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The regional community of Alexandria, MN and the Douglas County area continue to grow and thrive, and this fact is being recognized throughout the region, state, and nation.

Site Selection Magazine ranked the Alexandria Micropolitan statistical area as the fastest growing MSA in Minnesota and tied for the position of the 6th fastest growing MSA in the United States.

For a project to qualify, new construction must take place and meet one of the following:

1. Employees = 50 or more
2. Square Footage = 20,000 or more
3. Investment = $1,000,000 or more (construction cost, land, and building).

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The Qualified Mortgage Rule came into effect on January 14, 2014 as one of the results to the Dodd Frank Reform Act to protect consumers from predatory lending practices.  This will affect the underwriting standards that the majority of lenders will use to qualify borrowers.  image.ashx

The ability to repay rule states that financial information must be supplied by the borrower and verified by the lender.  The borrower must have sufficient assets or income to pay back the loan which limits the maximum debt-to-income ratio of 43%.  In an effort to present a more accurate picture of the costs to the borrower, teaser rates can no longer hide a mortgage’s true cost.

A maximum of 3% in upfront points and fees can be paid on behalf of the borrower.  There can be no negative amortization, interest-only or balloon payments and the loan term limit cannot exceed 30 years.

While there are more requirements, most deal with good underwriting practices that are followed by reputable lenders such as considering and verifying things that affect the ability to repay the mortgage like income, assets, employment status, simultaneous loans, debt, alimony, child support and credit history.

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Coffee should be hot. Beer should be cold. Mexican food should be spicy.  However, if these things are less than the standard that you expect, there are not any lasting consequences.

As the value of the object in question rises, either in price or gravity, the expectations usually increase and decisions become progressively more important.  Marriage, children, health and careers are certainly a few of the more important items that bear careful consideration. image.ashx

The sale of the largest asset that most people own, their home, also merits having reasonable expectations.  A homeowner should expect to get the market value for their home in a reasonable period of time with as few inconveniences as possible.

According to the latest Home Buyers and Sellers Survey, more homeowners are entrusting the sale of their home to real estate professionals.  Owners can increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome by sharing their expectations with agents prior to listing their home for sale.

Challenge your agent to explain what they intend to do to:

  • Price the home correctly
  • Prepare the home to make a good impression
  • Position the home in the marketplace

It is reasonable for a seller to expect the agent will work hard to sell the home; will tell the truth and represent the client’s interests to the best of their ability.  Agents exemplify remarkable service when they when they exceed the seller’s expectations.

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The more things you have, the more you have to take care of.  And in this case, the more that you have to store that gets in the way of finding the things that you actually use.  Periodically, you need to go through every closet, drawer, cabinet and storage area to get rid of the things that are just taking up space in your home and your life.  image.ashx

Every item requires the decision to retain or remove.  Consider these questions as you examine each item:

• When was the last time you used it?
• Do you believe you’ll use it again?
• Is there a sentimental reason to keep it?

You have four options for the things that you’re not going to keep.  If you know someone who needs it or will appreciate it, you can give it to them.  You can sell it in a garage sale or on Craig’s List.  You can donate it to a charity and receive a tax deduction or you can discard it to the trash.

Start with your closet. If you haven’t worn something in five years, get rid of it.  Then, go through the things again and if you haven’t worn it in two years, ask yourself the real probability that you’ll wear it again.

Another way to do it is to move it from your active closet to another closet.  If a year goes by in the other closet, the next time you go through this exercise, those clothes are on their way out.

If the items taking up space are financial records and receipts, the solution may be to scan them and store them in the cloud.  There are plenty of sites that will offer you several gigabytes of free space and it may cost as little as $10 a month for 100 GB at Dropbox to get the additional space you need.  It will certainly be cheaper than the mini-storage building.

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A ½% increase in interest rate may not sound like much but it is roughly equivalent to a 5% increase in price.  It becomes obvious when you compare the payments. image.ashx

If you financed 100% of the cost of a $250,000 home at 4.5% interest for 30 years, the payment would be $1,266.71 per month.  If the mortgage rate went up to 5%, the payment would be $1,342.05.  If the home increased 5% in value, the $262,250 loan at the lower 4.5% rate would have payments of $1,330.05.

The two payments are close enough to justify the statement that a ½% change in interest is approximately equal to 5% change in price.

Each time interest rates go up, fewer people can qualify to buy a seller’s home.  The mortgage rules that went into effect this year require buyers to meet specific payment to income ratios.  As demand picks up for the seasonal market, most experts expect rates to increase.

Buyers will be doubly challenged in the current market because prices are rising (NAR reports 11% last year) along with the anticipated mortgage rates.  Buyers who wait will inevitably be paying more to live in the same home had they acted sooner.

Check out on how Interest Affects Price for a home in your price range.

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A certificate of deposit will generate a cash flow based on the interest rate that it pays which is the only way it generates a return for the investor. image.ashx

An investment in a stock that doesn’t pay dividends, would need to be worth more than you paid for it to earn a profit.  On the other hand, a stock that paid dividends could make the investor a profit even if it sold for the same price that he paid for it.

Investors can profit four different ways with an investment in rental real estate.

1. Cash flows that result from having a surplus after collecting the rent and paying the expenses.

2. Equity build-up results from a portion of each monthly payment reducing the unpaid balance.

3. Tax benefits can result from the depreciation allowed on the property and the preferential long-term capital gains tax rate.

4. Appreciation benefits the investor when the value of the property increases.

The most conservative investors in real estate make decisions to purchase a rental property based on its ability to generate a cash flow and reduce the mortgage through normal amortization.  If the property can offer an acceptable rate of return compared to other available investments, the tax benefits and possible appreciation become an added bonus.

With increased rents and low mortgage rates for investors, rental property can offer significantly higher returns than many of the available alternatives.  Contact me for more information- paulajackson@realtor.com; you may be amazed about what is available in the market.

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“I’d wish I’d know that before I made a decision.”  If you’ve ever regrettably said this to yourself, having a checklist might have prevented the issue in the first place.  This list of questions can provide you with things to discuss when interviewing a moving company. image.ashx

Fees

  • What is the charge for packing?
  • Does it include boxes? If not, what do they cost and will you deliver them?
  • Is there an additional charge to deliver some items to a storage unit?

Insurance

  • How is a damage claim handled?
  • What insurance do you provide and is there a cost?
  • Does the insurance cover items packed by the owner?
  • Can additional insurance be purchased?
  • If items are covered by my Homeowner’s insurance, whose insurance pays first?

Unusual Items

  • Can you ship my car(s)? Will they be in the moving van or towed?
  • What are the charges for shipping cars, lawn tractors, etc?
  • What items cannot be shipped?
  • If a shuttle truck is needed because of the location of my house or size of the drive way, is there an additional charge?
  • If packing and loading are on different days, can you leave the beds and other basics out for us to use?

Dates

  • What dates are available for our move?
  • What date will you pack and how long will this take?
  • What date will you load the van?
  • What date will the van arrive at my new location?
  • If my new home is not ready for delivery, how many days can it be delayed before there is a charge?
  • What is the charge for additional days or weeks?

Terms

  • Are there any additional fees that I’m responsible for that have not been discussed?
  • What are the terms of payment?
  • Is a down payment required?
  • When will the balance be due and who is authorized to accept it?
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One of the most frequent calls from homeowners to their agents is about the listing’s inactivity due to the lack of showings.  The homeowner commonly believes that the home is shown only when a buyer walks through the house with an agent.

Today’s buyers are more sophisticated than in the past due to the abundance of information available to the public on the Internet.  There are seemingly inexhaustible sites with homes for sale, valuation estimates and virtual tours.  There are extensive mapping sites with satellite images, traffic conditions, entertainment, shopping and other points of interest.

There are actually three legitimate types of property showings.  A knowledgeable buyer can view a home for sale online and make a reasonable determination of whether the home will fit their needs.  Occasionally, buyers will drive by a home to get a feel for the home and also the neighborhood which might cause them to eliminate any further examination or consideration.  image.ashx

The third type, the physical showing, certainly gives the buyer the opportunity for the closest scrutiny but is generally reserved for properties that have passed the inspections of at least one other type of showing.

Sellers should be aware of the different types of showings and that a sales agent’s job is to help the buyer find the right home.  The listing agent’s job is to market the home so that the right buyer finds it either through their own efforts or that of the buyer’s agent.

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If you’ve considered changing your light bulbs to energy-saving LED bulbs but decided not to make the investment because the prices were too high, you might want to investigate again.  The prices have come down considerably. image.ashx

An initial investment now will generate immediate returns through energy costs and because they last longer, you won’t need to replace them for years.

The life of LED bulbs is projected to be from 35,000 to 50,000 hours compared to an incandescent bulb at 750 to 2,000 hours.  For normal home use, a LED bulb could last more than 20 years.

80-90% of the energy used by fluorescent and incandescent bulbs is wasted by the heat generated.  In contrast, cool LED bulbs converts 80% of the electrical energy to light energy.

• The color of LED lights is bright white, more like daylight, instead of the warm yellow of incandescent or the greenish tint of fluorescent bulbs.

• LEDs light up instantly instead of building to their intensity like some of the fluorescent bulbs.

• LEDs are more durable because they don’t have filaments or thin-glass bulbs like incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.

Shop around to find the best price on LEDs. If the LED only lasted 20,000 hours, you might have to purchase 20 incandescent bulbs during that same period of time.  Using the chart below, you can see that the LED uses about 10% of the wattage without compromising on the brightness.

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The energy-efficient home upgrades tax credit is scheduled to expire on December 31st this year.  If you need to make improvements to your home, this could be an incentive to do it before the end of the year.  If you have already made qualifying improvements without realizing the tax credit is available, it may seem like a holiday gift you weren’t expecting.

The equipment must be installed to qualify for the credit which can put you under a time crunch.  Heating and cooling systems, insulation, windows, doors, skylights, water heaters and home weatherization may qualify. image.ashx

The Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit has been available for purchases since January 1, 2011.  The tax credit is 10% of up to $5,000 of qualifying improvements which would make a maximum of $500 tax credit.

The cumulative maximum amount of tax credit that can be claimed by a taxpayer in the different years this law has been in effect is $500.  If it has been claimed in previous years, the taxpayer is not eligible for this credit for additional new purchases.

For more information, see energy.gov or talk to your tax professional.

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