Do you dream of owning a duplex?

The real estate shortage also includes multi-family homes. There are few duplexes, triplexes and assorted fourplexes on the market at the moment. If you have a multi unit investment type property to sell give us a call.

There was a big sell off in about 2008. Currently rents are high and vacancy rates are low.

multi family homes for sale in Saint Paul

The data on the chart is from the NorthstarMLS which is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Homes for sale . . or not

Homes for sale in St. Paul

There has been a shortage of homes for sale for a few years now. It takes awhile for trends to reach the mainstream media, which is why real estate bloggers are important. 🙂

I read all sorts of reasons for this phenomena. There were a few years during the housing crash and great recession when the inventory of homes for sale was abnormally high. There isn’t any point in comparing 2008 and 2009 to 2017.

A normal number of homes for sale would be somewhere between 3 and 4 times as many as we have on the market right now.

There are several reasons why we are seeing fewer homes on the market. Here are a few:

  1. Baby boomers own a lot of homes and are in an age group that is more likely to stay put than move.
  2. There are people who are hanging onto homes because they are still underwater or are waiting until their home is worth a certain amount.
  3. People who want to move to another house are holding off putting theirs on the market until they can find a home to buy.
  4. During the housing crash investors bought up a lot of homes, especially starter type homes and small condos. These homes have become rental properties and will not be going on the market anytime soon.

We could build our way out of this, yet there isn’t a lot of new construction. There are still vacant buildable lots left over from the recession and vacant houses too. The new construction and in fill building I see is expensive housing.

Local building codes do not allow for a lot of creativity. What we need the most is affordable housing, maybe tiny houses and micro apartments. Builders tell me that luxury housing is more profitable to build.

Eventually there will be a kind of sell off when large numbers of baby boomers put their homes on the market. Experts were predicting that the great sell off would start in 2020. Now some are predicting it will start in 2025.

Home buyers need to be patient and somewhat flexible. Houses are being sold every day. They are not just for sale in May either.

It is a great time to be a home seller but there are limits to how much sellers can get for their homes. Sellers who are willing to negotiate will get the best terms and the fastest sales. Finding a buyer for a home for sale is fairly easy but is just one part of what it takes to close a sale.

Also see Home seller expectations sky rocket

Your doors are locked but scammers call

Older Americans become victims of crimes that they  are not prepared to protect themselves from.  They understand locks on doors but they don’t understand the dangers of answering the phone or the door when someone knocks.

Hardware_locks_2Some of my elderly neighbors keep the front screen locked, and beyond that door is a porch door, also locked.  Beyond the porch door is the interior door to the home, that sometimes has multiple locks.  The doors are kept locked.

Fewer violent crimes are committed against older Americans than against any other group but they are more susceptible to certain types of crime than any other group.

They are crimes like credit card fraud, mortgage fraud and identity theft. Scammers call during the day trying to get credit card numbers or bank account numbers. Phishing emails that look legitimate arrive almost daily.

There is some consumer information about crimes against seniors on the MN department of commerce web site, and I found some information on the FBI’s web site, but I don’t know how many older Americans are getting this information. The Minnesota site has a fairly comprehensive guide that covers financial planning and outlines common scams.

If you have friends, parents or neighbors who are older Americans, read up on crimes against seniors and don’t be afraid to talk with them about it. Educate yourself and teach someone else. It may be  a challenge to get past their spam blockers, caller I.D.’s and locks, but they need to know that there are people out there who can trick them out of their home, no matter how many locks it has.

Still obsessed with tiny houses

tiny houseI am obsessed with the idea of living in a tiny house. I live in a small house now but not a tiny house. I have seen some condos that have about 300 square feet of living space.

There isn’t really an agreed upon definition for a tiny house.  I think of homes that are less than 500 square feet and have found many that are less than 300 or even 200 square feet of finished living space. When they get down to 100 square feet they seem too small to call home.

These dwellings are much less expensive than a more standard size house. The idea is to spend less on housing and have fewer belongings and more time to spend doing something besides working for money and accumulating stuff that requires space. They also cost less to heat and cool and to insure. They require less maintenance and less furniture.

On average people who own tiny houses have money in the bank and many of the have no mortgage.

Today is isn’t at all unusual for first time home buyers to be looking for at least 2000 square feet and the averages for new construction, at least in the burbs is closer to 2400 square feet. They don’t have enough stuff to fill it up so they start acquiring and accumulating.

Some studies have suggested that families who live in tighter quarters get along better because they spend more time together. Yet the most common reason for wanting a bigger house is to have room for children.

Many of the tiny houses are mobile and can be moved to a lot. Of course in the city you mostly can’t do that but in some parts of the country the demand for tiny houses is changing local zoning laws, but in St. Paul laws are slow to change. Having a tiny house far away from the city isn’t as sustainable as having it in the city close to amenities and jobs and perhaps using public transportation.

I think there is a market for tiny condos in downtown St. Paul. There are spaces that are less than 500 square feet. They are never marketed as tiny condos but they should be. Most have full sized kitchens which really seems like a waste of space. Why not have a galley kitchen? I like the idea of a Murphy bed too or a sleeper sofa that can double as a place to sit.

When something comes on the market in the area that is small I usually go see it. We all have the idea of a dream house, I dream small.

There are numerous websites dedicated to tiny houses and they can be built from kits that can be ordered online but there aren’t any kits for tiny condos. 🙂 We are not seeing micro apartments yet but they are sure to travel from the coasts and make it inland in the next decade or so and eventually maybe we will be able to put some tiny houses on city lots.

Right now in 2017 we have a shortage of affordable housing. Smaller housing might be the answer.

Small houses on small lots

Selling This old house

Victorian house

Most of the houses in St. Paul are not new and many are small. I don’t like to use the word old because old is anywhere from 30 years old to 150 years old.

It is possible to sell a house as is without loosing your shirt so to speak. You don’t have to use the “we buy houses that need work” people. Sure it is faster and easier to do it that way but you also end up getting bottom dollar, rather than top dollar.

Most real estate agents should be able to give you an idea of what your home could sell for as is. Sometimes it makes sense to do some minor repairs to make it more salable. By minor I mean fix anything that leaks or drips. Items like electrical hazards or fire hazards should also be addressed.

It is important to disclose anything that you know is wrong or that needs to be fixed that you have not fixed. An old roof isn’t necessarily a deal killer and neither is an ancient gravity furnace, or a water heater at the end of it’s useful life. Most homes in St. Paul do not have new windows and doors.

Your home will need to be priced accordingly but there is some room between the price you will be offered by one of those companies that buys houses and resells them and what you can get for it from a buyer who will live in it and repair as needed.

The houses on the TV shows and in the magazines always looks amazing and perfect. Most of the homes in St. Paul are not new and few are perfect, but many have character and charm, and wonderful neighbors living next door.

The demand for houses is high right now and interest rates are low. Now might be the perfect time to unload that less than perfect house. 🙂

The lost art of negotiation

It seems like people have forgotten how to negotiate. Homeowner has home listed. Buyer makes offer for less than asking price, seller rejects it without negotiating. Homeowner has home listed, buyer makes offer that is less than asking price, seller decides to counter at the asking price. Buyer goes up a little higher, seller stops negotiating and moves on but also reduces the list price.

There are so many opportunities to negotiate when buying or selling real estate. Successful negotiations require some give and take. I have noticed that the slower negotiations are and the longer it takes each party to respond the less likely it is that parties will reach an agreement.

Low offers can be negotiated up and high asking prices can be negotiated down but it takes some effort. It is part of the home buying and selling process. I guess what I am saying is expect to negotiate and maybe even learn a little about how to negotiate. Here are some simple tips from LifeHacker. I particularly like tip number 5 about broadening the pie. Negotiations don’t have to be just about one thing like money. They can be about other terms like closing dates and who gets the swing set.

Often one party assumes if they offer X the other party will offer Y. Sometimes people behave as predicted but not always. It is important to keep an open mind, and to listen to what the other party really wants and keep going back and forth.

apple blossom
apple blossom

Even after one party says no, there is still room for negotiation, yet some people just don’t negotiate, which is a shame and a missed opportunity.

That low offer could end up being a higher offer and it could save the expense of holding a property for an extra six months only to get a similar offer on it.