The AJ Pettersen Group Blog


We love writing. We love helping others learn. And we love to keep people updated on the best spots to visit in the area and others around the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul.

We combine all three of these into different blog posts that are meant to tell our story, encourage others to tell theirs, and help others learn more about what it takes to buy, sell, and own a home!

Nov. 6, 2018

Writing an offer

So you've met with an agent, received a preapproval from a lender, went out and toured houses… Now you've found the one you want, what's next?


Saving you the time of all the documents you have to sign (which we will go over when its actually time to offer), there are a few things we have to decide upon together. Below is a breakdown each:


Purchase Price


The most common known item in the purchase agreement, this is the price you are willing to pay for the house. It will typically be decided upon by a few factors; The list price, comparable properties, and competition. Based on the property location, I will find comps and let you know what I believe a fair price to be. From there, we will determine what you want to offer depending on how long its been on the market, if they have other offers, and what you are willing pay.


Earnest Money


Earnest money is usually about 1%-3% of the purchase price. All it does is keep the buyer 'earnest' in the transaction. 


If you back out of the transaction after the inspection period for a reason not related to a contingency in the contract, you forfeit the money to the sellers. If you stay in the transaction all the way through close, the money is applied to your down payment and closing costs.


Inspection Period


This is a two part decision.

  1. Do you want an inspection? I always recommend doing one but at the end of the day it is up to the buyer. No inspection can make an offer stronger but it is a risk because you are not able to inspect for defects in the house.
  2. If yes, how long of an inspection period do you want? Inspection periods are typically 10 days but can be any period of time. A shorter inspection period is better for the seller and a longer period is better for the buyer.


Seller Paid Closing Costs


With any real estate transaction, there are closing costs that the buyer has to pay. These are used to pay the title company, the lender, and any brokerage fees. In the end, they are roughly 3% of the purchase price. They can be negotiated within the deal to be paid by the sellers, this allows the buyer to bring less cash to closing. Seller paid closing costs would usually make an offer less attractive, unless the price is raised. Here is an example:


$200,000 list price + 0% seller paid closing costs = $200,000 net to seller

$200,000 list price + 3% seller paid closing costs = $194,000 net to seller

$206,200 list price + 3% seller paid closing costs = $200,000 net to seller


Closing Date


This is simply when you close on the house. Normally it is roughly 40-50 days but can be negotiated to more or less. It is hard for a lender to get all of the necessary financing in place in less than 30 days but it possible. Timing on both sides is mostly what affects this, whether or not you are selling a house, your lease is ending, or the seller is buying a house. This is a very negotiable item but something that we will need to decide upon before submitting an offer.




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Posted in Buying Tips
Oct. 25, 2018

Homebuying When You Have Student Debt

Can you own your dream house with student debt?

Did you know you can buy your dream home while paying off student loan debt? 

It’s true and even quite common. While student loans are factored into your debt-to-income ratio, they shouldn’t prevent you from becoming a homeowner. 

And fortunately, there are many programs and options available to prospective buyers, some you may not be familiar with. Here are four ways people with student loans achieve their homeownership goals:

1. Co-buying With Friends or Family
Purchasing a home with a roommate, significant other or sibling allows you to combine multiple incomes to qualify for a better mortgage rate. This can help lower your monthly payment and make home maintenance more affordable.

2. Receiving Financial Gifts From Family 
You can also accept gift money from your parents, grandparents or other family members to put toward your home purchase. Some loan programs have a cap on how much gift money can be used, so make sure you know the limits first. 

3. Choosing Low (or No) Down Payment Loans 
There are many low down payment options, including FHA, HomeReady and Home Possible loans. For loans with no down payment, VA loans may be available to veterans and military members as well as USDA loans for those purchasing in rural areas. 

4. Using Assistance Programs 
Down payment assistance programs can cover some or all of your down payment costs if you qualify. These programs vary by location, so talk with a lender to learn about potential options. 

Working on your credit can also help you buy a home. Pay your credit card bills on time every month, aim to pay down your debts and never let an account go into collections. It also helps to get preapproved for a mortgage so you know how much you qualify for. 

Hope you find this helpful! Please reach out with any questions or to discuss next steps to help you secure the home of your dreams today!

Steve GertenREALTOR®
Real Estate Advisor

ENGEL & VÖLKERS, Minneapolis

Licensee of Engel & Völkers U.S. Holdings, Inc.

1601 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403

Cell: 651.334.9393

Facebook/Instagram: @gertenhomes

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Posted in Buying Tips
Oct. 16, 2018

Home Appraisals vs Home Inspections

Most real estate transactions will include both a home inspection and home appraisal, and they are not the same thing. Although both include examining the interior and exterior elements of the house, there are a few main differences.

Here is a breakdown of each.

Home Inspections

Inspections occur within a specified period, starting from the date of final acceptance of a purchase agreement. This period is often 10 days but can be negotiated. During this period, the buyer will often hire an inspector to point out critical issues or defects in the house. The inspector will put together a 20-30 page report, including a full examination of the interior and exterior of the house.

With this information, the buyer has a few options before the inspection period ends.

They can…

  1. Move forward with the transaction
  2. Ask for money in leu of repairs
  3. Ask for repairs to be done by the seller
  4. Cancel the transaction

It is a common held belief that buyers should be looking to get something back during the inspection period but this may not always be true. If the house is in great shape, you may not need to negotiate anything, which would be a best case scenario. Otherwise we are always looking for health, safety, and big ticket items. These defects need to be negotiated to make sure the house is safe to live in.

Home Appraisals

Appraisals usually occur after the inspection period in a transaction. However, some sellers elect to do an appraisal before to see what a good list price would be or to refinance. If you are looking to sell, you may be better off consulting a real estate agent for a free CMA instead of paying for an appraisal.

Most appraisers use a form called the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. This form includes a detailed checklist that allows them to compare your house to others in the local market.

In a real estate transaction, the appraisal is used by the licensed mortgage professional to make sure that the house is worth what they are paying for it. It is common practice that a mortgage professional will not provide a loan to a buyer for more than what the house appraises. For example, the sales price is $300,000 for a house and the appraisal states that it is only worth $280,000. The loan amount will be $280,000, causing the buyer to come up with the other $20,000.

This is where appraisal contingencies are important. The buyer can include a contingencies in the purchase agreement stating that the house must appraise at the sales price or higher and if it doesn’t, that the buyer has a right to cancel the purchase agreement or negotiate a new price.

Consult a Licensed Mortgage Professional

It is critical to always consult a licensed mortgage professional during a real estate transaction. If you are unsure of your options when it comes to finding one, we have a lot of connections that we would be more than happy to share with you.



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Oct. 16, 2018

Best Date Night Specials in Minneapolis

Acme Comedy Club - Monday Night's

Every Monday night, Acme has open mic night with free admission. Head on over and watch up and coming comedians. Some of these comedians have more experience than others so some jokes may kill and others may bomb. Either way, it’s a good way to get out and enjoy a comical Monday night.

Or…. Check out some of the upcoming shows that you can purchase tickets to! 

Bryant Lake Bowl - Monday Night's

Love to bowl? Love wine? You can get both at this bowling alleys Cheap Date Night, every Monday night from 6pm-midnight…

$28 for a round of bowling, 2 entrées, and a bottle of wine!

Swing on by on a Monday, unless you'd rather just check out their cabaret theatre

Broder's Pasta Bar - Sunday-Thursday

Head over to this classy Italian restaurant for a late night meal. After 8pm, Sunday-Thursday, you can get a 1/2 bottle of wine, 2 pastas, and marinated olives, Caesar or seasonal salad for $45! You will have the option to pick between a variety of pastas and have a great night while saving some of your spare cash. 

Sociable Cider Werks - Wednesday's

Get yourself through Hump Day at this Northeast Brewery. Every Wednesday you can get 2 ciders, 2 food truck dinners, and 2 desserts for $40.

Day Block Brewing - Thursday's 10pm-close

Thirsty Thursday is taken to a new level downtown at Day Block. They offer a plethora of food and drinks at a good price. This list includes…

$3 - Slices of Pizza: Pepperoni, Cheese, or Banh Mizza

$3 - Single Pub Pretzels, Bacon Nutz & Pickle Flights

$1 - Off Craft Brews & House Wine

$5 - Garlic Knots

$7 - House Daiquiri or House Manhattan Cocktail & Devils on Horseback



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Posted in Fun in MSP
Oct. 2, 2018

Qualifying for a Mortgage

Most people don't know where to start when preparing to buy a home (so don't feel bad if you are in this boat). Even less know what it takes to qualify for a mortgage and how banks/loan officers figure out what you can afford. I am going to give you an overview of what the process looks like and what information they will review in determining your qualifying amount.

A short History Lesson

As most of us know, we had a housing market crash in 2008, this was due to an astounding amount of failed mortgage payments that turned into foreclosures. Of the homeowners who foreclosed, almost all of them should not have been qualified for a loan. So since the recession, the government has been cracking down on mortgage practices and putting a lot more restrictions on how they can do business (rightfully so). I like to make this known so people have an idea why the lender or bank might want access to so much of their information. They are working to prevent another housing crash by not lending to anyone who might not be able to afford it. ***If you haven't watched The Big Short, now would be the time to do that***

The Process

The first thing I always suggest when a client tells me they are ready to buy a home, is to connect with a lender and determine what they can afford. There are a few reasons behind this…

1) We can't place an offer on a house until you get the preapproval letter
2) We don’t actually know your price range until the lender pulls all of your information and tells us

You might be saying to yourself, "well that's dandy, but I don't know any lenders". Good news for you, I have some that I have used in the past that I trust and know will get the job done right. At the end of the day it is your choice who you work with, but I am more than happy to give you suggestions :)

Once you are connected with a lender, they will ask for some information to get a better understanding of your financial picture.

Here is a list of things they might ask for.

• Tax returns
• W-2s
• Pay stubs
• Proof of any other income (alimony, bonuses, etc.)
• Proof of assets, such as bank and investment account statements
• Documentation of debts, like credit card statements and student loan statements
• Employer's contract information
• Landlord's contact information
• Your driver's license
• Your social security number

Determining What You Can Afford

From this information, the lender/bank will determine your 'debt-to-income ratio' (DTI). Basically, the government only allows you to spend so much of your monthly income on 'debt'. The highest they will usually allow is 45%. So the max they will loan you is 45% of your monthly income, minus any additional debts.

Here's a quick example.

Lets say you make $5,000/month (after taxes) and have $1,000 in debt (student loans, phone payment, car loan, etc).

The basic calculation would be ----> 5,000 * .45 = 2,250 (DTI) - 1,000 (debt) = $1,250

*The $1,250 would be roughly the max they would allow you to pay monthly for a mortgage.

Based on that they will work backwards and determine the loan amount they would be willing to lend you. Now I usually suggest not maxing your DTI out at 45%, but that is up to you.

If you want to look at the numbers without speaking to a lender, I suggest downloading the Zillow Mortgage app, it is great in allowing you to see different scenarios.

If you have any other questions or want to pick my brain, feel free to reach out via phone or email. I would love to chat!

Learn more about me


Posted in Buying Tips
Oct. 2, 2018

Photos that Sell

One of the first steps in listing your home will be to take photos of each room. What most homeowners don't know is how much goes into this part of the selling process. Without photos that capture the character of each room, it is difficult to get buyers through the door. And it is not good enough to just take pictures, they must make each room look its best with correct staging and lighting.

Your real estate agent may elect to take their own photos, hire a professional media company, or have you take the photos. Sometimes it can be hard to get photos from different times of the year, so if you are starting to prepare, it would be a good idea to capture the outside during each of the seasons. Either way, here are few tips that help you take photos that will attract the most customers possible.

Stage the entire house

Part of my listing process includes a staging consultation where we walk throughout the house and chat about how each room should look. The basics of staging are cleaning, decluttering, and decorating the furniture to make the rooms feel as big and move in ready as possible. This includes removing personal items and anything that will take away from the cleanliness of the room.

Good lighting

It is important that the photos are taken in the best light possible. We always suggest leaving all of the lights on and keeping all of the blinds open to bring in natural light.

Professional Photography

You should demand that your agent hires a professional media company as they will take the best photos. If they refuse to or you decide to take them yourself, remember to take as many photos as possible. You would rather have too many than not enough. The more the buyers see, the better!

Virtual Tours

Technology is always developing and changing, so it is critical that we change with it. Before the internet, houses were sold far differently. Now buyers want to see every inch of your house online before going for a showing. Including a virtual tour in your listing will ensure that the buyers who come for a showing are already very interested in your house.

Consult a Real Estate Agent

In order to learn more best practices or exactly how your house should look for pictures, it is best to contact an agent. They will be able to give you advice on the specifics of staging and refer you to a media company that can not only take great pictures, but also virtual tours.

If you are thinking about selling your home soon, whether that is now or in two years, it is always smart to start learning about what that would look like!

Learn more about me


Posted in Selling Tips
Sept. 1, 2018

Our Why - Moving Home

Yesterday my fiancé and I moved home with my parents. We are blessed to have the ability to do this, especially as we fill their house with another cat and dog. Today I am thinking about our Why... Why we do what we do, why I started working in real estate, and what I want to achieve out of my career. After playing baseball for the majority of my life, it is a daunting task to pick up a new career and run with it. So I am looking for my reasoning, that thing that will fuel my fire everyday. The people around me know that I love talking about investing in real estate, especially as a young adult. I am constantly trying to explain the seemingly obvious benefits, if you do it correctly.


This leads me to my first Why. I am constantly bringing up the benefits of investing as soon as possible, because I believe it is a great way to grow wealth. And being a real estate advisor, I can work hand in hand with my friends to help them do this. And I LOVE that.


The beauty of it is that I am in the same boat. Everyday I go to work, trying to make money so we can save it and put it towards our first investment. Throughout my life, many people have told me that I am crazy, it helped me mold myself into a fairly good baseball player and I know it will help me realize my real estate goals as well. It also helps me look the other way when it comes to moving back in with my parents or spending all of our savings on a down payment. So I know that investing in real estate isn't for everyone… It takes time and it is risky. But if done correctly, the benefits are tremendous.


With that being said, there are a few reasons why recent grads don't make this jump.


  1. Money - They simply don't have the capital, and with rising student loans and high rent, it takes longer than ever to save the money.


  1. Understanding - They aren't aware of how to start. They don't know how beneficial it is to own real estate and they don’t know where to start if they wanted to.


  1. Risk - They don't want to take on that kind of risk. They don't want to maintain the house and everything that goes with it. It is important to know your risks when getting into anything, it becomes about whether or not you are okay with whatever they are.


We currently don't have the capital, but we will soon. And when we do, we will use it to buy our first investment. I am confident that it will be the right first step. It will also be stressful and overwhelming, as most real estate transactions are. Luckily, I know a pretty good real estate agent to make sure the process goes smoothly :)


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Posted in Team news
Aug. 27, 2018

Lane's Move to Minneapolis!

Lane O’Donnell is AJ Pettersen Group’s new Business Development Manager. She recently moved to MN from Denver, CO and is the latest addition to our growing team! Learn more about Lane and her big move in the blog post below.

“I was raised in beautiful Bozeman, Montana and after growing up of skiing, hiking and camping I decided to attend the University of Denver after high school. The transition from mountain town to mountain city was a major change, and I loved it. At DU I decided that I was interested in applying to the Daniels College of Business and my sophomore year I declared a major in Real Estate and the Built Environment. Four years later, I graduated with my BSBA in Real Estate and a minor in Legal Studies. I wanted to stay in Denver after graduation and my first job landed me at a small custom home building company where I served as the Design and Finance Assistant. I worked alongside the Project Managers and Interior Designer and gained an incredible background in the construction and design process of real estate.


A year and a half later, I was ready for a transition. I’ll always love Denver, but I was excited about starting over somewhere new. My boyfriend and I had many conversations about who enjoyed their job the most, who felt closer to their community of friends and neighbors, and who ultimately felt that they were most ready for a major life switch. The discussion was short; I was ready for a change of pace, felt excited about exploring a new career, and couldn’t wait to be close to him in a new city.


August 10th, I said my final goodbyes to Denver, Colorado. A bittersweet departure- I was nervous about leaving behind family and friends, but so excited to start fresh in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


So cheers to exploring and expanding my horizons! I’m gradually settling in and learning the ropes here in Minneapolis and loving every second. Since moving I’ve joined Minneapolis Bouldering Project, signed up for my Walker library card, and most importantly, started my incredible new job with the Engel & Voelkers office in Downtown Minneapolis! I couldn’t be more happy about starting my position as Business Development Manager with the amazing AJ Pettersen Team and I am already so grateful for the generosity and warmth that this company shares every day.  


Things that I am most excited about? Checking out new restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, museums, theatres, trivia nights, walking/biking trails, bookshops, farmers markets, boutiques, lakes, and any and all Minnesota must-do activities. I’m so proud to be in a new beautiful home and thank you for making my move so easy.”


- Lane O'Donnell

Business Development Manager
Posted in Team news
Aug. 1, 2018

Thank You, Baseball

“We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t know when that’s going to be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.”


My life has consisted of me chasing professional baseball, a goal that at points seemed unattainable. For more than half a decade I took countless swings and ground balls, always looking for another area to improve upon; Always trying to will myself to the next level. The dreamer in me kept saying I had a chance, which kept pushing me to my limits.

I was never ignorant, I understood that the probability of making it was slim to none. Either way, I chased my dream right down the street to a brand-new Siebert Field at the University of Minnesota. As a walk on, I fought with blood, sweat, and tears to become a ballplayer that would eventually help take the Gophers to their first ever Super Regional; a feeling I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Only a few days after winning the Regional championship in front of our home crowd, I prepared myself for the day that came too fast; the day I convinced myself I would get drafted if only I work hard enough. But sometimes it’s simply not in the cards… A fact that I have fought for quite some time.

A week after my season ended, I got a call from the St. Paul Saints. I was extremely grateful when they gave me the opportunity to join their team. But the more I played, the more I started to realize that my baseball career might be nearing its end. I could feel it in my soul as it got harder and harder to get up and brush myself off… as finding another way to better myself became more difficult. The dreamer inside of me seemed to see the writing on the wall.

So a few days ago, after a lifetime of dancing with the ever elusive next hit and fighting my mind and natural talents to play at the highest possible level, I decided it was time to move on.

It’s hard to describe giving something up that has brought me all over the world and given me so many opportunities. I am fortunate to have had a life and family that allowed me to place so much of my time into a game. I still can’t believe it’s over, but I’m excited to chase new dreams and opportunities.


I want to thank the St. Paul Saints and George Tsamis for an amazing opportunity. The have a great
organization and fan base. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my short professional stint
anywhere else.

I want to thank the game of baseball for an unbelievable ride. The game has allowed me to find new friends at every turn. I hope to one day share this amazing game with my future children as my parents have done with me.

What’s next for me ---> Back in January I decided to get my real estate license to prepare myself for life after baseball. I am now a full time advisor alongside my brother, AJ, and his team at Engel & Völkers Minneapolis. I am excited to pursue my entrepreneurial passion and help people find and sell homes all over the Minneapolis area.

Learn more about me


Posted in Team news
Jan. 31, 2018

Let the Journey Begin

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize there are times when it’s okay to be a follower. There are people that I have unconsciously and consciously followed throughout my life. One of those people is AJ Pettersen, my brother.

I still remember AJ beginning his career in real estate. He kept telling me that I would be able to join him someday, that I would love the work. And I knew he meant it; I naturally enjoy the things that AJ enjoys. However, this was about three years ago and like any typical college student, I was avoiding the major life decisions that awaited after graduation.

A couple months ago I entered my senior year of college, only four classes shy of a degree and one more season of baseball eligibility left in the tank. With my undergrad nearing its end within less than a year, I decided it was time to stop avoiding the future.

I began my search; applying for jobs that sounded interesting, but without any idea of what kind of work I would enjoy. The job application process began with a few rejected interviews and was followed by a few rejected jobs. I believe this was because I wasn’t a good fit for any of the companies I applied or interviewed for. In the end, I simply did not have a passion for what they did. This forced me to evaluate what the meaning and purpose of my career would look like. Through further self-examination I discovered the beginning of that answer: I wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

During my job search, and without talking to my brother, I was comparing each opportunity with the chance to work alongside him and run my own business.

After months of searching and debating, I had my last interview in Chicago… and looking back now, I am pretty sure I had already made my decision before taking off. So, the day I arrived home, I called my brother whom I have called so many times throughout the years and told him I wanted to seriously talk about real estate.

And I guess the rest is history…


Learn more about me


Posted in Team news