West Central Living (June 2022)

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west central tribune, willmar, Minn. | Wednesday, June 15, 2022

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Photos by Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

A home is marked with signage signaling that it will soon hit the market in New London on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

HIGH PRICES, LOW INVENTORY

WEST CENTRAL MINNESOTA FEELING THE CRUNCH OF HOUSING SHORTAGE from listing date to closing date, spend about 52 days on the marWILLMAR — The housing mar- ket, a significant decrease from ket seems to be steadying out after 2017’s average of 122 days — “less a pandemic-fueled homebuy- than two months, from start to ing spree, but the low inventory finish.” Those 52 days encompass of available homes on the market several steps, from negotiations to remains an issue, according to Sue appraisal to closing and completBlumhoefer, CEO of the West Cen- ing the title work, before the new homeowner takes possession. tral Association of Realtors. Blumhoefer, who has worked in the real estate industry for more Pandemic surge in an than 10 years, said the numbers already tight market The shift in workplace locations have continued to drop even as the United States recovers from the for many jobs early in the panpandemic and the interest rates demic made an already high housing demand tighten its belt loops, begin to rise once more. “Inventory is just incredibly low as the need for single-family right now, when you go from a homes with office space ballooned six-month supply five years ago, and those looking to move out of to a month and a half supply now,” the city now had the opportunity she said. to do so. Within the WCAR’s 18-county “Some (people) that could now service area, the inventory has work from home are now moving shrunk from more than 1000 into a different area. They don’t homes available at any given time have to live in the city they work in April 2017 to just 278 in April in now that they can work from 2022, a little over 25% of the home, so that definitely played a inventory homebuyers and area part in it,” Blumhoefer said. Realtors were working with five The WCAR has seen an uptick years prior. in clients moving from the Twin “It makes it a little tough for Cities and larger metro cities to everybody, regardless of whether smaller communities in west cenyou own a home and want to move tral Minnesota. up or whether you’re trying to get “And in our case, some of them into a home,” Blumhoefer said. are moving to their lake places, “The competition is tough.” or finding a lake place (they can) That competition has also cut move to if they can work from the time a house is on the market home and they’re in an area where just about in half — homes now, they’ve got the internet capabilBy Kit Grode West Central Tribune

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A sign signaling toward a home for sale rests in a yard in New London on Saturday, May 21, 2022. ity,” Blumhoefer said. “It’s nice to work from the lake, too, if you can work from home.” Data from the WCAR showed Kandiyohi County as one of the locations feeling a crunch on the available inventory, something that comes as no surprise to many living in and around the area. The Willmar City Council on May 2 approved the creation of a Mayor’s Housing Task Force to address the need for both apartment and single-family housing options. But other communities are also experiencing difficulties in their housing availability. “Montevideo, Marshall ... (they’re) all low inventory. They’re looking, too, they’re

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like ‘what are we going to do?’” Blumhoefer said. “Even Redwood Falls, right now, has only two and a half months’ worth of inventory. Last year, they were at a little over five months.” To translate, if nothing else were to come on the market, Redwood Falls would have zero homes available in just 10 weeks. “Everything would be gone,” Blumhoefer said. A normal, “comfortable” inventory for any size community is about six months, she clarified. But west central Minnesota communities haven’t seen a six-month inventory in quite some time.

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| Wednesday, June 15, 2022

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Affordable ways to make homes more appealing to modern buyers Metro Creative Connection the popularity of exterior lighting. And Home trends come and go. Today’s mustthat’s no coincidence, as homeowners have items tend to become tomorrow’s everywhere appear to embrace exteoutdated features in the blink of an eye. rior lighting. The NAHB report indiHomeowners who plan to stay in their cates that exterior lighting is the most current homes for years to come needn’t sought-after outdoor feature. The good prioritize modern trends over personal news for prospective sellers is that preferences. However, homeowners lookexterior lighting is an inexpensive and ing to sell their homes can consider these instant way to transform a property favored features to increase their properat night. Some solar-powered lighting ties’ appeal to modern buyers. along walkways and outside the front ► Separate laundry room: According to the door can make a home feel more safe, National Association of Home Buildwhile some uplighting of large trees ers’ 2021 What Home Buyers Really in the backyard can produce a sight to Want report, a separate room dedicated behold once the sun goes down. to laundry was the most desired fea- ► Energy-efficient upgrades: Inflation ture among prospective home buyers. has driven up the cost of just about Though it might not inspire the awe everything over the last year-plus, and of an outdoor living room or floor-toenergy is no exception. So it should ceiling windows overlooking a wooded come as no surprise that 83% of probackyard, a laundry room fills a direct spective home buyers are looking for and universal need. Perhaps that’s why energy-efficient windows and appli87% of buyers want a room dedicated to ances in a home. These features save laundry in a home. money and benefit the planet, making ► Exterior lighting: Drive through a modthem a win-win among buyers. ern suburban neighborhood at night ► Patio: Patio spaces have long been popand it won’t take long before you realize ular, but that popularity reached new

heights during the pandemic. When forced to stay at home for long periods of time, millions of people longed for ways to spend more time outdoors without breaking lockdown rules. Patios provide outdoor living spaces, and 82% of buyers indicated they wanted a patio with their next property. ► Side-by-side sink: A double or side-byside sink is among the more affordable features buyers are looking for. At less than $1,000 on average, a side-by-sink is an affordable way to make a home more appealing to modern buyers. Modern buyers want a lot out of their homes, and sellers can do their best to meet those desires while getting the most money for their properties.

HOUSING

tenance done, that should be done right away, before you even put it From Page D1 on the market,” Blumhoefer said. “That’s how you’re going to get Growing demand your best price.” However, those selling their leads to higher prices Much like in 2008, the housing homes need to have their own industry ballooned quickly in 2020 moving plan in place, whether and 2021, with demand soaring and they’re upsizing, downsizing or homeowners able to sell quickly moving into a retirement community, because of just how conand at prices far above value. But that may be where the simi- densed the process has become. “If you’re putting it on the marlarities end. “The (2008) bubble was really ket, you need to be prepared to caused by more of a credit issue,” move to your next step, whatever Blumhoefer cautioned. “They’re that might be,” Blumhoefer said. requiring a better credit score; “As far as the buyer, they need to there’s definite changes within the be prepared to make that decision that they’re ready to buy. You can’t Macy Moore / West Central Tribune banking rules.” Home buyers are required to put go in and then think about it for a A home sits for sale in downtown Willmar on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. more money down to secure a loan, few weeks. It will be gone by then.” or to pay in cash. The WCAR has find their dream home, or that the this is my first home and is this seen more cash sales lately in its Buyers need to have search may take far longer than what I can feel comfortable in?’” service area than in years past. anticipated if buyers aren’t willing Blumhoefer said. their ducks in a row “It is something that we didn’t Financing should be at the top of to have flexibility. Another worrying trend Blum“You need to pick that one most hoefer cautions against is skipping see five years ago, not at this rate,” any potential homebuyer’s priorBlumhoefer said. “Normally, your ity list, in addition to knowing just important thing you need, but a home inspection. be flexible on everything else,” first-time homebuyers are work- how much home they can afford. “That inspection’s important,” ing with a lender.” If buyers aren’t coming in with whether that’s location, the num- she said. “Even if you don’t do With a short supply and high the intention of paying in cash, ber of bedrooms, an unfinished anything, just to know what demand, sellers have more negoti- “you need to be pre-approved,” basement or the yard size. might come up in the future, “You used to be able to — if in two or three years, what you ating power than the average year, Blumhoefer said. “If you’re even although prices are settling from the looking at this point, you need to you wanted a three-bedroom, you might need to repair, or if there’s could look until you found that something that you need to save sky-high sales points earlier in 2021. have your financing in place.” Now, “sellers need to have their And buyers need to be flexible, three-bedroom that was perfect for to fix or upgrade.” price where it should be, and ready she cautioned. With low inventory — and now you need to look at a You may contact the author at kgrode@wctrib.com to sell. If there needs to be main- comes the risk that buyers may not three-bedroom and be like, ‘Okay,

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There are plenty of real estate financing options ments and lower credit scores ► Conventional lending: ConvenMetro Creative Connection than many conventional loans. tional lending refers to when The decision to buy a home is sigFHA loans also require morta bank or another financial nificant. Real estate is the biggest gage insurance up front, plus institution loans a home buyer investment the average person will annually for 11 years or the life money to buy a home. This is make in his or her lifetime, which of the loan depending on the one of the most common ways underscores just how significant length of the loan. to fund a home purchase. Perthe home buying decision can be. sonal credit score as well as ► HELOC: A Home Equity Line The real estate experts at Zillow of Credit, commonly called a credit history help determine recently reported that the national HELOC loan, borrows against eligibility and interest rates for median price of a home in the the available equity in your conventional loans. Availability United States is $272,446. Howevhome to create a line of credof assets as well as income level er, since the National Association it, much like a credit card. are some additional determinof Realtors reported a record low These funds can be used for ing factors. Conventional loans housing inventory late in 2020, the large expenses or to consolidate are traditionally 10-, 15- or average house price has been rishigher-interest rate debt on 30-year notes and will require a ing rapidly nationwide. The Fedother loans, according to Bank certain percentage as the down eral Reserve Bank of St. Louis estiof America. It may be possible payment to secure the loan. The mates the median home sales price to use a HELOC to secure fundbank will determine the down at $374,900, and certain states ing to make improvements to a payment requirement, which is have much higher prices. WOWA, home for those who want to flip typically somewhere between 3 a real estate and finance technolit as an investment property. and 20 percent. ogy company, says the average sale price of a home in Canada was ► FHA loan: A Federal Housing ► Private money lenders: Individuals investing in real estate Administration loan is issued by $679,051 in July 2021. who do not intend to use a an FHA-approved lender. These Most people do not have property as a primary residence loans are designed for low-to$300,000 to $600,000 in savings may turn to private money moderate-income borrowers, on hand to purchase a home in lenders. These investors can according to the financial guide cash. That means they’ll need to tap into capital from personal Investopedia. FHA loans require rely on financing to pay for their connections and lend at specilower minimum down paydream homes.

fied interest rates and payback periods, according to Fortune Builders, a real estate investing resource. Keep in mind the interest rate will likely be higher with a private lender than through a conventional lender. The repayment term also will be shorter. ► VA-backed loan: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a program for acquiring loans through conventional lenders that will be partially guaranteed against loss through the VA. This enables a lender to give better loan terms, such as the option to pay no down payment. Interested parties need to qualify for a Certificate of Eligibility and then work with qualified lenders. People have several options to finance the purchase of a home. These loans can help make the dream of home ownership a reality. Potential buyers are urged to speak with mortgage professionals or financial planners to consider their options.

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Keeping rooms well-lit is important, as aging eyes don’t see as well in the dark as young ones. Night lights and additional lamps go a long way.

| west central tribune, willmar, Minn.

Stock photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Adding railings and bannisters to steps can help prevent falls and allow seniors to stay in their homes longer.

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Stock image by eelias on Unsplash.

Doorknobs can be difficult to turn for those with arthritis or weakened muscles in their hands. Replacing them with levers can help allow seniors to age in place.

People who hope to age in place need to prepare for it, experts say By Kari Lucin The Globe WORTHINGTON — While 88% of older adults want to age at home rather than receiving care in a nursing home, a significant number of them haven’t considered what changes they might need to make in order to do that, the National Poll on Healthy Aging recently revealed. “You’re always adapting, you’re always changing to adapt to your current environment and what you’re able to do,” said Jason Swanson, executive director of the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging, whose territory includes Nobles and other southwest Minnesota counties. The poll, which is a “recurring, nationally representative household survey,” launched in 2017 by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and it is also supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine. Its most recent results show that while 88% of adults age 50 to 80 feel it’s important to age in place, 21% have given no consideration whatsoever to modifications needed to remain at home, and 26% had given “little” consideration. Thirty-eight percent gave some consideration to modifications and just 15% had thought about it “a lot.” “The two big things to make your home safer… meaning that it allows you the ability to age in place, are removing trip hazards and making sure your house is well-lit,” Swanson said. He advised starting the adaptations simply, with easy practices and approaches rather than immediately spending a lot of money on remodeling and major changes. Keeping floors, stairways and hallways clear of clutter helps, but so does removing small throw rugs and area rugs.

“I know some generations love them, but those are not stationary. They move,” Swanson said. “Unless you have them glued to the floor or a slip strip put beneath it, or a mat beneath it, it will shift.” Loose carpeting can be another tripping hazard, particularly in older homes where the carpet hasn’t been updated in a long time. Around thresholds, carpets can start pulling away and loosening up. Pets, while they offer many health benefits, can also serve as a tripping hazard, and animals’ leashes or walking devices should be hung up rather than stretched out all over the floor. Keeping rooms well-lit is important, as aging eyes don’t see as well in the dark as young ones. “Add additional night lights, especially in the stairwell, hallway and in the bathrooms,” Swanson said. “Night lights go a long way.” Built-in night lights that detect motion are even being installed in some new homes. Recent technological advances in light bulbs mean that brighter bulbs that use less energy are available, and those bulbs often last longer and need to be replaced significantly less often as well, Swanson said. Those who do wish to modify their homes a bit more can check into adding railings into the home, either on the outside or going up the steps. In bathrooms, water can act as a slipping hazard, so installing grab bars can help a lot. “A lot of people, it gives them extra peace of mind,” Swanson said, explaining that people may not need it on good days but on bad days, it’s there to help them prevent falls. Grab bars are usually available at box stores and hardware stores, and can likely be ordered online too.

Shower chairs, which sit in the shower, and bath benches, which extend from inside the shower to outside of it and allow people to get in and out of the shower more easily, are also options. He advised people seeking to add modifications should reach out to the Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council, which has programs that can help. Other possible home modifications could include adding electrical outlets to more convenient locations, even if it’s the middle of the floor, to reduce the number of cords present, and changing door knobs to door levers to help people with arthritis or weakened hands get the doors open. Even people who are young and healthy can benefit from lever door handles if they’re carrying something, Swanson pointed out. Sometimes it simply isn’t practical to age in place in a particular home, and people instead opt to build or seek an existing home elsewhere that would be more suitable. Jason Johnson, a real estate broker with Johnson Builders & Realty in Worthington, has several suggestions for prospective buyers. “Wide hallways are always a plus,” Johnson said, emphasizing that even if someone isn’t using a wheelchair when they move, they might still want or need to use one later on. Wide doors also make a difference, and Johnson Builders puts in 36-inch doors in its new construction. Large bathrooms that are accessible are also important, and options for people building new homes include zero-entry showers that don’t require stepping over obstacles. Johnson said that adding grab bars in bathrooms even before they’re really necessary can help people avoid accidents.

And he too recommended decluttering to reduce the number of tripping hazards in a home. Communication devices such as cell phones and alert buttons can help, too, but only if someone actually carries the device with them at all times. Seniors can work on staying in shape, and particularly on improving their balance with evidencebased programs such as those offered by A.C.E. of Southwest Minnesota, formerly known as the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Southwest Minnesota. While it isn’t available throughout southwest Minnesota yet, the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging itself is working on expanding its Community Aging in Place Advancing Better Living for Elders program, which pairs medical personnel with repairers to visit homes and identify potential changes that could help someone age in place. The most important thing, though, is to understand that people are always adapting to change, and to be mindful that just because you could do something 10 years ago doesn’t mean you still can, he added. “Everybody has that. It’s a human nature thing,” Swanson said. “People don’t want to change because they’re fearful of what that change will bring.” He advised people to go and stand in their living room, imagine they’ve instantly advanced 20 years in age and look around to see what the barriers to staying in the home could be. People who have questions about aging in place may call the Senior LinkAge Line at 1 (800) 333-2433. Information about A.C.E. is available at aceswmn.org. For more about the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging, visit mnraaa.org.

How to pick the right trees for your property Metro Creative Connection Trees benefit a landscape by serving both aesthetic and utilitarian functions. A home surrounded by healthy green trees can be a sight to behold, and those same trees can benefit surrounding plants and wildlife at the same time. As appealing as trees are, not all trees and landscapes make for the perfect match. The Arbor Day Foundation notes the importance of planning when designing a landscape. Planning ensures the trees homeowners ultimately choose for their properties will grow well in the soil and an invaluable resource for homeowners moisture present in their yards. who want to plant new trees around Careful consideration of a handful of their properties. variables can help homeowners determine which trees will make the best fit ► Canopy spread: Trees grow out as well as up, so it’s important to consider their for their properties. potential width at maturity as well. The ► Height: Homeowners must consider the ADF sizing guide can help homeowners projected height of a tree before plantget an idea of how wide a tree is likely ing it. Avoid trees that will bump into to be at maturity. Trees that spread out anything when fully grown, as that can quite a bit don’t necessarily need to be adversely affect surrounding greenery avoided, but it’s important that they’re and pose a safety hazard. The ADF’s planted far enough apart so they don’t tree sizing guide can be accessed at adversely affect surrounding plants. In https://www.arborday.org/trees/rightaddition, wide trees that are planted TreeAndPlace/size.cfm and serves as

too close together can make the landscape appear crowded, taking something away from its aesthetic appeal. ► Growth rate: Growth rate is an important variable because it can affect how quickly homeowners will see changes in their landscapes. Homeowners who want to plant for privacy can consider trees with quick growth rates or purchase more mature trees that are already near full growth. Those who are not in need of instant transformation can try trees with slower growth rates, which the ADF notes typically live longer than fast-growing species. ► Requirements: Different trees require different amounts of sun and moisture and different soil components to thrive. Homeowners can have their soil tested to determine which trees will thrive in it. Local garden centers can be a great resource for homeowners who want insight as to which trees will thrive in their local climates. Trees serve many functions on a property. Choosing the right trees for a landscape requires careful consideration of a host of variables.


west central tribune, willmar, Minn. | Wednesday, June 15, 2022

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7 characteristics of modern houses Metro Creative Connection Homes contain a variety of components that appeal to homeowners with different ideas about the perfect place to call home. That starts with the style of a home. Buildings are classified according to shared components. A Craftsman style home will have a covered porch with a set of wide base columns, while a Cape Cod home is often defined by a gabled roof and dormer windows. Modern houses, which are sometimes called contemporary homes even though the terms are not interchangeable, will have their own sets of unique characteristics. Here’s a look at seven features that make modern homes unique. 1. Minimalist approach: Contemporary and modern homes both employ an approach that leans toward minimalism, including clean design lines. Spaces are open and airy without the clutter of too many ornate architectural details. While modern homes may have some curvature to their design, contemporary ones are all about an angular look.

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2. Neutral color palette: Modern homes tend to utilize a neutral color palette. Modern homes may use “earthy” elements, such as wood and brick, in ways that do not look rustic. Contemporary homes rely on a color palette of black and white with shades of gray or other neutral colors. 3. Geometric shapes: Modern homes have strong horizontal and vertical elements that showcase geometric shapes in their designs. Contemporary homes often have flat roofs, while modern homes may not. 4. Large, unadorned windows: Most modern homes showcase a lot of natural light by utilizing large windows that are not covered up by heavy window treatments or elements like shutters and thick trims. Large windows are the focus of the interior and shift attention to the view outdoors. 5. Open floor concept: A hallmark of modern interior design, the open concept floor plan removes many of the walls that tend to separate common areas of a

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home. This helps to foster the spread of natural light and maintains the emphasis on simplicity of design. 6. Smart elements: Thanks to the proliferation of smart technology, smart homes are cropping up with greater frequency. While smart devices can be included in any home style, they tend to feel like they were designed specifically for modern homes. In a similar vein, modern homes may include environmentally friendly elements, such as solar panels, upcycled materials, added insulation, and energy efficient lighting. 7. Updated kitchen spaces: The clean lines and attention to technology and open space generally extends to modern kitchens. Modern kitchens tend to feature efficient, top-tier appliances with additional storage and space amenities that keep the room from feeling cluttered. While some may consider modern homes austere, many others are right at home among their clean lines and airy spaces.

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What to know about refinancing a mortgage Metro Creative Connection Historically low interest rates have made now a good time to be a homeowner. According to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, also known as Freddie Mac, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in midSeptember 2021 was 2.86. Just ten years earlier, the average rate was 4.09. That’s a significant dip, and one that’s saving today’s homeowners tens of thousands of dollars over the life of their mortgages. Interest rates dipped during the pandemic and have remained low ever since. That’s unlikely to last forever, which has given many homeowners a sense of urgency regarding refinancing. Refinancing can be financially advantageous, but there are some things homeowners should know prior to contacting their lenders.

Refinancing does not always save money over the long haul

It’s hard to blame homeowners who jump at the chance to refinance their mortgages. Refinancing is often associated with significantly lower monthly payments, and such savings can be used to finance home improvements, pay for tuition or build retirement nest eggs. However, homeowners won’t necessarily save money over the long haul if they’re refinancing an existing 30-year mortgage with another 30-year mortgage. The mortgage experts at Mortgage Calculator note that a Change Terms mortgage refinance is characterized by a shift to a loan charging a lower interest rate. The initial savings with such a refinance are undeniable, but changing from one 30-year to another 30-year restarts the mortgage clock, which can add years to the time homeowners will be repaying their debt. As a result, homeowners may end up paying more interest over time than they might have had they just kept their initial mortgage. Homeowners interested in a Change Terms refinance may want to look into switching from a 30-year to a 15-year mortgage. A shorter term mortgage will increase the monthly payment, but the loan will reach maturity much faster, greatly reducing the amount of interest homeowners will pay over the life of the mortgage.

Refinancing can be costly

Lower monthly payments might be the number that catches homeowners’ eyes as they look to refinance, but it’s important that homeowners recognize that refinancing is not free. In fact, the personal finance experts at Kiplinger note that refinancing incurs many of the same costs that homeowners had to pay when they signed their initial mortgage papers. That includes fees, taxes and appraisal costs. These costs are sometimes paid up front, but they also might be rolled into the loan balance. In the latter instance, homeowners could be paying interest on their refinancing costs. Homeowners who are refinancing solely because of lower interest rates should know that some lenders raise interest rates to compensate for refinancing costs. That can negate the savings and end up costing homeowners more money than the original mortgage. Refinancing is an option for homeown-

Amber Barber 320-212-8646 www.facebook.com/LARamber AMBER@LAKESAREAREATLY.COM 42 SOUTH MAIN ST., NEW LONDON, MN

ers who want to save money. Homeowners can speak with a financial advisor to determine if this is the best way to save money over the long haul or if refinancing will ultimately cost them more over the life of the mortgage.

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