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August is the time when parents start thinking about the upcoming school year. With the shift toward online learning, and the uncertainty of what this fall’s school year will hold, now is a great time to consider the need for better work spaces at home. Whether it will be distance learning, in-school classes, or some hybrid-learning environment this fall, it is a good idea to set up a place for kids to do school related work. Let’s discuss some things to consider when planning an ultimate homework station.
What is a homework station? It is a designated work space for kids to learn, study, and complete assignments. A designated space means one specific location that is designed for your child(ren) to focus on homework everyday. The amount of space you can allow for this will of course depend on the space available in your home. Ideally it should be a quiet space away from distractions and interruptions. It would be a bonus if it’s a space that they can personalize and call their own. Even if you are unable to dedicate a homework only space, it is still a good idea to set up one specific area that can be easily converted to homework space on a daily basis. Some key elements to a homework space include:
Uncluttered Work Surface. Children need a flat surface to spread out their work and the area should be free of clutter to avoid distractions.
Comfortable. Select seating that is comfortable and supportive. This is especially important as the amount of time spent doing homework at home increases. Along the same lines, the workspace should have adequate lighting.
All Supplies in One Place. This will help them focus on the work at hand. It will also help decrease the all too often “where is my…?” inquiry. If the homework station is in a space that serves another purpose (i.e. kitchen table, etc), consider a supply caddy to organize the supplies. A caddy can keep all the supplies in one spot, but still be easily removed. Talk to your kids about what they may need. Some examples are writing/drawing instruments, paper supplies, art supplies, math supplies, poster board (keep one on hand to avoid last minute project panic), stapler, paper clips, pencil sharpeners, three hole punch. Consider a clock or timer to help your kids learn to manage their own time. Also consider power supply for the electronics that are needed.
Organized. Think paper organization, In/Out trays, a posting area such as a tack or dry erase board, calendar, cable/electronic organization. All this should be within reach of the desk/working surface. There should also be a place for backpacks within reach.
With all the new uncertainty going on right now, having some routine and special place for your children to do school related work can help reduce some of the stress for you and your children. We hope you find this helpful. In the meantime, don’t forget to soak up some sun before the school year!
For those of you who are considering buying a new home, we have good news: finding the most accurate information on currently available listings has never been easier. During the second week in May, Northstar MLS Matrix released a long-awaited update to the client’s search portal. Now when a client goes to view searches built by their realtor, the client will see a new button that reads “new search.” The client can then create their own search or multiple customized searches. Searching for homes using the MLS portal allows for the most detailed search available. It also provides the most accurate and up to date information.
Historically, low utilization of realtor-owned online tools (websites, mobile applications, etc.) prompted a demand for better tools for realtor clients. Many clients have preferred third party tools like those on offer from Zillow, Trulia, etc. The ability for clients to create their own searches directly in their MLS Client Portal along with mobile applications like HomeSpotter and HomeSnap are in response to frustration from both clients and realtors. However, many clients still choose to use third party apps/websites due to their familiarity with the name Zillow, and the simple fact that oftentimes those apps tend to be more user friendly for the client. With that in mind, you may wonder, if I can use third party websites/apps that are easier to use, why would I choose to work with a realtor? Here are three reasons why realtors bring more value to the table than third party apps/websites:
Get the Most Accurate Data: Sometimes when a client asks about a listing from Zillow that was not on their MLS search, it turns out that the listing is already pending or sold. Clients often become frustrated when they fall in love with a home on Zillow, but later find out the home is no longer available. Additionally, because a homeowner (seller) is able to update certain information on the home on these 3rd party websites, occasionally there is inaccurate information that was entered inadvertently. Live data streams from the MLS are the best direct source of information.
Expertise and Focus: There are instances when a client asks about a listing on a third party website and later realizes that the listing in question does not meet the search criteria that they initially discussed with their realtor. Sometimes the listing may have fewer bedrooms, bathrooms, garage spaces, or less finished square footage than originally set as a requirement by the buyer(s). Often the listing may exceed their budget in asking price, maintenance fees, or carrying costs and upkeep. One key function of a realtor is to continually assess the clients’ true needs and wants as they tour and evaluate different properties. A good realtor will also help assess true market value and compare that to the buyers’ expectations.
Choose a Dedicated Advocate with Your Goals in MInd: Home buyers that casually search on third party websites are missing out on one important component of home buying- a knowledgeable advocate that invests time in them to understand their goals. Zillow users may click the “contact agent” button on a property listing, thinking that it contacts the listing agent. This button may connect them to a realtor that simply has purchased ads. This agent may not know about the property, and certainly does not know if it meets your needs. The agent is unable to highlight things that you may want to consider based on what they know about you, and your offer strategy and execution may be compromised.
Not all buyers are ready to start their search in earnest, but it is wise to connect with a buyer’s agent with experience to help you plan the best search and offer strategy, even if your timeline is several years or longer. That way, when you find that dream home, you’ll know exactly what to do and not miss out on the opportunity.
When restaurants closed, I think we all panicked a little. Having triplets means extensive meal planning, cooking, and of course, cleaning. Maggie and I are no strangers to cooking at home, but we love the Minnesota food scene and regularly enjoy a meal out. Savoring local delights and avoiding cleaning duties was a Saturday night ritual we took for granted! We felt blessed to afford the weekly dining out experience and knew budgets and priorities could change, but we never thought the opportunity would disappear.
After hearing of the government’s plan to shut down restaurants, salons, spas, and other businesses, and after our own selfish feelings subsided, we thought of our friends, family, and clients in the restaurant business. Many of them faced job loss and the challenges of serving their community and supporting their employees. In discussions with fellow business owners, anxiety of the unknown was the recurring theme. Should they continue to promote their businesses and plan to reopen to full capacity in weeks or months? Or would they come back with a downsized team? Would they close altogether? Those questions certainly made for some heavy conversations.
I know my clients are facing a similar question: Is now the right time to buy or sell? While we’re not sure if we can answer that question with a hard yes or no, we tried to answer a few fundamental, related questions. I hope these answers will help some of you make the decision about buying or selling during the pandemic.
DO PEOPLE STILL WANT TO BUY AND SELL HOMES RIGHT NOW?
Even in the midst of a crisis, society hasn’t halted completely. People are still moving in and out of homes. Plus even if buyers’ and sellers’ needs are changing (sellers might be conducting virtual tours instead of in-person tours, for example), they won’t necessarily just give up on buying or selling a home completely. Finally, some people are striving for some element of normalcy during this time, and for that reason might decide to press forward with their plans to move despite the uncertain times.
WILL BANKS STILL LEND?
When the market looks shaky, as it certainly does right now, lenders usually tend to hedge their bets a little more carefully. That said, when it comes to the residential housing market, early signs indicate that there aren’t any serious problems. However, like most things during this time, that could change.
WILL CHANGES IN QUALIFICATIONS, EMPLOYMENT, OR COMPENSATION BE AN ISSUE FOR POTENTIAL BUYERS?
In short, we can’t know for sure. People working in the health care industry, who were at first assumed to be immune to the economic downturn because of the essential nature of their jobs, are starting to also face financial challenges. That said, the hospitality and retail sectors were the hardest hit by the pandemic. However, we can’t know the full extent of this crisis on the populace’s ability to buy a home just yet.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO INVENTORY?
Inventory in most price segments was limited going into the fall of 2019. Real estate agents and buyers were optimistic that price increases would entice more sellers to sell, thereby improving inventory to consider. The coronavirus seems to have slowed sellers on a case-by-case basis, but no broad trend of seller apprehension has been mapped just yet. Properties marked “temporarily not available for showings” spiked in March and April, but things continue to improve looking into May and beyond.
WHAT WILL ACTIVITY LOOK LIKE?
Despite an initial downward trend, transaction volume for home sales is looking far better than expected. On top of that, experts have said that the first wave of coronavirus infections was not as bad as they feared it would be, whether that was because people stayed home or because of sheer luck. That could bode well for people getting back into the home-buying or selling process.
What happens next? Even though volatility in the market has been limited, things could definitely change. If you are concerned about the direction the market is headed for your specific property, feel free to call me and talk about it. Stay healthy and safe!
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With In-Home Technology
Whether you’re planning on selling your home or living in it for the next 10, 15, or 20 years, it’s important to think about the big picture when it comes to what kind of technology capabilities you want in your house. There are plenty of in-home technologies that can help you customize your living space to your preferences. Do you want a space that’s sleeker and more modern? Or do you want a space that’s cozy and comfortable? Chances are that some sort of technology will aid you as you strive to make each room of your home just right.
Smart technology is all the rage in homes right now. Whether you desire a simple thermostat that can be controlled remotely from your smartphone or a complex smart home platform that controls lighting, media, security monitoring, video, and climate, many options exist to fit your needs and budget. Before investing in smart home technology, it’s wise to consider the useful lifespan of your home’s mechanical systems. Water heater and HVAC technology hasn’t evolved as quickly as smart technology, but plenty of homes still run non-high-efficiency (non-HE) units. If your home doesn’t have an HE water heater or furnace, then it might be worth replacing, whether it’s for your own use or for the people moving in after you sell your house. HE mechanicals not only make your home more comfortable, efficient, and economical than traditional non-HE mechanical systems, but they also make your home more appealing to potential buyers.
Smart thermostats, lighting, and entertainment systems are often key consumer focuses, but the advent of affordable cloud storage has caused an explosion in the home video-monitoring segment. Ring is the brand name for doorbells at the forefront of consumers’ minds, but a host of new entrants to the space are revolutionizing the way we secure, monitor, and access our primary and secondary homes and properties. Commercial-grade security cameras that use power over ethernet (POE) connections are affordable for many consumers, and the modularity allows for property owners and even tenants to upgrade their video-monitoring systems as their budget allows over time. Although many home owners are still hesitant to start recording video in their home, exterior home video monitoring is nearly the standard of service for high-end and luxury homes. If you are serious about your home connectivity, then do not forget to budget for video monitoring.
If you’re planning on selling your home, you might think about inhome technology from a little bit of a different angle. Since the rise of the smartphone, smart technology has proliferated at a rate unheard of for any other form of technology ever. That makes it difficult if you want to sell your home because you can’t just think about the technology you want right now — you have to think of the technology that the next homeowners might want. Around 20 years ago, high-end homes all had massive media entertainment centers built right into the wall, and they were made obsolete by the invention of the flat-screen TV.
Could designers have known that the flat-screens would be incompatible with built-in media centers? Maybe, maybe not — but you might be able to infer a few technology choices that potential homebuyers will want. For example, a lot of people like having the option to play music in different rooms of the house. If you don’t have your home set up to potentially house speakers, then it could be a good feature to implement for future residents. I know my family and I love our Sonos speaker system!
For whatever you’re trying to achieve with your home — whether it be a place for parties and get-togethers or simply the perfect place to unwind after a hard day’s work — there’s the perfect technology to make it possible. What improvements do you want to make to your home?
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To Help You Discover Your Dream Home
If you’ve ever bought or sold a house with the help of Hale Properties, there’s a good chance you never interacted with me throughout the whole process. However, there’s also a good chance I was partly responsible for the sale going through. If we haven’t yet had the pleasure of helping you with your real estate needs but you follow us on social media or read the inserts in our monthly newsletter, then you have seen some of the graphics I designed for Hale Properties. My name is Anna Veloz, and I’ve worked alongside Fritz, Rocky, and Mark as the business operations and marketing assistant at Hale Properties for two years next month. Since you might not interact with me otherwise, I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself and let you know a little bit about me.
I started working in real estate in 2014, when I helped with similar tasks for a real estate firm in Florida. When I interviewed with Fritz, he was looking for someone who could help him process various business and marketing tasks, and after speaking briefly, he offered me the job. To be honest, neither of us knew if it would work out. Fritz was nice and seemed easy to work with, so I took the offer, optimistic it would be a good fit for me and my family. Today, I’m so glad I made that decision.
Since I started working with Fritz, I’ve worn a lot of different hats. Much of my time is spent in constant correspondence with title companies, lenders, processors, underwriters, inspectors, and home service vendors. We live in a very digital world, but paperwork in this complex process still exists and is necessary for buying or selling a home. Part of my job is making these steps easy, seamless, and even transparent to the client. A bulk of what I do, however, is marketing. I update and monitor Hale Properties’ social media profiles and design marketing materials that turn into postcards, flyers, brochures, and digital media that are broadcast across the web in order to promote our clients’ properties for sale.
The marketing and graphic design side of things is what I’m really passionate about. I get a chance to stretch my creativity every day, and no two projects are the same. It’s hard work to create new, interesting designs for Hale Properties’ clients to see, but getting to see the finished product when I’m done makes it all worth it.
One thing that I’ve loved about working with Fritz is that he doesn’t micromanage me. He gives me complete control over the graphic design and marketing process and trusts me to create worthwhile content. He gives me enough room for creativity, and that makes my job more fun! One of the reasons why I’ve stayed with Hale Properties for the past two years is because I can tell that Fritz truly values me as a team member and values my contributions to the company on behalf of our clients.
Even though I might never see you in person, I’m glad I’ve had the chance to introduce myself to all of you and share a little bit about what I do at Hale Properties. If you’re in the process of buying or selling a home right now, I look forward to playing a role in such a big part of your life from behind the scenes. If there is anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to reach out! I am excited to help.
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Making Homes for Experiences, Not for Stuff
Now that Thanksgiving has passed and we have Christmas and New Year’s to look forward to, many homebuyers and home sellers are thinking ahead to spring. Although homes sell well to various buyers throughout the year, spring in Minnesota is often when traditional sellers think about selling, and traditional buyers are eager to get out of their hibernation and tour homes, which means the best time to start prepping for either process is right now. So, if buying or selling your home is your New Year’s resolution, why not start early? You can do plenty of things to make sure you’re ready to go.
If you’re looking to sell next spring, it’s best to start preparing your home by decluttering. If you need a copy of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” send me a quick email for your free copy! “Tidying Up,” as Kondo would suggest, has profound effects on your home as well as your mind. Not only do well-cared-for, owner-occupied homes sell fast in the spring market, but they also sell for top dollar. After decluttering your home and mind, you may want to tackle deferred maintenance projects. If you do not know where to start, a thorough home inspection, like the type a buyer will perform, is an awesome way to get ahead of potential buyer concerns. Choosing the right inspector is important. For that, we recommend you check out the crew at StructureTech1.com. After receiving your report, we can help you prioritize your time and money to greatest effect.
After structural and mechanical systems are sorted, aesthetic improvements are your next area of focus. When you’re prepping your home for sale, pay special attention to ways you can improve the highest-traffic rooms in the house: the kitchen and the bathrooms. There are a few ways you can freshen up these rooms, including regrouting tiles or recaulking showers and tubs. You could even go as far as redoing your countertops if they’re looking a little outdated, but even just replacing faucets can go a long way in giving those spaces an updated look.
While some yardwork simply can’t be done until it gets a little warmer, start looking for ways to improve the curb appeal of your home. Do you need to clean any patio furniture? Do you need to remove any dead or obtrusive bushes or trees from your yard? Even if you can’t do these things right away, it helps to have a list of yardwork and landscaping tasks in mind for when it warms up.
Though there might not be as much prep work for those of you planning to buy a home in the spring, you can begin preparing right now in a few ways. Start familiarizing yourself with the city or neighborhood you’re planning on moving to. Drive around different streets and talk to locals about buying a house in that area. It also can’t hurt to talk to a qualified and knowledgeable real estate agent about your future community.
Ultimately, home sellers should focus on creating a space where new families can see themselves making memories. Experiences with the people you love are far more important than any gift or things you can fill your house with. Homebuyers should look for a place where they can envision their family creating these experiences. For the past few years, our family’s holiday seasons have been pretty crazy. After Maggie and I had triplets in November of 2017, our Christmas season was full of sleepless nights. The next year, when they were all 1-year-olds, it wasn’t much different, though we started to see the light, and the girls loved eating all the food in our home and the homes of our families. This year, the girls are old enough to appreciate their holiday season experiences — and after two years of parenting in survival mode, I will gain a new appreciation for the experiences we can share with family as well. Although we don’t specialize in holiday decorations, if you need help preparing to sell your home and creating a space where families can share experiences, please give us a call or drop us an email. From Maggie, me, Lola, Mila, and Nora, we wish you the most blessed holiday season and hope your time and homes are filled with experiences you will remember for a long time!
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The Origin Story of Hale Properties
My experience in the real estate business started back in 2004, when I bought my first investment property. As I was going through the buying process, I found that online information about making smart investments in real estate was extremely limited, but I wanted to learn as much as I could to be a better investor. That was how I came to the decision to earn my real estate license.
I grew up watching my mother build her dental practice to better serve her patients, and I knew that I would want to follow her lead and own a real estate brokerage someday. New real estate licensees are still required to have an experienced broker hold their license for at least two years before becoming an independently licensed broker. So, from 2005–07, I worked for a friend’s father’s brokerage to meet that requirement while continuing to work at my mother’s dental practice, Omega Dental Care, as well. During those two years, I saw the emergence of a lot of technologies that I could use as a realtor to connect with clients without going through a big brokerage with a lot of employees. For the first time, smart phones allowed us to access secure listings without the use of additional cumbersome and bulky hardware. Digital photography, videography, and 3D walking tours allowed us to market property in new and innovative ways. Property specific webpages for our listings could now be generated for pennies on the dollar, and email, text, and other online resources made it easier and more cost-effective for me to connect with clients directly. With that in mind, I finished up my two years at the brokerage and struck out on my own. Hale Properties, Inc. was born.
For around 10 years, I worked as a real estate broker and continued to help out at Omega Dental Care. For much of that time, my wife, Maggie, and I talked about choosing to pursue one or the other full time. Working solely in real estate would mean that I could give more attention to my clients, but I was so busy at the dental clinic that I wasn’t sure how to make the transition. Then came the lack swan event of our lives: in December 2017, my wife gave birth to identical triplet girls. Having children is always life-changing, but going immediately from zero kids to three meant I had to make a pretty big decision about how to best to allocate my time, and provide for our newest family members. Two years ago, I decided to dedicate my time to the real estate brokerage full time. Thanks to awesome friends, repeat clients, and trusted referrals, the decision has paid off.
Client challenges are my challenges, but it is always rewarding. Whether working with buyers or sellers, no two listings are the same. We are marketing our clients’ homes in
an environment where buyers’ time and their representatives’ time to focus is limited, and buyers often feel overwhelmed. This creates a unique opportunity to connect with them in person. Although the convenience of online scheduling tools allows sellers to efficiently approve or reschedule showing requests, we, as the listing broker, always reach out personally to showing agents to highlight verbally and in person the unique features and selling points of our clients’ homes. We still use the best technology on the planet to highlight these benefits, but nothing can replace a phone call or personal private tour of a home by the representative that knows the home features best.
Despite the challenges, there is nothing as rewarding as helping a client buy or sell a home, and the advances in technology that got Hale Properties started keep us competitive. There have been multiple occasions where I’ve used FaceTime to help clients tour homes when they couldn’t make it in person, saving them time and money, and that’s just one example. That said, we never let that tech get in the way of forming personal connections with our clients throughout the homebuying process.
At Hale Properties, we operate where technological efficiency and personability meet, and we strive to help our clients feel comfortable and informed throughout the entire homebuying process.
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