July Giveaway

Enter to Win a $50 Gift Card to Hy-Vee Market Grille!

Welcome to our monthly Friends, Colleagues and Clients Giveaway program! Each month we give away free tickets, passes or gift cards!  This month, one lucky winner will receive a $50 gift card to Hy-Vee Market Grille! ENTER TO WIN below.

Who/What is the Hy-Vee Market Grille?

No one does fresh better than Market Grille! First, they start with fresh ingredients. Every steak is 100% natural Hy-Vee Choice Reserve® beef, hand-selected for quality and flavor—and always exceptional. They’ve got the freshest fruits and vegetables. In fact, there’s an entire produce department right outside our kitchen. And for the best burgers in town, you’ve come to the right place. They start with juicy, perfectly seasoned beef, then add a bun fresh from their bakery and fresh toppings.

Then they continue with fresh ideas. Their appetizers are innovative, and breakfast doesn’t get any better. Plus, every Sunday they serve up a delicious brunch like no other.

Finally, everything is made fresh to order by their chefs, because at Hy-Vee Market Grille, food is made fresh. Right here. For you.

Hy-Vee Market Grille gift cards are good at any Hy-Vee Market Grille restaurant.

Learn More About Hy-Vee Market Grille  >>>

One winner will randomly be selected by noon on Tuesday, July 3rd and contacted via email.

Click below to enter. Good luck!

3rd Annual – Date Night To Go!


A big THANK YOU to my friends, family, and advocates who have helped make my real estate business a reality! To show my appreciation, join me and my brokerage for the third annual Date Night To Go! Stop by our Maple Grove office, say hi to the team, and take home some treats and a movie to enjoy with your loved ones!

  • Friday, April 20th – 10 am – 6 pm
  • JP Willman Realty Twin Cities office
  • 11314 86th Ave N, Maple Grove, MN 55369

“Date Night To-Go” Package Includes:

1 large pizza (pepperoni, sausage, or cheese)


1 pack of microwave popcorn


Free DVD rental code for Redbox


Choice of wine or soda



BONUS: All those who come in to our office will automatically be entered to win a $50 Target gift card!

RSVP by Wednesday, April 18th

Give me a call at (612) 382-5994, or RSVP at:


Pick up your package at our brokerage office on April 20th between 10am-6pm.

Get Financing

What’s a mortgage?

A mortgage is a loan that is used to finance the purchase of your home. It consists of 5 parts: collateral, principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. As a lender, we offer a wide range of loan products, so make sure to ask which product can work best for you.

It’s always important to keep an eye on interest rates. Mortgage rates matter. Just one-eighth of a point in interest percentage could end up costing you thousands of dollars over time. As mortgages rates rise, purchasing power falls. In fact, just a 1% rise in rates cuts 10.75% from your purchasing power.

What about my credit score?

When you’re serious about buying a home—and looking to qualify for a mortgage—credit matters. Lenders take a long look at your credit scores, and those numbers determine the options available to you. If your credit score is below 680, or you have credit blemishes or little equity, it can drive up the cost of a mortgage. Boosting your credit score before you apply for a loan can help you get a better rate, and we’ll cover ways to pull that off. We look for good credit scores and the absence of bad credit marks.

Payment history is the greatest factor in your FICO credit score, accounting for 35%. The other factors are amounts owed (30%), length of credit (15%), new credit (10%), and types of credit (10%). Maintaining good credit isn’t always easy, but there are steps you can take to keep a healthy score. I am happy to work with clients to guide them on a sound path to better credit. If needed, we can recommend credit repair services that specialize in helping you repair your not so good credit.

What can I afford?

I had a first-time buyer who wanted to purchase a home in Brooklyn Park in a specific price range. He had a lot of questions as we talked on the phone. The most common question from clients is “what can I really afford?” I enjoy teaching Learn about programs that can help. I said the first step is that we need to meet face to face since this is one of the biggest decisions in your life. Once we established needs and wants we set up a step by step plan to achieve homeownership. He closed on his house in March 2018.

How much do I need for a down payment?

For many home buyers, the thought of coming up with a large sum of money for a down payment is daunting. Fortunately, we offer a wide range of down payment choices that include options for 5, 10, 15, or 20 percent down. And for many first-time buyers, a government-backed FHA loan can be obtained for as little as 3.5 percent down. If you are a military member or veteran, there are even more options available to you.

What is the mortgage process?

When I work with clients who are looking to get pre-approved here are the steps to follow:

1. Meet with a loan officer with a reputable mortgage company who can discuss the different loan programs that are best suited for you.

2. Provide proof of your income and assets. Have your loan officer run a credit check so you know what price home you would be pre-approved for.

3. Get an estimate for several loan options at various home prices so you know what your maximum monthly payment would be.

4. Once your loan officer lets you know what those numbers are then you are ready to start looking at houses with a realtor. It’s very important to have an agent represent you since the seller will have their own agent representing them. You do not have to pay your realtor any commission for the transaction. It is all built into the sales price of the home you are buying.

5. Once you have found a property, made an offer, and it’s been accepted the full financing approval process begins. It’s important to remember that once you have a purchase agreement accepted by a seller you must continue to pay your bills on time and not take out any new debt. If you do it could jeopardize the closing on your new home.

>> It is also very important to have these documents available when you meet with your loan officer for the first time:

  • 2 years federal tax returns- all pages
  • 2 years w-2s
  • Last 3 paystubs
  • 2 months bank statements- all pages
  • Driver’s license

Options for first time home buyers

First-time home buyers typically have less money in savings which is why low and no down payment home loans are so popular. You may have heard the term “first-time homebuyer money.” What is that all about?
First-time homebuyer money is also known as down payment assistance program. Under these programs, you can do FHA, VA, or Conventional type loans. The beauty of the program is that it helps low-income first-time homebuyers purchase single-family homes. It uses federal money given to states to use for people buying homes. For Minnesota, it is administered through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA).

Under the program, you can receive up to $12,000 for down payment assistance. However, there are some income limits with the program. If the down payment assistance is $8,000 or less than it may be deferred until you resell the house. If the assistance is more than $8,000 than you will have a monthly payment to pay it off in 10 years. It will be considered a 2nd mortgage.

Another bonus of the program is that the mortgage insurance for conventional loans is less than if you were to go with a regular conventional loan. The MHFA program is great for those who have good jobs, good credit but just need some help with down payment and closing costs. MHFA just says you need to have $1,000 of your own money into the transaction.

It’s good to remember that each home buyer is unique and needs a loan option that fits his or her needs. So be sure to review your options thoroughly with a lending professional. I am happy to help!

Doug Hunt is a lending officer with Mortgages Unlimited in Maple Grove. He and his wife Carol live in Golden Valley and have two adult children. Doug can be reached at (612) 940-0780 or by email at dhunt@muihomeloans.com.


How credit inquiries may (or may not) affect your credit score

If you’ve applied for credit recently – maybe for a store card  – you may have come across the term “inquiry.” Even if you’re not familiar with credit inquiries, it’s critical to understand what they are, how different ones work, and what they mean. Fortunately, we have answers to your credit-inquiry questions here.

What’s a credit inquiry?

A credit inquiry is a credit check. It’s a request to view your credit by lenders — retailers, financial institutions and others who are legally allowed to see your credit report.

Types of inquiries: hard and soft.

A hard inquiry happens when a potential lender looks at your credit report and uses that information to decide whether to offer you credit and what the terms of the offer might be. Think of hard inquiries as the types of credit checks that happen when you apply for credit, whether it be a credit card, mortgage, car loan or other type of financing. Hard inquiries must be made with your permission and in connection with specific transactions.

A soft inquiry, on the other hand, is more of a routine credit check that doesn’t need to be done with your permission. Importantly, soft inquiries won’t show up on the credit reports potential lenders request to evaluate your creditworthiness. Soft inquiries can happen for a variety of reasons. One example is when potential lenders check your credit report to determine whether to make you eligible for any pre-approved offers. Another happens when one of your existing creditors checks your credit to make sure you’re still creditworthy. A soft inquiry is also triggered every time you check your credit.

One other thing to note: if you would like to see credit reports listing all your inquiries, soft and hard, check your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Why inquiries matter.

The first thing you should know is the kinds of credit reports potential lenders see will only list hard inquiries, not soft ones. In that sense, hard inquiries are the ones that “count.” That’s because credit scoring models usually factor in the number of hard inquiries you have when they’re calculating your credit score. Generally, credit scoring models tend to associate a high number of hard inquiries, especially if they’re made within a relatively short period of time, with a high credit risk. It’s important to watch the number of hard inquiries you make because too many of them may affect your ability to get credit at the lowest-available rates.

Do inquiries remain on your credit report forever?

In short, no. They are automatically removed 2 years from the date they first show up on your credit report. As with other aspects of credit, the more time that passes, the less effect hard inquiries may have.

Loan shopping and inquiries.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a mortgage or car loan and want to find one with a good rate and other terms that work best for you. After all, especially with big purchases, you want to make sure you get the best financing you can. But every time you apply for credit, a hard inquiry happens. Does that mean you shouldn’t shop around for a loan?

Fortunately, no. Credit scoring models tend to account for this kind of activity. Generally, credit scoring will count several inquiries made over a relatively short period of time, like 45 days, as one single inquiry. That way, you won’t necessarily get penalized for causing several hard inquiries while shopping for one loan.

Bottom line.

Inquiries are a key, and often misunderstood, part of credit. But they aren’t everything. While you want to pay attention to how frequently you apply for credit, credit health encompasses much more than just hard inquiries. Keep an eye on your hard inquiries, but don’t lose sleep over them, especially if you’re paying your bills on time, not using too much of your available credit, and otherwise practicing healthy credit habits. In other words, keeping your hard inquiries in check should be just part of a healthy-credit habits!

This article is courtesy of TransUnion. TransUnion is a consumer credit reporting agency. TransUnion collects and aggregates information on over one billion individual consumers in over thirty countries including 200 million files profiling nearly every credit-active consumer in the United States.

Selling your home? Do these things first.

If you’ve been thinking about putting your home on the market this spring, you’re going to want to start getting ready now. By doing so, you will save money. Better than that, the following basic tips will help you walk away with higher net proceeds than by doing nothing at all.

Without a doubt, it’s a tight housing inventory right now. That means it’s a seller’s market in many neighborhoods. But that doesn’t mean sellers can command any price or that they don’t need to take steps to prepare their home for sale. Not, at least, if they want to sell quickly and for the best possible price. Today’s buyers have high expectations.

The Simple Stuff

The reality is that it’s likely too late to do major renovations, but it is not too late to roll up your sleeves and get busy removing all the “red-flag” distractions that stand out like a blinking light that scare away a prospective buyer. I’d love to offer you professional advice about how to prepare your home for sale without overspending or fretting much at all. As the seller, you control the condition of the property, my team controls the marketing, and together we partner to sell the listing. Here are my recommendations:

Think Like a Buyer. First and foremost, you need to shed your stubborn proprietary connection to your home of X years. It needs to happen, as soon as possible. Sure, you are emotionally connected to your house and it holds many memories. Selling your home requires a shift in your mind-set from homeowner to seller. It’s also a good time to put yourself in a buyer’s shoes. Think about what attracted you to your home in the beginning as well as what you love about it or your neighborhood now. The things you know about your property can be helpful for marketing.

>Don’t Overlook the Small Stuff.  An important addendum to the previous tip is to be thorough and diligent. Don’t skip the obvious. In fact, get the advice of an real estate professional. Get the opinion of a unbiased neighbor or friend. Solicit honest evaluations of the general condition of your home.

>Visit Open Houses & Parade of Homes. Continuing the effort to transform your thinking from homeowner to seller, scout-out nearby homes on the market to assess your competition and get inspiration for small improvements you can make to boost your home’s appeal for buyers. Visit the line-up of Parade of Homes. Check out paint colors, layout of furniture, fixtures, etc.

>Hire a Home Inspector. If you have time, you may also want to consider hiring a home inspector for a pre-listing inspection, particularly if you have an older home. If the inspector finds something that needs work, it’s better to repair it and provide receipts for the buyers than turn the issue into a negotiating point. It’s never too early to prepare for the spring housing market. The sooner you define your priorities, enlist experts and begin making necessary repairs or updates, the closer you are to a successful sale.

>Spruce Up the Exterior. We’re talking about curb-appeal. Let’s face it, the exterior of the property is the first thing a buyer will see whether online or driving by. Now is the time to make sure it looks its best. Walk around the entire exterior of the home, and conduct an assessment. Consider pressure washing, painting, having the windows cleaned, cleaning out gutters, trimming back any overgrown or dead landscaping, cleaning the front door and changing out any worn door hardware that may look old and corroded. And, make sure the front doorbell actually works!

>Service The Heating/Cooling System. A home inspector is going to check this anyway, so beat ’em to the punch by having the system serviced and cleaned. When was the last time it was serviced anyway? The lifespan of a furnace is 15-25 years. If you haven’t had your system looked at since it was new you’re facing a red flag by a potential buyer.  It’s better to take care of any repairs that may need addressing now versus waiting until a buyer decides to make an offer. 

>Do a Light Bulb Check. Easy-peasy. Make sure all of the lightbulbs are working and free of dirt and debris. Yes, these need cleaning too — just make sure they are off. Don’t forget to check the outdoor lights as well.

>Check the Smoke & CO² Detectors. Even if your dectoros are hard-wired, now is the time to make sure that all detectors have new batteries are in good working order. Replace any old ones as an inspector is likely to flag those during a home inspection and recommend that they be replaced.

>Blue Tape It. If you were building a new house your builder would ask you to do this before final inspection. Conduct a thorough walk through of the interior of the home. If there are any nicks, dents or scratches on the walls and moldings, blue tape them so you are reminded to have each area repaired. The more wear and tear a home appears to have, the more the buyer is going to chip away at the asking price.


>Deep Clean & Declutter. This costs you next to nothing and will have the biggest pay-back for your time investment. You need to look through the lens of a stranger who has never been to your home. THEY WILL SEE EVERYTHING. Now is the time to give the home that deep clean it needs. If needed, consider hiring a cleaning crew to tackle this; the more hands, the better. Perhaps, host a family cleaning party! Invite your family and extended family to volunteer for a day to help out. (Be sure to provide pizza and beverages. It will be money well-spent!)

Deep cleaning means wiping down all of the baseboards and moldings and cleaning cabinets, appliances (including the oven) and every corner from top to bottom including light fixtures and ceiling fans. It’s also a good time to gather all those unwanted closet items together to donate as well as any unused furniture and decor. The less stuff in the house, the less there is to organize and keep clean. White-space is the name of the game here.

>Clear Out the Garage. This space is often overlooked when preparing a home for sale. Don’t forget this space. Make sure the garage is clean, in good repair, organized and that you can actually walk through it. Do you really need all those tools? Again, create open, white space. Consider painting the floor or having an epoxy finish put down. And that ceiling? Buyers also look up when touring this space, so make sure any drywall cracks or loose seams are repaired.

Buyers recognize and appreciate homes that have been taken care of. Removing the red-flags should be job #1 when preparing your home to be sold. Taking some time to invest in home maintenance before selling will likely yield a big payoff when it becomes offer time.

Indoor Air Quality: A Growing Concern for Home Buyers

You found the house you love. You’ve made an offer and it’s been accepted. Now, you’re under contract going through the final evaluations and inspection contingencies prior to closing . Does your purchase agreement reflect your concern about environmental air quality for comfort and good health in the family? The following are some key points to consider and things to watch out for when considering a new purchase. Remember, sellers do not like to spend money on issues for a home they are selling. It’s simple human nature.

First and foremost, the most important resources at this evaluation stage are your agent and home inspector. These professionals can be either incredibly invaluable or quite damaging depending on who you get. Are they thorough and detailed? Do they care about you, the client, or are they just completing a transaction? Do they have a quality team of specialists as a resource when questions arise? If so, these are great signs that they will protect you and be your first line of defense. Oftentimes, environmental concerns can be easily overlooked and become costly mistakes that a home buyer can make from a financial and health perspective when your “team” is not what it could be.

Homes are built to hold or energy and therefore will “hold” bad air quality as well. This means holding environmental issues like mold spores, asbestos fibers, and odors of all types, which may increase in severity over time. Oftentimes, we can’t tell bad air quality with a sense of smell. As an example, residual asbestos fibers or excess mold spores in relation to outdoors can be hard to detect, unless sampled because they are invisible. Conversely, if a seller has painted over pet odor or smoke odor without proper remediation, this can become a costly issue if that sealant breaks over time because we cannot contact the waste (source) that is producing the odor (symptom). Whether seller or buyer, it is critical that we resolve these issues at their source, thereby eliminating symptom and future cost concerns to remediate.

Air quality and environmental concerns in the residential real estate market can include pet odor, smoke odors, mold, asbestos, hazardous animal waste, and uncontrolled or unmitigated water issues. Water issues can include roof or soffit damage, negative drainage, water line leaks, and sewer backups.

Remodeling and asbestos. It is critical that you sample for asbestos in the areas you plan to remove IF you are concerned about environmental air quality. Asbestos can be found in drywall, drywall mud, drywall tape, textures, tiles, popcorn ceilings, mastics, insulations, and ducting systems to name a few. Do not assume that asbestos is not present simply because someone says it isn’t, or the home is a certain age such as, “1984.” For peace of mind for health and financial it could be the best $300 you spend with a sampling professional. The sampling professional is trained and has no conflict of interest. If the sampling comes up positive for asbestos it will give you the opportunity to assess costs, write an inspection objection, and/or negotiate with complete information to protect budgets. If the home was freshly remodeled it is important to get that information to make sure the work was done safely otherwise you could be moving into a beautiful home with high volumes of asbestos fibers present.

Mold and Water Damage. The first rule is water control. No water damage or humidity means no mold. Is there separation at baseboards? How does the caulking look in the bathroom shower and tubs? Water leaks or issues like the water line from the refrigerator? Negative drainage? Hail damage? Past insurance claims? These are all good things to look for or ask the seller regarding previous damages. Mold air sampling by a professional is also a quality and quantifiable method to identify issues. As an example, when remediating mold and asbestos it is critical that negative air containment is achieved with a HEPA air scrubber so all airborne particulate goes into the air scrubber instead of dispersing throughout the house. Without this protocol, you could be buying a beautiful house with terrible air quality and not even know it. No different than radon concerns.

Pet and Smoke Odor. The most common technique for these issues is to simply seal or paint over the contaminated area or introducing an alternative fragrance into the property. Are the windows always open? Air fresheners of any sort present? Is there new carpet or paint? Pets on the disclosure forms? These are all signs to ask more questions about why these things are present or to get a specialist in to evaluate further. The problem with painting or fragrances is these techniques are temporary, cost-effective fixes to enable the sale of the property without having to discount for these issues. If a sealant fails it is very challenging to resolve because we cannot contact the source and are oftentimes forced to remove the contaminated flooring or walls, which can be expensive in multiple areas, including being forced to discount for the issue when you eventually sell the property.

These issues and other environmental concerns are important because every human being has a different immune system. Young or elderly can be more susceptible just as pregnancy or certain illnesses and medications can compromise the immune system or heighten our sense of smell. Health issues from bad air quality are normally manifested over time and daily exposure because we spend approximately 60% our time inside the home which can slowly beat down the immune system. At that moment we then have two issues, compromised health and environmental air quality issues causing it.

If you want good environmental air quality or are concerned about it, please do your homework prior to the inspection objection deadline and closing because legitimate issues can be put on the inspection objection, which can become a disclosure issue for the seller, thereby giving you a better negotiating position in a legitimate way while protecting your family and finances.

Bob Hamilton manages various businesses that handle environmental remediation for air and water quality issues. Bob is available for free phone consults. He can be reached by email at bob.hamilton@stinkinc.com, or by phone at (612) 354-4498. Learn more about his businesses at StinkInc.Avir Environmental, Inc.

Hire an Agent

After asking yourself, “are you are ready” to buy a home, step number one on The Home Buyer’s Road Map is to hire an agent. Finding a good real estate agent/broker is essential to enjoying a successful real estate transaction.  The question is, how do you find a good real estate agent? The best agent for you doesn’t necessarily work at the largest brokerage, close the most transactions or make the most money. The best agent for you is an experienced professional who will:

Listen to you

Ethically conduct themselves

Knows your market

Beyond these seemingly obvious fundamentals, there are a few more attributes your next realtor should have. When a real estate agent or broker is acting in an agency capacity for a buyer or seller client in a transaction, they have certain legally mandated duties that are called fiduciary duties.

“A fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care. The person who has a fiduciary duty is called the fiduciary, and the person to whom he owes the duty, is typically referred to as the principal or the beneficiary. If an individual breaches the fiduciary duties, he or she would need to account for the ill-gotten profit.”

The position of the agent or broker is a fiduciary capacity, acting in the best interests of the client. The specific fiduciary duties in a real estate transaction are as follows:

  • Loyalty – a broker/salesperson will act only in the client’s best interest.
  • Obedience – a broker/salesperson will carry out all the client’s lawful instructions.
  • Disclosure – a broker/salesperson will disclose to the client all material facts of which broker/salesperson has knowledge which might reasonably affect the client’s use and enjoyment of the property.
  • Confidentiality – a broker/salesperson will keep the client’s confidences unless required by law to disclose specific information (such as disclosure of material facts to buyers).
  • Reasonable Care – a broker/salesperson will use reasonable care in performing duties as an agent.
  • Accounting – a broker/salesperson will account to client for all client’s money and property received as agent.

What value to realtors provide? What do they actually do?

With so much information readily available online, people sometimes ask me, “Why should we hire a real estate agent?” They wonder, and rightfully so, if they couldn’t buy or sell a home through the Internet or regular marketing and advertising channels without representation, without a real estate agent.

Consumers hate agents because the business seems easy on the surface. To sell a home, some people think it means just stick a sign in the yard and post photographs online. Those two actions might bring a buyer but they don’t necessarily sell a home. A lot can happen between signing the contract and closing. A smart agent knows how to negotiate and how to handle problems that can pop up such as appraisal issues, home inspection repairs, buyer’s lender requirements, price guidance, buying and selling concurrently, contingency releases and more. In fact, there is quite a bit that realtors do. Here is a list of some of the common responsibilities:



  • Schedule showings
  • Schedule listing appointments
  • Maintain required continuing education
  • Deliver earnest money on time
  • Coordinate property inspections
  • Keep up with mortgage company progress
  • Verify buyer’s new homeowner’s insurance
  • Coordinate home warranty company
  • Negotiate counteroffers
  • Schedule closings
  • Attend closings
  • Get all disclosures delivered & signed
  • Keep the transaction on track
  • Provide educational materials to consumers
  • Keep your blog active
  • Maintain active social media profiles
  • Answer the phone all day & night
  • Return missed phone calls
  • Return emails asap
  • Follow up with website inquiries
  • Keep up with changing laws
  • Run comparables for buyers & sellers
  • Determine accurate pricing
  • Help stage & present properties
  • Meet the appraiser at property
  • Meet the inspector(s) at property
  • Show hundreds-thousands of homes each year
  • Get signed contract to title company
  • Negotiate repairs
  • Keep clients updated with each step
  • Provide comps for the appraiser
  • Coordinate closing
  • Make sure there is a clear title
  • Explain the contract to clients
  • Provide advice on offer price
  • Explain the current real estate market
  • Explain pros & cons of each neighborhood
  • Verify completion of repairs
  • Make sure the loan funds
  • Schedule & attend the walkthrough
  • Dispute low appraisals
  • Verify delivery of title commitment
  • Remind clients to schedule utilities
  • Manage your online reputation
  • Compete with 1,000’s of realtors® for business
  • Deal with vendors
  • Keep mls listing data current
  • Attend real estate conferences
  • Network with local home builders
  • Coordinate open houses
  • Check up on past clients
  • Still have a life after you’re done!

“Finding a Realtor is not hard, but finding one that is best-suited for you and your purchase is a challenge.” – Mark Moffatt, McEnearney Associates

So, where do I find someone who holds and demonstrates the values I care about?

Tips for Finding the Best Agent:

Get Referrals

Most real estate agents stay in business because satisfied clients refer them to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. Ask the people around you who they have used and ask them to describe their experiences with this real estate agent. Successful agents make customer satisfaction their number one priority and put their customers’ needs before their own.

Seek Advice and Information from Known Professionals

Use the mortgage  guy you know as a resource for agent referrals as many brokers have first-hand knowledge of exceptional agents. Ask your plumber. Ask your lawyer. Professionals tend to refer other professionals like themselves


It seems simple, but this is one the most effective methods of researching someone. Creep a little. Browse social media profiles. You can learn a lot about someone by what image they present online – especially by what they post and share! You will be working with this person for anywhere from one to six months. You’ll want to make sure you know as much as you can about them.

Now that I’ve found someone, what do I ask before I hire them? Do I really need to interview them?

Yes! Smart consumers interview potential real estate agents before deciding which agent to hire. Just as you are sizing up the potential for a good fit, rest assured that the real estate agent will likely be interviewing you, too. It won’t take long before you can get a good feel for who you might be hiring. In fact, studies have shown that you can size someone up with 5-10 seconds of meeting them.

It’s not necessary to act like a corporate hiring manager implementing a full-fledged professional behavioral employee interview. However, you should ask questions that satisfy your requirements. Here are a few examples:

What are the top three things that make you better than the other guy? It’s a simple question. A good realtor won’t hesitate to answer and should be able to clearly and concisely articulate why you should work with them. Everyone has their own standards, but most consumers say they are looking for agents who are: honest and trustworthy, friendly, available, good communicators, excellent negotiators, assertive, and analytical.

What is your marketing plan or strategy for my needs? As a buyer, you will need to know: How will you search for my new home? How many homes will I likely see before I find a home I want to buy? Will I be competing against other buyers? How do you handle multiple offers? Do you present offers yourself? Your agent should have a game plan ready to show you.

How long have you been in the business?  Keep in mind that longevity does not automatically equal quality. There is an ocean of licensed realtors in Minnesota. Yet, it is astounding to me the number of low quality individuals I come across posing as realtors that have been in the business for decades that are disengaged, entitled, lazy, and frankly, ineffective.

Buying or selling a home is statistically one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Just like driving a car from point A to point B there will be bumps in the road and unexpected hazards along the way. However, with the professional assistance of a skilled realtor, if you are prepared, organized, have reasonable expectations, and are willing to adapt and “flex” on the path toward home ownership, the buying process can be a satisfying experience!

If you want to be sure that you are working with an agent who understands you, listens to you, and truly puts your best interests first please get in touch with me!

February Giveaway

Enter to Win a $50 Target Gift Card!

Welcome to our monthly client appreciation program! Each month we give away free tickets, passes or gift cards!  This month, one lucky winner will receive a $50 Target gift card! ENTER TO WIN below.

Who/What is Target?


If you just flew in from Jupiter (or, maybe you’ve been living in Motuo, Tibet), Target Corporation is the second-largest discount store retailer in the United States, behind Walmart, and a component of the S&P 500 Index. Founded by George Dayton and headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the company was originally named Goodfellow Dry Goods in June 1902 before being renamed the Dayton’s Dry Goods Company in 1903 and later the Dayton Company in 1910. The first Target store opened in Roseville, Minnesota in 1962 while the parent company was renamed the Dayton Corporation in 1967. It became the Dayton-Hudson Corporation after merging with the J.L. Hudson Company in 1969 and held ownership of several department store chains including Dayton’s, Hudson’s, Marshall Field’s, and Mervyn’s.

Really? You seriously don’t know what Target is?

One winner will randomly be selected by noon on Friday, February 23rd and contacted via email.

Congrats to Scott S. of Minneapolis who was January’s winner of a $50 gift card to Fandango.

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Super Bowl LII - Where's the Party?

Super Bowl LII events officially kick off this week, and there is a lot to do in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the suburbs. Expect to see some of the biggest stars walking around downtown and going to some of the biggest parties of the year. I found an excellent resource. Click below for an extensive list and map of where all the action will be taking place during the 10 days leading up to the big game Feb. 4.

You can also see a high resolution PDF version of this map and event list so you can print and read it. (Download alert: It’s pretty big. Click link below)

Super Bowl LII – Where’s the Party?

(Courtesy of Mark Reilly, Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal).


Ten Questions, with Jill Ties

Integrity, dignity, and a big dose of positivity

Jill Ties has been in the banking industry for all of her professional life. While successfully maintaining a positive work-life balance, she has built a reputation as an authentic and influential leader. Starting as a teller in college she quickly moved up the ranks and now serves as senior vice president in the wholesale/retail mortgage division at U.S. Bank Home Mortgage. However, her career is not all that defines her. She is a proud mother and has a heart for her community. This month, I had the opportunity to chat with Jill about her career and personal life for our series Ten Questions.

You’ve been with US Bank for a long time. How do you explain your longevity?

I have been with U.S. Bank for 32 years. I attribute the longevity to having the ability to grow within various divisions, provide a great environment for work/family balance, and having core values that align with the core values of our company. Our company is dedicated towards community and volunteerism which is extremely important.

You have been successful in a male-dominated industry. How has that happened?

It is all dependent on clear communication. Priorities and goals can vary among employees whether it is male or female. I have chosen a path that looks to add value via providing a different perspective by making sure we effectively communicate to all our staff and clients.

Have you ever turned down a client and what were the circumstances?

Communicating turn-downs to clients is a daily part of our business. We have clear criteria for credit which leaves little room for deviation. The best way to handle it is to always treat people with respect when communicating an unfavorable outcome. Attempt to provide alternatives to improve their circumstances so they can reach their business objectives. Some of our best clients have come back after taking specific feedback, put in the work to change the circumstances, and have become long-term producing clients.

How has failure made a positive difference in your life?

Maybe because my outlook on life is always ‘glass half full’ that I don’t view anything as a failure. I look at situations as if they always had positive aspects and tend to focus on those as a launch to what lies ahead. I have experienced some difficult work situations with leaders. Those situations have taught me that the positive attribute is that when I am in that leadership position I will not handle in that manner. Work as hard as possible towards a positive outcome. It is important to understand that it is still a business. There have been times in my career that I have advanced, not as much due to how our business success or failure was realized, but rather the business decorum I demonstrated in a tough situation.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out in your industry, what would it be?

Put in the work. Your reputation is everything…and be humble. There is no magic formula. Always learn as many aspects of your business as possible because in many cases we are continually teaching. Our industry is highly regulated. It is not the job of the borrower to understand the implications of those challenges but resides with us to set the proper expectations. As you achieve success always show gratitude to those that helped you realize your goals. More than anything else your business reputation is everything. That is the only thing you are 100% in control of and the choices you make impact how others perceive your reputation.

To what do you attribute your success?

Positive attitude, hard work, gratitude and never having a sense of entitlement. No one owes us anything in our careers so don’t try to keep score. Show gratitude always and lead with grace, meaning that it is always more important to recognize team success as being paramount.

What are you most proud of?

My three kids…of course! As we all get older you see they actually did listen to some of the advice. This means not living a hypocritical lifestyle. If you tell your kids to be healthy, exercise, eat right, work hard, understand God’s grace, and be gracious you had better be setting the bar yourself. The positive outcome to that is you get to have more meaningful conversations as they become adults.

What have you read that I should read?

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath.

What is your spiritual practice?

Daily devotional, church, and of course those times during the day when you just ask for God’s strength. I also find running spiritual in a more abstract way. It is a time that I dedicate to clear my head and organize my thoughts/tasks for the day.

What keeps you awake at night?

I wish I could say it is more about hitting production numbers but honestly, it is more about the team that I lead. When you are at a company for as long as I have, teams instill a lot of trust in your ability to lead. The responsibility comes with the territory but there are also disappointments delivered to the team. If I did not take those disappointments to heart I would be less human. I also worry about my kids as any parent would, but I also am lucky to have a strong faith that allows me to let go of situations that I cannot control.

What would someone who doesn’t like you say about you?

She can be tough and at times sees things very black and white.

Where have you been that I should visit?

Venice, Italy. It’s beautiful and historic.

Jill Ties is a graduate of Augsburg College in Minneapolis and is Senior Vice President in the Wholesale/Retail Mortgage Division at US Bank Home Mortgage. She’s been with US Bank for over 32 years and also serves as director of Homeward Bound FoundationJill lives in Spring Park and has three adult children.

Nominate a leader!

Nominate your favorite leader and we will reach out to them for an upcoming Ten Questions Q&A profile.