10 Things to do BEFORE Winter sets in!

Preventative maintenance is key. When the last of summer's heat is a faint memory, and you're pulling out your hoodies more than your shorts, it's time to tackle a few simple chores that'll make winter more pleasant and prevent some nasty surprises next spring.
When the last of summer's heat is a faint memory, and you're pulling out your hoodies more than your shorts, it's time to tackle a few simple chores that'll make winter more pleasant and prevent some nasty surprises next spring.

This fall checklist helps:
#1 Clean and Stow Your Mower
If you're not familiar with fuel stabilizer, get to know it. If your mower sits for months with gas in its tank, the gas will slowly deteriorate, which can damage internal engine parts. Fuel stabilizer ($10 for a 10-ounce bottle) prevents gas from degrading.Add stabilizer to your gasoline can to keep spare gas in good condition over the winter, and top off your mower tank with stabilized gas before you put it away for the winter. Run the mower for five minutes to make sure the stabilizer reaches the carburetor.

#2 Remove Garden Hoses From Faucets

Remove garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the plumbing pipes just inside your exterior walls. If freezing temps hit, that water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes. Make this an early fall priority so a sudden cold snap doesn't sneak up and cause damage.

Turn off any shutoff valves on water supply lines that lead to exterior faucets. That way, you'll guard against minor leaks that may let water enter the faucet.

While you're at it, drain garden hoses and store them in a shed or garage.

#3 Drain Your Sprinkler System

Time to drain your irrigation system. Even buried irrigation lines can freeze, leading to busted pipes and broken sprinkler heads.

Turn off the water to the system at the main valve. Shut off the automatic controller. Open drain valves to remove water from the system. Remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace.

If you don't have drain valves, then hire an irrigation pro to blow out the systems pipes with compressed air. A pro is worth the $75 to $150 charge to make sure the job is done right, and to ensure you don't have busted pipes and sprinkler head repairs to make in the spring.

#4 Seal Air Leaks

Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around your home's exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive -- and most important -- of your fall maintenance jobs. You'll also seal air leaks that waste energy.

Pick a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees so caulk flows easily.

#5 De-Gunk Your Gutters

Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren't sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.

If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage (#5, below); it may be time for a roofing replacement.

Your downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems. If they don't, add downspout extensions; $10 to $20 each.

#6 Eyeball Your Roof

If you have a steep roof or a multistory house, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground.

Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately.

Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that's decayed underneath. Call in a pro roofer for a $50 to $100 eval.

A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar -- called a boot -- that may crack or loosen over time. They'll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they're in good shape. A pro roofer will charge $75 to $150 to replace a boot, depending on how steep your roof is.

#7 Direct Your Drainage

Take a close look at the soil around your foundation and make sure it slopes away from your house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. That way, you'll keep water from soaking the soils around your foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks.

Be sure soil doesn't touch your siding.

#8 Check Your Furnace

Schedule an appointment with a heating and cooling pro to get your heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season.

An annual maintenance contract ensures you're at the top of the list for checks and shaves 20% off the cost of a single visit.

Change your furnace filters, too. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven't, now's the time. If your HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter.

#9 Prune Plants

Late fall is the best time to prune plants and trees -- when the summer growth cycle is over. Your goal is to keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won't drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds.

For advice on pruning specific plants in your region, check with your state extension service.

#10 Give Your Fireplace a Once-Over

To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it's free of birds' nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney.

Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79 to $500.

You fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year. A professional chimney sweep will charge $150 to $250 for the service.

 

Create the Home Office of your Dreams

Whether you work full-time at home or occasionally need to conduct business in the evenings or on the weekends, a home office a great way to utilize an extra room. A dedicated workspace in your home can be designed to increase productivity and comfort. Here are 5 ideas to get you started.


Invest in a good office chair. Investing in an ergonomic office chair is essential. You may be spending anywhere from 30 to 50 hours a week sitting in it, so your back will thank you. Purchasing one with multiple adjustments is ideal so it fits you just right.


Switch up your lighting. Fluorescent lighting has been proven to be hard on the eyes. Make the switch to LED or halogen light bulbs in your home office and try to let in as much natural light as possible. Also, consider finding a desk lamp to reduce headaches and eye strain.


Keep essentials in reach and organized. Nothing says productivity like a clean, neat workspace. Select a desk with a lot of storage or install creative shelving to keep items like pens, pencils, extra batteries, calculator, notepads, and more stored within arm’s reach.


Decorate bright. Pick a color you love and use it to spice up the room. Use cheery yellow or red or relaxing tones like green and blue, instead of beiges and browns.


Aim for the view. If possible, place your desk so you are facing a window instead of a blank wall. Natural light can do wonders for staying alert and you can give yourself a short mental break when necessary by looking to the outdoors.

Sller: What happens after I Accept the Offer?

 

Finally, a buyer has put a great offer in on your property and you’ve decided to accept. Get ready to pop the bubbly and celebrate, right? Well, not quite yet. The buyer most likely has added a few contingencies to the offer that you’ll need to overcome before the big celebration:

Inspection Contingencies: Most buyers in Itasca County will add a water test, septic inspection, and home inspection to their offer. Your realtor can schedule both the water test (if you use well water) and the septic inspection at your expense. These are done as quickly as possible and results shared with the buyer’s agent who, in turn, shares with the buyers. If the water test meets Minnesota drinking water standards, it passes. If the septic system is found to be compliant in today’s standards, it will all pass. If not, we are back to the negotiation table with the buyer. The home inspection will be scheduled by the buyer’s agent at the buyer’s cost. The home inspector will look at everything to make sure there are not major issues. This includes checking the roof, foundation, plumbing, electric, and floor to name a few. Again, it any major issues are found, the buyer has the option of walking away from the offer, asking you to fix things, or simply taking everything as is. Normally all of these inspections are completed within a week of you accepting the offer.

Financing Contingency: Even though the buyer is pre-approved (one thing you should always ask your realtor when they present the offer), things can still fall apart with the buyer’s financing. The lender will schedule an appraisal of your home to ensure that it is worth what the buyer is saying they’ll pay. Appraisers will schedule a time to come to your home and look around to see your property. They will use comparable properties that have recently sold to help gauge the pricing. If the appraisal comes in lower then what the buyer has said they would pay, the lender will not be able to loan that amount. Again, the buyer can walk away from the deal or ask that you lower the price to meet the appraised amount.

Title Work: While the inspection and financing folks are working on their parts, the title company will be doing the title work on your property. Some of the items that come up often in the Northern portions of Itasca County are Road Maintenance Agreements for private roads, Easement issues, and Encroachment issues. If any of these issues are found, you, the seller, will need to work with your realtor to resolve them prior to closing on the sale.

Closing: On the purchase agreement, the buyer will have listed when they’d like to close on the sale. The lender knows the date. The title company knows the date, and both buyer and seller knows the date. Sounds like it is pretty set in stone, right? No 100%! The lender might not be ready. The title company might not be ready. Maybe an easement issue hasn’t been resolved yet, Your realtor will keep you informed on the process of the sale.

Selling a home is a process for sure. Your celebration comes at the closing table once the buyers have signed and your home is now theirs.

What to Repair Before You List

When you’re getting ready to list your home in Itasca County, it’s of the upmost importance to ensure you are showing it in the best light. Taking time to highlight its strengths and fix up some of its possible weaknesses can make a big difference in how fast it sells. Here are our top five recommended repairs to make before selling your home.
Repaint walls:
Giving your home a fresh coat of paint is one of the most cost-effective ways to spruce it up, and generally, it can be a do-it-yourself project. Make sure cover any walls with scratches and chips and consider updating any accent walls with a more neutral coat.
Repair floors:
Hardwood floors are a very desirable feature in a home, so you want to ensure they look their best by fixing scratches or dull areas. If your carpet is worn or stained, consider replacing them. And don’t forget the tile in your kitchen or bathrooms. Re-grouting can go a long way in making dingy tile work look brand new!
Refresh the landscaping:
Show buyers your home is the full package by dressing up the outside as well as the in. Clean walkways and driveways, plant seasonal flowers and plants, trim hedges and trees, install outdoor décor pieces and fill in mulch and gravel.
Fix your fixtures:
Leaky faucet? Rusted drains? Loose drawer handle? Making these small fixes can make a big difference to potential buyers with detailed-orientated minds. Improve your kitchen. An outdated kitchen can be a real eyesore in a home. Updating cabinetry, repairing or replacing countertops, and installing new faucets and sinks may be worth the investment

 

Top Tips for House-Hunting Online

 

Hunting for a new home online is a great place to start your search, but it should not be your end all be all. Good listing agents are excellent at highlighting the best features of the home, but keep in mind there may be more than meets the eye. To make the most of your time and efforts and gather a well-rounded picture of home listings online, keep the following three things in mind.


1.  Stay up to date. When you start your search, make sure you find a site that pulls up-to-date listings directly from the multiple listing service (MLS) where real estate agents actively post their most current homes for sale. Many online resources update less often or fail to remove listings that are off the market, making it more difficult to sort through the clutter. Edge of the Wilderness Lakes & Homes Realty's site is a perfect place to start searching. 


2.  Pictures can be deceiving. Real estate photographers are experts at showing a home in the best possible light. Many use tools and strategies to boost appeal, such as a fisheye lens to make areas look larger and creative editing to make colors and textures really pop. But, often listings will not contain photos of unappealing parts of the home, like small closets or outdated bathrooms.


3.  See it to believe it. Once you find what appears to be your dream home online, call up your real estate agent and schedule a showing. You want to take the opportunity to vet the home in person and explore every part of it before beginning the offer process. Your real estate agent will help you cover all your bases and will ask questions you may not have thought of.

What Size Home Do You Really Need?

When buying a new house, it’s easy to get distracted by size and think that bigger is better. However, depending on your situation, the opposite may be true. So how can you determine if your new home is too small, too big, or “just right?” You’ll want to consider these elements.

What’s Your Long-Term Goal? How many years do you see yourself in this house? Is this the place where you want to raise your kids and retire? If not, then size shouldn’t be as crucial as you think. Consider the fact that you will likely move again, which means that you can upgrade in the future if necessary.


What’s Your Financial Limit? For the most part, you don’t want more home than you can truly afford. While you may be getting that promotion in a couple of months, you can’t buy now expecting to have more money in the bank later. Overextending your financial reach is always a bad move, so it’s best to avoid putting yourself (or your family) in that position.


How Many People are Living Here? In a perfect world, everyone would be able to have their own bedrooms, but when you have kids, that’s not always possible. When thinking about this situation, consider how imperative it is to have sufficient space for everyone, and what it will do to your budget.

Overall, buying a home should be about your current needs and how you plan to grow into space in the future. Don’t buy big for the sake of showing off - in the end, you’ll probably regret it.

Are you a Morning Person? Want to be?

Ever wish you could become one of those rare morning people? The ones that wake with a start, feeling refreshed and energized. The ones that get in that morning workout or wrap up some work before many of us even hit the snooze button for the first time. Here are five tips to help you achieve that early bird status!


Create a morning schedule. Physically write down the things you’d like to complete in the morning and set a time for each. Then stick with it. Once you force yourself out of bed early one or two weeks consistently, you’ll find it gets easier and easier to do.


Let the light in. Whether natural or artificial, light tells your brain its time to get up and get going. If your room lacks large windows where you can open the blinds up, consider investing in a timed lamp or alarm clock with a light.


Prep and eat breakfast. Although there are many of us who chose the skip breakfast, it is key to perking up your energy in the morning. Try prepping protein-focused meals the night before or grab a yogurt or fruit and try to consume it right after you wake.


Get your body moving. Whether it’s a short walk around your neighborhood or a rigorous 5:30 am spin class, getting your blood pumping will help wake up your body and has a ton of other benefits, like stress and anxiety reduction.


Feed your mind. Stimulate your brain and do something you enjoy first thing in the morning. Try reading a favorite book, catching up on the news, doing daily meditation, or setting intentions.

What's your favorite morning thing?

5 Negotiating Tactics that Kill a Sale


Negotiation is a subtle art in real estate, but skilled negotiators can usually find some common ground that satisfies all parties. On the other hand, using the wrong negotiation tactics can sink a deal pretty quickly. Here are some negotiation tactics buyers (and real estate professionals) should avoid:


1. Lowball offers: Going far below market value when you make an offer damages your credibility as a buyer and can be insulting to the seller. The seller has a range in mind that they’ll accept, and if you’re not even approaching the low end of that range, they won’t even consider the offer.


2. Incremental negotiations: Don’t continue to go back to the seller with small increases in your offer ($1,000 or less). The constant back-and-forth can grow tiresome and lead the seller to consider other opportunities.


3. “Take it or leave it”: Try not to draw a line in the sand with your initial offer. The seller can get defensive and consider other offers if you immediately show that you’re unwilling to budge. Even if it’s true, don’t make a show of it.


4. Nitpicking after inspection: Obviously if inspection reveals a major issue, it should be factored into the final sale price. But insisting on a lower price for every minor repair can put negotiations in a stalemate.


5. Asking for more, more, more: Some buyers will request that the sellers throw in add-ons like furniture or appliances that weren’t included in the listing. Try to avoid giving the seller a reason to build up resentment and think that you’re being greedy.

How to Manage Stress During the House Hunt


Purchasing a home can be a stressful process. There are negotiations, inspections, appraisals, strong emotions, and let’s face it, it is usually the biggest financial investment of your life. Well you won’t be able to totally get rid of the stress involved in a home purchase, there are things you can do to help lessen the stress. Whether you are a first time home buyer or someone who has bought and sold properties over your life time, this list will help you on the path to home ownership.

Know what you need in a home: You might have the best realtor in the world, but your realtor can’t read your mind. You need to go into the home buying process with an idea of what you’re looking for. It saves time and frustration if you have your “must-have” list already put together. Consider the size of the home, how many bedrooms/baths, how far you are willing to commute to work, and how convenient the home is to the things you love to do.


Flexibility is important: Unless you are building a brand new home yourself, you will probably not find the perfect home that hits on all of your “wants”. No home is perfect. Once you have your list of “wants”, you need to prioritize what’s most important. You may find that what fits your budget best is a little further from town. Or the kitchen might not be the one you’ve always dreamed of, it could be with a little work after the sale.


Get Pre-Approved: Financing a mortgage can lead to a lot of stress. It is very important to speak with a lender or two and get pre-approved prior to beginning your home search. There is nothing worse than finding the home of your dreams only to discover that you don’t qualify for the mortgage. Ask your Realtor what lenders they’ve worked with in the marketplace. They will be happy to give you some referrals. Check your credit to see if there are any red flags and clean those up right away. It’s also a good idea to have your income records and bank statements close at hand. Your lender will most likely want to see those at some point through the process.


Save Cash: Buying a home is expensive. You’ll have closing cost, a down payment, and you’ll need to get the utilities switched over. Then there is the actually moving expenses (unless of course you have family that is willing to carry the couch, beds, etc into your new home) Your Realtor and Lender can give you a rough estimate of closing cost associated with purchasing your new home.


Listen to your Realtor: Your Realtor brings a wealth of knowledge to the home buying process. Your Realtor may suggest adding contingencies to your offer once you have found the right home. Those contingencies are put in place to save you from problems down the road. For example, in Itasca County, a Septic System contingency can help save you thousands of dollars. The same is true when they suggest paying for a home inspection. While your Realtor can’t tell you what home will be best for your family, they can make suggestions to help.


Above all, recognize that the home buying process takes time. It’s rare to find the prefect home on your time day touring. But, your new place is out there.

Four Great Homes Under $200,000

We are so lucky to live in the Grand Rapids market. So many things to do, great activities for the kids, and beautiful lakes to enjoy. Home Ownership is also a great benefit of living in Grand Rapids. I’ve compiled a list of my top 4 homes in the Grand Rapids area that are priced under $200,000. Take a peek at these awesome places:

39792 County Rd 129, Deer River: This log-sided manufactured home sits on 40 acres. With 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, its a hunter’s Shangri-la! Listed for just $142,000

 

2103 SW 3rd Ave, Grand Rapids: This beautifully updated Twin home is bright and spacious every where you turn. Move-in ready, this 2 bedroom, 2 bath home has a 2 car garage and is beautifully landscaped. Could this be your new home? Listed for $167,500

 

820 NW 2nd Ave, Grand Rapids: You won’t believe the spaciousness of this 3 bedroom, 3 bath home in NW Grand Rapids. A roomy kitchen, Master suite with walk-in closet, and more. This home has been well maintained and is move-in ready. Listed for $174,000

 

47425 Pagoda Rd, Deer River: This home is ready to enjoy! With stunning views of Bowstring Lake, this 2 bedroom, 1 bath home has a walkout basement with laundry, workshop, and storage. Listed for $199,000.

Let's visit some of these great properties.  Just give me a call!