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The Art of the Approach: Curb Appeal

July 1, 2014 |  Article By : 

curb appeal niceWhen considering the mysteries of what attracts the ultimate buyer, few will deny that “curb-appeal” is a sort of magic bullet. The term is a buzz word for the enticing image of your home as seen from the street, and is similar to the adage of “judging a book by its cover.” Buyers who rely upon this might overlook a treasure in the rough, but savvy sellers know curb appeal is a key tool to finding a buyer more quickly.

Curb appeal is key when buyers are looking through multiple listings, getting a feel for neighborhoods from the comfort of their cars — just “driving by.” Often, buyers will look at advertisements and listings online or in print, and if they are local will take a peek on their way home from work. Because of the power of this “curb view,” often the primary photographs used in advertisements and listings are from this angle. Money spent in improving this viewing angle is among the smartest investment. Simply put, painting and pruning trees and shrubbery can transform a home, helping to shed light on its features.

Other aspects of the approach to a home can be equally enticing and help to pave the way for a successful interior viewing. After all, when care is taken to the outside of a home, people feel that the interior will also have what they are looking for. Driveways and walkways that are well maintained and artfully presented greet potential buyers as soon as they step out of their vehicles.

Trees and shrubs that lose their leaves can create slick areas on driveways and walkways and be unattractive if allowed to affect landscaping and lawns. Ensure that you consider this when selecting trees to plant near driveways, and keep leaves in check during fall viewings. During the winter, when snow and ice might prove to be a problem, it is essential to maintain driveways and walkways carefully. This is not only for safety, but it illustrates the type of person who has owned and maintained the house itself.

One helpful exercise is to take time to view a home with curb-appeal in mind. At each juncture where a potential buyer might approach and view your home or property, stop and look around. Notice details. Take photographs. Look straight ahead, to the right and left, and even at the ground. If there are appealing features, play those up. If there are issues that block the enjoyment of the home, you can choose to address them. In each instance, seek to frame the view of the home or property in an appealing light, tending to the ground under foot, the areas close to the viewer, and that which they see.

Follow these tricks for creating the best impression:

  • Ensure that the yard and landscaping is neat, tidy, and well-maintained.
  • If flowering plants are past their prime, trim them back and add in some seasonal plants for color. Re-edge and add mulch to existing beds. Plants in containers may be easily changed out or positioned where they are most needed, and if you invest in nice pots, you can take them with you.
  • Control growth of large trees to optimize light and safety of the home and surrounding buildings and property. Remove debris under trees daily, if needed.
  • Pay close attention to the front door and garage doors, including paint or stain condition and color, hardware and details – these doors command a lot of attention. Consider adding seasonal decorations like a wreath or potted plants near the door, but keep these tasteful and few – don’t distract from the house itself.
  • Clean steps, ensuring that they are free of scratches, chips, moss or signs of wear. Repair or upgrade handrails when appropriate.
  • Investing in new and unique numbers for your home not only makes it easy to identify, but can set it apart with flare.
  • Pressure wash the exterior of your home and ensure the gutters and roof are clean.
  • Ensure that windows and screens are clean and well-maintained. Viewers from both the inside and outside of the home rely on being able to see through them. Shutters and screens should be in top shape. Drapes and shades should be clean and in good working order.


How to Get Multiple Offers on Your Home

June 18, 2014 |  Article By : 

house moneyHomeowners hear that the real estate market has finally turned a corner and assume that means multiple offers and bidding wars are back. Even if your town is buzzing with real estate activity and sales are picking up, it doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed multiple offers, or even one offer for that matter. For a seller to get lots of activity on their listing, there are three must-haves: location, price and presentation.

Must have a good location

One thing is common among all properties that receive multiple offers these days: the home is in a good location. Location is nearly always what drives homebuyers in their search. Before considering price, number of bedrooms or size of home, a buyer looks for location.

If your home is on a busy street, not in the best school district or near a freeway on/off ramp, chances are you won’t receive the kind of activity that a well-located home would. In that case, work closely with your agent to price the home correctly.

Must be priced right

Buyers in any market look for perceived value. Homes priced 10 percent (or more) over their market value won’t get noticed. Pricing isn’t an exact science, and it’s nearly impossible to pin a precise number to a home until buyer and seller sign a contract and close. Then, the price officially becomes the home’s market value. Until that time, agents can provide sellers with a value range. Have a good location? Does your home show well? Are you in a strong sellers’ market? Price your home on the bottom of that price range and you’ll be sure to attract buyers — and possibly multiple offers.

Must show well

A generation ago, sellers simply did some deep cleaning and maybe some de-cluttering before their first open house. Presentation wasn’t as important then as it is today, given online listings. More buyers today develop an emotional connection to a home. They want to imagine themselves in your home and not feel like they’re a guest. What does that mean? Appeal to the masses. If you have a good location and you plan to price your home realistically, then you need to make sure you give buyers what they want. If you can afford it, make cosmetic upgrades; invest in some staging and work to turn your home into a “product.” Emotionally disconnect from your home and try to see it more objectively.

Plan on having the home in perfect condition for the photo shoot. A buyer’s first impression of your home likely will be via the Internet or an email from their agent. Make them want to step inside. The more buyers you attract to your home, the more activity.

Know your market

Don’t assume that national trends apply to your region, city or neighborhood. If you’re not in a strong sellers’ market or you spend a fortune on last-minute upgrades, you could be in for a giant surprise. Just because you hear about bidding wars and multiple offers on the national news doesn’t mean that applies to your market. For example, while properties in San Francisco may receive multiple offers, a town like Port Chester, NY, still sees short sales and homes often spend many days on the market.

Work with a good local agent. Wendy Carson, of Remax Results has likely toured nearby homes for sale as well as ones that have sold over the past six months to a year. Knowing those homes, having walked inside and personally knowing the agents who have sold them matters. This is market data that an outsider just doesn’t have access to. This knowledge empowers a good agent to educate their sellers.

Zillow, Author: Brendon Desimone

Should You Buy a Home With a Swimming Pool?

June 4, 2014 |  Article By : 

pool 4c pictureAccording to the The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, the number of new in-ground pools in the U.S. grew by 10% from 2002 to 2005, and some 4.7 million U.S. homes have in-ground pools.

Studies show that most low-end and many middle-range buyers do not want a home with a pool. Higher-end homes are more likely to have pools, but some are never used. Some pools exist for decoration. If you enjoy swimming, then a pool might be right for you. But wisdom says buy a home with a pool only if you will use it. Otherwise, your sparkling pool could turn into an expensive pond for ducks.

Types of Swimming Pools

If you’re planning to install a swimming pool, hire a reputable pool contractor. The cost for a new pool starts around $30,000, but can easily soar past six figures, depending on desired amenities such as fountains, landscaping or decking.

Gunite Pools

Gunite pool construction, which is achieved by spraying a mixture of concrete and sand into a pool-sized hole, is the most popular. Unlike above-ground pools, which are temporary, these in-ground pools are permanent structures. Gunite pools can be laid out in almost any shape the home owner desires and last for years. But gunite is pricey.

Vinyl Pools

Vinyl in-ground pools are generally rectangular, but other configurations are available. They are less expensive than gunite because the pools are lined with vinyl; however, the liners often need replacement after 10 years. They are popular in areas where temperatures dip below freezing and the pools are drained in the winter. To prepare for a vinyl pool, the ground is excavated and support walls are constructed from a variety of materials such as wood, steel, fiberglass or aluminum.

Above-Ground Pools

The National Association of Realtors says above-ground pools add no value to the home because they are portable. Above-ground is an inexpensive option for a pool. Some home owners buy do-it-yourself kits and assemble their own above-ground pools. Unlike in-ground pools, which can require weeks to complete, these pools can be installed in a few days.

The Advantages of Owning a Home With a Pool

  • Many people believe pools increase the aesthetic value of their yard.
  • People who host a lot of parties utilize their pools as an entertainment center, and kids love pools.
  • Pools provide an easy way to instantly cool down on hot days.
  • Some people use swimming pools exclusively for in-water exercises and say pools add health benefits for them.
  • Swimming pools can bring added value at resale, especially in hot climates.

The Disadvantages of Owning a Home With a Pool

  • Regular maintenance. Pools require chemicals, cleaning and over time, repair.
  • Children can drown. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 4, says Safekids.
  • Pool homes appeal to fewer buyers.
  • Pools consume valuable yard space, and in a small yard, they can overwhelm.
  • It might cost more to insure a home with a pool, and heating it can drive up utility bills.

Do Pools Add or Detract From the Value of a Home?

Whether a pool adds value to a home depends on where you live. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the three most popular states for pool homes are California, Arizona and Florida. The National Association of Realtors says an in-ground pool adds about 7.7% more in value to the home’s market value. However, in colder climates, such as Minnesota, a pool may add no value at all.

How Much Does it Cost to Maintain a Swimming Pool?

To maintain a swimming pool in the Twin Cities Metro area varies. The cost ranges from $150 to $729, with the average reported cost of $478 per season. This cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by HomeAdvisor members. While a swimming pool adds many years of fun and exercise to your home life, it needs to be maintained correctly and consistently.


You can manage the heating cost for your pool by not heating it year-round. If you only use your pool for entertainment, you are most likely not going to have pool parties in the dead of winter. If you use it for exercise, you may find times of year where you will be engaging in other types of workouts and not keep the pool heated.


A professional pool cleaner is a great idea if you can afford one. If you can’t, the best cleaning maintenance is to remove leaves, dirt and debris on the surface. Skimming off the debris on a daily basis will keep your pool from needing deeper cleaning and vacuuming as often. It is much simpler to clean the top than it is to vacuum rotten decomposed leaves off the bottom.

Chemical testing

A pool water test kit is an inexpensive way to test the pH of your swimming pool. If you have a pool maintenance pro who is doing regular, routine cleaning and maintenance of your pool, they will certainly be doing this testing for you as part of their services. However, if you want to save money you can do it yourself. It’s important to know the pH level so you don’t let it get too high or too low. On either end of the spectrum are undesirable results. The closer to zero the pH is, the more acidic the water is, causing the water to corrode the pipes and hurt your skin if you swim in it. If the pH is closer to 14, the water starts to cloud and render the chlorine ineffective. So make sure to keep the pH level balanced around seven, which means neutral.


The most common repairs needed for a swimming pool involve fixing the heating and filtration systems and cracks or other damages to the inside surface. If you have a concrete or tiled pool, the surface can get damaged and cracked. If you have a pool liner, the liner can get torn or ripped due to wear and tear or abuse by kids, pets and pool toys. Repairing a pool liner is not an expensive venture, but replacing a liner can be. Monitor the amount of rough play that goes on in your swimming pool so you can avoid this expensive replacement.


By Elizabeth Weintraub and Homeadvisors.com

Truth in Sale of Housing

May 14, 2014 |  Article By : 

home inspc2What are Truth in Sale of Housing (TISH) inspections? Why are they required? What cities require them? Who is required to do them? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, the following will help you to navigate the TISH world.

The Truth-in-Sale of Housing inspections provide accurate information on the condition of properties for sale and to help keep up the quality of housing available in certain cities. Truth in Sale of Housing or “Point of Sale” reports are valid for 1 to 2 years for each property, the length depends on each city. This inspection and a TISH certificate must be done before or within 3 days of listing a property for sale. Properties that need TISH inspections include the following:

Types of Residences:                             

Single family homes



First time condo conversions

Types of Sales 

Sale by owner or real estate agent

Real estate agent assisted sale

Contract for deed

Other title transfers

TISH evaluations and reports cover certain items and identifies required repairs. A copy of the evaluation report and the list of repair items must be displayed on the property so potential buyers can view it. Generally repairs must be made before a house is sold. Fees charged for this inspection vary by each city.

Metro area cities that require inspections are listed below. Contact each city to find out the specific requirements for that city. If your city is not listed, then a TISH evaluation is not required (as of today, May 12, 2014).

City – Website

Bloomington – Bloomington Time of Sale Inspection Program

Crystal – Crystal Housing Maintenance Compliance Inspection

Golden Valley – City of Golden Valley Point of Sale

Hopkins – City of Hopkins Truth in Housing

Maplewood – City of Maplewood Truth in Housing

Minneapolis – City of Minneapolis Truth in Housing

New Hope – City of New Hope Point of Sale

Osseo – City of Osseo Truth in Housing

Richfield – City of Richfield Point of Sale Inspection

Robbinsdale – City of Robbinsdale Point of Sale

St Louis Park – St Louis Park Point of Sale

St Paul – City of St Paul Truth in Housing

South St Paul – South St Paul Time of Sale Inspections