Category: General

Curb Appeal Still Matters!

Many sellers ask if curb appeal really makes that much of a difference with a hot housing market. After all, if multiple buyers want to see your home as soon as possible, why should it matter if the lawn is perfect or if the recycling bins are tucked away? The truth is the outside of the house is the first and last thing your buyer sees. Curb appeal can be so strong; some buyers fall in love with a house before they even set foot in it. No matter the market, getting top dollar for your home means prioritizing how the house looks from the outside and improving your house’s curb appeal.

Why is Curb Appeal Important?

When you sell your home, you’re usually looking to get the most money possible. But, according to the National Association of Realtors, strong curb appeal can add 7% or more to your home’s value. So, if adding a little polish to the front yard nets you extra cash, why leave the money sitting there? It only takes a few minor fixes to make the house inviting and memorable.

How Much Work Does Curb Appeal Take?

The amount of work really depends on the current state of the yard, but this doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking. Simply tidying up will create a great first impression. Here are a few things to consider:

No Christmas in July

Are your Christmas lights still up? Is it the middle of summer? If it is, the lights need to come down. The same goes for any out-of-season décor. Leftover decorations create the impression you haven’t kept the house up to date.

It’s a Jungle Out There

Do your walkway plants grab your buyer’s ankles as they stroll by? Then, trim them back for the illusion of a bigger path.

Are there scraggly hedges blocking the view of the front window? Not only do overgrown trees and plants look messy, but they also hide great selling features—like that big, beautiful window! Cleaning the window after trimming is also a good idea.

Keep Things Lively

Keep the grass trimmed and leaves raked or mulched. If it’s fall, remove all the dead and dying potted plants and replace a few with some cheery fall mums. Keep trimming down perennials as they finish up for the year. A fresh layer of mulch will keep everything neat.

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Trash

You may not think your trash bins sitting at the side door are a big deal. But if you’re selling, you’re probably also looking to buy a new home. Do you want to be greeted by someone else’s garbage? If you can’t store them out of sight, put the bins out of the way, and make sure the outsides are clean.

Selling a home is a big undertaking full of little details. Voila flat-fee realtors in Minneapolis can help you get the best price possible. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Are you Ready to Buy a Home?

Buying a new home is an exciting milestone in a person’s life. But, unless you are well prepared, it can also be a scary one. There are several things to take into account when considering homeownership. The most important are the financial considerations. 

What Can You Afford?

The house you desire and the house you can comfortably afford may differ depending on your financial situation. You will need to look at several factors to determine how much you can afford to spend on a home. One major factor is your debt-to-income ratio or DTI. 

Determining the amount of mortgage you can afford is done by figuring out your DTI. The standard rule is a 43% DTI ratio. This is the amount used by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) for mortgage approval. The ratio is used to assess the borrower’s ability to make monthly mortgage payments. Real estate markets and current economic conditions can impact whether a lender will be more rigid or lenient when approving a loan.

The DTI ratio means that your housing expenses, including mortgage, mortgage insurance, property taxes, homeowners’ insurance, and other housing-related expenses, should not equal more than 43% of your gross monthly income.

Your mortgage is a long-term commitment, so the lender needs to be sure that you can make your payments. However, lenders understand that unexpected things can happen that may affect your ability to pay your mortgage. For this reason, your mortgage lender will consider your front-end DTI. This calculation considers the income you have with just the housing expenses alone. This ratio is ideally no more than 28%. This front-end DTI is considered because there may come a time when you may run into a financial crisis, and you would have no wiggle room to manage those unexpected expenses.

The Down Payment

Another major consideration in getting ready to buy a home is the down payment. Ideally, you want to be able to put down 20% of the price of the home. This will allow you to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is usually added to the mortgage payments. 

You can buy a home without putting down 20%. Some people decide that they will not be in their home that long, or they may not want to put down that much money, to begin with. The larger down payment has its advantages, though. Your mortgage payments may be smaller, and you may have a better choice of lenders with a larger down payment.

Buying a new home is a big investment and knowing how to prepare for this milestone is helpful. At Voila Real Estate, we can help you decide if this is the right time for you to buy, and we can help you find the home you want. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Bedrooms don’t need closets

Everyone knows that you need a closet in a bedroom to call it a bedroom, right? While this is a universally accepted de facto standard, good luck finding any type of authority that will back this up. At least not here in Minnesota. As a home inspector, this isn’t something that concerns me, but I get asked about this frequently. Thankfully, it’s pretty simple: you don’t need a closet.

Minnesota Requirements

There’s nothing in the Minnesota State Building Code that requires a closet. I’m not aware of a single municipality that requires a closet. There’s also nothing in the Minneapolis Housing Maintenance Code that requires a closet. In fact, they go so far as to say this in the Minneapolis Truth-In-Sale of Housing Evaluator Guidelines:

NOTE: Sleeping rooms do not need a closet to be considered a sleeping room, per MHMC, although lenders may require that sleeping rooms have closets.

So where does this so-called ‘requirement’ come from? I don’t know. It had to be a standard somewhere, at some point, or it wouldn’t have so much traction today. But still, that’s a good point that the city of Minneapolis brings up about lenders possibly requiring a closet. I’ve heard that this used to be a requirement for FHA loans. Lenders can ask for whatever they want, and as a home inspector, I don’t attempt to guess at what lenders will want.

I’ve also heard through the grapevine that real estate agents weren’t supposed to list rooms without closets as bedrooms. Apparently, that requirement went away a very long time ago, but people have long memories.

So what if you’re buying or selling a home and someone gets hung up on the closet thing? How do you get around that? Let’s start by defining what a closet really is.

Closet Definition

The term ‘closet’ is defined by the building code as “A small room or chamber used for storage.” A chamber is “a natural or artificial enclosed space or cavity”.  This means a 6″ box with a door that’s installed on the wall could be called a closet. Right?

Ok, maybe that’s silly. How about an armoire or a wardrobe?  I’ve seen plenty of houses with only wardrobes in the bedrooms, and nobody had a problem with that. I’d argue that the cabinets, er… chambers shown below could be considered closets.

Closet 1
Closet 2

If someone insists that a room needs a closet to be called a bedroom, throw one of these in there. If someone argues that it’s not permanently installed, put a screw through it into the wall. There. Now it’s permanently installed.

Here at Structure Tech, we try to make a big deal about the big stuff and a little deal about the little stuff. This is little stuff.

The bottom line

Bedrooms do not need closets to be called bedrooms; at least not here in Minnesota. The next time someone tells you a bedroom needs a closet, ask for proof. If you find an authoritative reference that says a bedroom needs a closet anywhere in Minnesota, please share it with me.

AUTHOR: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

New Construction vs. a Renovated Home: What’s the Better Value?

The current seller’s market means homes aren’t hard to find but are difficult to land. This brings up a question we often hear: is a new construction home a better value than an existing home? The truth is that there are benefits and risks to each. So, let’s break it down. 

New Construction

With more and more millennial demand in the housing market, there simply won’t be enough existing homes on the market. Coupled with the current demand for homes, this opens big business for new development. While there are some advantages to choosing a newly constructed home, let’s first look at what you can realistically expect.

  • Supply & demand: With such high demands for housing in general, new construction costs have increased 15-20% on average
  • Escalation Clauses: Many developers are including clauses that make the home buyer responsible for rising costs of construction materials
  • Labor Shortages: Homes purchased pre-construction may be delayed in completion due to current labor shortages

Even though you can expect some hiccups in the home buying process, purchasing a new construction home does have some pluses. For example, they are often more sustainable, constructed with more environmentally friendly materials, designed with better insulation and windows, and equipped with more energy-efficient appliances. 

One of the most significant factors driving the interest in newly constructed homes is that it’s much easier to find one to purchase. So, if you’re ready to buy, this might be the easiest option!

A Renovated Home

Just as with new construction, purchasing a renovated home does have its share of drawbacks as well. But there are benefits to choosing this route if you’re in the market for a new home.

  • Very Little Inventory: Newly listed homes are under contract almost as quickly as they are listed, giving home buyers very little time to shop for the home they truly love
  • Quick Decisions are Costly: The pressure to submit an offer the seller can’t pass up is intense, leading some to forgo the appraisal or inspection that can cause trouble later
  • May Need to Invest in Repairs: Renovated homes typically need more maintenance and repairs than new construction, and owners usually spend 5-7% of the home’s value annually

While you can expect this seller’s market to make finding the right home a challenge, there are some significant benefits once you do find the right one. For one, it’s typically move-in ready. As a result, you won’t have to wait for construction to finish so you can enjoy your new home. 

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to buy a house, which is the better value for you? The truth is that it depends on what you ultimately want in your new home and what you want out of the buying process. Either way, you can save some cash by choosing a flat rate realtor like Voila! to handle the paperwork for you. 

Top Factors That Influence the Worth of Your Real Estate Property

Determining the actual value of your property can be difficult. Potential buyers can vary in their perceptions of what they are willing to pay for. Here are the top factors that influence the worth of your real estate property.

Surrounding Community 

Your real estate property location is one of the biggest factors that influence the worth of your real estate property. The prices of other homes in your neighborhood can indicate what potential buyers will pay for your property. Quality schools and proximity to work and shopping opportunities can create a significant boost to overall value. 

Square Footage 

The bigger your real estate property is, the higher the value. The worth of your real estate property is typically estimated by dividing the sales prices by the total square footage. Usable space is crucial when determining square footage. Areas such as garages and unfinished basements do not add value to usable square footage. Bedrooms and bathrooms are highly valuable living spaces to boost the square footage value for your real estate property. 

Upgrades and Open Spaces

Making upgrades to your real estate property can significantly boost its overall worth. The best returns on investments when it comes to updates will depend on your location. Pools can be great for expensive homes, while kitchen remodels may be best for cheaper homes.  Adding open spaces and bonus spaces to your real estate property can add value to your real estate property. A few great bonus spaces include home offices, decks, wine cellars and hot tubs. 

Need Help Selling Your Real Estate Property?

Mistakes can easily be made when trying to calculate the worth of your real estate property. At Voila, we strive to make the home selling process as simple as possible. Our agents can assist you in taking charge and getting the best price possible. Work with the flat fee realtors at Voila in Minneapolis – St. Paul for a home selling process that benefits the seller. You call the shots! Schedule an appointment with Voila today.

What All First-Time Home Buyers Should Know

Buying your first home can be fraught with trouble and expenses that could be avoided if you learn what other first-time homebuyers wish they knew going in. Here is a list to help you prepare. 

Get Mortgage Pre-approval Before Looking for a Home 

Don’t get attached to a particular home to buy before you are preapproved. Getting pre-approval for a mortgage tells you what you can afford. It also speeds up the offer and purchase process and helps sellers take you seriously over other offers that still require approval. You could lose out on a home if you must wait to get approved.

Monthly Payments Are as Important as the Total Home Price

When assessing the affordability of a home, even if the price fits your approved mortgage amount, it’s important to figure out the monthly payments with the taxes, interest, and insurance added. First-time buyers often underestimate this and then struggle after the sale to afford their new home. 

Be Choosey About Your Lender

Make sure your mortgage lender works with and for you in a timely manner. Don’t just settle on the first one you talk to without ensuring their promptness. Compare rates and be aware that a lender who doesn’t take your needs seriously could sabotage your negotiations with a seller.

Inspections Aren’t Just a Legal Technicality

Don’t be in such a hurry for your selected home to pass inspection just so your mortgage company gives the green light. You want to dig deeper than the surface in an inspection to be sure there are no major costly issues with the house and property that you will regret later. Get a well-respected inspector to go over the home, top to bottom. Finding issues may not deter you from buying, but it may help you negotiate a better price that will mitigate the expense of getting extra repair work done after the sale.

Don’t Compromise What You Want to Save a Few Thousand Dollars

Whether you get a 15 or 30-year mortgage, a few extra grand won’t necessarily add that much hardship to the practical cost for a home that provides the size, features and value you need over time. Remember, it’s also about what you can pay monthly, which can be lessened with a higher down payment, better interest rates, lower closing costs, property taxes, and insurance. Don’t skimp on important needs, or you may grow out of the house and end up paying for another move too soon.

Be Prepared for a Wild Emotional Ride

Buying a home is a wonderful step into your independent financial goals, along with finally being a homeowner. You should also realize that many things can go wrong. Sellers can make your life difficult. Mortgage rules and paperwork is exhausting. Offers can look promising and then fall through at the last minute. Buying a home can be extremely stressful. The bottom line is to keep a check on your emotions and don’t get discouraged when circumstances change. 

Using Voila! real estate services can help you make good early decisions in this crazy seller’s market. Don’t go it alone, especially in your first time buying. Let us help you walk through the process with confidence. Remember, you don’t pay for the services of a buyer’s agent since all fees are paid by the seller. Contact us today!

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What to Expect from the Real Estate Market This Summer

The summer season is coming soon, and the real estate market is already heating up quickly. If you are looking to buy or sell a home, there are things you need to know about this competitive market. Here is what you can expect from the real estate market this summer.

Buying Real Estate

The recent pandemic slowed down homebuyer activity last year. Now that vaccines are becoming available, there has been rapid growth in home prices with a low inventory of houses in the real estate market. This can create fierce competition in suburban and medium-sized metro areas. Interest rates are expected to be relatively low.

Selling Real Estate

The summer this year is a seller’s real estate market. If you are considering relocation, this season is an ideal time to do it. During the summer, you may be able to get more for your home than you could in any other season. It is important that you do your research as you may be competing with other sellers. You may want to speak with a real estate agent to determine how housing activity and pricing are faring where you live.

New Real Estate Construction and Development

With a high demand for home buying, new construction and development in the real estate market may see a significant rise. According to the Census Bureau, there were 1,68 million authorized building permits for privately-owned housing units. Summer’s arrival creates ideal real estate construction conditions. The number of homebuyers will still outweigh the number of available homes.

Voila Real Estate Services

Summer is the best time to participate in the real estate market, whether you are buying or selling a home. Our Voila real estate savvy fanatics can help you streamline the process and get the best deal possible. Call us today to find out more about our real estate services.

The Top 3 Mistakes People Make When Selling a Home

Buying a home can be a tricky business. Mortgage rates climb and fall, the market swings from buyers to sellers to buyers again. Add in location, cost, time, and design, and you’ve got the potential for a big fat headache. That’s where we come in. At Voila, we work with you to get things right and avoid the biggest pitfalls of home buying.

The Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home

  1. The first big mistake people make when they want to sell their house is, they are trying to sell their home, not a house. If you’re like most people, you’ve made plenty of good memories in your home, especially if you’ve raised your kids there. The place is filled with joy and love and leaving it can pull at your heartstrings. The trouble is your potential buyers don’t want to buy your home. They want to buy your house. All your cherished memories will go with you and the places in the house where they were created? Well, it’s time to detach. Stage your house for selling by removing all the personal items like pictures, artwork, and that bougie pink sofa you spent three months’ salary on so you could feel like you’re sitting on a cloud. We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with those things, but they are your style, not the buyers. Keeping things neutral lets your buyers picture their own bougie couch in the sitting room and THAT can make the sale.

2. Another mistake people make when selling their home is thinking it will sell without any work put into repairs or upgrades. Everyone has those little projects they let slide, like fixing that broken screen and replacing the back steps that are crumbling. When you live there, you adjust to the smaller things because life is busy, and repairs cost time and money. To sell at the highest possible price, you first need to put in the elbow grease and the bucks to fix those things up. You should see every bit of the cost returned, sometimes many times over when you sell. Don’t skimp on the repairs. If people want a fixer-upper, they aren’t going to pay nearly as much money for it.

What’s the Biggest Mistake of All?

3. Thinking you need to spend a fortune on a well-known Brokerage! It’s more than likely your home will sell if it’s priced right, shows well, and has good market exposure. So really, partnering with a brokerage should be as simple as getting you the right people to achieve those goals. And do you really want to pay 6-7% commission for that? Us either. Voila is not your ordinary real estate business. We are a team of experienced, excited realtors who know the tricks of the trade to sell your home without costly mistakes. Call or text us today at 651-237-2274 to talk about how we can get your home sold for more money, all while paying fewer commissions!

Preparing to Furnish a New Home

It’s easy to get wrapped up on all the technicalities of purchasing a new home. Is it in the right location? How many bedrooms do you need? Does the property meet your aesthetic expectations? These are all important questions but there are more practical considerations that also deserve attention. 

When you move into a new property, it is time to make a house a home. You can’t do that without furnishings and any necessary electrical appliances. New homeowners often consider these needs as an afterthought. Closing the sale and securing the property takes precedent, but that is only the beginning of your journey. 

Make Furnishing Part of your Purchasing Plan

Viewing property without furnishing in mind can lead to seemingly endless headaches. The kitchen and living areas merit special attention. These are the spaces you will occupy most in your new home. If you have an idea of the home comforts and conveniences you want, make sure the property you choose is designed to accommodate those personal preferences. 

Refrigerators are a good example of a furnishing need that can become problematic. If you have a large family and need plenty of refrigeration space, take note of kitchen and garage space. It helps to bring a measuring tape when viewing properties, or ask the estate agent if there are measurements already available. This principle should apply to every functional space in the property. 

Purchasing Furnishings

It is difficult to know when to purchase furnishings and essential appliances. If you have space in your current property, store newly purchased items in a dry garage when you are nearing the final stages of a sale. Alternatively, you should pre-empt moving in by contacting your chosen retailers to ask about estimated delivery times to your new home. If you would like comprehensive advice on planning for purchasing, furnishings, and home appliances, reach out to Voila today. We Also offer Home Buyer Rebates to help cover some of the cost of purchasing a new home!

2020 Vision: What Does Your Future Home Look Like?

The events of 2020 have changed how most people view every aspect of their lives in some way, including their vision of the perfect home. While you may still have similar style and function preferences, there has been a shift in the value placed on certain home factors. Sheltering in place, working from home, homeschooling, and urban duress have all impacted what an ideal home looks like for many people. Here are a few of the features that you may want to consider when envisioning your future home. 

Space Over Splendor 

Confinement to one’s home can change your outlook on what’s important. While you once may have been willing to have less square footage in trade for more elegant surroundings, you may not feel the same after months of sheltering in place. Many homeowners are re-evaluating their priorities and wanting to upgrade to more space and less splendor – you can always remodel and add elegance down the road. 

Outdoor Living Areas

The backyard in 2020 has become more important than ever. A fenced area for the kids and pets, ample space for gardening, and home entertainment amenities are some of the features to consider when purchasing a home. When it is now your outdoor gym and family recreation area, having an ample backyard and enjoyable outdoor living space may have moved up your priority list. 

Extra Rooms and Home Offices 

2020 found many families working and schooling from home. Open floor plans and communal areas are great, but when you spend more time at home together, you need private spaces. More homebuyers are considering the need for extra rooms for home offices and studios that go beyond just the minimum number of bedrooms. 

Suburban Living 

Suburban is looking more desirable to some than it did before 2020. Telecommuting may be a permanent situation for many workers and there may no longer be the dread of a long commute. Some buyers who have sworn off suburbia in the past may now be looking at it in a different light. 

At Voila, we have the tools and technology to make finding the ideal home easier and more affordable for our clients. Whether you are looking for your first home or want to sell your existing home and upgrade to a more suitable home for the future, contact us to begin your journey. We can help you find the right future home in the greater Twin Cities metro area – call today to schedule a consultation with one of our real estate experts.