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Wightman-Brock Real Estate Advisors serving Rochester MN and surrounding areas

Offering an Allowance

3 Tips to Consider Before Offering an Allowance

After years of living in your home, it can be difficult to get it in tip-top shape for the market. Although you might be used to your popcorn ceiling and wall-to-wall pine furniture, buyers today are looking for a clean, updated home that is move-in ready.

Instead of spending the time and money to update old or outdated flooring, wall paint or fixtures, you might be tempted to offer an allowance to a potential buyer for the cost of making these updates themselves. Here are our top tips on what to consider before offering an allowance.

An allowance is only good for reducing purchase price.

According to mortgage regulations, an allowance only allows the seller to lower the purchase price. Although this will reduce the buyer’s monthly payment on the home, there’s no way to actually give cash to a buyer to make the improvements the allowance originally stood for.

Think of it from the buyer’s perspective: between the down payment, closing costs, moving expenses and more, the buyer has cash going out in all different directions. The potential buyer might be thankful for the reduced listing price, but still might not be able to dish out the money actually required to complete the project. For this reason, a buyer would rather move in to a home that already has these basic updates.

There is no wrong choice. 

Some sellers are afraid to make these improvements in their home, because they don’t know where to start. Good news – it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Any local hardware or big box stores will have experts to guide you through the process and ensure you choose a product most buyers will enjoy. Look for a selection that is in stock at an average price point. The risk is small in making the wrong decision.

Take a walk in the buyer’s shoes.

Take a tour of your home as if you were a potential buyer. If the first thing a buyer sees when walking into your home is stained or badly worn carpet or wall coverings, outdated colors or 20-30-year-old kitchen appliances, it is sure to leave a lasting impression. Buyers will evaluate the first three to four rooms they walk into – usually the living room, dining room, kitchen and family room. These areas should be your first priority in making home improvements.

If you are still on the fence about the benefits of home improvements or an allowance, there is one potential alternative to consider. The requested work on the house can be done just prior to closing, with the invoice paid at closing. In these situations, the work is done as the seller moves out, and must be paid at closing for the buyer to move in with. Although this is a convenient option for sellers, waiting until close still makes your home less marketable during the selling process.

We understand the hesitation with making home improvements before selling your home. After all, it’s a major move for the seller, but updating these features could make your home easier to sell and more competitive in the market.

If you are considering a home improvement allowance as you sell your home, we’d love to meet and talk with you through the process. Contact us to set up a meeting today.

 

 

Selling Your Home over the Holidays

 

Most people don’t think of the holidays as the most wonderful time of the year to sell. As if the holiday season wasn’t hectic enough, adding the stresses and responsibilities that come with relocating sounds pretty daunting.

But the thought of selling your home over the winter months doesn’t have to dampen your holiday spirit. In fact, holiday home shoppers tend to be more serious about finding the right home, and fast. This could be a great opportunity to market your home. If you’re planning to sell over the holidays, follow our favorite tips to make the process go smoothly.

Deck the halls, but not too much.

Typically, when people decorate for the holidays, they tend to “add to” the decorations they already have. Any realtor is trying to get you to “subtract from” what you already have.

To keep things clean and clutter-free, we recommend the rule of replacement: if you’re going to add a decoration, take away something else, like a table or a chair. If you’re staging your home to sell, it’s important to replace items in your home with something tasteful that would appeal to buyers.

Remember to follow our core marketing rules.

Just because you’re decorating for the holidays, doesn’t mean all rules are thrown out the window. At the end of the day, your home is still on the market to sell. That means when decorating, you still have to adhere to these core guidelines for home marketing:

Only three things on any flat surface.

Use bigger, single items rather than lots of small doo-dads.

Maintain clean lines.

Keep it clean – dust, vacuum and scrub like your mother taught you.

The best balance to strike with holiday decorating is to keep it simple. It’s okay to be festive – in fact, it looks odd if you don’t! But it’s important to remember that buyers can get distracted with decorations, and you want them to leave remembering the potential of the home itself and not just the elaborate holiday décor.

If you’re getting ready to buy or sell over the holiday season, we’d love to meet with you and walk you through the process. Contact us to set up a meeting today.

Realtor Relationships

Realtor and You: A Relationship

Buying or selling a home is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s a big decision that is influenced by many different factors—your job, family, finances, private preferences, etc. A deeply personal process like this requires the guidance of someone you trust and can be open and honest with.

This is why it’s critically important to choose a Realtor that will be a good match for you during this exciting process. Here are our favorite tips for choosing the Realtor that’s right for you.

Find a Realtor who best suits your personality.

There are many ways to do business. Maybe you’re someone who puts their nose to the grindstone and doesn’t want to waste any time checking off the boxes on your real estate list. Maybe you’re the type of person to carefully weigh the pros and cons of all your real estate options. Whatever your style of communication is, finding a Realtor who will match your personality will make the process go smoothly.

Go on a Realtor speed-date.

Interviewing potential Realtors is the first step to the home-finding process. Set-up meetings with a handful of potential Realtors to test their knowledge, learn their processes, ask questions, and see how your personalities mesh. You will likely be spending a lot of time with this person, so make sure you enjoy being around them and don’t rush into a representation contract.

Are you too “Minnesota nice?”

As Minnesotans, sometimes we’re too nice to just say, “I appreciate your help, but this isn’t working.” Don’t be afraid to find a Realtor relationship that you’re willing to work with and where they will work for you.

Not every real estate agent will meet your needs the same way, and that’s okay. When choosing a Realtor, it’s most important that you feel like he or she is listening to you throughout the entire process.

If you are interested in buying or selling a home, we’d love to meet with you and talk you through the process. Contact us today.

Managing Expectations for a Smooth Real Estate Process

A realtor wears many different hats throughout the real estate process. As realtors, we are often also a negotiator, manager, interior designer, photographer, and essentially, a professional juggler.

Of all the responsibilities we juggle, one of our most important is to help you manage your expectations for what this process will look like.

Coming into the real estate process with appropriate expectations is one of the most important aspects in setting a foundation for a successful transaction. We’ve built our real estate partnership upon pillars of mutual respect, trust and open communication. Which is why we want to be honest with you on what to expect from your upcoming real estate transaction. Here’s a few of our favorite tips.

How the market works

It’s important to remember that the housing market is fluid – much like your stock portfolio. Because real estate is a commodity, the market is constantly changing. The same way a financial investor might advise you not to attempt to time the stock market, we are here to tell you that the best time to list is when it’s right for you.

How long it should take to sell a home

Through all of this, the average number of days a house is on the market is actually consistent throughout the year; and does not fluctuate through months or seasons as much as people think it does.

Yes, there are going to be houses that sell in a day. But don’t panic if your house doesn’t sell in the first three days – because not every house does, and that’s the reality. It’s important to keep in mind that most houses do settle into the average days on market… and that’s okay!

People want to see what else is out there.

Home-buying is seldom a spontaneous decision. Even if a potential buyer looks at your house soon after its listed, chances are they want to look at others as well before coming to a decision.

Averages are healthier.

In general, buyers make better decisions in average markets. Learning to manage your expectations to settle into an average market is more sustainable and manageable for both you and the buyer.

A new home isn’t a decision you want to rush. Avoid buyer’s remorse, and take care when shopping for a new home. And above all, talk with your realtor so you can both set realistic expectations for what the process with look like for you.

If you’re considering a move, and have questions about the process, we’d love to meet with you and talk you through what it might look like for you! Contact us to set up a meeting today.

Fall Home Maintenance Tips

 

  • Similar to a car, your home requires regular check-ups to keep it running smooth all year round. As you wind down from the summer heat and start pulling out your hoodies for fall, take some time to tackle a few simple chores to prepare your home to take on winter in all its glory.
  • Here are some of our recommended fall home maintenance tips.
  • Disconnect your garden hoses from outdoor faucets and drain them before storing inside for the winter. While you’re at it, turn off any shutoff valves that lead to exterior faucets to avoid unnecessary leaks.
  • Clean your gutters to clear all the leaves, twigs and general gunk that might build up during the summer months. Clogged rain gutters come winter could cause ice dams, leading to expensive repairs you won’t want to worry about.
  • Don’t leaf it for later – rake ‘em now! That’s right, spending time for typical fall yard work will save you time and money later on. That means raking leaves, trimming trees, and cutting back foliage.
  • Double-check your door and window seals, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and even your dryer vent. It’s easy to forget about these seemingly little things, but maintaining them well will mean a safer home for your family, and may run your home more efficiently.
  • Lastly, one of the biggest things we’ve noticed people don’t do, but should—service your home mechanicals. At the beginning of fall, have your furnace serviced by a professional and in turn, have your air conditioning serviced come spring, as well. Prevent an emergency later on by having your furnace and air conditioning serviced at least once every other year. This allows you to maintain your units on your time, and your dime.
  • If you’ve bought a home within the last few years and are starting fall clean-up, go back through your home’s inspection report. There, the inspector will have noted areas for you to watch out for that are specific to your home. This will help you get a jump-start on your fall home maintenance projects.
  • If you’re considering a move, or have any questions about annual home maintenance, we’d love to meet with you and walk you through the process. Contact us to set up a meeting today.

Benefits of Listing in the Fall

The summertime real estate season is as hot as the summer sun, but you shouldn’t be deterred from listing your home in the fall.

While most hear “Rochester” and think “Mayo Clinic”, Rochester has a prosperous and diverse economy. Because of its growing business community, access to arts and culture, and a thriving food scene, Rochester sees relocation opportunities year-round, not just the spring months. In Rochester and the Southeast Minnesota area, every month is a good month for real estate.

Many people think listing in the fall isn’t the best idea, however, in our experience, we think it’s actually a good idea. Here’s why:

There’s less competition.

Fewer people will be listing their home in the fall compared to the busy spring and summer months. As a fall seller, you will have less competition in the market, which may help your home sell faster.

Snow is a great equalizer.

Don’t despair come fall and your yard starts to look drab – everyone else’s yard is, too! Think of it as just one less thing to worry about in showing your home. Because everyone’s yard will look comparable to one another during the winter months, this allows you to focus more time and energy in making sure the inside of your home stands out from the competition instead.

Holiday home shoppers tend to be more serious.

People looking for a home during the holidays have immediate needs and a limited selection to chose from. This is a great time to market your home.

Ultimately, the perfect time to list your home is when it’s right for you. If you’re considering a move at any time during the year, we’d love to meet with you and talk you through the process. Contact us to set up a meeting today.

To Remodel or Not….

Top Tips from a Kitchen Remodel Professional

Before and after photos from a great home remodel are daunting, often leaving you with questions like, ‘How did they think to do that?’, ‘What can I use from here in my own home?’, ‘Is this something I can handle?’

We work with a home rehab professional who recently completed a kitchen remodel, and here are our top tips to help answer some of these questions and more.

Consider why you are remodeling

The biggest consideration when remodeling should revolve around why you want to remodel in the first place. For example, how long will you be at this place of residence? Some remodels bring you more money at resale, while others should be considered for your own enjoyment. A professional can help you choose a remodel that is right for you and how you’ll use the space.

If you are planning to stay long-term, take a while to settle in before deciding to renovate. After a few months or years, you can learn how you want to use the space so that the remodel can be the most functional space for you and your living needs.

Back to the drawing-board.

How do you best decide on layout and overall concept? Easy – let the professionals do the legwork. A contractor does this for a living, and probably has ideas on kitchen layouts that you wouldn’t even think of. Having professional guidance from the beginning will save you money and headaches in the long haul.

Choose materials that work for you.

The materials you use when remodeling your kitchen should depend on the home and the needs of the remodel. For example, an old home with original cabinets may come with a built-in cavity for the fridge. The cavity may call for some high-end vinyl to allow more space for the refrigerator. If you put hardwood or tile, you lose valuable space.

Style: trendy or traditional?

Style is a personal preference. If you plan to stay at this house for more than five years, go ahead and decorate with your favorite retro-inspired laminate cabinets and patterned wallpaper backdrop. But if you plan to resell after the renovation, keep the style subdued and classic to appeal to more potential buyers.

Plan for the unexpected.

Always, always, always prepare for unforeseen expenses. Plan ahead and prepare for a little extra cushion in your budget – you’ll thank yourself later.

When will I see the real bang for my buck?

Depending on the remodel, it could take a number of months or even years to get money out of your project. For example, paint and new carpet are investments that return quickly, while a new addition could take years to recover the cost.

In the minds of remodel professionals, the old adage, “quality over quantity” rings tried and true. Spend your remodel budget on fewer quality products rather than more cheap updates that may not stand the test of time.

If you are considering a remodel project before you list, we’d love to meet with you and talk through the process. Contact us to set up a meeting today.

Townhouse: Yea or Nay

Ah, the golden years. You’ve made it to retirement and now our society says, “It’s time to downsize and move into a townhouse or condo!”, but we don’t see it that way. The decision to leave your single-family home and move into a condo or townhouse is a choice to be made based upon your lifestyle, not your age or income.

Townhouse/condo living is perfect for those who are:

    • often absent due to work or leisure travel
    • looking to have someone else deal with the maintenance
    • social and looking to be more connected to a community

If you do decide townhouse/condo living is for you, there are a few things to keep in mind. Typically, you’ll be dealing with a Home Owners Association (HOA), which people tend to get skittish in regards to. There are often misconceptions about cost, liberties with your property, and even pets when a HOA is involved. The cost is usually offset by the elimination of other costs. Your homeowners insurance most likely will decrease due to the HOA assuming the liability and casualty coverage for the outside of your unit. Lawn care and snow removal are often covered by the HOA, too.

There are downsides to HOAs. There are choices you may have to give-up, such as where to plant a tree or which color to paint your door. Home maintenance must be agreed upon with your neighbors in attached units, too. If your roof needs to be replaced, but your neighbors don’t want to incur that cost, you’ll most likely go without a new roof.

Be sure to check the pet policy of the HOA. If you are a pet-lover, know there can be breed/size restrictions. On the flip side, if you like quiet and solitude, the Chihuahua living next door can be a hindrance to that.

There are many things to consider when you begin to think about downsizing and we welcome the opportunity to help you with this decision. Our job is to walk you through the process, not dictate what you should do.

If you’re looking to move in, move up, or scale back, we’d love to meet with you and talk you through the process. Contact us to set up a meeting today.

Nine Musts Before You Move…

Most of us move several times, if not dozens of times in our lives. And, it’s stressful. However, there are a few things you can do to make your move as stress free as possible. We’ve put together a list of nine things you need to do before you move that most people tend to leave until the last minute.

1. Connect your internet

Living in a new house without internet can be very frustrating and inconvenient, for you and your kids, so save yourself the stress and connect early.

2. Set-up your utilities

The following need to be set-up before you move:

  • electric
  • gas
  • water
  • garbage/recycling

The following are dependent upon your home and lifestyle choices:

  • water treatment service
  • cable
  • phone

Click here for a list of Rochester utility providers.

3. Have a plan for children & pets

Moving is stressful for children and pets. Try and line someone up to take care of them for the day. Caring for them is one less stress you need to tackle on moving day.

4. Update friends & family with your new contact info

Send a text message or email notifying people of your new address and phone number so the important people in your life can contact you.

5. Change your address

It’s best to do this as early possible so you don’t have to rely on others to forward your mail. Notify the post office immediately of your new address and then contact businesses and government bodies individually and promptly to make sure your mail is going to the correct place. Don’t forget to…

  • update magazine or box-style subscriptions
  • contact your car insurance provider to change your address
  • update your voter registration information
  • let your bank know you’ve moved
  • get a new driver’s license with your new address

6. Pack an unpacking box

This box should contain any tools you might need to construct furniture, labeled ziplock bags with screws from furniture you dismantled in the move, scissors, screwdrivers, masking tape, dust cloths and cleaning supplies. Having these items all in the same box will save you time and your sanity when setting up your new home.

7. Update your homeowner’s insurance

When you move it’s important to contact your insurance provider to make sure you’re covered for the duration of the move. Your current home insurance policy should end the day after you’ve moved out and your next insurance policy should start the day before you move.

8. Have spare keys cut

Do this as soon as you have the keys to your new house. Moving days are stressful and busy so it’s easy for keys to get lost or locked inside your new home, especially without an established routine. Have a set of keys cut for each member of your family and maybe even a spare.

9. Pack a first night box

Just as important as the unpacking box, the first night box is essential to a successful move. It should contain a change of clothing, basic toiletries, toilet paper, pjs, towels, bed linens and any other essentials you may require, like children’s lovies or a special snack. Having these items at-hand can make such a big difference in the comfortability of your first night in your new home.

If you’re considering a move, we’d love to meet with you and talk you through the process. Contact us to set up a meeting today.

Financing your home…

Conventional loans, FHA loans, interest-only loans—Oh, My! Figuring out your financing can be the most difficult part of purchasing a new home, yet it is key to have in place before you begin looking, especially in this fast-paced market.

If you’re a first-time borrower, there are a few things that can be done to help you through the overwhelming process of sorting through financing options. Take time to figure out exactly how much you can afford to borrow and then finance accordingly. The best way to do this is through working with an experienced mortgage broker or banker. They will help you sort through all of the different programs and options. (For a list of our preferred mortgage specialists, visit our resources page.)

In the end, nothing will give you more peace-of-mind than knowing what you want and ultimately, what you can live with. 

If you’re looking to move in, move up, or scale back, we’d love to meet with you and talk you through the process. Contact us to set up a meeting today.