• Friday fun
  • December photos

    Union Depot

    It is Friday and Fridays are for fun. I have taken a few photographs this holiday season and I thought I would share a couple for fun and as a reminder that there are things to do and places to go in downtown St. Paul during the holidays.

    Looking West along 4th Street – Lower town

    It is nice to see the “1” all lit up on the first bank building again. There is a European type outdoor market at the Union Depot and of course train rides on the North Pole Express.

    These photos are supposed to have snow in them. The snow is on it’s way.

  • First Time Home Buyers
  • Sellers Disclose – Buyers inspect


    Minnesota home sellers have a choice. They can use a property disclosure and disclose everything they know about the home they are selling or they can use a non-disclosure and disclose nothing. Home sellers also have the option of having an inspection done by a third party.

    In St. Paul all homes are required to have a truth in housing inspection. These inspections cover some of the basics like leaks, moisture intrusion and some plumbing and electrical issues. To learn more go to StPaul.gov and search “truth in housing”. I would provide a link but things get moved around on the site often and I would just end up with another dead link.

    As a real estate broker and agent if I know something about a property I have to disclose it even if the seller won’t, unless it is something that I can not disclose because the seller doesn’t have to or want to.

    If I know that the roof is leaking I have to disclose it. If I know that the boiler isn’t working I have to disclose it, but I am not an inspector and am not responsible for finding defects.

    Sometimes there is something wrong with a home and the sellers do not disclose it and the agent doesn’t know about it either. Maybe there is a pipe with a slow leak that the homeowner has not yet noticed or the furnace isn’t working properly and the C02 levels are too high. It is possible to live in a home with radon and never know it.

    It is so important for buyers to have a complete home inspection before committing to purchase a home. Offers should be inspection contingent and I always recommend a radon test.

  • General
  • How not to chose a real estate agent

    Lower town - E 4th street

    I was reading some information from the web site of a real estate agent who works through a major franchise. The article was all about how the real estate company is better and so are the agents and how they are better at marketing homes for sale and working with home buyers.

    Seriously being a real estate agent is a little different than other occupations. Most agents are independent contractors and the company they are with does almost nothing to help sell the home.

    Agents will have information in their marketing materials about the “technology” the real estate company has. Most of that technology is there to make accounting and management easier for the franchise and for the office and has nothing to do with selling a house or buying one.

    Real estate teams are also kind of an illusion. Teams are designed so that less of the agents money goes to the franchise and more of it goes to the lead agent. Teams are rarely about working together to sell a home or helping each other with a client.

    They are about working as a unit so they can lower their fees to the real estate company and about having people in place to follow up on the zillions of leads they capture on the internet. The work is necessary for the team to succeed in finding business but doesn’t help home buyers or sellers.

    When looking for a real estate professional to work with look at the individual. Their performance will have a much greater impact on your purchase of sale than the company or team they are with will have. Keep in mind real estate agents are not being paid to work with you. We do not get paid until the sale of a home closes. The real estate companies do not pay agents salaries or benefits.

    Agents generally pay for everything out of their own pockets. Real estate companies do provide the one thing that an agent needs and that is a broker. In Minnesota and in most other states people with a real estate license have to work under a broker and that broker is responsible for the agents actions. In general the larger the company the more agents an individual broker is responsible for, which can result in less supervision.

    Choose an agent, not a franchise or a brand or an office. The more agents a company has the more real estate they sell but that doesn’t mean that they do a better job selling it or that all of their agents are actually selling real estate.

    Ask your friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members to make a recommend and agent. Resist the urge to click on one of the faces next to the listings on the fancy web sites with homes for sale listed. Those agents are paying to have their face on the site. They could be amazing agents or maybe not. All you know about them is how they pay to capture internet leads.

  • Local Market Conditions & home prices
  • Home sales and prices by neighborhood

    St. Paul home sales by neighborhood for November 2016

    The table shows home sales for the month of November 2016  by St. Paul neighborhood. If some of the prices seem off it is because there were very few sales in a couple of the neighborhoods. In general average home sale prices are up from last month and from last November.

    Home sales are actually up a little from last November even though there were fewer homes on the market this November. The inventory of homes for sale remains alarmingly low. The average days on market last month was 38 which is down from 58 a year ago.

    Generally the last couple of months of the year show the lowest number of home sales and the lowest home sale prices. Fewer people put their homes on the market during the winter holidays than at other times of the year.

    The data used to make the table was extracted from the NorthstarMLS which is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. There are few guarantees in life and even fewer in data. The data was exported and gently sorted and subtotaled it was never shaken or stirred.

    For more local real estate numbers please see “Local Market Conditions & Home Prices”.

  • Local Market Conditions & home prices
  • What does full recovery look like?

    Average home prices i St. Paul

    I have been reading articles about the housing market that indicate it has made a full recovery. I guess I could argue that at the last peak we hit a bubble that wasn’t sustainable. Yet it has been a decade since the peak and you would think by now prices would be back to what they were at the peak but they are not.

    We can see by looking at the line at the 2016 end of the chart that home prices have started kind of leveling off. We will see more of the same in 2017. Home prices will go up slightly.

    In some St. Paul neighborhoods like Hamline Midway and the West 7th neighborhood home values are where they were at the peak, even slightly higher. In other neighborhoods like the Greater East side home values are lower than they were during the last peak. If you average out the whole city home values are close to what they were during the peak.

    Tomorrow I’ll have the December home sale numbers.

  • Foreclosures
  • Your house is a bank?

    House - bank

    Mortgage interest rates have gone up a little from what has been an all time low. Some are even up over 4%. GASP! I can not help but remember all the years when they were over 8% and even over 15%.

    However when rates go up fewer people refinance and that means that fewer loan officers have loans to work on which means their income goes down. Get ready for the post cards and mailers about how much you can borrow.

    Last night I even saw an advertisement about how your home is your bank. Using home equity as a source of cash isn’t a bad thing. Especially when the money is used for a new roof or for that boiler you have always wanted. The interest rates are usually more favorable than they are on other types of loans and for some there is a mortgage interest tax deduction.

    However there is some danger in treating a home like a bank, because it isn’t just a bank it is where you live and probably your most valuable asset. It wasn’t all that long ago that home values went down and millions of home owners ended up owing more on their homes than the homes could be sold for. Getting into a negative equity situation can lead to foreclosure.

    There are numerous advantages in not borrowing money that should also be explored before withdrawing money from the bank of home equity.

    Maybe I just have the post housing crash jitters. . . but please borrow responsibly. It doesn’t seem like the banks suffered because they lent money to people who could not pay it back but many former home owners did and still are.