Home Staging May Not Be Optional


As you get your home ready to sell you will hear a lot about ‘curb appeal’.  So you put in the time and energy to make sure those ‘maybe’ shoppers who are just going to ‘drive by’ slow way down and take a good look at your home as a clean, well maintained, solid investment.

This gets them in the driveway and making an appointment to tour your home.  There’s an old real estate truism that says buyers make a decision on whether or not to move forward with writing an offer within the first ten seconds of walking in the door.

From the moment they walk in the door they are doing a high speed scan of everything in sight from the light fixtures and cob webs to the color of the paint and texture of the furnishings, to the finish on the floors and the condition of the baseboards.  You get ten seconds. 

As the seller you are looking for the buyer or buyer(s) to see the beauty and potential of your home that you saw when you bought it.  That brings us to the professional home stager.

I spoke with Chad Neiberger owner of Ambiance at Home the Twin Cities premier home staging company.  Chad said, “Home staging is more than playing musical furniture.  It is presenting your home in its most polished state, it is about the furniture groupings, but it is also about lighting, and making the environment neutral and appealing, making your home inviting”.

Ambiance at Home is staffed with professional designers that will work with the home owner to make a notable first impression on potential homebuyers.  Ambiance at Home is happy to provide you with a free consultation.

“To achieve the greatest possible result,” Chad adds, “a home should be presented in its very best light from the time it goes on the market.  Your asking price may be directly influenced by the home staging process.  Chad noted, “Ambiance at Home had more than twenty properties staged in the recent Parade of Homes, a testament to their working relationships with builders and Realtors”.

Before you list talk with your Realtor or contact Ambiance at Home.  They will be able to tell you if home staging would be of benefit.  If you know in advance that it would be in your best interest to hire a professional staging company to maximize your return and shorten your days on the market you can budget accordingly. 

Next time you are out looking at properties ask if they have been professionally staged.  Then ask yourself if it made a difference in how you viewed the property?  I think overwhelmingly you will answer yes.  Remember you get ten seconds.  I think home staging could make all the difference in selling your home, and you might only know by consulting a professional.

Staging your home for sale is more than keeping the grass cut and picking up the dirty cloths.  Make sure the ten seconds the potential buyers spend looking at your home is the ten seconds they are talking about when they are backing out of your driveway.

Properly priced, well maintained, and effectively presented homes sell quickly and for top dollar.  Find Chad Neiberger at www.ambiance-athome.com .

 If you are thnking about selling call us first.  Roxie the Realtor and Team where we make it happen and you make it home.  www.roxietherealtor.com 


Time for Spring Cleaning

 Spring Cleaning typically refers to the annual springtime ritual of cleaning a house  from top to bottom.

This usually happens when the weather gets warm, the air is fresh, the windows are opened and we are overcome with the urge to make everything inside our homes sparkle, shine and smell good.

This month I wanted to talk about ten areas to think about when it comes to spring cleaning:

  1.  Clutter Management.  Spring is the perfect time to go through those piles and remove the excess from your home.  Try three big clear plastic bins for keep, file and trash.  That will help you make a good start.
  2. Digital Management.  Take those documents from the file above bin and create a digital version.  Put those electronic files on a zip drive for storage.  Delete old email folders and unsubscribe to email blasts and newsletters that are no longer relevant.  Organize digital documents into folders.
  3.  Ceiling Fans.  These get a good cleaning, a replacement of burnt out light bulbs and a tiny drop of lubricant.  When you are up there cleaning you will see where the lubricant goes, and be careful not to overdo it, as the excess will inevitably drip.
  4. Window Treatments.   Typically, you are going to wash the blinds, or put the washable drapes into the washing machine, but you may need to take the drapes to the dry cleaners.  Make sure you dust or clean above the windows along the casings, and the soft brush on your vacuum works nicely for the window hardware.
  5. Seasonal Clothing.  Properly stored in a clean, cool, dry space out of the sunlight, preferably in clear easy to see through bins, will keep your winter clothing in good shape and easily accessible when the autumn rolls around.
  6. Mattress Management.  Remove and wash the mattress covers and inspect the mattress for wear and tear.  You may need to flip the mattress or just turn it to increase longevity. 
  7. Appliance management.  This is a great time of year for an appliance checkup.  The cooling coils of the refrigerator need to be vacuumed, the dryer vents need to be cleaned all the way to the outside venting, and it is a good time to change the furnace and air condition filters and clean the humidifier.  If you are not comfortable with doing these tasks yourself, this would be a good service to investigate hiring an expert.  We count on our appliances to function properly when we ask them, and replacing or repairing any of them can be very expensive.  Preventative maintenance with your appliances will pay big dividends.
  8. The Garage.  I recommend that you take everything out of the garage and take the hose in and start by giving it a thorough cleaning using powdered Tide and lots of water.  The nice warm weather will have it dry and ready for use in no time.  To most this will seem a useless task, but it is very likely that your garage is the last resort for the ‘what do we do with this’ treasury you have saved.  This is a good time of year to try some new organization strategies for fishing, sports and tools.  Again, as a big fan of the clear bin it’s a good time to store all those Christmas decorations in a visible and easily accessible manner.
  9. Deck and Patio Spaces.  While you have everything out of the garage and you are waiting for it to dry it is time to get your outdoor spaces ready to entertain.  Clean the decks and patios and the furniture that goes on them and get it setup.  It may be a little early for any serious landscaping but a great time for some basic landscape repairs if any are required.  Some things are more accessible now before the foliage is in full growth mode.  It is also a good time to clean the exterior of the house that adjoins your patio and deck spaces, paying attention to the nooks and crannies and the windows and doors.
  10. The Grill.  Whether you have been using your grill in the snow or it’s been stored away for the winter now is the time to give it a thorough cleaning.  Get the grate off and get it cleaned.  Clean out the bottom of the grill and empty the drain container.  Get your propane tank filled and make sure the grilling utensils are clean and convenient for use.

So let’s get busy there’s no procrastination allowed.  It will be summer in no time and having everything clean, organized and in its place will take away a lot of guesswork and frustration.  If that isn’t enough you could defrost the freezer, update the first aid kit, and make big piles for the Disabled Vets to pick up.

If you are thinking about listing your house for sale this list is a minimum to maximize value.  A well maintained and properly priced home will sell very quickly.

If you are not selling this year my guess is by the time you have everything back in the garage and organized, the grill will be calling your name, your iTunes will be playing and you will remember why you bought that big soft deck chair in the first place.

If you or anyone you know is thinking about buying or selling give Roxie the Realtor and Team a call.  We make it happen, and you make it home.  Roxie Robertson

First Time Homebuyers: Prepare

As the season moves into springtime the home buying market starts to see lots of activities on the positive side of the home buying, building and selling process.  From early March through April you are reminded by the Parade of Homes which features new homes in every neighborhood throughout the metro.  You are continually reminded that the mortgage rates are at historic lows and the opportunity to purchase at low prices is ever present.  Your friends and family members are talking about looking at property and buying a home and you are starting to think about buying your first home?

I can’t stress enough the importance of being prepared.  Of understanding what you are getting yourself into, and of making a good decision regarding your new home purchase.  Buying a home is probably the largest purchase you’ll ever make.  Empower yourself with information to make smart decisions and become a successful homeowner.  Understand the home buying process and be prepared for the important choices related to home ownership.  There are many resources available to first time homebuyers but one stands out among the rest, The Minnesota Home Ownership Center.

The Minnesota Home Ownership Center offers resources and education to first time home buyers.  They offer home buyer workshops they refer appropriately as the “home stretch”.  Home Stretch workshops are offered throughout the state of Minnesota and cover, start-to-finish, the entire home buying process. The Home Stretch Workshop will help you become an informed, prepared consumer. The workshop offers objective, practical information to help you get on the path to homeownership.  They will help you:  

◦Determine your financial situation

◦Understand credit, credit issues, and how credit affects the costs of homeownership

◦Decide what type of mortgage is best for your needs

◦Select the right home for your family

◦Understand the loan closing process

◦Find special programs just for first-time homebuyers, and more!

The Minnesota Home Ownership Center has a staff of Housing Counselors that will work with you to:

◦Determine what you can afford

◦Develop a budget and savings plan

◦Address credit problems that could prevent you from getting a mortgage

◦Create a customized Action Plan with specific, manageable steps to help you achieve your goals

As part of the counseling process, and for a nominal fee, a Housing Counselor can provide you a copy of your credit report that includes your credit score.

Not sure what your next steps should be? Wondering if you might qualify for any down payment or first-time home buyer programs? Housing Counselors offer free private & confidential one-on-one professional advice to help you achieve your dream of homeownership.

So remember you are not alone in the home buying process.  You have smart professionals available to arm you with all of the information you need to make good decisions.  And, once you have the confidence and knowledge to move forward.  Roxie the Realtor and Team are here to help you bring your desire to own a home to fruition, so that you too can realize the dream of homeownership.

Roxie the Realtor and Team, where we make it happen, and you make it home.

Minnesota Homeowner’s Property Tax Refund

Welcome to 2012 and Happy New Year.  This month I am writing to remind you about the Minnesota homeowner’s property tax refund program.

Minnesota has two property tax refund programs for homeowners:  the regular property tax refund and the special property tax refund.  You may be eligible for one or both, depending on your income and the size of your property tax bill. 

Regular Property Tax Refund

The regular property tax refund is for people who own and reside in their home on January 2, 2012.  There are household income limits for eligibility.  Households with no dependents have an income limit of $99,240.00.  For households with dependents the limit increases with family size, up to $121,140.00 for households with five or more dependents.  And, senior or homeowners with certain disabilities may be eligible with household incomes up to $124,790.00

To apply for a regular property tax refund or determine if you are eligible you will complete a Minnesota Property Tax Form M1PR.  Your household income is determined upon completion of Form M1PR.  If you have questions consult your tax professional.  If you need the referral of a CPA contact me and I can make a recommendation.

The size of the refund is dependent upon several factors, including household income, number of dependents, and how much property tax you paid.  The maximum a homeowner can receive for 2011 is $2,460.00.

Special Property Tax Refund

This is a bit more interesting and complicated.  To qualify for the special property tax refund you must have occupied and owned the same house on both January 2, 2011 and January 2, 2012.  The net property tax on your homestead must have increased by more than 12% from 2011 to 2012, and the increase is more than $100.00 and not attributable to new improvements.

There is no household income limit for the special property tax refund.  You may qualify for the special refund even if you do not qualify for the 2011 regular property tax refund.

The maximum refund a homeowner can receive is $1,000.00.  Consult your tax preparation professional.

The State of Minnesota Department of Revenue has all of the specific requirements and covers all the contingencies for things related to timing, and filing and homesteading.  You will find it to be an informative resource.

As always do not hesitate to contact me with your real estate needs.  If you are looking to sell or buy a new home, or know anyone who is, call me.  We make it happen, and you make it home.  Roxie

Smart Negotiation Strategy

When it comes to negotiating on behalf of my clients, I keep the following strategy based on real life experience in mind:

I like to find a location that’s quiet, neutral, pleasant,and away from distractions.  It’s best if everyone turns off their devices, and refrains from calls or texts during the offer presentation and negotiations. I make sure early on that all parties have given themselves enough time. Experience has taught me that rushing through a negotiation almost always works against you.

I never enter the negotiation without having done my homework. I verify any outstanding facts before the negotiation begins. Later fact-finding can cause a negotiation to languish. I never assume I know what the other party wants. I find it far more prudent to assume I don’t know and move the negotiation along through discovery and questioning.

I represent clients and have been hired to act on their wishes. At times I may not agree with their position, but I never share that with the other side. If I feel a client’s position is less than optimal, I only discuss it with them in private. I always present a united front with my clients.

It’s very simple… treat everyone in the negotiation with respect, regardless of personal opinions. If anyone disagrees, disagree with the idea, not the person.

I discuss concessions with my clients before they enter into any negotiations and only offer these concessions when we absolutely need to concede something. I usually advise to leave room to negotiate. A negotiationis not the place to be shy, and I recommend asking for everything you might want, and maybe more.

I advise not to get caught up in items that don’t matter. Negotiations should never choke over a minor point. I like to get agreement on major points suchas price and terms and put lesser items aside to return to later.

Knowledge is power in a negotiation. Telling the other side any specific information, however seemingly insignificant, could weaken my clients’ position, so I never volunteer too much information. On the other hand, I learn as much about the other side as I can.

I always advise to be careful about accepting any offer to quickly. Even if the offer is almost everything you want. Resentment may arise later in the transaction if you leave the other party feeling that they started too low and/or should have held out for more.

In my mind, a successful negotiation is not where one side has pulverized the other. You don’t “win” a negotiation; you get the best possible outcome for your clients while doing the least harm. No one should leave a negotiation angry. After all, you never know when you might have to negotiate with the same people again.

When you need someone on your side in a real estate negotiation, contact me directly at Roxie@RoxietheRealtor.com

Keep your home on the market over the Holidays.

My good friend Owen Riess calls and says he’s doing a piece about whether or not I advise my clients to keep their homes listed over the holidays.  I say let’s talk and the following is what he comes back with. I hope that you will find the information useful.  As always, call me anytime because we make it happen, and you make it home.  Roxie

by Owen Riess

Here come the holidays.  Football is getting interesting, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  I’m having a pre-holiday planning conversation with my family who says “not at our house this year, it’s listed for sale.” Which got me to thinking, how do other folks handle the holidays while trying to sell their homes? 

 I mean, there are cookies to bake, gatherings to host, presents to buy and that darn ‘to do’ list that appears out of nowhere as a magic never ending scroll from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. For many, the idea of keeping the home clean and presentable for potential buyers on top of all that seems daunting.

 “Some clients don’t want to be unnecessarily interrupted during their holiday traditions,” said Roxie Robertson, a Realtor with RE/MAX Advantage Plus.  “There’s enough going on with the holidays, I think it gets to the point where they are simply overloaded with so many things to do.”

 Roxie goes on to say, “despite the higher levels of activity around home and family it’s not impossible to sell a home during this time.  In fact, some real estate professionals look at it as an opportunity to separate themselves from the crowd.”

 “You can either be in a big pool of sellers come the spring season because everyone is waiting for that,” Marcia McLean of RE/MAX Results said.  “Or you can stand out and have fewer homes as competition during the holidays.”

 Robertson agrees. One year she sold 12 houses during the month of December, including a property on Christmas Eve Day.

 “A lot of agents don’t work in December, they just take time off,” McLean said. “But those who work can be very busy.”

 Apparently, there are two specific demographics that show up in force in November and December to look at houses.  Business executives traveling through the area who want to check out prospective places to relocate; and folks visiting relatives over the holidays who are considering returning to their roots.  “They may be less serious buyers, but buyers nonetheless,” Robertson said of the latter group.  “They will go out and look at homes as they consider the move back home.”

 McLean, who has worked in real estate for six years, said there are several ways sellers can help their home take center stage during the holidays. For example, simply adding a wreath and some greenery at the front door can make a big difference in that ever important first impression.

 “It puts people in a buying mood; it puts people in the holiday atmosphere,” McLean said.  “That’s why they do that at department stores.”

 If their home is a great place to entertain during the holidays, sellers can use that as a marketing point and invite agents and their clients to a holiday themed house. “Twilight opens are fun.” Robertson said. “You can have cookies, hot cider or sparkling water.”  If there’s a piano in the house, Robertson recommends hiring a pianist to play holiday music during the event. And, since this is Minnesota, why not hire a barista to serve up piping hot eggnog lattes and other popular espresso drinks?

 I asked McLean and Robertson for some holiday dos and don’ts for home sellers:


  • Create warmth.  “If you have a gas fireplace, make sure that’s on,” McLean said.  “Even for showings, it creates a nice ambiance.”
  • If the home is vacant, keep the thermostat set at a comfortable level.  “Buyers won’t stay in a house if it’s cold,” Robertson said.
  • Bring in the light. Winter days are short enough. Take advantage of all available natural light by keeping curtains pulled back during daytime showings. “Using soft incandescent light bulbs may not be as energy efficient as compact fluorescent, but they create a nicer, warmer look for a home,” Robertson said.
  • If the home is vacant, use automatic timers on lamps inside the home, both for security reasons and to create a better curb appeal for potential buyers. Consider using solar walkway lights and a timer for the front porch light, as well.  “There’s nothing worse when you’re trying to find an address and you can’t see it, or you’re walking up unfamiliar stairs in the dark, McLean said. “It just really needs to be light, bright, warm and inviting.”
  • Accommodate appointments. After comparing your home with other listings in the same size and price range on the internet, a potential buyer has probably driven by and checked out your home from the curb. An interested buyer will want to schedule an appointment to view your home. It’s not likely they will want to wait for your out-of-town visitors to leave, or you to finish sewing costumes for the church’s Nativity play. “A lot of home owners will shut their house down during the week of Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Year’s, and potential buyers can’t get into their house,” McLean said.  “And, when that happens, those buyers usually move on to other properties.”
  • It can be a hassle to maintain a home’s presentation, especially during the holidays, but sellers should keep the big picture in mind, said home staging professional Chad Neiberger, owner of Ambiance at Home.  “Maybe the best holiday gift we can get this year is a buyer,” he said.


  • Overdo holiday décor. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or another faith based holiday, prominently displayed menorahs, angels and other religious symbols can be a distraction for potential buyers.

 “There’s a small percentage of the population who could possibly be offended by that, or might not share your belief,” Neiberger said.  “But that being said, it’s the holiday season and most everybody understands that.” For those who can’t resist the urge to decorate for the holidays, he recommends concentrating all of that energy into a festive tree.  “Make it a gorgeous tree, but then maybe ease up on everything else,” Neiberger explained.  “Maybe this isn’t the year to put all the striped candy canes up and down the walk.”

  • Add mess to your stress. Fresh Christmas trees and wreaths smell great and look beautiful, but they’re also high maintenance. “Go, perhaps, with a high-quality artificial tree or wreath to keep it fresh all the time.” McLean said. “And, you won’t have to worry about that unexpected showing when you haven’t vacuumed all day.”
  • Let clutter creep in. The holiday season is a popular time for collectors to display their prized treasures.  But, collections equal clutter.  “Please keep your nutcracker collection safely packed for your new home.”  Robertson said.
  • Go overboard with holiday aromas.  From candy cane hand soap to gingerbread candles, there are literally dozens of ways to bring the scent of the holiday into your home.  But a potential buyer may not share your passion for pine, peppermint or the popular orange-clove-cinnamon trio.  Not to mention how the competing scents from candles, room sprays, and potpourri mixes can overwhelm the sense of smell.  It’s nice to have some attractive holiday scents in the house, but you don’t want to go overboard,” Robertson said.  “People might think you’re trying to cover up things like pet odors.”
  • Be a scrooge. With less competition during the holiday season, some might assume it’s easier to command a higher price on a property. But that probably won’t work, especially since home values have fallen in the last year. Price and presentation are the two main pillars in real estate, and that’s especially true for sellers who want to stay competitive during the holiday season, McLean said.  “You have to have a compelling price,” she said. “If you are overpriced, it could be a long dark season.”

  Find industry experts McLean, Neiberger and Robertson on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and follow their blogs on WordPress.

 Owen Riess is a twenty-five year Twin-Cities mortgage industry veteran, freelance writer and published author.

Roxie the Realtor

Welcome! Thank you for visiting my press page! I specialize in Real Estate Services in the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs with a primary focus in Anoka County so if you’re looking for Single Family Homes, Town Homes, Condos or Investments please give me a call. Your call will be returned.
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Roxie the Realtor