Sunday, April 14, 2013

Can "staging" help your home sell?

Congratulations on choosing to list your home! Making that initial decision to list can be exciting; however, it can also cause unwanted anxiety and stress when you start asking questions such as:

Is my furniture too big/small?
Will people like my stark white walls?
Will people like my bright blue walls?

Talking with your real estate agent is a good place to start to understand which rooms might need a little big of help. It might be as simple as moving out a large piece of furniture which makes the room look too small or taking down family pictures and replacing them with a landscape.

How you stage your home is an important part of the selling process. But you still ask yourself this question "Why is staging important?" Answer: Because real estate agents like great-looking homes; they are easier to sell. 

Key things to remember:
  • Agents are always trying to make their clients happy. Their job is to direct buyers to homes that they feel they will like. Clean and nicely presented homes generally get more traffic. 
  • Agents network with other agents. Getting the word out to agents who have potential buyers in your neighborhood. Clean and nicely presented homes generally get more traffic. 
  • Staging a listing for sale in an area where the concept hasn't caught on can give you an advantage, particularly if there are many unsold listings similar to yours on the market. Clean and nicely presented homes generally get more traffic. 
  • Buyers are looking for value. When prices are flat or on the decline, buyers need to perceive that the house is worth the price. Clean and nicely presented homes generally get more traffic. 
Ok, did you notice a key phrase? Clean and nicely presented homes generally get more traffic.

To paint or not to paint, that is the question
I know you are wondering about those bright blue walls or stark white walls. The answer is "it all depends". Either color can cause a potential buyer to say "I have to paint". Most people don't want stark white, nor do they want a color that will take more than a couple of coats to cover.
Take a moment and visit a paint store to see what popular color pallets are popular. You might be surprised to see that tan and taupe are not the most popular for home colors.

Grandma's wardrobe might need to go into another room (or into storage)
I know you love that grandma left you her turn of the century mahogany wardrobe, and it is the one piece of furniture that makes you feel at home while you are in your living room, but it takes of 1/4 of the space. Now I'm not saying that you need to remove it from your home, but is there another room that might benefit from a larger piece of future? Maybe a bedroom that only has a small desk and this can bring some character? But you might want to consider that this piece of furniture might just need to go into storage.
This also goes for the large sectional that everyone loves to curl up on while watching their favorite movie? Go through each room, can you swap furniture?

But I love all my unicorn pictures

Good Family Wall Photo Gallery
Poor Family Wall Photo Gallery
Artwork also can make a difference in your staging. Many people have heard that you should "de-personalize" your home; meaning, remove all family photos. I don't know if I fully agree with this as I have many friends who have beautiful family photo walls where they are all in the same color/type of frame, spaced evenly and level. There are those that look very unorganized and messy.

I would agree that if you have a passion for something (i.e. unicorns) and every room in your home is decorated in this theme, you might want to reconsider changing things up.

Don't forget the outside
If you have a deck or patio, take a minute to ensure that the furniture or potted plants are organized so that potential home buyers can envision themselves relaxing in that very same space. If your grill isn't in the best condition, consider buying a cover. That way you don't have to worry about showing an older or not as polished grill.

With these few simple steps you can make sure that your home gets noticed by potential home buyers both in person and online.

Leslie Mueller, Realtor
Keller Williams Preferred Realty

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Prior Lake: Education is Important

Prior Lake Real Estate
Logo: City of Prior Lake
If you are looking find your next home in Prior Lake, MN I'd like to tell you a little bit about this fine town.

My first experience of being in Prior Lake, MN was back in 1989 when my eldest sister moved her family here. At that time is was an up and coming community with many of the road still dirt or gravel. There was only two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. My first thought was, wow my sister is moving out to the country. Little did I know that in a short 11 years I too would find myself moving to this city.

I grew up in Burnsville, MN so a move to Prior Lake wasn't too far away. It didn't take me all that long to appreciate the conveniences of living here.

At the time of my move my four children were going to be starting 4th grade, 2nd grade and pre-school. Five Hawks Elementary was the school in the Prior Lake-Savage School District 719 that my children attended. It was a breath of fresh air having teachers who truly took the time to sit down and individually work with the children. The staff was always very welcoming when I walked through the doors. It always amazed me how they always remembers children's names and unique trait of the children. Since we moved here Prior Lake has since added 2 more elementary schools for a total of five elementary schools in our district.

  • Five Hawks
  • Jeffers Pond
  • Glendale
  • Redtail Ridge
  • Westwood
From elementary school the kids ventured on to the middle school. One elementary school has since become two, converting the former high school into another middle school right across from each other. The middle school is now for grades 6-8. Many feel that 6th grade is a little too early for middle school, but rest assured that the staff at both these schools do a great job helping the kids get acclimated to a larger building and the changing of classes. It isn't all about math and reading, Prior Lake has their own robotics team
  • Twin Oaks
  • Hidden Oaks
Our only high school, Prior Lake High School is home of the Lakers. I have had the opportunity to watch my children play on the high school baseball and lacrosse teams. Whether your student likes sports or academics there is a group for your student. 

If you are looking for a private school experience, Prior Lake also has a few private schools:
  • Prior Lake Christian School (k-12)
  • St. Michael's Catholic School (k-8)
  • St. Paul's Lutheran School (k-8)
  • Aspen Academy Charter School (k-6)
Obviously for me school was a big part of our family. I now only have one left in high school and they are getting ready to graduate very soon. 

As you begin your Prior Lake real estate search. Take in to consideration the wide variety of options that you have available to you. As a real estate agent from this community I would be happy to talk with you about the options and show you the homes available to you by the school you most preferred.

Leslie Mueller, Realtor
Keller Williams Preferred Realty

Security Systems: Making Your Home Safer

Prior Lake Real Estate Agent
Photo: Microsoft images
As a Prior Lake real estate agent I want everyone wants to feel safe. When you think of the word home, you think of the place where you can find refuge, food, warmth and most of all, safety. One burglary or break-in is all it takes to take away that feeling of safety.

Even though many burglaries actually take place when you are away or out of town, it doesn't make you feel any better than if you were home when it all happened. 

Locking doors and windows sometimes is not enough to deter your home from being targeted by a thief. Consider getting a security system. These simple steps can help you find the right home security system and help you create a safer and more secure home for you and your family. 

2. What can you afford? Deciding first how much you can afford will help make picking a home security system that much easier.

1. Do you want your system hardwired to your home or is a wireless system right for you? Many people like the use of wireless for a variety of reasons. 
  • Wireless uses lithium batteries vs. use of your electricity
  • Easier to install, less intrusive than hardwired. 
  • Less time to install vs. having to install wire throughout your home.
3. How many entrances are coming into your home? Don't just consider the doors. Any access to your home from the outside should be considered as an access to your home. Some systems charge differently and knowing this number can help when doing your research. 

4. Contact local security companies. Take the time to call different security companies, and get quotes from each place. 

5. Make a list of features that are important to you. You may have to pay extra, but decide which items are the most important. Some things to consider when putting this list together:
  • Fire alarm
  • Warranty, do they have one and what does it cover.
  • Own or rent the equipment

6. Ask a lot of questions. Most home security systems will require you to sign a contract, so before putting your signature on any paper of any kind, make sure you understand just what it is you are signing. Most sites also have FAQs on their page review and compare the lists. This is a great way to get you thinking. 

7. Get referrals. If you do not have a neighbor who uses a system, reach out to other friends and relatives who do have one. Get their feedback on what has worked or what they would maybe change with their current system.

Here's to a little more peace of mind.

Leslie Mueller, REALTOR
Keller Williams Preferred Realty

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Curb Appeal...More than Just the Curb

So many home sellers believe that what the outside of their home looks like isn’t as important as the inside of their home. The internet provides home owners the option of looking a home, through pictures and now, video. However, many homeowners don’t take the time to showcase the outside of their home. I am not saying that you need to have an outdoor patio with stone pizza oven and waterfall, but just doing some very simple things can turn and a boring outside into something that will draw the attention as potential buyers looking at your home online or driving around your neighborhood.

Garage Doors
Your garage door provide the largest opening into your home, yet so many homes have very simple boring raised panel doors, that usually match the color of the home; thus, giving the home a very monochromatic look (a.k.a. boring). Consider the following ideas to add some pizzazz and character; making your home stand out.

  • Decorative hardware
  • Color
    • Give your garage door a face-lift by adding just a  splash of color
  • Trim
    • Look at the trim around your garage door is it chipped or cracked. Replacing these pieces not only gives your home a fresh look but it also tells potential home buyers that you take care of your home.
  • Garage door.
    • A little investment can add a lot. There are so many different types of garage doors out there that can add a lot of character. Whether you want a carriage house look or something a little more modern; the choices are endless.
If your home is completely bare, investing in a few small shrubs can definitely add an element of dimension to your lawn. However, not everyone has a “green-thumb” so if you are adding shrubs consider ones that do not require a lot of maintenance.

If you do have shrubs, are they trimmed or so tall that you can’t even see into the front window? I am not saying that your shrubs need to be in the shape of an elephant or statue, but are they at least cleaning trimmed? Are they filled with dead leaves?

Do you have sconces on the outside of your home? Are they proportionate? Do you have a really small door but a huge light or visa versa? Are the bulbs burnt out? Are they properly secured to your home? To they match the rest of your hardware?

Ok. I know that it might sound strange but look at your mailbox. Is it falling apart? Is it standing straight? Do you have a big fish or truck as the actual box? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it looks like your mail box may need a “make over”. There are a variety of mailbox kits that are easy to assemble.

Landscaping trim
When we purchased our home the landscaping trim was created with wood railroad ties. They looked ok. We eventually removed them and did stamped-concrete trim. It doesn’t really matter what you choose to use, as long as you make sure that it looks good and is maintained.

·         A fresh coat of stain or paint on wood trim
·         Rust removed from anything metal
·         Plastic pieces replaced if they are cracked or broken

As potential home buyers are walking up to your front door, what will they find? Cob webs around the door? What does your welcome look like? A mat that is either falling apart or has a humorous message may reflect your sense of humor but may offend someone else and can turn off that buyer. Look around and check for the following:

  • Does your key work easily in your door and/or deadbolt? Add a little graphite. Having an agent struggle at getting into your home may make that buyer just walk away.
  • Sweep up the dirt/cob webs.
  • Wash the door and/or window(s) that may be around your entrance
  • Keep your porch furniture clean
  • If you have flower pots, deadhead any buds to ensure that someone is only seeing the freshest of blooms.
  • Check the door trim, is it chipping?
  • Can a fresh coat of paint on the trim and/or door enhance the look?

I know that someone isn’t going to pull up a blacktop driveway and add a concrete one, but you can add a coat of black top yourself to give it a fresh look? Some other things you can do are as simple as:
  • Sweep the debris
  • Remove weeks from cracks
  • Edge along the side of the driveway or walk-way
  • Clean oil stains

If you notice I didn't mention anything about the paint or siding on your home. That is a large investment and one that you need to consider. I am just trying to provide you some of the little things that someone can do to enhance your curb appeal. Doing one or two of these things can make the difference.  

Leslie Mueller, Realtor
Keller Williams Preferred Realty      

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What Is Customer Satisfaction?

Photo: J.D. Power and Associates

Are you satisfied?

I am proud to say that I work for Keller Williams Preferred Realty. As you can see by this picture our company was ranked #1 in customer satisfaction by both home buyers and seller in 2012 by J.D. Power & Associates.

Seeing this I started to ask myself, what is customer satisfaction? How does one decide if someone else is satisfied? How does my satisfaction compare to others?

Satisfaction according to Webster's Dictionary means :

1.  a : the payment through penance of the temporal punishment incurred by a sin
     b : reparation for sin that meets the demands of divine justice

2   a : fulfillment of a need or want
     b : the quality or state of being satisfied : contentment
     c : a source or means of enjoyment : gratification

3   a : compensation for a loss or injury : atonement, restitution
     b : the discharge of a legal obligation or claim
     c : vindication

4 : convinced assurance or certainty <proved to the satisfaction of the court>

Now add the word customer and you get

1: one that purchases a commodity or service

You put these two terms together and what you get an individual who not only invests their time, but also their money and at the end of the day they are content and feel enjoyment or gratification.

Customer Satisfaction also can be interpreted as customer loyalty. Think back to a time when you purchased something that you just loved? Did you keep it to yourself? Probably not, you probably told everyone how great that product was, or how well the staff associate was who helped you and when you where shopping again for a similar product you probably went back to that same company.

Working for a company that has been ranked #1 in these two categories for the 5th year in a row says a lot to me about the fact that at the end of the day, individuals who have purchased or sold a home with one of our associates are CONTENT AND GRATEFUL!

If you are looking to buy or sell your home. I would love to talk with you about the Keller Williams way. Please contact me.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Buying a home…where do I start?

So you have made the decision that you want to buy a home, but you don't know where to start. Here are a few tips to for you to consider to prepare you for home ownership.

Seek out a lender
The first thing that you should do is speak with a lender. Whether you are working with a bank, credit union or mortgage broker you need to get qualified and/or approved for your financing. Your lender will also pull a credit report to see if you have any credit issues. If there are any credit issues you will have time to start improving your credit score for when the time comes for you to lock in your loan rate and terms.

People often ask “what is the difference between being qualified or approved”? Being qualified means, based on the income and expenses you have provided to a lender, this is basically how much they feel you can afford for financing. Being approved means that you have gone through underwriting; your funding is secured. In today’s market, being approved is becoming more common, also, when it is time to put in your offer an offer that has approved financing is a stronger offer. The buyer knows that you are ready to go and they can proceed with final negotiations and get you to closing.

Take a home buyers class
When buying a home you are taking a very expensive and complicated risk. To help you better understand the process take the time to educate yourself. Friends, family, your lender, attorney and of course your real estate agent can be resources to you. Another idea is to take a first-time home buyers class. Educating yourself as much as you can will help you make the best decision for your new home.

You may even want to consider taking a few home repair classes. Unless you are buying a newly built home where everything is all shiny, chances are you are going to have to make some repairs as soon as you move into your home. Learning a few little things, like how to fix a leaky faucet or install a new lock can save you time and money. Get to know your neighborhood hardware store owner, not only can they help you find the right hammer but they can maybe even show you how to use it.

Hire a real estate agent
Friends, family and other acquaintances can be a great source in helping you find the right real estate agent that best represents you. I suggest you interview a minimum of three agents. You can ask questions such as, how many client are they currently working with, what type of training they have, do they specialize in anything specific. Get references and take the time to actually call them to see how their home buying/selling experience was with the agent.

Finding an agent that is right for you can be taxing. Make sure that they fit your personality

Start shopping
Consider the neighborhood in which you are living. Obviously your real estate agent will be a main source for seeking your new home. There are things that your agent can’t show you and it would be in your best interest to do some research on your own. There is much more to buying a house than just looking at four walls and a roof.

Consider contacting the police department to learn about crime in the area. Look at neighborhoods where you see lots of homes for sale, is there a reason that every street on the block is for sale? If you have children, research the school, actually take time to visit with the principals. Drive around the area during a weekend , when many people might be out in the yard, are their kids for your children to play with, are people taking care of their homes? You can find little things out about who potentially can be your neighbor. I know it might sound creepy but look at the inside of a garage; is it stacked high with junk? Is their lawn mowed? Do they have a lot of junk laying around? 

Of course you will want to look at homes, consider all your needs and wants when looking. Your agent can help you narrow your search to homes that really fit your dreams.

Be patient and don’t rush. You will find the home that is best for you. 

Leslie Mueller, Realtor
Keller Williams Preferred Realty

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Does Your Realtor Match Your Personality?

Whether you are an existing home owner or getting ready to venture into the amazing world of home ownership, finding the right real estate agent that fits your personality can be very taxing and stressful. Finding the right person to help you navigate through this transaction can make this process either fun or add to the stress.

You might have a friend or a relative that is a real estate agent, but you don’t know if they would be someone with whom you can work. You are saying, this is a business transaction why does it matter? I don’t know about you but I like doing business with companies and individuals who share similar business ideas and with whom I can relate. Do you have a customer that you really enjoy working with; when you see them it is like seeing an old friend?

When interviewing your agent consider these points:
  1. Do they listen?
  2. Do they ask questions or just give you ideas?
  3. How do they communicate? Does it match yours?
  4. How many clients do they have? Sometimes the really busy agents aren’t able to provide the attention you are expecting.

I know you are now asking yourself, what about their experience and knowledge of the market in your area? Yes, this is important, but I can personally attest that I have had listings and have helped buyers in areas of our city in which I have never been before. This is where “does my agent listen and ask questions” becomes critical. While I might not know the ins and outs of every market technology allows me the tools to educate myself. I also can network with other agents, whether in my brokerage or other firms.

Do you have a spouse or partner? What is their personality? If you are listing your home, do you have the same expectations for the length of time expected to have your home on the market? If buying, do you have the same wish list for what you want in a home? An agent working with couples needs to consider both of their needs and sometimes this can get pretty ugly. I can say that for my buyers, all but ONE, have couples, some married, some not. Understanding who really is making the majority of the decisions is sometimes hard to determine, but listening and watching both individuals an agent can help determine that both clients are getting the home that they both will love.

Here are some ideas to make sure that both you and your partner are on the same page when either listing or purchasing a home:
  1. Each person should make a list of expectations. How long are you planning on listing your home or looking for a home?
  2. Compare lists and see what you have in common.
  3. Pick your top 5 must haves that are different from the other
  4. Each pick your top 3 (compromise comes into play here)

 By doing this you can work through some of the bigger issues that might arise before you being the process of selling.

Show these to your agent so that he/she had your MUST HAVES. 
  1. If you are listing a home do the same list as above, taking in to consideration the following:
  2. How long do you expect your home to be on the market?
  3. What “home improvements” you will be willing to do to get a higher price?
  4. How many open houses are you expecting? I have had some clients that have not wanted to do any open houses.
  5. What do you feel your home is valued?
  6. How are you going to handle showings
    • Will you require a minimum notice?
    • Do you have pets?
    • Do you work out of your home?
Once you have taken a little time to do some pre-work, when you actually start interviewing agents you will quickly be able to determine who will be the one that will best suit your own personality and get your home listed or start your journey to buying your new home.

For more information or to talk work with Leslie you can contact her at: or visit her website at: