Real estate regulations are local

Real estate really is local. Real estate is heavily regulated at the state level and the rules and laws are different in each state.

I was reading some real estate advice on one of those big national real estate web sites.   I thought that some of the advice was good but some of it did not apply or wasn’t appropriate for Minnesota.

Business practices seem to vary from one part of the state to another. They do things differently in Saint Cloud and in Mankato than we do them in St. Paul. If you would like to buy or sell a home find a St. Paul agent.

Minnesota real estate is regulated by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.  The Minnesota attorney generals web site had excellent consumer information for persons who want to buy, sell or rent property in Minnesota.

These guides are far better than the generic information I have seen on the big real estate web sites that sell homes and advertise refrigerators all on the same page.

Even the terminology used during a real estate transaction is different in say California than it is in Minnesota.

The Attorney General’s office  doesn’t sell anything not even refrigerators.

Check on these guides for Minnesota real estate information:

Home Buyers Handbook

Home Sellers Handbook

Landlord and Tenant Rights

Fall color
Local fall color – Harriet Island

Friday photos

It is Friday and Fridays are for fun and this week Friday is also for photos.

I’ll admit the weather has been so amazing this week it has been hard to stay inside.

The weather is supposed to be amazing today and not so great tomorrow. Sunday weather should be a bit more average for this time of year and we may make it through October without a hard freeze in St. Paul.

fall colors
Indian Mounds park – Thursday October 19, 2017
Fall Color
Fall Color – Mounds Park – Thursday October 19, 2017

Seasonal peaks and valleys

Real estate sales are somewhat seasonal. Here in the Twin Cities we see the highest number of sales closed in June and the lowest number in February or sometimes in January.

The last two years we saw a peak in June and a dip in July, before rebounding in August.

The data used to make the graph comes from the Northstar MLS. The graph was created from a tool called “infoSparks”.

There are also fewer homes on the market during the months that we see the dips in sales.

The homeowners who closed in June probably put their homes on the market while there was still snow on the ground. Some homes sell fast but they were probably on the market before the trees had leaves.

chart
seasonal variations – St. Paul, home sales

The American dream of tax breaks

coins
spare change

According to the National Association of Realtors people buy houses because they get a mortgage interest tax deduction.

It is hard for me to see the American Dream of being about taxes especially when we consider that owning a home doesn’t always result in a tax break.

People that think they are getting the mortgage interest tax deduction often are not getting it.  To get the deduction a tax payer has to itemize. Those who itemize do so because their total deductions are higher than the standard deduction.

The average savings is $1,918 across all incomes, those who earn less than $75,000 per year typically save $800 or less each year by deducting their mortgage interest.

The mortgage interest tax deduction alone probably isn’t a good reason for a person of average income to buy the average priced St. Paul home.  The good news is there are plenty of other great reasons for buying a home.

Often people who buy homes do so because they want a place to live and they consider it an investment that could go up in value. It is even possible to buy a home and rent it out so that someone else pays your mortgage.

They stole my data now they want my money

Hacker
Hacker

I have been notified three times this year that systems containing my private data have been hacked, compromised or breached.

One breach was in a company that has my social security number even though I haven’t done any work for them for eight years.

When I asked them to take my information out of their database they told me that they can not and that they keep personal data because sometimes people work for them again.

My advice is to choose your employers wisely because they may keep your personal data in their systems forever.

The social security number was invented in 1939. A lot has changed since then. The social security number is supposed to be used for just one thing, to track social security, yet I can not renew my drivers license or my real estate license or even get medical care without using my social security number.

How can data be considered private if 30 to 50 entities can demand it before they provide services.

There are companies that are making money by offering to protect our data. Some of the money being paid for identity protection services is going right back to the credit bureau that got hacked a few times. What a scam.

Identity protection services could be a scam. We don’t have any proof that they work or that they monitor anything.

I am getting a lot of emails from companies trying to scare me into buying identity protection and monitoring services. The free monitoring I am getting because of data breaches will eventually expire and I’ll have to pay for it. What a scam!

Identity theft can ruin a credit rating. Crooks use identify information to open new credit card accounts and then they go shopping.

People with low credit ratings have trouble renting apartments and qualifying for a home loan. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) permits employers to request credit reports on job applicants and existing employees. That doesn’t sound at all fair to me.

The best interest rates go to the people with the best credit scores. There will be people who have trouble buying a home or who have to wait to buy a home because of identify theft.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act was passed in 1970 to ensure fairness, accuracy and privacy of the personal information contained in the files of the credit reporting agencies.

The system would be more fair if the credit bureaus had to pay me for the use of my private information, credit score and social security number.

We can put a lock or a freeze on our accounts but neither of those actions will prevent identity theft but will protect credit. A lock is more convenient but more expensive than the freeze. The credit bureaus as likely to have the most profitable year ever.

Honestly to me this is all outrageous.  If ever there was an industry that needs an overhaul the credit and credit score industry is it.

End of rant.

Wood still beats carpeting

oak stair case – hardwood floors

Go ahead and remove the old carpeting before selling your home if that carpeting is sitting on hardwood floors.

Home buyers usually prefer hardwood floors. I have know this for many years. National Association of REALTORS® found that 54% of home buyers were willing to pay more for a home with hardwood flooring. (study done in 2016)

I am not suggesting that people who want to sell their homes run out and replace the carpeting with hardwood floors. Sometimes the carpeting needs to be replaced and there is hardwood flooring under it. Even hardwood floors that need a little work are better than old carpeting and usually better than new carpeting.

From experience I know that there are certain types of homes that people expect to see hardwood flooring in. People expect older homes to have hardwood floors. That doesn’t mean that hardwood is preferred in bedrooms, kitchens and baths or that every room in the house has to have hardwood floors.

It should also be noted that a buyer’s willingness to pay more for a home with hardwood doesn’t mean that they will be willing to pay enough to cover the cost of the hardwood floors. There is quite a price range for the flooring and it doesn’t always have to be oak.

Some of the most popular flooring options include mid-priced varieties such as teak, American cherry and oak, which costs $5 to $10 per square foot for materials and another $4 to $8 per square foot for installation. Carpeting costs a lot less, which is one of the reasons why it became so popular.

There are a lot of choices even composite wood floors. Dark wood floors have made a big comeback.

Nothing is really all that black and white when it comes to making improvements that will have a positive impact on resale value. There are shades of gray but it is good to know that home buyers will pay more for homes with hardwood floors.