How Smart Homeowners Budget Renovation Costs

Last year in 2021 we saw product shortages for consumers in general, however, none was more problematic than the home building & remodeling supply and material shortages across all areas of renovation and construction.  Budgeting for new construction and renovation projects has become unpredictable, and, many builders and homeowners have sticker shock, and are having to make substitutions to finish their projects.  Builders took to bulk buying for new projects and restricted some choices to new buyers based on their available material supply.

Many Homeowners typically underestimate costs, HomeAdvisor has found when they surveyed over 900 consumers.  Their consumer study found homeowners often underestimated interior paint costs by 50%.  DIY costs will differ proportionally in price from professional costs so, plan on getting multiple estimates to stay on budget.

In early 2021, married clients purchased a new townhome from an independent local builder.  During construction, due to a drywall shortage, the builder substituted a firewall material in place of the typical drywall so as not to hold up the project.  The next portion of the new construction project went up $50,000 in price, per unit, due to the unpredictability of supplies & material.

On the same townhome, a gas insert was ordered as part of the sale, however, a week prior to closing there still was no fireplace delivery, and, the replacement fireplace took 4 months to finalize, as, people were unavailable to install or inspect, due to illness & quarantine, once a Covid diagnosis was made.  While the property closed at the end of August, the fireplace wasn’t completely installed and finally approved until just prior to Christmas.  The homeowners had to install a temporary lockbox on their door since neither of them could be home during weekdays.

When replacing flooring or painting, you will likely fare better.  Just don’t get locked into one color choice, as some supplies may not be available in the quantity necessary to complete a project, forcing you to make a secondary choice, especially with countertops, flooring or tile.  Get professional estimates before you order and make sure you can get sufficient materials in the same color lot so as not to run out prior to finishing the work.  Always get some advice on ordering if you have a running or repeating pattern as well.

The most underestimated costs are landscaping costs, according to their survey.  25% of those surveyed admitted they had underestimated their landscaping costs by 67%.  Landscaping materials can easily add up, as, a single tree can cost between $150-$300, while, the price per tree may decrease if multiple trees are being planted.  Getting professional estimates from the start will help you consider all necessary costs and make realistic choices in your landscape budget.

Another area where, on average, 40% or more homeowners typically underestimate the cost, is window installation.  In Minnesota, where Winters and Summers can really stress your heating and cooling budget, it’s smart to have energy efficient windows.  More homeowners have chosen to upgrade windows in 2021 and, as a result, costs have risen 5-10% because of the higher demand.

In 2020, during a repair job, a window was ordered by a professional installer for a homeowner in mid-August, but, due to delays in product availability, the window wasn’t delivered and installed until November the same year.  Our best advice is to plan way in advance when ordering new windows, get pricing nailed down early, and, anticipate delays in the process just in case.

When setting a budget for any project, homeowners should budget higher than anticipated to avoid cost overruns.  Material prices rose between 5-10% in 2021 for roofing, siding, installation, window installation and more.  It is smart when estimating costs for supplies and installation to add a pad of 5-10% to initial project estimates to offset future price fluctuations.

For first-time homeowners, if you are taking on larger projects, be sure to follow all city and county codes for renovation.  Don’t assume that by watching a DIY series you have seen all potential issues and solutions.  Unwelcome surprises are very common, so, think twice if you are unsure and contact a professional.  It is better to be safe than sorry and really overrun your budget.

Written by Claire Bastien for

How to Manage Moisture in the Home

As the holidays approach, with all the holiday prep, it’s important to be mindful of the air in the home, and moisture available in the air.  Unlike the Spring, Summer and Fall, when we might open our doors and windows to allow more air and exterior humidity in the home, during Winter months we typically keep the home tightly closed to reduce heat loss.

Unless we take steps, this can have a tendency to create a potential for moisture buildup, especially where we might not be able to easily control it.  Monitoring the situation to ensure this doesn’t happen will keep your air moisture regulated during the dryer colder weather.

There are over 10,000 types of mold that can be present in the air, and most require moisture above 50% in the air to thrive, so, it’s important to maintain control of the levels and location of moisture in the home.

Minnesota homes typically have basements, and, since MN is well known for having high Summer humidity levels, many home inspectors recommend a dehumidifier in every basement to cut down on mold potentials.  Also, inspectors typically suggest a dehumidifier is kept running all year long and regularly emptied.

During Summer we typically also use the air conditioning system to manage the humidity level, whereas in Winter, humidity can come from washing clothes, taking baths or showers as well as cooking.  Anywhere that condensation can form around those areas of your home should be monitored to cut down on condensation, which could potentially be a site for mold buildup.

Some homes have in-furnace humidifiers meant to balance out the humidity in the interior air to prevent the home being too dry, however, most home inspectors will recommend you shut this function off and not use it, because most homeowners do not properly monitor the humidity levels, or, change the level of humidity required as the temperature fluctuates.

Windows and walls are susceptible to condensation, and, it is important to ensure this doesn’t become an ongoing issue.  Where you notice consistent buildup of condensation on windows, it’s important to correct, monitor and prevent future occurrences.  Excessive moisture can damage or decay the woodwork, or, allow moisture to seep or migrate into the wall under the window creating a potential mold situation that can’t be seen visually on the wall.

Potential areas where condensation could become a bigger issue is the exhaust fan from the bathrooms, especially if the exhaust is pushed directly into the attic.  Bathroom vents, if not vented properly to the roof and outside the home, can cause bigger issues.  Mold can grow in the insulation, on the wooden studs, timbers and on roof decking if vents are not properly installed and sealed.  This also applies to the laundry and kitchen area if not properly vented to the exterior of the house.  Not all kitchens have exterior vents.

To ensure you home doesn’t have these types of issues, it’s key to keep the dew point low enough.  To monitor this, you can purchase a humidistat for under $25.00 and test the air humidity to keep it at or around the preferred 20% level in the Winter and a safer 45%, or lower, during the Summer months.  Using your dehumidifier all year long, or air conditioner during the high humidity months, will help you maintain correct levels of humidity.

To keep an eye on the situation as you use different areas of the home, and ensure the humidity is kept low, the following suggestions will help you take control of this and keeping consistent will cut down on mold potential.

In Winter, keeping the curtains and/or shades open during the day will allow the humidity to dry around windows.  Keep bathroom fans on after baths or showers for at least 45 minutes to get rid of all excess moisture.  Check the attic to make sure your bathroom vents out to the exterior, not just to the attic, and check for any potential mold or moisture around roof vent seals to ensure there is no sign of condensation.  Proper venting of kitchens, laundries, and bathrooms is essential.

Keeping the kitchen fan on while cooking on stovetops, if the fan vents to the outside, is also smart.  When boiling liquids generates a lot of steam, this can create condensation.  Some older kitchens have vent fans in the ceiling, others might have it above the stove hidden in a cabinet, either way, it’s important to leave it on during cooking so steam escapes to the exterior of the home.

It’s also smart to regularly check for any potential leaky faucets, looking under sinks and tubs to ensure that no leaks are occurring, and, if leaks are found they should be fixed as soon as possible.

One of our past clients noticed a bad odor coming from an unused bathroom and finally checked under the sink to identify the source of the smell.  They were shocked to find mold growing on every surface inside the cabinet.  The entire cabinet and wall area was removed by mold remediation, as well as all the flooring.  All new flooring, drywall, cabinet and sink were installed after air quality checks to ensure no further mold issues could be present.

Monitoring these potential issues is the best way to prevent them and save you money in the long run, keeping your home healthier for you all.

Written by Claire Bastien for

How Home Winterizing Can Save you Money

Keeping your home warm, dry and free of pests over Winter will help you save money on future repairs and energy bills, however, this requires some regular maintenance.

Making any necessary changes or repairs in the Fall can really impact your energy bills and ensure that your home is protected from unwanted moisture, heat loss or intrusions by pests.  The first place to start is with unwanted moisture.

  1. Keeping your foundation drainage at the proper angle, 10 degree grade going from the house to about 6 ft out, is going to help prevent water entering the basement level.  Make sure drain pipes extend far enough away from foundation to prevent water flowing near foundation.  Make sure your drain pipes are firmly connected and made of solid metal, not plastic – which tends to crack and leak in Winter.
  2. Keeping your gutters clean and free of twigs, leaves or other debris will prevent the buildup of ice dams and keep water flowing to your downspouts and drain pipes.  While you are up there looking at your gutters, you might consider getting gutter covers, to prevent you having to clear them constantly, and, while you are at it, check the soffit and fascia to ensure there are no holes critters could use to enter your home.
  3. Inspecting your roof while you are up on the ladder and performing any necessary repairs prior to the first snowfall will save you potential leaks into the attic as well.  Replacing missing shingles or any shingles that are curling or cupping will ensure there are no gaps in your roof coverage.
  4. Repair any gaps in the foundation and get some appropriate caulk or foam to fill in any cracks to prevent loss of warm air, moisture or pet intrusion.  Any good hardware or big home store will carry a variety of caulk and seal for different types of stucco, siding or wood to help you close those gaps.  Expansion foam or the right caulk will help you close any holes and keep your home snug.  Especially check for locations around the home with potential for pest intrusion, like front and rear steps and entryways, and use some expansion foam to close off gaps or small entry points.
  5. Seal doors and windows with appropriate caulk or silicone sealant to close any air gaps.  Make sure there is no air loss around doors and windows.
  6. Chimneys often can develop a layer of creosote inside which needs to be cleaned if you plan on burning more fires over the Winter.  Chimney fires are often a result of not cleaning out the old creosote.  You cannot count on specialty logs, which claim to burn creosote, to fully prevent chimney issues.  Checking your chimney will ensure it is still in working order as well.  Some chimney issues can cost in the thousands, at which point it might make sense to install a gas insert rather than repair the chimney.  A gas insert has its own chimney inserted, making repairs on the inside of the original chimney obsolete in some cases.  Also, make sure the exterior of the chimney is in good shape as well, as, this will prevent animals from getting into the home.
  7. If you have an outdoor pool and you don’t drain the water, you will want to Winterize the pool to ensure you will have it to use again in the following Spring/Summer months.  Clean the filter, replace the cover after doing any necessary water treatment and follow the installers guidelines.  Make sure to check the cover to ensure no pests can enter.
  8. Make sure all the exterior vents have proper covers to allow for ventilation but also prevent pest intrusions.  Most pests look for warm air entryways into a home and you will want to use a screen small enough to allow the flow of air and to prevent smaller critters from having access.  Clean these screens to prevent a buildup, especially the dryer vent which tends to collect lint.
  9. All water hoses should be disconnected and drained and stored properly.  Turn off water to all exterior hoses and drain them to be sure they won’t freeze and burst water pipes during Winter.  If possible, install a freeze proof water faucet on the exterior
  10. Plants and shrubs vulnerable to the Winter blasts should be wrapped or covered with some type of covering, such as Burlap, to prevent the loss of expensive landscape plantings, as this will give them a warmer layer to buffer them throughout the cold weather season.
  11. Cut back or prune any trees, shrubs and hedges during the Fall, especially any plants touching the home or roof as this is best done in the Fall or early Spring before the branches can sprout again.  Keeping plants from touching siding or roofs can extend their life.
  12. Properly store all yard accessories and cover or store lawn furniture to extend their life.  Store hoses and tools away from the weather and winterize any gas-powered tools.
  13. Check your attic to make sure you have tight seals to the vents from kitchen and baths to your roof, and, ensure you have sufficient amount of batting or insulation material.
  14. Replace old furnace filter and have extras on hand to change appropriately.

Most hardware or large home stores have supplies and great options for helping you to keep your home maintained at any season.  Taking the time to do these fixes and maintenance items can save you time, trouble and money in the long run.

Written by Claire Bastien for FindYourMinnesotaHome 2021

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. 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