Know where the snakes live


There places in St. Paul where garter snakes are abundant. We should start seeing them sunning themselves as the soil starts to warm up. Some people are terrified of snakes, even the harmless garter snakes that live in St. Paul.

The garter snake is common in Minnesota in both rural and urban areas.  They don’t have teeth and don’t attack people, they eat insects and slither away when people come close.

Garter snakes live in my garden, in the rhubarb.  They like heat and need it to aid the digestion of food.  On a warm fall day, it is not unusual to see them sunning themselves along the foundation of my home or on the walkways.  On occasion, I have seen them come out of hibernation during the winter to catch a few rays.

Every couple of years a snake gets inside the house.  We get them out before the cat figures it out.  They do not live in the house and since they can not climb in they usually get in through an open window in the basement.

They prefer to live in the ground and are found of compost heaps and wood piles and are plentiful along the river bluff in St. Paul in the residential areas.  Garter snakes are plentiful in parts of the West 7th neighborhood.  The soil on the bluff is warmer because of all the limestone close to the surface.

Home shoppers should let their REALTORS know if they are afraid of snakes.  Sellers are not required to disclose the presence of snakes outside the house.  They are not required to disclose the existence of bees, bats or any other kind of wildlife found outdoors in most urban areas.

For some home buyers, their ability to enjoy their property is greatly diminished by the presence of these creatures.  Read about ophidiphobia, fear of snakes.

Learn more about garter snakes from the University of Minnesota extension service web site.

Sellers disclosures and you

bungalowMinnesota sellers are required to fill out a seller’s disclosure or non-disclosure. The seller’s disclosure form is fairly long and detailed. Sellers are asked about leaky basements, roofs, walls and more.

I usually give sellers the disclosure form a few weeks before I list a home because for some filling out the form is overwhelming. it is alright to answer a question with “unknown” or if it is a matter of not understanding a question a real estate agent or Google can sometimes help.

The whole idea behind the disclosure is for the homeowner to disclose everything they know about the property that might be a problem for future owners.

Sometimes sellers forget things they know about the property because they have lived in the home for decades. It is also possible to live in a house for a long time and to not be aware of a defect, like a collapsed sewer line or a water heater that doesn’t vent properly.

Often owners of rental properties use a non-disclosure which states that they did not live on the property and do not know anything about it.

As a Realtor® I am required to disclose what I know about a property. If I know that the roof is leaking I have to disclose it. I recently wrote an offer on a house that had mold in the basement and some serious foundation problems. Both the seller and the seller’s agent knew about the issues but did not disclose that information.

Problems arise when sellers fail to disclose something important that the home buyer believes they should have known about. In other words, sometimes people try to hide defects which is why it is so important to have a complete home inspection. Most home sellers are honest and most realize that by hiding defects they could end up in court.

The home buying competition

There are about 310 homes on the market in St. Paul and about 100 of those have offers on them. The shortage of homes for sale has become the new normal.

Buying a home is like a competition and I would like to offer a few pointers.

  1. If you have found this amazing bargain-priced house you are not the only one looking at it.
  2. Avoid overpaying. In the long run, you will regret paying too much. Let someone else pay too much.
  3. Current home prices are causing some people to re-evaluate renting. Sometimes renting for a while longer is the right decision.
  4. Be prepared to make an offer. Have your pre-approval letter ready.
  5. Do not wait for an open house to view a home for sale. See it the day it comes on the market. There might not be any open houses or the may already have an offer on it by the time the open house rolls around.
  6. Work with one agent.

Home buying has not yet become a contact sport but it isn’t unusual to see other interested parties touring the home you are touring.

Work with an agent who has the ability to help you make an offer on the spot. Speed matters. Avoid the agent who has the day job and the agent who only works certain hours or days.

Being a buyers agent isn’t a 9 to 5, five day a week job.

Serious buyers know that they may need to change their plans in order to see that perfect house the day that it comes on the market or before. Life happens but sometimes being flexible enough to meet friends for a drink a half hour later than planned can mean the difference between having a home to buy or losing out to another buyer.


Twin city real estate markets almost identical

The shortage of homes for sale is accute in both Saint Paul and Minneapolis. This isn’t a healthy real estate market and prices may not be sustainable.

The numbers are pretty close but the Twin Cities are not identical twins. Both cities have less than a two month supply of homes for sale. Minneapolis has a 1.6 month supply and St. Paul as a 1.7 month supply. The 13 county metro area has a 2.1 month supply of homes for sale.

Housing supply caculates how long it would take for all of the homes for sale to sell if buyers continued to purchase them at the current rate. The number is also called an “absorption rate”. I really do love numbers . . . and houses too.

Next week I’ll have the numbers for home sales by St. Paul neighborhood because real estate is that local. Nieghborhood data is helpful when pricing a home. If you own a home in St. Paul or the northern suburbs and have been thinking about selling it give us a call.

Negotiating in a seller’s market


Home buyer’s like to negotiate and most expect a little haggling. These days home seller’s are not always willing to negotiate. The market is greatly out of balance and favors home sellers.

Home sellers do not have to negotiate. They can and do pass on offers they don’t like and many do.

The back and forth isn’t always part of the process. In multiple offer situations, which are common they just take the best offer.

It is important for home buyers to understand this and put their best offer on the table before someone else does. It is also important not to overpay and regret it later.

Skipping the inspection in an effort to make the offer more appealing to the seller isn’t wise and can hurt the sellers too. Buyers will have a problem with the house and accuse the sellers of knowing about it but not disclosing it.

When the market shifts to a balanced market or a buyers market the rules will change again. During the last buyers market seller’s were paying for points and home warranties. Some were paying movers and others were allowing people to stay in their home for the weekend to help them make up their minds.

The market is always changing.

Income taxes and you

MN Capitol
Minnesota Capitol building

There have been changes to the tax code at the federal level for 2018.  As a result, there will be changes made to our state income tax rules too.  There is a reason they call it code.

There is a reason why politicians promise to simplify it but it keeps getting more complicated. . . I don’t know what that reason is.

You might find an article that will tell you that under the new tax laws buying a home in Minnesota will cost more or less.

There is no across the board increase or decrease in taxes for homeowners. Tax deductions have changed but there are several factors that determine how large deductions will be. The price of the house, the mortgage amount and taxpayers income are three of those factors.

New tax laws may eliminate or lower the mortgage interest tax deductions for wealthier taxpayers with large mortgages. Rules regarding deductions for property taxes and local taxes will be capped at 10,000. At the same time, the standard deduction will increase and that will lower taxes for many.

The tax rules for individuals are not permanent, they will expire in 2025.

Please do not ask your real estate agent how the new laws will impact you. They should not be giving tax advice and there are better sources.

If it is a concern ask a tax professional. Ask your tax preparer or your accountant. There are several factors that will have an impact on your 2018 taxes.

Many people who currently own homes do not have enough tax deductions to itemize which means they never got any benefit from what some people call “homeownership tax benefits” In fact, many people believe they are benefiting from tax deductions that they do not actually get.

Tax law is complicated. Please consult a tax professional.

If you don’t have your taxes done for 2017 relax you still have 13 days before they need to be filed.