6 Questions to ask BEFORE hiring a Realtor

When you are ready to sell or purchase property, you’ll want a Realtor to help with the process.  But how do you know which Realtor will be best to work with?  To help you select the best Realtor for your needs, here’s a few questions to ask:


  1. What top 3 things separate you from your competition?  Most Realtors are pretty good at selling themselves on how many transactions they’ve completed and how much volume they’ve sold, but what truly separates them from their competition?  Ask what they do to help you buy or sell vs what other agents in the market do.  If you’re selling, you want someone who has a unique and solid market strategy.  If you are buying, you want someone who listens well and can help guide you through from start to finish.
  2. Can you provide me with references from previous clients?  A Realtor should be more than willing to provide you with solid references.  Take some time to give the clients a call and find out how their experience went.  A great Realtor will have no trouble getting this information for you.
  3. How often will I hear from you? How do you like to communicate?  One of the biggest complaints that clients have about working with a Realtor is the lack of communication. To avoid disappointment or frustration, ask your Realtor these questions so you have a better understanding of when and how you will hear from them.  Also let them know the best way to contact you.  With all of the technology available to us today, there are many ways to reach out.  What works best for you?  Text? Email? Or, a good old fashioned phone call.  Set those expectations upfront. 
  4. Who is on your team?  Will I be hearing from people other than you?  Not all Realtor’s have a team, but some do have office help.  It is nice to know if you will be hearing from other people in addition to your Realtor.  At Edge of the Wilderness Realty, we have an AWESOME Office Manager that will reach out to clients to assist with gathering paperwork, setting up showings, and such.  We have a very TEAM focused office so if your Realtor has an emergency or has to go out of town for a few days, rest assured that we have back-up.  It is nice to know that your sale or purchase is handled by a team of folks.  
  5. How long have you been in business?  What’s been your most satisfying sale?  Experience is important but so is success.  A newer Realtor can be a great asset to your real estate transactions because of the energy and enthusiasm.  If you “click” with a new agent, ask about their support network?  Do they have a broker that is available for questions and able to assist if needed?  I’ve been very fortunate during my first year at Edge of the Wilderness Realty to have not one, but three brokers that are available.  Not to mention, a wonderful team of Realtors that brainstorms together, assist each other, and celebrate each other’s success.  Don’t discount the newer agent; they can bring a lot to the table for you.
  6. How can we best work together? Let’s face it, Real Estate transactions are a Team Effort.  A Realtor should be willing to express that by not only telling you what they are going to do for you, but also how you can help.  For sellers it might be better staging your home or improving curb appeal.  For a buyer it will be mean working your lender so you are pre-approved for a mortgage and putting together your list of “must-have’s” in your new home.  


About all, when you are choosing a Realtor, you should feel comfortable with them.  You’ll be spending time with this person so that connection is important.  



Adventures in Real Estate: Flat Tire Help

     Living way up North where we do, we have to learn to be a little more self sufficient when it comes to some things that we take for granted.  Ladies, this is especially true for us.  Being in a more remote area certainly has its benefits; peace, quiet, no traffic, and many miles of backroads.  If you’re not prepared thought, you can find yourself quite literally in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire, no cell coverage to call for help, and it could be hours before someone drives by.  Ask me how I know this!!!  I wish I had walked through these simple steps before I found myself 7 miles down a forest road with a nice flat tire and absolutely no kind folks passing by.  


Now, talking about making major repairs by yourself, but knowing ahead of time how to change a tire safely gives you a huge advantage.  Follow these few tips BEFORE you actually need them:


  1. Study your car’s owner manual:  If you never cracked open the owners manual, when you’re in the middle of a situation like a flat tire, is not the time.  So, go ahead and open your glove box and pull that book out.  Find the section on changing your tire.  Read it through first.  Then, go back and read it again.
  2. Locate the Necessary Tools:  Refer to your owners manual and find where they have hidden the jack, spare tire, and other tools you’ll need to change your tire.  Again, its better to check out off of this BEFORE you need it.  I found out when I was almost 7 miles down a forest road that in order to put part of my jack together I need a screwdriver.  Did the manufacturer include one of those in my kit?  Absolutely not.....and believe me, its hard to dig through your purse to find something that may or may not be a decent substitution for a real screwdriver.  
  3. Practice setting up your Jack:  Figure out NOW, in your driveway or garage, where you should place the Jack.  Don’t forget to set the parking brake on your vehicle. (This is a great safety tip!). I don’t know about you, but the pictures in my owner’s manual just don’t work for me.  I get my husband, son, friend, to show me exactly where that darn jack needs to be placed.  While you’re at it, make sure you know how to operate the jack.  My Toyota has some weird jack; well, at least to me it was.  Once I saw how it was supposed to operate, I thought “well, I can do that”
  4. Practice removing your spare:  Do you know where your spare tire is?  Do you know how to remove it?  Some spares are easily accessible inside the trunk of your care.  Others, like mine, require using a tool to lower the tire from underneath the vehicle and unhooking it.  Know where it is and how to get to it.
  5. Practice Removing and Replacing a Tire:  Once you know how where all of the tools are, how to operate and place your jack, and how to access your spare, try changing a tire.  Do this at home where you have “back-up” in case you run into an issue.  You might be thinking “oh this will be easy” or “I know how to do that”.  But wouldn’t you rather figure it all out in a new environment and not in an emergency situation?  



How I Market Your Property

If you’re ready to list your home, vacation property, or land for sale, it’s important to find a Realtor that has a solid marketing plan in place.  If your Realtor’s plan is to stick a sign in the yard and list your property on the MLS; then sit back and wait for potential buyers, that’s NOT a marketing plan.  There’s so much more involved in marketing!  


When I list a property, I follow several steps to ensure that I design a marketing plan that is unique to your property.  Yes, there is a sign involved (usually more than one sign) and yes, I do list your property on the MLS (both local MLS and statewide MLS), but there’s more:


  • Social Media:  I heavily employ Social Media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  Let’s face it, people are all over Social Media these days and its a great way to have your property shared throughout a network.  
  • Aerial Drone Photos/Videos:  At Edge of the Wilderness Realty, we have a licensed Drone Pilot on staff.  For lake home/cabins and raw land, having Drone photos can really show off the location of your property, the lake view, and make your property stand out from the crowd.  
  • Professional Photographs:  We also have a professional photographer on staff at Edge of the Wilderness.  You’ve seen some listings on the internet where its hard to tell if they home is nice or not because the photos are so bad.  That doesn’t happen here!  I invest in your home, cabin, or land.
  • Employ SEO techniques:  SEO is short for search engine optimization.  I know, its one of those things that a 13 year old knows all about but those of us not of the computer age are pretty clueless.  Basically, I research terms that come up when people search the internet.  Then I incorporate those terms into the description of your property.  So when someone is searching for “lake property in Itasca County”, your property comes up in their search.  
  • Networking:  The first thing I do when I have a new listing is share with all of the agents at Edge of the Wilderness Realty.  Each agent has their own clients and quite often, one of us is already working with someone that would love your property.  
  • Groups/Organizations:  Being active in the community means getting to know a lot of folks.  I sit on the board of the County Extension office and the 318 Endowment Foundation.  While community service is important to me personally, it also allows me to share what is going on in Real Estate.  
  • Unique Advertising:  Gone are the days where we simply list property in the Sunday newspaper.  Research has shown that less than 1% of home buyers find their property in the newspaper.  Rather than wasting money on the Sunday paper, I use other print media like Minnesota Outdoors or The Woods Reader.  These magazines focus on those people who LOVE Northern Minnesota.  
  • Website Advertising:  Your listing will show up on over 80 websites!  The most popular sites include Zillow, Trulia, & realtor.com   We also have agreements with other Real Estate Companies so it would not be unusual for a buyer’s agent at Century 21 or ReMax to find your property during their search.  This is all good news!  More exposure!


Each property that I list is unique, so I create a unique marketing plan just for your property.  Give Edge of the Wilderness Realty a chance to show you the difference.  Love Where You Live!

Seller’s Guide to Comparative Market Analysis

If you are considering selling your home or property, the first question most folks have is “how do I know what my home is worth?”  Pricing is important when you list your home for sale.  Overpriced homes will sit on the market for a long time with little if any showings.  Underpriced homes are usually scooped up quickly but the seller is left without as much profit as possible.  So, what’s a seller to do?


A Realtor can help you determine the market value of your home by doing a Comparative Market Analysis or CMA.  While similar in some ways, the most important thing to know is that a CMA is not an appraisal.  An appraisal is a bank function.  A bank appraises a home to see if it is worth what the borrow is asking to borrow.  Realtors do not do appraisals.


To give you, the potential seller, a better idea of what a CMA is, let’s walk through the steps of how your Realtor completes the CMA.


Step 1:  As your Realtor , I will schedule a time to come out a visit your property.  This is your opportunity to visit with me and show me around the your home.  I will ask questions about the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, how you heat the home, if you use it seasonally or year round.  Basically, this is my chance to get better acquainted with your property.  I will not give you a price opinion at this time.  There is research to do!


Step 2:   When I get back to the office, the research begins.  The most accurate method to arrive at an accurate estimated value of your home is by analyzing existing data.  I look for similar properties that have sold recently and then determine, through their likeness of your property, an accurate estimated price.  In Northern Itasca County, I try to find similar homes on the same or similar sized lake if it is a lake home.  We all know how important our lakes are to us and buyers are no different. I also pull tax data, GIS maps, and any historical data available.  


Step 3:  After gathering the data, its time to analyze off of the information.  For me, the easiest way is to use a spreadsheet where I can see how each home compares to the other.  I look at square footage, number of Bedrooms & Bathrooms, number of garage stalls, lot size, and more.  It’s important to remember that where we live and play, there are not many homes that are actually alike. But I look for similarities.  I also use my past experience.  


Step 4:  Once all of the data is compared, I will set a price that I believe your home should list for and a range I believe it will sell.  Will you instantly agree with my opinion?  Often not; sometimes yes.   Remember, I am not basing my opinion on whether or not I like your home, I would buy your home, or anything else.  My recommendation is based on data.  You have emotional ties to your home, just like I have with my personal home.  And we all place a value on those emotional ties just like we do with the number of bedrooms or the beautiful lot.  


Step 5:  Once my CMA is complete, I will schedule another meeting with you at your home to go over the results of my market analysis.  I will leave with you all of the data I pulled to arrive at my price strategy, my spreadsheet showing the similarities, and more.  When you request that I do the CMA for you, you are under no obligation to list your property at that time, nor are you obligated to list with me.  Of course I’d love to get your business, but no pressure from me.  I will leave the information with you and am always happy to answer your questions or have a more in-depth discussion about a pricing strategy when you are ready to sell.


A couple of points to highlight:


  • Tax Value and Market Value are not always the same.  
  • Days on Market is often reflective of incorrect pricing
  • Some agents will attempt to “buy” your listing by giving you a higher value for your home
  • Always go with an agent that you feel will best represent your interest and do the best job marketing your property.  




List of 10 Top Resources for Home Buyers In Northern Itasca County


The first thing I realized when I moved to Bigfork, MN is that by living in a very small community, its not always easy to find the resources that you need.  Just try googling “auto repair” or “Handyman” and you’ll see that you don’t have much to choose from.  Now, I’m not complaining....not at all.  But, it is nice to have some handy referrals for folks new to the area.  So, here is my list of TOP 10 Resources for you, my new neighbors:




5-Star Mechanical:  Based in Effie, these guys rock!  I’ve not had to use them a whole lot but when I need them (Exhaust fan from Furnace, Pressure tank for well), they’ve been there quick.  Call 218-743-6145


Cozy Air:  Based in Marcell, the Cozy Air guys are very professional as well.  If you need some repair work, installation, or are building new, give them a call and schedule an appointment. Call 218-832-3246


Excavation/Shoreline Work/Septic Installation:


T & T Excavating:  These guys do awesome work!  If you’ve purchased a lake home or lake property and need someone to make your shoreline what you’ve always dreamed of, give them a call.  Building a new home and need a driveway put in or a new septic system?  Give them a call.  Call 218-832-3764


Powell Excavating:  Based up in Effie, Powell Excavating not only does land clearing, driveways, septic installation, but also can help with tree planting and removal, stump grinding, and food plots.  Call 218-244-9276


Septic Service:


Honey Bear:  If you live up North, you’ve probably heard of Honey Bear. Honey Bear does Septic Pumping, portable toilet rental, and drain cleaning.  Great and Timely service.  Call 218-743-3297


Building Contractor:


Scott’s Home & Cabin: Need an addition to your cabin?  Thinking of building a new home?  Maybe you just need some repair work on an existing home or cabin.  Give Scott a call. 218-326-2602


Auto/4-Wheeler/Snowmobile Repair:


It’s never fun to have to have a car, truck, or recreational equipment repaired or even serviced.  It’s really no fun if you have to drive miles to get it done.  Well, you’re in luck.  We have some awesome businesses that will keep you moving!


Powell Auto Sales:  Located in Bigfork, Powell Auto does full service repair as well as used car/truck sales. 218-743-3795


The Shop: also located in Bigfork, The Shop services all of your 4-wheeler, Side-By-Side, Snowmobile, and Lawnmower equipment.  They do both sales and service.  You can even get parts if you’re more of a do-it-yourself kind of person.  218-743-3666


Effie County Services:  Not only do they do auto and truck repairs, but they will even work on your tractor if you have one.  218-743-3616 


Doctors/Dentist/Eye Doctor:  


Bigfork Valley: We are VERY fortunate Up North to have an award-winning hospital!  Everything you need is near by.  Check out all of the services they supply to the local community by viewing their website: www.bigforkvalley.org



I hope this list of resources comes in handy for those of you new to the area.  



A buyers Guide to Home Inspections

Buying a home is a big investment and everyone wants to ensure they get a good deal on a solid home.  One thing that I always recommend my buyers do is get a home inspection on the home they want to buy. A home inspector can identify any problems or concerns and it gives you, the buyer, added peace of mind on this large purchase.  As you complete the purchase agreement, you can make your offer contingent on a home inspection. That simply means that you, as the buyer, are offering a specific amount of money for the home but that offer is based on what home inspector finds. As the buyer, you would hire an experienced home inspector to complete this task for you.  


There are a couple of reason to hire a professional home inspector.  First, the home inspector is not emotionally attached to the home.  While you can already imagine how your furniture will look in the living room overlooking the lake, a home inspectors is looking for any defects that would cause alarm.  Second, home inspectors have the experience and knowledge to look at many different aspects of a home that most home buyers don’t have such as plumbing, electric, roofs, heating and cooling systems, and more.  


The process of using a home inspector is really easy.  Your Realtor can give you the names and contact information for qualified home inspectors in your area.  Simply contact them, decide which you feel that most comfortable with and schedule a time that is convenient for you.  Or, if you prefer, your Realtor can schedule the home inspection if you are not available or do not live in the area.  


On the day of the inspection, the home inspector will spend 3-4 hours at the property.  He will look at everything and take pictures and make notes of anything that stands out as a possible issue.  As the buyer, you can spend the last hour or so with the inspector at the home so he can point out any issues.  You will also get a detailed Home Inspection Report.  Your Realtor can go through the Home Inspection Report with you and based on that report you can go back to the seller and ask to have certain things repaired, ask for nothing and take the property as-is, or walk away. If you ask for items to be repaired, the seller can and sometimes do, say “no”.  


One thing to remember as you look at the Home Inspection Report: No Property is Ever Perfect!  None of them. There will always be basic maintenance things.  Look at major issues or safety issues.  Are the fire alarms in working order?  Is the roof leaking?  Is there a plumbing issues under the kitchen sink?  Is the forced air heating system functioning properly. Is the basement wet or does their look like there maybe a foundation issues.  These are big deals. Little things such as a missing outlet cover or a tear in the screen are maintenance. 




Five Great Things About Small Towns

Two years ago, my husband and I made the decision to move to Bigfork, MN from a much more populated area in Tennessee. My family thought we were nuts, our friends thought we were nuts, and even our children thought mom & dad had gone a little crazy.  I mean, who in their right mind moves to a tiny town with a population of only a little over 460 people?  Well, that would be us and we love our small town.


There are some adjustments to make living more rurally and in a small town, but there are so many more benefits of living there too!  Here’s my 5 Best Things About Small Towns:


  1. The Local Businesses:  Every town has locally owned businesses but they often get lost amongst the corporate giants.  In Bigfork, we have everything anyone would need.  Our grocery store is great with an awesome butcher shop and is locally owned.  We have “The Shop” were the fabulous folks can repair your lawnmower, sell you a 4-wheeler or side-by-side, and make sure you have the parts, batteries, and such that you need.  We have a great local bank, great places to eat, and I can’t forget the Timber Rose Gift and Floral shop.  The gift shop not only has great flowers but also consigns great pieces by local artist and craftsmen.  
  2. Friendly Folks:  Coming from the south where you have that whole “Southern Hospitality” thing, its hard to believe that “Northern” people could be so nice!  I know, Minnesota Nice....is very true.  I’ve met some of the nicest people in my little town.  I think small town folks really band together to get things done, help their neighbors, and in general know how to treat people.  Maybe its because we aren’t stressed out.  No traffic, no problems!
  3. Great Fun:  Small towns love to get together and do fun things!  In Bigfork, we have The Edge Center where we have locally produced plays as well as get Arts, Music, and more that come up from the cities.  We have folks that get together to teach cross-country skiing every winter.  And, let’s not forget the Wilderness Days Festival.  There’s so much to do in a small town, you never get bored.
  4. Get Involved:  In small towns with less people there are always ways to get involved in events, volunteer time, and stay very active in the community.  I love seeing the school children getting involved in the city with clean-up, painting, and doing community service.  We support our High School Teams; volunteer at the hospital, and even sit on various boards.  
  5. Peace & Quiet:  I really, really, really don’t miss traffic!  I don’t miss the noise of the big cities!  I don’t miss all of the people.  I like that my little town closes up by 8:00 pm during the week and that I can look outside at night and not see a million lights.....I just see starry skies and a beautiful moon. The deer come into my yard almost daily and I watch the Eagles fish on the lake. It’s hard to describe how good a little town is for the soul; but you really should experience it for yourself.


When you are ready to escape the BIG CITY LIFE, turn your eyes Northward!  

Best Water Front Properties Under $200,000

We are lucky here at the Edge of the Wilderness Lakes & Homes Realty because we all live in “Vacation Land”.  That’s right we get to live up where the fishing is awesome, nature abounds, and the scenery is stunning!  We love where we live and we know you would too even if its only for part of the year.  Did you know that we have lots of Great Lakes place for under $200,000?  That’s right; you can purchase a lake front cabin for under $200,00 and start living your Edge of the Wilderness dreams this year!


Here’s a couple great places that we currently have listed:

North Star Lake Cabin:  This seasonal cabin is listed for just $99,000!  Can you imagine spending your summers on North Star, one of the best fishing lakes for Musky, Walleye, and more.  This cabin is in the Chippewa National forest and actually sits on a Federal lease.  You own the cabin but lease the land from the Government.  The lease is $3650 a year.  An inexpensive way to live in the middle of one of the Nation’s BEST forest.

Dora Lake:  I love this cabin and its vintage style.  Listed at only $119,000, you are level to the lake and a Sportman’s Dream!  The cabin is clean and well kept with 2 bedrooms and can be used year-round.  It even has it’s own private boat access with ramp so putting your boat in the water is easy!  It sits adjacent to public land for Deer, duck, and grouse hunting.  


Sand Lake:  This rustic cabin has been in the family for years.  The current owners actually spent their time building this private oasis on beautiful Sand Lake.  Loaded with windows and natural light where you will enjoy phenomenal views of the lake. This 2 Bedroom/1 Bath Seasonal Cabin sits beautifully on the 1.97 acre lot. You’ll find your own private lake access to put your boat in, a small storage building, and a large deck to sit and enjoy the views. Whether you are fishing, boating, or just relaxing, this is a great Up North vacation and get-away property. Listed for just $159,000

Anderson Lake: This off-the-grid waterfront cabin is located on nearly 1000 feet of hard, sandy lakeshore on Anderson Lake. Situated on a breathtakingly peaceful and pristine south facing point is this 2 bedroom cabin. Cozy up on chilly nights with the wood stove, and enjoy the sunrise and set on the new deck just feet from the water's edge. The location of the cabin allows one to venture out into the acres of adjoining tax forfeit land, with tons of Deer, Bear, and Grouse hunting trails throughout. Fish for bass, walleye and northern pike from the dock year 'round. Listed for $179,000

Horseshoe Lake:  You really need to take a look at this cozy cabin on great Horseshoe Lake! Owners have done some great cabinet work, lighting and decorating, making this a superb up north property. Lake is loaded with excellent fishing. This would be a great base camp for the family or just for weekend get-away. Well maintained. Enjoy the 5x19 wrap around deck for entertaining or sipping that morning cup of Joe. Septic installed in 2010. Peace and quiet await you here! This beautiful property is listed for just $189,000. 

These are just a few of the lake front cabins that we have listed.  Stop dreaming about a lake cabin and let’s find you and your family their dream place up in the Edge of the Wilderness!



Get Lost: The Lost Forty

Hiking is one of my favorite things to do and finding new trails in and around the Chippewa National Forest area is easy to do.  One of my favorite places is the Lost Forty.  It’s not a long hike but the trees are AMAZING! 


Minnesota was one of the largest timber-producing states in the country in the late 1800’s.  The Lost Forty is an area of Red & White Pines that went untouched by loggers because of an error on mapping the area.  The Lost Forty was mapped as part of Coddington Lake.  Because of this error, the Lost Forty has become one of Minnesota’s greatest treasures.  


The pines in the Lost Forty are 300-400 years old, originating when the pilgrims came to America.  They are HUGE!  It is wonderful to wonder through the one-mile trail and see the towering pines.  You really have to make the trip while you are up with us.  



You won’t get cell coverage out there, not at all and its pretty spotty the entire drive up, but its well worth it.  My GPS couldn’t find it, but I was able to with only a few turnarounds. Here is the way I go:


From Marcell, take CR 286 to Hwy 6; go straight across Hwy 6 and you’ll be on CR 4.  Take a Right onto CR 29 and follow this all the way to Dora Lake.  Just past Dora lake, you’ll take a Right on CR 26 and then a left on Forest Road 224.  About a 1 mile up, you’ll see the sign for the Lost Forty.