations (HOA’s) existed nationwide. By 1970 there were 10,000. Today, although there is no official monitoring, experts estimate there are 250,000 of these governing bodies in the United States, and one of them may well play a significant role in a South Metro house h.o.a.hunter’s decision to purchase or reject a residence.

Simply stated, an HOA is an organization in a subdivision, planned community, or condominium that makes and enforces rules for the properties in its jurisdiction. HOAs also collect monthly or annual dues to pay for upkeep of common areas like parks, tennis courts, elevators, and swimming pools and can levy special assessments on homeowners when the association lacks sufficient reserves to pay for unexpected repairs.

While many residents sing the praises of HOA’s, many others warn of the negative aspects of such organizations, and potential buyers would be well-advised to thoroughly investigate any HOA associated with a property they are considering.

While the specifics of HOA directives differ greatly, there are some commonalities with which you should be familiar:

  • Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs):  These describe limitations (fencing, paint color, preapproval of changes, pets, parking, e.g.) placed on the homeowner and spell out the powers and responsibilities of the association and the way in which it is organized, financed, and managed.
  • Fees:  Once you are in an HOA, you must pay monthly or annual dues. A portion goes toward upkeep of common areas, and the rest goes into a reserve for potential repairs. Dues typically range from $150 a month to $600 a month, depending on the amenities.  The directors must set and follow a yearly budget.
  • Special assessments: Sometimes the HOA will need to impose a special assessment to collect extra funds from each homeowner to pay for larger (and often unexpected) expenditures for upkeep/maintenance.

If you discover that the property in which you’re interested has an HOA, you may immediately realize that your individual personality and preferences would not be a good match for such restrictions and decide to look elsewhere.  If you aren’t sure, however, it is extremely important that you exercise due diligence before you buy into such an arrangement.  Read the CCR’s and bylaws completely and fully, examine past and current budgets and meeting minutes, talk to residents, and personally contact directors.  Carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a member of an HOA before you make your decision!

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Trends for February 2014

by Jeff Scislow

In February, the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing in Minneapolis, MN was 49% lower than the previous month and 59% lower than the same time last year, according to

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Status Distribution

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

Auctions accounted for 47.6% of foreclosure activity in February 2014 and Bank-owned properties accounted for 53.3%.

minneapolis mn foreclosure

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Activity by Month

The number of Bank-Owned properties decreased 28.8% compared to the previous month and dropped 51.8% from the previous year in February. The number of Auctions decreased 62.0% compared to the previous month and decreased 64.5% 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 0.01% higher than Hennepin County statistics in February 2014.

minneapolis mn foreclosure

A decline in the number of foreclosures will lead to an increase in prices. Prices will go up as the supply of homes goes down. Now is a great time to get a great buy on a foreclosed home. Click here to have new foreclosure homes for sale emailed to you as they come on the market!

Let’s Hear It for the FHA!

by Jeff Scislow

A few weeks ago we told you about the government’s “ Back to Work” program in which the FHA has waived its 3-year waiting period for would-be buyers of South Metro houses who have experienced foreclosure, a short sale, or bankruptcy.  Today’s blog deals with the FHA in general---and the advantages it offers for so many house purchasers.

house"FHA" stands for Federal Housing Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The FHA doesn't make mortgage loans to home buyers or refinancing households. Rather, it provides mortgage insurance to banks, credit unions, and other lenders which make loans meeting FHA insurance standards, thus protecting the lender in the event of default.  Because of that insurance, lenders can -- and do -- offer FHA loans at attractive interest rates and with less stringent and more flexible qualification requirements.

What’s so good about an FHA mortgage?

  • Less-than-perfect credit is OK:  FHA loans feature some of the most flexible and forgiving credit standards of any available loan typeMortgage lenders are expressly instructed to consider a borrower's complete credit history and accept scores of 620 or better.  Those with lower credit scores are limited in their loan-to-value borrowing percentage.
  • 3.5 % down payment is the minimum:  For homebuyers, an FHA mortgage requires only 3.5 percent down and has the fewest "strings" attached, thus making it one of the most lenient mortgage types available nationwide.
  • Loan limits have been raised:  As of the beginning of this year, FHA-insured mortgages are now available up to $625.500 for a one unit residence.  Allowed sources of cash include a gift from a family member or a grant from a state or local government down payment assistance program.
  • Closing costs may be paid for by a third party.
  • Additional benefits:               
    a. The FHA has a special loan product for borrowers who need extra cash to make repairs to their homes.
    b. FHA-insured loan holders who are struggling to make their payments can apply for loan modification relief.
    c. The FHA offers several options for refinancing a current mortgage on your South Mettro home.

As always, certain restrictions apply (click here), and before applying you should definitely check out the mortgage insurance premiums you’ll be paying each year.

The Time is Right for “Movin’ On Up”

by Jeff Scislow

Call it a “perfect storm”, an alignment of the stars, or opportunity knocking at your door, good fortune is certainly available for you South Metro homeowners who have been wanting to buy a larger house! Interested but not convinced?  Read on…

  • south metro housesAlthough interest rates are projected to rise at least one point by the end of the year, right now they are still low, thus making mortgage payments more affordable.
  • The housing recovery has pushed up home prices nearly everywhere. In the past year, they rose in 225 of the 276 cities tracked by Clear Capital, a provider of real estate data and analysis. Prices nationwide increased by 10.9 percent, pushing the median price for existing homes up by $30,000, to $215,000, and gurus foresee a continued rise for 2014.
  • Because of a more limited South Metro housing inventory, a seller’s market still exists, a favorable condition for those of you who wish to sell your current home in order to purchase a larger one.  Furthermore, the supply of potential buyers is increasing greatly due to the return of ”Boomerang Buyers”  to the real estate market
  • In addition, as an effect of both the increase in the cost of leasing living quarters and our improving economy, more and more renters are recognizing the benefits of home ownership and are joining the ranks of potential buyers looking for a starter home, perhaps the very one you need to sell.

Financially, you homeowners looking to move-up have a much easier time than first-timers, who are trying to scrape up enough cash to cover a down payment and closing costs. However, trade-up buyers face a whole new set of complicated questions.   Should you buy first or sell first?  Would you be better to rent out your current home rather than sell it?  Would you be able to carry two mortgages for a period of time?

As knowledgeable Realtors, we can answer your many questions and explain/explore numerous options such as obtaining a bridge loan, writing a contingency contract, and negotiating a rent-back clause or closing timeframe. We will also guide you through the steps of selling/buying, assist you in dealing with lenders, and celebrate with you when you have successfully Moved On Up!

Jeff Scislow Launches His Book: Journey To A Miracle

by Jeff Scislow

Journey to a Miracle is a powerful testimony, written from the heart, with wisdom and encouragement. It explores the responses that Jeff Scislow took when faced with an onslaught of bizarre occurrences that escalated to where he was diagnosed with an incurable disease. This is a true story of journey to a miracleovercoming adversity through faith and determination; one that will inspire you to rise above any challenge you may be facing now or in the future and pave your way to greater successes in life.

Book Launch & Signing 

Jeff will be celebrating the release of his book and signing copies at the launch party on Thursday, March 27th from 4 - 7pm at Vivo Kitchen in Apple Valley. RSVPs are appreciated. Please find details & registration information here.

Jeff Speaking at your Event 

Jeff is a renowned speaker and has motivated audiences around the globe. Listening to his story come to life is an incredible faith-filled experience. Jeff is available to speak at your church, company, conference, etc. For details, email 

Purchase Your Copy Today 

Please support Jeff & his mission to share the Lord’s work and purchase his book for yourself and others. It truly makes an excellent gift. Copies can be purchased at the launch party or online.

Journey to a Miracle on Facebook

You can also support Jeff by liking his Facebook page ( and inviting others to the launch party.

Coming Full Circle: Boomerang Buyers

by Jeff Scislow

Because of the collapse of the housing bubble and the economic depression which began six years ago, thousands of South Metro real estate owners lost their jobs and their homes, and both the market and the economy foundered for the next few years.  True to the American spirit, however, a large percentage of those former owners have survived and rebounded and are once again ready to become purchasers of a home.

boomerangIn fact, according Keeping Current Matters, 79% of those who lost their homes to foreclosure or short sale are ready to buy again, while 41% report having an income higher than when they bought their last home.  Unfortunately, though, 81% have never heard of Back to Work, a new FHA program which allows former owners to purchase a new property as soon as twelve months following a foreclosure or short sale.

Under this program, the government will insure loans for those who have had a negative “economic event,” such as a loss of income or a bout of unemployment.  It is not, however, a free pass and does not apply to previous owners who simply walked away from an underwater property. Prospective borrowers must show that the hard times they encountered were for reasons beyond their control and that their finances have recovered.  They must also agree to take an HUD-approved counseling course.

Would-be purchasers of South Metro real estate who don’t qualify for the new FHA program but feel they are ready to buy again should consult with a knowledgeable Realtor and/or a reliable lender for up-to-date information regarding the length of waiting periods and restrictions/requirements for other types of mortgages.

Generally speaking,

  • Conventional loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac require the longest waiting period: seven years from transfer of title.  Conventional loans may also come with stricter credit and debt-to-income requirements.
  • VA loans have a two-year waiting period.

Boomerang buyers will certainly have a positive impact on this year’s housing market and are to be congratulated on overcoming adversity and for their desire to become homeowners once again!

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Trends for January 2014

by Jeff Scislow

In January, the number of properties that received a foreclosure filing in Minneapolis, MN was 43% higher than the previous month and 27% lower than the same time last year, according to

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Status Distribution

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

Auctions accounted for 62.1% of foreclosure activity in January 2014 and Bank-owned properties accounted for 37.9%.

minneapolis mn foreclosure

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Activity by Month

The number of Bank-Owned properties increased 35.5% compared to the previous month and dropped 51.3% from the previous year in January. The number of Auctions increased 48.3% compared to the previous month and increased 3.3% from the previous year.

minneapolis mn foreclosure

Minneapolis MN Foreclosure Geographical Comparison

Minneapolis MN foreclosure activity was 0.02% above national statistics, 0.05% higher than Minnesota numbers and 0.01% higher than Hennepin County statistics in January 2014.

minneapolis mn foreclosure

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

Think Now About Tax Deductions

by Jeff Scislow

April is coming-- with both good news and bad news.  The good:  a promise of warmer temperatures, emerging blossoms, and an end to snow and ice.  The bad:  it will soon be income tax time once again.  Take heart: while you revel in the thought of spring, you can also benefit from these money-saving tax tips.

april 15Frequently overlooked deductions:

  • Most homeowners know that mortgage interest is deductible, but did you know that mortgage points are, too?  Points are prepaid interest and may be deductible as mortgage interest on your South Metro real estate loan if you itemize deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A.
  • Moving expenses: If you move to a South Metro home more than 50 miles for a new job, expenses such as movers, renting a truck, cost of breaking a lease, storing furniture, legal fees, real estate commissions, and the cost of food and hotels while moving can be claimed as deductible expenses.
  • Job hunting costs: If looking for a position in the same line of work you held previously and you itemize, you can deduct expenses associated with trying to land a new position, including out-of-town lodging, transportation, employment agency fees, and business card and resume printing costs.
  • If you turned 65 in 2013, remember that you now deserve a bigger standard deduction.
  • Medicare insurance and long-term care premiums: Remember to include the cost of Medicare Parts B, C, D, and supplemental insurance when you are trying to reach the magic 7.5%.
  • State sales tax. You have a choice of deducting state income taxes paid or state sales taxes paid. Since you will choose whichever gives you the largest deduction, bear in mind the purchase of big-ticket items and building materials for your South Metro real estate.
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, especially those serving in combat zones, face some special tax situations and are entitled to some special tax benefits. Click here for specific details.

  • Early withdrawal penalty:  Did you execute an early cash-in of a CD this year? If you were charged a fee for doing so, you can deduct it directly on your 1040. Financial Planning and Management Expenses, Schedule A.
  • If you subscribed to an investment newsletter, paid a financial advisor, or otherwise spent money to manage your money, these fees can be deducted.

What is Your VA Loan IQ?

by Jeff Scislow

In recent years VA loans have made up roughly 13% of all home purchase financing. Unfortunately, this program remains underused largely because of misinformation. By separating facts from myth, more of America’s military would be able to realize their dreams of owning a home.

american homeDid you know that…

  • The most significant benefit of a VA loan is the borrower’s ability to purchase with no money down.
  • VA loans also come with less stringent underwriting standards and requirements than conventional loans. In fact, about 80 percent of VA borrowers could not have qualified for a conventional loan when buying a South Metro home.
  • These loans require no private mortgage insurance (PMI), a monthly expense that conventional borrowers are required to pay unless they put down at least 20 percent of the loan amount.
  • In order to qualify, you only need suitable credit, sufficient income, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to be eligible for a VA-guaranteed home loan. The home must be for your own personal occupancy.

Are you aware of the fact that…

  • Veterans and active duty military can use the VA loan many times until they reach their entitlement limit (generally $417,000. Higher in some U.S. counties).  If the borrower does exceed that amount, he/she may have to make a down payment.
  • You are also allowed to buy income property consisting of up to four units, provided you occupy one of the units.
  • You can have two (or more) VA loans out at the same time as long as you have not exceeded your maximum entitlement and eligibility. In order to have more than one VA loan, the borrower must be able to afford both payments and have sufficient entitlement remaining.
  • For eligible participants, VA mortgage benefits never expire.

Bet you didn’t know that…

  • In order to minimize any chance of serious delinquency or foreclosure, the VA places a premium on the financial health of its borrowers. Thus, VA loans have a unique requirement — residual income — that helps keep borrowers better prepared to meet their obligations.
  • VA Home Loans are available for a variety of purposes--including building, altering, or repairing a home; refinancing an existing home loan; buying a manufactured home with or without a lot; buying and improving a manufactured home lot; and installing a solar heating or cooling system or other weatherization improvements.

Who knew?

Home Searching Online: What You Need to Know

by Jeff Scislow

What You Need to Know About Online Home Searches

“Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.”


-Mitchell Kapor

Imagine you’re in a library, tasked with doing a good amount of research on a certain topic. With nimble fingers, you flip through the card catalog (imagine this is the 1980’s while you’re at it) looking for source books on the subject. You are a master of the Dewey decimal system. For you kids out there, we’re talking about things that happened before Wikipedia and Google. Never mind, return to Candy Crush.

Thinking you’ve found the exact information you’re seeking, you excitedly bring your list of source books up to the librarian. But your excitement quickly turns to disappointment when the librarian informs you that all the books on your list have been checked out. All that time spent, and you come up empty handed on your research quest. The real estate equivalent of this is an unsuccessful online home search.

You wouldn’t believe how many calls we get here at the Scislow Group from frustrated buyers, who call us often after hours and hours of online searches on sites like Trulia, Zillow,, and others. After finally finding a home they’re interested in they call about it, only to find out that the house went under contract several days before. We then usually ask these callers, “Are you making los of calls on various properties online and getting this response?” to which they (sometimes quite enthusiastically) exclaim, “YES! This is the tenth one in a row that was sold! What is going on here???”

What’s going on here is a couple of things:

Sites like Trulia and Zillow have licensing agreements in place, that don’t allow them to show the public all the information that we are able to see as agents.

There is typically a 48-72 hour lag between when information is updated in a Realtor’s MLS system (we use Northstar MLS for instance), and when that information becomes available to the public in online home searches. In a hot market like what we’re currently experiencing, when homes are turning around relatively quickly, in 48-72 hours a home can conceivably be listed, receive multiple offers, see an offer accepted, and go under contract.

We often find out, when doing an automated MOS search, that up to 50-70% of properties buyers are seeing as “available” in online home searches are actually already off the market. The market is moving that quickly now. For example, the sellers of a home we just listed in Eagan, MN received their first offer within 18 hours of being on the market, a second offer within 36 hours, and sold in just THREE days on the market! If you were relying on a website feed with a 48-72 hour delay, you would likely have been one of the dozens of inquiries we received on this attractive property, well after it had sold.

The question we ask buyers is: “Is an online home search the most efficient tool in your home search? You need to view your online home search within the context of a hot, fast moving market. To find the home you’re looking for, you need every possible advantage, and current, available information tops that list. It’s in every buyer’s best interest to search efficiently and avoid missing out on any homes because of misinformation or delays in data. The additional information you need, therefore, to ensure a home is truly active and available, merits further research by an agent.

Let’s go back to the hot property in Eagan that sold so fast.  When a home is listed and gets interest right away and then sells quickly, it’s for a few reasons.

It’s attractively priced.

It offers features that many people are searching for.

It stands out in a market filled with a limited inventory of homes.

When you are using a slower, more inefficient search tool, the argument could be made that not only are you missing out on the most attractive homes but also you’re now only seeing the homes that are “lagging” online. When a home lags online for any period of time, it’s usually for a reason – a problem with the condition of the home, pricing is not fair to market, or there’s an abundance of inventory in the area.

Make sure your buyer toolbox has the sharpest tools available for your home search. Please call us at 952-953-5000 and let’s talk about the current state of your search and how we can help you find the home you’re looking for.

Let’s get Social! Have you experienced frustrations like those described in this post when trying to find home online that’s still available? How many times in your online home search, have you spent hours, only to come up empty handed?

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 43

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