Thursday, April 25, 2013

Find out the current value of your home HERE! - "Quick & Easy" INSTANTLY

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fargo Home Buyer Alert: What is a credit score.



Our credit score can mean the difference between being denied or approved for credit, and a low or high interest rate. A good score can help you qualify for an apartment rental and even help you get utilities connected without a deposit.

So what is it?

Your credit score is a three-digit number generated by a mathematical algorithm using information in your credit report. It's designed to predict risk, specifically, the likelihood that you will become seriously delinquent on your credit obligations in the 24 months after scoring.
There are a multitude of credit-scoring models in existence, but there's one that dominates the market: the FICO credit score. According to myFICO.com, the consumer website for the FICO score developer, "90 percent of all financial institutions in the U.S. use FICO scores in their decision-making process."
FICO scores range from 300 to 850, where a higher number indicates lower risk. What's a good score?
A consumer has three FICO scores, one for each credit report provided by the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Unfortunately, consumers currently have access to only their Equifax and TransUnion FICO scores. Experian ended its agreement with myFICO.com in 2009.
What goes into a credit score?
Data from your credit report goes into five major categories that make up a FICO score. The scoring model weighs some factors more heavily, such as payment history and debt owed.

Payment history: (35 percent) -- Your account payment information, including any delinquencies and public records.
Amounts owed: (30 percent) -- How much you owe on your accounts. The amount of available credit you're using on revolving accounts is heavily weighted.

Length of credit history: (15 percent) -- How long ago you opened accounts and time since account activity.
Types of credit used: (10 percent) -- The mix of accounts you have, such as revolving and installment.
New credit: (10 percent) -- Your pursuit of new credit, including credit inquiries and number of recently opened accounts.
Personal or demographic information such as age, race, address, marital status, income and employment don't affect the score.

Different score impact for same missteps
How much does a specific change affect a credit score? The answer is usually "it depends," and for good reason. Credit score developers don't reveal the exact point deductions. The weight of any given activity can also vary for different credit histories.

Within a scoring model, there's more than one formula used to calculate a score, and each formula is designed for a category of consumers with similar credit profiles. The information in your credit report determines which formula is used. If you are new to credit, for instance, the scoring model will put you into a category for people with young credit histories, and use a scoring formula specific to that group. Such groups are called scorecards. Within that group, recent inquiries may cost more points than they would for a different group.

How to check your credit score

Federal law mandates the consumer's right to a free credit report annually from each credit reporting agency, but not to a free credit score. Use our FICO score estimator to get your score range free of charge. To get your exact number, you have to purchase it from a score provider, such as myFICO.com or one of the reporting agencies.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

20 Signs You Need a Financial Makeover

1. You charge group dinners on your card and keep your friends’ cash to spend. I actually don’t mind doing this myself as it saves me a trip to the ATM if I need the cash, but if you’re just being stupid and thinking it’s “free money” to go and blow anytime then yeah – you need a financial makeover.

2. You spend more than 40% of your total income on rent. The last time I calculated this we were spending 37% of our total (net) income on mortgages. And I’ll admit it’s not very savvy. But I’ll also point out that we got ourselves into this BEFORE Mr. J. Money came about ;) So I agree with this one here – ya gotta keep your rent/mortgages way below that 40% line.

 3. You’re constantly transferring your balance to get 0% interest on your credit card debt. Bad if you don’t know what you’re doing, but good if you’re Jonathan from My Money Blog (the expert in xfering $20,000+ and milking the extra hundreds of dollars in interest every year;)

4. You pay off one credit card with another. Yes, BAD!!

5. Less than 10% of your income goes to your retirement savings. (Or worse, zero percent!) I wouldn’t say you need a total makeover if you were saving 10% really, even though everyone would love to see you saving 15% or even 25%, but definitely saving 0% is a troubling sign.

 6. You have a credit card that doesn’t give you anything in return, like cash back or airline miles. Haha…well this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it is a good idea to check and makes sure you’re getting *something* in return for doing nothing ;) You don’t have to do anything different than you’re doing now!

7. You don’t know what IRA means outside of Ireland. (is that supposed to be a joke?)

8. You pay the minimum balance on your credit card each month.Not the best habit to get into, that’s for sure. If at all possible you should be adding in at least $25-$50 more every month to help knock it away as fast as you can. I once paid $2,000 for a $1,200 computer back in the day because I kept just telling myself “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Make tomorrow, today!

9. You don’t open your credit card statement because you can’t bear to see how high the balance is. Oh yeah, definitely not a good sign. You HAVE TO KNOW what you’re dealing with so that you can fix it and get right back on track! And this goes for savings and investments too. If you don’t KNOW what’s going on you’ll just keep sinking and sinking until it takes something tragic to snap you out of it.

10. You don’t keep receipts because they remind you of what you’ve spent. Haha…that’s actually pretty clever ;) STUPID, but clever. Maybe these people should switch to debit cards instead? (I’m assuming they’re using credit cards which allow them to spend way more than they have due to credit limits and such. With debit cards though, you have a breaking point! Once you hit $0.00 you can’t pick up anything else.)

 11. You know your company has a 401k plan, but you have no idea what that is. My favorite tool ever! Just call up HR real quick (right now, actually, stop reading this!!) and ask how much your company matches. Then, tell your sweet old HR lady (or man) that you’d like to contribute that exact same # and make sure to fill out whatever forms you need to do ASAP. Even if you never look at it again, that one move you just made will hook you up years and years to come. So do it!

 12. You withdraw cash frequently from ATM’s that aren’t affiliated with your bank. I don’t know if this one applies as much as maybe it used to. Many banks now reimburse you for your fees so it doesn’t matter where you go (at least online banks do – like my fave USAA, baby!)

13. The number of credit cards in your wallet is higher than the number of dates you’ve had this year. Hahahhahaa…..didn’t see that one coming :)

14. You buy so much on eBay that they’ve awarded you VIP status. Wha wha wha….

15. You want to start a savings account, but then sale season starts again! Is it me or are these going down hill?

16. You don’t have an emergency fund to pay bills should you lose your job. Back in action! YES, emergency funds are KEY to any financial game plan. Whether it’s $100, or $1,000, be sure to be stashing some aside for when you least expect it!

17. Your monthly extra cell phone minute charges are bigger than your monthly electric bill. (I had to go look up my own electric bill to see if this is a good gauge or not, and indeed I think it may. Although if we’re talking about overall cell phone bills and not just “minute charges” then the iPhone kills us!)

18. You overdraw on your checking account more than once a year. Hmmm… once is kinda strict. I’d say not more than 3 times a year cuz sometimes weird things just happen. Although if you were really on top of it you’d sign up for overdraft protection (the kinds that don’t cost you any money!) so that you’d be safe just in case you got a little crazy here and there.

19. You live paycheck to paycheck. This should be the #1 sign you need a makeover, hands down. Living paycheck to paycheck is a recipe for disaster, and I know 80% of you reading this right now are in this boat :( I was too!!! For 25 years of my life! If you haven’t been serious about making a change, please start today. There are plenty of ways you can get yourself in better position, you just have to get on it and really commit. Start tracking your money and finding where all your spending leaks are! Picking up a hustle on the side will help too.

 20. You spend more on new shoes annually than you save. Oh wow, that would not be good. I think I’ve spent around $200 so far on shoes this year – and 2 of those were on new cleats that needed replacing. I would punch myself in the face if I was saving less than that every year :(

 Were any of you surprised with your answers to some of these? Did it get you to double check and see if you’re truly on track or not? Again, some of these were pretty crazy and more entertaining than anything, but hopefully it moved a few marbles upstairs and will prompt you to start researching any areas that may need improvement. It’s always a work in progress :)

Source

Friday, March 29, 2013

Take Charge When Buying a Home

If you approach the home buying process intelligently and with confidence, you are much more likely to emerge with a house you'll be proud to call home.

Approaching the task of buying your next home can be overwhelming. There's so much to consider.

How much house can I afford, and how can I find the best loan? Where will I come up with a down payment, and how much will I need? Should I buy a new or resale home, and which will go up in value? Should I use an agent or look at homes on my own?

And these questions are just the beginning. Buying a home is one of the largest financial transactions in your lifetime, yet we don't teach about it in school. You're just supposed to pick it up along the way.

Well, as you start down this road, let me give you a little advice. Here are the two most important things to remember no matter where you are on the road to ownership:

1. You can and should understand everything that is happening in the home buying process. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that is so complex that it can't be easily explained to anyone with average intelligence, and you've got more than that. Just because we don't apply for a thirty year mortgage once a week doesn't mean we have to take the first one that comes along. You'll need to learn some new terms, apply some new concepts and take the time to understand what you're getting into. If anything happens at any point in the process that doesn't make sense to you, simply demand a full and complete explanation. If it still doesn't make sense, seek help from someone you trust like your CPA, your banker or maybe your friendly online real estate columnist.

2. In the world of real estate sales, YOU are the most important person in the entire process. It's easy to think that everyone else carries more weight than you. The agent talks fast and has an answer for everything. The lender may decline your loan application, and on and on. But the truth is that you, the buyer, are the one person in this transaction that makes it all happen. If you decide to not buy, the entire process comes to a grinding halt. So flex your consumer muscle and take command of this process. Surround yourself with a team of professionals that you have confidence in and make them work for you.

If you plan from the beginning to approach the home buying process intelligently and with confidence, you are much more likely to emerge at the end of the day with a house you'll be proud to call home, and the knowledge that you made the right decision.

Source:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Home Prices Rise at Fastest Pace in Over Six Years

Home-price appreciation is accelerating in much of the U.S., offering the latest confirmation that the housing market is turning after the most severe property downturn since the Great Depression.

Prices rose by 8.1% in January from a year earlier, the largest such gain in 6½ years, according to figures from the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 major metropolitan cities released Tuesday. All 20 cities posted annual increases.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Buying A Home Plan for Younger People – Make Sure to Plan Ahead

Granted, few young people spend much time day-dreaming about buying their first home. They're naturally preoccupied with academics, athletics, parties, dating and future career possibilities. Nonetheless, there are a number of good reasons to start learning early in life about the costs of buying a home and the responsibilities of homeownership. For example, a college student's misuse or abuse of credit cards can preclude his or her buying a home later on.

Here are five recommendations for young people who want to position themselves for homeownership:

1. Establish good credit habits and a favorable credit history. Get a credit card and use it responsibly. Apply for an automobile loan and make your payments on time every month. If you're renting an apartment, put your own name on the lease and the utility bills and make sure the rent and the bills are paid every month. If you're already struggling with credit card debt or have large student loans, take a free workshop from the non-profit Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Call (800) 388-2227 for information.

2. Start saving for a down payment and closing costs. It's possible to purchase a first home in many parts of the country without much in the way of savings. But in high-cost housing areas, starting to save early can be enormously beneficial because you'll get the advantage of compounding interest and have a longer period of time to grow your investments. Open a savings account or a stock brokerage investment account and make regular deposits.

3. Read some books. Your local library and bookstore probably have at least a few shelves of books about financial management and buying a home. Take notes. Make a financial plan for yourself.

4. Research where you'd like to live. Many young people assume they'll continue living in their own home town when they get older, but people are more mobile than ever and chances are good you'll one day live in another city or even another state. Again, the library, bookstore and Web can be excellent resources for information about housing costs and homeownership opportunities around the country.

5. Tap your real estate agent relatives for advice. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or older cousins in the real estate business can give you good information about the cost of housing in the area where you want to live and what it takes to buy a home. Questions to ask: Is housing affordable in this area? How much money would I need to save in order to buy a home? What advice would you give me about planning my financial future? Would you recommend some books that I might like to read about buying a home? Don't be shy. If you have a question, ask someone in a position to know the answer.

Source:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How Much Money Do I Have to Save to Buy A Home?

The first thing to understand about buying a house is that you don't have to have all the cash saved up in order to make your purchase.

The good news is that there are lots of folks out there who are very interested in lending you as much as 95% of the purchase price of your home, at very favorable interest rates. Furthermore, they are willing to spread out the payments over a long period of time so that you can afford the house you want.

Just to cover the basics, let's elaborate on the points in the last paragraph:

If you have a steady job and a reasonable credit history, there is a good chance that you can find a home lender who will lend you most of the purchase price of your new house. Home loans are also called "mortgages," which comes from a Latin phrase meaning "pledge unto death." While lenders don't take your promise to pay quite that seriously, they DO expect to get repaid on time. Just to make sure you remember, lenders take an ownership interest in your house until the loan is paid in full.

Home loans typically are offered in amounts of 80%, 90% and 95% of the price you are paying for the house. You are expected to pay the remaining amount in cash from your own savings. As you might imagine, the lower percentage loans are somewhat easier to qualify for.

The reason the lender is willing to lend you up to 95% of the value of your house is that history has shown real estate to be such an excellent investment. Lenders expect that your home will be worth more in the future than it is today - so their investment in your home is considered very safe.

That's also why the interest rate you can obtain on a home loan is one of the best around. Consider that America's largest and strongest corporations borrow at what is called the "prime rate," and that today you can borrow a home loan - fixed at the same rate for many years - at substantially less than the prime rate. Lenders have found that home loans tend to be excellent investments, and you benefit every month when you make your loan payment.

Finally, home loans are available to be repaid over terms of usually 15 or 30 years. The shorter term loan offers a slightly lowered interest rate, so if you can afford the higher monthly payments, you'll save in interest costs by choosing the 15 year loan. At today's interest rates, a 15 year loan costs about 27% more than a 30 year loan in terms of your monthly payment. But the amazing thing is that lenders are even willing to offer a fixed rate loan for that time period. It's better financing than you can get on just about any other investment.

Source:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Understand Your Credit - Find out about your credit and correct any errors now!

Thinking about buying a house? Then think about your credit history...the folks who lend money do!

How well you have handled your credit obligations in the past is of utmost importance to lenders today. The good news is that this information, for the most part, is available to you.

Your credit history is maintained by three different private companies called credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Their websites and phone numbers are listed at the end of this article. Everyone can pull their own credit once a year for free at annualcreditreport.com. If you’ve already done that or need to pull it again. You can order your report by phone and charge it to your major credit card if you like. It usually takes about a week to arrive. You can even order your report online directly from each of the three agencies, but they have to verify your identity before you can obtain any private information. By the way, avoid services that offer to obtain all your reports for you in exchange for a fee. You want the information directly from the reporting agency, blemishes and all.

It's a good idea to get a copy of all three reports, because if an error exists on even one of the reports, it may negatively affect your chances of getting the loan you want. Your credit report lists all the consumer credit that has been extended to you over the past seven years. It will show what your highest balance has been and what your current balance was on the date last reported by the creditor. It will also show how many payments you made on time and how many late payments were late. Late payments are grouped into categories showing how late you were. For example, if your credit card payment was over 30 days late one time, it might not be considered too serious. But if payments were over 60 days late four times, over 120 days late two times and over 180 days late one time, you have had a serious problem. That problem is going to impact your ability to borrow money.

It just makes sense to find out about your credit and correct any errors now. Regardless of how many credit problems you have had in the past, there are two good points to remember.

First, negative credit information can be reported in your credit file for only seven years. After that, it drops out and cannot even be considered. The one exception is bankruptcy, which can be reported for 10 years. But after that you start with essentially a clean slate.

Second, lenders are much more concerned about how you have handled your credit recently than with what happened several years ago. Even if you have had a bankruptcy, if you have kept your nose clean and paid your bills on time since then, it is possible you could qualify for a loan after as little as two or three years.

One of the best developments in the world of lending has been risk-based pricing. That's a five dollar term for the ability of lenders to offer higher priced loans to borrowers based on their demonstrated ability to repay. In other words, even if you have slightly fractured credit, you can still likely get a loan. It just may cost you a little more.

Equifax (www.equifax.com) can be reached at 800-997-2493. TransUnion (www.transunion.com) can be reached at 800-888-4213. Experian (www.experian.com) can be reached at 888-397-3742.

Source:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Calculate Your Income Vs. Debt

Most lenders don't want you to take out a loan that will overload your ability to repay everybody you owe.

As you think about applying for a home loan, you need to consider your personal finances. How much you earn versus how much you owe will likely determine how much a lender will allow you to borrow.

First, determine your gross monthly income. This will include any regular and recurring income that you can document. Unfortunately, if you can't document the income or it doesn't show up on your tax return, then you can't use it to qualify for a loan. However, you can use unearned sources of income such as alimony or lottery payoffs. And if you own income-producing assets such as real estate or stocks, the income from those can be estimated and used in this calculation. If you have questions about your specific situation, any good loan officer can review the rules.

Next, calculate your monthly debt load. This includes all monthly debt obligations like credit cards, installment loans, car loans, personal debts or any other ongoing monthly obligation like alimony or child support. If it is revolving debt like a credit card, use the minimum monthly payment for this calculation. If it is installment debt, use the current monthly payment to calculate your debt load. And you don't have to consider a debt at all if it is scheduled to be paid off in less than six months. Add all this up and it is a figure we'll call your monthly debt service.

In a nutshell, most lenders don't want you to take out a loan that will overload your ability to repay everybody you owe. Although every lender has slightly different formulas, here is a rough idea of how they look at the numbers.

Typically, your monthly housing expense, including monthly payments for taxes and insurance, should not exceed about 28% of your gross monthly income. If you don't know what your tax and insurance expense will be, you can estimate that about 15% of your payment will go toward this expense. The remainder can be used for principal and interest repayment.

In addition, your proposed monthly housing expense and your total monthly debt service combined cannot exceed about 36% of your gross monthly income. If it does, your application may exceed the lender's underwriting guidelines and your loan may not be approved.

Depending on your individual situation, there may be more or less flexibility in the 28% and 36% guidelines. For example, if you are able to buy the home while borrowing less than 80% of the home's value by making a large cash down payment, the qualifying ratios become less critical. Likewise, if Bill Gates or a rich uncle is willing to cosign on the loan with you, lenders will be much less focused on the guidelines discussed here.

Remember that there are hundreds of loan programs available in today's lending market and every one of them has different guidelines. So don't be discouraged if your dream home seems out of reach.

In addition, there are a number of factors within your control which affect your monthly payment. For example, you might choose to apply for an adjustable rate loan which has a lower initial payment than a fixed rate program. Likewise, a larger down payment has the effect of lowering your projected monthly payment.

Just plan on contacting and investigating a number of lenders to find a loan program that meets your needs.

Source:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Making the Transition from Renting to Buying

Most lenders don't want you to take out a loan that will overload your ability to repay everybody you owe.  

As you think about applying for a home loan, you need to consider your personal finances. How much you earn versus how much you owe will likely determine how much a lender will allow you to borrow.  

First, determine your gross monthly income. This will include any regular and recurring income that you can document. Unfortunately, if you can't document the income or it doesn't show up on your tax return, then you can't use it to qualify for a loan. However, you can use unearned sources of income such as alimony or lottery payoffs. And if you own income-producing assets such as real estate or stocks, the income from those can be estimated and used in this calculation. If you have questions about your specific situation, any good loan officer can review the rules.  

Next, calculate your monthly debt load. This includes all monthly debt obligations like credit cards, installment loans, car loans, personal debts or any other ongoing monthly obligation like alimony or child support. If it is revolving debt like a credit card, use the minimum monthly payment for this calculation. If it is installment debt, use the current monthly payment to calculate your debt load. And you don't have to consider a debt at all if it is scheduled to be paid off in less than six months. Add all this up and it is a figure we'll call your monthly debt service.  

In a nutshell, most lenders don't want you to take out a loan that will overload your ability to repay everybody you owe. Although every lender has slightly different formulas, here is a rough idea of how they look at the numbers.  

Typically, your monthly housing expense, including monthly payments for taxes and insurance, should not exceed about 28% of your gross monthly income. If you don't know what your tax and insurance expense will be, you can estimate that about 15% of your payment will go toward this expense. The remainder can be used for principal and interest repayment.

In addition, your proposed monthly housing expense and your total monthly debt service combined cannot exceed about 36% of your gross monthly income. If it does, your application may exceed the lender's underwriting guidelines and your loan may not be approved.  

Depending on your individual situation, there may be more or less flexibility in the 28% and 36% guidelines. For example, if you are able to buy the home while borrowing less than 80% of the home's value by making a large cash down payment, the qualifying ratios become less critical. Likewise, if Bill Gates or a rich uncle is willing to cosign on the loan with you, lenders will be much less focused on the guidelines discussed here.  

 Remember that there are hundreds of loan programs available in today's lending market and every one of them has different guidelines. So don't be discouraged if your dream home seems out of reach. 

In addition, there are a number of factors within your control which affect your monthly payment. For example, you might choose to apply for an adjustable rate loan which has a lower initial payment than a fixed rate program. Likewise, a larger down payment has the effect of lowering your projected monthly payment.   Just plan on contacting and investigating a number of lenders to find a loan program that meets your needs.   Source:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Make Moorhead Home New Construction Property Tax Rebate Program

 

Instructions:

How do I qualify for the new construction rebate?

To qualify, the property must:
Be located within Moorhead City limits and classified as 1a,1b,2a,4b or 4bb (1-3 unit residential). The classification of your property can be found on your property tax statement or by contacting the City Assessor. The property must be new construction with no part of the structure commenced prior to January 1, 2012. Construction of the property must commence prior to December 31, 2014. Construction is deemed to have commenced if a city building permit has been issued and the mandatory footing or foundation inspection has been completed.

What is the benefit?

For property classified as 1a,1b,2a,4b or 4bb (1-3 unit residential) the rebate is the entire market value of the land and new improvements. The rebate includes the two payable tax years that correspond with the two assessment years after construction commenced.

How does the new construction credit work?

Builders or purchasers of new homes for which construction commenced between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2014 are eligible for a rebate of some or all general real estate taxes for the first two years following home construction. There is no minimum or maximum market value limit, and land value is included. Special levies such as school bond referendum, watershed, and economic development are not included in the rebate. Special assessments are not part of the rebate.

What if the residence sells during the rebate period?

Once an application is submitted and approved on a residence, the parcel is eligible for two payable tax years even if the ownership transfers. If the residence is constructed on or before August 31, 2012, I understand my rebate will be smaller than homes built after September 1.
 

Will I get the full amount the second year?

No. Construction activity that began prior to September 1, 2012 is not eligible for the Clay County portion of the tax payments for either year of eligibility. 

When will I get my rebate check?
Tax payments are required to be paid as due on May 15th and October 15th of each year. A rebate of the eligible portion of the tax payments will be mailed by the Clay County Treasurer in December of each year of eligibility. 

How do I apply?

Complete the application and return it to the City Assessor. Completed applications must be returned by January 31 of the year following the commencement of construction. Click here to download Application.

How we use information

The county/city assessor may share the information contained on this form with the County Auditor, County Attorney, Commissioner of Revenue or other federal, state or local authorities to verify your eligibility for the rebate. You do not have to provide this information. However, refusal may disqualify you from consideration for the rebate. 

Penalties 

Making false statements on this application is against the law. Minnesota Statutes, Section 609.41 states that giving false information in order to avoid or reduce their tax obligations can result in a fine up to $3,000 and/or up to one year in prison. 

For more information contact:
City of Moorhead
ATTN: Assessor Dept.
500 Center Avenue
Moorhead MN 56560
(218) 299-5310
Assessor@cityofmoorhead.com

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Seller’s Checklist

• Hire a stager, inspector, photographer and other professionals as needed.
 • Pressure-wash sidewalks and decks.
 • Clean windows.
 • Clear gutters and downspouts.
• Remove weeds; mulch; plant flowers.
 • Clear cobwebs, leaves from porches, patios.
 • Re-grout bathtubs and faucets.
 • Have air conditioning and furnace checked.
 • Paint trim, baseboards and nicks if needed.
 • Clear counters, tables, bookshelves.
• Organize closets and storage areas.
• Clean carpets.
• Ask a friend to give an honest assessment of your home.

Source: Washington Post
For more information on selling your home click here: Selling My Home in the FM Area

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fargo Buyers Alert: Don't waste your home search time on Zillow,Trulia and Homes.com

Most real estate home buyers are obsessed with finding the next great deal.  So much so that they stay up into the wee hours of the night scouring the internet for properties,  As real estate agents know, our livelihoods depend on the accuracy of the data we analyze and for that reason I’m begging you to PLEASE stop searching for real estate on nationwide portals like Trulia, Zillow and Homes.com - amongst many others!

For the past 12 months brokerage after brokerage has decided to withdrawal their listings from the nationwide real estate search portals citing, among other things, horribly inaccurate information and in some cases outright scams.  

Very Inaccurate Real Estate Search Results National portals like Trulia and Zilliow are slow to show new listings.  When a property is listed for sale it hits the local MLS in a matter of minutes, usually about 15, but can take as long as 9 days to populate to nationally syndicated sites according to studies on the subject.  To real estate investors ready to pounce 9 days might as well be 3 months.  By the time the home owner sees the listing, sees the property and submits an offer sufficient time will have passed that there could be one or more competitive bids or quite possibly the property could have sold already.  A seasoned real estate agent knows how important timing is and getting all of your real estate listings even 24 hours later than your competitors will cause you to miss out on great deals.  

Bad Data The real estate company Redfin was hired recently to assess the accuracy of sites like Trulia and Zillow and their study found that approximately 36% of the listings shown as active on Zillow and Trulia were no longer for sale in the local MLS, compared with almost 0% on local brokerage websites.  The study further found that brokerage sourced listings using their local MLS feed displayed 100% of the MLS homes listed for sale on their websites but Trulia only displayed 81% and Zillow 79%.  So let me summarize – over 1/3rd of the listings you are seeing are NOT ACTUALLY FOR SALE and you only get to see 4/5th of the listings that are actually for sale.  LOL.  I could go on but really there’s no need.  Obviously anyone searching for properties in a city would like to have access to all of the listings that are for sale and none of the ones that aren’t.  

What’s My House Worth? (Don’t Ask Zillow) I considered writing an entire post of the accuracy…or inaccuracy, of real estate portal pricing tools like the famed Zillow Zestimate.  For those who aren’t familiar with Zillow the website offers an opinion of a listed house value called a Zestimate and it is prominently displayed on each property’s listing page.  Sounds great right?  Unfortunately the Zestimate values aren’t even close to the actual values that the properties sell for.  If you’re wondering how I can be so sure it’s because, to Zillow’s credit, they actually publicize the accuracy of their Zestimates city by city. To measure the accuracy of the Zestimate Zillow compares the actual home sale prices of homes with their Zestimate and they’ve found that the Zesimtate is within 5% of the actual sale price around 33% of the time and within 10% of the sale price around 50% of the time.  What To Do? For real estate home buyers in need of accurate and timely data national search portals like Trulia and Zillow are not as reliable as other options available.  Instead of searching for properties on these websites real estate investors should focus on smaller, local brokerage based websites, establish relationships with local real estate agents or get a real estate license and pay to join the local MLS where they invest.  These steps will assure that you are getting the most accurate and up to date information and will give you a competitive advantage over those who are searching for real estate with websites like Trulia and Zillow.

Find out the value of your home from a local real estate professional, using local market data and accurate listing information. Find out your homes value here.  

What do you think? Do you use Trulia or Zillow?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

First Time Home Sellers - Tips!!

Attention first-time home sellers: This is not your father's housing market.
Today's buyer-take-all market is a benefit for buyers with great credit and deep pockets. But sellers are stunned with new realities that include paying (rather than making) money at the closing table, providing extras to sweeten the deal, and spending more time and cash making the home camera-ready.
For first-time sellers who have never been through the process before, it's a different world. One where the value of the house isn't measured in the profit made on the sale, but by the enjoyment the owners had from living in the home.
~Here are some important things experienced sellers would tell you, if they could.
Your largest number of showings will occur in the first two to three weeks. The (multiple listing service) systems and the Internet tend to drive the majority of showings. Many buyers are plugged in electronically. So the minute something new pops up that meets their criteria, they want to see it. Take advantage of that sweet spot by pricing the house competitively right out of the gate. How you style the price is important. For example, a home first marketed at $155,000, then lowering it to $150,000 meant the listing appeared within the computer search parameters that buyers commonly used in that price range. Want to sit with a house that won't move? Be the first-time seller who insists you can get the appraised value, the tax assessor's estimate or whatever you paid a few years ago. It seems like there's no relationship between your assessed value, taxable value and the actual market value of your house. There doesn't seem to be any correlation. The truth is that your house is worth what buyers are willing to pay. No more. This is a true market that is totally based on supply and demand. That means many buyers should be prepared to lose some money or hang onto the home until the price rises. To make your home stand out it may be smart to throw in some incentives, for instance, include the newer washer and dryer knowing that they will be challenging to move anyway and this will "sweeten the deal" for onlooking buyers. Beware the agent who promises big profits, Combs says. That person may just be after your business. Don't go with anyone who doesn't use comps. And study sales prices, not asking prices, for real estate. One question to ask yourself and pose as you interview agents: How will you reach the home's target market? You have to consider who your most likely buyers are for what you're selling and cater to that group of people. Targeting 20-somethings who live on their smartphones? You need to effectively access the networks your buyers are tapping to find their next home. One big trend: QR (or "quick response") bar codes that allow smartphone users to access property information electronically. The typical starter home can also appeal to downsizing empty nesters. To serve their needs, you might also want to have a phone number that instantly reaches someone who can provide details and answer questions. And don't neglect the modern version of curb appeal: using lots of photos on real estate listings' websites. However you market your house, you need a good number of clear, well-lit, professional-quality pictures that show your house at its best. Keeping your house clean is important in every sale. But first-timers are likely selling smaller houses, and clutter can mean the difference between cozy and cramped. Kitchen and bathroom countertops are another hot spot that many sellers forget to clear. The same chaos that represents your normal routine makes your house seem messy, disorganized and uninviting to buyers. However, you don't want to remove all traces of human existence. Decluttering is good. But I'm not a big fan of taking all of your personal stuff out. Don't neutralize it so that it's sterile. Most buyers are lazy. The last thing a new homeowner wants is another 'to-do' list, Ramsey says. So get the home move-in ready before it hits the market so the buyer can start fresh easily. That means making all the repairs and replacements that you would demand if you were buying the house today. If you have to walk single file up the walkway, trim the bushes. If the garage door is dented, have that fixed or replaced. If you go into a room and say, 'Hmm, I wonder if this carpet is dirty enough to replace?' You have your answer. First-time sellers are likely selling smaller, starter homes which are popular with first-time buyers and empty-nesters. Neither group is likely to want to spend weekends tackling the jobs that you avoided. From a presentation standpoint, you want them to feel it's turnkey -- ready to go. Because your competition is doing that. In this market, it's not just a price war but a beauty contest at the same time. If you're looking to spend some money to make your house memorable, ask someone who knows what will improve the market value. You might want to paint a stylish blue kitchen tan -- to match the walls of the adjacent open living room and attract more buyers. The cheapest thing you can do for a house with the biggest bang for the buck is to paint and replace carpet. Recommendation: soft neutrals, which are easy on the eyes and have mass appeal. Fresh carpet and that new-paint smell are also buyer-bait. Buyers don’t generally get emotionally attached to a carpet-allowance sign. What they fall in love with is the new carpet in the house. If you're a first time home seller and would like some direction to get the ball rolling, contact us anytime, we'd be glad to tour your home, give you some tips on getting your home ready to sell and fill you in on the entire selling process including sharing with you all the "extra" services we offer.  We're here to make sure all your questions get answered and that you don't have to go-it alone.  Just call, email or fill out the contact form on the right side of the page and we'll make sure you're selling experience is as stress-free and profitable as possible.  We're experienced full time realtors that work together to ensure you receive only the top notch service that you deserve.
Remember: Not all realtors are alike. You may pay a similar fee to a lot of different realtors, but we at least give you a lot more for your money than a majority of agents would even consider providing for you.  Call us today, even if you're just getting started, we're here to help even in the getting ready stage.  There are no costs to you until your home is listed, sells and closes!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How Home Prices are Affected by Interest Rates

More Home... Less Money... The principal and interest portion of the payment on a home bought a few yrs ago for $136,000 at 6.5% int, would be the same as a $200,000 home today at today's rate of *3.50% interest! Its amazing how much more home you can afford now with these low rates! *rates change often, this rate used is for informational purposes only, please check with your lender for today's current rates.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The recession has impacted men far more than women


By Shannon Barnum
Is buying a home genetically programmed? According to the National Association of Realtors, almost twice as many single women (20 percent) are buying homes than single men (12 percent). Why would that be?

Well, Century 21 thinks the reason is because women are outperforming men in the job market. According to the New York Times, as of January 2010, women outnumbered men on the payrolls of American companies. (I do love what Casey Mulligan, an economy professor at University of Chicago and a man, had to say about that: "Important milestones remain to be achieved...." Milestones like... 75 percent of the workforce? 90 percent? 100 percent?)

And the same Times story mentions why this triumph of women happened in 2010: The recession has impacted men far more than women. "Since the recession began in December 2007," it reads, "men have lost 7.4 million jobs on net, whereas women have lost 3.9 million jobs. In other words, both sexes are worse off than they were before the downturn, but men have suffered more."

Apparently, the tale is far worse that anyone imagined, however, if The Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institute is to be believed: The median wage has been stagnant since 1969, or so people thought, but it turns out, if you look at only the median wage of men, it's down 23 percent or $13,000 in real dollars since 1969.

Plus, women are just better educated than men: They are twice as likely as a man to have a college degree; they also have more advanced degrees, including Ph.Ds. They're taking over jobs that were traditionally considered bastions of male domination, like finance and accounting.

See photos of homes for sale in your area on Modern Market Realtors

On many college campuses, there are three women for every two men. Not that those guys are complaining, mind you....

Now, Ms. Magazine points out (along with every other article referencing the gender gap in education) that women still make less than men, and are more likely to be poor. That may or may not be true, depending on who you ask, but what is clear is that the women who make less and are more likely to be poor are buying houses at twice the rate of single men.

How can that be?

Either Ms. Magazine is overstating the case, and all this educational and career achievements of women are translating into their greater ability to buy extremely expensive things, like houses, or... there's another factor at play.

Turns out that "single women" in the NAR study does not necessarily mean "never married." A divorcée would be considered a single woman. Some 50 percent of American marriages end in divorce (although the accurate stat breaks down by first, second, third marriage and age of the people involved). Given that most divorces end up with the wife taking custody of the children, isn't it more likely that she would be the one doing the purchasing of a new home for herself and the children, while the man goes and rents a bachelor apartment or something? (Plus, there's the whole matter of alimony and child support payments, which tend to get paid by the man to the woman, naturally reducing the ability of the former to be homebuyers while increasing the ability of the latter to do so.)

Or maybe it's both: Women do make more money than men while working, are smarter with their money (35 percent of the single women buyers in the NAR survey said they cut out luxuries and sacrificed to save up for a home; we don't know what the single men buyers cut out, if anything); and if divorced, women are more likely than men to buy homes out of living situations.

Either way, the real estate industry has noticed.

Is there a useful lesson in this? I don't know. Unless you're a never-married heterosexual single guy with a job. In which case, may I recommend that you don't pay for dinner next time you're on a date until you've bought your own house?

Your date is twice as likely as you to have already bought hers.

Friday, September 2, 2011

New Fargo Real Estate Company


Modern Market Realtors mission is to provide excellent real estate service to ALL of our clients.
We have over 17 years combined real estate experience to ensure you are in the hands of only EXPERT Realtors to guide you throughout the entire process of buying or selling your home. We work as a team so that someone is always available when YOU need us...ANYTIME! We work together to make sure your experience is hassle free and a positive experience. Modern Market Realtors was designed to use today’s innovation to simplify the home buying and selling process. We are here to make your transaction stress free and as fun as it should be.
Log on to www.modernmarketrealtors.com

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fargo Area Woman Guide.


“Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous? Actually, who are you not to be?” – Marianne Johnsone Fargo Area Woman.
I am standing in a crush of three-year-old pint-sized princesses. Surrounded by sparkling tiaras and frilly dresses, these little daubs of pink and purple are up way past their collective bed time. We giggle. We dance. We wait patiently for the real princess to arrive. Well, at least a real princess played by an actress.
Finally, the moment arrives. Belle, the beauty from Beauty & The Beast, walks in to the room. As she comes out from backstage, I can see it in my daughter’s eyes. The beauty is here. My daughter climbs out of my arms, fixes her purple dress, and runs toward her.

Running to beauty in Fargo
We are all attracted to beauty. Beauty sells magazines. Beauty drives our self-perception. When I counseled teens, the issue of distorted definitions of beauty came up on a weekly basis. Our society hasn’t left us wondering what beauty is. Beauty is full lips. Beauty is long flowing hair. Beauty is a body shape Barbie would be envious of. Beauty wears the right clothes, surrounded by the right friends, and always plays with the right toys. We’ve immersed ourselves in cultural perceptions of beauty, so much so that we don’t know where to turn. We are consumed with the concept.
As I watch my daughter wrap her arms around Belle, a concern reveals itself in my mind. What chance do I have to speak truth into my daughter’s life? As she grows, who will inform her on what beauty is?
I’ve been told by culture (and a few friends) that a father’s most important job is to provide. Be strong. Be courageous. And bring home the cash. Become “the provider for all, and the enemy of all,” as J. August Strindbergto once so eloquently wrote. On TV the only other option is to fill the role of a bumbling, awkward individual — the comedic outlet in the family fabric (see world-famous dad Homer Simpson). Is there room for a father to “woo” his daughter and reflect God’s heart for her? Are those moments as rare as a dance at a graduation, followed by another at her wedding?
Holding your daughter’s heart
The role of father is vitally important to the emotional and spiritual (not to mention relational!) well-being of a daughter. A Dad is not just a provider, protector, and live-in comedian. Neither is a mother only a cook, cleaner, and sole provider of “the nurture factor”.
A father has the ability, to reflect the love that the Father has for us. He has the opportunity to “woo” his daughter’s heart – to let her taste the depth and strength of love. He is given the capability to speak the truth of beauty deeply into the heart of his daughter.
The tragic truth is this – if fathers do not take the opportunity to speak beauty into their daughters’ lives, someone else happily will. Turn your television on to any station and watch for a few minutes. Volunteer to chaperone a junior high dance. These are the prevailing voices of beauty in our culture. These are the voices your daughter (or son) will hear every day.

I want my daughter to know that she is beautiful. Not just for the reason that she could star on Toddlers and Tiaras, or even because she is smart, and talented, and funny. Those are all wonderful things and part of the gift of a daughter, but I want her to know that she is deeply beautiful because of Who made her. I want her to believe that her Father desires a deep and meaningful relationship with her, and so do I.
I want to be someone she can trust, someone she can talk with, someone she can walk through life together with. I want to be someone who can humbly and brokenly reflect the love that her Heavenly Father has for her. I want to woo the heart of my daughter so that she knows that her beauty transcends the length of her hair, the color of her eyes, the ability with which she reads.
After all, who is she?
“…who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.”
She is a child of God — and so are you. God has created you beautifully.
As fathers, we have the gift of engaging in our daughters’ lives meaningfully. And to unveil the true meaning of beauty found in each of our daughters.

Take a deep breath
It’s important, Dads, to take a deep breath. You’ve likely walked through the feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that come with parenting already in your journey. This segment of your daughter’s life – no matter if she is a two year old dress-twirler or a fourteen year old boy-chaser – is a great time to speak beauty into your daughter’s life. So take few tips from a fellow bumbling live-in comedian:
Open your ears. Chances are, if she’s older than two, she’s using more words than you do. When you listen, you’re communicating more than attention in her life. You’re signifying that her world is a priority and that she is worthy of your interest.

> Be in the moment with her. With a thousand other pressures confronting fathers, it is easy to tune out. These are the moments you live for, not what’s coming for you tomorrow at work.

>Two words: date night. This is a special phrase in our house. The word date means undivided attention over breakfast, at a restaurant, walking with candy apples. It’s a time when my daughter can talk to her Dad. (And believe me, she does.)
So I stand here and reflect, amidst the mass of little princesses, as my daughter embraces Belle and looks back at me. And when she looks back, I hope she begins to understand that her daddy is in this moment with her, that she is loved, and that she is beautiful.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Bison Turf of Fargo Review


The sandwich menu is also extensive, covering a full page on the menu. Chicken, beef, turkey, sea food, and traditional club style sandwiches So many that I can't really pick out any to discuss, but would like to point out that prime rib and ribeye sandwiches are available.
Read More Here

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An afternoon at the 2009 Fargo Film Festival.


An afternoon at the Fargo Film Festival. Wednesday afternoon I took in a segment of the afternoon offerings at the Fargo Film Festival. I'm writing this to give an idea to give some idea of what the daytime offerings are like: there's still a couple of days in which to take in these offerings. Read more here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Kelly Skramstad has joined Western State Bank, Fargo,

Skramstad, Black join Western State

Kelly Skramstad has joined Western State Bank, Fargo, as a consumer/mortgage loan assistant and Katie Black has joined the bank as a customer service representative.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Parent Lori Anderson said, “We like that hometown feeling, and we don’t want to lose that.”


It’s not just West Fargo School District officials who are grappling with the “emotional” issue about whether to build a second high school.

Parents, teachers and students who also are struggling with this decision weighed in Wednesday.

It was the second of six meetings district officials are hosting to gather input to shape what the district’s May bond referendum looks like.

Read more about West Fargo Problems Here

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fargo Area Women: Bernice Ihlenfeld a regular at YMCA in Fargo ND

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - The Fargo-Moorhead Family YMCA boasts thousands of names on its membership rolls.

But there is only one Bea.

Bea is Bernice Ihlenfeld, a 95-year-old Fargo resident who has been at the downtown Y for 34 years.

"This is my second home, really," said Ihlenfeld, who exercises weekday mornings in one of two indoor pools.

Ihlenfeld does not hold the distinction of being the Y's oldest member. That honor belongs to 97-year-old Minerva Franke, a Fargo resident who exercises in the pool four afternoons every week.

Nor will Ihlenfeld make it into any record book for membership longevity. Members routinely surpass the 40-year mark, according to Judy Whittlesey, senior membership director.

What makes Ihlenfeld exceptional in the hearts and minds of the women who frequent the members' locker room isn't that tangible.

"She is our inspiration and our wisdom," said Karen Bakke, a Fargo artist, athlete and Y regular. "Everybody wants to be like Bea."

Admirers respect Ihlenfeld for her lifelong dedication to physical fitness and bright outlook.

She flashes her trademark grin in the face of arthritic flare-ups and a bad back. Y regulars cannot remember hearing Ihlenfeld complain not after knee surgery, not after hip surgery.

What's more, Ihlenfeld has a kind word for anyone and everyone.

She has an impressive memory for faces and has been known to greet Y members with an enthusiastic "It's great to have you back" after an unexplained 18-month absence.

The former Fargo North High School assistant principal - she retired in 1974 - motivates even the most motivated Y members.

Friend and fellow swimmer Fredrika Monson, 81, of Moorhead exercises four mornings a week.

However, there are days when Monson lies in bed and contemplates staying home. Then, Monson said, she thinks of Ihlenfeld: "If she can do it, I can do it."

Ihlenfeld's impact on the Y community is unmistakable in the locker room where she frequently holds court in the dressing area.

Seated beneath a small "BEA'S CORNER" placard, Ihlenfeld sips coffee from a Styrofoam cup and chats with friends, colleagues and former students. Ihlenfeld was a girls' physical education teacher and counselor at Fargo Central High School in the 1950s.

Over the hum of hairdryers, the women chat about travel plans, upcoming weddings and anticipated graduations.

They share news about their spouses, children and grandchildren. Ihlenfeld has two daughters, both of whom live outside the area, and five grandchildren. Her husband, Fred, a Lutheran pastor, died in 1949.

Sometimes the exchanges aren't really a conversation at all, rather the briefest of friendly greetings.

It's here that Ihlenfeld has formed a family of women who cannot imagine the locker room with its matriarch. They will ensure Bea never misses her weekday swim.

"I've had the girls say, 'If you (ever) need a ride, just call us,"' Ihlenfeld said. "I'm depending on them - in future years that is."

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Fargo Area Women: Deb Andvik, PA-C

Deb Andvik, PA-C
Born: Crookston, MN, 1954
Education: Associate Degree in Nursing from St. Luke’s School of Nursing, University of North Dakota – Physician’s Assistant certification
Business: Certified Physician’s Assistant, Plains Medical Clinic, Heartland Healthcare Network
Community Volunteering: St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Moorhead, Birthright of Fargo-Moorhead, Inc, Moorhead Spud Booster, school room mother and chaperone
On success, “Contentment and happiness no matter what you are doing. Raising a good family, being happy with your job, lifestyle, who you are and how you treat others.”

A nurse in MeritCare’s labor and delivery unit for 22 years, Deb Andvik returned to school at UND and became a Certified Physician’s Assistant (PA-C) in 1998. After graduating, Deb joined the family practice department at MeritCare’s Southpoint location and worked at the facility for a little over five years. For the last three and a half years, she has been with the Plains Medical Clinic in Fargo.

Within the physician-PA relationship, Deb is certified and licensed to make independent medical decisions and provides a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. A typical week for Deb includes spending three mornings at Prairie at St. John’s in Fargo seeing patients, administering physicals and monitoring and treating physical problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Back at the Plains Medical Clinic, Deb sees people of all ages at the family practice (or primary care) clinic and orders tests and writes prescriptions. A large part of her practice also includes women’s health care. The rest of her work week involves making and returning phone calls and taking care of the paper work needed for patients’ records and insurance requirements.
At Plains Medical Clinic, Deb is in practice with Dr. Shock and Dr. Harris. Dr. Shock was Deb’s principle teacher during her physician’s assistant training at UND and he provided her with professional guidance and supervision that still inspires her in her profession. Deb said that she admires Dr. Shock’s good and common sense approach to medicine and is happy to be a part of his practice.

Deb also enjoys being a part of the smaller staff and practice at Plains Medical Clinic. It reminds her of a hometown-type clinic – a smaller building and parking lot, a smaller staff who know their patients names and being able to (often times) see people the same day that they call in for an appointment. Deb said that practicing medicine is different today because patients are much more aware and better informed about prevention, diagnosis and treatments of diseases and conditions and demand more from their healthcare provider. She said that people are internet savvy which can be a blessing and a curse as they search on the internet to self diagnose and come in for appointments asking for a certain medication. Deb said that one of the best things about current medicine is that people are healthier longer and that now preventive care continues the entire lifetime of a person.

Read More Here

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fargo Woman: Linda Coates, Fargo Government

Linda Coates
Born: Jamestown, ND, 1956
Education: B.A., B.S. and M.S. degrees in music and education, Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Vocation: Deputy Mayor, Fargo City Commission member since 2004.
Community Volunteering: City commission duties include serving as a liaison to many local groups and organizations.
On leadership, “A leader is someone who makes positive change happen through their commitment to a vision and inspiring the best efforts of others.”


The first time running for a political office, Linda was the top vote getter when she was elected to the Fargo City Commission in 2004. At the time Linda said that everything about it and process of getting there was new to her.

Linda was always interested in local, state and national political issues but not necessarily in running for an office. However, the seeds of campaigning were planted and started to grow when Linda was invited to attend sessions sponsored by North Dakota officials Conrad, Dorgan and Pomeroy to encourage people to get involved in their local governments.

A bit later Arlette Preston and Jean Rayl (long active in local politics) encouraged Linda to run for the Fargo City Commission and then she was asked to launch a campaign for office. Linda took a hard look and asked herself and others many questions before making her final decision to run for office. She ultimately decided that it was a duty and an honor to run. “It’s really important to have balanced representation along with the diversity and view points of different perspectives,” Linda said, “I needed to run as one woman.”

Now, having served on the commission for nearly four years, Linda said that the experience has been extremely rewarding and that she has learned a lot from it. It has been a good fit for her after spending large amounts of time employed and volunteering in local nonprofit organizations. As a city commissioner, Linda said that she likes to be able to serve the community in this way.

In Fargo city government each of the commissioners has a portfolio of areas that they are involved in on behalf of citizens. Linda’s commissioner responsibilities include serving as the liaison to the planning department and her ccommittee liaisons duties are to the Metropolitan Council of Governments, Renaissance Zone, Community Development, Cass County Planning, and Metro Area Transit Coordinating Board. She also serves as a board member liaison to Planning, Board of Adjustment, Library, and Native American Commission board of directors.

Linda said that serving as a city commissioner is hard work and that no matter what you do, some people will find fault with the efforts. Linda strives to focus on the job and the work at hand and understands that people get very passionate about their views. She said that most people respect the strengths of others’ convictions and the vigor it takes to be “out there” engaging in the conversations that it takes to make things better.

Read More Here

Friday, January 11, 2008

Fargo Health Care Issues: When health care becomes a lifelong expense

Author: Karson Keely


Fargo, ND - The percentage of people with health insurance through their employers — traditionally the way most people get coverage — is continuing to shrink, raising anxiety among workers and invigorating a debate about whether insurance should be tied to jobs.

Many of those who get their coverage through their jobs are becoming less secure that those benefits will always be there.
The debate about fundamental changes in health insurance comes as a declining percentage of employers are offering coverage. That’s fueling concern among consumers and employees such as Angela Reece who says the system isn’t “patient-friendly” and is slowly becoming one of the rising numbers of people — particularly those with health problems — struggling to get or utilize insurance.

Angela recently suffered a mild heart attack after attending her daughter’s choir concert on December 11, 2007. Angela walked her parents to their car, picked up her two children from the front of Carl Ben and drove home. The thirty-six-year-old recalls feeling “stressed out” after leaving work that day, but nothing that she felt was too serious. After arriving home, Angela felt a deep pain like she had never felt before.

“It felt like an elephant was stepping on my chest and a vice grip was tightening on my head.”

Her children dialed 9-11 and help arrived. At this point in the article it is important to understand Angela’s medical history in order to understand her state of mind.

In the past 13 years, Angela has had her gall-bladder and cervix cancer cells removed, a biopsy for breast cancer, delivered two children via C-section and has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, thus dealing with the snowballing ailments, prescriptions and costs pertaining to having high blood pressure. Angela also had to be treated for severe carpel tunnel which required over a year of medical treatment. She was granted only partial coverage because her employer stated clerical duties were not in the job description. Her job at that time was a director for a local non-profit.

Over the course of 13 years, Angela has racked up quite a bit of hospital bills – and has dealt with quite a few insurance, hospital and collection representatives. This would explain her unusual behavior the night she suffered a heart attack.

When help arrived they recommended she be rushed to the hospital. Angela began to cry. Her tears were followed with pleas for alternative transportation to the hospital. Angela said her only thought was how much the ambulance ride was going to cost. Angela then disclosed to The Business Journal that she has been paying between $50 and $250-per-month towards her medical bills for the past 13 years – in addition she has received a little over $50,000 from her parents in medical financial assistance.

Eventually Angela “came to her senses” and was loaded into the ambulance and taken to the hospital.

Angela was right about one thing – it was going to cost her. The bill arrived two days after the night of her ride, $641 out of pocket and $900 total bill. She was even charged for three separate failed IV attempts.

“They tried three times to get the IV in and failed, yet I was billed three separate IV charges.” Angela said.

When the ambulance pulled into MeritCare, Angela said she couldn’t believe it because her “provider is at Dakota Clinic/Innovis.” The dollar signs kept tallying higher and higher in her head.

The next morning, the doctor said he wanted to keep her for a couple of days and Angela broke down into tears again. She had officially given up trying to get out of medical debt. She knew she would be paying at least $250 dollars on top of her $500 monthly co-pay for the rest of her life. Angela pays $500 a month for health insurance which is an 80/20 plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield ND.

Read More About This Article Here

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Fargo Woman in Focus Mary Johnson

Women in Business: Mary Johnson, CPA, Banking

Mary Johnson, CPA
Born: Coronado, CA, 1957, grew up in Kindred, ND
Education: B.S. Physical Education and minor in Accounting, Concordia 1979
Business: President & CEO, Union State Bank since 1998
Community Volunteering: Vocational Training Center Board of Directors, Bethany Homes, Inc. Board of Directors, non-profit and civic boards, professional organizations, first female member of Lake Agassiz Kiwanis
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Once out of college, this Concordia phy ed major fully intended on teaching and falling back on the accounting profession if needed. Mary did not teach and her career path led directly to the accounting profession which she found to be a better match for her. Out of college, she joined Charles Bailly & Co. where she practiced accounting for four and a half years.

Mary went on to gain a variety of professional experience. After practicing accounting, Mary moved on to positions in commercial lending at First Bank and US Bank. Eventually, she worked for Lutheran Health Systems advising business entities with their financial planning, challenges and business growth. From Charles Bailly & Co and beyond, Mary has utilized her keen accounting and analytical skills to serve clients in the business world.

When asked what her favorite employment was before her current position at Union State Bank, Mary said it was as a commercial lender at First Bank. Another favorite was working with the healthcare companies through Lutheran Health Systems.

Now years later, Mary said maturity and experience have greatly added to her business perspective in banking and have developed her keen sense of problem solving and resilience to steadily accomplish business goals for Union State Bank.

Mary is proud of Union State Bank’s niche in the locally competitive business of banking. Mary and her staff pride themselves on their unique style of friendliness and personal service. Walking in to Union State Bank, you immediately feel a comfort combined with the business atmosphere—a neighborhood feel with staff knowing customers’ names, and the business of relationship building—easy accessed advice and services to meet people’s banking needs.

Behind the front counters, Union State Bank is very aware of trends in banking. Mary pointed out that electronic capabilities are opening up numerous client service possibilities and that competition is coming from non banking entities such as mortgage companies. And, because of customer internet usage, they also strive to build non- traditional ways of maintaining distant banking relationships.

Mary feels that her biggest career obstacle was not having a pre-ordained career path—that she did not set out to be a bank president. She happened to find out that she loved banking because it meant coming up with solutions for people every day. She added that sometimes it is better to be a woman in banking because she can feel a two-way trust building with clients and it is comfortable to say,” Let’s find a solution.”

Her business inspiration comes from several people. Her husband says ‘you can do anything – you’re capable.’ Mary also lists several others that are encouraging to her in business. Mary said that Dr. Hamilton, chair of the Union State Bank board of directors is very empowering, intelligent and forward thinking about their business and Mary is quick to mention Nick Hammerstein and Pam Anderson, both of Fargo, who she serves with on local nonprofit boards.

A normal work day for Mary includes many phone calls and finding solutions one-on-one or in small group situations. Sharp and focused, Mary takes on issues and quickly finds solutions for both customers and employees.

All in all, Mary is a commercial lender, works to match staff objectives to the needs and growth of the bank, meets compliance issues and consults to bank customers. Mary is continually learning by reading trade journals and internet information, working with vendors and taking part in educational offerings through Eide Bailly.

Mary’s plans for the bank are to position the bank to continue to grow and to be careful not to try to be all things to all people and lose their effective business niche. When Mary joined Union Sate Bank as president & CEO nine years ago the bank’s assets were $18,500 and today they are at $50 million. Clearly, she is doing it right.

Fargo Print

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fargo Blog Media: Fargo Is'nt Boring

Fargo Blog Media: Fargo Is'nt Boring

I found this in a blog and thought it was of some interest Submitted by Fargo Visitor Mz.Sasa

Before going to Fargo, I watched the movie, and since I'm not from the Midwest, I got a huge kick out of it. This weekend, my co-worker and I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Fargo to visit friends. They hadn't seen the movie, so we watched it, but no one else really thought it was funny!Anyway, that was a random aside.Fargo was great. It had cute shops, restaurants and cubbyhole hangouts. It also had interesting places to see, like the largest all-sports store in the world (Scheels) and Space Aliens Grill and Bar (yes, I realize this isn't unique to Fargo).I'm not sure I would take a trip there, as I would Chicago or New York, if I didn't know someone who could show me the sights, but it turned out to be a neat place.
Yeahhhhhhhhh Fargo aint boring!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fargo Women: Turn us on" billboard, talks about life as a model.

Melissa Duerr, model from the "Turn us on" billboard, talks about life as a model.

Wahpeton, ND - On any given day, drivers winding through Fargo may pass a number of billboards without giving them a single thought, but life-long residents of Wahpeton will surely recognize the new one featuring the blond-haired and blue-eyed Melissa Duerr.


The 2002 Wahpeton High School graduate headed to Fargo to work as a booking agent at Academie Agencie and never turned back. She credits those first years at the agency for helping her realize the importance of being its top model and giving her the necessary steps she needed.

At 19, Duerr learned the ropes of the modeling industry as a booker, scheduling all of the appointments for models."All of the knowledge I learned behind the scenes helped me build my career as a model," she said. "As a booking agent, I realized how certain qualities are important, as far as just being reliable and committed. So I guess that's how I got interested in modeling."

After realizing that she wanted to pursue a career in modeling, she spent one year at the Salon Professional Academy, a cosmetology school in Fargo.

"There's no client that never needs to hire a makeup artist, and I just did it myself," she said. "It all works together."

Then Duerr started teaching a runway instruction class at the agency, doing hair and make-up for the photo shoots. It wasn't too long before she began work as a full-time hair stylist and makeup artist at Hair Success in North Fargo, and this year she added to the busy roster by teaching a class on wardrobe, which covers the basics on incorporating personal style with the rules of fashion.

As she juggles regular work with modeling, days can get long. On an average morning, Duerr is ready to work from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. as a model or teaching a class, and then from 2:30-9 p.m. she heads to her station at Hair Success.

"It gets pretty busy, but it's fun," she said. "I enjoy it."

Modeling jobs usually arrive at the last minute, and Duerr will get a call only a day or two before the job will begin. One of her first shoots was for a promotional bit in Las Vegas called "Hotwalkers", and would be featured in various gambling spots around the city. She was nervous.

"I did whatever I possibly could, but I was so nervous because I didn't know how the pics would turn out," she said. "But when I saw them I was surprised, because the pics were actually phenomenal. I guess you just have to try your best and put everything into it."

At the shoot, Duerr met CarriDee English, the Fargo native who went on to win Season 8 of Bravo's America's Next Top Model. The two became close friends for awhile, "but I haven't heard from her since," she laughed.

Duerr has been seen in spreads for Microsoft Magazine and the The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, as well as being featured annually in the KFYR Bismarck and KVLY Bridal show. One year she attended the International Model and Talent Convention in New York City, which gathers all of the agents and models around the world in one setting. Duerr found a surprising perk at this particular event.

"I got an opportunity to judge a makeup competition for thousands of models, and I was sitting next to the this lady who just happened to be the makeup artist from Seinfeld," she laughed. "Here's little me from Fargo, but they all said I was welcome to judge. It's kind of funny, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time."

Fargo Women
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