What We’re Thankful For

There’s no doubt 2020 has been a crazy year, this year has definitely been different. But as we prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday I am still so thankful for so many things.

  1. Our home. It’s warm and welcoming and in a community we adore.
  2. Family. My immediate little nest and my extended fam.
  3. Friends. They keep life fun.
  4. Our health. Especially this year.
  5. The food on our table.
  6. The drinks in our hand. Currently enjoying a lovely glass of red.
  7. Willow trees, sunshine and baby ducks. Because they always make me smile.
  8. Old houses. I love the different styles, the details and the stories they have to tell. If you want to learn more about my love for old houses, you should follow Matt Engen Group on Instagram.
  9. Books, opinions, questions and respect. We learn so much from books and each other. I never want to stop learning or growing.
  10. Our clients and a job that we love.

Homesteading your Property in Minnesota

Did you purchase a home within the last year? Did you remember to homestead that home? If not you have until December 15, 2020 to do it.

But let’s backup a minute. You may not even be sure what homestead is. Homestead is a property tax reduction program open to Minnesota Residents. This property must be your primary residence. Meaning you have to live there. And if you do the State of Minnesota will reward you with a reduction in your property taxes. According to their website the homestead classification can reduce the taxes on a residential property up to $304 per year.

To homestead and get this tax break all you have is fill out this form and show them proof of ownership. One of the following documents will work to show ownership. A warranty deed, a recorded contract for deed, a quit-claim-deed, or a Torrens title certificate. Basically what ever document you got at closing that granted you title to the property.

If you’re wondering if you got one of these, it’s typically given to you at the end of closing in a big folder. In fact, most closers remind you to homestead right before they hand over the folder. They put the document you need right on top.

Homestead classification remains on the property until the property’s ownership changes, you move out or the property is sold.

If you can’t remember if you’ve done this you can double check by calling the City of Minneapolis or you can do it here – Property Information.

The Northrop Neighborhood

The City of Minneapolis has over 83 different neighborhoods. Each with its own unique personality and reasons for living there. For today’s post I’m going to focus on the Northrop Neighborhood of South Minneapolis.

A personal favorite of mine the Northrop Neighborhood’s boundaries are 42nd Street to the north, Cedar Avenue to the east, Minnehaha Parkway to the south, and Chicago Avenue to the west.

Close to Minnehaha parkway, access to I-35 and Hwy. 62 and home to so many many cute shops and restaurants this neighborhood is beautiful and vibrant.

The houses are mostly pre-1940s stucco, brick and stone houses. Each one with its own unique character and situated on tree lined streets which adds to the overall charm and walkability of the neighborhood.

A popular little niche within the Northrop Neighborhood is Shenandoah Terrace. It’s filled with the same charming Tudor houses, bungalows and a quaint retail district at 48th and Chicago where 14 Hill and the cutest coffee shop Sovereign Grounds are located.

Here are a few of my favorite houses in the Northrop Neighborhood.

Northrop Neighborhood | Matt Engen Group
A charming Tudor with black trim.
Northrop Neighborhood | Matt Engen Group
A stone chimney and timber details add to the unique character of this home.
Northrop Neighborhood | Matt Engen Group
This beauty is yet another example of the beautiful homes in Northrop.
Northrop Neighborhood | Matt Engen Group
This stunning Tudor with the red door is the definition of charming.

5 Things that will Increase Your Homes Value

Thinking of selling your home? Here are 5 budget friendly things you can do this weekend to increase the value of your home.

  1. Clean and declutter. At this point this one should not surprise you. It tops every single list for a reason. I can’t tell you how many outdated homes we’ve seen sell because they were clean and organized. Home buyers felt that the home was well taken care of and even though it wasn’t pretty they were able to see past the decor and actually look at the bones of the house. I tell all our clients, to clean and then clean again. When in doubt, throw it out or pack it away.
  2. Clean your carpet. If you have carpet anywhere in your house GET IT CLEANED! And stretched if necessary. Dirty carpet is gross. It makes home buyers think about the cleanliness of the rest of the home. That leads them to thinking about replacement costs. Don’t let them go there, get it cleaned and if those stains don’t come out consider replacing your carpet.
  3. Paint the most used rooms in your house. I can almost guarantee that they need it. Think hallways, front entry ways, bathrooms and kitchens. We’re hard on our houses and it shows on our walls. Dirt and grime just have a way of accumulating especially if you like to cook a lot of have littles running around your house touching everything! Be sure to paint a neutral color that work with your decor.
  4. Replace old and outdated hardware in your kitchen or bath. This small change can make a big impact on the look and feel of your kitchen and bath, the two most impactful rooms of your home. Pay attention to trending styles and finishes. The difference between gold and silver, polished or brushed nickel can make or break the look of the space.
  5. Update your lights. If I had to pick two spots to focus on I would focus on the pendant lights in the kitchen and the light in your dining room. But if you have the time and the money don’t forget the bathroom and while you’re add it replace all the boob lights in your house. It’s amazing the difference a light can have on a room. People groan when they see old and outdated lights from the 90’s, it’s all so heavy and dark. Give them something to ohh and aww over.

All these project come with a minimal investment but they will and do make a big impact on the look and feel of your home and will increase the value of your home. Todays buyers want to move right in and have their homes look and feel like all the images they see on HGTV and Instagram.

And I know it’s hard to justify spending money on upgrades to increase the value of your home when you’re moving and would rather spend that money on your new house. But the difference these small upgrade may make on whether or not your home sells quickly or lingers on the market are priceless.

Staging with Houseplants

Staging your home with houseplants is an easy and budget friendly way to stage our home. If you haven’t noticed plants are having a major moment right now. Buyers love them and most are bringing quite a few with them when they move. Like the bar cart, plants speak to a lifestyle and help you connect with todays buyers.

You can place plants just about everywhere in your home. Even if you don’t have a lot of light. Trust me there’s a plant for every room and every amount of light in your home.

Place them on the dining room table, on the bathroom counter, on your nightstand, on the kitchen island and in the living room. Don’t forget the porch and the homes entryway if possible. Plants are great in an empty awkward corner, just be sure it’s the right size to adequately fill the space.

Knowing where your plants will go before you head to the store will help immensely but if you skipped that step or aren’t really sure where to put them the key is to get a variety of different types and sizes.

My favorite plants

When staging with houseplants the only rule is to use a variety of different plants. My favorite plants for staging are the Snake plant, Pothos plant, Jade plant, Silver Bay and the Umbrella plant. Not all of these top the most trendy plant list but they are all super low maintenance and easy fo beginners. And all of these plants can tolerate low light they just won’t grow as quickly.

Staging with Houseplants | Matt Engen Group | Picture of my 5 favorite houseplants to use when staging your home.
Lower left is the Jade plant, above the Jade is the Umbrella plant, next to that is the Snake plant on the bench is the Pothos and lower right corner is the Silver Bay.

The right pot

After you’ve selected your plants the next step will be to select a container. Be thoughtful here, the right container should match your existing home decor, they can also add height, some texture or a pop of color.

Below are three different examples of different types of pots you can use when staging with houseplants.

Staging with Houseplants | Matt Engen Group | Picture of neon pothos in a grray pot.
Staging with Houseplants | Matt Engen Group | Picture of plant in a clay pot.
Staging with Houseplants | Matt Engen Group | Picture of plant in a white pot.

I like to buy my pots and my plants at a variety of different places. You can click here to see a few of my favorites. I guess you could say I like to spread the love around and if I can I shop small and I shop local.

What Buyers Want in a Home

Covid has changed many things in the real estate market, from how we search and look at homes (hello virtual showings) to what buyers want for their next home. Some of this has been trending since before Covid but this is what we’re seeing buyers look for.

Outdoor Spaces: From relaxing patios, outdoor gardens, a fire pit or a swimming pool, outdoor spaces are important to todays home buyers. The extra space and fresh air allows homeowners to safely entertain while social distancing.

Work or Distance Learning Spaces: Since everyone is working and learning from home, buyers are looking for additional space to work. (Bonus if that area has a door.) Having everyone working from the dining room table doesn’t work when adults or kids need a quiet area to concentrate or take a Zoom call.

Home Gyms: Whether you ride a Peloton or practice yoga having dedicated spot to work out is key. I think we can all agree a dedicated space is way better than working out in your bedroom. If you can somehow get access to a TV even better since a lot of gyms are offering online classes.

Bigger Kitchens: Since everyone is home and restaurants offer limited seating more and more people are cooking at home. And since we’re all at home the kitchen needs to be big enough for everyone to cook together. Think counter space and large kitchen islands with plenty of seating.

What does this mean if you’re a seller. Consider how you could highlight these spaces in your home. Realtors are highlighting them in their listing descriptions. Need help? Just ask. As always staging will be key.

Renovate These Area’s to Sell!

If you’ve decided or are thinking about selling your home in the near future, you will likely want to sell it as quickly as possible and for the most amount of money.  One great way to do this is to invest and make renovations in these 3 areas of your home. 


An updated kitchen is a huge bonus for today’s home buyers. They want things like stainless steel appliances, granite or quartz countertops, a tile backsplash, updating flooring and nice cabinets. Our best advice for you here is to do this one a few years before you sell so you can enjoy it too and don’t break the bank. Focus on materials not a huge reconfiguration of the space. 


Clean and fresh is what today’s buyers want in bathrooms. But this is also an area where you can have a little fun with the renovation. A pop of color or wallpaper, an updated vanity and new light fixtures are easy ways to easily update the space. 

New Roof or Updated Mechanicals

Focus on the big ticket items that will give the buyer peace of mind when purchasing your home. They won’t mind doing a few updates on their own if they know they won’t have to worry about things like a new roof, furnace or AC. 

Renovations go a long way in helping your home sell more quickly. As we’ve mentioned in a recent blog post, most buyers today aren’t looking for a fixer upper, they want to move right in and enjoy the many benefits of owning a home. 

If you plan accordingly you can reap the benefits of these renovations and maybe even enjoy them a little before you move. Just be sure you don’t spend more than what you can get out of your home when you sell it. 

Managing Home Buying Decisions

There are numerous steps and decisions that need to be made to buy a home. From choosing an agent, to securing your financing, to finding the right neighborhood, to finally putting in an offer. These decisions are not always easy, in fact some of these decisions can be very overwhelming especially if you’re forced, in a hot market to make them quickly.

If you’re the type of person who needs a lot of time to process and making quick decisions is not for you don’t panic yet. There are things you can do to get through a hot market this without losing your mind or the house.

  1. Be prepared. Make sure you’re pre-approved and you know exactly what your payment will be. Now is not the time to figure out if you can actually afford the house. That should have been done prior to starting your search.
  2. Acknowledge your feelings for what they are. Not all the feeling will feel good. Most of us are expecting to be excited and some what nervous but many of us aren’t expecting fear and anxiety.
  3. Know that you’re not alone. A study commissioned by homes.com shows that first-time buyers find the process overwhelming; 1 in 3 buyers cried during the process. 2 in 4 experienced anxiety. 44% of buyers felt nervous throughout the process.
  4. Remind yourself of why you started all this in the first place, you want to own a home and you love this one!

When you’ve all moved in and your friends are over toasting you and your new house you won’t remember the fear and anxiety, you’ll look around your beautiful new home and think it was all worth it. In fact I can almost guarantee you’ll encourage your friends to do the same thing!

Nobody Wants a Fixer Upper

Unless they’re in the business of flipping or renovating houses very few buyers want a fixer upper. The days of buyers being interested in building what people in the industry liked to call sweat equity are gone.

Todays buyers lack the time, the know how and the cash to buy a fixer upper. They would rather move right in and enjoy the many benefits of owning a home like planting a garden or playing with Fido in the back yard than renovate a kitchen or even paint.

To clarify there are multiple levels of what it means to be a fixer upper. We have everything from gut the kitchens and bathrooms to rip out carpet and paint. Either way the key point here is that the majority of buyers today don’t want to do a thing.

So when it comes time to sell your fixer upper you will have two options, price it right to encourage the flippers and the renovators to show up or make your property more attractive to todays buyers.

Wondering how you make your property more attractive to todays buyers? Start here.

Paint. Nothing updates and cleans up a home better and faster than a fresh coat of paint. Just be sure you’re not making the problem worse by painting the whole house your favorite color. Instead ask your Realtor or a Stager what color they would recommend to sell your home. Think light and updated neutrals, light grays and warm beiges depending on your home work well.

Clean. Seriously a deep clean goes a really long way in making the home feel fresh and cared for. Don’t forget to clean the windows, this has a huge impact on the overall cleanliness of the home and the bathtub or shower grout. And if you don’t like to do this hire someone.

Fix all the broken things. The broken doors. The broken hinges. The broken closet door. The leaky drain. Patch the holes. Fix the window that won’t open. Remove that dead bush. Have your mechanicals tuned up.

Clear out the distractions. Personal pictures, gone. Broken dresser, gone. Dead plant, gone. Frayed rug, gone. Old clothes, gone. Stuffed animals, gone. Pile of old magazines/newspapers, gone. You get the point.

A fresh, clean home with no repairs and no distractions will allow the buyer to focus on what does work.

How to Handle Multiple Offers on a House

I don’t think there is one other situation or scenario facing buyers in a competitive real estate market that’s more frustrating than multiple offers.

It’s tough when you fall in love with something and then realize other people have fallen in love with it as well.

There is also right or wrong answer when it comes to what you should do to make your offer stand out but below are a few things to consider.

Offer over asking

Because in multiple offers it is almost guaranteed that someone has given them their asking price. And depending on the total number of offers someone has more than likely offered even more. Our client just offered $20K over asking and lost.

To buyers who struggle with how much is too much our best advice is to come up with a number that makes you comfortable, a number where you won’t kick yourself for not paying more and if someone offered higher you wouldn’t have wanted to pay that anyway.

Consider your financing and keep it clean

The more money you can put down the stronger your offer will be. Asking the seller to pay closing costs? Consider paying your own way. Get approved with a reputable lender, make sure you have a strong pre-approval letter and consider adding a loan commitment date. This is a date a week or two prior to closing where you agree to have a clear to close on your loan, guaranteeing that you will close on time.

Take a look at your contingencies

I would never recommend waiving your right to get an inspection but know that others may do just that. What I would recommend is shortening the number of days (the timeframe) if you can.

Be flexible on the closing date

Let the seller pick the closing date. This is especially key if they already purchased a home and are trying to line up the purchase dates.

Add a personal letter

Writing a letter to the seller gives you the opportunity to connect at a personal level. Tell them why you want their home, what they like and why they should chose you. Some people feel a strong connection to these letters.