The Decision for Seniors to Downsize – And What It Means for Your Family Home

More seniors today are embracing the trend of downsizing. For some, their home is no longer safe or accessible, while for others, financial reasons drive this decision. Whatever the reason may be, one of the big questions you’re left with is what to do with the home you’re moving out of. The three main options you have are to either sell it, rent it to someone else, and or keep it to pass along to family members.

Where are you downsizing to?

Knowing the type of home you plan on moving into, and the costs involved, is an important factor that goes into making a decision about your family home. Do you plan on buying or renting a smaller house or condo? Or are you moving into assisted living? If you’re downsizing because mobility or safety is a concern, seniors and their family members should consider whether assisted living is best.

Retirees who are ready to make a change often confuse assisted living with the traditional idea of a nursing home. The goal of assisted living is for seniors to be able to live in an environment that feels like an apartment home, not an institution. Assisted living communities allow you to continue living on your own terms, while maintaining a good deal of independence. At the same time, they provide help with everyday needs like meal preparation, basic personal care, and managing medications. If you or your loved one decides to move to assisted living, look for a community that delivers this balance between care and the ability to stay as self-sufficient as possible.

The best way to find the facility that meets these requirements and feels right for you is to visit several different communities. Of course, cost is a factor that plays a role in this decision, too. Costs can vary depending on the type of amenities a place provides; the average cost for assisted living in Minneapolis is $3,946 per month.

How will you cover the costs of your new home?

Covering the costs of assisted living can be challenging for someone on a fixed income, but remember that your current home is an asset that you can use to help. One option is to turn your home into a rental property. Doing this provides income that you can put toward assisted living costs, and meanwhile, you can continue building equity in your home.

Another option is to sell your house. The Penny Hoarder explains how selling your home when you downsize frees up money for whatever else you need it for (in this case, assisted living). Especially if you own your home free and clear, selling gives you a lump sum of money, rather than the steady, but smaller, flow of income you would get from renting it. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to which option is better. The answer depends in large part on which option has a better impact on your bottom line, and which one best protects your finances for the future.

If you’re moving to another home, such as a condo or townhome, rather than assisted living, selling a larger (and more expensive home) may be the best choice if doing so allows you to buy your new home outright. Doing this lowers your cost of living, but you’re also maintaining ownership of a property that you can eventually pass on to family. Even when this is your plan, cautions against deeding the property to your children now because doing so could end up being costly for them.

For many retirees, your home is your biggest asset. In the best-case scenario, you hope this asset can stay in your family. However, this asset can also be a huge help in maintaining financial security as you move forward. Finding the best solution isn’t always easy. The most important thing is to explore all your options, and how they each fit with the bigger picture, before making a decision.

Jim Vogel is a guest contributor who writes about downsizing for senior citizens at

Photo by Elien Dumon on Unsplash

Moving on and Making a New Life After Loss

Losing someone you are close to is a devastating experience and one that changes the way you live your daily life. And as much as your family and friends are there to support you socially and emotionally, ultimately, you must find your own. If you have given yourself time to grieve but realize that your current home keeps you from moving further along in the process, a change of scenery can help you over the hurdles.

When Moving Makes Sense

Moving is not a cure for grief. It will not remove the memory of your loved one. However, the first morning in a new home is a page turned to a new chapter in your story.

Finding a new place to live might be a good idea if:

  • You can afford the expenses associated with moving.
  • You are not trying to avoid feelings of loss but are ready to move forward.
  • You cannot afford your current home without a second income.
  • You are ready to go through your loved one’s belongings and to let some things go.

The Costs

There are many expenses that you have to factor into your moving budget. According to Bankrate, these include transportation, the cost of living, and other purchase-related expenses. You will also need to look at what it will cost to get your own home ready to put on the market. Small home repairs, marketing, and realtor fees (realtors usually take 6 percent as commission) can easily add up to thousands of dollars. Even small expenses, such as having a cleaning service come in to perform a move-out cleaning can quickly add up if you don’t plan and budget ahead of time. According to Redfin, it’s also incredibly important to pay attention to closing costs, which can range between 2 percent and 5 percent of the purchase price.

On the flip side, if you cannot afford your current home, it may be necessary to move regardless of your cash flow. So, sit down and look at your finances. Calculate life insurance you’ve collected, your current income, and savings, but also don’t forget about other sources of cash, including employer-sponsored insurance policies and your children’s college savings, if necessary. Although you may feel guilty if you have to dip into their education fund, keep in mind that they will have the option of taking out student loans when the time comes, and your responsibility is to their safety and welfare today.

The Emotions

Grief is a complicated emotion, and it’s one that the Mayo Clinic stresses vary from person to person. Unfortunately,  it is one that we have to learn to manage before making any major changes to our life. Before planning a move, have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Look at your intentions. If you are moving to escape, you should know that you cannot run from the pain. What you can do, however, is learn to work through it.

Before speaking with a realtor, spend an afternoon or two going to your loved one’s belongings. If you move, you will most likely not take everything with you. Pay attention to how you feel as you sort through their clothing, collections, and other personal items. When you realize that you can let these items go, you will be one step closer to starting your new life. One thing that many people find helpful is to donate their loved one’s things to a charity in their honor. You may find comfort in knowing that a child’s toys, for example, will no longer sit in an empty room.

Help Along the Way

No matter when or where you decide to move, or how long it takes to give yourself permission to go, there are resources that can help you along the way. Your family and friends, church congregation, therapist, and realtor are all in your corner, and they can offer everything from advice to a strong back as you make this transition. If you don’t have a strong support group in your area, there are online bereavement programs that can provide the assistance you need.

Grieving is not easy, and moving can be even harder. However, saying goodbye to where you were is sometimes the best way to accept where you are and get to where you are going.

Image via Pixabay

Lucille Rosetti is a guest contributor who writes about grief and loss at The Bereaved. Her latest book is Life After Death: A Wellness Guide for the Bereaved.

Save Money with DIY HVAC Care

Being a homeowner requires a fair amount of maintenance to keep your home in tip-top shape. And one of the most important systems in your house is the HVAC, the heating and cooling system that keeps your home warm in winter and cool in summer. While there are certain times you should use a professional to help with upkeep for your HVAC system, there are also many easy tasks you can manage yourself, helping to save a few bucks and keeping your system running for years to come.

Clean Out Debris

According to DIY Network, regular care of your HVAC system will save you money and energy as well as extend the lifespan of the equipment itself. Whole home air conditioning units located outside your house can collect dust and debris. In order to safely clean out the unit, first be sure to shut off the power using your breaker box. Then use a screwdriver to lift off the fan cage and remove any leaves, mulch or other debris that has accumulated inside the unit. You can also use a hose to rinse off the exterior, but be sure to hose from the inside out. To prevent excess debris, make sure to regularly keep bushes and trees near the unit trimmed.

Replace Your Air Filter

Another important task any homeowner can do to both keep the HVAC running smoothly and improve the quality of air in your home is to regularly change the air filter. The EPA advises that you change your filter every 60-90 days, but if you have pets or smoke, it’s better to change your filter every 30 days. Keep in mind the quality and size of filter is important. The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, MERV, is based on a national consensus standard and should be used to choose the best air filter. The higher the rating, the more contaminants are being filtered. Most HVACs can support a MERV of 7-12, but it’s best to research your system to find the correct size and highest-rated filter that can be used without restricting the airflow.

Failing to routinely change your air filter can also cause your health to suffer. A dirty air filter can trigger and worsen allergy issues from pollen, dirt and mold. When the air filter is dirty, all the particles that were previously trapped in the filter can now start to circulate through the home. Because most people spend a larger amount of time indoors as opposed to outdoors, exposure is higher and the quality of indoor air is especially important to consider.

When to Call the Professionals

Just as important as knowing DIY tips, it’s equally important to know when it’s time to call in the professionals. If you find your HVAC system unable to properly heat or cool your home, there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot the problem yourself. First check to see if there is power or if a breaker has flipped. If there is power to the unit, make sure that all debris is clear inside and around the outside of your unit. If you run through these tasks and it still doesn’t work, then it may be time to call in the professionals.

While some issues with your HVAC may be out of your area of expertise, frequent and routine cleaning is easy and encouraged to maintain the life of your system. Air filters are inexpensive, and they are easy to purchase and install yourself. Proper care and cleaning will result in money saved, lower energy usage, and cleaner air circulating throughout your home.

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Mindset. Courage. Wisdom. Opportunity. Flourishing.

We are now well into the new year. My year began with these themes top-of-mind:

Mindset. Courage. Wisdom. Opportunity. Flourishing.

I recently read that the three keys to mastery and success in your life and business are; 1) your mindset, 2) your skill-set, and 3) your actions. All three are critical, but none are more important than mindset. Mindset begins with good habits and rituals. This year I have resolved to change my mindset by doing the following:

  • Practice gratitude, daily
  • Exercise consistently
  • Feed my soul with more music
  • Consume more of nature
  • Learn to enjoy reading
  • Experience more adventures
  • Seek people who are good for me
  • Ask for help when needed

Every 90 days, 90% of our bodies go through cell regeneration. The cells in our bodies are constantly dividing, regenerating, and dying…skin, hair, liver, stomach, intestines, bones, etc. In fact, the eye’s cornea can regenerate itself in as little as one day. Some areas of the brain, like the olfactory bulb that helps us smell and the hippocampus that helps us learn, can and do rejuvenate.

So, I ask myself, why am I so fixed, stubborn, and set in my ways? Why does it matter? We, humans, are new creations in more ways than one ?. What’s stopping me? It’s time to shed the bad. Go out and learn, change, and die to self.

What does this have to do with real estate? If I presume to think I can provide the highest level of problem solving, service, and value to you, my clients, I must get my mindset reoriented for success. For me, it starts now.

The Skinny, January 2019

A common question I get is, “how’s the market?” I’m glad you ask. Home prices rose steadily throughout 2018 even as sales activity was in fluctuation compared to 2017 levels. Strong demand for a limited number of homes for sale fueled price increases along with a higher-end properties. November showed the first inventory increase since 2015, and buyers should expect inventory to continue to improve in 2019. More homes for sale should limit the magnitude of price increases, but more inventory doesn’t always lead to weaker pricing. Absorption rates can be a better indicator of price momentum (number of sales per month divided by the total number of available homes). According to Minneapolis Area Realtors, with data from NorthstarMLS, here are the numbers compared to the previous year:

  • Pending home sales are down -3.3% (2,918).
  • Closed sales are down -9.9% (3,706). Sales were down compared to last year. Some buyers are willing to wait for more favorable pricing at a time of diminished housing affordability.
  • Homes newly listed are up +3.5% (2,391). Good news for inventory! More homes entering the market makes competition less.
  • Median sale prices are up +4.0% ($258,000). Last month, price increases were found across the board. That may change in 2019.
  • Homes currently for sale are up +4.4% (8,128). Inventory is beginning to perk up nationally and in the Twin Cities.
  • Days on the market is down -6.6% (57 days). On Average, you can expect to have your home take about two months to sell. This is still historically very good.
  • Months of supply of homes are up +13.3% (1.7 months). This indicator measures the balance between buyer and seller activity. Supply over 6 months indicates a buyer’s market. Supply under 5 months indicates a seller’s market.
  • Percent of original sales price received is down slightly -0.2% (96.9%). Sellers continue to enjoy a healthy share of their list price.

Generally speaking, unemployment rates remained remarkably low again in 2018 and wages continued to improve for many households. The issue is now a lack of labor supply. Incomes haven’t quite kept pace with home price increases. This created an affordability crunch in the second half of 2018. Housing affordability will remain an important storyline in 2019. Learn more here

Goat for Vijay!

Vijayashanthi, otherwise known to us as Vijay, is our sponsor child with Compassion International. She lives in Sri Lanka and will be 13 in April.

This Thanksgiving, my wife and I want to give a gift that makes an impact for children in poverty. We already sponsor this child, but we want to bless Vijay and her family with the gift of a goat. Yep, a GOAT!

A gift of goats means a family can have milk, which they can both consume and sell to earn money for other necessities. By providing a gift of a live goat we want to help this family become more self-sufficient, which leads to healthier children. Vijay’s family can then raise more goats, increasing the size of their herd, and sell the additional goats and goat’s milk to generate income.

Did you know one goat can provide 1,800 pounds of milk a year? That’s more than 11 tons of milk in its lifetime.

Read more about how to donate a goat!

A recent letter from Vijay:


The Smart Home

This month, I will close on a home sale with a Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ Home Design. Candidly, while showing this home to my buyer client, I was caught a little off guard. This certification was unknown to me. As with any other unfamiliar topic, I decided that I needed to dig in and learn more.

One thing is clear, the smart home revolution is here, and today’s consumers are demanding that realtors be the authority in all things “home” which now includes smart home technology.

Smart home technology is more than just a buzzword. With our lives increasingly transformed by technology,  everything from our light bulbs to our thermostat is becoming connected. For consumers, this means that almost every new product boasts some kind of smart technology that promises to make our lives faster, simpler, and better with home automation.

Why all the frenzy?

The motivation to move toward smart home automation converges around four main themes: savings, safety, convenience, and control.

The perceived benefit of boosted home value is lower on the list but increasing rapidly. As recently as 5 years ago perceived boost in home value through home automation was not even on the scale. It is predicted that in the next five years in will move toward the top. As a realtor, this is a significant trend to not ignore.

What is a Smart Home?

What exactly are we talking about? I have a digital thermostat. Doesn’t that mean I have a smart home?

A smart device is a state-of-the-art device that connects to your smartphone, tablet or computer to give you more information and control than ever before. Your smart appliance can send you alerts, for example, so you’ll know exactly when the laundry is clean or the cookies are ready.

CNET, the world’s largest and most trusted online source of consumer technology news and reviews defines a “Smart Home” as a home that is equipped with network-connected products (i.e., “smart products,” connected via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or similar protocols) for controlling, automating and optimizing functions such as temperature, lighting, security, safety or entertainment, either remotely by a phone, tablet, computer or a separate system within the home itself.

“Smart home automation is the era of smartphones and AI communicating to automate your home to be interconnected.”

CNET goes further to say that in order to be categorized as a smart home, in addition to a reliable Internet connection, the property must have one or both of these features:

  1. a smart security feature that either controls access or monitors the property,
  2. a smart temperature feature.

It must also include at least two additional features from this list:

  • Appliances (smart refrigerators and smart washer / dryers)
  • Entertainment (smart TVs and TV streaming services)
  • Heating / Cooling (smart HVAC system, smart fans or vents)
  • Lighting (smart light bulbs and lighting systems)
  • Outdoors (smart-plant sensors and watering systems)
  • Safety (smart fire / carbon monoxide detectors and nightlights)
  • Security (smart locks, smart alarm systems or cameras)
  • Temperature (smart thermostats)

First things first, a robust Wi-Fi infrastructure, without dead spots, is essential and works as the foundation to any smart home technology.

Lennar, one of the nation’s largest builders, announced the world’s first Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ home designs featuring integrated automation and voice control with Amazon Alexa – all a part of Lennar’s signature Everything’s Included® approach to homebuilding.

Lennar is the first to embrace the new Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design™ program announced by Wi-Fi Alliance®, the worldwide network of companies that drives the interoperability, adoption, and evolution of Wi-Fi® globally. Lennar’s Wi-Fi CERTIFIED home designs are guaranteed to provide coverage in every room with no dead spots. This allows buyers to control their lights, front door lock and thermostat simply by talking to Amazon Alexa or any similar smart hub.

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED home designs enable today’s best smart and streaming products to operate at peak performance and are ready for the future as new technologies come to market.

How do you boost your Wi-Fi to get the most out of your internet?

If your internet isn’t as fast as the internet speeds you pay for and you’re plagued by slow speeds, bad reception, and other Wi-Fi issues , your wireless internet router signal is probably the reason. Here are 8 ways you can power up the Wi-Fi performance in your home:

  1. Don’t stuff your router in a cupboard – place your router in a central location
  2. Reset your router
  3. Cut off bandwidth leeches by updating security
  4. Optimize your router’s settings
  5. Choose a new Wi-Fi channel
  6. Purchase a newer, high-end router
  7. Consider a wifi mesh system
  8. Turn an old router into a new, dumb access point

Secondly, you’ll need to choose a “Voice Assistant.” Virtual voice-controlled assistants like Apple’s (Siri), Google’s Assistant, Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa make it easy to control smart home products by speaking simple commands like “Alexa, turn on the lights.” A wireless smart speaker is the absolute first investment you should make when transforming your digs into a smart dwelling. Each of these assistants has its strengths and weaknesses, so choose the one that will be more likely to work for your needs.

“Hey, Siri, move me onto the step three in building a smart home.”

Thirdly, there needs to be some type of smart home controller.  This is where you use your iPhone or Android to remotely control and change the settings in your house through a home automation app. Smart Home and Home Automation are virtually interchangeable, in fact, if you Google what is a smart home most of the same results will appear. What is home automation? Home automation is part of “The Internet of Things,” also known as IoT.

A smart home usually runs off a hub connected to the internet, and sends waves of communication to other devices. Home automation apps allow a smartphone interface to control devices wherever there’s connection. A few smart home applications are Insteon, Nest, Honeywell, Ring, Philips Hue, WeMo, IFTTT, and SmartThings.

You can control all your connected devices including locks, lights, outlets, and thermostats, with the SmartThings Hub and the SmartThings app by simple voice commands using Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Use your phone to remotely monitor and control your home’s security, energy usage, lighting, and more.

Smart home technology is based on the idea that communication signals can be sent between devices to make something happen. Although it is not necessary to understand how these signals work, it might help to have a basic understanding of the various technologies used to make this happen.

  • Insteon is considered the most-reliable home control and automation technology. Using both the existing wires (power line) in the home and radio-frequency communication.
  • Z-Wave & Zigbee are the two most popular wireless technologies, using radio frequency (RF) to communicate between devices.
  • Wi-Fi technology can be really fast and super simple to set up.
  • Some using a combination of these. The most common communication technologies are Wi-Fi and Insteon.


Smart Home Device Categories

Beyond the hub of a smart speaker (voice assistant), in the tech world of endless possibilities; you can automate lamps, wifi thermostats, light switches, light bulbs, locks, home security sensors, life safety sensors, video cameras, doorbells, speakers, and more. Between this year and 2022, experts estimate the global smart home device market to grow by as much as 11% annually. Creating a smart home is, arguably, no longer a pipe dream for most households due to lower costs and compatibility with voice-based assistants.

Entertainment: smart TVs, media adapters, and streaming boxes

A streaming media player is what connects your television or home theater to the Internet and allows you to stream video and music from online services. They’re typically very basic devices with only a few connections, such as video (HDMI and/or composite), audio (RCA and/or digital), and Ethernet networking jacks. This devices can include home theater components and products that allow consumers control all audio and video functions from virtually anywhere in the home. For example, consumers no longer need to spend time looking for remotes to activate home theater components. With the touch of a single button, the television, audio and surround sound automatically activates.

The best rated streaming device for 2018 is Amazon Fire TV Cube.  With Alexa on Fire TV Cube, you can control compatible TVs, sound bars, and A/V receivers from top brands like Samsung, Sony, LG, Vizio, and more. Plus, tune to live TV channels with cable or satellite boxes from providers like Comcast, DISH, DIRECTV/AT&T U-verse, and more. You cannot use your voice to change channels through an over-the-air HD antenna.

Home Monitoring/Security

A smart home monitoring system connects to your Wi-Fi network so you can monitor and control your security devices using your smartphone and an app. Entry-level systems usually include some door and window sensors, a motion detector, and a hub that communicates with these devices using one or more wireless protocols such as Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, Zigbee, or a proprietary mesh network. You can add extra door, motion, and window sensors to provide coverage for your entire house and build a comprehensive system that includes door locks, garage door openers, indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras, lights, sirens, smoke/CO detectors, water sensors, and more.

SimpliSafe is the highest rated and best selling system on the market. Other manufacturers to consider are Homeboy, SkyBell, and Netgear Arlo.

Security and locking devices allow the front door to be unlocked or the garage door to be closed through the Internet or phone.  Lock and unlock your door from anywhere and give secure digital keys to guests, all from your phone. Smart Locks attach to your existing deadbolt, on the inside of your door so you can still use your keys. The device automatically unlocks when you arrive and locks when you leave. Control your lock with your voice using Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant. The August Smart Lock Third Generation is the best device on the market today. Others to consider are Kwikset, Schlage, and Yale.



When you begin investing in your smart home, it’s the little things that make all the difference. These products enable you to control the amount of light in your home automation directly at the source. You can even transform your home lighting with the color-changing bulbs. The Wi-Fi-enabled LIFX Mini Color Smart Light sets the mood of your space with a rainbow of hues that adjust at the tap of your phone. Delivering over 800 lumens from just 9 watts, the Smart Light is designed to save energy while being environmentally friendly. Other makers of lighting products worth noting are Casetta by Lutron, Phil


Smart thermostats are devices that can be used with home automation and are responsible for controlling a home’s heating and/or air conditioning. They perform the same functions as a programmable thermostat as they allow the user to control the temperature of their home throughout the day using a schedule, such as setting a different temperature at night.

One example is the Nest Learning Thermostat. This device learns what temperature you like and builds a schedule around yours. Turn it down before you go to bed, up when you wake up, and down again before you leave for work. Within a week, the Nest will automatically do all that for you. Independent studies showed that it saved people an average of 10% to 12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. So in under two years, it can pay for itself.

Notable other thermostat makers are Ecobee, Honeywell, Schneider, and Sensi.

Smart Plugs

This is an easy upgrade for someone who doesn’t want to overhaul their home’s hardware, but still wants to add smart wireless functionality. What is it? A smart plug plugs into your regular old wall outlet but usually comes with a corresponding app, so that you can control whatever you plug into it remotely. You plug the smart plug directly into an outlet, then plug any device into the smart plug. You will then be able to control whatever device you plugged in even when you’re not in the room or even the house. Using an app, you’ll be able to do things like turn off your living room floor lamp even from across town. You’ll also be able to get the coffee maker started without leaving the comfort of your bed, or check that the slow-cooker is on while you’re still at work.

This will be one of the hottest Christmas stocking stuffers for 2018.


There is a plethora of amazing home automation products to make your life more safe, comfortable, and convenient. Many of these are not featured here. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) featured the latest innovations in appliances including vacuums, ranges, washing machines, and refrigerators. For instance, you could be working in your home office when you realized you didn’t hit start on your washing machine. Instead of breaking your concentration, you can ask Amazon’s Alexa to set your washing machine to your selected cycle, set the water temperature, and start it – all from your desk chair. Check out this list of additional smart devices.

The Smart Green Home

Smart green homes make sustainability easy. More and more people are becoming aware of the ability to make their homes truly smart  they can move toward making them green too!  By utilizing home controllers integrated with all home sub-systems, homeowners can increase savings by controlling lighting, window coverings, HVAC, irrigation and by monitoring usage. Many home controllers have built-in monitoring systems whereby they calculate and log usage by all connected devices, giving the home owner heightened awareness and the knowledge to make changes as necessary.

With a larger percentage of home buyers being made up of millennials than ever before, high-tech and green homes seem to be on everyone’s list these days. “Smart” home features frequently pair well with eco-friendly and green building designs, because many smart features offer you greater control over areas of your home that consume energy.

Both smart home technology and green building design are on the top of many homeowners’ must-have lists these days. As companies strive to make improvements in both fields, the options keep getting better and better. Check

Smart Home automation is not reserved for new home construction. Remodels offer you a chance to transform the look and functionality of your home. Smart home technology is increasingly becoming part of that equation.

A smart home system can make your house and your life safer, simpler and more comfortable. Trying to get things started with home automation can be intimidating, but a smart home doesn’t have to be filled with crazy gadgets and robot devices. It’s as simple as swapping out everyday products with devices that fulfill the same role, but are connected to each other in order to improve home automation. By setting up a system of triggers and responses that accomplish smalls tasks, you can save yourself time, energy, effort, and even increase home security.

Black Friday season is around the corner. Now is the time to make your move to the Smart Home.

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A Matter of Trust

A recent JD Power survey reported a trend in the real estate industry showing more homebuyers and sellers increasingly going without agents. It would seem that people are looking for cheap, convenient, and paperless transactions through non-conventional means.

However, sit-in at any closing table and you will find a room full of trusted people doing specialized jobs: the seller’s agent, the buyer’s agent, the buyer’s closer, the seller’s closer, attorneys, paralegals, etc. The priority of a cheap, paperless, and stress-free close seems 1,000 miles away.

Why? Because closing the sale of a home is such a major deal involving a large lump sum of money and a huge asset, the participants at either end are likely to want to look each other in the eye and verify one another as real, upstanding people. It comes back to trust. People will always pick trust over thrift and convenience when it comes to home sales.

But what if you could combine trust with convenience? Do you now have a complete and satisfying transaction? The future of the real estate industry (and human agents) belongs to those agents (and teams) that are most successful at serving both important attributes.

Why does it matter? Trust is the foundation of all relationships.

What exactly do you mean when you say you don’t trust someone? Do you mean you don’t think they are honest? Or, do you mean you don’t trust they have your best interest in mind? Or, do you mean you don’t think they can do the job? These are all different dimensions of realtor trust.

In a recent indictment of a local Minneapolis realtor husband and wife team, we sadly see another example of a violation of trust. It is alleged that these realtors devised a scheme requiring repair contractors to pay them kickbacks. In return, the couple used their position as realtors for the victim companies to steer housing repair contracts to contractors who paid the kickbacks. The indictment further alleges that they procured and submitted sham bids as part of the scheme to defraud the victim companies. The defendants created a scheme to siphon as much money as they could from these properties, no matter the method, no matter the victim. These scams victimize all of us. Trust is essential. These dishonest and untrustworthy criminals clearly broke the trust covenant that good realtors work hard to earn.

This concept is so important that an entire business model was developed by a popular radio/TV host to address the issues he had experienced in a real estate transaction. He developed a referral process to determine who you can trust and who you can’t…built on a proprietary vetting system. Trust is essential. But how do you define trust in real estate?

The Dimensions of Realtor Trust

Four dimensions of a trusted realtor

Integrity: Are they honest and ethical? The quality of honesty is the most important element and is the foundation of trust. Liars are not trusted. In fact, without integrity, the other dimensions of trust don’t matter.

Is there yes a YES and there no a NO? When your agent tells you something or promises something, do they follow through on those statements? Anyone can promise something, but people with integrity deliver on those promises.

When your agent tells you something and later you learn that it’s not true, how does that make you feel? Trust is like a bank account. You start with a certain amount of trust, and then over time, you add to that account by delivering on promises. And like a bank account, it can be emptied overnight if you’re caught under delivering and lying. Lying is a sure sign of someone who is in it for the paycheck and does not have your best interests in mind.

Does your agent demonstrate an awareness of other people? Are they respectful and courteous to others that are involved in a transaction? Integrity is also the quality of having strong moral principles and moral uprightness in how you treat people.

You can learn about a realtor’s integrity and reputation in several different ways. Start by checking online reviews. There are dozens of websites that allow users to leave reviews about realtors, so you should take the time to read some of their reviews prior to working together. If there is a single bad review and a handful of glowing recommendations, you shouldn’t put too much weight on that review. However, if there are reviews from multiple people that all say basically the same thing, you may see a pattern. With that being said, sometimes online reviews may not be complete or entirely accurate.

You can also ask for references. Better yet, ask people who work with your agent, their peers, or the vendors they associate with. Online reviews are helpful, but you won’t have the opportunity to ask the person who posted them any questions about their experience. If you want to engage in conversation with a former client to learn more about your agent ask him for references.

Competence: Do they know what they’re doing? If you hire someone to represent you, you want to be assured they know what they’re doing and can do the job well. What is their track record of success?

In other industries, a person’s level of success does not always correlate with his trustworthiness, but in real estate, it typically does. Trustworthy realtors have clearly won the trust of other clients and helped them successfully either buy or sell a home.

It’s also important to find a realtor who stays up-to-date with industry news. Does your realtor know what trends buyers are looking for this year? Does he know anything about the current interest rates on home loans? Are home values in your area expected to rise or fall in the next six months? These are areas that he should be familiar with, so if he doesn’t have the answers to these questions, he may not be as trustworthy as he claims to be.

Reliability: Can they be counted on to follow through on their commitments? Will they be there when they’re needed? If they agree to do something, are they dependable? Can they be counted on to complete things on time? Timelines and deadlines are absolutely critical in a real estate transaction. Missing important deadlines can cost you money and/or the possibility of losing your dream home!

Can you depend on your agent? Will they show up when they’re supposed to? Realtors who take a long time to respond to your emails or who say they will follow up with you on a matter but never do are not being professional. Likewise, realtors who are late for appointments or constantly reschedule with you at the last minute are not behaving in a professional manner. This is a sign of an unreliable realtor.

Concern: Are they genuinely concerned for your well-being? When we believe someone genuinely cares about our well-being, we are willing to open our hearts and become vulnerable. This is the deepest level of trust and is not to be taken lightly.

Part of showing concern for clients is having great listening skills. Trustworthy realtors are dedicated to finding you the home of your dreams. How do they know what your dreams are? During the first meeting with your realtor, he should ask you to describe some of the must-haves in your new home. If you mention that you absolutely must have a fenced yard for your three large dogs, but the realtor continues to send you listings for homes without a fence, he was clearly not paying attention during your conversation. This indicates he is more concerned with making a sale than he is with finding you a home that meets your needs. You shouldn’t trust a realtor who cannot demonstrate that he is able to listen to you and put your needs first.

Conclusion; does your realtor have your best interest in mind? Do they see you as an individual, and do they really care about your well-being? If they don’t, they may need to evaluate their mission statement or rethink their career choice. When you start to wonder whether you can trust someone or not, that is when you already know you don’t. Move on. Find a trustworthy realtor.
The sale of a home is a major deal. Don’t take shortcuts. Choose individuals with character, who are capable, and that you can depend on. It’s a matter of trust.

August Giveaway

Enter to Win Tickets to The Great Minnesota Get-Together!

Welcome to our monthly Friends, Colleagues and Clients Giveaway program! Each month we give away free tickets, passes or gift cards as our way of saying thanks for your business and support!  This month, one lucky winner will receive up to five (5) $11.00 general admission tickets to the Minnesota State Fair! ENTER TO WIN below.

2018 Gate Admission Ticket
Minnesota State Fair Tickets

Good any day of the Minnesota State Fair, Aug 23 – Labor Day, Sept 3, 2018.

Available delivery methods are Print-At-Home or Regular Mail (tickets will be mail

ed to you directly from the Minnesota State Fair).

IMPORTANT: Gate admission tickets may not be used for parking.

Special Note: Entry constitutes consent for Fair to

use any image of bearer for any purpose without further notice or payment.


Learn More About This Years Fair  >>>

Winner will randomly be selected by noon on Monday, August 27th and contacted via email.

Click below to enter. Thanks again, and good luck!

4Ps Intelligent Real Estate Marketing

Last year, a full 89% of buyers used a real estate agent, and so did 88% of sellers. Realtor representation during a real estate transaction is important for both buyers and sellers. This is a fairly sound conclusion made by most people. But, in a vast sea of neverending realtors, are all realtors the same? Why should I use a particular agent or brokerage? Why should I consider Jon Speich as my realtor?

I’m glad you asked. Let me make my case for you here.

At JP Willman Realty Twin Cities, we have created a streamlined approach to the traditional real estate transaction…to ensure a smooth and stress-free experience from start to finish. We handle every step of the process – giving you the highest level of service possible to sell your home for top dollar in the shortest amount of time. Our marketing strategy is the engine designed to deliver you these results. Marketing is your realtor’s primary task.

The 4Ps Marketing Model

Back when I earned my marketing degree, among others, Professor John Cerrito taught me the fundamentals of marketing. A key element of these fundamentals is the “marketing mix.” In my classes I was introduced to the 4Ps marketing mix: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. These same fundamentals apply to how we implement our marketing plan for home sales. We have adopted those same principles into what we call our 4Ps Intelligent Marketing. These are the ingredients that combine to capture and promote your home’s unique selling points, those that differentiate it from the competition. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.


You’ve probably heard the real estate agent mantra: location, location, location. You’ve certainly heard the phrase enough and may wonder what inspires agents to say the word three times. To be sure, location is important. But, is that all there is to it, location? There is a whole lot more! It is our approach to discover and display what is it that makes your home special.

How will you present the property as a product to appeal to buyers? The first of the Four Ps of marketing is: product. A product, in our context, is a property that fulfills a need or want of a buyer. Its critical that you have a clear grasp of exactly what makes your property unique before you can successfully market it. This is the meat of our marketing mix. It’s the stage from which we launch our marketing.

Our presentation strategies and techniques include:

• Exceptional staging
• Contractor and vendor referrals
• Professional photography

An important part of our home selling game plan is to understand who your potential buyer might be. An integral part of presentation is to understand who we are targeting. This won’t just help you identify the most likely buyer pool, but it will also help determine what work you should do to make your home attractive to those buyers. Our recommendations and advice will be mindful of specific buyer attributes.

We have developed a dedicated marketing process often used with our clients. As a part of this process, we incorporate the four Ps through a series of questions designed to help define how we will list the property. Here are just a few of the questions we consider:

1. What do buyers want from your property?
2. How does your property meet those needs?
3. Where do potential buyers look for with your particular home?
4. What is the perceived value of your home?
5. How do you differentiate from your competitors?


How do you set the right price? It is extremely important to price your home correctly. When your home hits the market, you have a short period of time to capture the imagination of the best buyers.

A Comparative Market Analysis analyzes homes similar to yours. The aim of the market analysis is to achieve the maximum selling price for your home while being able to sell your home within a relatively short period of time.

What does your comparative market analysis say about how to set listing price? Once a concrete understanding of the relevant market is established we can start making some pricing decisions. Price determination and strategy is likely the most important factor in our marketing mix.

Overpricing your house in the belief that you can reduce the price back later is a strategy that can backfire badly. For example, by the time you reduce your price, you may miss out on a surge of interest in properties like yours. Also, if prices are lowered, buyers may wonder if there’s something wrong with the property that kept other buyers away. So to keep from selling your property at below market value and from wasting valuable time, don’t fall into the overpricing trap.

The above chart illustrates the level of excitement and interest in a new listing over time. It also demonstrates the importance of pricing correctly. When a property is first listed, it generates a very high level of interest from prospective buyers, which reduces dramatically over time. It is important to be priced correctly from the beginning, during the peak of this curve.


How will buyers discover your home? Place or placement has to do with how the property will be presented to the buyer. How and where the property is presented is a key element of placement. Which medium or platform will be utilized? Digital? Offline?

Often you will hear marketers saying that marketing is about putting the right product, at the right price, at the right place, at the right time. It’s critical then, to evaluate what the ideal locations are to convert potential clients into actual clients. The actual transaction doesn’t happen on the web, but the initial place potential buyers are engaged and converted is online.


How do you communicate details about your property? This is the fuel of our marketing mix. We’ve got a product and a price. Now it’s time to promote it. There is a distinction between marketing and promotion. Promotion is just the communication aspect of the entire marketing function. Promotion looks at the many ways we disseminate relevant property information to buyers and differentiate it against the competition.

Communication strategies and techniques include:

• Complete and comprehensive internet marketing
• Social media marketing
• Emailed marketing
• Signs and flyers
• Virtual tours (video marketing)

Additionally, our real estate expertise gives us the ability to network with an agent within our brokerage and at other firms to promote your property to the widest possible audience. We also employ a powerful tool that too few realtors use. It’s called Reverse Prospecting. What is reverse prospecting?

Reverse prospecting  is the publication of a homebuyer’s wants, needs and desires in their next home, allowing for realtors to actively search for potential buyers for their listed properties. Think of it as an MLS of buyers, whereby agents can match their properties’ characteristics against buyers’ desires in a home (location, square footage, beds, baths etc.) and find appropriate matches.

Selling your property depends on a lot more than advertising and signage – it takes referrals, word-of-mouth advertising, strong networking.

Marketing should be your realtor’s primary task. Our 4Ps marketing model is intelligent, robust, and it works! You too can enjoy a smooth and stress-free experience from start to finish accomplishing all your goals.

Let’s talk soon!