Here to help you buy a home!

With 20+ years in Real Estate and additional experience with Relocation clients, I am gifted in helping people save money while getting into a property they love at the best possible price with savings in all categories from choosing the right lender, choosing the right inspector, and closer, as well as the right options to help when fixing up your new home.  Reach out with your questions and I will be happy to help you get started.

Super Real Estate Agent 2015 – 2020

What Clients Find Out During a Home Inspection

Buyers have an opportunity to inspect their home right after their offer is accepted, and during that short inspection period, Buyers can get an idea of whether or not the seller maintained the home well. The best home inspectors review the entire property, commenting on and photographing all exterior and interior issues starting with the roof, gutters, downspouts, chimney, siding and the exterior grading of the property. Also, any concerns on the driveway, sidewalks and condition of landscaping will be covered, pointing out any flaws or needed repairs or updates.

In a seller’s market, especially where multiple offers are present, contingent inspections are less likely to be considered by sellers, however, offers made with a non-contingent inspection do get consideration, and, sellers appear to be willing to make some repairs in some cases. In multiple offers, where my clients have paid well over list price, with a non-contingent inspection, the sellers did agree to make some repairs.

In a market where neither Buyer or Seller dominates, or, in a true Buyers’ market, where Buyers have stronger negotiating power, sellers may be more willing to give back funds to the buyer in lieu of doing repairs. Alternatively, if there is time, and you can get some estimates, it pays to find out what the work will cost to complete, and get an escrow set up by the lender or title company to pay contractors after closing, especially if repairs cannot be completed by the time you close.

One of my 2020 clients received a name brand new window and some extensive exterior stucco repairs, amounting to $25,000, paid for by the seller after closing. An escrow fund was created for one and a half times the amount of the anticipated repairs, and the funds were held in escrow by the lender until the work was satisfactorily completed. Only when the Buyer was satisfied was the contractor paid and Seller reimbursed the unused portion of their funds from the escrow.

Sellers sometimes look at repairs needed, such as chimney, roof, siding, etc., and have taken the cost of that into consideration by listing their property at a lower price point than like-kind housing. Even in this low inventory market, however, buyers are often overpaying for a property in need of expensive repairs, and, they get no real price break for the repairs because of non-contingent offers. Unless buyers have big cash reserves, I encourage my clients to pass on these types of properties and to be careful when writing non-contingent offers. Don’t overpay unless you can afford it.

Especially for first-time buyers, it’s very important to consider your cash flow and reserves in those situations. You don’t want to have to spend all your cash reserves doing the sellers’ deferred maintenance. You might need that money for other things, as, often furnishings you own no longer work in the new spaces and you have other new expenses.

On the interior, the ceilings and walls are inspected for cracks that might be more than naturally occurring hairline cracks which happen with settling over time. If windows and doors are not level, that could be an indicator of potential structural issues. When a home inspector finds issues that indicate settling, and you want to get to the source of this issue, the basement foundation and structural supports are to be inspected for issues.

Because many homes in the twin cities can be up to or over 100 years old, checking for structural foundation issues, temporary structural supports or repairs to the foundation is important, provided the basement walls haven’t been finished, which would hide any potential issues. Non-level flooring, crooked doorways and window frames could be evidence of unrepaired structural issues, allowing the home to settle inappropriately. Hiring a structural engineer to examine the home for structural issues is smart if you are still considering buying the home, or, if you wish to add onto the structure, and need to know if it will bear the additional weight.

This structural inspection can cost up to or over $500, depending on how extensive a report is needed, but, if the Buyer intends to purchase, it is worth the additional expense to discover if the house needs costly repairs or not. Better safe than sorry.

A client spent funds on a structural report to find out if building a second floor onto a garage was possible, and to verify that a structure was stable. Another Buyer was purchasing on a creek, and, as the house was on an elevation, and showing a fracture in the basement flooring, the stability was in question. A structural engineer confirmed the crack in flooring was a torsion stress fracture from a 1964 tornado and not a structural flaw.

No home inspector can see through walls to check the condition of the plumbing and wiring. A visual inspection will show if all sinks and drains are leak proof or not. All outlets should be checked for reverse polarity issues and point out whether some outlets are updated to GFCI or ‘ground fault interrupter circuits’ allowing the breaker to trip if the circuit is overloaded. Since these need to be installed within 6 feet of water, they should be installed in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry and sometimes in the garage as well. An efficient inspector will check every outlet in the house and let you know if there are any issues.

Attics often can show signs of past or current issues, like moisture problems, bathroom vents not connected to the roof when roofs were redone, snow or rain water leakage, condensation issues, or pest intrusion as well as low insulation levels. It will be smart of the Buyer to get an accurate idea of what corrections might need to be done in the attic. Best case scenario you do nothing, or can add some more insulation. Worst case the attic is improperly vented or you have pest intrusion or insufficient insulation.

It is best to know what is going on though and get any potential issues fixed.

Buyers want to know the age and life expectancy of their HVAC and water heater. How old is the system, how much potential useful life does it have? Any Buyer would love to have new HVAC and water heater and new roof in their home, saving the cost of replacing those bigger ticket items for years to come, however, you will compete in multiple offers with other Buyers for homes that have those updates.

One client was told during inspection that the furnace was not working properly and might need replacement, so asked the seller to provide a furnace repair. Initially, a contractor told seller he’d need to replace the furnace, however, a subsequent estimate from another contractor found the repair was possible and would cost one third of replacing the furnace. Of course, the seller opted for the repair, and, the Buyer had to be happy with that instead. So, although the outcome is that the furnace worked at closing, there is no guarantee of how long it will keep working, and, it is wise to save some funds in case old systems stop working after you own the property. Also, be sure the furnace filters are changed regularly, sometimes that has been the only reason a furnace was cycling on and off a lot, and, changing the filter out made all the difference.

Another Client had the water heater fail a month after they purchased. However, the seller had purchased a home warranty for the buyers, so, for $150 in fees, they received a new water heater. The Buyers saved the $1200-$1600 price they might otherwise have had to pay.

Having a sewer line camera is also essential, unless the home is relatively new. Older sewer lines can be clogged by tree roots which can cause sewer backups. If there are other issues, like breaks or drop offs, a sewer camera will point them out. It is worth the expense to ensure the sewer is functioning well and needs no repairs.

One of my clients found their home had no internal access to the sewer line, so, the seller had to establish one, and in performing the sewer camera it was shown that the sewer line was not connected to the city sewer line. This repair needed to be done in Winter and cost over $10,000 in total repairs, however, the expense was on the seller side.

Some cities require sellers to ensure the sewer line is clear and in good condition, and, in those cities some sellers like to pay the buyers closing costs in lieu of doing those repairs, if the city doesn’t mandate that the seller must perform that fix. Many sellers have paid via escrow for the sewer repairs and buyers scheduled the work once they moved in with no additional expense.

Radon gas inspections are also very common, Radon being a colorless odorless gas which causes lung cancer. Radon remediation is recommended if the gas levels exceed 4 pci/l and this must be tested in a 48hr test if you are going to complete it during inspection. There are other tests which last longer and you can get them from the EPA, State of Minnesota Health Department or purchase at some hardware stores, but, those take longer to get results. During inspection you don’t have the luxury of time.

High Radon in the home above 4pci/l is a Material Fact to be disclosed, and, can be a negotiation point with the seller, since they would have to share with subsequent buyers if the current buyer backed out of the sale. Most sellers would likely wish to cover the cost of remediation, if there are no other issues coming from inspection, or possibly at least contribute something to buyer’s closing costs.

The home inspection is where the buyer learns as much as possible about what is happening at the property and everything taken altogether will let you know how well a seller has kept up the home maintenance as well as what you will need to do when you are the homeowner. Smaller items or issues you wish to control can be done once you move in, and the report can be a future resource reminding you to do regular maintenance annually.

The home inspector I currently use also provides a comprehensive report with photos and a home maintenance workbook with explanations of all the home systems. It is a great way to get to know your new home better before you buy, and information in the report is a great tool to help sellers understand needed repairs during the negotiation period.

Written By Claire Bastien for FindYourMinnesotaHome.com

The Ongoing Costs of Home Ownership: What First Time Buyers Might be Ignoring when Buying a Home

Homeownership may start with a down-payment and applying for a mortgage, but that is just the first part of the process.  Many first-time homeowners forget about all the additional costs associated with owning a home during their investigations into mortgage financing, interest rates and monthly house payment, to get an idea of what their monthly budget might look like.

Apart from potential fees such as a Homeowners Association (HOA) and the utility costs (Buyers might find cooling or heating a house is more costly than an apartment!), and, general maintenance, which typically can average out to about 1% of the value of the home annually, monthly fees can rack up. This is especially true if you have some updates planned.  You never know what surprises might lurk inside that wall you planned to take down or what other unforeseen costs could be coming down the road.

If you are first-time homebuyers, we hope you have gotten your home inspection and have a thorough report as reference, as well as the inspector and your realtor to consult in case a repair is needed.

Also, not shorting your future cash reserves, by putting down more than necessary as your downpayment, is key when making your offer, because even new homes will need some additional cash expenditures.  Every new home will not come with window blinds, shades, draperies, and, even if you have all the furniture, old items may no longer work with the layout of your new home.  There will always be unexpected expenditures, and, you may need new equipment and supplies to handle yard work you didn’t have previously.

Several things to keep in mind for new home-buyers are what mistakes to avoid once you own:

  1. If you have an issue arise, make sure you call the correct person for the job.  If the repair person doesn’t have a specialty in fixing what is broken, you could be throwing good money after bad.  Since specialists can cost as much or more than $135.00 an hour, knowing some information in advance can help you can keep your costs down and better understand if you have the right person for the job.   Doing some basic research in advance may help you explain the issue over the phone and ensure you understand the nature of repairs.  This can help you nail down the right person for the job and nail down factors such as how long it might take to fix and what your potential expense might look like.
  2. Get a referral from a trusted source, such as your realtor or your home inspector for a good contractor. You need someone recommended by others, preferably with some good reviews.  Even your neighbors might be a good resource for tried-and-true vendors, depending on what you need, so, keep that in mind before you go online so you have a basis for reference.
  3. On average, home maintenance can cost about 1% annually of the home’s value. You may not spend 1% annually, but, saving for the big-ticket maintenance items, such as; a new roof, new HVAC or a new driveway or siding, will help you plan for those years where you spend more.  Many Buyers decide to purchase an annual Home Warranty to offset some of the repair costs.  Recently one Buyer was able to get a new water heater right away when hers died within the first month of homeownership because of the warranty!  Some years your costs will be lower, while other years some bigger ticket items might need immediate attention, so, the key is to be prepared.
  4. Never ignore routine maintenance because those little monthly or seasonal chores left undone could cost you dearly in future. Change out the filter on your furnace as needed, some must be done monthly, some quarterly, but, schedule it on your calendar and have extra filters on hand.  Forgetting to shut off exterior faucets in the Fall, or, to disconnect the Sump Pump hose in late Fall early Winter, or reconnect the sump hose in Spring could result in some water leakage issues which are easily avoided.   Use your home inspection as a maintenance tool and reminder of what tasks need completion throughout the year.  Then, put them on your calendar and check them off each month.
  5. Rushing into a renovation before spending time in using a space is another common mistake Buyers make. Live in your home a bit and see how you really use it before you decide to move forward with your plans to remodel.  You might change your ideas over time or decide other issues require more immediate attention.  Don’t just look at the house as a showcase for all that brand new furniture you wanted to buy, or how you can make it look like something you saw on a home improvement show.  You may ultimately decide to revise your plan because a new idea actually suits your needs better.  If your plan included new landscaping, before you start, wait to see what comes up in the yard, in case you missed all the perennials because you bought in late Fall, or remove plants you didn’t know would come up in Spring. Take the time to get to know everything before spending that money.
  6. Annually Winterize your home, unless you live in a Southern state where you can avoid Winter altogether. Consider adding to attic insulation, caulking exterior windows or other areas around the exterior where warm air escapes, drain those hose connections, and putting a silicone seal around glass in windows will all help to save on Winter heating bills.  Your trusted home inspector might have itemized a list for Winterizing which will make it your go-to list for Fall.
  7. If you purchased as a married couple or there are two of you owning together, don’t assume you are both on the same page with everything that might come up around the home. It can put a strain on the relationship when an issue arises and you are not in agreement on how to remedy a problem.  Ensuring you have good communication throughout the process, especially before you buy, will help you work together to get things done in a way that works for you both, especially when it comes down to how you are spending money. Never make decisions without first discussing with your spouse or partner.  Whether it’s paint color, home décor or bigger ticket items, which might mean taking on additional monthly expenses like replacing windows or something you pay off over time.  You would not want someone to purchase a big-ticket item like a new car without consulting you first, so, having a conversation in advance about it will clear the air about how to proceed.  You will find it more rewarding to accomplish your goals together.

When is the Best Time to Buy a Home?

Home buyers are always asking me, when is the best time to buy a home?  Maybe the better question to ask is, what factors determine a good time for me to buy?

Is your lease about to terminate or come up for renewal?  Are there other market factors such as mortgage rates remaining low that drive your search?  Also, do you know much do you need for a down payment and how much can you afford?

Several factors go into determining when is your best time, such as: what is your credit score, debt to income ratio, your savings on hand, and do your future life plans include remaining in your current market?  These factors also help determine if buying sooner rather than later is in your best interest.

Questions your Exclusive Buyer Agent can help you with are:

  • Do you have 2 years or more work history in the same field?
  • Do your Future career plans include remaining in the same market area?
  • Do you need to enroll children in a school district before school starts in the Fall?
  • Do you need to be concerned about a commute or can you telecommute? Is that likely to change?
  • Do you have enough savings for purchasing now, or, do you have high enough income and credit score to use down payment assistance to get into that first home?

These are questions that will help you determine what is your best time to enter the current or future market.

Your personal or joint income and lifestyle will also help you decide what type of housing will work best.  Is a single-family house right for you and your future lifestyle plans, or is it more in line with buying a condo or townhome?

Current market conditions can also affect your home-buying decision.  Historically, buying in the later months of the year have resulted in some savings over purchasing in the Spring-Summer market, however, does that historical factor remain consistent in a Seller’s Market when inventory is low?

Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors Association annual report indicates that Closed Sales were up 7.7% in 2020 over the previous year, while inventory is still remaining lower than average year of year.  And, Pending sales were up 9.7% over 2019.

No matter your age or buying power, we can help you get all your questions answered quickly, because we are actively helping other buyers so we are current with today’s market conditions.

With this knowledge we can help you strategize a plan to negotiate a great deal for a new home in any market, because we have phenomenal lenders, inspectors, closers and other help you get you into the home of your dreams and start building equity in any month of the year.

Depending on the area in which you wish to live, how long you wish to live there, and other market trends, you can start creating equity with home ownership in the short term.

We can help you make your dreams come true while protecting your best interests, no matter your age or home-buyer status.

Six ways to make better use of your patio

Summer is here and you want to spend it outside. We all do, especially in Minnesota when our time outside is dictated by the weather. Or at least the activities we can do outside are dictated by the weather. Realtor.com has a few suggestions to make the most of your summer with some backyard additions:

  1. Sectional furniture – can be easy to build or buy
  2. Get a fire pit – they come in a wide range of styles and prices
  3. Bench swing – imaging sipping a lemonade while you swing
  4. Picnic table with built in cooler – ready for guests any time
  5. Backyard Tiki bar – make this the exotic summer to remember
  6. Deck planters – a great way to try out a green thumb

Looking for a home mortgage? Best to go with someone you know and we know the right lender for you

If you have been shopping for homes online, you have likely seen the online lender ads, they are everywhere.  Most online lenders are looking to funnel as many potential buyers or refinancers through their pipeline as possible so they use lots of gimmicky advertising to get you to apply with them. They don’t know you and they aren’t likely to get to know you.

Also, is that the best possible mortgage option for you?  You may be surprised at how little you mean to them once you do sign up with them.  You are just part of their pipeline and they don’t expect to have a future relationship with you.  Often, because of this, customer service goes out the window.

An exclusive buyer agent (EBA) is different from a traditional buyer agent in how we approach your relationship with a lender. We want to know you and we want to understand your needs so we can advocate for you throughout your home purchase including what lenders you meet so you can learn what makes the best sense for your needs in a mortgage.

Our brokerage does not refer you to any affiliated lenders as some larger brokers might do. They may have an in-house lender and title company from whom the broker typically benefits because so much business is automatically funneled through their doors.  Most buyers are so overwhelmed with details they are willing to accept an agent’s recommendation, even if they could be saving money elsewhere.

Take a few minutes to talk to us and let us show you how we truly have your best interests at heart. We can help you cut through the lights and whistles of online and other lender marketing ploys. For example, online lenders don’t disclose their loan origination fees online and most Buyers don’t think to ask because their focus is typically on interest rate and monthly house payment.  They may not offer a wide enough array of loan product.

Also, we have cultivated relationships with lenders who have successfully closed many loans for our previous clients.  We know several excellent lenders; those who are great for first time homebuyers, experienced lenders who work with relocating buyers and those who can get creative if you are stretching into a new market.

We’ll help you find the lender who meets your personal needs and who will share with you the options available to you based on credit score, income and any factors that influence your buying power.  Did you know you can tailor your mortgage by buying down interest rate, prepaying mortgage insurance and managing your down payment amount?  Do you know you can save money on loan origination fees with the right lender?

 

We are looking to build relationships – and that means finding you the lender, home and mortgage that meet your unique needs and your wish list!  You can rest assured that a referral from a seasoned EBA has decades of successful lending experiences behind it and honed our preferences to lenders who perform well above the average lender.

We want to help you throughout all your buying experiences and be your future point of contact when questions arise.

How to Avoid Air Pollution in the HOME

 Most homeowners and homebuyers would like to avoid the use of chemical compounds, which can be found in most housing components, and, are referred to as VOC’s or Volatile Organic Compounds.  They can be in almost any building products, soft furnishings and certain paints that can off-gas, or evaporate, in the home at room temperature.   It is likely your home has some, no matter when it was built, so, consider choosing low VOC products as you replace furnishings or components or remodel in future and check to see which ones have the lowest VOC rating.

The off-gassing of VOC’s can happen from installing new paint, kitchen or other cabinets and flooring which can go on for years and expose your family to potential issues such as headaches, eye & nose irritation, certain respiratory issues can be exacerbated, fatigue and lower ability to concentrate or allergic reactions.  These are just some of the experiences homeowners have had, and, prolonged exposure, for some, has the potential to develop into more serious issues, especially those sensitive to toxins.

As awareness has grown, many manufacturers developed products with lower toxic emissions, allowing buyers and homeowners to choose from healthier options when furnishing or remodeling their home.  Lower VOC options come in flooring, starting with carpeting which is typically loaded with flame and stain retardants and potentially has anti-microbial treatment as well.  Avoid treated synthetic carpeting and consider wool or natural fiber carpet free of chemical treatments, along with a non-synthetic  natural backing, and look for low VOC padding underneath when installing.

Some laminate and other floating floors use formaldehyde in the gluing process which can cause off-gassing.  Solid lumber flooring sealed with a water-based polyurethane labeled as low VOC should help if you can go that route.  Look for low VOC options in other vinyl products, especially ones that don’t require adhesives to install.  Consider using natural fiber rugs where needed to avoid the issues synthetic or treated fibers might cause.

Today’s kitchen cabinets are often made from a timber composite product referred to as MDF. (medium density fiberboard) MDF is typically bound with a resin containing formaldehyde and other chemicals.  When looking to install new cabinetry consider using a real wood product or look for a safer EO MDF with less formaldehyde in the manufacturing process.

Paint is another culprit and the basic wall covering of most homes, so looking for a a water-based acrylic  versus solvent based paint, and paints with lighter tints, will help to keep the VOC levels down in your home as well.

Furniture is also a big consideration when dealing with VOC issues, as, many soft furnishings are treated or made from MDF product, so, looking for quality furnishings from hard wood construction, especially in the nursery, will help to lower the potential for off-gassing and ensure a healthier home environment.  Sometimes, used furnishing, especially older ones, may have finished off-gassing, so, antique and vintage finds might actually be a smart choice in some situations.  If they look a bit dated, you might sand furnishings and use zero-VOC paint to refinish, or reupholster with low VOC natural fibers.

Many houseplants can actually filter out toxic chemicals from the home environment and are easy to care for.

Using air purifiers, non-toxic natural cleaners such as vinegar and baking soda or other home-made cleaners can help keep your environment low in toxins.  Also, plants are known to cleanse the air and the Peace Lily among other plants are known to filter the highest levels of Benzene from indoor air.  

Congrats to Jenny L! Enjoy the new home in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis

Working with Claire Bastien, Jenny L was able to find the perfect home for her in Longfellow.

Longfellow is a neighborhood in South Minneapolis bordered by the Mississippi River and the Light Rail. It’s a pretty quiet neighborhood with a city feel. It’s not far from so many amenities – some stemming from proximity to the light rail. But generally in walking distance there are restaurants, bars, a couple of small art galleries and shops to get what you need.

Longfellow is home to the Minnehaha Falls and the surrounding park. In the summer the area is bustling with picnickers, runners, biker and walkers. In the winter, the sturdy come daily to see the Falls slowly freeze.