Category Archives: Real Estate

Tips for Writing a Listing That Sells

House and neighborhood characteristics can positively influence the sale of your home, but what about the words used in the listing? The right turn of phrase could help your property sell quickly, but choose less descriptive terms and you may find it on the market indefinitely. Write an effective listing with the following tips:

Choose Your Words Wisely
One analytics firm reviewed the word choices of a million listings that closed in 2016. Phrases like “open concept” and “natural light” closed more quickly, while listings with “ceramic tile” and “two story” stayed on the market longer. Analysts also found that four word pairs associated with quick closings included “fence” references, indicating that privacy may be a top priority for buyers.

Tell Stories With Emotion
Capture potential buyers’ senses with your words, and try to paint a picture of what it would be like to live in the home. A claw-foot tub becomes a place of solace from the daily grind, and a large yard transforms into a buyer’s new outdoor respite. Need help? Consider enlisting a professional who is familiar with what’s selling to help write your listing.

Highlight Brand Names
Don’t focus solely on basics such as square footage and the number of bathrooms. Instead, identify brands that will stand out from the competition. Everything’s fair game — from appliances to fixtures to interior designers or architects who helped with your last renovation. You can feel comfortable name-dropping here.

Create Longer Listings
The 2015 book “Zillow Talk” found that listings as long as 250 words tend to sell at higher prices. And to help grab a potential buyer’s eye, give particular attention to the first 10 words.

Before putting your home on the market, take some time to craft a well-worded listing. A sale may hinge on it.


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Featured Image Credit: “DSC00227” by Andrew_Writer © 2010 (CC BY 2.0)

Famous U.S. Homes Worthy of a Visit

It’s never too early to dream up your next vacation. Whether you’re interested in a fun, educational destination or you’re on the hunt for home inspiration, visiting these famous estates may pique your imagination.

Architectural Icon
A tour through the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio just outside of Chicago is like peering into the creative mind of one of America’s most iconic architects. Constructed in 1889 for $5,000, this Oak Park house served as the family home for Wright, his wife and their six kids. Bold, geometric shapes on the exterior and the interior’s high, barrel-vaulted ceiling make this visit a must for architecture enthusiasts.

Literary Cats
One home of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway is tucked away in the heart of Old Town in Key West, Florida. The estate boasts Spanish colonial architecture and lush grounds; however, the Hemingway home is also well-known for its current occupants. No less than 40 polydactyl (six-toed) cats, descendants of those owned by Hemingway himself, still live on-site.

Presidential Family Estate
Get a historical perspective with a visit to Hildene, a 1905 Georgian Revival mansion in Manchester, Vermont, that belonged to Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. Guests can take year-round tours of the home’s 24-room interior, stroll down approximately 12 miles of walking trails and visit the working farm.

As Seen on TV
Popularized by more than 70 feature films and television shows, including “Full House,” San Francisco’s Painted Ladies are a staple of the city’s skyline. This row of quintessential Victorian homes, also known as the Seven Sisters, ascends one of the city’s hilly neighborhoods. Snap a gorgeous photo from the famous Alamo Square Park across the street.


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Featured Image Credit: “Painted Ladies” by Jay Galvin © 2006 (CC BY 2.0; Edited)

RNR’s Rock Star of the Month: Lasha Raddatz

It’s no coincidence that RNR also stands for “Rock ‘N Roll” … because we think all of our agents are rock stars! Each month we will feature one of our team members to find out more about them and why they joined the biz. Next up is Lasha Raddatz, a 16-year veteran agent who loves working with first time homebuyers!

Lasha

Q: How long have you been in the business?

A: 16 years

Q: What’s your specialization?

A: First time buyers are my favorite demographic to work with. It’s such an exciting time for these families – we always have a blast!

Q: What is your dream home or favorite house style?

A: Lofts. Think exposed brick, concrete, floor-to-ceiling windows. Preferably on a beach.

Q: What is your favorite thing about living in the Twin Cities?

A: The music scene. I love all the live music here!

Q: What would you say is the Twin Cities’ best kept secret?

A: The band, MPLS. However, Jesse Larson from that band is now on The Voice and she is killing it!

Q: What are your hobbies/interests?

A: Traveling! It’s my oxygen.

Q: What is your favorite travel destination?

A: Jekkyl Island in Georgia.

Q: Do you have any hidden talents?

A: I am a great dancer and used to dance for a local hip hop group, The School of Thought.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

A: Home is where the heart is.

Q: Is there anything else we should know about you?

A: Real estate is my passion! It’s where I’ve met the most amazing people and had the most freedom to do what I love!

Preparing for a Spring Home Sale or Purchase

Spring has sprung, which means the housing market is in full bloom. Each year, roughly 40 percent of real estate transactions occur between the months of May and August. If you’re feeling inspired to buy or sell a home soon, make sure you’re prepared. Use these checklists to catch anything you may have missed.

When You’re Ready to Buy a Home
Purchasing a house is one of the biggest transactions you’ll ever make. Whether it’s your first time or the fifth, tackle the following prep work:

  • Calculate what you can afford. Use a home affordability calculator to make sure you’re ready for the mortgage payments.
  • Check your credit score, and fix any inaccuracies you discover ASAP. Errors can impact your ability to get a good interest rate.
  • Save up for a down payment. Most lenders require 5 to 20 percent, and larger down payments can lower the amount you pay each month.
  • Be ready for additional closing costs. Plan to have approximately 4 percent of the home’s purchase price on hand to cover taxes, fees and other necessary charges.
  • Re-evaluate your insurance coverage and update all of your policies, including life and car insurance.

When It’s Time to Sell
Putting your home on the market is a process that can take months. Before you do, complete this home seller to-do list:

  • Declutter, clean and get your home ready to show. You only have one chance to make a first impression.
  • Take inventory of what needs to be fixed and make a schedule to complete any updates, such as roof work, new paint or landscaping.
  • Decide on an appropriate selling price. Pulling comps in your area can give you a better idea of your home’s value. Or click here to request a free, personalized home value report!

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Featured Image Credit: “Home For Sale Sign” by Guy Kilroy © 2014 (CC BY-SA 2.0; Edited)

RNR’s Rock Star of the Month: Jen Kilzer

It’s no coincidence that RNR also stands for “Rock ‘N Roll” … because we think all of our agents are rock stars! Each month we will feature one of our team members to find out more about them and why they joined the biz. First up is Jen Kilzer, a rookie agent who is more than ready to help you achieve your home buying and selling dreams!


Jen

Q: How long have you been in the business?

A: I am new to the business; I entered into the real estate world in 2016.

Q: What’s your specialization?

A: I work with residential home buyers, especially people trying to establish themselves a bit later in life or re-establish themselves after life changing events, such as divorce.

Q: Where is your hometown?

A: I grew up in Richfield and returned there as an adult for 10 years. I currently reside in South Minneapolis.

Q: Why did you decide to become a real estate agent?

A: I have always had a passion for real estate and I’ve spent many years stalking homes on the internet, so I thought it was a good idea to take my passion for helping people and combine that with my love of housing and turn it into my second career.

Q: What is your dream home or favorite house style?

A: I really like townhouse living – I enjoy having more free-time by not having to do yard work and snow removal. As far as my dream home, I would choose a home with a view, preferably of a body of water. I like wide-open concepts and great views.

Q: What is your number one real estate tip?

A: I think the advice I give most frequently is that you don’t have to keep up with the Joneses – the Joneses may not be that happy. We need to find a home that best fits your family and your lifestyle. We want it to be nice but we also want it to fit your budget, so that you can be happy every day that you are in this home.

Q: What is your favorite thing about living in the Twin Cities?

A: There are so many things I love about the Twin Cities. Our schools are great. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family, and there are also great neighborhoods for young adults with no children. We have a lot of variety here, from things to do to the drastic season changes. I love it all!

Q: What would you say is the Twin Cities’ best kept secret?

A: I think the best kept secret would be the local theater/art talent that we have here. We also have a ton of amazing neighborhood restaurants that you might not expect to find in their locations, and then to top it off the food is fabulous.

Q: What is your favorite travel destination?

A: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Q: What is your favorite sports team?

A: My favorite sport is basketball and our MN Lynx are pretty amazing!

Q: What is your favorite quote?

A: “A house is made of bricks and beams; a home is made of hope and dreams.”

If you want Jen to be a part of your Rock Star Home Buying or Home Selling team, contact her at jen.k@rnrrealty.com!

6 Ways Real Estate Agents Add Value in a Home Sale

Just because you can buy and sell property on your own, it doesn’t mean you should. Real estate agents remain essential when making these pivotal financial transactions.

There are many ways agents add value during the purchase or sale of a home:

  • Handle the technical nuances — Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, a home sale includes a dizzying amount of paperwork. Skilled agents know how to fill out what documents and when, saving you time and helping you avoid mistakes.
  • Speak the lingo — The industry uses an astonishing number of acronyms. Working with a real estate agent gives you the opportunity to better understand the conversation.
  • Can negotiate without emotion — It’s easy to get triggered when a potential buyer picks apart your home. Let the agent handle criticisms or requests that could set you off or scare away an interested party.
  • Help you look beyond the property’s walls — Agents have expertise beyond the sale, including insight on everything from utilities to neighborhoods to quality schools.
  • Are well connected — It takes a village to complete a home sale. Whether you need a trustworthy home inspector, an efficient mortgage broker or a creative interior designer, turn to your agent for credible recommendations.
  • Keep up with the most recent laws and regulations — You may only complete a few real estate deals in your lifetime, whereas an agent often signs off on several each year. Experienced real estate agents know as soon as something in the industry changes and can save you from a liability headache.

Whether your aim is to net money from the sale of your home or spend wisely on a new one, a real estate agent has your best interests in mind and can make the process as seamless as possible.


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Credit Score: What It Means and How to Improve It

Are you considering making a major purchase, like buying a home, this year? If so, your credit score will likely come into play. An understanding of the basics can help you effectively monitor and manage it.

Credit Score 101
Your credit score will usually range from 300 to 850. It’s derived from an algorithm that takes into account several factors, including payment history, the total debt owed and length of credit history.

Lenders use this three-digit number to predict risk and the likelihood that you’ll repay your debt on time. The higher your credit score, the less risk you are and the lower your loan terms will be. For example, a person with a “good” credit score of 700 may have a lower interest rate and smaller required down payment than someone with a “poor” credit score of 400.

How to Improve Your Score
If you don’t have much credit history or you have a few negatives on your report, consider these strategies to increase your score.

  • Pay all of your bills on time. Late payments can negatively impact your score.
  • Pay off debt where you can. The less debt you have, the lower your debt-to-income ratio.
  • Keep your credit card balances as low as possible, aiming to use no more than 30 percent of your available credit. And pay off as much as you can each month since higher balances can sink your score.
  • Review your credit report at least annually, and keep an eye out for mistakes and identity theft.

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Featured Image Credit: “Excellent Credit Score” by CafeCredit.com © 2016 (CC BY 2.0)

4 Tips to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford

By: G. M. Filisko

Published: August 20, 2014

Homeownership should make you feel safe and secure, and that includes financially. Be sure you can afford your home by calculating how much of a mortgage you can safely fit into your budget.

Why not just take out the biggest mortgage a lender says you can have? Because your lender bases that number on a formula that doesn’t consider your current and future financial and personal goals.

Think ahead to major life events and consider how those might influence your budget. Do you want to return to school for an advanced degree? Will a new child add day care to your monthly expenses? Does a relative plan to eventually live with you and contribute to the mortgage?

Consider those lifestyle issues as you check out these four methods for estimating the amount of mortgage you can afford.

1.  Prepare a detailed budget.

The oldest rule of thumb says you can typically afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. So, if you earn $100,000, you can typically afford a home between $200,000 and $300,000.

But that’s not the best method because it doesn’t take into account your monthly expenses and debts. Those costs greatly influence how much you can afford. Let’s say you earn $100,000 a year but have $1,000 in monthly payments for student debt, car loans, and credit card minimum payments. You don’t have as much money to pay your mortgage as someone earning the same income with no debts.

Better option: Prepare a family budget that tallies your ongoing monthly bills for everything — credit cards, car and student loans, lunch at work, day care, date night, vacations, and savings.

See what’s left over to spend on homeownership costs, like your mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable.

2.  Factor in your downpayment.

How much money do you have for a downpayment? The higher your downpayment, the lower your monthly payments will be. If you put down at least 20% of the home’s cost, you may not have to get private mortgage insurance, which protects the lender if you default and costs hundreds each month. That leaves more money for your mortgage payment.

The lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for and the higher your monthly mortgage payment.

But, if interest rates and/or home prices are rising and you wait to buy until you accumulate a bigger downpayment, you may end up paying more for your home.

3.  Consider your overall debt.

Lenders generally follow the 43% rule. Your monthly mortgage payments covering your home loan principal, interest, taxes and insurance, plus all your other bills, like car loans, utilities, and credit cards, shouldn’t exceed 43% of your gross annual income.

Here’s an example of how the 43% calculation works for a homebuyer making $100,000 a year before taxes:

1.    Your gross annual income is $100,000.

2.    Multiply $100,000 by 43% to get $43,000 in annual income.

3.    Divide $43,000 by 12 months to convert the annual 43% limit into a monthly upper limit of $3,583.

4.    All your monthly bills including your potential mortgage can’t go above $3,583 per month.

You might find a lender willing to give you a mortgage with a payment that goes above the 43% line, but consider carefully before you take it. Evidence from studies of mortgage loans suggest that borrowers who go over the limit are more likely to run into trouble making monthly payments, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns.

4.  Use your rent as a mortgage guide.

The tax benefits of homeownership generally allow you to afford a mortgage payment — including taxes and insurance — of about one-third more than your current rent payment without changing your lifestyle. So you can multiply your current rent by 1.33 to arrive at a rough estimate of a mortgage payment.

Here’s an example: If you currently pay $1,500 per month in rent, you should be able to comfortably afford a $2,000 monthly mortgage payment after factoring in the tax benefits of homeownership.

However, if you’re struggling to keep up with your rent, buy a home that will give you the same payment rather than going up to a higher monthly payment. You’ll have additional costs for homeownership that your landlord now covers, like property taxes and repairs. If there’s no room in your budget for those extras, you could become financially stressed.

Also consider whether or not you’ll itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can’t also deduct mortgage interest payments. Talking to a tax adviser, or using a tax software program to do a “what if” tax return, can help you see your tax situation more clearly.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who’s owned her own home for more than 20 years. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.


Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Landscaping Tips for Added Security

In 2014, just over 1.7 million individuals fell victim to burglary according to the FBI. Sometimes deadbolts and alarm systems just aren’t enough to deter thieves. But there are outdoor security measures you can take to prevent property loss at the hands of a burglar. Here are 10 ways you can help protect your home with a well-planned landscape design:

  1. Use plant deterrents. Thorny shrubs and bushes like holly or roses help thwart would-be burglars.
  2. Prune vegetation regularly. Unkempt hedges provide hiding spots where perpetrators can lurk.
  3. Trim the trees. Leave sufficient distance between tree branches and the roof or second-story windows to limit intruder access.
  4. Leave a clear line of sight to windows or doors. Blocking these views leaves your home more vulnerable to break-ins.
  5. Invest in accent lights. Illuminate your yard to eliminate potential hiding spots.
  6. Install additional lighting. Don’t just rely on the porch light. Consider adding motion-sensitive lighting to help ward off possible intruders.
  7. Put gravel beneath ground-floor windows. Burglars rely on silence; stepping on gravel can be a startling repellent.
  8. Protect the back door. Many thieves try this less obvious point of entry first.
  9. Replace solid privacy fences. Solid fencing helps intruders go undetected. Partial privacy fencing is a more secure option.
  10. Lock all gates. It seems obvious, but it’s still worth a mention. Keep front and back gates locked at all times.

While pleasing to look at, landscaping does more than enhance your home’s outdoor aesthetic. Consider whether your current setup promotes security or makes your home appealing to thieves. Use these landscaping security tips to help prevent your home from becoming the target of a burglary.


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Photo Source: “Ashburn | Sherwood Real Estate” by Sherwood CC © 2010 (CC BY 2.0)

Fixer-upper or move-in ready home?

Shows like HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” have popularized the idea of buying and renovating the worst house on the best block. Homes that need major remodeling, however, aren’t for everyone. Sometimes a move-in ready house is a better option. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned investor, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each.

Pros of Fixer-Uppers

  • Lower price — Homes that require some updating tend to be priced lower, and many renovations can quickly add value to your home.
  • Creative control — When you’re the one in charge of updating your home, you can customize it however you choose.

Cons of Fixer-Uppers

  • Delayed move-in — The planning and work involved to fix it up can significantly delay your move-in date.
  • Unexpected costs — No matter how well you plan, major renovations are always subject to unforeseen expenses.

Pros of Move-In Ready

  • Quick move-in — Can’t wait to begin nesting? With a finished home, you can start moving in as soon as you get your keys.
  • Energy-efficient technology — New and renovated homes are often outfitted with the latest energy-efficient options when it comes to kitchen appliances and heating and cooling systems, which can save you money over time.

Cons of Move-In Ready

  • More expensive — To recoup the costs of updating, sellers often price move-in ready homes much higher. These homes also don’t allow for easy customization.
  • Questionable quality — When you’re not there to oversee the update process, you’re unable to ensure that high-quality work and materials are used for your home.

Still not sure which approach is right for you? Take this quiz to help you decide if you’re ready for a fixer upper.

Have you bought a fixer-upper? What was the process like? Share in the comments!

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Photo Credits: “house updates” by mazaletel © 2011 (CC BY 2.0) | “Dining Room with Recycled Wood Ceiling” by Jeremy Levine © 2009 (CC BY 2.0)

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