3 Big Benefits to Buying a House Off-Season

Buyingintheoffseason

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you should put off searching for the perfect house. In fact, now may be one of the best times to buy. Really. Here are three reasons why buying your house in the off-season (November-March) may bring you big benefits.

House Sellers are Motivated

Many homeowners are eager to finalize a house sale now, saving them from the work of winter home maintenance – think shoveling, heat bills for house showings and more. The burden of keeping a house on the market can be even more pressing for sellers who have relocated or retired.

If you’ve found a home you’d like to put an offer on, dealing with a motivated seller can work to your advantage. In the off-season, sellers may be more willing to negotiate:

  • The price of the home
  • Closing costs or closing date
  • Terms of the sale, including things like household appliances or other items

Fewer Buyers in Competition

Generally, when the housing market slows down each winter fewer houses are for sale and buyers become less interested in shopping. Use this to your benefit.

Less competition from fellow buyers means:

  • Fewer competing offers when you find a house you’re interested in.
  • More leverage during negotiations with sellers since they aren’t picking from a slew of buyers.

Potential Savings

The first two benefits on our list can add up to potential savings. Motivated sellers who aren’t juggling multiple offers may lower the asking price or throw in other perks for a qualified buyer.

Take for example the median home prices for Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to their respective Realtor Associations:

  • Minnesota – Median home price for homes sold in January 2018 was $219,000 compared to $244,745 for July, which is a cost difference of more than $25,000. For the past three years, the difference in median home price between these two months falls between $25,000-$30,000.
  • Wisconsin – Median home price for homes sold in January 2018 was $169,000 compared to $195,000 for July, which is a cost difference of more than $25,000. For the past three years, the difference in median home price between these two months falls between $25,000-$28,000.

Bonus Benefit: This time of the year is slower for many businesses, including moving companies. If you’re looking to hire movers, it should be easier to coordinate compared to the busy summer months.

Give sellers no reason to hesitate when you place your offer by being pre-approved for a mortgage. It’s an easy step to take to show sellers you’re serious and get an accurate picture of what you can afford.

To learn more about pre-approval, contact a local Merchants Bank Mortgage Lender today to get your questions answered and schedule an appointment.

Sources: Minnesota Realtor Association and Wisconsin Realtor Association

Loans are subject to approval.

 

 

 

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Announces Earnings of $18,887,308 for 2018

Greg Evans, President & CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced year-end earnings for 2018 with net income of $18,887,308, according to MFGI President & CEO, Gregory M. Evans.

The earnings exceeded MFGI’s plan for the year by more than $3 million. Merchants benefitted from corporate tax reform throughout 2018, which contributed to performance results. Evans noted that on a pre-tax basis, MFGI increased earnings by 12% from 2017 to $25,237,358.

“All areas of the organization contributed to help us surpass our planned income for the year with three of our four Bank Regions exceeding their income targets and strong performance from our leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, and our Secondary Market Mortgage operation,” said Evans.

Core earnings for 2018 were also bolstered by commercial loan and deposit growth, and intense credit risk monitoring and mitigation, which resulted in a year-over-year reduction in the Allowance for Loan/Lease Loss Reserve contributions. Evans credits MFGI’s strategic diversification of business segments, product offerings and markets for the steady business and earnings growth Merchants consistently achieves.

“The Merchants team is truly special and I’m proud to share our team’s success over the last year,” said Evans. “We look forward to continuing to improve the lives of our customers through the caring and advising approach to financial services they deserve.”

MFGI’s net income was $20,878,465 for 2017, which included an accounting adjustment of more than $6.5 million as a result of the reduction of a deferred tax liability associated with the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017. Net income was $14,154,891 for 2016.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Additionally, MFGI also owns Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Merchants Financial Group is a publicly traded Company. Ownership is made up of its more than 440 employees and mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Mark Jangula Joins Merchants Bank Equipment Finance as Vice President, Senior Regional Finance Manager

Mark Jangula, Senior Regional Finance Manager

Mark Jangula has joined Merchants Bank Equipment Finance (MBEF) as Vice President and Senior Regional Finance Manager, according to Rick Barry, President of MBEF.

“Mark is a welcome addition to the Merchants team. He is an accomplished professional and highly regarded by his customers and peers. We know his experience and industry knowledge will complement our strong, customer-focused organization,” said Barry.

Jangula has 17 years of experience in the equipment finance and leasing industry with Wells Fargo Equipment Finance. For the past 11 years, he was a Territory Manager for equipment finance customers in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“I am excited to work with Merchants Bank Equipment Finance and help grow and expand the company’s geographic footprint. MBEF has a great reputation in the market, with a dedicated staff willing to work toward solutions that benefit the customer,” said Jangula.

Jangula brings additional experience to the position with this background in equipment finance underwriting and loan management. He is a graduate of Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

MBEF primarily provides equipment lease and loan financing options to businesses throughout the U.S. MBEF finances tangible assets over terms of 2 to 10 years on equipment with values generally ranging from $50,000 to over $10 million. MBEF serves many industries, including construction, transportation, healthcare, manufacturing, food and agriculture.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI), the parent company for MBEF and which also owns 21 Merchants Bank locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, has more than $1.6 billion in assets and is one of the largest independent financial organizations in its region.

Top 5 Tips for Hiring Quality Team Members from a 38-Year HR Veteran

albertaretirement-blog

Companies of all sizes struggle to hire quality candidates. While it isn’t always easy, Merchants has continued to bring in difference-makers to grow and improve our organization. Chief Human Resource Officer, Alberta Rosburg, retired at the beginning of 2019, but not before sharing her top tips for evaluating candidates. Alberta was with Merchants Bank for 21 years, and her career totals more than 35 years of Human Resources experience. Over the years her team has used this list to focus on our company values to find the candidates who best fit our culture.

Values

To effectively evaluate whether a candidate shares your organization’s values, you need those values to be firmly established. What does your organization stand for? What do you hold most important above all else? A worthy candidate will share those same views. Here are a couple questions that will help reveal a candidate’s values:

  • Describe your ideal company culture.
  • Describe your working style and your work ethic.

Past Behavior

“It’s well known that the best predictor of the future is what has happened in the past,” Alberta shares. “Ask your candidates behavioral questions – ask how they’ve reacted to certain situations. That is what is most likely to happen while they are at work with you.” For example:

  • Tell us about a time that you gave excellent customer service.
  • Tell us about a time you had to work with a difficult person or situation – how did you handle it and what was the result?

Soft Skills Matter

People remember how visiting your business made them feel. Did your customers feel they were listened to? Did they feel welcomed and important?

“The skills it takes to make others feel good are often part of who someone is – it’s ingrained in their personality. Those skills are hard to teach,” Alberta explains. “The immediate smile and warm welcome your customers receive is best when it’s a natural reaction, rather than a practiced one.”

Consider this: how did you feel after that candidate walked out of the room? How do you think a customer would feel after talking to them?

Take Time to Make Sure

Don’t be afraid to bring someone in for more than one interview. If you think of more questions you’d like to ask them, bring them in again. If that’s not possible, a phone call works too. If they are enthusiastic about the prospect of working with your company, they will be more than happy to help answer any more questions you may have.

Don’t Settle

While this might feel like the hardest thing to do, it is the most important. Sometimes the pressure is on to fill a position quickly, but in the long run it is worth it to be picky. When you find the right candidate, their addition to your organization will be a natural fit: your customers will feel taken care of, and your coworkers will have an easier transition into working with a new teammate.

“Here is a good way to sum up all of these ideas,” concludes Alberta, “Find someone who is as dedicated to taking care of your customers and company as you are.”

There are many good resources for businesses on hiring strategy. For instance, this article* also discusses the benefits of hiring for your culture, rather than solely on applicant credentials. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)* has an extensive resource library as well.

 

 

*You will be linking to another website not owned or operated by Merchants Bank, NA. Merchants Bank, NA is not responsible for the availability or content of this website and does not represent either the linked website or you, should you enter into a transaction. We encourage you to review their privacy and security policies which may differ from Merchants Bank, NA.

What 2019 has in Store for IRA and HSAs

hsairaforemployees-blog

Nancy Denstad

Nancy Denstad, Deposit Account Services Manager

Do you offer your employees Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) options? These accounts can be extremely beneficial when saving for the future. Make sure to remind your employees about their options and the new maximum contribution limits for 2019. Nancy Denstad, our Certified IRA Services Professional (CISP) and a Certified Health Savings Professional (CHSP), outlines this year’s new limits.

IRAs

For IRA’s, the 2019 limit is $6,000. This limit has increased from 2018. Anyone 50 years of age or more has the option of contributing an additional $1,000.

HSAs

HSA contribution 2019 limits depend on your employee’s type of insurance coverage:

  • Individual contribution limit – $3,500
  • Family contribution limit – $7,000

An additional $1,000 catch-up contribution is an option for those 55 or more.

“It might be a good idea to, if at all possible, contribute the maximum to an IRA or HSA,” Nancy said. “It’s an opportunity to invest in your future and give yourself some peace of mind.”

Contributing to these kinds of accounts helps your employees grow their money and secure funds for retirement. An HSA can set aside funds for health expenses before and after retirement. While you cannot make contributions to an HSA after you’re enrolled in Medicare, distributions are not limited to health expenses after you are 65 years old. You can even use HSA funds for health insurance premiums at age 65 or older as well.

You can find detailed information on IRAs and HSAs at irs.gov – look for Publication 969.

Of course, it is important to remember that depending on your specific account, there may be additional details to consider when planning your saving contributions. You should consult your tax advisor regarding your own saving plan with these kinds of accounts.

Would setting up a company IRA or HSA program be beneficial?

If your company doesn’t offer these kinds of savings options, contact one of our Commercial Bankers or Customer Service Representatives to discuss setting up one of these programs for your employees.

Or, your employees may be able to open their own IRA or HSA for 2019 at Merchants Bank. They can call 1-800-944-6285 and ask to speak to the Customer Service Representative at your local Merchants Bank branch.

Don’t get Clotheslined: Keep an Eye Out for Wire Fraud Red Flags

wiretransfers-blog

There are many companies that send wires to complete transactions. Sending a wire is a completely legitimate way to transfer funds, but it is also one of the riskiest. Experts Nancy Schultz and Sandy Kramer in Merchants Bank’s Wire Transfer Department are always on the lookout for the red flags of wire fraud. Here’s what you can look for too.

Red Flags

“Once a wire is sent, it’s extremely hard to get back,” Nancy Schultz, Wire Department Officer said. “We’re always on our toes here, and being suspicious has helped us catch a lot of fraud.”

Often, fraud starts with Business Email Compromise (BEC), which is when fraudsters have hacked an email account and sent a wire request or instructions that appear to be from a coworker. There are a few common red flags that might suggest something isn’t right with a wire request or instructions:

  • Did you get an email changing the wire instructions on short notice?
  • Did an email from an executive have a sense of urgency? Consider – is that executive even in the office?
  • Who is supposed to receive the wire? What is the business or account name? Does it seem to simply be an individual person, rather than a company? Or a company name that is unfamiliar?
  • Does the company name and the address listed on the instructions make sense? Do a quick internet search to see if the company name and address match up.
  • Does the address of the financial institution that is receiving the wire make sense? Is that financial institution in the same region as the company you’re sending the wire to?

Best Practices

One of the best ways to prevent wire fraud is to have a system in place for requesting and confirming a wire transfer. Some steps we’d recommend include:

  • Call the requestor to confirm with a number you have on file or acquired on your own – do not use the phone number provided in an email.
  • Dual Control – designate two people in your organization to authorize transfer requests. This provides a second layer of scrutiny and necessary communication regarding fund transfers.

“Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call to confirm wire details,” Nancy emphasized, “It’s so much better to be sure than to lose a large sum of money. We’ll always keep an eye out on our end.”

While wires remain one of the riskiest ways to send money, your other business transactions don’t have to be. With certain cash management services such as Positive Pay and ACH Blocks and Filters, you’re able to automate part of your security processes. If you’d like to discuss how these services could benefit you, reach out to one of our Cash Management Team members.

Jordan Frederick Joins Merchants Bank as Commercial & Ag Banker

Jordan Frederick, Commercial & Ag Banker

Jordan Frederick has joined Merchants Bank as a Commercial & Ag Banker, according to Randy Domeyer, Senior Vice President and Commercial Banking Manager for Merchants in Winona.

“Having someone with Jordan’s farming experience will be a huge benefit to our ag customers. He understands farming operations and truly enjoys building personal relationships with his clients,” said Domeyer.

Prior to joining Merchants, Frederick was a Loan Officer at Farmers State Bank in Iowa. He is a Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan expert. In addition, as a former dairy farmer, Frederick understands farming from first-hand experience.

“I’m looking forward to working with farmers and small business owners in the area and learning about their work. Going on site to visit my business customers is one of the best parts of my job,” said Frederick.

Jordan currently volunteers with the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors. He and his wife, Caitlin, reside in Winona.

The Merchants Bank Commercial Lending team is comprised of more than 40 local experts, available throughout our regional footprint. In addition to traditional commercial loans, Merchants bankers specialize in ag banking, SBA loans, floor plan financing and equipment lease financing. As a regional banking leader, Merchants can assist businesses of any size with their business financing needs, including Cash Management services.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, Goodview, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Rushford, Lanesboro, Red Wing, Cannon Falls, Hampton as well as Twin Cities locations in Lakeville, Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Merchants Bank was founded in 1875. Loans are subject to approval. Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, the company’s leasing arm, is based in the Twin Cities.