Category Archives: Reposts

6 Tips for Choosing the Best Offer for Your Home

By: G. M. Filisko

Have a plan for reviewing purchase offers so you don’t let the best slip through your fingers.

You’ve worked hard to get your home ready for sale and to price it properly. With any luck, offers will come quickly. You’ll need to review each carefully to determine its strengths and drawbacks and pick one to accept. Here’s a plan for evaluating offers.

1. Understand the process.

All offers are negotiable, as your agent will tell you. When you receive an offer, you can accept it, reject it, or respond by asking that terms be modified, which is called making a counteroffer.

2. Set baselines.

Decide in advance what terms are most important to you. For instance, if price is most important, you may need to be flexible on your closing date. Or if you want certainty that the transaction won’t fall apart because the buyer can’t get a mortgage, require a prequalified or cash buyer.

3. Create an offer review process.

If you think your home will receive multiple offers, work with your agent to establish a time frame during which buyers must submit offers. That gives your agent time to market your home to as many potential buyers as possible, and you time to review all the offers you receive.

4. Don’t take offers personally.

Selling your home can be emotional. But it’s simply a business transaction, and you should treat it that way. If your agent tells you a buyer complained that your kitchen is horribly outdated, justifying a lowball offer, don’t be offended. Consider it a sign the buyer is interested and understand that those comments are a negotiating tactic. Negotiate in kind.

5. Review every term.

Carefully evaluate all the terms of each offer. Price is important, but so are other terms. Is the buyer asking for property or fixtures – such as appliances, furniture, or window treatments – to be included in the sale that you plan to take with you?

Is the amount of earnest money the buyer proposes to deposit toward the down payment sufficient? The lower the earnest money, the less painful it will be for the buyer to forfeit those funds by walking away from the purchase if problems arise.

Have the buyers attached a prequalification or pre-approval letter, which means they’ve already been approved for financing? Or does the offer include a financing or other contingency? If so, the buyers can walk away from the deal if they can’t get a mortgage, and they’ll take their earnest money back, too. Are you comfortable with that uncertainty?

Is the buyer asking you to make concessions, like covering some closing costs? Are you willing, and can you afford to do that? Does the buyer’s proposed closing date mesh with your timeline?

With each factor, ask yourself: Is this a deal breaker, or can I compromise to achieve my ultimate goal of closing the sale?

6. Be creative.

If you’ve received an unacceptable offer through your agent, ask questions to determine what’s most important to the buyer and see if you can meet that need. You may learn the buyer has to move quickly. That may allow you to stand firm on price but offer to close quickly. The key to successfully negotiating the sale is to remain flexible.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has survived several closings. A frequent contributor to many national publications including, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Source: HouseLogic (Published: February 10, 2010) Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Compile a Home Inventory with the Right Tools

By: Gwen Moran

Creating a home inventory for insurance doesn’t need to be complicated. All you really need is a pencil and paper. The key is to have a record of your possessions in the event you experience a theft or casualty loss from flood, fire, or other disaster.

But the more thorough the documentation of your belongings, the less likely you are to run into problems when you file an insurance claim. That’s why you should consider using a digital camera, fireproof safes, and other equipment to create and store your home inventory. Devote a full day to the task.

Take pictures of your belongings

Photos of your belongings go a long way toward demonstrating ownership and value. Digital photos are preferred, since they’re easier to print and store. A decent digital camera costs less than $100. Be sure to get full-room shots, as well as close-ups of items. Don’t neglect to photograph possessions inside drawers, cabinets, and closets.

Video is even more convenient and effective, especially since you can record audio along with the images. Describe items and any identifying details as you film your home room by room. Digital camcorders are available for less than $150. It’s a good idea to keep backup copies of digital files and hard-copy printouts in a safe place. (More on storage options below.)

Prepare a written home inventory

Images alone aren’t enough. You should also prepare a written home inventory. Your insurance company will likely ask for one if you ever file a claim. Include as much identifying detail as possible, such as serial numbers, brand names, purchase dates, and estimated costs. Keep a copy off-site, perhaps with a friend or in a bank safe-deposit box, in case your home is damaged or destroyed. Download our free home inventory worksheet to get started.

Home inventory software is also available. Enter information on your possessions, attach digital images, and store the data electronically. The Insurance Information Institute has a free program called Know Your Stuff, or there are a number of programs available for purchase.

Be sure to attach receipts to your home inventory list. If you’re storing your records electronically, you’ll want to scan receipts at a copy and print shop or purchase a scanner. Pick one up for as little as $50 at an office supply store. Digital copies of receipts come in handy if originals are damaged or lost.

Safe ways to store your records

When backing up digital files, a USB drive—sometimes called a “thumb” drive, due to its small size—can be useful. Buy one for as little as $5. Simply copy the files onto the drive and keep it somewhere safe, preferably away from your home.

You can also stash a drive in a pre-packed emergency “go” bag, which should be accessible in case you need to evacuate quickly. An external hard drive can perform the same function, though it’s less portable.

You can use a bank safe-deposit box to store paper records, drives, and other valuables off-premises. Rent may range from about $25 per year for a small box to more than $100 for a larger box.

If you like to keep important documents closer at hand, consider a fireproof safe, which is usually waterproof as well. You can find small safes for as little as $50, but a more representative range for good residential fireproof safes is $150 to $300. Larger, high-end safes can cost more than $1,000.

When your home inventory files are electronic, it’s relatively easy to use online backup systems to keep digital copies outside of your home. That’s a big plus if your computer is stolen or destroyed. Some backup services like Mozy offer limited storage space for free, while others like Carbonite charge $5 or more per month. Choose a backup service whose features fit your needs.

Source: HouseLogic “Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”
Flickr Creative Commons: andrewarchy (CC BY 2.0)
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5 Plants You (Almost) Never Have to Water


Every plant needs water. But drought-resistant varieties need only dainty sips once they’re established, making them perfect for low-rainfall areas and low-energy gardeners.

Susan Gottlieb, an expert on drought-tolerant gardens, says native plants have the best chance of surviving dry summers or whatever nature throws at them.

“Natives have evolved to thrive in your climate without a whole lot of extra work,” Gottlieb says.

Include these five stunners in your landscaping and retire your watering can.

1. California lilac (Ceanothus):
This beautiful shrub flowers in late winter/early spring, emits a lovely fragrance, and shows flowers that run from white to purple. The “Concha” variety is prized for its deep blue blossoms. California lilacs grow best on dry, sloping land or in front of any structure that protects them from wind. They also prefer well-drained soil, and they don’t do well in clay.

2. Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens): Found in many desert gardens, deer grass is a spiky and dependable ornamental. It loves full sun, but also will grow in a little shade. Water every three days until established. After the first year, water only every three weeks.

3. Salvia, heatwave series: These dependable perennials were developed in Australia to withstand extreme weather. As a bonus, they bloom spring through fall, to the delight of hummingbirds and butterflies. Colors include white, pink, and salmon.

4. Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria):
This low-growing perennial is known for its silver-gray foliage, looks good as a ground cover, and thrives in containers stuffed with annuals. It hates standing around with wet roots, so plant it in soil that drains well.

5. Tickweed (Coreopsis): These yellow perennials add a burst of sunshine to any garden or border. More than 100 species are long-blooming (so long as you deadhead) and low-maintenance. They range from long and leggy to small and mounded. Also, they are easy to divide, creating many more plants season after season. (Here are more tips on taking care of perennial flowers.)


Flickr Creative Commons: Caitlyn Willows (CC BY 2.0)
All photos used under this license.
“Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

9 Ways to Deep Clean the Cruddiest Things in Your Home Without Breaking Into a Sweat


Ahhh! Sparkling floors, gleaming windows, and zero dust bunnies. A thorough spring cleaning can make your abode feel brand new. But that immaculate house comes with a price — sore biceps. Instead of skimping on your annual deep clean because you’re zonked, use these brilliant hacks for nine of the most pain-in-the-butt tasks. You’ll get the same pristine results with half the time and energy.

1. Break Out the Drill on Your Bathtub

Cleaning a grungy tub can be back-breaking work. But here’s a genius idea that’ll save you time and sweat: Use your drill. Simply attach a foam ball polishing attachment, and use it to do the scrubbing for you. Look in the automotive section for the attachment, which is made specially for tackling grime without scratching surfaces.

2. Soak Stove Burners in Ammonia

Your stove burners take the bulk of the greasy, gunky mess during cooking, so do them a favor and give them a good cleaning. Don’t worry: No scrubbing involved. To clear the crud, combine your stove burners and 1/4 cup ammonia in a plastic bag and let sit overnight. They should come clean with a light sponge the next day.

3. Run Floor Vents Through the Dishwasher

wash floor vents in dishwasher

Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Scour as you might, removing all the accumulated dirt and dust from your floor and ceiling vents can be a spring cleaner’s nightmare. If yours are made of aluminum or steel, there’s a shortcut to spic-and-span: Just run them through the dishwasher on a water-only cycle.

4. Iron Out Bad Carpet Stains

Don’t spend an hour scrubbing out that nasty, set-in carpet splotch. Iron it out instead. Spritz a solution of one part vinegar, three parts water on the stain, and lay a clean cotton cloth on top. Turn your iron to its highest steam setting and run it over the stain for about 10 seconds to transfer the stain to the cloth and off your carpet.

5. Tie a Bag of Vinegar Around Your Showerhead

bag of vinegar cleans your showerhead

Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Mineral build-up on your showerhead can cause low water pressure and wonky water streams. But it’s easy to clean them without removing them. Using a rubber band, attach a bag of vinegar to your showerhead, making sure all the holes are submerged in the vinegar, and soak it overnight. Voilà. Good as new.

6. Make Your Leaf Blower Multi-Task

Forget the broom and rags when you’re cleaning out the garage. Whip out your leaf blower and let it blow all the dust, debris, and dead bugs (yuck!) away from the floor and shelving. Just be sure to put away light-weight things could accidentally get blown out with the trash.

7. Get Rid of Crayon Marks with Goo Gone

Removing evidence of your toddler’s overactive imagination from your gorgeous white walls can be a struggle, but a little bit of Goo Gone (traditionally used to clean sticker residue) will remove the crayon and your headache. Spray it on the drawing, wait a moment, and wipe it off cleanly — without exhausting your arms.

8. Boil Your Range Filter

boil your range filter to clean it

Image: One Good Think by Jillee

There’s no need to scrub the grease and grime off your range filters. Use a bit of baking soda and your largest pot instead. Set the water to boil, slowly add 1/2 cup of baking soda, and submerge your filters for about five minutes. (Make sure to dump the water somewhere safe. Grease in the drain is even worse than grimy filters.)

9. Sprinkle Your Mattress With Baking Soda

Your mattress needs a springtime refresh, too, but you sure can’t toss it in the washing machine. Cleaning gurus recommend dragging your mattress outside, beating it, and letting the sunshine help freshen it, then dragging it back in. But who has the muscle for that? This is much easier: Use a kitchen strainer to sprinkle baking soda over its surface and let sit for an hour or longer. Longer is better. Then use your vacuum’s upholstery attachment to suck up the odor-absorbing soda.


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

Celebrities Who Bought and Sold the Most Houses

We all know celebrities love their real estate, they buy, they sell, and they renovate. Let’s take a look who among celebrities sold and bought the most houses in the last 10 years.

Oprah Winfrey is without a doubt a top home buyer. She owns homes all over the country, and not all her homes are mansions – she owns a 2 bedroom home in a small town n Indiana. She’s been particularly active in real estate world lately: she sold her Chicago house and bought a mansion  in Colorado with her own funicular and “wine mine”.


Flickr Creative Commons: Paul Williams (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Ellen DeGeneres is not only known as a comedian, but also for her passion for architecture and design. She recently bought a house in Malibu that was previously owned by Brad Pitt and also a house with an ocean view in Montecito.


Flickr Creative Commons: Jesse Wagstaff (CC BY 2.0)

Nicholas Cage owns about ten homes in England, Rhode Island, and Bath. He also owns a haunted house in New Orleans previously owned by Madame LaLaurie.


Flickr Creative Commons: Tom Bastin (CC BY 2.0)

Cher was one of those who also traded some real estate she owned. She sold her Palm Springs and Los Angeles, and bought a home in 90210 zip code and also a Malibu home.


Flickr Creative Commons: Marcus (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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Market Updates

In 2015, inventory was low and inventory levels continue to fall this year, which fuels buyer’s competition hence more multiple offers and higher sales prices. Unfortunately, it is not projected to change any time soon. Maybe the rise in sale prices might make sellers more eager to list their homes.

According to Minneapolis Area Association REALTORS® (MAAR), the median sales prices is slightly down from the December numbers. As mentioned above, because of high demand and rising prices, mortgage rates continue to stay low for now, but expected to increase slowly by the end of the year. Here are some quick stats from MAAR:

  • Pending sales were up 3.5% to 3,033 signed contracts
  • New listings decreased 7.2% to 4,167 homes
  • The median sales price rose 6.1% to $259, 900
  • Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales) made up just 10.6 percent of all sales, a drop of 26.7 percent from 2014
  • Days on the market declined 15.8% to 85 days.

More jobs are being available and wages are rising. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, Minneapolis-St.Paul metro has the second lowest unemployment rate at 3.1% compared to national 4.9%. Possibly due to the warmer weather, this year’s spring market started earlier and stronger than usual. Let’s hope it stays strong!


Flickr Creative Commons: Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)
All photos used under this license.

Minnesota Cabin Culture

Minnesota is a beautiful place to live. Minnesotans are known for loving the outdoors and with over 10,000 lakes it is a popular place for boaters and fishermen.  In fact, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, there are approximately 800,000 boats registered in Minnesota. This is one of the reasons Minnesota is considered to have a significant cabin culture. Every native Minnesotan knows what “let’s go to the lake” or “up North” means. About 20% of Minnesota residents have a “cabin” where they escape their busy lives to enjoy boating, fishing and the quietness and nature. Minnesotans are always eager to pack up their cars and go to a cabin even for a couple of days.

Cabins are a place where happy memories are made over generations. This is the place where you can slow down, have a cup of coffee in the morning and enjoy star-gazing at night. Cabins are great for family gatherings; it’s where you set your phones down to watch movies and play board games. Such gatherings contribute to family bonding. Also, many recent articles discuss the importance of escaping our busy world and spending some time in green space to help our bodies to revitalize and rejuvenate.

So if you ever wonder what is it about Minnesota cabin culture, you should take some time and experience it for yourself! Also, if you already own a cabin or thinking of buying one, you should stop by the annual Lake Home & Cabin Show where you can attend educational seminars, talk to builders, and get great ideas. The show starts on February 19th and ends on February 21st. Don’t miss it!

Share with us if you own a cabin and why you decided to buy?


Flickr Creative Commons: Gerry (CC BY 2.0)
All photos used under this license.

Free Twin Cities Events This Month

St. Paul Winter Carnival features ice sculptures, palaces, as well as live entertainment and many activities such as horse racing. There will also be the annual treasure medallion hunt. The finders are awarded with prizes.
When: Thursday, Jan 28 – Sunday, Feb 7
Tickets/Price: Free and open to the public.

Family Concert: Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm, Oh My! It’s a 50 minute event for kids age 6-12, where they will learn all about harmony and rhythms.
When: Saturday, February 6, 9:30 AM and 11:00 AM
Tickets/Price: Free tickets, register here.

Art Shanty Project is an annual event, where you can see  interactive ice houses and enjoy a variety of events such as dance parties, theater and live music.
When: Saturday, February 6 through February 28
Tickets/Price: Free

Fire and Ice Winter Festival is a fun event including ice fishing contests, sled-dog rides, skating, skiing and snowshoeing. You will also enjoy other entertainment, a bonfire, and fireworks.
When: Saturday, February 6, 3-7PM
Tickets/Price: Free

Valentine’s Day Skating Party. Since V-day is around the corner, you might want to register for this event. There will be DJ’s playing music; also, hot beverages and supplies for skaters will be provided!
When: Sunday, February 14, 1-3PM
Tickets/Price: Free, register here.


Flickr Creative Commons: Mack Male (CC BY-SA 2.0)
All photos used under this license.

Foods your Dog should Never Eat


Flickr Creative Commons: localpups (CC BY 2.0)

Since fruits and vegetables are healthy for humans, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the case for our pets. They might have from mild to very severe reactions to some of the vegetables and fruits.

Grapes/Raisins are known to be toxic to dogs. They contain canine which can cause kidney failure. If your dog had more than a couple grapes, it can be saved if you take them to a veterinarian right away! You can also try giving your dog an activated charcoal if you have any.

Onions and Garlic. According to Banfield pet hospital onions and garlic belong to the Allium plant species and if your pet eats one of the plants from those species, they will end up with anemia, which, in turn, may damage organs and lead to organ failure.

Cherries. Some say cherries are good for dogs as long as they don’t ingest leaves or seeds since they contain cyanogenic glucosides, which can cause difficulty breathing and shock.

Apple cores. As with cherries, apples contain cyanogenic glucosides as well, so just make sure to  kepp them away and not feed them seeds or stems.

Raw potatoes. Opinions are split on this one, some say it’s dangerous if dogs eat raw potatoes, some say it’s fine. It might be dangerous if it is sprouting and has green coloration; either way it’s better to keep them away just in case.








States with the Highest Property Taxes

One of the main responsibilities of a homeowner is to pay property taxes, and to avoid late fees or, even worse, foreclosures, property taxes have to be paid and paid on time. Property tax is used to pay for road construction and maintenance, schools and any municipal employees. According to CBS News, the average annual property tax is $2,089; and about $15 billion worth of homes are foreclosed each year due to tax delinquencies. Here are the states with highest property taxes.

Vermont median home value is $218,300, and average property tax is $2,934.
Michigan average property tax $3,168, and median home value is $117,500.
Nebraska tax is $3,228 with a median home value of $132,700.
Connecticut residents pay $3,301 in property taxes and median home price is $267,000
Texas average home prices is $132,000 and residents pay $3,327 property tax on average.
Wisconsin has an average home price of $163,000 and the property tax is $3,398 on average.
New Hapmshire property tax is $3, 649 and average home price is $233,300.
Illinois residents pay $3,939 in taxes and the average home prices is $169,600.
The residents of New Jersey have to pay #3,971 property tax on average; average home price is $307,700. High taxes are the reason why people are moving out of the state.

In many states, there is an option to homestead a property, which provides property tax exemptions; in addition; homestead exemption provides protection from losing your home to other creditors. In some states, the relief is only partial since some of it still used for local schools. Before you decide where to buy a house, make sure you know how much you will have to pay in property taxes and check if homestead exemption is available in your state.


Flickr Creative Commons: GotCredit (CC BY 2.0)
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