Real Estate Blog

A lot of work goes into buying and selling a home. A good Realtor can help you through the process, which is why you want to find one who is interested in really helping you – one who will go beyond listing your home, scheduling showings and walking you through the closing. The following practices will show you that your Realtor is going above and beyond to help you through the purchase or sale of your home.

1. When listing a home, they gather data on similar home sales in the area, listen to your thoughts and requests and provide advice on all aspects of the sale. This work can include installing yard signs, hosting open houses, taking photos of the rooms, staging furniture and even helping you determine which repairs to make and which to leave

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Many financial factors go into buying a house. You've got the price of the home, your down payment, your credit score, the current mortgage interest rate, the potential need for home mortgage insurance, tax payments, home insurance costs and more. All of these figures are calculated to determine what your monthly mortgage payment will be, and how much will go into escrow to cover insurance and taxes.

When you meet with a mortgage broker, they will provide you with charts showing how the numbers can be crunched so you can afford a home. As a buyer, you have control over two factors, and they can make all the difference in the world when trying to make a better home more affordable. These factors are your credit score and your down payment.

1. Credit

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While the Twin Cities housing market is improving, those wanting to buy a condo in the metro downtowns will need to do their homework and be prepared to act quickly. That's because we're seeing a lot of homeowners putting their condos up for rent, rather than listing them for sale. What this means for buyers is there will be a limited selection of condos available this summer, and prices will be very competitive.

There are many reasons why owners are choosing to rent out rather than sell. For some, it's an income. For others, it's easier, especially if they're going through a big change in life and have other details that need their attention. And others may be experiencing a short-term or temporary situation and intend to move back into their condo in

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You've decided on a listing price, your home and its beautiful photos are displayed on MSL, and there's a sign on your property advertising that the house is for sale. All of the sudden you've got showings scheduled. Is your home ready for potential buyers to see it?

Prepping a home for a showing can be simple or complicated, depending on your home and how it's already decorated. Here are some general steps to help your home look its best for potential buyers.

1. Give it a deep cleaning. If you don't already have a cleaning service coming by your house once a week, consider hiring one. When buyers see a grungy floor or layers of dust on furniture, it can be a big turn off. Once the big clean is accomplished, schedule weekly maintenance to keep it

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Valentine's Day offers an opportunity to take your sweetie out for a romantic meal. If you're still looking for the best places to celebrate, check out these restaurants in the Twin Cities:

Sapor Café - 428 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis - Reservations are required, and for the holiday, the restaurant will host a special three-course dinner that includes fish or seafood, as well as vegetarian and meat options for each course. The meal costs $45 per person and drinks are extra.

Forepaugh's - 276 S. Exchange St., St. Paul - This charming Victorian-style restaurant with a rumored love-story ghost living on the third floor will make for a very romantic Valentine's Day treat. This Valentine's Day menu is crafted by Executive Chef Donald Gonzalez and is

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When it comes to getting an education, Minneapolis and St. Paul residents don't have to go very far. The Twin Cities have excellent colleges and universities where students and professionals can earn a degree and stay on top of the latest learning available. Here are the top universities in the Twin Cities:

* University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - As the largest school with the most diverse programs, students can find any niche they need at this school. Tuition is also lower; for in-state students it was $13,626 in 2014-15. Undergraduates can enter into the four-year graduation plan, which guarantees that classes will be made available for the student to finish everything in four years – otherwise the university will reimburse student costs for the

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We've experienced some extreme cold spells these last two winters, and you've probably noticed it on your heating bills. Polar vortex is now a term well-recognized in every household, causing a shudder every it's mentioned. So how can you protect your home against the deep chill? Here are some helpful tips:

* If you live in an older home or just purchased one that's 20 years old or older, chances are your insulation has settled and your windows and doors might not be sealed as well as they should be. We recommend families sign up for an energy audit through their utility company, especially in homes that were built a couple of decades ago. Not only will the energy auditor investigate draft situations where cold air might be seeping into the

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The cold winter temperatures and snow we received in Minneapolis over the holiday finally made some cross country skiing trails open for the season. While we could still use a bit more of the white, fluffy stuff, be sure to plan some time enjoying winter in Minneapolis on a pair of cross country skis. Here are some of the trails that are open.

* Theodore Wirth Park - The Minneapolis Park Board has 15 miles of trails that are groomed daily and varying levels of difficulty. You'll need a pass to ski the park. Get yours at apm.activecommunities.com/minneapolisparks/Membership?package_id=305. You can also connect to the 5 miles of groomed trails in the Chain of Lakes neighborhood. This means if you live in Uptown and want to ski to Golden Valley, you can.

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Did you set a New Year's resolution to lose weight, get healthy or tone some muscles? If you did, check out the following fitness centers in the Twin Cities to get started:

* YMCA - There are seven YMCAs located in Minneapolis and St. Paul neighborhoods, putting at least one relatively close to your office or home if you live in a Minneapolis or St. Paul loft or condo. YMCAs are very family-oriented, providing fitness camps for children, as well as all the athletic and fitness classes and workshops you need as an adult.

* Anytime Fitness - Anytime Fitness has nine locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul. They offer fitness center access any time of the day or night, which is great for those who work different shifts.

* Lifetime Fitness -

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If you're looking to party, head to a concert or catch a comedy show to celebrate the end of 2014 and the beginning of a new year, here are the best places to keep you and your friends entertained.

Music and dancing

- First Avenue Danceteria - 8 p.m. - Get Cryphy, DJ Foolproof, (Cloud), Roy Freedom and DJ Smitty will have you on your feet to welcome the new year in style.

- Crystal Ball at International Market Square - The party will be hot at the annual Crystal Ball. Dessa, DJ Josh Taylor and DJ Strangelove will keep the party going strong well into the wee hours of the night. If you don't want to dance all night, get a table above to stay connected and enjoy the music.

Entertainment and costumes

- Chateau Marmont at Tangiers in

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