• First Time Home Buyers
  • House Diary


    If you bought a house this year you might want to start a house diary. It is a way of keeping records electronic or on paper that list improvements and repairs you have made.  The longer you own the home the more valuable the diary.

    Note when a room was painted and jot down the name of the paint and where it was purchased.

    Record the price of appliances and when they were purchased. When you need to sell the house you will know the age and cost of various improvements.

    You Evernote or a spiral bound notebook or a mole skin journal. Most anything will work even a diary.

  • First Time Home Buyers
  • Sellers are getting their asking price

    % of final asking price
    % of asking price

    Knowing how much to offer on a home for sale can be tough. Some homes are over priced and buyers do not want to pay the asking price. We are in a strong sellers market which means sellers are expecting a quick sale and they expect to get an amount that is close to or even above their asking price.

    Since March of 2016 St. Paul sellers have been getting 99% or more of their final asking price. In October sellers got an average of 99.3% of their final asking price.

    This information isn’t too useful to buyers because we don’t know when the asking price is the final asking price. Pricing a house is not an exact science and neither is knowing how much to pay for one.

  • First Time Home Buyers
  • homeownership can help build wealth

    After the crash of the housing market homeownership kind of got a bad rap which makes sense because there were so many people who had negative equity. Things are better today. More people have equity and home values are rising. There are risks to homeownership and it isn’t for everyone but for many it is a good investment.

    Home ownership is down nationwide from what it was at the peak in 2005 but looks to be as strong as it was in the 1990’s. In the long run owning a home is still a great way to accumulate wealth. People who have their home paid off when they retire spend less on housing and have more money for food and health care. I guess some even have money for fun and travel. 🙂

    Here is a looks at net worth and home ownership from a presentation given  by Lawrence Yun, Ph.D., NAR Chief Economist Ph.D., NAR Chief Economist, to the Residential Real Estate Forum at the 2014 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in New Orleans, LA on November 7, 2014.



  • First Time Home Buyers
  • One home sale does not an expert make


    It is common for my clients to tell me that they have this friend who had this particular situation when they purchased of sold a home and based on that piece of information they want to take some kind of action on their own purchase or sale that doesn’t work and in some cases isn’t even possible.

    Often the people who know the most about real estate transactions and who give the most advice are the folks who have gained expertise through one or two real estate transactions in the last decade. Some of the comments they make can add unnecessary stress and worry to the home buying or selling process.

    If you are planning on buying or selling real estate plan on getting a lot of advice from friends and family and understand that even though the advisor has the best of intentions they may not have the experience or expertise needed to give the best advice but they want to help anyway.

    It is also useful to understand that real estate is local and that laws and business practices can be very different in other states and that laws change so that someone who bought or sold real estate a decade or more ago may not be up on current laws and business practices.

    The advantage in working with an experienced real estate agent is that after being involved in a few hundred real estate transactions we learn to anticipate problems and head them off and can give advice based on all of that experience.


  • First Time Home Buyers
  • Getting a home inspection

    Buyers are strongly encouraged to make inspection contingent offers and get a complete home inspection. Right now the best home inspectors are very busy. There are several inspectors I can recommend. I have worked with them and I know that they will do a good job finding any problems and explaining the house to the buyers.

    It is important for buyers to choose their own inspector but often real estate agents choose inspectors for buyers. In Minnesota there isn’t any special licensing required for home inspectors. Some inspectors have minimal qualifications but they are part of a franchise that provides them some of the business tools they need to be inspectors and guidelines on how to do it.

    Most of the homes I sell are older homes. In fact they are downright old making a home inspection very important. The inspector needs to really understand older homes and know what to look for.

    Some home buyers will choose an inspector based on reviews and ratings. That may not be the best way to go about it. The ratings are most often coming from first time home buyers who do not have any experience with homes or home inspections and they don’t have anyone to compare the inspector with. I have witnessed some really poor home inspections where the buyers really liked the job the inspector did because they did not know any better.

    There are a couple of questions I would ask if I were interviewing inspectors. I would want to know how long they have been doing inspections and what their qualifications are. I would also want to know if they are full time and how well they know the area or neighborhood where the home to be inspected is located. I would want to know if they typically inspect older homes or newer homes or some of each.

    Inspectors should also be members of American Society of Home Inspectors. (ASHI). Personally I would like to see some licensing requirements where the inspector would have to pass a test to be licensed and also be required to take continuing education classes.

    leak under sink
    leak under sink – a picture is worth a 1000 words

    I have seen inspectors overstep their area of expertise. For example they will recommend a furnace or boiler replacement because they got a high c02 reading when they should be recommending that a HVAC contractor tune and certify the unit. If it needs replacement the HVAC specialist will say so. I have yet to meet an inspector with an accurate c02 meter.

    In other cases the inspector has missed something important like the rust inside the breaker box or the fact that the clean out plug on the main water drain is new of there is an old tank buried in the back yard. After one inspector left the house I showed the buyers where the main water and electrical shut offs were located. Most inspectors go over that. On one inspection I watched as the inspector had the buyer take notes. A good inspector provides a written report and does not ask the home buyer to take notes.

    Once the inspection is complete the buyers must decide if they are going to ask for repairs. last year I had some buyers who wanted every issue on the inspection addressed. I later learned that they had changed their mind about buying the place and were just trying to get out of the contract which they could have done very easily during a ten day recision period but they were sneaky and dishonest.

    Also see: Asking for repairs?

    Home buying inspection 101