Top 5 Tips for Financing or Refinancing Your Home

Whether you are looking to finance a new home or refinance an existing one, it can be a daunting task to navigate the world of lenders, interest rates, and repayment terms. However, with some research and guidance, you can make the process a bit easier on yourself.

Four Components of The Average Home Loan

A typical loan for financing a real estate purchase consists of four main factors: downpayment, principal loan amount, interest rate, and terms. The downpayment is the money you invest in the home upfront; the more you pay upfront, the less you will need to borrow. The principal loan amount is how much money you are borrowing and the interest rate is how much interest you will pay on that borrowed sum. Finally, the terms designate how much you will pay back over a period of time.

Factors Lenders Consider to Assess Your Financial Responsibility

When lending money for a home, lenders will consider several factors from your personal finances: your credit score, your debt-to-income ratio, and your downpayment or equity. The higher your credit score and the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the more financially responsible you appear to lenders. The higher your downpayment or home equity, the lower the risk is for lenders because you’ve put more on the line.

Top 5 Tips for Financing or Refinancing Your Home:

Lenders want to see that you are a trustworthy and responsible home buyer. The more responsible you are, the lower the risk for the bank when loaning you money. There are a few major factors for how they calculate your financial responsibility:

  1. Improve your credit score. Paying down debt, making on-time and consistent credit card payments, and paying more than the minimum due can all improve the health of your credit score. You can also seek to resolve errors or flags in your credit history.
  2. Reduce your debt-to-income ratio (DTI.) Your DTI represents how much debt you have vs. how much income you have. An ideal rate is 36% or lower, meaning you should be bringing in about 3x as much as you have in debt.  
  3. Increase your down payment. The more you can pay for your home upfront (or the more equity you have in your home, if refinancing) the better your loan options will be. A great goal is paying at least 20% of the home’s value as a downpayment.
  4. Shop around! You can (and should) consider multiple loan options from multiple lenders. There are online tools for comparing loans on your own, and there are also mortgage brokers whose whole job is finding you the best option!
  5. Search for government programs. There are many programs available for first-time homebuyers, low-income homebuyers, buyers in rural areas, buyers of energy-efficient homes, veteran homebuyers, and more. Do some research, talk to a mortgage broker, and be sure you’re taking advantage of any programs you might apply for!

Financing or refinancing a home is a complex process, but with these tips in mind, you can find the best options for your needs. Remember to do your research, shop around for rates, and always read the fine print before signing on the dotted line. Once you’ve secured your financing, contact Bill Hansen Realty to find your dream property!

Celebrate Summer with the 6 Best Beaches the Region Has to Offer

Our beloved home of Minnesota is known for its abundant lakes, and there’s no shortage of beautiful beaches in the state. Here are six of our favorite area resorts with amazing beaches. Some offer public access while others are for guests only, but each provides unique features, activities, and lodging options.

Blue Water Resort | Hackensack | Private Beach Access for Guests Only

Located in the charming town of Hackensack, Blue Water Resort provides guests with private access to the clear and clean waters of Birch Lake. Boaters will also enjoy easy access to Birch Lake from the resort’s private boat launch, and anglers will find plenty of opportunities to catch walleye, northern pike, and bass. The resort offers cabin rentals and RV sites with hookups throughout the summer.

Pine Ridge Resort | Longville | Public Beach Access

Pine Ridge Resort is located on the shores of Boy Lake, known for its pristine water and excellent fishing. The resort features a sandy beach with a gradual slope, making it perfect for swimming and water activities. The beach is open to the public, and day visitors can access the beach for a fee. Pine Ridge Resort is also great for kayaking and canoeing, as the lake is relatively calm with many bays and inlets to explore. This resort offers cabin rentals and camping sites.

Wildwood Beach Resort | Hackensack | Public Beach Access

Wildwood Beach Resort features a wide beachfront on the sandy shores of Little Boy Lake. The beach is open to the public, and day visitors can access the beach for a fee. The beach is great for swimming and sunbathing, and the water is perfect for water activities like paddleboarding and kayaking. The resort offers cabin rentals and camping sites and also features a playground for kids and a fire pit for roasting marshmallows.

Shores of Leech Lake | Walker | Private Beach Access for Guests Only

Located in the town of Walker, Shores of Leech Lake offers a large beach area with soft sand and crystal clear water. The resort is situated on a bay, making it a great spot for fishing and boating. The beach is private and exclusive to resort guests. Shores of Leech Lake also features a sauna and a hot tub, perfect for relaxing after a long day on the water. The resort offers cabin rentals and RV sites.

Tri Birches Resort | Hackensack | Public Beach Access

Tri Birches Resort offers not one, not two, but three beautiful beaches on Woman Lake. Each of the beaches at Tri Birches Resort features translucent waters and soft sand. The beaches are open to the public, and day visitors can access the beach for a fee. Boaters can access Woman Lake from the resort’s private boat launch, and anglers will have the chance to catch walleye, northern pike, and musky. The resort offers cabin rentals and camping sites.

Hiawatha Beach Resort | Walker | Private Beach Access for Guests Only

Hiawatha Beach Resort is located on the southern shore of Leech Lake and boasts a sandy beach with crystal-clear water. The resort offers private and exclusive beach access to resort guests only. The resort offers easy access to Leech Lake, one of Minnesota’s largest and most popular lakes. Boaters will enjoy easy access to the lake from the resort’s private boat launch, and anglers will find plenty of opportunities to catch walleye, northern pike, and musky. The resort offers cabin rentals and RV sites.

We love our region, and we wait all winter to watch it come alive in the sun. Walker, Hackensack and Longville have some of the best lakes and beaches the state has to offer and they are perfect for summer vacation. Whether you are looking for calm waters, sandy beaches, great fishing, or family fun and activities, you’ll find it all in North-Central Minnesota.

Trouble with Commercial Property Shopping? You Deserve an Expert.

Buying commercial property can be a wise investment that offers long-term financial benefits. However, purchasing a commercial property is a complex process that requires specific knowledge. Here are some things you will need to know about when buying commercial property.

Major Differences Between Buying Residential and Commercial Properties

Buying commercial property is vastly different from buying a residential property. Commercial properties are often more expensive, and they require a much larger investment. Moreover, commercial properties are usually purchased with the intent of running a business or generating some sort of income. This introduces other new factors such as zoning, permitting, and licensing. For these reasons, buying and selling commercial property requires specialized knowledge and experience.

Special Considerations: Commercial Property Conditions and Zoning Regulations

It’s important to understand how zoning laws and local regulations work when buying commercial property. Zoning regulations dictate what types of businesses can operate on a property and can vary from one location to another and from one business to another.

You should also be mindful of the condition of the property you are purchasing. Commercial properties often have more wear and tear than residential properties due to heavy usage. Be sure to also explore any potential environmental concerns, as commercial businesses can have harsh effects on the property’s natural resources. You should inspect the property thoroughly to ensure that it is in good condition and that you are aware of any past issues or future repairs or renovations that may be necessary.

Commercial Property Expertise and Market Research

When buying commercial property, it is essential to have a team of experts on your side. These experts can include real estate lawyers, accountants, and contractors. They can help you navigate complex regulations and ensure that you are making a wise investment. They can also help you to understand the state of the market, which will inform your decision-making process. You should research the local market and understand the trends and potential for growth in the area.

Commercial Property Financing and Rental Income

Commercial property financing is another component that is distinct from residential. Be sure to consider all of the various financing options and choose the one that best suits your needs. If your commercial property is going to generate rental income, you can consider that as part of your overall income when applying for financing. However, like all sources of income, it must meet eligibility criteria and be properly documented.

Buying commercial property is a significant investment, and it requires specialized knowledge and expertise. By understanding the differences between buying residential and commercial property, you have gotten a strong start. The most critical tip for success is finding trusted expertise – whether that is a realtor, broker, lawyer, or other advisor – it’s critical to get support from industry experts. Bill Hansen Realty is one of these experts and we would be happy to be a part of your team!

Make a More Powerful Offer with a Mortgage Pre-Qualification

Obtaining a mortgage is an essential part of the home buying process, and pre-qualification can be an easy first step. Being pre-qualified streamlines the home buying process and gives you an idea of how much banks may be willing to lend you. Here is what you need to know about getting pre-qualified for a mortgage:

What Does Pre-Qualified Mean?

Pre-qualification is the first step in the mortgage process. It’s an informal process that evaluates your debt, income, and assets based on self-reported details. Based on these details, pre-qualification gives you an initial estimate of how much you may be able to borrow. It is not a guarantee that you will be approved for a mortgage, but it can give you an idea of your purchasing power.

How Is Pre-Qualification Different from Pre-Approval?

Pre-approval, on the other hand, verifies the financial details you provide in pre-qualification; it is a more formal process that involves a hard credit pull. With pre-approval, the bank reviews your financial information and determines how much they are willing to lend you. Pre-approval is a stronger commitment from the lender, and it can make offers more attractive to sellers.

Does It Affect Your Credit Score?

Pre-qualification does not affect your credit score. The lender will ask for some basic financial information, but they won’t pull your credit report. However, pre-approval does involve a credit check, which can affect your credit score.

How to Calculate Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

One essential factor in determining how much you can borrow is your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. To calculate your DTI ratio, first, add up your monthly debt payments. This should include all credit cards, car, personal loans, and tuition payments. Take your total monthly debt payment and divide it by your gross monthly income. Your DTI ratio should be below 43% to qualify for most mortgages.

What Are the Next Steps After Getting Pre-Qualified?

After getting pre-qualified, the next step is to find a lender and complete the mortgage application process. Your lender will review your financial information and determine if you meet their lending criteria. Once you are approved, you can house hunt with confidence, knowing you are ready to make an offer.

If you’re still hesitant about reaching out to a lender, there are numerous online resources available to help you estimate the amount you may pre-qualify for. By obtaining pre-qualification, you can assess the approximate amount of money that a lender may offer you toward your home purchase. This simple and vital step can help you determine your budget and kick-start your home buying journey!

A Fun History of Walker, Minnesota You May Not Have Known

The Early Days of Walker, MN

Like much of the United States, the land known today as Walker, MN was originally inhabited by indigenous people. The Dakota tribe settled there for a long time before they were eventually pushed out by the Ojibwe people, moving west from the Great Lakes. European American settlers encroached on these Native American territories as they followed the fur trade in the late 1800’s.

Walker, Minnesota’s Founder

Patrick McGarry founded the town of Walker in 1896, following the construction of the Minnesota & International Railroad, which ended in Walker. The town started out as a hot spot for fur trading but with the construction of the rail line, the business expanded. McGarry named the town after the successful logging tycoon Thomas B. Walker, in hopes of driving a new kind of business to the area.

Thomas Walker wound up founding the neighboring town of Akeley, due to his wife’s sensitivity to Walker’s rough, frontier nature. The town of Walker did benefit from these nearby operations and many other businesses, jobs, and services were generated as a result.

Changing Industries Over the Years

Throughout the 1900s, tourism took over as the primary industry of Walker, as it became a destination town of Northern Minnesota. People from surrounding cities began to pursue and prioritize recreation, and the lake provided abundant opportunities. At one time, Leech Lake had over 100 resorts located on it! In 1950, Walker hit its highest population of 1,175 residents. These days, it’s back below the 1,000 thresholds.

Walker, Minnesota Today

Today, Walker is best known for being a quaint town “up north.” The downtown area has many unique businesses including family restaurants and boutique shops. Leech Lake is still the main attraction and the town revolves around the seasons. Boating, swimming, and fishing rule over the summer while winter brings opportunities to snowmobile, ice fish, shop, and keep warm inside the cabin!

If you’re interested in becoming one of the 1,000 people that call this area their seasonal or year-round home, just take a look at our current Leech Lake listings!

8 Things to Look for When Viewing a Potential Property

Buying any real estate can be an overwhelming process but buying a cabin comes with its own unique considerations. Here’s what to look for when you’re viewing a potential property.

Cabin Location

It’s critical to consider the location and accessibility of the property. While you can make changes to the building and accommodations, you cannot change the property’s location. Is it in an area that makes sense for you? Is it far enough for a getaway, but also close enough to “home?” Are the access roads well-maintained?

The Changing of the Seasons

There are dramatic swings in weather in Northern Minnesota. If you plan to be heading up to the cabin in the winter, don’t forget to think about the snow! Be sure to ask about winter access and how the roads are handled. Some cabin communities provide snow management, others leave you to handle this yourself.

The Cabin or Vacation Home Lot

Making changes to the lot will come at a considerable cost and require a lot of work down the line. Be sure to look at how water flows, naturally, through the property. Are there areas where rainwater has washed out the landscape? Are there problematic trees or other concerns with the lay of the land?

Water Properties and Quality

Water is a huge consideration and something to stay aware of when viewing potential cabins, especially if you’re looking at a waterfront property. Be sure to research the water you’re buying near. You may want to research how high the water levels get, especially during the Spring thaw and major rains. Also, consider the quality of water in the lake, and what kind of systems are needed for treating it.

Cabin Building Blocks

If you’re looking at rustic or log-style cabins, the building materials and structure itself are something to pay attention to. Log cabins should always be raised off the ground by rocks, concrete or other materials. There should be no rotting, large gaps, or cracks among the logs. The roof should overhang the walls to protect logs from rain and snow.

Cabin Usage

Make sure there is room for everyone! Is this cabin going to be a quiet family getaway? Or a shared, multi-family property? How many people will be staying here at the same time? It’s important to provide a bed for everyone, even if it requires sharing rooms. Sometimes cabins have “bunk rooms” that can sleep 4 or more people in the same space.

Maintenance for Your Vacation Home

All properties require maintenance, but cabins are unique. They may be older buildings, made with different materials than our standard homes. Keep an eye out for how the property has been maintained. How well have the previous owners cared for the cabin?

Terms of Sale

Make sure you understand the terms of the sale agreement and what is included in the price of the cabin. Are you just buying the lot and the building? Are there any appliances the owner is willing to leave behind? Is there any outdoor equipment such as docks, boats, or other lake toys, that may be included?

Buying any property can be overwhelming but viewing cabins “up north” should be a fun and exciting experience! With a trusted team by your side, it’s easy to keep track of all these details and enjoy your property viewing experience!

3 Reasons Why You Should Invest in a Vacation Home

Real Estate is one of the most popular ways for individuals in the United States to build wealth and equity. If you’ve been looking for ways to earn more income, buying a vacation home might be right for you. Here are the reasons why we think you should consider buying a vacation home. 

Your Equity Will Grow

Just like your main living property, your vacation home will grow its own equity over the years. All you have to do is maintain your property and make occasional upgrades. It’s rare that a property decreases in value. 

You Can Rent Out Your Cabin

If you want to make some extra money, renting out your vacation home is a great way to do it. With services like Air BnB and VRBO, it has never been easier to make extra income on your property. Of course, you have to make sure you are maintaining and cleaning your space, and keeping your listing updated. But if you’re willing to put in a little work, the benefits can really start to stack up!

Save Money on Your Vacations

One of the most simple ways that your vacation home will keep a little extra money in your pocket is by saving you money on your vacations. With a designated Northern Minnesota vacation spot that you can escape to at any point, you’ll save on hotels and food when you stay and cook at the cabin!

We think lake life and vacationing Up North is one of the best ways to relax, unwind, and spend time with the people you love. Why not make it work for you by making some extra money. We’re here when you’re ready to invest in your vacation home. Take a look at our current properties to find the property that’s right for you.

4 Ways to Keep Your Cabin Energy Efficient This Winter

Winter in Northern Minnesota can really wreak havoc on your heating and energy bills. If you like spending time at your cabin during the winter months, below freezing temps and lots of snowfall, can make it difficult to keep it heated. Here are some tips to help you stay warm and energy efficient during cold weather. 

Take Advantage of Warmth from the Sun

When the sun is shining take advantage of that warmth and open up all of your curtains and blinds. You’ll be surprised at how much warmth sunshine can provide, even through a window. But don’t forget to close them when the sun sets so that you can prevent cold, drafty air from entering your spaces at night. 

Cover or Seal Drafty Windows

If you have older, drafty windows, you might notice that cold air easily seeps through making it difficult to stay warm. In lieu of purchasing all new windows, you can cover or seal them instead. Grab a tube of caulk or some self-adhesive weather stripping from your local hardware store and reseal the edges making sure that you don’t seal your windows completely shut. You can also buy an inexpensive window insulation kit to keep out the cold. 

Keep Your Furnace and Vents Clean/Clear

Regular furnace maintenance such as vent cleanings and professional service can ensure that your heating system is in tip-top shape and running at full capacity to keep you and your loved ones warm. You can also vacuum or wash your vent covers regularly to prevent dust and grime buildup so that airflow is not impacted. 

Cozy up with Warm Clothes and Blankets

It might seem too simple, but putting on an extra layer or grabbing a warm blanket when you’re sleeping or lounging around can help you stay warm without having to bump up the temperature on the thermostat. While there’s no need to completely freeze yourself out, you’ll be surprised how much a couple of degrees can save in energy usage and on your next bill.

While staying warm Up North can be a challenge, it can also help you get more time at the cabin year-round instead of waiting until the weather is warm to enjoy your vacation home. Check out our other blogs for tips on enjoying your time at the cabin.

Tips to Help You Prepare for Opening Your Cabin this Spring

There’s still a bit of time left before winter is over and we’re ready to start making our weekend trips to the cabin. But it is never too early to be prepared! We’ve pulled together some tips to help you get prepared to open your cabin this spring! 

Make a Plan

Decide what needs to be done and make a list for both the inside and the outside. Don’t forget to check on your licenses for fishing and boating as well. Verify what items need to be renewed or purchased. Also be sure to have a plan to turn on any services that you had shut off for the winter. 

Do an Opening Inspection

Upon arriving, test your smoke and CO2 detector batteries. Turn on water and heating and inspect for any damage to the exterior that might have happened over the winter. 

Check for Critter Damage

Look for holes in your screens, siding, gnawed wires, or rodent droppings, and create a plan for removing or exterminating.

Restock Necessities

Create a list of items that are must-haves in your cabin. Restock non-perishable food items, your first aid kit, and other emergency supplies. 
While it might feel like a long way off, Springtime and cabin days will be here before you know it! Until then, keep an eye on our hot list for the latest properties on the market!

4 Ways to Stay Safe at the Cabin this Winter

Many of us still love heading to the cabin during the Winter months, despite the cold and snow. But there is a lot more to consider when it comes to the safety of you and your loved ones. Here are some things you can do to prepare when you head to the cabin this winter. 

Have Alternate Heating Options

The cold Up North in Minnesota can be brutal. When the temperature hits below zero, or a big snowstorm sweeps through, there is a greater risk of power outages which means no central heating. Be prepared with alternate heating options such as battery-powered space heaters or heated blankets, wood for the fireplace, extra blankets, sleeping bags, and winter clothes. 

Pack an Emergency Kit

It’s never a bad idea to have an emergency kit packed with supplies for the whole family. Be prepared for any Winter emergency from extreme cold to heavy snow. Some helpful items to pack include first aid supplies, non-perishable food, flashlights, flares, blankets, long-lasting candles, matches or a lighter, and a small shovel.

Take a Buddy

Whatever you plan to do – whether a winter hike, going to town for supplies, ice fishing, etc. – don’t go alone. If you get injured, lost, or in a tricky spot, you have another person to call for or go for help or help you out of a sticky situation. If you aren’t able to take someone with you, tell someone where you’re going and about what time you’ll return so they know when to start worrying about you. 

Keep the Cabin Stocked

Have supplies at the cabin that last year-round. Make sure your pantry is stocked with canned goods and other non-perishable items. If you have a wood-burning fireplace or wood stove, make sure you are always stocked up on firewood. Always have extra warm blankets and clothing for everyone. Keep books and board games in the event that you get stuck at the cabin without electricity or cell service. 

Taking these simple measures can help keep your mind at ease during the winter months at the cabin. If you’re looking for a cabin to escape up to during the winter, check out our current properties for sale