217 Buena Vista Street, Alta Iowa - Christmas Open House

Do you know what an Italianate Victorian home is, would you like to see one? Come by 217 Buena Vista Street in Alta this Saturday between 2 and 5 and take a look at this gorgeous home. It will be decorated for Christmas and we will be serving hot cider and of course Christmas cookies. I have the very lovely and talented Bonnie Lewis helping me with this project and she came up with the brilliant idea of holding the open house in formal attire. No we aren't going to be dressed as 2 Mrs. Claus. It should be a great time for all, if this Saturday doesn't work for you give me a call and I will set-up a tour at a time that is more convenient.

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Silver Lining to this Housing Market - Yes Indeed!

Home prices are coming down and so are interest rates. That is a very good turn of events for potential home buyers. The difference between now and 2 years ago, it is much harder to qualify for a mortgage. Two years ago if you had a heart beat you could get a mortgage, no verifications of income or assets needed. If you are a potential first time home buyer - even better! You will need an income, good credit, a good down payment and your own closing costs.
The criteria listed above is not a bad thing, it is a very good thing. If you are preparing to buy a home you will need at the least fair money management skills. Keeping a job, saving for a down payment, paying your bills on time, living within a budget and planning for the future are all prerequisites for being a mature responsible member of society.
If you are one of those members of society now is quite possibly the best time of your life to buy a home.

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How Green are You?

Green living is happening all over, we are a little slower here in Storm Lake and Alta Iowa but I am beginning to see some progress. Lots of people are very interested in saving money and the environment.

Check out the Green Links for just about everything:
There's sure to be at least a few that will be helpful, if you have favorites of your own please share them here too!

Green Business Guide - http://www.business.gov/guides/environment/
Best Green Blogs - http://www.bestgreenblogs.com/category/green-guides/
Green Auto Guide - http://www.cars.com/go/crp/buyingGuides/green/index.jsp
Save Gas Now - http://beyondoil.nrdc.org/fuel/gasprices
How to Reduce Your Energy Consumption - http://www.nrdc.org/air/energy/genergy.asp
Energy Efficient Appliances - http://www.nrdc.org/air/energy/fappl.asp
Recycling 101 - http://www.nrdc.org/cities/recycling/gsteps.asp
7 Steps for Creating Eco-Fabulous Interiors - http://www.nrdc.org/cities/living/gdesign.asp
Consumer Guide to Water Water Purifiers - http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/gfilters.asp
How to Go Green Bathroom Renovation - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/bathroom-renovation/index.html
How to Go Green Home Renovation - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/home-renovation/index.html
Green Natural Skin Care - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/natural-skin-care/index.html
Green Cleaning - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/green-cleaning/index.html
Green Lighting - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/green-lighting/index.html
Pellet Stoves - http://planetgreen.discovery.com/buying-guides/green-pellet-stoves.html
Consumer Reports Green Choices - http://www.greenerchoices.org/pcategories.cfm?pcat=appliances
EcoBroker - http://www.ecobroker.com/

One big way to be green - blog, it saves a lot of trees!

I am also interested in green alternatives to weed control, we bought an acerage this year and it has an abundance of weeks. I would rather not use nasty chemicals because I do have a large garden.

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Lustron - Rare Architectural Example in My Backyard

I came across this interesting home when I moved to Alta and once I became a REALTOR I found another one in Storm Lake. While doing some research for a very special Italianate home (which is a sub class of Victorian architecture) I saw a picture of one of these homes. The homes are called Lustron homes they are made out of steel, everything is steel - even the walls on the inside. Is that cool or what?? They are prefab homes built in 1949 and 1950 and I found out there are a number of them where I live (Midwest) and now I am sharing them with you! If you would like to learn more check out the book Lustron: The History of a Postwar Prefabricated Housing Experiment (McFarland & Co., 2001).

Here is a link to find out more online - The Midwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation has created a Web site, http://www.lustronpreservation.org/, for more. Stay tuned for more pictures and more info.


Iowa Statewide Housing Statistics

The Iowa Association of Realtors publishes housing statistical information and summarizes all boards that report.

Statewide the numbers stack up like this:
Comparing 2008 to 2007

January 2008 - Median Price down 18% and number of sales down 36%,
February 2008 - Median Price down 17% and number of sales down 11%,
March 2008 - Median Price down 18% and number of sales down 24%
April 2008 - Median Price down 1% and number of sales down 14%
May 2008 - Median Price down 17% and the number of sales down 15%
June 2008 - Median Price down 1% and the number of sales down 31%
July 2008 - Median Price UP 1% and the number of sales down 9%
I expect to see these numbers getting into positive territory very soon, once the election is over and the economy stabilizes.

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Storm Lake and Local Area Housing Market Report - January through July 2008

Everyone is asking, how's the real estate market and without looking at the actual numbers I know we are down but not suffering in this immediate area. I was actually surprised at how much we are down not just in price but also in number of homes selling.

The Iowa Association of REALTORS publishes the monthly statistics on their site. The following numbers are reported by the individual Boards of Realtors, in our instance that is is United Counties Board of Realtors.

January 2008 - Median Price $52,000 down from $85,500 in 2007
Number sold 13, up from 12 in 2007

February 2008 - Median Price $72,500 down from $88,000 in 2007
Number sold 22, up from 16 in 2007

March 2008 - Median Price $78,500 up from $77,500 in 2007
Number sold 9, way down from 25 in 2007

April 2008 - Median Price $78,000 down from $83,000 in 2007
Number sold 3, again down from 5 in 2007

May 2008 - Median Price $55,000 down from 87,000 in 2007
Number sold 19, down from 23 in 2007

June 2008 - Median Price $90,000 up from $89,000 in 2007
Number sold 19, down from 25 in 2007

July 2008 - Median Price $85,000 down from $91,500 in 2007
Number sold 21, up from 11 in 2007

The real estate market in our area, just like all over the US is trending down. I believe that can be attributed to 2 major factors: the first is insecurity making major financial commitments due to the instability in the economy and the second it the whiplash effect we are experiencing from all the poor loan practices over the last 3-5 years. Banks are requiring a very good credit score and a down payment. Many Americans have neither, so they have no choice but to continue to rent. There is a bright side to all markets, regardless of whether they are up or down. In this one the silver lining is for the people who own rental properties.

Hopefully, this long needed correction in loaning practices will serve as a wake up call for all of us to SAVE, read the fine print, live under our means and learn to wait for some things.

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10 Ways to Cut Costs in the Current Market

The headlines are all gloom and doom, I am tired of reading them and I'm tired of seeing all the political mud slinging. I am making my own good news that will just maybe help someone else have a better day. I love helping sellers, buyers and investors but I have found ways to reduce my costs and in the process maybe improve my health and improve my business.

Below are ways I am saving money in my life and in my business. Please add others you are using to get a better grasp of your budget.

1) No Chi Tea in the morning - saving about $11.00 a week

2) Cut eating out by 2/3 - my husband and I both work long hours and it seemed like eating out was a necessity. It isn't - approximate savings a week $80.00

3) Packing both of our lunches - eating better and saving about $65.00 a week

4) Caffeine boost of 2 sodas a day - healthier diet and saving about $50.00 a week

5) Planning my showings better to save gas. Unknown savings at this point but I drive a Toyota Solara and get about 24 miles to the gallon.

6) On days I do not have office appointments or floor time I work at home. I live about 4.5 miles from my office but I do go home to share my lunch (with a small buy mighty chihuahua named Spike) and then back. Round trip for a normal day about 18 miles. About $3.25 in gas a week, not a lot but it all adds up.

7) Programmable thermostat in our home, we have moved and have propane for the furnace fuel. I have never had this type of heat but our previous home had 2 programmable thermostats and I really liked having the ability to manage the temperature when I wasn't home or when sleeping. Unknown savings, industry estimate is about $120.00 a year. Living in Iowa, in Blizzard Alley on the Buffalo Ridge I imagine we will save a lot more than that.

8) I have hired a service to do my mailings, they also do the postage. I don't have to take the time to write, place postage or mail the info. Estimated hours saved that can be used for other prospecting 3 a week. That is 3 I can be on the phone staying in touch or doing other more immediate contacting.

9) Reviewed my advertising for 09, refined and focused it. I didn't renew some, at a savings of about $25.00 a week.

10) Read more marketing books, blogs, checkout websites of competitors, learn more about SEO so I can implement it more efficiently and not have to pay a service. Knowledge of how to do something is abetter investment than paying to have it done in some instances. Currently, I do my own website and SEO but I have been seriously looking into having it done in 09. Cost savings in 09 will be $175 a month.

Anyone else out there have any ideas?

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Free Home Inventory Forms

All home owners and renters should have at the very least paper copies of a home inventory and it should be stored away from the home. A video or picture documentation and the receipt is even better but it is good to have something. I wondered how many Iowans that were impacted by the flooding Mississippi had the documentation they needed to file claims with their insurance companies. If you don't have records of what you own go to this link and print off these forms. Take the time to record what you have, it took a long time to be able to earn enough to purchase those things and yes you probably have insurance.

It is helpful to keep this current at least once a year, why not at New Year's time. We get things that need to be insured at that time of year and the camera is handy. Record the info., snap a picture (you do need to print it) attach the receipt if you have it and put it all in the BIG envelope you keep IN THE SAFE DEPOSIT BOX, take the envelope to the safe deposit box and you are done.

The perfect time to begin a home inventory is when you are moving, you have to pack it, why not document it?

If you have older parents it is a good idea to help them do a complete inventory, a video camera is a big help too. Hey it can be fun, spend some time together and get a good deed done.


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Title Guarantee - Who Needs it? - Everybody!

A class offered by Linda Berg (the Business Development Director of Title Guarantee a division of the Iowa Finance Authority) was offered yesterday to our Board of Realtors. It was a very informative class that I wish I had taken 2 years ago. I know we (Iowa) are one of the few abstract states left in the US, I think there's a total of 14 out of 50. We don't have Title Insurance we have a different system that involves an abstracter and an attorney. However, most of the banks still put title guarantee on mortgaged property. The Buyer pays for this coverage although it is for the bank; usual cost is about $110 for $200,000 mortgage. Did you know, for an additional $25 the buyer can be covered? Me neither - I have bought a lot of property in the last few years and I have never once had anyone - a Realtor, a banker, an attorney tell me or ask me if I wanted Title Guarantee.

Why do you need it - abstractors and attorneys are human and they make mistakes, there's such a thing as a mechanics lien and it may not show up until 90 days after the work is done, judgements and liens can be filed after the closing and before the mortgage and deed are recorded leaving you liable, legal discriptions can be inaccurate, unreleased mortgages exist, and a number of other very nasty things you don't want to have to figure out on your own or at your own expense.

Unfortunately, I am personally involved in a property with a big problem, some time in the early 1900's part of the legal description was not continued with the abstract. I never knew about Title Guarantee, I am sure my bank has it and I paid for it but I can't use it. From now on I will never purchase any real property without it, all my Buyers will be educated on the need for this and the pitfalls of not having it. Some of those pitfalls include: big legal bills, inability to sell a property, angry neighbors, and a whole lot of frustration.

check out the link at www.iowafinanceauthority.gov

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Loss of a Peer

Today we lost a peer, a broker from our town, mls and board. It is always a wake-up call when someone you work with or know dies unexpectedly. This loss was one of those, Clara Stanley was the Broker Owner for Stanley Real Estate. We as Realtors don't always get along but when we lose one of our own we tend to close ranks and for a brief time come together as a united force. It is a shame we aren't always working together and I am just as guilty as anyone. I hope in the future I will bear in mind what words I say, what thoughts I think and especially what my actions say to others because I know it could be the last thing that person hears.
Clara will be missed, she was a very unique person who did things her own way.

Georgia A. Weaver BS Ed, GRI CRS
President of the United Counties Board of Realtors

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Storm Lake Iowa Video Tour

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Thinking of visiting or moving to Storm Lake Iowa; check out the virtual tour of the town by clicking on the title of this blog. The site is a really cool tool for anyone looking for something in Storm Lake, Iowa. Check out the downtown, eateries, shops, stores, lake, AWAYSIS project, city buildings and a lot more. See if you can find me, I'm located at 106 W Railtroad Street in Storm Lake. This site can also be used to plan a home finding trip, decide what area you think you would like to live in and check it out on-line. Be sure to go to the lake,to King's Pointe, and the water park.
Any questions or think you may want a personal tour of the homes available for sale; give me a call at 712-574-5426 to set up a meeting.


Congratulations Ben and Lacey Holmes on the Purchase of Your New Home

Ben and Lacey Holmes (previously Lacey Koster) purchased our home in Alta, congratulations you have bought a wonderful home. The couple are newleyweds and cute as can be! Both Ronnie and I are very pleased to have our home go to such a nice couple, we know it is in good hands. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have especially the big kitchen for all the family get-togethers!

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Staged to Sell - In a Tough Market it's Essential

According to a survey completed by StagedHomes.com, homes that were staged sold for an average of 6.9% more than ones that weren't. That survey was completed before the foreclosure crunch began. In my opinion, it is much more important now to stage all homes, because there are fewer buyers (due to increased difficulty in attaining a mortgage) the number of homes on the market has increased. It's the old rule of supply and demand.

In our local area - Storm Lake Iowa, there are several options to staging a home. Your Realtor should know a lot about staging and either be able to assist you or put you in contact with people and companies who stage. Stagers in Storm Lake Iowa include possibly your Realtor, Elements, and the new Furniture and Flooring store close to Hwy 71. Prices vary greatly so first talk to your Realtor, staging must be complete prior to having the property listed and pictures taken.

Remember over 80% of ALL buyers go on-line to check out houses before they contact a Realtor to see any thing. Never allow a Realtor to list your home without having pictures to be put online. A property on the mls without a picture could cost you a buyer.

because -

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Preparing Your Home to Sell Video by Elizabeth Weintraub

Check out this short sweet video by Elizabeth Weintraub on how to prepare your home to sell. To vieo the video click on the post title. Elizabeth has a lot of very good points and she is one of my favorite bloggers. After seeing the video check out her other topics, her site is a great resource for all things real estate. For a detailed system of preparing to list your home and how to efficiently pack give me a call at 712-574-5426. This system works for all types of moves and I recently used it myself when we moved to our acerage.

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Poor Pictures Online = High Days on the Market

With over 82% of all prospective home buyers looking at homes online before they contact a Realtor your pictures are vital to get people interested in touring your house. An old saying about curb appeal also applies to web picture appeal - Buyers have to stop at the house before you can get them in the house, it is the same with your property on line. If you have no inside pictures, clutter every where, a picture of the bathroom showing an open toilet and a shower curtain, a kitchen with dirty dishes in the sink, pictures with all the curtains/blinds closed (no one wants to buy a dark house) you are batting zero! If your home is listed get online www.stormlakemls.com and look at the pictures and the descriptions of the pictures - what there are no descriptions? Make a phone call and get that fixed asap.
When you are deciding to list your home some things are a lot more important than others when choosing a realtor to represent and sell your property. You are not hiring a Realtor to list your property, you are hiring them to SELL your property and great pictures are an absolute must!

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Short Sales and Realtors

I don't know about you but as short sales become more prevelant I find myself being asked questions I can't answer. As a Realtor I needed to know more about short sales and I came across this excellent article from one of the blogs I frequent - By Elizabeth Weintraub, on About.com. It spells out how financial organizations see a short sale and gives some really good advice when you end up working with one of these homes. Even after reading this article tread very carefully, this could be a potential mine field legally. We are not seeing a huge amount of these but the number of foreclosures is rising slowly.

Elizabeth's article http://homebuying.about.com/b/2008/06/02/will-a-short-sale-ruin-my-credit.htm

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Big Announcement - I found the silverware!

Finally, while going through some boxes last night to find a few more staging items I found my silverware. I can't tell you how glad I am to not have to eat from awful plastic silverware. My staging got good reviews and I will be adding several things this afternoon. Staging is fascinating and I attended a meeting with a local interior design guru - Cathy Sorbe this week. She made several recommendations including using neutrals, and neutral does not mean all beige. I'm all for that, I am so far from a beige person I though I would die thinking I had to paint my home all beige to sell it.
Cathy also said large area rugs, large art and large foliage are good items to use. Well I have everything except the large foliage. I'm into real plants and I don't much care for faux plants, but she does have a pear tree in her shop I rather liked.
I will let everyone know what advice she gave me on adding to or pearing (pun intended :) - down my staging.

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Our Home is For Sale in ALTA

Check out a few pictures of our home

This is my apology to all my readers, as most of you know we (my husband and I) have been so busy lately that we can't see straight.

Our home is for sale in Alta, we bought a building that we plan to gut and turn into our new home. Somewhere I packed the 3 sets of silverware we have, over a month ago, and I still haven't found a single one. We were greatly blessed by our Summit Chruch family and all the help they gave us in our move, we could never thank them enough!
We were living out of boxes in the lower level of our new "home" as we got our home in town ready for sale. Getting ready included exterior paint, interior paint, new garage siding, new carpet, 2 bathroom updates, refinishing the huge front porch floor, building a new staircase to the basement, mowing every other day due to rain every day, staging, not to mention all the cleaning after drywall sanding and getting it all done within 3 weeks. Can you say TIRED?

Well the house in town is done, although I have asked Cathy Sorbe of Elements located at 1701 W. Milwaukee Ave, Storm Lake 712-732-2385 (local design Guru)to fine tune it.
She is awesome!

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Will a Short Sale Ruin My Credit - In a Word YES

I came across this excellent article by one of my favorite bloggers- Elizabeth Weintraub, on About.com. This is a really important and potentially dangerous type of transaction for Realtors. If you want to be up to date follow the link and tread carefully it is dangerous out there nowdays!

Our area is seeing foreclosures slowly creep up but our market is still very solid here in Storm Lake and Alta Iowa.

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Credit Score Hit - 30 points every time!

I learned something interesting at our MLS meeting last Wednesday, a lot of people are paying other bills before they are paying their mortgage. I can't imagine their priorities, cell phone - some where to live? When a mortgage payment is 30 days late it drops your critit score a full 30 points - it doesn't take too many late mortgage payments to devestate your precious credit score!
With the increase in the required credit score to be able to get a mortgage or qualify for PMI it is not ever a good idea to be late on your mortgage. Pay your mortgage as your first bill, and skimp on other things like cable, highspeed, entertainment, eating out, cell phone, gasoline etc....

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New 1031 Exchange Ruling on Vacation Homes

The IRS issued a ruling that will determine how vacation homes can be qualified as investment property in a 1031 exchange.

1031 exchanges are a marvelous tool for real estate investors, check out the link to see how this works with a vacation home. There has always been a problem with the determination of vacation homes as personal or investment property. Now we have very clear rules including ownership for at least 2 years. Also to qualify as investment property, ie be considered in a 1031 exchange the property must be rented at fair market rent for at least 14 days in each 12 month period. There are also strict rules for the owner's use and it goes without saying document everything or don't even try an exchange. To find out more check out the link

1031 Exchange is fascinating and seems complicated but there are a professionals who work in this field and make it a lot easier. This is a tool every Realtor should have in their arsenal.


Brian Botello Video

If you read my earlier posts you know a precious friend Karyn Brophy lost her only son Brian Botello in Iraq last year. This is a video Brian and a friend did while in Iraq, he looks so good and so happy. I was so blessed by this video, please view it and listen and let it bless you too. Click on Brain's name in the title and the video will begin.

May God Bless all of our heros that have served or are serving to keep this great country free. Fight jihadism, if you have never read the Koran I highly recommend you do so, in a translation that is useful. If you instead choose not to you can't possibly understand what we are fighting against and what so many of our brave fellow Americans have died for - and that alone puts our counrty at a terrible risk.


New Development in Alta

Alta residents, there is a new development plan afoot. Don't know what I'm talking about; call one of your city council members, attend a City Council meeting, talk to Mayor Tom French or stop in and talk to the city clerk. There is a major shortage of housing in Alta, prices are up and so is need. From sitting in on a recent City Council meeting and getting a visit from Tom French, it looks like the city of Alta will own the land/lots, will be developing them and selling them to prospective builders.

I am uncomfortable with the idea of government stepping in where private business should be. From the conversation with Tom and comments made by some of the Council members the cost to develop each lot is not their biggest concern, unlike a private developer profit is not focused on. I voiced a desire to see a side by side comparison with the development Addie has proposed. Long term there would be a lot more lots available. I also think this should be an area that the public's opinion should weigh mightly on the decision, ultimately they will be footing the bill.

Hum, cost is a concern of mine as a tax payer, resident and Realtor in Alta. One of the major reasons people want to live in Alta is that the taxes are lower than Storm Lake. Keep checking back for updates to this interesting situation that is developing in Alta. Let me know your thoughts about this.


New Storm Lake Iowa Pictures

Check out these beautiful winter pictures

Frosty Morning

Park on Lake Avenue

Early Morning Frost

Frosty Star on Lake Ave.

Frosty Flame

Frost and Fog on Storm Lake - For more pictures of Storm Lake Iowa and the surrounding area check out http://www.georgiaweaver.com/ and http://www.slrealtycheck.com/ and http://picasaweb.google.com/SLRealtyCheck.com/StormLakeIowaBlackAndWhitePictures